Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
SPARTANBURG, SC July 27, 2013 – Panthers players arrived at training camp Thursday to discover a new dorm set-up that allows the large majority of them to have their own room.
But two of the largest players on the roster – defensive tackles
Rookies – yes, even highly drafted rookies – still have roommates, and the two biggest members of the draft class are sharing a room.
“Me and KK are roommates, but the rooms are actually pretty big,” said Lotulelei, the Panthers’ first-round draft pick. “We have our own sides of the room, and KK is a great dude. That’s good because we’ll be spending a lot of time together.”
Indeed, Lotulelei and Short will long be linked in more ways than one. In addition to sharing a room at Wofford College and a position group, the first- and second-round draft picks are being counted on to work together to stabilize the middle of the Panthers’ defensive front sooner rather than later.
“He’s first round, I’m second round, so there are a lot of big things expected of us,” Short said. “And we’ve set high expectations for ourselves as far as what we need to do to come help these guys on the defensive line and the team in general get to the playoffs and even the Super Bowl.”
The good news is that even though Lotulelei and Short are being touted as major upgrades at the tackle position, they don’t have to do it alone.
For one thing, there is already talent at the position, headed by veteran Dwan Edwards, who compiled six sacks in his first season with the Panthers in 2012.
Also, Edwards and others along the line are making sure their new teammates aren’t left to feel alone.
“Me and Star talk about it all the time: ‘Dwan Edwards doesn’t do anything wrong,’ ” Short said. “We’re trying to follow in those footsteps. If we mess up in practice, they get on us and tell us what we need to do. Listening to guys like him and Charles Johnson, we can learn a lot.”
The rookie duo also is leaning heavily on defensive line coach Eric Washington. Lotulelei said the best advice he’s gotten to date is Washington’s suggestion that he soak up everything he can from his veteran teammates, while Short is turning to Washington to help him streamline his work ethic and fundamentals.
“There are a couple things I was doing in college and coming in here that really wouldn’t work,” Short said. “Now I’m just getting the technique down and the attention to details by listening to Coach Washington. He’s a great coach. There’s just something about him.
“He expects more out of me as far as technique and my work ethic. There were a lot of doubts even before I got drafted about what kind of player I am. He’s trying to bring it out.”
More of it should come out Sunday, when the Panthers hit the practice field at 9:15 a.m. and are allowed to hit each other for the first time since the rookies joined the roster.
When the pads go on, the gloves will come off.
“It will be a lot better for me,” Lotulelei said. “I’m not real good with finesse and all that stuff. When the pads come on, I’ll have a better time in practice improving my game and being able to actually get some good looks for myself and for the O-line. It will be pretty beneficial for me.”
His roommate, not surprisingly, feels the same way.
“I’m very excited because we can’t bull rush with no pads, and that’s one of the things that we really like to do,” Short said. “When the pads come on, it will be a lot more physical, and we’ll really see what type of players we are at the next level.”