A second-team all-MAC defensive end selection a year ago, former Miami (Ohio) defensive end Lonnie Phelps knows he’s improved as a football player during the short period of time he’s been at his transfer destination — Kansas.
The main reason for the 6-foot-3, 245-pound redshirt junior transfer’s quick adaptation to Power Five football?
While acknowledging he’s a fan of Kansas head coach Lance Leipold, defensive coordinator Brian Borland and ends coach Taiwo Onatolu, Phelps says in this case it has more to do with the player he’s going against each and every day during training camp and before that, spring football.
That person would be NFL prospect Earl Bostick Jr.
Bostick Jr. is a 6-foot-6, 310-pound sixth-year senior offensive tackle from Barnwell, South Carolina who earned honorable mention all-Big 12 honors a year ago and was named second-team all-Big 12 offense by Phil Steele this preseason.
“His footwork, his power, and he’s athletic ... the dude can run,” Phelps said of Bostick. “You can run up the field as fast as you want and he’ll run up there right with you. He’ll run you around. You have to work a move on the guy. I’ve never had that kind of competition. He’s making me better. Hopefully I’m making him better at the end of the day,” Phelps added.
Phelps — he’s joined a KU team that went 2-10 last season while his Miami team was 7-6 — has daydreams, not nightmares about Bostick.
“One person I think about daily when we are in the (practice, locker room) facility is Earl,” Phelps said. “Every 1-on-1 I go against him. Almost every rep I get I tend to go against him except when we sub second offensive line.
“One person I keep hedging on is Earl. He has NFL technique. In the end, I want to be able to produce against another NFL player I’ll see in the future,” added Phelps, also considered a prime NFL prospect.
Bostick says he’s appreciative that teammates such as Phelps recognize his potential as an NFL player. However he’d rather table such talk for a while.
“When they say that, I feel that’s a ‘next year type thing,’’’ Bostick said of talk of the pros. “My focus now, especially me as an older guy on the team — an older guy in the position room — is to make sure we have chemistry together, everybody sticking together, everybody on the same page, everybody working harder each and every day, giving that 1% more each and every day. That can help us — not just help me — going into the season to be top tier.”
Bostick — he was planning on attending Appalachian State as a tight end/defensive end until taking a campus visit to KU right before signing day back in 2017 — actually could have entered the NFL Draft and started his pro career after last season.
Instead, he’s decided to give it one final try to help turn around the KU program. He played two seasons for David Beaty, two for Les Miles and has started year two under Lance Leipold after starting all 12 games a year ago in Leipold’s KU debut season.
“I wanted to be part of changing the program or the first steps in changing it to the right direction,” Bostick said. “That’s what I wanted since the first day I came here. I want to leave a legacy, leave it (program) better than I found it before I leave here.”
He realizes play of the offensive line will have a huge say in whether KU can improve on that 2-10 record. KU did finish the 2021 season on a strong note, beating Texas on the road, then losing to TCU and West Virginia by a combined nine points.
“So close, We’re right there,” said Bostick, leader of a line that allowed just 16 sacks in 12 games a year ago, The left tackle likely will be next to possible starters Michael Ford (LG), Mike Novitsky (C), Armaj Reed-Adams (RG) and Bryce Cabeldue (RT). Dominick Puni, a tackle, and Deondre Doiron, a center, have transferred to KU from Central Missouri and Buffalo respectively. Other offensive linemen include: De’Kedrick Sterns, Nolan Gorczyca (another Buffalo transfer) and James Livingston.
“Collectively we are on the same page. We know each others’ strengths, weaknesses,” Bostick said, “We try to help each other in every way possible. We watch film together. It’s not like one guy watches film (alone). We collectively watch film, see what we should have done, could have done.”
Bostick said the key to having a stellar O-line this year is for several individuals to step up when called upon. First game is Sept. 2 at home versus Tennessee Tech.
“To have depth … it takes improving every day. With the second and third group, make sure we have backup. You never know as a player when your opportunity will come up,” Bostick said, “We’ve got to improve first string, second string, third string, so when your opportunity comes up we know you are ready to take the field, know the calls, know everything possible. We move as a group of five instead of one.”
Bostick, by the way, did return the compliments junior defensive end Phelps’ way during a recent interview.
“His speed, his versatility, his moves. He shows that every day,” Bostick said of the former MAC standout. “Me and him competing 1 on 1, making each other better, we know when we get in the game it will help us.”