Monday, April 14, 2014
DL Kenny Bigelow making progress
By Greg Katz
So much has been expected from USC defensive lineman Kenny Bigelow, you’d think his name should already have been etched alongside such former Trojans D-line greats as Shaun Cody, Sedrick Ellis and Mike Patterson.
A mountain of a man at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds, Bigelow came to Troy in the spring of 2013 with “Conquest” blaring and projections of greatness, having graduated a semester early from Elkton (Md.) Eastern Christian Academy.
A household name in recruiting circles for years, Bigelow was expected to step right in as a freshman and contribute, but sometimes those projections from the recruiting gurus don’t come to fruition.
Nobody disputes that Bigelow has NFL-caliber potential, but he’s still a work in progress, as his completed redshirt freshman season would suggest.
Kenny Bigelow is adjusting to the Trojans' new coaching staff and its philosophies.
Now, heading into the final week of USC spring ball, Bigelow has just three more practices to continue to show improvement and get his name into the defensive line rotation under first-year D-line coach Chris Wilson, who also sees Bigelow’s celebrated potential.
“Kenny has taken a lot of reps,” Wilson said. “He’s taking quality reps at all three positions for us. He’s improving, but we still have a lot to improve on during practices.
“The one thing I really enjoy about Kenny is he’s been available every day for practice and hasn’t missed many reps, and it’s only going to help him in the long run.”
Bigelow knows the talent is there, and he’s not afraid to be outspoken about where he is now and where he would like to be.
“I think I am athletic and a strong, physical guy,” Bigelow said. “I do well what the coaches tell me to do and just fire my the gap and I play in it.”
The personable Bigelow is also aware he has a ways to go in shoring up what he perceives as compulsory improvements.
“I need to contain and be working on my hips,” Bigelow said. “That’s something that coach has been stressing to me a lot about. It’s about my hips and my hand placement. If I can get those two things together, I’ll be fine.”
Wilson agrees and provides his own evaluation.
“One of Kenny’s strengths is his size and his athletic ability,” Wilson said. “So he’s a big, athletic guy and not just a space eater.
“One of his assessments is his endurance. Again, knowing what to do, when to do it and how to do it, and that’s what young guys usually struggle with, to put the three of those together. He’s got a lot of work to do this summer, and I’ve got to get him there because, again, he’s a guy that could really help this team move forward.”
There have been questions about Bigelow’s conditioning since his arrival at Troy, but No. 95 knows that’s a focused area for the offseason.
“Yes, I am definitely going to dedicate a lot more time to conditioning this summer,” Bigelow said, smiling. “Last summer, I saw myself as trying to be a bigger weight-room guy because we were more of a ground-and-pound-like team last year.”
And Bigelow’s incentive to get in the best shape of his life by summer training camp?
“This year it’s going to be go-go-go and I have to be ready at all times -- two plays, three plays -- I have to be ready to go,” Bigelow said.
Bigelow’s current D-line position is nose tackle, and he is battling junior nose Antwaun Woods, who is having an outstanding spring in his own right.
While Bigelow is competing against Woods at nose tackle, he is diplomatic yet seemingly sincere when he addresses his defensive line future.
“I prefer to do anything that can help this team out,” Bigelow said. “I am not particularly picky. I feel I am a pretty strong, athletic guy, so I don’t have too much of a problem being inside or outside. I’ll take whatever time they’ll give me.”
Given that he's been playing against Steve Sarkisian’s nonstop, no-huddle offense, he has had to make some adjustments to his overall defensive line approach.
“The up-tempo is definitely something that’s really going to take some getting used to,” Bigelow said. “I am getting better at it every day, but I still know there’s room for me to improve.”
Bigelow played last season for one of college football’s most respected defensive line coaches, Ed Orgeron, and a former staff that was well-liked by the end of a tumultuous season, which featured Orgeron as one of three USC head coaches.
But Orgeron is now gone, and Bigelow is appreciative of his new gridiron mentors, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“They’re flexible,” Bigelow said of the new defensive staff and its philosophies.
“They allow the big guys to be athletic and they allow the nose to be out in space and the techniques to come down inside sometimes," he added. "It’s really about what you can do and they’ll find a way to use your talents.”
And Bigelow appears to have made a successful transition from Orgeron to Wilson, the former Georgia D-line coach.
“Coach Wilson is a guy that demands excellence,” Bigelow said. “He wants perfection. He wants it done the right way and he won’t accept anything less.”
Bigelow also noted he would like to work someday for ESPN, but if he can begin to fulfill his vast potential this fall, he might find himself on “SportsCenter” sooner rather than later.