Aug. 28, 2003
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
When is bigger not always better, and being on the outside is muchbetter than being inside?
When you are University of Wyoming defensive lineman Brandon Casavan.
The senior from Grand Forks, N.D., was recruited to UW back in 1999 as adefensive end, a position he played his first two seasons with the Cowboys.
As a junior, Casavan was moved inside to defensive tackle because of hissize and athleticism. He bulked up from his normal playing weight of between275 and 280 pounds to about 290.
But Casavan didn't ever feel comfortable playing inside.
"The biggest thing for me last year was the conditioning part," saidCasavan, who led UW's returning defensive linemen in tackles with 32 lastseason.
"I thought I was carrying the weight all right, but I as definitely gettingwinded a lot easier, and it was the first time I played inside in a game."
New UW football Joe Glenn and his defensive coaching staff saw right awaythat Casavan was better suited to play defensive end. Casavan is back at hisnormal playing weight and he said he feels like he got a little quicker andagile during off-season workouts.
As the Cowboys prepare for their season-opener with Montana State a weekfrom today in Laramie, Casavan's position coach likes what he's seen so farfrom what he calls his best defensive lineman and pass rusher on the team.
"Impressive," UW defensive line coach Lance Robinson said. "When you look athis size, the way he tests and runs, he's the typical guy you want to have.If I had 14 guys like that with his size and speed, that would be awesome.
"In our system, he's better suited at defensive end. We want to get as muchspeed on the field as we can. We also like his strength and athleticism andwe want to utilize that as much as we can."
Casavan came to UW with high expectations. However, a lack of defensivesuccess as a team and injuries have not only plagued the Cowboys in recentyears, but Casavan as well.
As a true freshman, Casavan broke his arm after playing in just three gamesand recording three total tackles.
Casavan showed glimpses of how good he could be as a sophomore as herecorded 44 tackles, three quarterback sacks and six tackles for loss.
However, an ankle injury allowed him to play in just three games as ajunior, and he received a medial hardship from the NCAA, which saved him ayear of eligibility.
Then came last year and Casavan's move inside. Although he led UW'sdefensive linemen in tackles, the group struggled as a unit. Casavan saidthe primary responsibilities of the line last year were to plug gaps.
As a result, UW ranked last in quarterback sacks in the Mountain WestConference with only 10. And, the Cowboys' defense ranked last in the MWC ineight different defensive categories.
"A lot of the guys who have been around here I think have chips on theirshoulders," Casavan said. "They listen to the radio and read the newspapersand know what's been said and written about them in the past.
"I'm not saying some of that wasn't correct. But a lot of us believe inourselves and this is our chance to prove we are better than what's beensaid about us."
What should help UW's defense this season is a more aggressive scheme wherethere will be more blitzes.
"We're always at least bringing four guys every time," Casavan said. "A lotof times we're bringing five and even more. We're running out there a littlemore and just trying to be athletes."
Casavan figures to be a key player in how well UW's defense plays thisseason.
"He's going to play every position," Robinson said. "He's by far our bestpass rusher and it's my job to put him to put in position against the guy onthe opposition's offensive line I think is the weakest. I'm going to movehim around, and he's got to be our impact player on the defensive line forus.
"With all the intangibles he has, the sky's the limit. I've had kids in thepast that had 24 sacks, 22 sacks. He's definitely that caliber of player.Now he's got to go out and do it on the field."