The Kansas Jayhawks have seen better days. But they’ve also seen some worse days. While Kansas is still just 2-4 on the season and stuck in the bottom of the Big 12 standings, there have been some noticeable improvements in this team in year two under Charlie Weis. The defense, in particular, has made some significant strides in 2013 and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd has been one of the cornerstones to that turnaround.
Through six games, Kansas ranks as the No. 4 pass defense in the Big 12 thanks in no small part to the efforts of Shepherd. He ranks No. 2 in the conference in passes defended with two interceptions and eight pass breakups as he consistently plays solid coverage for the Jayhawks week in and week out. He was key in Kansas building a quick 13-0 lead over the Oklahoma Sooners last weekend (though they ultimately lost 34-19) with four tackles, a forced fumble and an interceptions on the day.
The 5-foot-11 junior has stepped up as a leader and one of the Big 12’s best cover-corners in 2013. The Jayhawks still have a long way to go, of course. They rank No. 7 in both total defense and scoring defense in the conference and Weis has still yet to win his first Big 12 game. Shepherd has been a major bright spot for them, however, and his ability to lock down on opposing receivers is a reason to hope that things are headed in the right direction in Lawrence.
When trying to turn a program back around, you need difference-makers at every level who can lead the team through some dark times. Shepherd has emerged as that difference maker for Jayhawks’ secondary. Will he be the key to getting Kansas back to the winning track?