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Kansas Football Making The Move To The 3-4 On Defense

For the most part media day is pretty vanilla stuff.  Coaches step up to the mic and talk about how hard they've worked in the offseason, how excited they are to kickoff fall camp and there tends to be a good deal of cliche's and optimism floated around.  When you weed through those items there is occasionally a nugget here and a nugget there worth noting.  For Kansas yesterday that tidbit of information came from the defensive representative at media day Steven Johnson. 

If you followed the KUSports live blog from media day you may have noticed the mention by Johnson that Kansas is making the move to a 3-4 base defense.

It's official: KU will be switching to a base 3-4 defense this fall.  KU linebacker Steven Johnson said new defensive coordinator Vic Shealy had informed the team of the change about two weeks ago.

"We have a lot of good linebackers," Johnson said, "so we're trying to make our defense built to our favor."

The talk has been floating out there since the end of last season but most of it revolved around the thought that Kansas might add a wrinkle and show some 3-4 at times.  This latest comment by Johnson would indicate that this shift in scheme will be much more full time than part time.

And really it makes sense.  Without question Kansas is going to be thinnest at defensive tackle.  Kevin Young, Pat Dorsey, Richard Johnson Jr. and John Williams are it.  The Jayhawks attempted to move Pat Lewandowski and Julius Green to the middle during Spring ball but neither is at the point weight wise where that can really be relied upon for a consistent lift at the position. 

When you think about it even Kevin Young is probably better built as a 3-4 defensive end lining up over the tackle instead of buried on the interior.  Throw in Keba Agostinho who hasn't really been able to put on the weight they would have liked to see and you have four players that fit in nicely with a 3-4 scheme and a few of them can drop down to the middle in a passing down as we saw Kevin Young do a year ago.

The 3-4 also means that Kansas is able to get more talent on the field.  One of the groups that has made the biggest improvements on paper is the linebacker corps.  Darius Willis is eligible and expected to make an impact.  Huldon Tharp is healthy.  Tunde Bakare is turning heads during workouts and Malcolm Walker had a strong spring.  Add in the known commodity in Steven Johnson and Toben Opurum as a 3-4 outside linebacker and you've got a strong athletic corps of linebackers and that doesn't even touch on some of the development that has hopefully occurred with the younger crop and players like Prinz Kande moving into the position.

One big concern has always been the lack of a MONSTER nose tackle to suck up space, and while that is the norm in a professional 3-4 defense it doesn't have to be the case on the college level.  Does it help?  Sure it does.  But Pat Dorsey, John Williams and Richard Johnson all showed the ability late last season to effectively play the scheme and tie up gaps and blockers.  The Jayhawks absolutely need to make the position a priority in recruiting in order to improve the look but it doesn't mean the switch to the 3-4 can't be effective this year for Kansas.

At the end of the day it gives Kansas options, it puts the best players on the field and it gives Vic Shealy the ability to attack in different ways.  At this level and in the position Kansas is in, that's the most important thing.  Gill has often said he wants to have an attacking defense and the move to the 3-4 looks to be the best opportunity to produce that at the moment.