Disclaimer: I tried to be consistent with my previous breakdowns of the new players when completing this exercise, but I have had a change of heart regarding the defensive backfield.
Two Deep Heading To Fall Camp
|Earl Bostick Jr.
|Michael Ford Jr.
|Michael Ford Jr.
|Kenny Logan Jr
|Kenny Logan Jr
The first-team offense was straightforward. The only spots with questions entering fall camp are at running back, one wide receiver spot, and maybe quarterback. I think the starting three wide receivers will be McBride, Grimm, and Arnold, but Douglas Emilien could fight his way into one of those spots with a good fall camp. At running back, I kept Devin Neal as the starter, but he will feel heavy pressure from both Ky Thomas and Sevion Morrison. The quarterback position is Jalon’s to lose, not Jason Bean’s to win. All signs point to Jalon continuing as the starter. He was picked to represent KU at media days this week, and I believe Leipold’s comments at media days indicate he sees Jalon as the starter.
Second-team offensive linemen are where the offensive depth chart gets concerning. De’Kendrick Sterns, Nolan Gorczyca, and Deondre Doiron are locked in as backups. With those three, four spots are covered, both guard spots and both tackle spots. What is less sure is how the coaches plan to cover the second-string center position. The candidates for the spot not currently starting were primarily tackles in high school. What I thought made the most sense in case Novitsky cannot go is to have Michael Ford Jr move into the center position and then bring Gorczyca into his spot. This brought to light that KU really needs to work on recruiting interior offensive linemen. The Jayhawks have a solid starting five, but a couple of injuries could destroy any chance the offense has to continue the momentum that started to build at the end of last season.
On the defensive side is where figuring out where all the pieces fit is more interesting. According to NCAA Total Defense stats, KU came in 126 out of 130 teams in total yards allowed last season. Though the offense did not rank much better, the offense did show signs of improvement and probably is why defensive help out of the transfer panel has been a higher priority to date.
Like the offensive line, the defensive line starters seem set, Lonnie Phelps should slide into Kyron Johnson’s spot and the year-end starters in the other positions should begin fall camp in the same spot. Here the only question is will Sam Burt be able to unseat Caleb Sampson for the starting role.
The rest of the defense is where change is happening. Of the top 6 linebackers on the roster, 4 are transfers, 3 from this past recruiting cycle. Rich Miller will remain a starter, and he will be joined by transfers Craig Young and Lorenzo McCaskill in the other two spots. This will put Taiwan Berryhill, transfer Eriq Gilyard, and Gavin Potter in the backup spots.
The defensive backfield was also an area of focus for the coaching staff as they combed through the transfer panel. I think the coaching staff should shake up the defensive backfield and slot most of those returners into backup slots. Incoming transfers should fill 3 of the 4 defensive backfield positions. Kalon Gervin and Jarret Paul should fill the cornerback spots and Marvin Grant should play safety next to Kenny Logan. This will push the starters from last season at those spots to the second team. Joining them on the second team, I will take a flier on Kaleb Purdy. With the need to up the talent on defense, Purdy can do that, and who better to pair him with to learn this season than Kenny Logan, Jr.
The easiest part of the depth chart is special teams. There is no change in personnel at any kicking or long snapping positions as well as the first team returners. I did keep Kenny Logan as the first team kick returner since the ended last season in that spot and I do think he will start the season returning kicks, but it would not surprise me if he was moved out of that spot at some point to avoid the additional risk of injury.