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Offseason Overview: Can new stars emerge in the secondary?

You know plenty about KU's top defensive backs, but it's what's behind that group that could be the biggest key

3 min read
Kansas football coach Lance Leipold meets with the media at Big 12 Media Days in Arlington, Texas in mid-July. [Big 12 Conference content team photo] 

We’ll learn a lot more about the Kansas football program and its outlook for the 2023 season in a couple of weeks, when preseason camp is in full swing and the Jayhawks really begin preparing for the encore performance to last year’s Liberty Bowl appearance.

For now, though, let’s set the stage for how things look heading into camp.

What’s important? What’s known? Key question marks and players in need of a breakthrough performance for the Jayhawks to take that next step all will be covered in our Offseason Overview series.

Next up: Taking a peek at the back end of KU's defense

It’s been a long time coming, but the Jayhawks actually have one of the most solid and experienced secondaries in the conference heading into 2023.

Safety Kenny Logan Jr. has played at an all-Big 12 level during the past couple of seasons. Cornerback Cobee Bryant has emerged as a true No. 1 cover guy. And players like Mello Dotson and O.J. Burroughs also have established themselves as solid players in their roles.

All four of those guys have pushed to get better during the offseason, but the answer to the question about just how good this KU secondary can be may lie with the players who sit behind these guys on the depth chart.

There’s plenty of reason to like several of them.

Redshirt sophomore safety Jalen Dye was one of the most-talked-about players in all of spring football, both for his performance and the opportunity he received.

With Logan out because of a shoulder injury and redshirt junior Marvin Grant missing time, as well, Dye was given the chance to take a lot of reps with the 1s, building his IQ, voice and effectiveness on the field at the same time.

The beauty there is that when the season rolls around, Dye will not be looked to as a frontline player thrust into a key role as a starter. Instead, he’ll be able to use the valuable lessons he learned and progress he made to provide quality depth in the secondary for defensive coordinator Brian Borland.

The same can be said for Grant, as well as cornerback Kalon Gervin, both of whom are now in Year 2 at Kansas after coming over from Big Ten schools Purdue and Michigan State.

Corners Kwinton Lassiter, Brian Dilworth and Damarius McGhee, a transfer from LSU, also could be in position to play their way onto the field, therein keeping KU’s starters fresher longer.

While positioning, intelligence and instincts will play a big role in how often all of these guys are out there, so, too, will physicality. This spring, the Jayhawks put a premium on becoming a more physical football team. And that’s where the extra reps some of these guys got during the spring could really pay off.

They all like to hit. And they’re all football players. But sometimes when you’re thinking too much, you tend to be a little more passive and can’t play at the speed required to make the most physical plays.

That should not be an obstacle for guys like Dye and Gervin. And if it isn’t, they could play a huge role in helping the Kansas defense take the steps it needs to take to become a better unit overall, one that helps this team become more well-rounded and sound on both sides of the ball.

As long as the starters stay healthy, each of them has shown an ability and willingness to play as many snaps as needed. So, it’s not as if this is some big hole that needs to be filled.

Rather, it’s one of the areas we can identify as a place where improvement there can make a big difference in KU’s quest to take that next step from bowl eligibility to Big 12 contender.

Here's a look at the other entries in our KU football Offseason Overview series:

• What depth & talent bring to KU's QB room

• The race for running back reps

• Examining the D Tackle position

• The value of the old men of the O-Line

• How many tight ends will KU utilize in 2023?

• Major upgrades for KU's kicking game

• Getting more explosive at linebacker

• Is KU gearing up for a special teams surge?

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