KANSAS CITY MO - NOVEMBER 27: Cornerback Greg Brown #5 of the Kansas Jayhawks breaks up a pass intended for Michael Egnew #82 of the Missouri Tigers as Bradley McDougald #24 looks on during the game on November 27 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Safety is a position where you can actually see a present and a future. It's similar to the offensive line in that way, but it's a little bit different from the standpoint that there are probably more questions than answers. If a few players live up to the potential they have shown in the past it could be a good year for this group and it will also allow more time for some of the younger players to develop into the future leaders at the position.
|1||Smith, Lubbock||5-10||197||Safety||SR (3L)||Dallas, Texas/Carter HS|
Smith had a pretty solid redshirt freshman season in Mark Mangino's final year. He stepped in following the graduation of Darrell Stuckey and looked like someone who would be a player. Enter Turner Gill and exit Lubbock Smith. Sometimes I wonder if speed was overvalued with Gill and perhaps that is why Smith took more of a back seat but he certainly looked like a better football player early on in his career than some of the options we experimented with last year. This year offers one more second chance and I can see Smith playing a prominent role with this team.
|24||McDougald, Bradley||6-1.5||214||Safety||SR (3L)||Dublin, Ohio/Scioto HS|
McDougald seems to be the one lock at the position. He definitely has the size and potential to be a Sunday type of player at this position he just hasn't put together a full season at that level. Toward the tail end of 2011 he did really seem to turn a corner with his aggressiveness and made some great plays against the Big 12 favorite bubble screen. Personally, I'm a fan and I hope he has some success. He's certainly a player that could be a leader for this team in the secondary.
|28||Hawks, Brandon||5-10||193||Safety||SR (SQ)||Oskaloosa, Kan./Oskaloosa HS|
Hawks is a preferred walk on who has bounced around from linebacker to safety over the last two years. He'll contribute on special teams but I wouldn't expect him to be a major player at safety.
|27||Simmons, Victor||6-1.5||201||Safety||SO (1L)||Olathe, Kan./Olathe North HS|
Simmons had a very positive stretch at about the midpoint of 2011 then he tapered off. The potential is definitely there as he brings size, speed and athleticism. Simmons should compete for minutes this year and ideally he will have a chance to develop into a starting role next year if not sooner.
|40||Mitchell, Ray||6-0||185||Safety||SO (1L)||Irving, Texas/MacArthur HS|
Like Simmons, Mitchell played a good deal this past season when Vic Shealy and company were on their heels. He did some good things, also did some things that weren't so good. He's still young, definitely has some potential and that experience should help him settle into a spot where he can compete this year. His biggest problem seemed to be getting caught WAY out of position, but then again wasn't that the entire secondary's issue? It was bad enough that I can't help but attribute that to the coaching. It's one thing to be out-classed and not able to make a play, it's another to not be in the screen when a catch is made on TV. Everyone was guilty of that and I think we should see a big improvement in that department this year. That ends my rant that should relate to the entire secondary but ended up in Ray Mitchell's profile. To offset that I'll just say that I think Mitchell could develop into a solid player in the coming years.
|39||Maura, Brian||6-3.5||205||Safety||SO (1L)||Miami, Fla./Felix Varela HS|
Maura makes the switch to safety due to depth at receiver. He's big, he's fast. Other than that we know absolutely nothing about him and how he'll adjust. Hopefully it turns into a positive for the player and the program.
|43||Matlock, Alex||6-1||188||Safety||FR (RS)||Pflugerville, Texas/Pflugerville HS|
Matlock redshirted last year and he's a good sized player at the safety position that likes to hit. His physical nature could win over fans if he can win over the coaches first.
There is one incoming freshman that could end up at safety but I wouldn't look for an impact players arriving this fall unless Weis adds a late 5th year or something.
The story at safety is a lot like the story elsewhere. Kansas has a couple of upperclassman that have had moments where they look very good and moments where they look pretty average. This group has more depth than the corner position and the mix of players allows for some flexibility in how coach Campo uses the group, this staff just needs to get consistency across the board and then maybe we'll start to see some good things develop.
All in all the defensive backfield will be filled with upperclassman and that's a good thing, but an overall improvement from this defense will be necessary if they want to compete in a league filled with pass first offenses.