If this were college basketball, fans who chant “Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk” would be mad about the Kansas Jayhawks being ranked just No. 24. But there’s a reason to avoid being disgruntled at this 24th ranking: Kansas football is holding down that national spot.
And it’s officially two years in a row Kansas has crashed the rankings in consecutive seasons — a first for KU since 2007 to 2009.
But it’s more than just the stellar play of quarterback Jalon Daniels that has Kansas in this position. It’s one astonishing feat this Jayhawk defense has accomplished that has helped catapult them into the top 25 — and has given them a better mark compared to three traditional national title game contenders.
Kansas Jayhawks Become TFL Kings
Perhaps the aggression of this defense would make the two-time national champion on the Lawrence campus Bill Self pleased.
While nothing like the pressure man-to-man scheme seen at Allen Fieldhouse, KU defensive coordinator Brian Borland has created a defense that does their version of controlling the paint: Dominating the line of scrimmage with 35 total tackles for a loss.
That’s right, 35 TFLs through four games — only one behind in-state rival Kansas State and just six behind national leaders USC and Texas State.
Oh, the Jayhawks’ 35 stops behind the line of scrimmage is more than every SEC team not named Tennessee. That includes traditional defensive trench dominators Alabama, LSU, and even back-to-back national champion Georgia.
Who Has Taken Part in the Jayhawks’ Party in the Backfield?
It’s not just 11 defenders surpassing the line of scrimmage to stop ball carriers in their tracks for KU.
It’s 19 different ones who have had their party in the backfield. Here’s a breakdown.
- Three different Jayhawk defenders have delivered four TFLs or five: JB Brown the leader with five, then Austin Booker at 4.5 followed by Jereme Robinson at four.
- Kenny Logan and Marvin Grant are in the 3’s crowd with 3.5 and 3 TFLs, respectively.
- In three of four games, Kansas has collected 9-10 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
After the five leaders, there are names like Hayden Hatcher, Cobee Bryant, Tommy Dunn, and Rich Miller with between 1.5 to 2.5 TFLs. Ten more defenders have delivered one stop or 0.5 behind the ball.
Minnesota Golden Gopher Additions Have Ignited Jayhawk Defense
This defense was constructed through the transfer portal and an assist via Minneapolis. And every addition is proving they’re a fit for Borland’s four-man base attack.
In the case of Booker, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher uses a freakish get-off to send the message that KU is about to pile the backfield stops.
Fellow towering Ex-Golden Gopher Gage Keys has used his 6’5″, 290-pound frame to bring some inside dominance and energy.
But outside of the past Big Ten reps, the longtime KU defender Robinson has used his long arms and tenacity to form a stout duo with Booker.
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) September 9, 2023
Of course, the high number of stops wouldn’t be made possible without the linebackers and other skill defenders getting in on the action. The Bowling Green transfer Long has wrecked the LOS in his transition to Power 5 football. And if you’re a Jayhawk football fan, who can forget this tone-setting Bryant hit from his cornerback spot?
Welcome to Kansas, meet Cobee Bryant 😤😤😤
HIT. FUMBLE. TD. ROCK CHALK.
— Kansas Football (@KU_Football) September 23, 2023
Overall, Borland’s defense features a deep rotation in the trenches involving the Minnesota transfers, Colorado State transfer Devin Phillips, and edge rushers who can help keep Booker and Robinson fresh.
Last season, KU put together 61 stops behind the line, good enough to average 4.69 TFLs per game. But now, the Jayhawks have raised that average to 8.75 per game. At this current pace, they’ll hit 105 stops behind the line by the regular season’s end.
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But now comes their biggest test to date in No. 3 Texas in Austin. The Longhorns will aim to get the ball out quickly and use the likes of Xavier Worthy, Ja’Tavion Sanders, Adonai Mitchell, and running back Jonathan Brooks to turn upfield and avoid adding to KU’s stops behind the line pileup.
Kansas is entering this contest as a 17.5-point underdog. But, if there’s any hope for an earth-shaking upset, the TFLs must stack up in Texas…and get Jayhawk fans to avoid waiting until college basketball season to witness a top-five program go down against a Kansas team.