Talented Dorance Armstrong anchors Kansas Jayhawks’ defense

Dorance Armstrong is his name, and terrorizing opposing offenses is his game. With continued improvement, this explosive junior just might become the premier defensive end in the country.

He’s simply the face of Kansas football, a surefire NFL first-round prospect. He’s the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year who led the league with 20 tackles for a loss last season (No. 5 in FBS) and ranked No. 18 nationally with 10 sacks while being named a consensus All-Conference First-Team selection.

He’s on the Chuck Bednarik and Bronko Nagurski Watch Lists for the nation’s Defensive Player of the Year, while tabbed a third-team preseason All-American by Athlon Sports. He threw out the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals game on “KU Night” at Kauffman Stadium, and has his picture on a billboard in Lawrence with an advertisement promoting KU football.

But with all these hosannas, all the rave reviews, Dorance Armstrong is still the same modest young man that he was as an underweight DE at North Shore High School in Houston, a three-star prospect who chose Kansas over Cal, Houston, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Memphis, Michigan State, Northwestern, Oregon State, Purdue and Southeastern Louisiana.

“I think it makes me a more humble player,” Armstrong said. “I use all those appreciations and awards as motivation to make me a better person, player, leader and teammate. That is all it is.”

He was flattered to receive preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, the first Jayhawk to be named a preseason individual award winner playing in the Big 12.

“I was excited, but I wouldn’t be there without my team, my coaches, and I thank them for that,” Armstrong said. “It’s an honor to have that award. I’m ready for the season to start so I can prove to people that I’m (deserving).”

He was certainly deserving last season, a breakthrough year where Dorance Armstrong emerged as one of the best defensive lineman in the land. His accomplishments are even more astonishing considering he played with a partially torn ACL, which he suffered in preseason. He was 100 percent in the third week and came on especially strong the last five weeks of the season.

Armstrong’s best game was against Texas in KU’s memorable 24-21 upset in Lawrence on Nov. 19, where he collected a career-high 11 tackles, 3.0 TFL’s, 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He recorded the third-most sacks in a season in KU history and the best in the last 15 years. Armstrong had a sack in six straight games and tied for Big 12 lead with three forced fumbles.

KU head coach David Beaty marvels at his talent.

“(Armstrong) is unbelievable,” Beaty told ESPN.com. “He’s a freak. He is Myles Garrett (former Texas A&M star defensive end and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns) and Myles is a freak. This guy’s a beast.”

Beaty knows how far Dorance Armstrong has come since he arrived at Kansas as a raw and thin prospect. He started the last five games as a freshman in 2015, and amassed 23 tackles, 5.0 TFL’s, a team second-best 3.5 sacks and a team runner-up four pass breakups.

While it was a solid first season, Dorance Armstrong was hardly satisfied. He hit the weight room relentlessly in the offseason. He put on weight. He got stronger. And he became more explosive.

This extreme effort set the stage for his 2016 season for the ages.

“Dorance works hard every day and has a never-quit mentality, and that’s really starting to pay off for him, and it’s fun to watch,” Beaty said. “He’s a kid that came into our place about 212 pounds. He’s 253 pounds today. Just really proud of his development, great example of those young guys who started with us two years ago.”

A relatively quiet person, Dorance Armstrong has grown into a strong leader for his teammates.

“I feel like I have been told to be a leader for this team for quite a while and I am actually now fitting into it,” he said. “It is easier for me to do now.”

Armstrong hopes to take that next step this season and become the best defensive end in the country and make KU bowl bound for the first time since 2008. NFL scouts will flock to Jayhawk games to see this “beast” create havoc on defense. Armstrong, who could declare for the NFL Draft after this season, is a surefire first-rounder, whether it’s in 2018 or after his senior season in 2019. He’s definitely KU’s best pro prospect since Aqib Talib was drafted No. 20 overall in the first round by Tampa Bay in 2008.

NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein likens Armstrong to 2017 first-round pick Haason Reddick of the Arizona Cardinals.

“Like Reddick, Armstrong is an athletic edge defender who can play with a hand down or up,” Zierlein wrote. “However, Armstrong is bigger than Reddick and appears to be stronger at the point of attack as well. Reddick’s value was bolstered thanks to his ability to rush the passer on the edge and play inside linebacker. Armstrong

is a pure edge player who keeps tackles busy with juke steps, stab moves and shoulder dips around the edge.

“He has the closing speed to finish as a sack artist and also possesses a knack for finding the ball and discarding blockers to make the tackle against the run. Armstrong has exciting upside.”

Before Armstrong achieves his NFL dreams, he has unfinished business at Kansas and is on a mission to make this a memorable year and turn the preseason hype into reality. He’s not letting up now, not after the great strides he’s already made.

“I got to continue to work,” he said.

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Article by David Garfield

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