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Big 12 spring battle spotlight: Kansas CBs

The cornerback spot was the strongest position on Kansas' defense a year ago.

Heading into David Beaty’s first season in charge in 2015, Kansas will need to replace a pair of productive senior cornerbacks, particularly if its defense is going to be as aggressive as Beaty would like to see.

Departed: JaCorey Shepherd was one of the Big 12’s best cornerbacks during his final season in Lawrence, Kansas. His athleticism and playmaking made offenses think twice before testing him as he finished with All-Big 12 honors, 19 passes defensed and three interceptions. Dexter McDonald brought veteran experience to the other side of the field and plenty of playmaking of his own. McDonald finished with 13 passes defensed and two interceptions as a senior.

Spring contenders: Senior Ronnie Davis, junior Greg Allen, junior Bazie Bates, junior Brandon Stewart, sophomore Derrick Neal, sophomore Matthew Boateng.

Summer contenders: Tyrone Miller, Shaquille Richmond, Shola Ayinde.

The skinny: The Jayhawks signed a pair of junior college cornerbacks, Bates and Stewart, along with three prep cornerbacks, making it clear how important it will be to solidify this position in Clint Bowen’s defense. Allen started three games in 2014 and was solid in his nickelback role. Boateng flashed some playmaking skills and a competitive streak as a true freshman who played in eight games. Davis played a backup role behind Shepherd and McDonald, but didn’t separate himself at the cornerback spot. Neal played receiver and cornerback as a true freshman and could be the most versatile of the candidates. The battle should be fun to watch, with several solid options and plenty of competition for a spot.

Prediction: Boateng looks like a favorite to land one of the spots with his upside and a year of experience under his belt. Allen could be ready for a bigger role, and Bates and Stewart were brought in to play right away. Even with several talented candidates to start, Kansas should expect its production from the cornerback position to take a step backward in 2015, unless multiple newcomers step up to fill the void before the season opener.