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Different is good

Coaches' mandate for change inspires Logan to embrace team leadership role

by CHRIS LAZZARINO

After leading all Power 5 conference schools in tackles in 2021, safety Kenny Logan Jr. enters his senior season on watch lists for three prestigious national honors—the Chuck Bednarik Award, for the outstanding defensive player; the Jim Thorpe Award, honoring the best defensive back; and the Paul Hornung Award, for the college game’s most versatile player—and he’s already being touted as a legitimate NFL prospect by Pro Football Network, which praised his “truly superb ball skills and ball-tracking ability.”

And yet Logan, also a kick returner and something of a free spirit, lets it be known that he has no intention of exceeding or even matching his 113 tackles of a year ago. The way he sees it, if he does repeat such gaudy numbers, the rest of the Jayhawks’ young defense will not have developed as expected. “I don’t want as many tackles this year,” Logan says, “because we have great linebackers who came in. I don’t feel like I’m going to have that many tackles.”

With the addition of transfer linebackers Eriq Gilyard (who came in from Central Florida), Craig Young (Ohio State) and Lorenzo McCaskill (Louisiana), along with a stout line that includes 305-pound tackle Caleb Sampson and pass rusher Lonnie Phelps, a transfer from Miami of Ohio, Logan’s intention to make fewer tackles seems realistic. Instead, Logan says, he needs to focus on interceptions. Although he had only one last year and two as a sophomore, Logan did break up six passes as a junior. With Purdue transfer Marvin Grant joining him at safety, Logan will often be freed to steal passes.

“I want to try to lead the NCAA in interceptions,” Logan says, “and try to lead the conference in interceptions.” Even with his fun-loving personality—Logan teases and impersonates second-year coach Lance Leipold so often that the boss is reportedly perfecting a Logan impersonation of his own—the 6-foot, 210-pound heavy hitter, who has yet to miss a game in his KU career, is expected to help lead a young team eager to forget its two-win season from a year ago.

“He’s got a lot of natural charisma. He’s got a good likability factor,” says defensive coordinator Brian Borland. “We just need him to represent us in terms of things that are important, in terms of being accountable, being disciplined, being a good decision-maker, developing good leadership qualities. He just needs to keep going in the direction he’s going, and he’s really going in a good direction.”

 

“You always gotta have pride, in everything you do. I feel like our team has taken that to another level. If you’re not taking pride in what you’re doing, then why are you here?”

 —Senior safety Kenny Logan Jr.

During August training camp (Kansas Alumni went to press shortly before the Sept. 2 opener against Tennessee Tech), Logan confirmed that he was up to the leadership challenge.

“It’s comfortable for me. Well, I don’t like the word ‘comfortable,’ but it’s cool, very natural, to be in that spot, to have that voice, so I’m definitely accepting it,” Logan says. “You always gotta have pride, in everything you do. I feel like our team has taken that to another level. If you’re not taking pride in what you’re doing, then why are you here?”

After already spending a year and a full offseason around Logan, sophomore safety O.J. Burroughs says the leadership role expected of Logan, on and off the field, should be a good fit, because he’s been doing it all along.

“Every day,” Burroughs says, “Kenny’s going to bring his best to make sure everyone’s on top of their game. He won’t let you have an off day. No matter how you’re feeling, he’s always going to pick you up. He’s going to tell you what you need to be doing better, and what you’re doing well, just to make sure we’ve got that swag on us.”

Borland says the key word repeatedly emphasized by coaches during training camp was “different.” While it certainly suits Logan’s personality, the concept in this case applies to the entire team.

“I know we just feel like we’re different,” Borland says. “We’ve got to be different, right? We’ve got to be different players, we’ve got to be different people, we’ve got to be different in our approach. We just need to be different than we were last year. If it’s going to be different, we need to be different. I feel great right now. I like the direction we’re going and I like the potential we have.”

Says Logan, “It feels way different and I love it. How we attack everything, the tempo, the pace, the excitement. Guys here, we believe in what we’ve done in the offseason that’s going to propel us to be better. We’re still taking it day by day to get better, but I’m definitely excited for the long turnaround.”

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