Say something nice about Kansas football: Pass defense took huge step forward in 2016

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas corner back Brandon Stewart runs back an interception for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

The most obvious improvement Kansas made in 2016 from winless 2015 came courtesy of its pass defense.

The Jayhawks ranked 124th in the FBS with 293.7 passing yards allowed and moved all the way to 55th in 2016 with an average of 219.8 passing yards allowed per game.

In 2015, KU opponents completed 66.4 percent of their passes and averaged 8.8 yards per pass atempt. In 2016, the numbers were 59.1 percent and 7.4 yards per pass attempt.

It all started up front for the Jayhawks, where they ranked 40th in the nation with 2.33 sacks per game, compared to a still-respectable 2.17 sacks, good for 64th, in 2015.

The maturation of sophomore defensive end Dorance Armstrong and senior cornerback Brandon Stewart played big parts in solidifying the pass defense. Stewart’s pick six in the upset of Texas gave him a signature play for a career that followed the path of many talented junior-college cornerbacks in that he struggled making the adjustment to the big-time as a junior and came on strong as a senior.

Obviously, I’m not allowed in the defensive meetings, but I have a hunch the veteran presence of linebacker coach Todd Bradford, a former defensive coordinator, also played a big role in KU shoring up its pass defense. I base that on how genuinely impressed defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has been with Bradford’s knowledge and experience from Day 1. Keeping Bradford on the staff is a must for Kansas carrying the momentum of an encouraging finish into next season.