KU football veterans say defense needs ‘pretty young’ corners to ‘play big’
photo by: Associated Press
Not one of the three players who started at least one game at cornerback for the Jayhawks last year will even be on the roster when the Kansas football defense makes its 2021 debut in the fall.
Potential KU super-seniors Elijah Jones (Oregon State) and Kyle Mayberry (Utah State) opted last winter to transfer out of the program. And then, following the spring semester, Karon Prunty (South Carolina) exited via the portal, too.
The two cornerbacks who end up on the first-team defense for the season opener on Sept. 3 versus South Dakota will make their first starts in a KU uniform.
The Jayhawks knew long before spring practices began that Jones and Mayberry wouldn’t be around, but Prunty, a breakout performer as a true freshman for KU in 2020, leaving in early June left a significant void within what was already going to be a relatively inexperienced secondary.
“That room is pretty young,” KU junior safety Kenny Logan Jr. said this past week during Big 12 media days, while addressing what the defense will need out of its cornerbacks in the absence of Prunty.
Even so, Logan thinks some of the young players within that position group have the potential to contribute. Logan first brought up sophomore corner Duece Mayberry (Kyle’s younger brother), who appeared in all nine games last year as a reserve. The defensive leader also mentioned true freshman Jacobee Bryant and redshirt freshman Ra’Mello Dotson.
“And those guys have to compete, they have to step up,” Logan said of Duece Mayberry, Bryant and Dotson. “They have to play big for us this year.”
Although Logan noted former Virginia Tech and Missouri State defensive back Jeremy Webb hadn’t yet joined the rest of the Jayhawks on campus this summer, Logan thinks the 6-foot-4 veteran who committed in late June will be needed when he joins the roster ahead of the preseason.
“All those guys have got to come and show up big,” Logan said.
Super-senior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II, who has competed against KU’s corners in practices, scrimmages and workouts, said the cornerback group still had some work to do. But Lassiter also thinks Webb will be “a nice addition” for the defense.
“We’re just going to work from camp,” Lassiter said of how it will all play out for the corners leading up to the season, “and everything’s going to fall where it’s supposed to.”
With a number of KU’s cornerbacks lacking in-game Big 12 experience, Lassiter said there will be challenges, especially for the younger players.
“It’s a different game from when they were in high school,” Lassiter said, “but they understand that they have to mature quick if they want to get on this field.”
Bryant, a Class of 2020 KU signee who grayshirted before joining the program this past January, got to practice and train with the team throughout the spring semester. During that introductory period for Bryant, Logan thought the first-year corner showed he could make an impact immediately.
“Jacobee has great ball skills. He plays with a knack for the ball, he has a knack for energy,” Logan said of Bryant, who returned an interception for a touchdown in KU’s spring game. “So he just showed that all spring.”
Although Dotson, a 6-1, 176-pound defensive back from Daytona Beach, Fla., may be a bit of an unknown for those outside of the program, Logan said Dotson has earned some respect from the Jayhawks who see him day in and day out.
“This year he’s taken a major step in how he carries himself,” Logan said of Dotson. “He still has a ways to go, but just the want to be better, the want to do better, the want to try to help us win — I’ve seen that from him. He has a knack of the ball, too. So we have a lot of corners that ball hawk.”
Key KU football CBs entering 2021 season
Jacobee Bryant, 6-0, 170-pound fr.
Duece Mayberry, 6-0, 173-pound soph.
Jeremy Webb, 6-4, 205-pound super-sr.
Ra’Mello Dotson, 6-1, 176-pound RS-fr.
DeVonte Wilson, 6-3, 192-pound fr.
Cam’ron Dabney, 5-10, 175-pound fr.