A Look at the 2005 Football Season -- The Defense
July 25, 2005
The Jayhawks return two senior starters — defensive end Jermial Ashley and defensive tackle Tim Allen — to a defensive line that may have been the most improved in the Big 12 Conference last season. In 2003, Jayhawk opponents averaged nearly 200 rushing yards per game. Last year’s revamped defense allowed an average of just 117.6 rushing yards per contest — the best by any KU defense since the 1962 season.
Ashley (6-5, 260), who gives the team a legitimate threat of an outside pass rush, finished second on the team last season with four quarterback sacks and third with nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Allen (6-1, 260) surprised many last season with his tenacious play. He started 10 games and finished the year with three sacks and five total tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Sophomore James McClinton (6-1, 290) saw limited action in the interior of the line and will look to make an impact after learning on the job in 2004.
Senior defensive end Charlton Keith (6-5, 225) helped bolster the front four last year after transferring from Minnesota West Community College. He finished the season with three quarterback sacks and seven tackles behind the line of scrimmage while playing in all 11 games and will look to assume a starting role this year.
Several talented and highly recruited newcomers were added during the signing period to provide immediate impacts. Mangino inked eight defensive lineman in February, including Garden City Community College standouts Wayne Wilder and Rodney Allen. Wilder (6-3, 295) was solid as he participated in spring drills and will now look to fill a starting spot at defensive tackle, while Allen (6-3, 275) will look to find his niche.
The most experienced KU defense in recent memory will be led by a capable group of linebackers, highlighted by three seniors — Nick Reid, Banks Floodman and Kevin Kane — who all could receive consideration for post-season honors. Last season, the trio combined for 225 tackles — more than half of the team’s 425 total stops. During their careers, the three have seen action in a total of 107 games at KU while making a combined 62 starts.
Reid (6-4, 230), who collected 109 stops in 2004, returns after leading Kansas in tackles each of the last two seasons. He was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last year after finishing second in the conference with with 9.9 tackles per game and fifth in the league with 1.23 tackles per contest behind the line of scrimmage.
Floodman (6-3, 230), who is back for his fifth year with the program, finished seventh on the team with 47 tackles a year ago. He has a vast knowledge of the game and an uncanny ability to put himself in the right position to make plays.
Kane (6-2, 230), who was a standout on special teams his first two seasons on campus, emerged as a solid starter last year. He finished second on the team with 69 total tackles and nine tackles for loss.
Seniors Darren Rus (6-3, 220) and Brandon Perkins (6-1, 225) bring additional experience to the linebacking corps. Rus been a dominant force on KU’s kickoff and punt coverage teams during his career. He saw action in a reserve role at linebacker last season and will attempt to see increased duty in 2005. Perkins saw most of his playing time last season in passing situations and his ability to get to the quarterback pressured opposing offenses.
Tom Phelps (6-2, 235), Mike Rivera (6-3, 250) and Joe Mortensen (6-2, 245) were all with the program last season and spent time on KU’s scout team. Rivera, a 2004 redshirt and an all-stater from Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, may have the best chance at breaking into the rotation.
Minnesota West Community College transfer Eric Washington (6-2, 220) should immediately contend for playing time after earning all-conference honors both years for the Blue Jays.
When junior Charles Gordon (5-11, 180) made the switch from wide receiver to cornerback last season, a much maligned secondary suddenly became one of the best in the Big 12 Conference. Gordon led the nation with seven interceptions in 2004, and game-after-game, shut down the opponent’s top wideout. With Gordon in the defensive backfield, KU finished the season with the fourth-best pass efficiency defense in the conference by allowing an average passer rating of 113.9.
“There’s no question that Charles had an impact on our defense,” Mangino said. “But, we were better because of some other things as well. Our pass defense was better because of the effort of all the kids in the secondary.”
Adding cornerback Theo Baines to the Jayhawk secondary didn’t hurt the team either. Baines (5-11, 190), a senior, started opposite Gordon and finished the year with four pass break-ups and an interception.
Redshirt freshman Aqib Talib (6-2, 180) emerged as a starter at strong safety after a solid effort during spring drills. Senior Rodney Fowler (6-0, 195) and junior Jerome Kemp (5-10, 200) will look to see increased playing time this coming fall after serving in backup roles last season in the safety position. Both played key roles in the past on special teams.
Twin brothers Ronnie Amadi and Donnie Amadi return for their senior seasons at cornerback after both performed well during spring ball. Ronnie (6-0, 185) started four games in 2004 and finished with 34 tackles, while Donnie (5-10, 180) appeared in all 11 games as a member of several special teams units.
Other defensive backs with the team last year and looking for playing time in 2005 include senior Marcus Hicks (5-10, 185), junior Kenneth Thompson (5-11, 180) sophomore Sadiq Muhammad (6-0, 190) and sophomore Raymond Brown (6-3, 200).
For the first time in four years, the Jayhawks will be without the services of placekicker Johnny Beck, who ended his career tied for third all-time with 40 career field goals.
However, the cupboard isn’t entirely bare. Sophomore Scott Webb (5-11, 180) returns after nailing 29-of-29 PATs and a pair of field goals in 2004.
Sophomore Kyle Tucker (6-2, 205) won the punting job three games into the 2004 season and averaged 40.1 yards per kick. The Katy, Texas, native, landed 15 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and forced 11 fair catches during his rookie campaign.