Kansas suffered one major hit from its surprisingly dominant defense of a year ago. And we're not talking Aqib Talib, although we'll get to him shortly.
At issue is the loss of coordinator Bill Young, who left for Miami, responding to Randy Shannon's plea for help. Clint Bowen might yet prove capable as Young's promoted replacement. Know this, Young did leave behind a loaded defense, featuring a back seven more stout than any in the Big 12. Last week, we hailed KU's linebackers as the league's best. Ditto for the Jayhawk secondary, despite the loss of Talib, the 20th overall pick in the NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There's no one to match Talib's combination of instincts and skill, but there's talent and depth and experience, with three starters back plus two more players who recorded significant minutes. Chris Harris started 10 games at a cornerback spot as a true freshman and was named Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year. Darrell Stuckey and Patrick Resby are returning safeties. Kendrick Harper, expected to assume Talib's vacated corner spot, rotated with Harris a year ago. Safety Justin Thornton, who tied Talib with a team-high five interceptions, is pushing to break into a starting role. The secondary — combined with the linebackers — are a major reason the Jayhawks continue to garner major support as a budding force, rather than a one-year fluke. KU opened at No. 13 in the coaches' Top 25 released Friday. Not everyone's convinced. "I think they have pressure to continue that kind of success,” said Colorado safety Ryan Walters. "They had a lot of guys graduate, a great cornerback in Talib went to the NFL.