September 13, 2007

Kunis Enters Camp With New Mentality

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For junior noseguard Frank Kunis, school’s finally out.
“I’m done learning,” he said. “I just have to go in and do it now.”
Kunis isn’t talking about graduation from Cornell; he’s referring to his desire to become more of a leader this year.
“I just have to be a leader on the defensive line, mature as a player,” he said. “To be a leader I’m not learning any more. I just have to go in and act like I’ve been doing it forever.”
While easier said than done, Kunis showed last year that he does have the ability to plug up the middle for a Red run defense, which becomes magnified in the rush-heavy Ivy League. Kunis tallied up 26 tackles — two for a loss — while starting six games. In order to fill this role, however, Kunis thought there was one thing he needed to work on — agility.
“My footwork got a lot better last spring,” he said. “We worked — I can’t even tell you how many hours — on agility drills. Most of my times got better during the spring in all the testing we did — ladder drills, cone drills — it made my foot speed a lot better. It works to my advantage with me being small and the way our defense works. It’s not just straight up hitting.”
Small is a relative term, though. While Kunis does stand 5-11 at a position routinely filled by players over six feet, he still weighs in at 280, making him about the same weight as most other defensive linemen for the Red. And while his teammates do give him a hard time, Kunis thinks he can use it to his advantage.
“I’m smaller and more compact,” he said. “I think it works to my advantage, though. These kids are all 6-5, 6-6 and I guess I’d say I have good strength. I have to leverage on a lot of kids, too, with them being so big.”
Kunis notices, that beyond strategy and footwork, a particular mindset must come before results. He points out that the biggest difference for him from last year to this year is not his talent level, but his attitude.
“[Last year] the coaches told me I would be a backup,” he said. “I just had to help out wherever I could. … I knew I was going to be playing a lot coming into this season. … I think I’ll be more of a factor.”
This is an attitude that seems to have permeated the entire defensive line. With the three starters of Kunis and juniors Dario Arrezo and Luke McCarthy fairly set in stone entering training camp, they were all able to commit to giving their best.
“Working together in camp, we’ve gotten a real good feel for each other,” Arrezo said. “[Our relationship is] phenomenal. We’re one of the closest units on the team. We’ve been together three years.”