When looking at the Jayhawks defense next year it has been consistently stated the defensive line should be the strength of the unit while the secondary will be in a rebuilding process.
And the linebackers should fall somewhere in between the two.
The group will get a big bump with the return of a healthy Joe Dineen who missed a lot of the 2016 season. He leads the linebacker corps with 107 career tackles. He is the veteran of the group and is followed by another Lawrence resident Keith Loneker, Jr. who has 43 career stops.
From there the group takes on a younger, but talented look. Kansas linebackers coach Todd Bradford likes the addition of Denzel Feaster moving from safety. He saw game action from the midway point and that experience should help him going into 2017. Bradford also likes the physical presence of Osaze Ogbebor who started one game last year.
“We have some young guys that I think are very, very talented that got a lot of reps in practice,” Bradford said. “I think they’re going to be very good players. They aren’t there yet but they need more time. When you add in the summer and then fall camp we will have a lot of practice time. It is fun to be in a room with guys who physically have the tools to do it and mentally want to do it.”
Maciah Long is listed as a linebacker but spent the spring also working with the defensive ends. The newcomer to the group who arrived for spring football is Kyron Johnson. He graduated high school early and developed through the spring. Last summer he ran a 4.41 at the Jayhawks summer camp.
“He is a talented player,” Bradford said. “He is what we thought he was back in recruiting. He’s long, he’s tough, and he’s fast. We did a good job in evaluating of him. He’s a bright kid who graduated early from high school. He did show flashes several times during the spring but has so much to learn. We are treating him like he is a veteran and giving him as much as we are anyone else. He has done some good things and we are excited about him.”
Another player Bradford talked about was Dru Prox who redshirted last year. Prox was an all-district selection as a high school player at Kaufman High in Texas. He was announced in the 2017 class during the signing day press conference.
Once fall camp gets underway there will be a lot of competition for two spots since the Jayhawks play with a nickel on defense.
“I know this is coach speak but I would not tell any of them that they are the starter or that they were third string,” Bradford said. “If you came to one of our practices and saw a guy running with the ones (first team) it wouldn’t mean anything more than the fact that that’s where he fell in the rotation that day. We have six or seven guys that I think are going to have a chance to play and help us.”