Nevada defense making its ‘Kase’
Appeal Sports Writer
When New Mexico middle linebacker Cody Kase comes to practice, you never know what kind of hairstyle he’ll be sporting.
He’s worn his hair spiked out, he’s grown it out long and he’s done the bald thing. The latter is the look he’s sporting most often these days.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is his taste in T-shirts. The 6-foot-2 220-pound Kase always wears shorts at least a size too small, according to defensive coordinator Osia Lewis.
“Coach (Osia) Lewis said I’m shopping at the Baby Gap,” Kase said during a telephone interview following a recent Lobo practice. “I think it looks good. He said I’m trying to look tough, so I don’t know.”
Lewis jokingly replied that Kase is a “slave to his girlfriend’s fashion.”
It doesn’t take long to figure out Kase is different; that he can be a bit of a character. He’s also what college athletics are all about – a guy that excels in the classroom and on the field.
Kase is a three-time member of the Mountain West Conference’s all-academic team and a second-team academic all-American. The Business Administration major owns a 3.92 GPA and received his first B in college last fall.
His teammates have voted him one of their captains two straight years, and that’s based on his leadership and ability to make plays on the field.
Kase, a starter the last three years, has piled up 167 career tackles, including 21.5 behind the line. He finished with 57 tackles, 4.5 stops behind the line and six quarterback hurries this season despite playing middle linebacker for the first time. He was an outside linebacker his first three years with the Lobos.
Make no mistake, Kase isn’t your prototypical middle linebacker. Even at the college level and certainly at the NFL level, middle linebackers usually start at around 240 and go up in weight.
“He’s a smart player,” Lewis said. “We’ve rotated guys in and out a lot more this year, so he hasn’t played quite as much, but he’s had a good senior year. He was a great outside linebacker and made a lot of plays.
“We (the coaching staff) talked about it. All three of our linebackers, we hope they can play all three positions. We thought Cody was tough enough. He has big numbers in the weightroom, so we knew he was strong enough.”
Kase looked at it as a chance to make more plays, though at the time he admitted he didn’t know that the coaches had decided to play more linebackers during the course of the game.
“They had approached me in the off-season,” Kase said. “I had played in the middle when we were in a 3-4 and used two middle linebackers. I knew the defense well enough.
“It is (frustrating) kind of not to be out there every down. I understand they want to keep people fresh because we blitz so much. We’re deeper at linebacker. We have a Top 25 defense and we’re doing well.”
Lewis went on to say that Kase doesn’t have to take on interior linemen that often in the Lobos’ whacky 3-3-5 defense. Lewis estimates that Kase only lines up between the guards maybe 30 percent of the snaps.
“The scheme makes it work,” Lewis said. “We’re not asking every play for him to take on a guard and make a tackle. They (the offense) have to find and identify guys. That gives him a chance. He needs to be able to slide and make people miss out there, too.”
Added Kase, “They don’t know where I’m going to be from play to play. With this offense we come at people from all different angles. We’ll come from the side, we’ll come up the middle.”
And with six quarterback hurries this year, expect Kase to do a lot of blitzing himself.
This season has helped Kase wipe out the disappointment of a 2006 season that saw him limited to only 31 snaps between weeks 2 and 5 because of a slightly torn hamstring. He did come back strong and finished with 10 quarterback hurries and 43 tackles.
Kase wants nothing more than to go out a winner in his final college football game, and end New Mexico’s four-year bowl losing streak. New Mexico hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1961 Aviation Bowl when it beat Western Michigan 28-12.
“It’s been a while since we won a bowl game,” Kase said. “We’re trying to get everybody on the same page. We want to win this bowl game.”
• Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281
THE KASE FILE
Year in school: Senior
Height/weight: 6-2 220
Major: Business Administration
High school: Hart High School, Valencia, Ca.