University of Kansas

Jayhawks hope for better production from secondary

Here’s the newest form of Kansas math: The Jayhawks lost all four starters from their secondary last season, and coordinator Dave Campo is still optimistic his defensive backs can make significant progress in 2013.

The theory isn’t all that complicated, of course. KU’s pass defense was among the nation’s worst last season, and a thin unit magnified the deficiencies — especially late in games.

But of all the reasons for hope, perhaps the biggest one showed up on late Monday night, when junior-college transfer Kevin Short finally landed on campus. Short, a 6-foot-2 cornerback from Fort Scott Community College, was one of the prize recruits in the Jayhawks’ large junior-college class. And before the start of fall camp, KU coach Charlie Weis suggested that Short could have been atop the depth chart at corner if he’d been cleared by the NCAA on time.

It now appears that Short is good to go. And because the Jayhawks have a first-week bye on the schedule, Short will have an extra seven days to get integrated into the defense before KU’s season opener against South Dakota on Sept. 7.

“He’s starting from ground zero,” Campo said. “But let me say this: The corner position is one position where that can happen, because … skill trumps technique.”

For now, it appears that junior-college transfer Dexter McDonald has a hold on one of KU’s starting cornerback spots. Campo is clear that there are still ongoing competitions at all spots, but McDonald, a former Rockhurst standout, has been impressive in his return to the KU program. (McDonald left the program after the 2011 season for academic reasons.)

Junior JaCorey Shepherd and junior-college transfer Brandon Hollomon could battle Short for the other starting spot, but all four could figure into Campo’s plans in the secondary.

“I’m telling you right now, with the tempo of the game and 90 plays a game, you can’t just play two guys,” Campo said. “And that’s one of the things I did last year, because I had no confidence whatsoever in the guys that were in backup positions.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Campo said Short had checked into the Kansas practice facilities. But he’ll likely need a short acclimation process before he’s allowed to hit the practice field at 100 percent.

“He’s one of those guys, in my mind, a little bit like Dexter McDonald,” Campo said of Short. “He’s a bigger athlete, and we won’t know exactly what we have until he’s out there going (full speed). So he’s just one of those guys that’s in the mix that we have to get ready as fast as we can.”