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28 Days Until KU Football: Previewing the Secondary

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The secondary should be a solid unit overall for the Jayhawks in 2021.

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

Obviously, the scheme change back to a 4-3 defense will affect the secondary less than the defensive line or linebackers, but KU is still going through some transition on the back end of the defense. The biggest hit was Karon Prunty leaving via the transfer portal; Prunty had a great freshman season last year and was expected to be one of the top corners in the Big 12 this fall. That one really, really hurts.

However, all is not lost. Kansas has some young talent that is expected to play early, as well as plenty of experienced players available.

Projected 2-Deep

CB - FR JaCobee Bryant / SO Duece Mayberry

CB - S-SR Jeremy Webb / RS-FR Ra’Mello Dotson

S - JR Kenny Logan / RS-FR Johnquai Lewis

S - S-SR Ricky Thomas / FR O.J. Burroughs

NB - FR Jayson Gilliom / RS-SR Takulve Williams

I included a nickel-back position as well, as there is lots of chatter that KU’s defensive look may resemble a 4-2-5 at times, given opposing offensive play styles throughout the Big 12. The talk all summer has been about Jayson Gilliom, who impressed a lot of folks throughout the spring.

I have also heard a lot of talk that O.J. Burroughs will be starting sooner rather than later. He may not begin the season as a starter, but a lot of people expect him to surpass one of the upperclassmen in front of him and claim a starting role by the end of the season. Burroughs is a true freshman who had a slew of G5 offers as well as Tennessee and Georgia Tech before going with the Jayhawks.

JaCobee Bryant was a member of the 2020 class who had a handful of P5 offers coming out of high school. With Prunty’s departure, Bryant is poised to take over a starting CB spot. Missouri State transfer Jeremy Webb, who went to Virginia Tech out of high school, looks to slide into the other starting job.

Coaching

The defensive backs are coached by Chevis Jackson, who returns for his second year in Lawrence. Jackson came to KU from Ball State after serving previously as a graduate assistant under Miles at LSU. He was a three-year starter at CB for LSU under Miles and was a third-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.

Cause for Optimism

The safety spots may be KU’s best position group on the team. Kenny Logan was KU’s leading tackler last year, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but more of an indictment on the front-7. Regardless, it shows he has a knack for being around the ball. Combine that with the athletic yet unproven talent on the edges, and the Jayhawks have the making of a decent secondary.

Cause for Pessimism

While the KU pass defense wasn’t statistically bad last year, how much of that was due to “good players” vs “teams didn’t have to pass to beat KU?” So many games were over at halftime it wasn’t even funny. TCU threw just six passes in the second half of their matchup with KU. K-State surprisingly threw 11. Oklahoma State threw 13. Coastal Carolina threw just 9. (Oklahoma threw 18 passes after taking a 31-3 halftime lead, those jerks.) If the front seven doesn’t get any better, it’s not going to matter if Jaire Alexander and Jalen Ramsey put on KU jerseys this year.