HUSKER FOOTBALL: Senior rush end Vanden Bosch playing in higher gear
BY STEVEN M. SIPPLE Lincoln Journal Star
Even if he were playing as well as Trev Alberts and Grant Wistrom in their heydays, Nebraska rush end Kyle Vanden Bosch no doubt would uncover flaws in his game.
It's preeminent in his nature to be self-critical, to always push for more.
Although he candidly admits he hasn't reached the level of past Husker greats at his position, Vanden Bosch takes comfort in the improvement he's made since last season. He sees telling signs of progress every time he compares last season's game tapes to this season's.
"You see a completely different player," said the 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior. "It seems like I've found another gear this year. When you're not out there hesitating, and you're comfortable with what you're doing, you can just go and go."
Vanden Bosch's quicker on-field reactions might not be discernible to the naked eye. Such development occurs over time. But Vanden Bosch feels the improvement, and his statistics illustrate it.
Last season the Larchwood, Iowa, native recorded 37 tackles, including 4 1/2 sacks, with 13 quarterback hurries.
Entering 8-2 Nebraska's home game Friday against 3-7 Colorado, Vanden Bosch has 45 tackles, including a team-leading six sacks, with a team-best 24 quarterback hurries.
"We think he's playing at a faster pace - everything from his first step, to getting off blocks faster, to pursuing faster," said Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl. "A lot of that comes about with experience, and a lot comes about with confidence.
"But he prepared himself to come into this season and play really well. He laid a great foundation this summer. He's improved because he put a great deal of work in."
One thing, however, sticks in Vanden Bosch's craw as he assesses this season. Although he was a major force in wins against Iowa State, Texas Tech, Baylor and Kansas, he combined for just seven tackles and one sack in Nebraska's only two losses, to Kansas State and Oklahoma.
"Against Oklahoma, I couldn't get to the quarterback," he said. "It was frustrating, because (QB Josh Heupel) dropped back so deep. And against K-State, I started out strong - I made a few plays right off the bat. But the whole rest of the game, I felt like I couldn't get my footing. I was slipping on my face.
"My biggest thing on the pass-rush is beating people with speed around the corner, and I just didn't have good footing. Those are the games where I really want to step up and take control."
He expects to wreak havoc every Saturday, no matter the foe.
"What you find with Kyle is a person who has really high expectations himself," Bohl said. Those expectations exist separately from those of fans who envisioned greatness from Vanden Bosch the moment he arrived on campus in August 1997 and played immediately as a true freshman.
"Everybody said, 'He's the next Trev Alberts, the next Grant Wistrom,' " Vanden Bosch recalls with not a trace of bitterness. "It was a big honor for people to say that - those are some pretty lofty expectations."
He never considered it a burden to be compared to NU's former All-Americans. More than anything, he said, he was flattered.
"But I don't think I've done the things Grant or Trev did," Vanden Bosch said. "I don't know if I'm quite up to that level. My big thing was, I was going to do the absolute best I could do.
"So I just concentrated on getting it done in the weight room and getting it done in the classroom - just being an all-around good influence on the team. That's the best thing I can bring to the program."
A team co-captain, Vanden Bosch was named Nebraska's lifter of the year in 1999 and 2000 after being a finalist in 1998. What's more, he carries a 3.82 grade-point average in finance and is one of 16 Huskers on track to graduate next month.
It's safe to say Vanden Bosch "got it done" at a high level in college. This season he's performed well enough to be rated as the fifth best prospect among college seniors at defensive end by NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
Vanden Bosch intends to play in the NFL and likes what he's hearing about his chances. For now, however, he focuses on finishing his college career on a high note. He'll be one of Nebraska's 27 seniors playing their final games at Memorial Stadium Saturday.
"As seniors, we really want to finish this thing off right, for ourselves and for the younger guys," Vanden Bosch said. "We felt like we let one get away from us last week (at Kansas State), and it kind of leaves a sour taste."
Reach Steven M. Sipple at 473-7440 or email@example.com.