Back in 1988, Glen Mason's first season at Kansas, the Jayhawks' defense surrendered an average of 536 yards a game. That's still an NCAA record for futility.
Last year's Kansas defense gave 321.7 yards a game and ranked No. 29 nationally.
It doesn't take a NASA scientist to deduce that defensive improvement was the main reason Kansas was able to record its first winning football season in a decade last fall.
KU returns eight starters from that unit. That's the good news. Unfortunately, the three who won't return Tim Hill, Paul Friday and Doug Terry all played in the secondary.
So when spring practice begins on Monday, you know where Mason will direct most of his attention.
"THE NUMBER one priority is replacing Doug Terry," Mason said. "He was to our defense what (Tony) Sands was to the offense. There's no doubt in my mind he was the best free safety in the Big Eight."
Gerald McBurrows, a true freshman who started a few games at cornerback last season, is heir apparent to Terry. Senior Charley Bowen steps in for Friday at free safety and junior Robert Vaughn is Hill's likely replacement at one corner.
Two players who have never worn a Kansas uniform red-shirt freshman Marlin Blakeney and Kwamie Lassiter, a transfer from Butler County CC will vie at the other corner.
Otherwise, the Jayhawks are loaded with depth, experience and talent particularly at tackle where 6-3, 280-pound senior Dana Stubblefield is an All-America candidate and 6-2, 305-pound Gilbert Brown isn't far behind.
In reserve are 275-pound junior Chris Maumalanga and red-shirt freshman Mark Allison, a former Parade All-American from Minneapolis.
"He still weighs about 280, but it's more solid weight," Mason said of Allison. "He's running better and he has a tremendous work ethic."
KANSAS HAS four veteran ends in Brian Christian, Kyle Moore, Guy Howard and Ty Moeder as well as a batch of seasoned outside linebackers in Don Davis, Robert Mitchell, Sylvester Wright, Hassan Bailey and Harold Harris.
Steve Harvey, another former Parade All-American who was the Big Eight's defensive newcomer of the year in '91, returns at inside linebacker along with two-year letterman Larry Thiel.
With a solid defensive base and with plenty of experienced hands back on offense, Mason plans to use his 15 alloted spring days not so much to experiment as to fine-tune.
"I don't want to waste a second," he said, "and I don't think we will because we're not in disaster management any more. We have a good ball club, and my main thing is to tie all aspects together."