At long last, Kansas football defensive end Austin Booker has made his departure from the university official. The redshirt sophomore announced he would be entering the 2024 NFL Draft yesterday.
The 6-foot-6 edge rusher transferred in from Minnesota last offseason and instantly took over a starting spot with the Jayhawks. After the first few games, Booker was a mainstay in the D-line rotation. He was named to the All-Big 12 First Team while bringing in Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors after being rated the highest defensive lineman in the conference on PFF.
In 2023, Booker led Kansas in sacks with eight. He also recorded 56 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles. His best performances include a 2-sack effort against Illinois and a 7-tackle, 1.5-sack outing in KU's win over BYU.
Booker was arguably the biggest surprise for defensive coordinator Brian Borland's unit this year. Although coaches raved about his potential, nobody expected him to come in and immediately fill the void that Lonnie Phelps left when he declared for the draft. It is now the third season in a row that Kansas lost its sack leader to the pros.
Rumors had been swirling for quite a while that this would take place, so it was only a matter of time before he confirmed the news. He opted out of KU's appearance in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl, signaling his time at the university was all but finished. There were also murmurs that he was considering entering the transfer portal, but they have obviously been shut down.
While most mock drafts don't have Booker being selected, it might come as a surprise to some scouts that he is leaving school early. He can make his presence felt in individual workouts and the NFL Combine to strengthen his case to other teams.
By entering the draft, he immediately forgoes the two remaining years of collegiate eligibility he had left. Booker was a terrific player who played a large part in the Jayhawks' 9-4 record. Hopefully, he'll kill it in the NFL just like he did at Kansas.