‘Some questions’ at defensive end, Leipold says, but young players could provide answers

photo by: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Kansas State Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Lawrence.

Topeka — With the arrival of Kansas’ highly touted 2024 freshman class over the weekend has come at least one player who has a chance to contribute right away.

Deshawn Warner, a four-star freshman from Arizona who arrives as one of the top 10 high school edge rushers in the country, has joined classmate and early enrollee Dakyus Brinkley at one of the Jayhawks’ position groups with the least returning experience: pass-rush defensive end.

“We’re still going to have some questions at defensive end. It’ll be competitive,” head coach Lance Leipold said Monday. “When the young guys are all there, they’re going to have a chance to show what they can do early. DJ Warner just reported yesterday and everybody’s excited about him. I thought Dak Brinkley had a really, really strong end of spring ball.”

A year older, but nearly as highly anticipated, is Michigan State transfer Bai Jobe, a redshirt freshman from Senegal via Norman, Oklahoma, whom Leipold called “a younger player that has tremendous upside in the future and hopefully the athleticism and pass-rush abilities that we’re going to need.”

With Dylan Brooks’ availability uncertain after he missed the end of the spring, Warner, Brinkley and Jobe will team with former JUCO transfer Dean Miller, who continues to bulk up his body and elevate his prospects in the eyes of KU’s coaching staff, in a difficult-to-evaluate position group.

Of course, as defensive ends coach Taiwo Onatolu pointed out during spring practice, KU always seems to enter its season with the public wondering where it will find its pass rush: “It’s just part of the process,” he said. Last year, Austin Booker distinguished himself amid what looked to be a by-committee approach and ended up earning himself a fifth-round selection in the NFL Draft.

The other defensive end spot is more solid. Leipold said Monday that Jereme Robinson is back after missing the spring due to offseason surgery. The Jayhawks also have Youngstown State transfer Dylan Wudke.

O-line transfer had prior connections

One of KU’s other key spring acquisitions, besides Jobe, was Michigan transfer Amir Herring, another redshirt freshman from Southfield, Michigan.

That Herring is the cousin of freshman quarterback Isaiah Marshall is widely known, as are the dogged recruiting efforts of linebackers coach Chris Simpson in the Detroit area, which Leipold said paid off in bringing Herring to campus.

What Leipold himself didn’t know, he said, was that Herring’s mother had already been to KU before her son considered going there.

“She had been down with Isaiah’s family twice before (Herring) even entered the portal, just being around them, and she had a chance to see campus and do things,” Leipold said. “Those are the types of things that help you in those situations.”

It all paid off to bring the Jayhawks another piece on the interior line, who may figure heavily into their future plans.

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