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On the spot: Kansas LB Kyron Watson

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be featuring 10 Big 12 players who are on the spot this spring. Maybe they are coming back from injury. Maybe they have much to prove after a disappointing 2014 season. Maybe they are embroiled in a key position battle. Whatever the case, this spring is big for them.

Today’s player on the spot: Kansas linebacker Kyron Watson

The last time Kansas was tasked with building a defense without linebacker Ben Heeney as the centerpiece West Virginia and TCU weren’t even in the Big 12. Captain Heeney leaves a major void in the Jayhawks defense after averaging 108.6 tackles per season during his final three years in Lawrence.

Watson could be the Jayhawk who helps fill the void.

The sophomore didn’t make a major impact as a true freshman in 2014, finishing with four tackles in 11 games played, mostly on special teams. But Watson did spend the year learning behind Heeney, who made a point to mentor the true freshman in 2014.

“Here’s an odd-couple relationship for you,” former KU coach Charlie Weis told the Lawrence Journal-World last August. “Heeney has taken him under his wing. Seriously. Even in recruiting, they kind of hit it off. I think that Kyron would like to end up being Heeney when Heeney is gone, and that’s a good thing.”

This spring is the opportunity for Watson to emerge out of Heeney’s shadow and show why he was considered one of the highlight signees in the Jayhawks’ Class of 2014. There are other competitors to replace Heeney’s overall production, particularly Schyler Miles, but Watson could be too talented to keep off the field for a KU defense searching for playmakers. Regardless of the growth and development of any other Jayhawks linebackers, Watson’s athleticism and toughness are sure to become an asset at some point during his career.

This spring is the first chance for Watson, the No. 136 player in the 2014 ESPN 300, to impress new coach David Beaty and show he can be an anchor in the Jayhawks defense for the next few seasons.