Let's try to bang this out real quick, before we cut it too close to game time.
Last season, the safeties were a strength, and we return nearly every person from that rotation. Gone is Sadiq Muhammed, but the starting duo of Stuckey and Thornton remains intact (and both are only juniors), and there is plenty of depth with Patrick Resby, Phillip Storizer and Tang Bacheyie.
Not to mention the incredible physical beastliness of Olaitan Oguntodu and the youth of Lubbock Smith. Plus, two of the best incoming recruits in the Class of 2009? Safeties in Prinz Kande and Darian Kelly. The future looks bright for the last line of defense, that is for sure.
With that said, here is a look-see at the three year depth chart:
|FS1||Justin Thornton (rsJR)||Justin Thornton (rsSR)||Phillip Strozier (rsSR)|
|FS2||Phillip Strozier (rsSO)||Phillip Strozier (rsJR)||EMPTY|
|FS3||Tang Bacheyie (SR)||EMPTY||EMPTY|
|SS1||Darrell Stuckey (rsJR)||Darrell Stuckey (rsSR)||Olaitan Oguntodu (rsSR)|
|SS2||Patrick Resby (SR)||Olaitan Oguntodu (rsJR)||EMPTY|
|SS3||Olaitan Oguntodu (rsSO)||EMPTY||EMPTY|
|SX||Lubbock Smith (FR)||Lubbock Smith (rsFR)||Lubbock Smith (rsSO)|
--- Italics denote projected redshirt year
--- Bold denotes EMPTY space in depth chart
Not really sure where Lubbock Smith will fit in, so I just slotted him in there as "Safety X". Really solid, dependable, veteran depth with Resby and Bacheyie, with more talented, projectable players in Strozier and Oguntodu available as well. Oguntodu is a personal favorite of mine, and has all of the tools to be a big-time player at SS, if he ever can put it all together. Both Kande and Kelly figure to be key members of the safety rotation as well, just where they fit in is still in question.
Player-by-players after the jump...
Justin Thornton :: #46 :: rsJR :: FS1
If you are looking for a breakthrough defensive player last season, look no further than Mr. Thornton. He started out the year backing up Patrick Resby and appearing on the field for only a handful-or-so plays. By the time Kansas finally left the state to go play in Boulder, Thornton had effectively replaced Resby in the starting lineup and just took off from there. A crucial interception in that game was the first time he was noticed beyond Kansas fans, or so it seemed, and by the time the Mizzou game rolled around, everyone was fully aware of Justin Thornton and just how crucial he is to this football team.
He figures to be even better this year, and is probably the best player in the entire secondary. Plus, he is moving to FS from last season's position of SS, where his incredible athleticism and QB-reading skills can be put to even better use. I'm predicting an All-Big 12 First Team kinda season from him. If he delivers, we have a big chance against Mizzou in Arrowhead. If not, at least in that game, and we are in trouble.
Phillip Strozier :: #26 :: rsSO :: FS2
Strozier is going to see plenty of action this year in nickel and dime packages, with the inexperience of the cornerbacks. He played corner in high school, Strozier did, and while he is still becoming a more complete, overall safety, he already has more than enough cover skills to get on the field. Thus, the playing time. He has a chance to be the one-year successor to Thornton before he graduates himself, although the incredible incoming talent (Smith, Kande, Kelly) could leave him relegated to simple nickel-and-dime duty.
Tang Bacheyie :: #36 :: SR :: FS3
Tang! No matter what you say, the fact that some people in world are actually named after orangey flavored drinks is awesome in every way. As far as the player goes, he will likely need an injury-or-two to see significant action as a safety, but he is still a veteran emergency option, which is always valuable.
Darrell Stuckey :: #25 :: rsJR :: SS1
In order to accomodate Thornton's position switch to FS, Stuckey has been forced to switch positions as well. He was more of a fit at FS, admittedly, but he is a better player at SS than Thornton was, and Thornton is a better free safety than Stuckey. Thus, the move.
He still figures to be a really good player in his final two years at Kansas, and will be just as crucial as Thornton in preventing the pass-happy schools from throwing all over the yard against us. He is a big-hitter, which is typical of a SS, and can lay the wood on routes across the middle with the best of them.
Patrick Resby :: #7 :: SR :: SS2
Resby, when he was recruited out of JUCO, he was recruited to be a twoo-year starter at strong safety. However, his average-at-best play and Thornton's emergence led to him being benched about halfway through last season, and he now sits firmly at #2 on the SS depth chart. However, he still figures to be this year's Sadiq Muhammed; another safety to throw out there in certain situations. He will provide some veteran presence, and wouldn't be horrible by any stretch were there an injury to occur. A nice, solid player to have on the bench.
Olaitan Oguntodu :: #40 :: rsSO :: SS3
One of my personal favorites on the team, OO is an absolutely insane athlete. He has been tried out, at least in practice, at plenty of positions (LB, RB and S are confirmed) and he coould, conceivaby, be a start at all of them. He has unlimited potential, and SS seems to be a good fit for him, but he has yet to really unleash his talent. The light bulb hasn't turned on yet, so to speak. Still, I think he is going to eventually get it, which is why I have him pegged as the starting SS in 2010. He is a sink-or-swim guy; either he'll get it and we'll wonder why he hasn't started forever or he'll stay buried on the depth chart, always being pegged as a guy "ready to breakout".
Lubbock Smith :: #39 :: FR :: S
Lubbock is a true freshman that is redshirting. It's gameday. That is all.
I'll do the Special Teams "preview" after the game today. Coming up next, a quickie "Things to Watch For" (for those of you who actually get to see the game on the television/in live. Lucky bastards.) and then the Game Thread. I'll be there, albeit being given my information view 610 Sports on the internets. hope you will be there too.