2010 Kansas Preview - Defense
Kansas CB Chris Harris
Kansas CB Chris Harris
Posted May 12, 2010

CollegeFootballNews.com 2010 Preview - Kansas Jayhawk Defense

Kansas Jayhawks

Preview 2010 - Defense

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What You Need To Know: The defense wasn't really the problem last year, but it didn't help the cause with too many problems against the better offenses over the second half of the season. The Carl Tobush-led defense of this year will ditch the 4-2-5 alignment and go to a more conventional 4-3, but there needs to be the same production into the backfield as last year's D was able to generate. Sacks and tackles for loss weren't an issue, but the D struggled to come up with big plays, interceptions, and key stops. There front seven should be quietly good with pass rushing end Jake Laptad and middle linebacker Drew Dudley two good all-stars to work around, but the secondary has to be more productive and needs to find the right combination.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Drew Dudley, 88
Sacks: Jake Laptad, 6.5
Interceptions: Ryan Murphy, 2

Star of the defense: Senior DE Jake Laptad
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior S Phillip Strozier
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore LB Huldon Tharp
Best pro prospect: Laptad
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Laptad, 2) LB Drew Dudley, 3) CB Chris Harris
Strength of the defense: Tackle Size, Linebacker
Weakness of the defense: Interceptions, Clutch Production

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The line gets its star back with senior Jake Laptad returning to his spot at right end after making 49 tackles with 6.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. At 6-4 and 260 pounds, the Honorable Mention All-Big 12 performer is the team's best pass rusher with a great burst off the line and excellent closing ability. With 16.5 career sacks and with more production against the run, he's getting enough of a reputation to force every blocking scheme to key on him. Now he needs to be even more of a disruptive force after coming up with just one sack over the final six games and with two of his sacks coming in the opener against Northern Colorado.

Back to work inside is 6-3, 283-pound junior Richard Johnson, a big body who started the first five games of last year but was underwhelming after getting banged up making 17 tackles and three tackles for loss. He was a part of the rotation over the second half of last year, but he continues to be underwhelming, partially due to a knee injury suffered as a sophomore. Very smart and very athletic, he has a chance to become a deadly interior pass rusher if he's 100%.

At 6-0 and 273 pounds, junior Patrick Dorsey is a fireplug of a defensive tackle who gets good leverage and has the quickness to grow into a dangerous pass rusher. While he's not huge, at least for the Big 12, and will be part of the tackle rotation, he has a good motor and should be productive with more work after making eight tackles in his seven games of work.

Working on the other side of Jake Laptad is Kevin Young is fast off the ball with tremendous quickness when he's in pursuit. While the 6-2, 256-pounder doesn't cut on a dime, he's great from point A to point B and he's always going 100%. He needs plenty of seasoning and needs to refine his pass rushing moves, but he's a good prospect who should shine on the other side of Laptad.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore John Williams will be a factor somewhere, either on the offensive or defensive line. The 6-3, 290-pounder made six tackles as a freshman, even though he started the final seven games. He's just getting his feet wet after starting out last year on the offensive line as a backup, but his size and toughness are great for the defensive interior.

Sophomore Darius Parish has the bulk and potential to be a star on the inside. At 6-4 and 327 pounds, he's a massive player who is back at his better spot after seeing time as an offensive tackle. He made eight tackles in 2008, but now he's in much better shape and should be more productive with more of a chance in the rotation.

6-4, 328-pound senior Jamal Greene has yet to play up to his tremendous potential making just six tackles after coming up with 21 stops and two sacks with six tackles for loss in 2008. Extremely quick for his size, he has the athleticism of an end in the body of an NFL tackle, but he has to turn the motor on full blast and he has to come up with some big plays early to be a bigger part of the rotation. The coaching staff, particularly Turner Gill, is in his corner and will get him every chance to shine.

Former JUCO transfer Quintin Woods started out his career at Michigan and has shown flashes of excellent … in practice. He has all the tools to be a pass rushing superstar, but the 6-5, 236-pound senior only made four tackles with a small role. Everything is there to be a star pass rushing specialist if he doesn't take over an end job outright, but he has to prove he can get into the backfield on a regular basis.

Watch Out For … an interesting rotation at tackle. The top options, at least going into the fall, are undersized compared to the massive bodies ready to filter in. Green and Parrish are two cheeseburgers away from being a combined 700 pounds, while Williams is a big body who might end up seeing time on offense again.
Strength: Size. When the backup tackles check in at a very generously listed 328 pounds and the ends run around 255 to 265, there's good beef to rely on. KU will bring the pass rush from several angles, but the front four should do its part, even though it's main attribute is its bulk.
Weakness: A proven pass rusher on the other side of Laptad. Young is a redshirt freshman and Woods has yet to come close to reaching his potential. The KU defense will get into the backfield, but it would be a big help if Laptad didn't have to see double teams on every play.
Outlook: The line has been good over the last few years even though there hasn't been a ton of star power and there have been more disappointments than hits among some of the top prospects. Laptad should start to receive more all-star recognition as one of the Big 12's better all-around ends, but the big bulk on the inside has to come through with more consistent seasons to go along with the solid play of Dorsey and Johnson. This won't be an elite line, but it'll be good enough to get by.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: As long as Drew Dudley's shoulder is fine, he'll be one of the Big 12's better tacklers. The 6-2, 241-pound senior finished second on the team last year with 88 tackles and three sacks with 8.5 tackles for loss, and he can get into the backfield from the middle or on the outside if moved. A smart playmaker who can get physical and has a great burst when he gets a step to move, he'll be a top producer if he's 100%.

6-0, 217-pound sophomore Huldon Tharp came up with a tremendous true freshman season making 59 tackles as he grew into a starting role as the season went on. While he's not all that big, he's built perfectly to be a better pass defender on the weakside, and he could grow into a pass rusher with a bit more responsibility. The former high school running back has excellent athleticism and is a big hitter for his size.

Trying to be more of a factor is Steven Johnson, a walk-on who made nine tackles and a sack as a reserve and a special teamer. At 6-1 and 237 pounds, the junior isn't all that big and he has a knee issue, but he had a fantastic offseason and has the motor to get into the backfield on a regular basis with all the help provided by the rest of the corps. He'll be a top tackler on the strongside if he's able to hold down the job for the entire year.

Projected Top Reserves: If Drew Dudley isn't healthy, Justin Springer will be a major player on the inside. The 6-3, 237-pound senior made 25 tackles with a sack and 4.5 tackles for loss as a key reserve and a spot starter when the defense went to a 4-3. If he doesn't start in the middle, he'll see time on the outside just to get him on the field with good athleticism and decent size. A year removed from a knee injury, he should be quicker.

Originally considered a big, physical receiver, freshman Josh Richardson could grow into a devastating weakside linebacker. At 6-3 and 225 pounds, he has decent size with room to get bigger, and he moves well enough to be both a pass rusher and decent in coverage. He needs time and seasoning, but he'll be a key part of the rotation with Huldon Tharp.

A mid-level end prospect, redshirt freshman Jacoby Thomas will be used as a big linebacker working on the strongside. Great off the ball and fine trying to get through the trash, he should be a natural for the position and he could grow into a top tackler with a little bit of time. While he's not a phenomenal athlete, he's good enough to be used in a variety of ways.

Watch Out For … a great year from the linebackers. This is a good group working around Dudley and Tharp with Springer, Johnson, and Thomas all promising enough to see starting time throughout the year. After being in a 4-2-5 alignment for most of last year, this year the linebackers should thrive when turned loose.
Strength: Hitting. The linebackers can all wrap up and they can all move around just enough to be active getting to everything the line doesn't. All the options on the projected two deep won't miss many stops.
Weakness: Star power. If Dudley's shoulder is a problem, there isn't a sure-thing star to build around. This is a very good group that's solid, but unspectacular. There might be an overall upgrade in speed and quickness over the last few years, but it would be nice if there were a few Big 12 killers to force offenses to worry about.
Outlook: the 4-2-5 alignment of last year worked well to get the young linebackers worked into a rotation, and now there should be a bigger payoff with three spots to fill and some good young depth to get excited about. Everyone is aggressive with good motors and everyone can tackle. The lack of top-shelf talent should be offset by want-to; this is a good linebacking corps that will make plenty of plays.
Unit Rating: 7


Projected Starters: Trying to replace leading tackler and all-star Darrell Stuckey at strong safety is senior Phillip Strozier, a part-time starter at free safety last year who was a decent part of the rotation making 23 tackles with a broken up pass. He's one of the team's most versatile defensive backs with 5-11, 205-pound size and the hitting ability to be a major producer with more of a role. He's not a blow-him-up tackler, but he doesn't miss.

Sophomore Lubbock Smith took over the star starting free safety job over the second half of last year and finished with a solid 42 tackles with a tackle for loss. He didn't do much of anything against the pass, but he has the range and the 6-0, 206-pound size to be a major playmaker. He's a hitter who has to make sure he can stay on the field after missing time late last year hurt.

Senior Chris Harris came up with a strong year starting 11 games at right corner finishing third on the team with 84 tackles with a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss, and nine broken up passes. At 5-10 and 190 pounds, he has good size and a ton of experience with a team-leading 29 career starts with 208 stops. Now he's the team's sure-thing, No. 1 corner with decent speed to go along with his great tackling ability, and he has to erase everyone's top receiving option.

Former JUCO transfer Calvin Rubles got a little bit of work making six tackles in seven games seeing most of his time as a special teamer. At 6-3 and 205 pounds he's a huge corner option with good athleticism, recruited heavily to play basketball out of high school. While he's not a lock to hold down the starting job, he'll at least be a key nickel and dime defender.

Projected Top Reserves: Anthony Davis will end up starting somewhere. One of last year's key corners seeing starting time on both sides, he ended up making 20 tackles with two broken up passes. Now he has to do more when the ball is in the air to grab a corner job. With 5-11, 205-pound size and decent closing speed, the junior has the talent and the upside to become a steady defender, but he'll have to fight to get in with several other corner options.

Junior Isiah Barfield started out his career as a running back, was moved to corner, was moved to receiver, and now will move back to corner after making ten tackles two years ago and one last season. He's a 5-11, 185-pound speedster who has yet to find a role, and now he'll work in a rotation with Chris Harris as he tries to prepare to be a starter next year.

Redshirt freshman Prinze Kandy is one of the team's most interesting prospects. The 6-0, 194-pound playmaker gets all over the field in a hurry with a big hitting style, great smarts and instincts, and the ability to play any safety position or be in the mix for a fifth starting role as a nickel back. He'll start out working at free safety.

Watch Out For … the cornerbacks. Fill out the depth chart in pencil with too many options to get on the field at once. Harris is a lock for one spot, and then it'll be a revolving door at the other job. There are so many corners that D.J. Beshears, Daymond Patterson, and Bradley McDougald were able to move over to receiver without an issue.
Strength: Options. With eight viable corners to move around into nickel, dime, and backup safety jobs, and with eight decent players to work with at safety, KU has several players to work with. There should be few problems to make the all the pieces fit.
Weakness: Picking off passes. KU came up with a mere seven picks while allowing 245 passing yards per game. Even with the benefit of a steady pass rush to pressure the quarterback, this wasn't a playmaking group and now there aren't any proven pick-off artists. The seven interceptions from last year, just two were made by current defensive backs (with both by Ryan Murphy).
Outlook: The defensive backs could be the Achilles heel of the KU defense. There's speed, size, and just enough options to get by, but the two losses, safeties Darrell Stuckey and Justin Thornton, are killers. The two combined for 173 tackles, and while Smith and Strozier should be fine, they're not as good as the ones they're replacing. The KU D gave up 200 yards or more in eight games and got bombed on by Texas and Missouri in the final two regular season games.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters: Senior Jacob Branstetter had a nice year hitting 13-of-19 field goals, but he missed four makeable shots from inside 40 yards. Unlike his sophomore season, he showed off a little bit of range connecting on a 57-yard bomb against Oklahoma and he connected on 4-of-6 shots from beyond 40, and now with two years of experience he'll be used even more on deep kicks.

Senior Alonzo Rojas was a top kicker recruit for Bowling Green a few years ago, but he transferred to restart his career with the Jayhawks. He was abysmal for the Falcons, but that was mostly because of the strange kicking style BGSU had him employ. With a huge leg, he has been able to air it out over the last two years averaging 41 yards per kick including a 77-yard bomb in 2008 and a 72-yarder last year. He'll be in the mix for all-star honors and he can be used as a placekicker if needed.

WR Daymond Patterson had a decent year returning punts, but not a great one averaging eight yards per pop, while fellow receiver Bradley McDougald netted just 18.8 yards per kickoff return. Patterson will handle more of the kick return duties.

Watch Out For … Branstetter to get even more deep chances. The offense isn't likely to be as proficient as it's been over the last few seasons, and Branstetter will bomb away from time to time and will get his chances when the attack sputters just outside of the red zone.
Strength: Veterans. Everyone is back. Branstetter and Rojas are going into their third years as the KU starters, while Patterson and McDougald have solid time logged in.
Weakness: Production. KU finished 78th in the nation in punting, 83rd in punt returns, and 68th in kickoff returns. The kickoff return team allowed 23.5 yards per try and the punt return team gave up 13 yards an attempt.
Outlook: Turner Gill has always put an emphasis on the special teams, and he has some great veterans to work around. Now everyone has to be better. The kickers are more than fine and will be in the hunt for all-star honors, but the return games and the coverage teams have to be far better.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2010 Kansas Preview | 2010 Kansas Offense
- 2010 Kansas Defense | 2010 Kansas Depth Chart
- Kansas Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006