Though this 2012 Kansas Jayhawks football team bears little resemblance to the one we saw in 2011, a few positional groups remain chalked full of senior talent. One of those positions is the defensive backs groups. But what makes this group truly exciting is what they have in terms of young talent in addition to experience and solid tutelage.
When Kansas Coach Charlie Weis announced the hiring of Defensive Coordinator Dave Campo we knew the Jayhawks were going to improve in at least one area: the secondary.
Though he is known as a Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator, Coach Dave Campo made a name for himself in the coaching ranks as a defensive backs guru.
In his 41-years of coaching (18 collegiate), Campo had a hand in helping to develop some of the NFL’s best defensive backs which include: Darren Woodson, Leon Lett, Terrence Newman, and Deon Sanders.
When you boast names like that on your resume certain expectations come along with your presence.
So does Kansas have any future HOF defensive backs on the roster?
HOF may be pushing it but considering Kansas’ woes in the secondary in 2011 any improvement would go a long way.
One thing we do know is that the Jayhawks secondary has a ton of returning experience. Whether Campo can turn virtually the same players that struggled in 2011 into players that excel in 2012 is how we judge Campo’s success this season.
So far the early indicators are at the very least optimistic.
When talking to Defensive Backs Coach Clint Bowen early in Fall Camp, he emphasized the need for “eye control” amongst his group. Decoded this means reacting with instincts and logic as opposed to what their eyes are telling them.
In 2011, the Jayhawks secondary got burned regularly in play action. Draw plays fooled anxious corners and safeties and too often by their eyes; lured into attacking the QB or being pulled off their assignment. Though knowing when to react can be taught in the film room, having the instincts not to bite when provoked is a tougher task.
This is where the Jayhawks senior leadership steps in.
At corner, Kansas has a solid first in senior Greg Brown. In talking to the coaches over the past week of camp all point to Brown’s consistency and senior leadership as a pillar of solidity in their growing secondary.
Opposite Brown is Junior Tyler Patmon. Though Patmon had some struggles in 2011, the tutelage of both Campo and Bowen have Patmon walking and talking with a swagger we did not see last season. When the coaches talk about eye control, Patmon might be the face they see. We saw Patmon perform well during nickel situations in 2011 but he has had limited roles as a traditional corner. Patmon is a smart player with the right pedigree to excel in Campo’s system. The trick will be if Patmon can react without thinking or overreacting on play fakes and play action. If he can, the combination of Patmon and Brown will be solid enough to compete if given help from the front-seven.
At safety the Jayhawks have an exciting duo of safeties in seniors Lubbock Smith and Bradley McDougald. The coaches love Smith’s senior leadership and with a stable of young freshman and transfers being breed for the future, Smith has just the right attitude this squad needs.
It was interesting to ask Coach Bowen, Coach Campo, and several players in the secondary who was the fastest, smartest, and had the best instincts during the first week of Fall Camp. Though the answers varied everyone I asked had Bradley McDougald listed under at least one category if not several.
Short story is that McDougald has the potential to have a special season. After coming over from the offense as a wide-receiver, McDougald has a great understanding of the receiver’s tendencies and routes which enable him to react without stalling or biting of fakes. Though it is early, McDougald could be the biggest impact player in the secondary in 2012.
Though it appears the 4 starters in the secondary are safe in their positions. There are enough talented young players in the group to keep the veterans on their toes.
Junior transfer Nasir Moore and freshman Greg Allen are hot on the heels of both Brown and Potman. It’s not as if the coaches don’t share confidence in the incumbents, it’s just that the two young prospects may be just that good.
Though it may take some time for both to adjust, especially in the case of Allen, both players should see time in nickel and sub-packages early with the possibility of seeing playing time increase.
Rounding out the corner position you have promising freshman Tyree Williams and senior Corrigan Powell. Though Williams will be viewed as an exciting prospect heading forward, there’s no telling what Kansas has in Powell because we just haven’t seen him since his true freshman season. Keep in mind Powell took a red-shirt his sophomore season.
Regardless of where he’s been, the fact that Powell showed up on Weis’ radar says a lot.
At the safety position there are just as many questions marks combined with reasons to be optimistic.
I’m very excited to see what sophomore Victor Simmons can do under the tutelage of Campo and Bowen. Simmons had a promising true freshman season and should only improve with time.
Further crowding the secondary group is talented freshman Tevin Shaw. Though we haven’t got much of a chance to see Shaw in action, the coaches have emphasized on several occasions that Shaw has a chance to compete for playing time immediately.
With so many talented guys I suspect at least one of the young players to take a redshirt with so many senior near the top of the depth chart. But Weis has made it clear he will put the best on the field regardless so the competition will be a battle to keep a close eye on as camp, and the season, evolve.