Kansas football: Austin Booker’s future with Jayhawks reportedly in jeopardy

The Kansas football program could lose one of its top defensive weapons from 2023
Kansas redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Austin Booker (9) reacts after a sack in the fourth
Kansas redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Austin Booker (9) reacts after a sack in the fourth / Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA

Brace yourselves, Kansas football fans — the Jayhawks could be losing a key defensive player.

Austin Booker has been rumored to be a candidate to enter the NFL Draft for a while. The redshirt sophomore transferred from Minnesota over the offseason and was the best edge rusher on the team. He recorded 56 total tackles and led the team with eight sacks, securing All-Big 12 First Team honors.

At 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, he definitely has a future in the NFL. The question is whether scouts believe he is league-ready or if he needs more game film to be regarded as a highly touted prospect. After all, he only played one full year of college ball and wasn't dominant enough to make him a sure-fire selection right off the bat.

There have also been rumors that Booker is considering the transfer portal because of the recent federal ruling that would allow two-time transfers to gain immediate eligibility in the NCAA. Former Jayhawk defensive tackle Gage Keys — who played alongside Booker with the Golden Gophers — transferred from KU and committed to Auburn a few days later.

Although the deadline to enter the draft is Jan. 15, we could see Booker make a decision before that date. According to 247 Sports writer Michael Swain, he won't travel with the team to Phoenix for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Swain also notes that he feels that the most likely path is that he departs for the NFL. None of this has been confirmed by Booker himself, so caveat emptor and whatnot.

Bleacher Report's Bryson Stricker followed up Swain's report by confirming that he would not go to the bowl game with KU. Popular KU insider Mike Vernon responded to Stricker's tweet by saying: "Trending in the direction mentioned earlier this week."

These reports aren't what the Jayhawk faithful wanted to hear. While it is still possible that he returns for the 2024 season, those chances become even less likely if he skips on the team's bowl game. Booker is an extraordinary talent with tons of upside, but fleeing for the pros after just one year of college might be seen as a premature exit by some fans.

If Booker does end up leaving, Kansas will rely on defensive end Jereme Robinson to take over the top edge rusher role and potentially search the transfer portal for another weapon. The Jayhawks already added Youngstown State transfer Dylan Wudke after losing Hayden Hatcher and Patrick Joyner Jr. to graduation. The coaching staff has high hopes for ex-Auburn defensive end Dylan Brooks, too.