"When Kawann is playing his best, he is the best. A key for him and a key for our team this season is to get Kawann to play his best on every snap."
At Marshall, offensive coordinator Bill Legg offered a quick parallel to Short.
"[Short presents] the same problems [Memphis nose guard Dontari] Poe posed last year, and the year before that," Legg said. "He's not your 315-pound guy. You turn the film on, they throw a screen across the field away from him, and he frickin' sticks his foot in the ground and runs over there and is in on the tackle for a 5-, 6-yard gain.
"That's the type of athletic ability he has. Poe was the same type of guy, and he was a first-round NFL draft pick."
Beside Short at the other tackle is Bruce Gaston, a 6-2, 303-pound junior Russell said is the strongest on the team - and almost was when he arrived as a teenage freshman. At the ends, Russell (6-5, 275 sophomore) already has 41/2 tackles for loss and two sacks, while Ryan Isaac (6-5, 294 junior) and Greg Latta (6-6, 265 junior) add Big Ten size and then some to the position.
In yielding just 293 total yards per game, the Boilermakers have other key cogs - particularly the cornerbacks. Senior Josh Johnson already has four pass break-ups and an interception and is to start his 29th career game; Ricardo Allen is to start in his 26th.
But first and foremost, the Herd will have to find a way to neutralize Short and that front four, whether by scheme or brute force.
"Without a doubt, it's the best defensive line we face this year," Legg said. "They don't have a weak link on that defensive line."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.