Typically when people think of KU's defensive backs, the next thing they usually think of, with all due respect to you d-backs out there, is 'burned'. I understand that pass defense is a combined effort, but we ranked just above North Texas, Tulsa, and Central Michigan in the passing-yards-allowed department.
On the positive side, it seems like that little flaw in our defensive game-plan can only improve, and the word around campus seems to support my optimism.
Firstly, our defensive line has gotten much more athletic, which is always a positive when pressuring the passer. Also, the 4-2-5 nickel scheme I've been blabbing about all offseason can only help. Finally, and most importantly, our secondary has returned completely intact.
Here's a little preview of the 2009 KU secondary...
Daymond Patterson panned out as a corner last year and the experience will be very beneficial as he will probably draw the bulk of difficult assignments this season. He shouldn't get too comfy, though, because the even speedier JuCo transfer Calvin Rubles will be hot on his tail.
On the other side, it seems like red-shirt sophomore Anthony Davis is getting the early nod. However, I sense plenty of healthy competition with talented red-shirt freshman Greg Brown.
Don't forget the ever-popularizing nickelback-safety spot. I see this falling between Chris Harris and Justin Thornton, who both have the experience, versatility, and a little more size necessary for drawing tight end, running back, and the bigger-receiver assignments. Mostly, I think this spot will depend on game-to-game match-ups.
Next up comes the safety spots and there will be no shortage of depth here.
In the 'free safety' spot ('free' and 'strong' particularly important in KU's defense), Phillip Strozier's experience will make him a fixture. Behind him, I think that true freshman Prinz Kande's athleticism will make it hard to keep him off the field, and he will hopefully have the opportunity to spell Strozier from time to time. Depth never hurts.
On the other side, I'm pretty sure Darrell Stuckey will have a bulk of the votes for the starting position.
It's fortunate that, from what I hear, Lubbock Smith had a great red-shirt season last year, and he should benefit greatly from some real minutes right behind the defensive captain on the depth chart. The best part of this is that if Lubbock should stumble, the physical and talented freshman Darian Kelly will be itching to tear his pending red-shirt off.
The overall theme of this year's group of defensive backs will be depth. Rotation and fresh legs will be vital when matching up against the most powerful Big 12 offenses, and it seems like Coach Mangino has plenty of tools to work with.