The Longhorns (4-5, 3-3) will welcome Kansas (1-8, 0-6) to Austin on Saturday. Texas looks to revenge a shocking 24-21 overtime loss to Kansas in 2016. The Jayhawks are coming off a 38-9 loss to a Baylor team that was previously winless. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Kansas defense and special teams units.
The Jayhawk defense will operate out of a 4 man front, lead by Junior DE Dorance Armstrong Jr. Armstrong was named the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the year after recording 10 sacks in 2016. While Armstrong only has 1 sack so far in 2017, the NFL talent is still on display and he may hear his named called in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. The other end position is occupied by junior Josh Ehambe, who has totaled 2 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss in 2017. Juniors J.J Holmes and Daniel Wise will start in the interior of the line. Wise was an honorable mention All-Big 12 member in 2016 and is having another monster season, collecting 5.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Holmes is a junior college transfer who mainly just serves as a run stuffer in the interior.
Armstrong and Wise figure to give the Texas offensive line all they can handle. I am particularly worried about Wise causing disruption because of how the Guard/Center play has been for Texas this season. Unfortunately, this be another game where Texas struggles to run the ball.
Junior Joe Dinnen Jr. leads the Jayhawk linebacker unit. Dinnen has recorded a whopping 110 tackles, with 19.5 tackles for loss. He is the rock in the middle of the Jayhawk defense and it is impressive to see how he is always around the football. The other linebacker spot will be held down by Keither Loneker, who has 25 tackles on the season. Kansas will mainly play with 2 linebackers on the field, opting to utilize an extra defensive back.
Nearly every team Kansas has played has had major success throwing the ball. The corner duo of Hasan Defense (seriously, Defense is his last name) and Shakial Taylor have struggled all season. They have combined for a total of 1 interceptions and 9 pass breakups. The safety positions have not been much better. Junior Mike Lee ranks 2nd on the team with 65 tackles, but is subpar in defending the pass. Junior Tyrone Miller is not much better when it comes to stopping the pass.
I will be mildly surprised if Texas does not have ample success moving the ball through the air. There is no reason that Collin Johnson, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Reggie Hemphill Mapps should not dominate the defensive backfield for the Jayhawks. If the offensive line gives Buechele any time in the pocket, it could be a huge day for the Texas offense.
Field goal kicking has not been an issue for Kansas this season, with Gabriel Rui connecting on 13 of 15 attempts, with a long of 43 yards.
Senior Cole Moos handles the punting duties and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2016. In 2017, Moos is averaging 40.18 yards per kick, with a long of 67 yards.
Steven Sims Jr. will serve as the primary return man on punts and kickoffs. He has had moderate success on kickoff returns ( 24.83 yards per return), but has struggled on punts (4.56 yards per return).