The last position on our list is that of cornerback. The guys who can get all the glory just as easily as they can shoulder all the blame.
Ultimately their jobs and how easy or difficult they are can be attributed in a big way to the team around them. For example, if you have a great pass rush the job becomes easier. If you need help in run support because your front seven can't handle the load, the job becomes much harder.
At the end of the day it's one of the most difficult positions on the field, it takes a certain type of player and some handle it while others buckle under the pressure.
This year the Kansas coaching staff promises to be aggressive and attacking defensively. That's a welcome change from years past and that will present opportunities to make big plays and give up big plays. All you can hope from your corners is that they make as many as the give up. It should be a fun position to watch in 2010.
Projected Depth Chart
CB: Chris Harris, Anthony Davis, Corrigan Powell
NB: Tyler Patmon, Ryan Murphy
Harris is probably the most familiar face on the defensive side of the ball as he enters his fourth year since starting as a true freshman for the Orange Bowl champion Jayhawks in '07. In all reality his natural position might be at safety and multiple attempts were made to get him back to that spot. The last staff even went so far as having him add weight to play in the 4-2-5 experiment as the fifth defensive back and provide run support.
At the end of the season however, Harris found his way back to corner because he's been the most consistent player at the position. He's not perfect from a speed standpoint, but he gets the job done and tackles well in space. Harris will be a leader on this team and count him as one who is looking forward to playing up on a wideout from time to time and getting rid of the dreaded 15 yard cushion.
Barfield is a tremendous athlete. For a while it started to feel like he might be one of those players that puts up very impressive workout numbers, but it just wasn't ever going to translate to the field. After a strong spring and fall he has received some VERY high praise from Carl Torbush and it looks like he's going to have a chance to put his physical abilities to good use.
If his aptitude for the game can compliment that athleticism, Barfield could be a solid second corner for Kansas.
Brown is another player like Barfield who is an athlete plain and simple. He's one of the faster players at the position, and appears to finally be in the right place to contribute.
The transition to Kansas hasn't been an easy one for Brown and at times it looked like his time here might be short lived. In the last 8-12 months he's stepped up and now he can focus on his playing abilities on the practice field pushing for him to see more minutes on gameday. Right now Barfield has the edge, but Brown could be just as much of an asset in man coverage before it's all said and done.
Davis was the opening day starter from a year ago and unfortunately the first victim of the musical chairs game being played at corner. The reality of the position is mistakes will be made. Yes Davis made a lot very early, but it wasn't as if it was in a game where Kansas couldn't afford to allow him to grow and learn from those mistakes.
Ultimately Davis never quite recovered. He's a nice looking prospect, has two years of eligibility remaining and as a backup at the position he provides solid depth. Personally, I'm rooting for the guy to break in at some point over the next two seasons, preferably next year though because that would mean Chris Harris played well and remain uninjured.
Rubles played sparingly early last season, but his role increased late. Physically he's a very big corner much like his high school teammate Aqib Talib. There was a time this spring where he looked like he might be the front runner to start opposite Harris, but the competition has been pretty stiff at the position and with the staff looking for speedy athletes, Rubles fits but maybe not as well as others.
Again, great addition to the depth and a player that could very easily step in and play solid minutes if needed.
Some might remember Powell stepping in at corner for a brief stint two seasons ago as a true freshman. Count that one as a major mistake by the last staff. It's not that Powell doesn't have potential, but he wasn't ready and as they did far too often with their corners, Powell was thrown to the wolves.
After redshirting last season he returns with three years of eligibility and plenty of time to work himself into minutes in the backfield at some point.
Patmon was mentioned early last fall as a freshman to keep an eye on. He's the son of a coach, a physical player and turned heads early. Yet somehow with all the faces that played corner a year ago, we never saw Patmon.
Ultimately that's a good thing. Patmon is now listed as a redshirt freshman and with four years remaining he's already on the two deep as the nickelback. He's looked good this fall attacking from the position and it will be a good role for him as he eases into the corner battle in the future.
Murphy is a good athlete with good speed and at times last season looked great in the nickel role. Obviously at this point he's been beaten out by Patmon, but I wouldn't discount the possibility that the 4th year junior might find his way to the top of the chart at this position. Obviously he's had struggles at times, but sometimes there is no substitute for experience.
McDonald is the lone freshman at the position and by the looks of things he should be penciled in for a redshirt. Looking toward the future though, he has good size for the position and was a player that had offers from Illinois and Missouri as well.
Looking Beyond 2010
Obviously the biggest challenge next year will be replacing Chris Harris. The Jayhawks also lose Rubles, but Harris has been the most consistent piece of this unit for the last three seasons.
The good news is that Kansas will still have solid depth with some great athletes. Really the athleticism at the position is as good as it's been in a while and with McDonald, Chris Robinson and most likely one other to be named recruit at corner, it should only get better.
Gill wants to recruit athletes and speed. This is a position where that will certainly come in handy.