Sam Burt is a Kansas kid living the dream many walk-ons envision upon arriving at a Division-I FBS program.
Burt, who lettered in powerlifting, track and wrestling at Abilene High School, walked-on for KU football in 2017. It wasn’t until last season that Les Miles awarded Burt with a scholarship in a team meeting. Now, the 6-foot-4, 293-pound defensive lineman steps into a veteran role for a defense that he says is rapidly improving.
“There’s been a lot of improvements on the defensive line,” Burt said. “We have a young group, but just the strides guys have taken have been remarkable. I’ll shout out [DaJon Terry], Marcus Harris — they did a really good job in the offseason working hard.”
After playing in every game on special teams and five on the defensive line during his first two years at KU, Burt appeared in eight games on the defensive front for Kansas in 2019. He collected 15 total tackles, including one for a loss against TCU.
Burt did not play in last season’s 12-7 loss to Coastal Carolina. However, he knew what needed to be addressed this offseason for the defensive line to become a more cohesive unit.
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“One thing we really wanted to focus on this year was just coming together as a group,” Burt said. “Another thing is just technical things. We are wanting to work on our releases and attacking off the ball.”
Along with Terry and Harris, Burt pointed out a multitude of names that are coming along nicely with the defense.
“Caleb Sampson and Malcolm Lee — they’ve been firing on all cylinders” Burt said. “I’ve also seen Jereme Robinson come in off his grayshirt year and he’s really developed his body well. I’ve seen a lot of good stuff from Kenean Caldwell, a true freshman coming in here and listening really well and adapting. All-around, I have been really impressed with our group and I am excited to see what we can do.”
For Burt, the season-opening matchup will be a pivotal challenge for the defensive line.
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Coastal Carolina, who returns three of its top-four rushers from 2019, finished last season 34th in rushing offense with 195.5 yards per game. The Chanticleers averaged 4.5 yards per rush. The Jayhawks finished 124th out of 130 teams in rushing defense — allowing 225.7 yards per game and almost five yards per carry.
“They were a good team and they’re still a good team this year,” center Api Mane said.
In a shortened season, Kansas won’t just be hoping for a better defensive outcome — they’re going to need it. With a full slate of Big 12 opponents awaiting them, the Jayhawks will face a daunting task in slowing down a league filled with offensive juggernauts.
Kickoff is just over one week away.