2013 Kansas Preview – Defense

Posted Jun 8, 2013

CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Kansas Jayhawk Defense

Kansas Jayhawks

Preview 2013 - Defense

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- 2013 Kansas Defense | 2013 Kansas Depth Chart
What You Need To Know: JUCO, JUCO, JUCO. After a disastrous 2012 season allowing 482 yards and 36 points per game and doing nothing with the pass rush, the defense needed to undergo an overhaul. The secondary needs the most work after losing all four starters – which isn't necessarily a bad thing – and now it's up to a few big corners from the JUCO ranks to hold up right away under fire. Chris Martin is a special defensive end prospect and Marquel Combs could be an anchor after spending their last few seasons prepping and the lower level, and the linebacking corps is getting a little instant help, too. Ben Heeney is a nice middle linebacker to work around, and there are just enough veterans from last season to not have to start from scratch, but any and all improvements have to come from the newcomers.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Ben Heeney, 112
Sacks: Several at 1
Interceptions: None

Star of the defense: Junior LB Ben Heeney
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior DT Ty McKinney
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Cassius Sendish
Best pro prospect: Junior DT Marquel Combs
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Heeney, 2) Combs, 3) DE Chris Martin
Strength of the defense: JUCO Transfers, Defensive Back Size
Weakness of the defense: Proven Pass Rush, Proven Defensive Backs

Defensive Line

Any and all hope about a big instant improvement will come with the JUCO transfers. 6-3, 310-pound junior defensive tackle Marquel Combs might be the team's top recruit, with terrific size, good quickness off the ball and good interior pass rushing ability. He could've played in the SEC and had his choice of mid-to-upper level BCS schools, but he's coming in to be the anchor of the defensive front and the key to the run defense. If he's not the team's top recruit, it's 6-4, 260-pound defensive end Chris Martin, a pass rushing prospect out of City College of San Francisco with the quickness of an outside linebacker and the burst to be a gamechanger on the line. He signed with Cal, went to Florida, and now is a Jayhawk.

Ty McKinney isn't the talent that Martin and Combs are, but the 6-3, 302-pound JUCO transfer is being asked to step off the bus and into the starting lineup after stuffing things up for Trinity Valley CC in Texas. While he's not considered a top BCS-level interior presence, his size is needed to go along with the talent and upside of 6-3, 286-pound redshirt freshman Tyler Holmes, a versatile option who can play just about anywhere on the line but has the strength to hang on the nose.

Working as a combination of defensive tackle and 3-4 end is 6-3, 295-pound senior Jordan Tavai, who started all 12 games last season making 20 tackles. He's not a pass rusher in any way and he's not going to get behind the line, but he's Big 12 strong and holds up well against the run. On the other side, when Tavai is at end, will be 6-3, 255-pound sophomore Ben Goodman, who'll work in combination with Martin to give the team a speedy pass rushing burst. While he didn't turn into a pass rushing specialist, he came up with a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss and 21 tackles in his limited time.

6-2, 277-pound senior Keba Agostinho started throughout last season, moving between tackle and end depending on the situation. The raw speed and quickness aren't there as a pass rusher with no sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and 16 tackles, meaning 6-3, 297-pound junior Keon Stowers will play a bigger role in the interior after making seven tackles with a tackle for loss in his limited time. Quick for his size, he should be able to pin his ears back and get off the ball and behind the line when he gets his chances.

Watch Out For … all the JUCO transfers. Along with Martin, Combs and McKinney, 6-3, 280-pound Andrew Bolton is a top prospect as a 3-4 end and possible tackle, blowing off LSU and Iowa to become a Jayhawk. 6-3 260-pound Tedarian Johnson is a smart option for inside or out with good hitting ability and closing skills. He'll start out on the end in a rotation with Tavai.
Strength: Size. The line might need smallish speed options Chris Martin and Ben Goodman to make something happen on the outside, but raw bulk isn't an issue with almost all the key parts between 280 and 300 pounds.
Weakness: Pass rushers. It was an awful, AWFUL year for the pass rush, coming up with just 12 sacks on the season with no one generating more than 1.5. Six of them came in the first three games, three came in the regular season finale against West Virginia, and a grand total of three came in the middle eight games of the year. The line needs someone who can hit a quarterback.
Outlook: There's the potential for a tremendous improvement right away if all the JUCO stars play like they're supposed to. KU needed talent up front, and it went and got it to work around a few big veterans who should be better against the run. Don't expect miracles, but the overall play should be stronger.
Unit Rating: 6


The potential is there to be the strength of the defense, even with the loss of big hitting Huldon Tharp on the weakside. Junior Ben Heeney isn't all that big at 6-0 and 227 pounds, but he's a terrific hitter who earned second-team All-Big 12 honors after leading the team with 112 tackles with a sack and 12 tackles for loss. Smart, active and tough, he was one of the team's few consistent defensive playmakers highlighted by a 14-stop day against Kansas State and with five double-digit tackling games over the final nine. He'll be backed up by senior Darius Willis, who'll be used as both a linebacker and a pass rushing end. The superstar recruit for Buffalo followed Turner Gill over to Kansas, and he immediately paid off starting every game in the middle and finishing third on the team with 81 tackles with a sack and eight tackles for loss. At 6-2 and 240 pounds he has excellent size, great range, and is fully healthy after getting hurt early and knocked out in 2010. Now it's time for him to finally pan out after coming up with just 16 stops.

6-0, 221-pound veteran Jake Love turned in a nice year on the strongside, working in a rotation to finish with 36 tackles with a sack and eight tackles for loss. He's not all that big, but he's very smart, very active and can move. 6-1, 220-pound junior Victor Simmons will be part of the rotation after making just four tackles with a recovered fumble in a limited role, but it's senior Prinz Kande who could be one of the better producers if he can return healthy at some point after getting knocked out for the season in the second game after making six tackles with a sack. The 5-11, 210-pounder has mostly worked as a backup safety and special teamer, but he could be a factor if 100% from his right knee injury. 6-2, 205-pound redshirt freshman Courtney Arnick isn't big, but he was a nice recruit with tremendous speed and leadership skills. A tremendous open field tackler with great strength, he has the upside to become a major producer on the strongside. He'll work in a rotation with 6-3, 205-pound junior Brian Maura who missed all of last season hurt. The Miami native was a special teamer in his first season, but the former wide receiver is a linebacker with excellent athleticism.

Watch Out For … Marcus Jenkins-Moore. The 6-3, 210-pounder from Pierce College could be the team's second best linebacker behind Heeney whenever he gets his chance to show what he can do. A promising athlete for the outside, he turned down a slew of SEC and Pac-12 schools to come to Lawrence, and while he might not need to be a starter right away, he could quickly take over a job.
Strength: Depth. It's a bit crazy for a team that didn't do much against the run and has to replace a few parts to have decent linebacker depth, but with the addition of Jenkins-Moore and with Willis and others returning, there should be a nice rotation to keep everyone fresh.
Weakness: Big plays. Heeney did his job and Love got behind the line, but for the most part the linebackers made too many plays down the field and didn't do quite enough to take the ball away. This is too active a group to not make a difference.
Outlook: This was a mish-mosh of a group that did a decent job of making things happen when the defensive front didn't do much to hold the line. Now there's a nice blend of talents, experience and new guys to form another collection of talents who should be able to come up with an even stronger year. This should be a big area of improvement.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Defensive Backs

The secondary was torn to shreds, so for good and bad, all four starters are gone. The improvement needs to start with JUCO transfer Dexter McDonald at one corner. The 6-1, 200-pound big prospect from Butler CC has the size and is smooth as silk on the move. While he's built like a free safety, he needs to lock down from one side, while fellow JUCO transfer Cassuis Sendish is an even bigger defender on the other at 6-2 and 185 pounds. He bounced around, starting out at the College of the Canyons before spending time at Arizona Western, but the Maryland native has found a home. The two JUCOs will work in a rotation with JaCorey Shepherd, a 5-11, 190-pound wide receiver who got in a little work making 15 tackles with three broken up passes. An academic all-star, he's smart and learning quickly on the fly.

5-11, 193-pound redshirt freshman Tevin Shaw was a nice get last year out of New Jersey with elite speed and good mauling ability for a safety. He'll work at strong safety and should quickly become one of the team's top tacklers and statistical stars, while 5-10, 195-pound senior Dexter Linton goes from being a decent backup to a starter at weak safety after making 26 tackles with two broken up passes. Part corner and part safety, he moves well and should be able to handle the promotion without a problem, but redshirt freshman Greg Allen is a promising speedster who'll take over the job next season and should see time as a nickel and dime defender.

Watch Out For … the corner situation. The JUCO transfer are being asked to play a huge role right away, and while Sendish is the best on the lot and McDonald is a good one, Kevin Short will also make big push with 6-2 size and good tackling ability. He's a playmaker who could be a whale of a defender in dime packages.
Strength: Size. The corners are huge, the safeties have good size, and there's enough bulk across the board to hold up against the run. Getting physical shouldn't be a problem for this group.
Weakness: Experience and proven production. The pass defense was miserable throughout last season making just 11 picks and allowing 300 yards or more in the final four games and five of the final six. For good and bad, all the starters and most of the top players from last year are gone.
Outlook: The production can't be worse. The Jayhawks didn't stop anyone who wanted to throw, and statistically, the only time anyone didn't put up big numbers – like Kansas State – was when the running game was rumbling at will. There needs to be help from the pass rush, and the JUCO transfers need to produce right away, but there's upside.
Unit Rating: 5.5

Special Teams

Ron Doherty took over the starting kicker job a few years ago and was the main man to start last season, but he only hit 5-of-10 field goals before being replaced. 6-5, 210-pound JUCO transfer Trevor Pardula came in from San Jose where he averaged 40.9 yards per punt and made 13-of-22 field goals. Whine his consistency is a question mark, he has a huge leg with great range and the potential to handle all the kicking duties.

Running back/receiver Tony Pierson will take over the punt return duties after the team averaged a pedestrian nine yards per try, while receiver Tre Parmalee will be the main option on kickoff returns after averaging 20 yards per attempt.

Watch Out For … Pardula. The punting game wasn't awful, but it could use a boost and the JUCO transfer needs to provide it. For a team that was so close in so many games, nailing every field goal is a must, and Pardula has to prove he can handle the work.
Strength: Punt coverage. The Jayhawks allowed a 90-yard punt return for a score against Oklahoma, but that was about it. Take that one off the books, and the team allowed a mere 4.5 yards per try.
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. The return game wasn't great, but it wasn't abysmal. The coverage team was a bigger problem allowing 21.8 yards per try and giving up too many chances. The defense doesn't need to be put into a hole.
Outlook: The coaching staff openly groused about the special teams going into last season, and with good reason. The kicking game now needs a complete overhaul and the return game has to come up with more pop. The Jayhawks have to be better in this phase to start winning the closer games.
Unit Rating: 5
- 2013 Kansas Preview | 2013 Kansas Offense
- 2013 Kansas Defense | 2013 Kansas Depth Chart