Kansas Football 2012: Defensive Overview

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Evaluating the defensive positional groups through the bye week

The defensive side has been quite the opposite of the offensive side, or at least it seems that way. The product is far from finished but at least we're seeing an impact on the field following the offseason addition of Dave Campo and a host of other contributors. This is a unit that is nationally ranked in takeaways and they've been serviceable for the first time in three years of Kansas football. Things are about to get a whole lot harder and that could result in some less than encouraging swings in momentum, but give credit where credit is due and if any group of Kansas players has earned credit, it's the defense.

Defensive Line

Bye Week Review:

This has been a group that has been heavily criticized since the departure of James McClinton and the Orange Bowl success in 2007-2008. For whatever reason Mark Mangino failed to land or develop the talent at this position beyond McClinton and Turner Gill was unable to fill the void with anything better. Plain and simple this group has been criticized early and often and sometimes that's been fair, other times it hasn't.

This season Kansas added two transfers into the mix with Jordan Tavai and Josh Williams. The Jayhawks also returned John Williams who missed last season due to injury. Throw in solid improvement from Kevin Young along with quality depth in Toben Opurum, Michael Reynolds and Ben Goodman and you have the makings of a solid rotation. This group hasn't necessarily reached a consistency, but when they clicking, they are doing a decent job.

What Kansas Needs From Here:

Compliments aside this group needs consistency. Perhaps their best game was against TCU which is funny because that's exactly when the offensive line played at it's highest level and that might be the best team Kansas has played to date. This group was active, making tackles and getting in the backfield. Even against NIU they did a decent job minus the containment of Jordan Lynch. Play with consistency and try to make life difficult. That's the job at hand for this group and they have the rotation and group to do it, now they just have to find a way to do it 100% of the time instead of 25%.

Linebackers

Bye Week Review:

The first game was a struggle for this group ,but since then things have improved. It's still been a case of two steps forward, one step back but Ben Heeney is really coming into his own and the reinsertion of Anthony McDonald has been a plus. Huldan Tharp still looks like a shell of what we thought he might be during his freshman year and Bakare has been decent but fairly below the radar. Pass coverage is a bit of a weakness and keeping a beat on a mobile quarterback hasn't happened. Those two things are a little concerning heading into Big 12 play, but all in all it's hard not to look at this group and see some improvement.

What Kansas Needs From Here:

It feels like McDonald, Heeney, Bakare and Tharp are the best four on the team. Losing Kande hurts because he adds one more person to that level but these are the strongest players. The biggest thing that needs to be buttoned up with this group is the open field tackling. Do that and the Rice game is a win. Do that and NIU might even be a win. The offense has taken a great deal of heat and rightfully so, but the defense is also failing to meet basic football expectations when it comes to defending and tackling.

Secondary

Bye Week Review:

I'd give this group a 50/50 rating. McDougald and Greg Brown have been good. Patmon and Lubbock Smith or whoever else is playing safety have been less predictable. There have still been the 'uh oh' moments here and there but generally speaking we're seeing a better product on the field in the secondary. Some of that might have to do with the added pressure up front, but I also see a player in McDougald who is playing with confidence. Even Patmon who was a bit of a goat early has dialed up the coverage aggressiveness and converted a pick six last week. No one is without fault, but the needle is definitely moving in the right direction through four weeks.

What Kansas Needs To See From Here:

I don't believe that Kansas can accomplish the fan stated goal of competitiveness without this group playing at a high level during Big 12 play. That means that Patmon will need to be more consistent, Brown has to continue to play relatively well and I think McDougald might even need to elevate his play. This has been such a suspect area in the Big 12 and there are some big time offenses still in this league despite the fact that things have tempered a bit. It's a team effort, but I believe this group has the makeup to help significantly if they reach their potential.

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