With the 2017 preseason Defensive Player of the Year Dorance Armstrong off to the NFL a year early, Kansas will be missing a huge piece of its defense. The good news, however, is that Daniel Wise will be back, so KU will have at least one known quantity on the line.
Cause for Concern
This was just mentioned - with Armstrong gone, who will step up? KU has a lot of unknown at defensive end. And when KU goes to four down linemen, whoever will be lining up next to Wise is also a bit of a mystery. I guess what I’m trying to say is, the defensive line this year will be Daniel Wise and a bunch of Juco guys recruited by David Beaty, and that does not instill a lot of confidence for me.
Cause for Optimism
We’ll get the easy one out of the way first: Daniel Wise. Dude had 53 tackles, 16 TFLs, and 7 sacks from the DT spot last year and was just named preseason first team All-Big 12 by Athlon.
And if you’re into drinking the kool-aid, some of the newcomers vying for starting spots had decent offer lists, including:
DT - JJ Holmes (Missouri, K-State, Kentucky, Syracuse)
DE - Azur Kamara (Nebraska, Arizona State, Louisville, Baylor, Iowa State)
DE - Najee Stevens-McKenzie (Maryland, Missouri, Pitt, Iowa State)
It should be noted that this is pure conjecture on my part, but here’s a stab at the 2-deep. If last year was any indication, the RE/LE spots are interchangeable, and you could see any of these linemen at any position along the line.
RE - Jr Azur Kamara / Jr Najee Stevens-McKenzie
DT - Sr Daniel Wise
DT - Sr Isi Holani / Sr JJ Holmes
LE - Sr Keyshaun Simmons / Sr Josh Ehambe
The position coach for this group is Jesse Williams, who is entering his second season at KU. Williams came to Lawrence after spending five years under Frank Solich at Ohio, where he helped direct a stout run defense. He’s been a college position coach on the defensive side of the ball for over 20 years now.
The defensive line is chock full of upperclassmen, but that’s because most of them are junior college transfers. There’s a lot of unknown here, but there’s also a lot of promise. I’d also ask you to keep in mind who is coaching these guys in David Beaty and Clint Bowen.
The question is, do you dare drink the kool-aid?