For the last several years the Cyclones have had a stingy defense anchored by a pair of All Big 12 caliber linebackers. This year that defense has had it's share of struggles and a critical injury to Jake Knott, one of those linebackers, has raised further questions as the Cyclones look to clinch a bowl bid down the stretch.
47 ***A.J Klein (6-2, 248, Sr.)
Klein is a returning starter, he was a Butkus candidate, an All American candidate and he's the backbone of the defense now that Jake Knott is out. The two were a pretty potent one two punch, but Klein is having to shoulder more of the burden due to the injury to Knott. Klein is the current leader on the Cyclones in tackles.
George is filling in rather admirably for Knott in the middle and has recorded 65 tackes for the Cyclones this year. This includes a 17 tackle performance against Oklahoma so it's obvious that George looks like a pretty serviceable backup following the injury. Broomfield has plenty of playing experience and represents a smaller, nickel type hybrid player and has done a nice job as a first year starter for the Cyclones.
On the line McDonough is the only returning starter but the other new faces all have game experience throughout their career. The ends are very much in the mold of Toben Opurum in that they are caught in between the ideal size for an end and the athleticism for a linebacker. They can bring pressure and they can make a reasonable play in space. McDonough anchors the group and Laing is also a strong presence in the middle.
Givens and Washington are no. 2 and no. 3 on this team in terms of tackles and they are very strong anchors to the defensive secondary. Reeves is a solid cover corner despite his fairly diminutive size and Cliff Stokes is not the regular starter but he has been forced into action due to injury.
Statistically speaking this Cyclone team is pretty average defensively, until you look at the scoring defense where they do a fairly solid job. From a personality perspective they are similar to Kansas. Probably the biggest concern for Jayhawk fans would be the fact that Kansas would appear to be ill equipped to take advantage of their biggest weakness, which is probably at the corner position. Both offensively and defensively this game presents a winnable matchup for Kansas, but it's also VERY winnable and the odds seem to still be tipped in the favor of the Cyclones.