2011 Kansas Preview – Offense
Kansas TE Tim Biere
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Kansas Jayhawk Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: Offensive coordinator Chuck Long wanted a more balanced attack, and he got it. Unfortunately, both the passing game and the rushing attack were equally inept. The improvement has to start with a line that wasn't remotely close to stopping anyone from hitting the quarterback, but five veterans are back, helped by the return of Jeff Spikes and Trevor Marrongelli after missing a big chunk of last year hurt. The running backs are young and talented, and now they need holes to run through and a passing game to take the heat off. There are interesting options in a receiving corps that needs to hit more home runs and has to get more plays out of top target Daymond Patterson, but the production will only come if the quarterbacks are better and if the situation is settled after three players saw significant action under center. Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham will fight for the top spot this summer, but a few untested but promising freshmen will get their chances.
Star of the offense: Sophomore RB James Sims
Passing: Jordan Webb
121-214, 1,195 yds, 7 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: James Sims
168 carries, 742 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Daymond Patterson
60 catches, 487 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Sophomore WR Christian Matthews
Unsung star on the rise: Freshman RB Darrian Miller
Best pro prospect: Junior WR D.J. Beshears (as a returner)
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sims, 2) C Duane Zlatnik, 3) WR Daymond Patterson
Strength of the offense: Experience, Skill Player Options
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Consistent Scoring
State of the Unit: The passing game was miserable finishing dead last in the Big 12, and 110th in the nation, in efficiency, and finishing 103rd overall in yards as the three quarterbacks used combined to complete 58% of their passes for 1,942 yards with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Last year's starter, Kale Pick, completed 58% of his throws but didn't get the offense moving and ended up working at wide receiver. While he could still move back to quarterback if needed, the Jayhawks are set in the rotation.
Sophomore Jordan Webb was a Missouri high school all star and showed off a few reasons why early on with an 18-of-29, three touchdown performance to beat Georgia Tech. He struggled with interceptions, throwing six in a six game span with just seven touchdown passes, but he completed 57% of his throws for 1,195 yards and ran for 84 yards on the year, but he missed a chunk of the middle of the season hurt. Able to come back late, he completed 6-of-9 passes off the bench against Oklahoma State before stinking it up in the season finale against Missouri, completing just 7-of-20 throws for 45 yards and two picks. Only 6-0 and 210 pounds, he's not big, doesn't look the part, and he's just a decent runner, but he's a baller. The hope is that he becomes another Todd Reesing, and he could make a big improvement after his year of experience.
Neck-and-neck with Webb for the starting job is former JUCO transfer Quinn Mecham, a 6-2, 207-pound senior who stepped in and completed 60% of his throws for 554 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, highlighted by a tremendous 252-yard day in the comeback upset over Colorado. He's a good, accurate passer with good experience and a live arm, but he needs time to work and he needs everyone around him to help; he's not quite the playmaker that Webb is.
Redshirt freshman Blake Jablonski did a good job for the scout team last season and will be deep in the hunt for playing time next year. A great passer who set Kansas high school records for yards and touchdown passes, he's a smart, athletic 6-3, 198-pounder with excellent skills and upside.
On the way is the potential savoir. 6-4, 205-pound recruit Brock Berglund got to school early and was supposed to battle for the starting job, but he went back home just before spring ball got under way. The Colorado Player of the Year has a big-time arm, excellent accuracy, and the wheels to have been a part of a state champion relay team. The spotlight will be on all summer to see if he can push out the other options for the starting job right away.
Watch Out For … Webb to make a step up in his development. He's not exactly going to be Peyton Manning, but with the year of experience and with his ability to make things happen on his own, he should have more upside games this year. There will still be too many picks and too many mistakes, but he can play.
Strength: Options. There's a chance that Berglund will be the most talented player on the lot, and Jablonski could be No. 2. Webb will almost certainly be the main man come late summer, and Mecham has the experience to be the No. 1 guy and know what he's doing.
Weakness: Throwing the football. The Kansas passing game fizzled way too often. There wasn't any help from the ground game to take the heat off, but the quarterbacks have to be far more efficient. The receivers are good enough to make things happen, and now Webb and Mecham have to get them the ball.
Outlook: All Todd Reesing did was throw for 11,194 career yards. The Kansas passing game doesn't have that kind of firepower under center, but Webb and Mecham are good, reliable players who should be better after their year of experience. There's a gunslinger mentality to the KU passers, but the stats have to start coming.
Unit Rating: 6
State of the Unit: The running backs have skill and upside, but they didn't have any room this year and they need more help from the rest of the attack. Of the top four runners of 2010, the No. 2 man, Angus Quigley, is gone after running for 262 yards and a score, and the No. 2 man, D.J. Beshears, is a receiver. With little help from the quarterbacks, KU ran for just 1,615 yards and 13 touchdowns and average paltry 3.4 yards per carry. There's experience returning, but the veteran backs need holes to run through.
Back after shining as a freshman is James Sims, a tough, quick 6-0, 206-pound sophomore who led the team with 742 yards and nine touchdowns, while catching 19 passes for 134 yards and a score. Despite the KU rushing woes, and even though the production was inconsistent, Sims had his moments with three 100-yard days including 101 yards and a score against Georgia Tech and highlighted by a 123-yard, four-score performance against Colorado. It just so happened that KU's three wins on the season all came when Sims ran for 100 yards.
Ready to add more flash right out of the box is true freshman Darrian Miller, the Missouri all-time big class leading rusher with speed, toughness, and a nose for the goal line. Good enough to get the No. 2 spot on the depth chart after coming to school early for spring ball, he has big-time talent to be a game-changer throughout the season. He'll battle for time with last year's fourth-best rusher, sophomore Deshaun Sands and the star of last year's recruiting class, Brandon Bourbon. The 5-7, 190-pound Sands ran for 211 yards and a score and caught four passes, but he can do far more. The Florida native is slipper and has the look and talent to be a deadly third down option, while Bourbon, who suffered a scary leg injury in spring ball, needs to start making an impact. The 2009 Missouri High School Player of the Year has 10.4 wheels in the 100 and 6-1, 208-pound size. Now he has to be healthy and show what he can do.
The offense doesn't always use a fullback, but 6-2, 246-pound sophomore Nick Sizemore has the size to be a decent blocker. The transfer from Buffalo sat out last year after seeing time as a true freshman for the Bulls, working mostly as a special teamer. A big-time high school tackler, he brings the pop to the offensive side, while 5-10, 205-pound redshirt freshman Josh Smith should be more of a runner and a third down receiver.
Watch Out For … Miller. It was Bourbon who was supposed to be the breakout playmaker from spring ball, but Miller quickly took that honor. While Sims is the featured back who'll get carries inside and out, Miller is the burst guy who should make big things happen.
Strength: Speed. Last year the key to the backfield was supposed to be size, but the bigger guys gave way to the smaller, speedier ones. Miller and Sands can fly, and Bourbon and Sims can move, too.
Weakness: Steady production. Blame the passing game. The ground attack had a consistently hard time getting off the ground and came up with eight of its 13 rushing scores in two games. KU went backwards against Missouri and was stuffed for just 99 yards by Baylor and 96 by North Dakota State. There were only three 200-yard games.
Outlook: The Kansas rushing attack has decent prospects waiting to break out, but the passing game has to be a little better and the line has to be a lot better to take the heat off. This won't be a 2,500-yard season, but there should be enough production to carry the offense a bit more.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The KU receiving corps has been in a state of flux ever since Turner Gill took over. There was bound to be a transitional period after losing mainstays in Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, and the right guys are still looking to be found after the graduation of No. 2 receiver, Johnathan Wilson, and the moving of the team's third-leading target, Bradley McDougald, to defensive back late last year.
With all the new bodies and new receiver combinations being tried out, the one sure thing will be senior Daymond Patterson, the team's leading returning receiver who caught 60 of the team's 203 completions for 487 yards and two scores. After starting out his career at corner, he moved over to the offensive side and became a natural with good hands and tremendous quickness. However, he only averaged 8.1 yards per catch and almost never got loose except on a 51-yard run in the opener against North Dakota State. He's not a possession receiver, but he produced like one.
Working on the other side of Patterson will be sophomore Christian Matthews, a former quarterback who was supposed to make a big splash last year, but caught just one pass for 41 yards. At 6-1 and 186 pounds he has good size to go along with terrific straight-line speed. A dangerous dual-threat playmaker in high school, he should blossom with a little bit of time logged in.
In an interesting move, last year's opening day starting quarterback, Kale Pick, will be a full-time receiver behind Patterson to bring size and good route running ability to the corps. The 6-1, 208-pound junior made his biggest splash so far as a runner, finishing third on the team with 167 yards two years ago, and now he'll get his chance to be a big part of the offense after catching three passes for 18 yards.
D.J. Beshears is the team's most dangerous weapon, and now he has to bring his scary-good kickoff return skills to the offense. The 5-8, 174-pound junior got in the secondary mix as a true freshman, making 17 tackles, but he's an offensive star in the making if he can get the ball in his hands more. He only caught ten passes for 69 yards and a score, but he finished third on the team in rushing with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 55 carries. He'll combine with 6-4, 194-pound sophomore Chris Omigie, a big, strong target with tremendous potential. He only caught seven passes for 73 yards, and he's not going to be a blazer, but he's a good ying to Beshears' yang in the rotation.
Senior Tim Biere only seems like he's been one of the team's top tight ends since the John Riggins days. The 6-4, 260-pound veteran caught 19 passes for 228 yards and a team-leading four scores, and while he's more of a blocker than a receiver, he has nice hands and good route-running skills. He can be used even more as a safety valve. He'll be backed up by the senior combination of 6-5, 230-pound Ted McNulty, who caught an 11-yard pass, and 6-3, 233-pound A.J. Steward, a former quarterback who caught an eight yard pass.
Watch Out For … Pick. He's trying to be another Kerry Meier, and while he doesn't have the same size to create mismatches, he's faster. He could quickly become a top target in three-wide sets.
Strength: Quickness. Matthews isn't all that sudden, but he has good speed to go along with the cut-on-a-dime moves of Beshears and Patterson. The KU receiving corps has a nice blend of talents and options, but the key will be the athleticism and speed of the little guys.
Weakness: Getting those little guys to use their athleticism and speed. There's no excuse that players with the skills of Patterson and Beshears should be struggling to hit home runs. The KU passing game averaged a pathetic 9.6 yards per completion, with a big part of the problem being Patterson's inability to crank out big plays.
Outlook: This is an interesting cast of characters. It's not going to be a great corps, but the blend of size, experience, and speed are all there to form a good enough group to do more for the woeful offense. A dangerous No. 2 target has to emerge on the other side of Patterson, while more scoring is needed from a receiving corps that came up with just six touchdowns – that's not counting the four from Biere – and with just three from Patterson and Beshears.
Unit Rating: 6.5
State of the Unit: The hope will be for the returning experience to lead to a better jelled, more productive line. The new coaching staff might be pinned for several of the problems in the 3-9 disaster, but the offensive line had been struggling for years and wasn't able to be saved in just one offseason. KU was dead last in the Big 12, and 112th in the nation, in sacks allowed giving up a whopping 37, but it's not like the pass protection was anything stellar over the previous few seasons. Again, though, there's enough experience and enough depth returning to offset any excuses.
The key cog on the veteran line should be senior Jeremiah Hatch, a three-year starter who got the call in every game but one over the last two seasons at center. The 6-3, 332-pound senior might be moved to tackle at some point, after playing on the outside as a freshman, but his size, toughness, and smarts will keep him in the middle as the line's big anchor. He'll be backed up by true freshman Dylan Admire, a 6-3, 264-pound athlete who needs to add at least 15 pounds, but will serve as the understudy before taking over next year.
6-6, 293-pound junior Tanner Hawkinson started every game over the last two years at left tackle, but now he'll work on the right side. The former tight end has shown glimpses of being a top all-around blocker, but he struggles way too much with speed rushers despite his height, frame, and athleticism. He has filled out his frame after coming to KU as a 6-6, 245-pound stringbean, and now he has to become steadier as a right tackle with promising 6-5, 292-pound sophomore Gavin Howard looking to see more time after getting some backup work in.
With Hawkinson moving over, 6-6, 325-pound senior Jeff Spikes can be provide more pop and girth. The big blocker started out the 2009 season at right tackle before moving to right guard, and even though he was a disaster at times against speed rushers, he had enough versatility and was just good enough to be considered a key part of the combination. After missing all of last year with a leg injury, he's back and will get to show what he can do at left tackle, while 6-7, 300-pound sophomore Riley Spencer could end up pushing hard or the job with a great combination of size, smarts, and athleticism.
Starting left guard Sal Capra is gone, and now it'll be up to junior Trevor Marrongelli to handle the full-time role after starting four times at right guard before getting knocked out for the year with a lower leg injury. The Academic All-Big 12 performer knows what he's doing, and he did a good job in the first month of the year, and now the 6-2, 293-pounder is healthy and ready to hold down the gig.
When Marrongelli went down, 6-4, 326-pound junior Duane Zlatnik stepped in and started the final eight games at right guard after opening up the year as the starter on the left side. The former defensive lineman isn't going to dance with anyone in pass protection, but he's strong and can barrel over anyone he gets his hands on. His bulk is needed next to Hawkinson. Adding more athleticism to the position is 6-5, 275-pound sophomore Randall Dent, a good defensive line prospect who moved over to the offensive side. He might not be a road grader, but he can move.
Watch Out For … Spikes to come up with a strong season. He might not be ideally suited to handle the left tackle job, but he's a brutish blocker who should be ready to be a big factor after missing most of last year. If he can't handle the work, the combination of the line will quickly be switched around.
Strength: Experience. The line might have lost two regular starters in Hatch and right tackle Brad Thorson, but with the return of Spikes and Marrongelli from injury the line has five veterans who know what they're doing.
Weakness: Blocking. The line gave up 32 sacks in 506 pass attempts in 2009, and it got worse allowing 37 sacks in just 353 attempts. Part of the problem was the inability of the quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly and efficiently, but the line didn't help the cause.
Outlook: The line has to find one thing it can do well. There's tremendous size, plenty of experience, and a good enough starting five to win with. The pass protection will still be a problem, and the O won't exactly be Wisconsin when it comes to running the ball, but the line appeared to be better this offseason and shouldn't be such a glaring weakness.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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