Kansas football’s offense has significantly improved, and that’s very clear. The defense is a bigger question mark this year. The loss of the nation’s leading tackler in Safety Fish Smithson is a tough loss to overcome, and the corner back situation isn’t much better. Aside from Mike Lee, there are very few proven defensive players that aren’t on the line.
We’ll start with the corner backs. This is by far the least experienced and least proven unit we have this season. Led by Senior Derrick Neal and Sophomore Hasan Defense, the CB’s have a lot to prove once the season begins. Expect other teams to take advantage of this and throw the ball at them a lot. The deep ball has a chance to be the downfall of the defense this year. It’s pivotal that the Safety’s can help sit back and cover the CB position.
The Safety position is going to be able to absorb some of the blow of losing Smithson by the return of Sophomore Mike Lee. I have no doubt that Mike Lee will become a household name in the Big 12 very soon. Lee finished last season with 76 total tackles and two forced fumbles, and also recorded one interception, the interception that would lead to a win in OT against Texas last November. The first of the Lousianimals, the future for the young player looks extremely bright.
Lee has the potential to be joined in the secondary by Sophomores Bryce Torneden and Shaq Richmond as well as Juniors Tyrone Miller Jr. and Emmanuel Moore. Torneden and Richmond are both young players without much experience in-game, but both have shown a lot of potential and have bright futures. It will most likely be Tyrone Miller Jr. joining Mike Lee in the secondary to start the season, since he has the most experience on the field for Kansas, however, any one of the other three could take that spot at any time.
We’ll finish the defensive preview for this season by looking at the linebackers. Once again, this will be a solid unit. The return of Joe Dineen after he missed a majority of last year with injury is HUGE. Dineen has the potential to have the best season from a linebacker since Ben Heeney. Backed up by Osaze Ogbebor and Keith Loneker Jr. who combined for 55 tackles last season with nowhere to go but up, this once again looks like a solid unit that should be able to really contain the run with the help of the D-Line.
Overall, the success of the defense is going to come down to the corners. This is going to be rough at times with such little experience, but it’ll set the foundation for the 2018 season. We’ll see how they play out during the season opener on September 2nd vs. SEMO at Memorial Stadium.