KU football MVP Countdown: No. 3, Joe Dineen

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) drags down Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) drags down Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke (12) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. by Nick Krug

If you thought leading not only the Big 12 but all of FBS with 7.6 solo tackles per game or setting a Kansas football single-season record with 25.0 tackles for loss in 2017 would be enough to satisfy Joe Dineen, then you just don’t know Joe Dineen.

A preseason All-Big 12 first-team selection leading into this, his redshirt senior season with the Jayhawks, Dineen would like to contribute even more to his hometown team’s defense in his final college season.

His 137 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries a year ago were productive and all, too. It’s just that Dineen, who grew up in Lawrence and graduated from Free State High, wants to improve in other areas in the months ahead.

“Definitely my coverage skills,” the 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker began, when asked what he could do better this fall. “You know, I need to get some picks. And just turnovers in general. Anything to get the ball back in our offense’s hands. I think those are plays that change the course of a game.”

In his first 37 games wearing a KU uniform (23 starts), Dineen has yet to record an interception. He hasn’t recovered a fumble either.

“I need to get some of those this year,” Dineen said.

Defensively, KU couldn’t ask for much more statistical production than Dineen gave in 2017. But he’s asking that of himself, as one of the program’s leaders.

If Dineen can read plays even faster, allowing him to not only make more tackles near and behind the line of scrimmage, but also improve in pass coverage as a fifth-year senior, KU’s defense will be more likely to get the overall boost it needs, as well.

As someone who has followed KU football his entire life, it would mean the world to Dineen to help the program break its ongoing funk before he moves on to pursue a career in the NFL.

Why does he think this could be the year for a turnaround?

“My reason would be all the seniors we have coming back,” Dineen said earlier this week, “and the work we’ve put in from when we were freshmen all the way up to now. I think we’re really gonna see the fruits of our labor pick up this year. I’m really excited to see the product we put on the field.”

No. 5: C Alex Fontana

No. 4: RB Khalil Herbert

— Check out the rest of the MVP countdown at Tom Keegan’s Lunch Break blog: Nos. 6-25

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