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30 Days Until KU Football: Previewing the Linebackers

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KU coaches will have to find the right mix of experienced upperclassmen with talented underclassmen when it comes to linebacker.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 28 TCU at Kansas Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Second verse, same as the first.

With the transfer portal and the new coaching staff, the Jayhawks have just as many questions at linebacker as they do at quarterback or defensive line. Remember, KU is changing from a 3-4 back to a 4-3 base defense, so until players start hitting each other in fall camp, most of what you’ll find from here on out is, honestly, pure speculation.

Projected 2-Deep

As I just said, we really don’t know much about how the linebackers are going to shake out, so this is a complete shot in the dark here.

OLB - SO Taiwan Berryhill / RS-FR Alonso Person

MLB - RS-JR Nick Channel / RS-FR Cornell Wheeler

OLB - JR Gavin Potter / JR Rich Miller

In general, Kansas has plenty of options at linebacker. The new staff can embrace a youth movement of sorts and go with talented yet unproven guys like Berryhill, Person, Wheeler, or even RS-FR Krishawn Brown. Or, they can go with a more upper-classmen look, with Channel, Miller, Potter, or even seniors Nate Betts and Jay Dineen. Or, I suppose a third option is a mix of youth and experience.

Berryhill played in the final five games of the season last year, and started the season finale against Texas Tech. However, Potter, Channel, and Betts are the leading tacklers returning to this group from last season. With a new coaching staff in place, this could go any number of directions. It’s pretty cliché, but at this point, we have to wait and see who emerges from fall camp and just trust that coaches will have the best players play regardless of class.

Some breaking news from Tuesday afternoon is that Trey Staley, a 3-star LB recruit out of Georgia, has made it to campus and will partake in fall camp. He signed his LOI back in December despite a late push from Ole Miss, but he’ll have his work cut out for him if he’s to find his name on the depth chart anytime soon.

Coaching

Chris Simpson is the new linebackers coach. He followed Leipold from Buffalo, where he spent the last six seasons with the new KU head coach. He played his college ball at Wisconsin-Whitewater (prior to the Leipold era), and has also coached at Eastern Michigan, Grand Valley State, and Nebraska-Omaha.

Cause for Optimism

Regardless of how the coaching staff handles the two-deep, the Jayhawks have a mix of young, exciting talent to go with some veterans who have been through the Big 12 grind a couple of times. With Kyron Johnson now listed as a defensive end in new-DC Brian Borland’s 4-3 defense, a young and athletic linebacking corps has plenty of potential to make some waves behind a big and experienced defensive line.

Cause for Pessimism

It’s just another case of, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” It’s hard to argue that the Jayhawks have some young and talented linebackers. Person, Brown, and Berryhill all had other P5 offers, and Wheeler was a four-star recruit last year who went to Michigan for crying out loud. You can put together all the talent you want, but if it doesn’t come together on the field, it doesn’t matter. And for KU, the last four head coaches have failed to put it together on the field.