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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Safety nets: McDougald, Terry offer upside, chemistry in secondary

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo.Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine looks to run after a reception during the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Kivisto Field. On defense are safety Keeston Terry (9) and safety Bradley McDougald (24).

Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo.Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine looks to run after a reception during the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Kivisto Field. On defense are safety Keeston Terry (9) and safety Bradley McDougald (24).

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Just as it’s important for a football team to have a good rapport between its quarterback and his wide receivers or the head coach and his offensive coordinator, the same can be said for any squad’s safeties.

Kansas University has that in the relationship between projected starters Bradley McDougald and Keeston Terry.

“I think we’ve got a lot of chemistry,” Terry, a sophomore, said this spring. “It’s going to take time to get better and get used to playing with each other, but I definitely think we can be a solid group for the next couple of years.”

Widely regarded as KU’s defensive position with the most upside, the Jayhawks appear to be set at safety despite neither McDougald nor Terry having played more than a few games at the position during their college careers.

The reason? Both have played the position before and each is a gifted athlete with a good blend of size, power and speed. Beyond that, they appear to work well together.

“The thing I love about Keeston is he’s one of those book smart guys and he really pays attention to all the details,” McDougald, a junior, said. “I’ll get the gist of the whole defense, but I might still make a mistake here and there. Any time I do, he’s always there to correct me. Yeah, I’m older and, yeah, I’ve been around longer, but just having him there to tweak those small things can help a lot. It goes both ways, but he usually corrects me more than I correct him.”

It’s not just in the mental aspect of the game where these two mesh. They also complement each other physically.

“He seems to be a hard head,” said McDougald, a strong safety, of Terry, a free safety. “He’s a little guy but he likes the contact, and he likes to get down to the nitty gritty. I’m more of a finesse guy. I like to go up and get the ball.”

Added Terry: “I feel like I’m pretty decent when it comes to making tackles. I definitely still need to work on my cover skills, but I think my strong suit right now is my tackling. Hopefully I can have a knack for interceptions since that’s the position I play. I definitely think I can get it done back there.”

Both players followed similar paths to their spot atop the KU depth chart, arriving on campus as wide receivers and being switched over to safety because of team needs and the opportunity to play.

McDougald spent the better part of his first two seasons at wideout but played some safety during 2009 and 2010. For his career, he has recorded 558 yards and one touchdown on 52 receptions while also being credited with 21 tackles and two interceptions.

With his days of catching passes now behind him, McDougald, who added 10 pounds in the offseason and now weighs around 205 while standing 6-foot-1, said he was excited about the potential for his final two seasons on defense.

“Now that I’ve gained some experience and understand the game and the speed, all I’m really working on is my strength,” he said. “I’m trying to keep my weight up, but I also want to keep my speed up so I can be more of a weapon in the secondary.”

Terry, 6-2, 195, has considerably less college experience than McDougald — he played in just three games last season before missing the rest of the season with a leg injury — but also has something his defensive backfield partner does not — a father, Doug, who played four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Those genes, along with some serious tenacity and athleticism, have created quite a buzz about Terry’s potential. His high school coach, Blue Springs (Mo.) High’s Kelly Donohoe, says Terry deserves the hype.

“The kid’s a phenomenal free safety,” Donohoe said. “The way he covers the field, hits people, his instincts, his run to the football, hand-eye coordination to pick balls off.... He’s a freak back there. He really is.”

Confident but not cocky, McDougald and Terry seem ready to build on the success the Kansas secondary enjoyed a season ago. As a unit, KU’s pass defense ranked 71st in the country in 2010, surrendering 223 yards per game through the air, the team’s lowest total since giving up 227 per game during a 12-1 season in 2007. That team, of course, was led by future first-round NFL Draft pick Aqib Talib. McDougald and Terry haven’t reached that level yet, but there are plenty of people who believe they can.

“I think the only thing that’ll hurt us is we don’t have a lot of experience back there as far as college games,” Terry said. “But I think me and (McDougald) will do good back there. We’re both pretty smart guys. We have a lot of young guys so we have a lot of room to grow, but we’re definitely making great strides and doing great things out there.”

Comments

KU_Alumn_2000 3 years, 3 months ago

This is fantastic...and I think we are getting top notch talent in the secondary.

However...if we don't start putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks with our D-LINE...then eventually holes will open up...no matter how talented our secondary is.

For some reason...we struggle to recruit quality D-tackles and ends. This has got to improve if we're gonna see improvement in our defense...and I'm not sure if we're even close to being there yet. Hope I'm wrong.

hawk316 3 years, 3 months ago

KU, I agree! I love our defensive backfield, but they're going to need help upfront. I hope we're both pleasantly surprised by our D-line play this year (as well as our linebackers).

milehighhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Terry was fun to watch in those few games he did play. Should be fun to watch the two of them develop over the next couple years.

Chiefs are about a year ahead of KU in terms of a young nucleus of exciting playmakers. Shame the schedule for both teams is much tougher this year than last, but it's reasonable to expect better-looking teams on the field than the W/L may indicate

rockchalknation 3 years, 3 months ago

KU football, free safety, #9. Big shoes to fill Keeston, but you can do it!! Have a great season, career, and much success at free safety. RCJH

Jim Stauffer 3 years, 3 months ago

On DT's, you are correct. We are short in that area, but I think Young and Williams could be serviceable by year's end.

What we do have is talent at the DE position. We have several talented youngsters who should be able to platoon and get more pressure on the QB than we have in the past.

Combine the DE's, Safeties and the improvement in play of Brown and Barfield and Patmon at DB and our Defense could be very talented. Inexperienced but talented.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

The focus is obviously on the starters, but not even mentioning Lubbock is missing a key factor in the DB's. He offers quality depth, tho the common theme across the board for the entire team is youth.

truefan 3 years, 3 months ago

It's nice to see a little optimism in regards to football again. I'm excited/nervous about this season because I believe we have the potential to be a much better team both on offense and defense.

Our Safeties should be better if they can stay healthy. Our LB's should be a bit more athletic and experienced. Our corners played well at the end of last season and there is hope that they can continue building on that. Our DL hasn't necessarily been upgraded, but if they can stay healthy they should be better than what we saw last year.

Our QB has a year under his belt and has been argued the most improved player on the team by the coaches. We return James Sims at RB who put up great numbers considering the patchwork line he ran behind and we add some exciting talent at RB with Miller, Pierson, Smith, and Bourbon. If the OL can stay healthy we should see a lot of improvement there in all categories of blocking. We return Daymond Patterson at WR who is always exciting to watch.

Unfortunately, we now have to run the gauntlet in the Big XII and our non-con schedule isn't going to help us get wins easy either with NIU and G-Tech looming large. I'm not expecting a lot of wins, but I expect to see a much improved team.

Rock Chalk!

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

Surprised to hear that the Pass-D was the best since the OB. Wonder how much of that is the opponent rather than the D. GT, and no OU, UT, TT, though BU certainly fulfilled their part as a replacement.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 3 months ago

The DT's may end up appearing better this year simply b/c we have more speed on the ends this year. Toben in particular should garner more attention, and the other side should at least be faster, which should result in more single teams. It sounds like the DT's are getting better in their own accord as well.

It is also encouraging to see some quality DT recruits considering KU. There should be lots of PT available in the near future since this is about the only position on the team with very little young blood waiting. Much like the W-L record, our recruiting ranking might not be quite as high due to a class half the size of last year, but the quality might be better.

newjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

They certainly look the part. This could be a magnificent year IF they hold their own against arguably the the MOST ELITE group of Big 12 recievers ever!---- Blackmon and crew from OSU--- Tannehill and crew from Texas A&M--Robert Griffin and the BaylorBear Boyz---The BombThrowers from Texas Tech--and last but certainly not least THE Heisman level group from OU!!! Then pray that James Franklin doesn't turn out to be the absolute beast he was in HS football.....But, then again ---maybe all those recievers are overrated.....we will see! Go Jayhawks!

KU_Alumn_2000 3 years, 3 months ago

Dagger108 - ill tell ya why the pass defense was best since 2008....its because we had Carl Torbush running the show instead of Clint Bowen.

Not to be negative on Bowen...because he is a good coach...but he wasn't ready to be D-coordinator.

jksport 3 years, 3 months ago

Nice job Tait. An article that gives us some insight on these guys. I like it. Keep it coming. Much more insightful than another writer I can think of.

vd 3 years, 3 months ago

Did Terry get a medical redshirt for last year?

Andy Tweedy 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm not positive about this, but I believe he qualifies; however, I believe those hardships are usually petitioned towards the end of the player's career. I can't remember a player who was granted a hardship before his eligibility was about up.

Kman_blue 3 years, 3 months ago

He Definitely qualifies for it under NCAA guidelines and I believe the coaching staff said something about it last year as well, but you're right they probably won't petition for it until he's a senior.

vd 3 years, 3 months ago

Did Terry get a medical redshirt for last year?

justanotherfan 3 years, 3 months ago

The defense will be fine provided Toben and whoever wins the other DE spot can provide pressure off the edge. Our DT's don't have to be great, they just have to avoid being knocked off the ball. If we can get pressure off the edge, the DT's don't have to collapse the pocket, just maintain leverage and occupy blockers so our fast LB's aren't one on one with guards at the second level.

I like the move of Terry and McDougald to safety, as well as Opurum to DE. All three of those guys could have a chance to play in the NFL on defense, something I doubt they would have done had they stayed on the other side of the ball. If that works out for any of them, that's just another thing that the coaching staff can recruit on.

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