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30 Days Until Kansas Football: Previewing the Secondary

Will the secondary be a reason for optimism or a reason for pessimism for KU football in 2018?

TCU v Kansas Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Kansas football has had loads of success with their secondary players in regards to their NFL careers. To name a few, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Nolan Cromwell, LeRoy Irvin and Kwamie Lassiter all wore the Jayhawk colors. This school has not had a hard time in finding talented defensive backs. Here’s a look at a crop that could add onto that list in the coming years.

Starting CB: JR Hasan Defense

Hasan Defense might have some enemies in Norman, OK due to his “cheap shot” on Baker Mayfield. However, he should be known for more than that. Defense is turning into a solid CB for the Jayhawks and reliable one. Defense started 10 of 11 games last year missing only one due to illness.

Defense is a transfer from Kilgore College that plays with a mean motor and has the potential to be a star sooner than later in college. Defense shows the awareness and overall closing burst to excel as a run defender but his ball skills and reaction time make him someone to throw away from, especially now that he continues to get even better.

Starting CB: FR Corione Harris

This might seem a little premature but I think the Jayhawks found an absolute steal in Corione Harris. Harris caught the attention of All-Pro CB Richard Sherman at his camp and the eyes of schools such as Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech, but he stayed committed with the Jayhawks.

Harris is a true freshman and one that I believe can turn himself into a star and eventually make a run at becoming a first-round pick.

Starting NB: JR Bryce Torneden

Torneden is coming off a season in which he played every single game and started every single game. A Lawrence native, he has become quite the fan favorite among the Jayhawks faithful.

Torneden brings veteran leadership and an overall presence to the table as well the fact he is extremely versatile. He is expected to continue to hold down the nickel back position.

Starting S: JR Mike Lee

No one appears to hit as hard as Mike Lee. Ever since he’s been on the team, Lee has turned himself into a leader. This could easily be Lee’s last year as a Jayhawk because of how talented he is.

Lee is a budding star and will be vital for the Jayhawks this season.

Starting S: SR Tyrone Miller Jr.

Miller Jr. has been starting for Kansas since his freshmanyear. Now, he’s in his senior season and is looking to leave KU on a high note. He’s a solid safety from Ann Harbor, Michigan that was originally a three-star recruit.

Kansas as watched the senior gradually turn into a solid starter. His numbers have gone up each year and he’s been very durable for the Jayhawks. It will be interesting to see who replaces him in 2019, however.

The rest of the secondary

CB Shakial Taylor is also in his senior year and is coming off his junior year having started nine games. JUCO transfer CB Elijah Jones will be a name to watch as someone who could find some playing time this year. CB Kyle Mayberry has shown flashes throughout his college career but has never quite put it altogether. He is definitely another corner to watch.

After those guys, juniors Julian Chandler and Deante Ford hold it down on special teams. It’s a fine group but Kansas this year will be hoping for a breakout performance in someone like true freshman Corione Harris or JUCO transfer Elijah Jones.

Another player to keep in mind is redshirt freshman Robert Topps III. The former three-star recruit has impressive size at 6-foot-2 and 201 pounds that will give him the opportunity to either compete for the nickel back job against Torneden or set himself up nicely to compete for a safety position after Mike Lee and Tyrone Miller Jr. leave the program.

Finally, Nate Betts is another secondary player that is a JUCO transfer and is someone to keep an eye on. Shaquille Richmond started four games last year at safety and you can expect the junior to be in that range again this year.

Overall

I really find myself overhyping Corione Harris. I’m rarely as excited as I was about obtaining his talents this past year. I think you are looking at a future first-round CB in the NFL Draft and someone that is going to keep the trend of impressive defensive backs going.

I also hold onto the fact that I think Mike Lee is a special player and I expect him to keep pushing forward as he continues to develop into an even better player. Lee could leave after this season and while it wouldn’t be an ideal scenario to have to replace both starting safeties after the campaign, Kansas has some depth at the position.

Hasan Defense and Mike Lee will lead their units into battle each Saturday and I think overall this unit can win some ball games. How many? This is not an LSU or an Alabama secondary by any stretch. It takes time to develop units like those, and with Kansas recently putting players like Fish Smithson and Bradley McDougald into the league, the program is starting to grow even more in who they find.

The biggest issue, of course, is putting wins on the schedule because if Kansas doesn’t win they could be facing a huge blowup of the coaching staff and oftentimes when that happens players transfer out. This secondary is definitely something to watch out for but something to be wary about as well.