LAWRENCE (KSNT) – KU’s defensive front is revamped for the 2023 season.

The defensive tackles group added transfers Gage Keys and Devin Phillips, and the group’s young players from 2022 have game experience to build on.

That makes them more athletic, according to defensive tackles coach Jim Panagos.

“A lot of the time in football, you get in a bad football position because the guy blocking you is a good player, and the ability to bend and get off that block is something I see really improved this year,” Panagos said. “I’m really pleased with that.”

Keys, a transfer from Minnesota, had a season-high three tackles against Purdue in 2022. He likes Panagos’ detail-oriented coaching style.

“At first, you could be nervous because it’s a new environment,” Keys said. “You don’t know how things are going to play out, but everyone here accepted me with a lot of love and the coaches really accepted me with a lot of love. It was an easy acclimation process.”

He, along with Colorado State transfer Devin Phillips, is improving quickly under Matt Gildersleeve’s strength and conditioning program. Their confidence and fitness are raising their goals.

“I want to get to a Big 12 championship and first-team All-Conference,” Phillips said.

Phillips has started all 36 games of his college career. He totaled just seven tackles in his three appearances in 2022, but ended his Colorado State career with 101 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and three passes defended.

“The leadership here is outstanding,” Phillips said. “There’s a bunch of guys that take pride in what the coaches are building here in this program.”

The Jayhawks return redshirt sophomore Tommy Dunn Jr. He had scattered success throughout the 2022 season, with a season-high three tackles against Oklahoma State. He’s looking forward to having a bigger role in 2023.

“Just being more aggressive, coming at the ball harder and just little details, really, to perfect my game” Dunn Jr. said.

KU returns five other defensive lineman. The 2023 season begins Sept. 1 against Missouri State.