SUNDAY REWIND

Cornerback JaCorey Shepherd finds home on defense, still believes he could help Jayhawks’ offense

Updated: 2013-10-21T05:05:33Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

— It’s easy to forget now, two years later, that KU junior JaCorey Shepherd started two games at receiver as a true freshman in 2011. It’s easy to forget, now that Shepherd is a dependable cornerback on an improving defense, that his future once looked to be on offense.

So it leads to the natural question: Could Shepherd, now cemented at cornerback, shake off some rust and still be useful on the offensive side of the ball?

“I played (receiver) most of my life,” Shepherd said. “I feel like I’ll always have some type of skills to go out there. I’m not saying I’d be able to go out there and be 100 percent, like the best … but just like at cornerback, as I continue to play I get better.”

For now, of course, Kansas coach Charlie Weis has given no indication that Shepherd will make any cameos at receiver. And Shepherd is content to stay at cornerback, where he is tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Before Saturday’s 34-19 loss to Oklahoma at Memorial Stadium, Shepherd was also tied with teammate Dexter McDonald for sixth in the nation in pass break-ups.

But the latest loss, which dropped KU to 2-4 and 0-3 in the Big 12, highlighted one of Kansas’ most glaring deficiencies. Quarterback Jake Heaps finished five of 13 passing for 16 yards, and no KU receiver finished with more than one catch.

The passing game, whether it’s been at quarterback, receiver or the offensive line, has been a mess.

Weis has looked everywhere for answers at receiver, and during the last two seasons, Shepherd says he’s often wondered if he could be of help.

“Even in the beginning of this year,” Shepherd said. “But right now, I’m just trying to do what I can do. There’s only so much you can do.”

Shepherd, of course, also appears to have found a home at cornerback. At 5-foot-11, he has the athleticism to play the position without being totally overmatched against bigger, physical receivers. He’s also proven to have a knack for the big play. In addition to his two interceptions, he’s played a part in forcing two other turnovers during the last two weeks.

“I think it's starting to come around for me,” Shepherd said. “But like I said earlier, there are always things to do better. It comes down to eye control; it took the spring and summertime for me to get comfortable in this position.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.

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