The secret is out. One of the Big 12’s best football players calls the University of Kansas home.
Despite the program’s long-standing struggles to escape the conference’s basement, the talent of junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. is so great that media voted Armstrong the preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the Big 12 — an unprecedented distinction for KU.
The only unanimous selection to the media’s preseason all-league defensive team, also announced Wednesday, Armstrong became the first KU player since the inception of the Big 12 to pick up an individual preseason award of this nature.
As a sophomore in 2016, Armstrong turned into the program’s first unanimous All-Big 12 first-teamer, following his 10-sack, 20-tackles-for-loss campaign.
The 6-foot-4, 246-pound defensive force told the Journal-World this past spring his all-conference accolades didn’t satisfy him.
“That’s just a piece of the puzzle that comes with where I’m trying to get,” Armstrong said. “I want to be better than all that. That happened last season and it’s a whole new season, so I just put that past me and keep trying to get better.”
During the final five weeks of his breakout year at Kansas, the Houston native came through with 10 tackles for loss and delivered a career-outing in the Jayhawks’ overtime victory over Texas, during which he made 11 tackles (three for loss), two sacks, and both forced and recovered a fumble.
He said during the spring his outline of goals for his junior year include even more production.
“My main one is to basically beat all the numbers that I put up last season,” Armstrong said, referring to his sophomore-year totals of 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 56 total tackles, five quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and and two fumble recoveries.
“I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy,” he added.
Should Armstrong obtain his individual objectives in the months ahead, he would have a chance to become KU’s second Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, joining Nick Reid, the Jayhawks’ standout linebacker who took home the honor in 2005.
Media named Oklahoma senior quarterback Baker Mayfield preseason Offensive Player of the Year and West Virginia junior quarterback Will Grier preseason Newcomer of the Year.
Armstrong was the only KU player on the preseason all-conference teams, which didn’t include second-team selections or an honorable mention list.
2017 PRESEASON ALL-BIG 12 FOOTBALL TEAM — MEDIA
QB Baker Mayfield — sr., Oklahoma
RB Justice Hill — so., Oklahoma State
RB Justin Crawford — sr., West Virginia
FB Winston Dimel — jr., Kansas State
WR James Washington — sr., Oklahoma State (unanimous)
WR Allen Lazard — sr., Iowa State
WR Keke Coutee — jr., Texas Tech
TE Mark Andrews — jr., Oklahoma
OL Orlando Brown — jr., Oklahoma (unanimous)
OL Connor Williams — jr., Texas
OL Dalton Risner — jr., Kansas State
OL Austin Schlottmann — sr., TCU
OL Zach Crabtree — sr., Oklahoma State
PK Clayton Hatfield — jr., Texas Tech
KR/PR KaVontae Turpin — jr., TCU
DL Dorance Armstrong Jr. — jr., Kansas (unanimous)
DL K.J. Smith — sr., Baylor
DL Reggie Walker — so., Kansas State
DL Poona Ford — sr., Texas
DL Malcolm Roach — so., Texas
LB Travin Howard — sr., TCU
LB Malik Jefferson — jr., Texas
LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo — sr., Oklahoma
DB D.J. Reed — jr., Kansas State
DB Jordan Thomas — sr., Oklahoma
DB Tre Flowers — sr., Oklahoma State
DB Kamari Cotton-Moya — sr., Iowa State
DB Nick Orr — sr., TCU
P Michael Dickson — jr., Texas