Most Crucial Jayhawks: No. 18 - DB JaCorey Shepherd
Here's the latest installment in our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall.
No. 18: JaCorey Shepherd, Senior DB
You won't find me running out of good things to say about Shepherd any time soon. And I'm not even just talking about his prowess as a football player.
Shepherd is one of the best dudes on KU's roster and although that means a lot in all other walks of life, it doesn't win football games. Luckily for the Jayhawks, Shepherd has the switch required to flip into competitor mode and rarely shows anything but all-out intensity on the field.
Last year was Shepherd's breakthrough year. He was tested time after time as opposing offenses tried to stay away from CB Dexter McDonald on the other side of the field and Shepherd passed almost every time. Two years ago, Shepherd was there athletically but still was learning how to be an instinctual corner. Last year, he took major steps forward in that department but there's no question that he still has room to improve.
I'll be dead honest: Shepherd's a little lower on this list than some might have guessed because he delivered so many times last season. If his ability as a cornerback was still a question mark, he'd probably be in the Top 10 here because the uncertainty around how he would perform would make his season incredibly critical for KU. He'd also be higher on this list if the secondary was not such a position of strength for this year's squad.
But I don't think there's any need to question whether Shepherd will perform or even how well he'll play in 2014. However, because he holds down one of the most demanding and difficult positions in the Big 12 and because KU has almost no margin for error at any position on the field, the senior from Mesquite, Texas, is still going to have to back up all of the praise he's earned and bring his best year yet if the Jayhawks hope to win more games than they've been used to of late.
Luckily for the Jayhawks, Shepherd — with his driven mindset and confident demeanor — is exactly the kind of guy you want in that position.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014: