The Kansas football secondary got some good news on Sunday, when cornerback Mello Dotson announced on social media that he was planning to return to KU for the 2024 season.
Dotson’s specific message featured just three words — “Back for revenge” — and a 45-second highlight video of some of his biggest plays of the 2023 season. Of which there were many.
He had games with back-to-back pick-6s against Oklahoma and Iowa State. And he led the Jayhawks with 4 interceptions while also ranking seventh on the team with 44 tackles.
While his stats were impressive and a big part of the Kansas defense taking a much-needed step forward this season, the more interesting part of his message was the word revenge.
Here’s a look at exactly what Mello could’ve meant by choosing to use the word revenge in his return announcement. Click on the image below to see the highlight video that accompanied his post.
• One angle the idea of revenge could take on here is revenge against in-state rival Kansas State. The Jayhawks were so close to ending their losing streak against the Wildcats, but a couple of missed plays late cost them and they came up on the losing end of the score one more time. Dotson’s from Daytona Beach, Florida, so it’s not like the whole Sunflower Showdown has always meant a lot to him. But he’s been at KU since 2020 and that’s long enough to understand what the rivalry means and why it’s important. The longer you’re a Jayhawk, the more serious it becomes, and it’s not crazy to think that Dotson would like to taste a win over the Wildcats before calling it a college career.
• And then there’s the revenge angle of the season as a whole. KU finished the regular season at 8-4 and qualified for a bowl game for the second year in a row for just the second time in program history. If you’re a part of that — and Mello has been — it already puts you on a pretty cool list. But anyone who watched the season play out knows that the Jayhawks were this close to being much better than 8-4, perhaps even as good as 11-1. They let a road game at Oklahoma State get away from them late. They struggled at home against Texas Tech when Jason Bean went down and yet still almost won that game with a true freshman at QB. And they fell victim to that K-State comeback that we already talked about. If those had gone a different way, it’s 9-3, 10-2 or 11-1. Those last two records would’ve put KU firmly in the conversation to accomplish one of their preseason goals — to play for a Big 12 title. If enough players from the 2023 squad follow in Dotson’s footsteps and return to KU for 2024, the Jayhawks could have nearly their entire team back and would be in position to make a run at an even better record next season.
• If I were a betting man, I’d say revenge, as it relates to Mello, also means gunning for more recognition from the league for his play. Ten defensive backs landed on the first and second team all-Big 12 squads at season’s end and Mello’s name was not one of them. He did receive an honorable mention nod, but it’s not hard to imagine him thinking he was one of the 10 best DBs in this conference. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. And his numbers certainly give him an argument to make. His 4 picks tied for third in the league this season. His 9 pass break-ups also tied for third. And just one player in the entire conference returned more for touchdowns than Dotson. But both Cobee Bryant and Kenny Logan Jr. landed on the team ahead of Dotson, giving him room to improve next season. Dotson’s a team player, so this isn’t about him thinking he’s better or more deserving than either of his teammates. I’m sure, in his mind, he thought all three Jayhawks should’ve made the first or second team. Now, a more driven, more experienced and ultra-confident Dotson will be back in the KU secondary with that chip on his shoulder entering the 2024 season. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all.
It’s already been a good month for the Kansas football program, with very few players entering the transfer portal and, at least to this point, no one opting out of the bowl game in 15 days.
There are still some big names that have to announce their plans for 2024 in the coming days and weeks. But getting Mello back is big in and of itself.
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