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August 10, 2013

Heeney says defense is deeper

Linebacker Ben Heeney said this is the deepest defense he's see in his three years at Kansas. They've got three deep at every position and a new scheme to show it all off.

"Last year at this time coach released a two-deep depth chart and now we've got a three-deep at every position," Heeney said. "In the offseason coach Weis busted his tail and got us a lot of good players."

There are a couple of new faces with junior college transfers Cassius Sendish at nickelback to Marquel Combs at defensive tackle. There's also been some movement with sophomore Ben Goodman taking over the buck position as they transition to a nickel package to better battle the spread offenses in the Big 12.

"I think it's a lot of competition at every position and I think you can't classify us as a particular defense," Sendish said. "It's not necessarily a 3-3-5 or a 4-2-5 or anything for that matter. It's hard for someone to look at us on paper and determine how we're going to line up that day."

Sendish described his new position as a hybrid where he'll be blitzing, be in coverage and even taking on a linebacker role at times.

"I think with me being able to play safety and being able to play corner and to incorporate those skills together to play the nickelback position, it's a position where I'm comfortable," Sendish said. "I'm comfortable anywhere in the defensive backfield, but at the nickelback position, I trust my coaches in the position they put me in. I'm going to make things happen."

A year ago they finished second to last in the conference in total defense giving up 481.8 yars a game and 52 touchdowns. Heeney was a bright spot however and finished All-Big 12. He ranked third in the Big 12 and 32nd nationally with 112 tackles.

"Last year was obviously an unsuccessful season for us, but as far as me personally goes, I made some tackles, but tackles only go so far when you don't win games," Heeney said. "This year, I have a year of starting under my belt so I've got that and I think that year that I had last year will make me a lot more comfortable."

With the first week of fall practice under way free safety Dexter Linton said the improvements in depth and talent are very clear. The competition has increased and that has him hopeful for a more successful season.

"We're a work in progress right, now but I feel like we look really good," Linton said. "The main thing from summer to now is that we've got everyone here. Now we've got to see how we all mesh together."

The only position on defense with two veterans battling it out is nose tackle where Keon Stowers holds the top spot for now with Kevin Young behind him and junior college transfer Ty McKinney down at No. 3. The rest are a mix of veterans and newcomers and the order is sure to change throughout the fall.

With veteran leaders like Stowers, Heeney, Linton, Keba Agostinho and JaCorey Shepard and the new crop of junior college transfers, they not only have depth on defense, but the talent to improve on last year's record.

"Last year you could see the drop off from the first and second," Stowers said. "I can speak to that because I was on the second. I really wasn't comfortable. I wasn't really comfortable playing in my own skin. Now we have guys on the second team that started 12 games last year so we've got depth on top of depth. It's been really good to get those guys in here."

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