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Purdue University

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Purdue
What: Black and Gold game
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Ross-Ade Stadium

Purdue tackle has work to do

Short

– Kawann Short could have turned pro.

But the Purdue defensive tackle had some unfinished business. And not all of it dealt with football.

“I’ll graduate in December. It was one of those things that was in the back of my head as far as talking to my family,” Short said during the Big Ten teleconference Wednesday. “My mother said, since my freshman year, she couldn’t wait to see me go across the stage. That was one of the things that stuck in my head.”

Short earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media in 2011. The organizational leadership and supervision major was projected to be a third-round pick in the NFL draft. Count Purdue coach Danny Hope among those happy Short decided to return.

“Having him back gives us great potential at that spot,” said Hope, whose Boilermakers play the Black & Gold spring game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. “He’s a proven player. Obviously we’re better because he’s here. The better he gets, the better we’re going to get. He still has a great upside to become a lot better as a player.

“It brings a lot to the table and really impacts our football team in a lot of ways.”

That impact was felt throughout the Big Ten last season. The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Short had a team-high 6 1/2 sacks as a junior. He finished tied for fifth in the Big Ten with a team-leading17 tackles for loss.

“He’s a guy that if he continues to improve can really dominate a game from the defensive tackle position,” Hope said. “He’s an outstanding player. He’s one of the top players at his position in our league.”

Short had 54 tackles. He also blocked two kicks, forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and broke up two passes in 2011. He was twice named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, first for recording six tackles, with two sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for loss in a win against Illinois on Oct. 24. He had a career-high three sacks Nov. 14 in a 26-23 overtime victory against Ohio State.

Short is focused on being “more consistent and getting a little stronger” for the upcoming season.

“As far as being a third-round projected, I felt that I could do a lot better if I come back and do what I need to do to get there,” he said.

He’ll learn under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar.

“We’re just trying to get used to each other and stick to the basics during spring ball,” Short said.

It could all pay off next spring at the NFL draft.

“When the season was over this year, he was projected to be a third-round draft pick. He opted to come back and work hard and try to play his way into a first-round status. There are things he has to get done as a player to make that happen,” Hope said. “If he gets those things done, he’s going to be an outstanding player. He could be a dominating player at his position on a national level.”

lpope@jg.net

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