Defensive notes from KU football vs. Baylor in Big 12 opener
Kansas gave up 47 points in its Big 12 opener during a 47-14 defeat at Baylor this past weekend.
Technically, the defense shouldn’t have to take the blame for all 47 of those points. The Bears scored twice on a pair of kickoff returns, both of which occurred in the second half. It marked just the 18th time since 2000 that a team has scored on multiple kickoff returns in a single game.
Still, KU’s defense has struggled through two games by allowing an average of 42.5 points per contest. The Jayhawks have yet to record a takeaway on the defensive end, and have only recorded one sack as a unit.
After a rusty start, Baylor’s offense eventually was in cruise control against KU’s defense. Veteran quarterback Charlie Brewer kept making the right play, whether it was throwing to his hot route when he read a blitz or finding a soft spot in KU’s zone defense.
Let’s dive into this week’s defensive notes to get a better idea of what went right and what went wrong for the Jayhawks on that side of the ball.
KU’s starting defense was Caleb Sampson (DE), Sam Burt (DT), Malcolm Lee (DT), Denzel Feaster (LB), Dru Prox (LB), Kyron Johnson (LB), Kenny Logan (NB), Davon Ferguson (S), Karon Prunty (CB), Elijah Jones (CB) and Ricky Thomas (S) in the Big 12 opener.
Base 3-4 defense: 5 plays, 34 total yards allowed, 6.8 yards per play.
This is supposed to be KU’s standard defensive look, featuring a personnel grouping of three defensive linemen, four linebackers and four defensive backs. However, it was not a popular personnel choice by the Kansas coaching staff on Saturday.
After using this grouping 27 total times against Coastal Carolina, Kansas only trotted out this personnel on five of its 65 defensive snaps against Baylor.
The main reason was because Baylor used fewer two-tight end sets compared to Coastal. In fact, all five of these snaps in the 3-4 base defense came when Baylor went 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) on Saturday.
KU used its 3-4 defense, which is a formation that allows Kyron Johnson and Steven Parker to be on the field at the same time, against some single-tight end formations in the opener. Yet the Kansas defense chose to rely on its nickel package in such situations against a Big 12 foe.
Standard Nickel: 53 plays, 255 total yards allowed, 4.81 yards per play.
In its standard nickel package, Kansas essentially subs a fifth defensive back in for the outside linebacker spot. Where that defensive back lines up ultimately changes, but is usually based on the offensive alignment.
When Baylor was bunched up, the fifth defensive back usually lined up in a similar spot that the outside linebacker would normally be in when in that 3-4 defense. Other times, the fifth defensive back was matched up with an outside receiver.
The Bears ran mostly 11 personnel, which ultimately led to this defensive grouping for Kansas. Baylor piled up 210 yards on 47 plays when going with one back, one tight end against KU’s nickel package. BU also had three plays in 20 personnel, turning that into 45 total yards.
KU’s 2-4 defense: 7 total plays, 78 total yards allowed, 11.11 yards per play.
This was a new formation for Kansas, at least for this year.
On seven different snaps, the Jayhawks chose to sub out a defensive lineman and put in another linebacker in his place. This personnel grouping features two defensive linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs.
In a lot of ways, it is similar to the “Peso” formation that Baylor head coach Dave Aranda made popular when he served as defensive coordinator for LSU. While I didn’t chart defensive formations a year ago, the Jayhawks did use this grouping at times last year.
On Saturday, Baylor was in 12 personnel on all seven plays and accumulated 78 total yards in this particular formation battle.
Watching live, it felt like the Jayhawks generated more pressure against the Bears compared to what they did in the season opener. I was curious to know if it was because the defensive staff chose to switch up its blitzes after what was a relatively basic opener.
But that wasn’t really the case. Kansas only sent five or more pass rushers on seven of Baylor’s 27 dropbacks. For comparison, KU blitzed five players on six dropbacks against the Chanticleers.
Most of KU’s pressure came when four players went after the quarterback, and any success in that department was probably a credit to defensive players winning more one-on-one battles against an injured offensive line.
Here is a breakdown of KU’s pass rush against BU by number of pass rushers:
When KU rushed three players — 4 plays, 27 yards
When KU rushed four players — 16 plays, 111 yards
When KU rushed five players — 6 plays, 3 yards
When KU rushed three players — 1 play, 16 yards.
Final snap counts for KU’s defensive players: — Information via NCAA Premium Stats at Pro Football Focus
FS Ricky Thomas — 65 total snaps
RE Malcolm Lee — 64 total snaps
CB Karon Prunty — 53 total snaps
SS Kenny Logan Jr. — 50 total snaps
LOLB Kyron Johnson — 48 total snaps
WLB Denzel Feaster — 44 total snaps
CB Elijah Jones — 43 total snaps
MLB Gavin Potter — 42 total snaps
SS Davon Ferguson — 40 total snaps
LE Marcus Harris — 37 total snaps
CB Kyle Mayberry — 37 total snaps
LOLB Steven Parker — 33 total snaps
LE Caleb Sampson — 33 total snaps
NT Sam Burt — 31 total snaps
MLB Dru Prox — 30 total snaps
CB Duece Mayberry — 29 total snaps
WLB Jay Dineen — 27 total snaps
CB Nate Betts — 24 total snaps
NT DaJon Terry — 20 total snaps
NT Kenean Caldwell — 10 total snaps