Bryce Torneden embracing leadership role for KU football in 2019

Kansas safety Bryce Torneden (1) gets a hug from defensive analyst Dirk Wedd, who recently retired as long time Lawrence High head coach, after Torneden's interception and touchdown during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.

It is almost expected for a senior to handle a leadership role of some kind.

For the 2019 Kansas football team, especially on the defensive side of the ball, a majority of those responsibilities figure to fall on the shoulders of Bryce Torneden. The soon-to-be senior safety is the only returning player who finished in the top-three in tackles last year.

As a result, Torneden assumed he’d have to embrace a more prominent position after Joe Dineen and Daniel Wise graduated and entered the NFL Draft process.

“Those are obviously great role models to take after,” Torneden said. “I just knew that somebody needed to step up, even more so than last year.”

But, in a way, this type of role has always felt comfortable for Torneden.

In high school, Torneden played quarterback for Free State where he produced 2,452 yards of total offense in 2015. Even back then, Torneden knew what type of leader he wanted to be. He was going to be vocal when he had to be, but never tried to be too much.

“I’ve always considered myself to be a natural leader,” Torneden said. “My parents raised me to be like that. It is natural for me.”

Even before this season, Torneden was always willing to help out the younger defensive backs. Torneden has now started two years at nickelback for the Jayhawks, and that experience carries a lot of weight in the meeting room.

Sophomore Corione Harris, who was a four-star cornerback in the Class of 2018, admitted that Torneden was crucial in easing Harris’ transition to the collegiate level last year.

“He’s like another coach on the field,” Harris said. “Bryce has been a big leader to me. He’s obviously one of the leaders on the defense. He knows the defense in and out. Every time I make a mistake, he does a good job of not letting me put my head down and not letting me give up.”

Now, with a brand-new coaching staff and a defense losing multiple key players, Torneden’s leadership is more essential than ever before. Les Miles, who is in his first year at the helm, has lauded Torneden for his leadership already through the early part of spring practice.

“I respect Coach Les and his background a lot,” Torneden said. “He has a wonderful family. I’m definitely going to take everything he says and try to apply it to my game. Off the field as well, I can definitely learn a lot from him.”

Kansas has won just six games during Torneden’s tenure with the program. The Jayhawks, who went 3-9 last year, haven’t posted a winning season since 2008.

But, at least during the early part of spring, Torneden has noticed a difference with a Miles-led coaching staff.

“He’s been amazing, just pushing us to a limit that we haven’t reached before,” Torneden said. “Just holding our whole team accountable, it’s not just about the 22 guys that are start every week. It is about the role players, everyone has to know their role.”


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