Kansas Jayhawks

The Kansas Defense is Exceeding Expectations Early in 2023

NCAA Football: Kansas at Houston

The Kansas Jayhawks continue to surprise America with their rise in the football world. After winning two games under head Coach Lance Leipold in Year 1, and winning six games in Year 2, the Jayhawks are off to a 2-0 start with impressive wins over Missouri State and Illinois with their first road game against Nevada coming up this Saturday at 9:30 CST on CBS Sports Network. The Jayhawks have even surprised many Heartland College Sports readers and followers when they came in ranked third in the latest HCS Big 12 Power Rankings!


I think everyone who has been paying attention expected the Kansas offense to be elite this season. The Jayhawks brought back 91% of their offensive production from the 2022 season, including Big 12 preseason Offensive Player of the Year candidate Jalon Daniels at quarterback. Even with backup quarterback Jason Bean under center in Week 1, and Daniels returning in Week 2, this offense is who we thought they were. The receivers are making all of the catches. The offensive line is making way for the deep running back room, including high-profile playmaker Devin Neal. Things are going according to plan on that side of the ball.

What’s been pleasantly surprising in the early stages of the 2023 season is the way the defense has stepped up. There wasn’t a whole lot to take away from Week 1 against a lesser opponent like Missouri State, but the defense still stepped up to make big plays including recording a sack, nine tackles for loss, and creating two turnovers via interception. A good performance was expected from the Jayhawks against a Missouri Valley Conference opponent.


It was the way the Jayhawks played against Illinois that truly stood out. The defense came away from this game with six sacks and nine tackles for loss. Besides one broken play where the Illini QB ran for a 72-yard touchdown, the KU defense was locked in the entire game. If this is the defense we are going to get going forward, the Jayhawks are going to be trouble for any opponent they face.

The Jayhawks are showing once again they are for real. This time, it’s not just the offense but the defense doing their fair share as well. Going into the season, it was a foregone conclusion that the linebackers and secondary were going to be a strength of the defense with how many returning players they had at those positions. However, there were question marks surrounding the defensive line and how they’d get after the quarterback. Early in the season the defense, from front to back, has answered the call. They dominated up front and only allowed 70 yards rushing to Illini running backs. The secondary is living up to the hype as well. They finished the game with two more interceptions against Illinois only allowing 202 yards passing in a game in which the Illini were trying to play catch up the entire second half. This should make Jayhawk Nation very excited..


This week, KU will be without a couple of defensive starters in the first half after some very questionable targeting calls in the second half of the Illinois game last week. Austin Booker, who had two sacks against Illinois, and Cobee Bryant, the Hawk Mamba and one of the best cornerbacks in the Big 12, will also miss the first half. Bryant had an interception in the first game against Missouri State. The NCAA needs to update its rule on targeting and making kids sit out in the first half of the next game due to a call in a previous game, but that’s a discussion for another day. For the time being, the Jayhawks should be covered while playing a less-than-stellar Nevada team. The secondary is deep and they’ll lean on two seniors to fill in for Bryant at cornerback with Kwinton Lassiter and Kalon Garvin. For Booker, they’ll have Senior Patrick Joyner Jr. fill in for the time being. Although the Jayhawks staff does like to rotate along the defensive line, it’s nice to know the Jayhawks built some depth there in the offseason through the transfer portal.

The Jayhawks are off to an excellent start, and the defense has been a good story early on in the season and will look to continue their success this weekend against Nevada.

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