Sunday, October 23, 2016


Tom Keegan: Kansas defense among best in Big 12

Kansas linebacker Mike Lee (11) and Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (10) break up an end zone pass to Oklahoma State wide receiver Jhajuan Seales (81) during the quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Mike Lee (11) and Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (10) break up an end zone pass to Oklahoma State wide receiver Jhajuan Seales (81) during the quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.


Third down, the clutch down in football, tells polar-opposite tales about a Kansas football team seeking its first Big 12 victory in two seasons.

In games against Big 12 competition only, the Kansas defense ranks first in the conference with a 37.7 percent success rate on third down. The offense ranks last with a 33.3 percent conversion rate.

Turnovers tell the same two tales. The defense ranks second to Baylor with eight turnovers gained and the offense has the most turnovers with 14 in four Big 12 games.

The performance of the KU defense proves the school can recruit and develop talent well enough to compete. At this point in the rebuilding project, the defense clearly is way ahead of the offense.

KU’s defense ranks among the Big 12’s best despite not getting into the homes of preferred recruits as easily as most Big 12 schools.

It all starts up front, specifically with two players recruited out of high school who are playing at an all-conference level.

Third-year sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Wise, recruited to Kansas by Scott Vestal, a Charlie Weis assistant, was listed at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, and graded as a two-star recruit by Rivals.

After one summer in Scott Holsopple’s weight room and two in Je’Ney Jackson’s, Wise weighs 285 pounds. He occupies a great deal of the offensive line’s attention and makes everybody’s job easier.

Wise has refined his technique under the tutelage of Michael Slater, his third defensive line coach in three seasons.

Sophomore Dorance Armstrong, a speedy, 6-4 defensive end, weighed 217 pounds when he arrived in Lawrence, from Houston. Jackson, who has high praise for the work ethic of both Wise and Armstrong, has showed the D-End the path to 242 pounds without losing any speed.

Armstrong is tied for second in Big 12 play with five sacks and tied for second in the conference in all games with seven sacks. He is the program’s loudest talent since Aqib Talib, a 2008 first-round NFL draft choice.

Calvin Thibodeaux, now Oklahoma’s D-line coach, was the lead recruiter on Armstrong. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen joined Thibodeux on a home recruiting visit that went so well that Armstrong, a three-star recruit, didn’t bother visiting Michigan State, Texas Tech, Houston, California and other schools that had offered him a scholarship.

Coaches putting the right pieces in the right places around Armstrong and Wise has enabled the two young talents to thrive.

Bowen and linebackers coach Todd Bradford hit it off right off the bat and have enjoyed chalk talks ever since Bradford came on board after Kevin Kane returned to Northern Illinois. Bowen, with input from Bradford and drawing to some extent on the “bandit-package” defense employed by former KU coordinator Bill Young when Brandon Perkins set the school’s single-game sack record with six, has made good use of hybrid linebacker/defensive end Cameron Rosser and others. Without changing personnel, Kansas switches at times from play to play from a three-man front to a four-man front, confusing quarterbacks.

KU ranks tied for second with Texas, four behind TCU, with 14 sacks in conference games.

In its seven games, Kansas has averaged 8.14 tackles for loss, tied for ninth in the nation.

When head coach David Beaty praises the defense week in and week out for doing a strong job when put in tough spots, it’s not coach-speak. It’s pure gratitude.

Seven seniors, including brainy sure tackler Fish Smithson, started on defense Saturday.

It won’t be easy to maintain the level of this season’s performance, but keeping the defensive coaching staff in place can make doing so a possibility, especially with Armstrong and Wise returning for two more seasons.


Michael Maris 1 year, 7 months ago

Great article Tom.

Another example of maintaining staff and avoiding yearly turnover is leading to more positive results for the defensive side of the ball.

Now, if the offensive side of the ball is able to build upon their recruiting skills and improve the scoring results.

How much better would the Jayhawks defensive stats be, if the offense was able to avoid turnovers and way to many 3 and Out's?

Bryan Mohr 1 year, 7 months ago

How do the stats look when not counting KU first team D against opponents' second string? We have some games where the opponent pulled starters early. Because most other teams in the league were competitive for 4 quarters, it's not necessarily a fair comparison.

Stephen Johnson 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually, we are much better early in games that later in games, but due to our lack of quality depth and the offenses inability to move the ball, we tire. This defense is good.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 7 months ago

One thing for sure is our offense has played pretty much the same against anyone except RI. The defense has also used a lot of bench players on our side throughout this season.

Chris DeWeese 1 year, 7 months ago

I see we lost a DE commitment. However, Tago is still committed.

David Kemp 1 year, 7 months ago

Defense has played well enough to win games if offense could do ANYTHING. When you look at at this season, the osu game has been our most productive and only 20 points scored. Look at the Big 12 you can't win a game with 20 points.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't know what games you all are watching. Texas Tech had 14 points on the board in the first 4 minutes of the game. If Beaty and Kingsbury weren't such good friends, I think they would have put triple digits on us. I believe they were like 8 of 9 or something like that on passing, most of those were for 15-25 yards.

Memphis and Ohio also got out to early leads and coasted.

Even Rhode Island ran 170 yards against us.

TCU is one where the defense outshined the offense and held the hornfrogs to at the time a season low in points scored; that was surpassed this past week, WVU only gave up 10 points.

I would also say our defense is geared to rush the passers, if teams run (e.g., Ohio and even Rhode Island) will run all over us. I'm scared to think how many rushing yards OU is going to have on us this year -- o/u 300, most people would take the over.

This article makes it sound like our defense is light years ahead of our offense, but that is not the case. Both are still behind expectations, and one could say that solid QB play might address some of the issues.

David A. Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

I attended 3 games, and I can tell you the defense is light years ahead of the offense. The stats agree. The averages in this article include the big losses. The phrase "light years ahead of" is a relative term, not a superlative. And the stats shut down any talk of it being fluff or simply "feel good" talk. Don't forget- Texas Tech and Baylor were road games. That does factor in, albeit in smaller ways than the rest of the league. Take those two games and Memphis out of the equation, and the rest of the games could have been very different without the turnovers. And that is due to a good defense.

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 7 months ago

Ignore our three worst outings of the year, than we look average?

David A. Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

No. Take those three games out, and the turnovers and we may have a very different record. But, we aren't throwing any games out for the defensive stats to say that they are very improved, and are very far ahead of the offense.

Micky Baker 1 year, 7 months ago

So you cherry pick 4 minutes. Give up.

Mike Greer 1 year, 7 months ago

I was at the OSU game and the defense was light years ahead of the offence, not to say they played lights out, but if the offence had held onto the ball: A) the defense wouldn't have been on the field nearly as much in a bad field position situation, and B) had the offence been able to move the ball on more than a couple of occasions, the defense would have been on the field as long and might have still had something in the tank at the end of the game.

Sighting Texas Tech isn't a very good example, they put 854 passing yards on OU this weekend, it's not like they don't have an offence, they just don't have a defense either, OU scored on every possession except the last one when they took a knee.

See if KU defense can make some stops on the OU offence like they did against OSU, if they can then they aren't as bad as you might think.

Deb Fitch 1 year, 7 months ago

I've heard they are not recruiting any QBs. Let's all hope that is not true. Even if they think they have the QB of the future on campus don't you think a QB should be something you recruit every year?

Michael Lorraine 1 year, 7 months ago

Our defense is better but by the end of the season I don’t believe it will be ranked as one of the best. The next two road games will adjust our stats in a way that is not very complementary. Unless the offense suddenly and surprisingly comes to life.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 7 months ago

The strength of the defense is the defensive backs. It is clear that their speed is better and most of the sacks are the results of blitzes or strong coverage by the DBs. On offense, the line is the number one priority to strengthen. QB's, running backs, wide receivers all look better when the O-line is protecting the QB and opening up holes for the backs. That is not happening consistently. It is clear that KU is getting closer to the talent level needed to compete with the teams at the bottom of the BigXII. They were the better team against TCU and competitive for much of the game against OSU. They will struggle against the better teams, i.e., WVU, Oklahoma, Baylor (already demonstrated) and KSU. The Texas Tech blowout was a bit of a surprise given they are only in the middle of the pack. But KU is getting closer to the talent needed to compete with OSU, TCU, ISU, and potential Texas (if not on the road) this year in an overall down year for the BigXII. Beaty and staff need 5 years to recruit and teach their players and we are only two years into the experiment. Unfortunately no quick fixes in football, so a degree of patience is necessary.

Aaron Paisley 1 year, 7 months ago

The strength of the defense is the DLine. They are actually getting consistent pressure on the QB and forcing a lot of mistakes and limiting big plays early on. The secondary is good, but we've been sending DB's to the NFL even when we're still awful. The difference this year is the DLine.

Ray Winger 1 year, 7 months ago

I think the strength of the defense is that they play as a team and are listening to Coach Bowen. They stay within their assignments and the backups are ferocious. There are a lot of Winners on this Team and someday they will have the 'W's to prove it!

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 7 months ago

The major problem with our offense is we are just getting to the point where the whole offense, OL, QB, RB's, WR's can actually run plays correctly, each on the same play.

Our ability to execute our plays under duress is still to come. That is the reason we cannot produce in the red zone.

Dillon Davis 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't know whether to blame Beaty's play-calling or the lack of o-line/QB talent. Maybe both? Idk but it's really really frustrating to see the Defense hold strong as often as they do and then the offense goes 3 and out. Bowen and his group have done a great job this season.

Bud Stagg 1 year, 7 months ago

Dillon, be patient. This is not the pros where you just plug another experienced receiver or back that you pick up from green bay. This is college ball. On good college teams you have to be in the system for 3 years before you start. You might play but you don't start. Our coaches have only been here 2 years and they are making progress. I see lots of progress on this team, more on the defensive side but the offense looks much better than last year. we are just not experienced and deep enough...yet!

Jacob Zutterman 1 year, 7 months ago

Still waiting for Doug Kramer calling for Bowen'a job in this thread

Jeff Coffman 1 year, 7 months ago

I would get rid of Bowen. He is not doing as good as everyone is saying he is. The first quarter and into the second quarter he is getting lit up. I get it if, you are saying we just don't have the depth and lose in the 4th quarter (TCU), but this doesn't make sense.

David A. Smith 1 year, 7 months ago

Getting worn out in the fourth is a product of offensive struggles (three and outs, poor field position, etc). Bowen is doing a good job.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 7 months ago

"Getting worn out in the fourth is a product of"

And being 20 (scholarship) players short of a full team. That's an entire level of the depth chart. That's huge - especially when we're starting a bunch of underclassmen and walk-ons. It'll be a different story in a couple years when we have closer to 80 with more experienced players playing more minutes.

It's probably not a coincidence that we have 5 Sr DB's, experienced LB's, and are better on that side of the ball.

Jerry Ryan 1 year, 7 months ago

Measure the D Stats against the other teams averages. You will see that our D has consistently kept each opponent below many of their averages. You don't need any more information to know the D is improved. Continuity, Recruiting and Develipment are keys. All require time. The D is the only squad having that benefit. Give it time folks. The O has shown some improvement but not like the D. But they haven't had the continuity & time.

Micky Baker 1 year, 7 months ago

I certainly see improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Last year and the year before we would have given up 60 or 70 points to both Baylor and Tech, and arguably, it was to our detriment to have the backup come in after Tech's starter was injured. We had no film of him and did not prepare for him. The play calls changed as soon as he was forced into the game. When he came in, we were down 28-19 I believe, in the 3rd quarter. Then our offense stopped producing, and it was over. By the way, Oklahoma surrendered 59 points to Tech.

I am disappointed in our offense. I thought it would be better than it is this far, and may be if we had settled on a starter and stuck with the guy. I prefer Willis over Cozart because Willis has more time to grow and Cozart has proven that he isn't consistent. On the other hand, our O-line is not good at protecting the QB which is a disadvantage for Willis, but Cozart still doesn't make quick decisions. If the defense is going to give him 5 yards or more, take it, I'd take 16 play 80 yard drives all day long, and our defensive performance would be even better.

If we improve in speed and strength again going into next season, while also having more scholarship players on the roster including the class of 2017 and transfers having to sit out this season, the tune of the naysayers might change a whole lot by this time next season. We have at least two years to reach a full roster, maybe 3.

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