2012 Kansas Preview – Offense
Kansas RB James Sims
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Kansas Jayhawk Offense
Preview 2012 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: In theory the Kansas offense should work. Charlie Weis is known for his great ability to kick-start passing games, but more importantly, he has to get the running game going to control things early to keep the Jayhawk defense off the field. He has the strong veteran line to do it, but first he has to come up with the right combination of veterans to put the puzzle together. The backfield has a slew of former good recruits who have yet to play up to their billing, but the talent and athleticism are there. The receiving corps is full of experience and upside with the potential to blow up as long as Dayne Crist can stay upright. The former Notre Dame starter needs to be a smart, savvy conductor for an offense that finished 106th in the nation in yards and came up with more than ten points in just four of the final five games.
Star of the offense: Senior WR Daymond Patterson
Passing: Christian Matthews (WR)
1-2, 12 yds, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing: James Sims
182 carries, 727 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: D.J. Beshears
40 catches, 437 yds, 3 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Senior QB Dayne Crist
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore RB Marquis Jackson
Best pro prospect: Senior OG Duane Zlatnik
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Patterson, 2) WR D.J. Beshears,
3) C Trevor Marrongelli
Strength of the offense: Experience, Receivers
Weakness of the offense: Proven Production, Quarterback
With Charlie Weis comes a slew of interesting quarterback options transferring in to try to jump-start the attack. All the top quarterback options from last year are gone with the writing on the wall after Notre Dame's Dayne Crist signed on in an attempt to squeeze one more year out of his career. Pulling a Russell Wilson – able to transfer as a graduate student – the 6-4, 235-pound veteran is eligible right away, but can he hold up with bad knees? He not only suffered a torn ACL, but he also had to fight back through a ruptured patella tendon to get back on the field last year. Expected to provide steady leadership and a veteran presence to the Brian Kelly offense, he only completed 15-of-24 passes for 164 yards on the year after losing the starting job almost instantly. He knows the Weis offense and he's one of the best pure passers the program has had in a long, long time, but there was a reason he was moved out of the No. 1 spot after the South Florida game last year struggling to get things moving. Under Weis in 2010 he threw for 2,033 yards and 15 touchdowns with seven picks before getting hurt.
Kansas has never had a higher-ranked quarterback recruit than Jake Heaps. The No. 1 quarterback prospect in 2010, he chose BYU where he was supposed to be the next great Cougar passer with a live arm and maturity beyond his years as a decision-maker. However, he couldn't get the offense going as a true freshman even though he regularly threw for more than 200 yards finishing with 2,316 yards and 15 scores with nine scores. The thought was that he was just fighting through his first year, but he was awful when his sophomore season kicked off throwing three touchdown passes and five picks in the first four games before being replaced by Riley Nelson in the fifth game of the year against Utah State. The talent and skills are there, but he's only 6-1 and 208 pounds and he has to show he can consistently lead an offense. Now he's in as good a situation as he could ask for getting a year to groom before he's eligible to take over in 2013.
With Heaps on the sidelines for the year it'll be a battle for the No. 2 job. The leader in the pack should be JUCO transfer Turner Baty, who's stepping in from City College of San Francisco after leading the way to a 12-0 season completing 62% of his passes for 2,410 yards and 23 scores with 23 touchdowns. Unlike Crist, Baty is a mobile runner with the ability to take off from time to time and the nose for the goal line. At 6-2 and 220 pounds the sophomore has decent size and he's a baller who can step in and make things happen right away.
Redshirt freshman Mike Cummings is only 5-10 and 200 pounds, but he's a runner and has a big enough arm to push the ball all over the field. There was a thought he'd step in right away under Turner Gill and take over the starting job after missing most of his senior year of high school with a torn ACL. He'll battle for a backup job with sophomore Blake Jablonski, a 6-1, 208-pound passer who set Kansas high school records for yards and touchdown passes. He's smart and would be ready in an instant if he comes off the bench cold.
Watch Out For … Baty. It's an assumption that Crist is going to come in and own the starting job from Day One. Baty might have something to say about that. Not only is he going to push Heaps hard for the starting job next year, but he could provide a huge push to be the Opening Day starter this year.
Strength: Depth – for the future. Heaps really and truly is a talent, forgetting about his problems at BYU, but he won't be ready to roll or next year. In an ideal world Baty can redshirt and Cummings and Jablonski are merely mop-up guys. There are plenty of options, though, to play around with.
Weakness: Can any of these guys actually play? Yeah, Crist is a big name, but it's not like he set the world on fire at Notre Dame. Heaps stunk at BYU, and Baty, Cummings, and Jablonski have never gotten it done at the FBS level. There are plenty of big names and fun prospects, but someone actually has to move the offense.
Outlook: The Charlie Weis passing game didn't exactly shine at Florida, and it wasn't explosive at Notre Dame when Brady Quinn wasn't chucking it around, but the reputation is still there and the air attack will get plenty of work on a team that will have to try to keep up the pace with the high-octane Big 12 offenses. Crist gets one more shot to show he can play, but Baty is an X factor and could be a big part of the attack sooner than later.
Unit Rating: 7
The running game wasn't all that bad last year, but the Jayhawks got down so big so quickly that they often had to abandon the ground attack. Leading the way was James Sims, a 6-0, 202-pound junior who finished with 727 yards and nine scores. While he was the main back in the rotation, his 104-yard day in the opener against McNeese State and the 110 yards the week after against Northern Illinois were the only two 100-yard days of the season. Tough, quick, and with good hands, he has the talent and the ability to be the main man for the ground game if he can get the starting job back after serving a three game suspension to open the season after being arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
6-0, 218-pound sophomore Marquis Jackson saw time in eight games last year as a true freshman at wide receiver, catching four passes for 58 yards, and now he'll move over to running back to use his quickness and toughness add more pop to the attack. Great this offseason, he looked the part and appears to be ready to be the main man from Day One with Sims out for the first few weeks.
Jackson had a strong spring, but so did Tony Pierson, a 5-11, 170-pound sophomore with tremendous skills and the potential to be the star for the ground game. A top recruit for the program he was expected to shine right away, and he was decent last year finishing third on the team with 396 yards and three scores averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Fast, fast, fast, he has home-run hitting ability from anywhere on the field and he should be more than just a part of the rotation.
Bringing more thump is 6-2, 220-pound sophomore Brandon Bourbon, who has had leg problems and other injuries, but was able to run for 190 yards and a touchdown highlighted by a 51-yard scoring dash against Texas Tech. Big, fast, and strong, the 2009 Missouri High School Player of the Year has the wheels and the upside to be terrific with a little more work.
The X factor is JUCO transfer Taylor Cox, a 5-11, 206-pound junior out of Washington who ripped off 1,507 yards and 14 scores for College of the Siskiyous last year. He can catch, he can run between the tackles and he can potentially be a dangerous third down back if he doesn't turn into a main ball-carrier.
When the offense uses a fullback it'll be up to Nick Sizemore to man the spot. At 6-1 and 238 pounds he looks the part. The former Buffalo Bull made the move over to play for Turner Gill and was exclusively used as a key special teamer and a blocker in his limited role. He'll never touch the ball, but he'll do all the dirty work.
Watch Out For … Jackson. Slippery and dangerous with the ball in his hands, he could be a dangerous option who takes over the starting job and never lets it go. On a team full of good running back recruits the wide receiver could be the one who stands out.
Strength: Potential talents. It's not like the Jayhawks are lacking for good former recruits. Bourbon and Pierson were each great prospects and Cox is a strong-looking JUCO transfer who could be the main man right away.
Weakness: The team. Kansas was blown out in game after game and had to start bombing away to try to get back into the action. The running game was effective in patches, but it was hard to establish anything on a consistent basis.
Outlook: The talent is there for the running game to be a major positive, but the offensive line has to be consistent and the defense has to come up with enough early stops to allow the offense to do what it wants. There are plenty of options and lots of talent in a great backfield that should find a good pecking order early on.
Unit Rating: 7
The receiving corps has to hope for the experienced playmakers to be more explosive in the Charlie Weis offense. Senior D.J. Beshears is the team's most dangerous weapon leading the team with 40 catches for 437 yards and three touchdowns, while being used as the top kick and punt returner. Only 5-9 and 185 pounds he's not big, but he's ultra-quick, fast and great in the open field – when he can get into the open field. The coaching staff has to find ways to get the ball in his hands more as a runner as well as a receiver after only running nine times for 64 yards and a score.
Beshears will work at the Z along with senior Daymond Patterson, the 5-8, 178-pound senior who led the way two years ago with 60 catches for 487 yards and two scores. He only caught three passes for 34 yards and a score in the opener before suffering a season-ending groin injury. Fully healthy again, the veteran needs to start cranking out more big plays and not just be a possession target.
Former quarterback Kale Pick has looked like a full-time receiver finishing second on the team with 34 catches for 344 yards and two touchdowns. A good route runner with great hands, he's not explosive and he hasn't cranked out many big plays, but the senior has 6-2, 205-pound size, experience and just enough speed to be used at the outside X. Adding more speed will be 6-2, 215-pound sophomore Justin McCray - next year. The Oklahoma transfer is a terrific talent who has the ability and the skill to be the team's No. 1 receiver, but the NCAA said no on waiving the one year transfer rule and won't be part of the fun until 2013.
Sophomore JaCorey Shepherd stepped in and finished fourth on the team with 15 catches for 252 yards and three scores averaging a team-leading 16.8 yards per catch. He struggled with his consistency but he has the 5-11, 185 pound size and the deep speed to work in any spot and produce. 6-1, 200-pound junior Christian Matthews, like Pick, is another former quarterback who made the successful transition to receiver catching 11 passes for 100 yards. A talent who seems to be a natural, he should do far more with a coaching staff that knows how to use him. With great straight-line speed, the former dual-threat playmaker has upside.
The tight ends will get even more use even after Tim Biere finished third on the team with 27 catches for 322 yards and two scores. Stepping in will be sophomore Jimmay Mundine a nice talent who needs to commit himself to the team and the position and has to do all the little things right. At 6-2 and 240 pounds he's built like a fullback, but he can catch making seven grabs for 86 yards and a score in his limited role. He'll work in combination with 6-4, 248-pound sophomore Trent Smiley. He has the size and looks the part, but he wasn't able to do anything with the offense catching just one pass for eight yards. A receiver, he has the potential to shine in two tight end sets.
On the way is Mike Ragone after getting a sixth year of eligibility. The former Golden Domer has 6-4, 250-pound size and has the raw tools to be a star – maybe. Always expected to be special, he never seemed to find his niche and ended up catching a grand total of 11 passes for 109 yards and no scores in 37 games.
Watch Out For … more from Patterson. Now that he's healthy again and in a system that should be great at utilizing his talents, he should be the leading receiver and he could be a breakout star.
Strength: Depth. All of a sudden the Jayhawks have enough targets to make the passing game a possible plus. With Patterson back to go along with Pick, Beshears and Shephard, there are enough veterans to allow Marquis Jackson to become a full-time running back. Throw in the good group of tight ends and there will be plenty of options.
Weakness: Proven production. The quarterback play might not have been great over the last few years, but the receivers didn't exactly set the world on fire. This group has been more hype than production with lots and speed and quickness but with little to show for it.
Outlook: The coaching staff seems to really be happy with what it inherited, but the lat staff liked this group, too. There's plenty of experience, lots of speed and athleticism, and enough talent shine if the offense starts to find ways to spread the ball around well. Now it's time to start producing after combining for a mere 2,009 yards and 15 scores.
Unit Rating: 6.5
The line needs far more in pass protection and needs far more from the tackles. 6-6, 295-pound senior Tanner Hawkinson started every game last year on the right side, but now he'll move back to the left tackle spot he manned for two yards. The former tight end has shown glimpses of being special, but he struggles way too much with the speed rushers even with his quickness and frame, but this year he'll have to be nearly perfect with the creaky Dayne Crist likely under center.
With Hawkinson moving over, 6-6, 305-pound junior Riley Spencer will get the first look on the right side. He has the combination of smarts, size, and athleticism, while also looking the right part, but he can't seem to stay healthy and he hasn't shown enough to become a major factor. This year he'll get his chance, but 6-4, 302-pound redshirt freshman Bryan Peters is extremely promising with excellent strength and upside. However, he might be a right tackle only with average foot speed.
Senior Trevor Marrongelli spent every game at left guard last season but now will get the first chance to replace Jeremiah Hatch at center. At 6-3 and 300 pounds he has good size, and he's a year removed from missing time with a leg injury, but he's smart, experienced, and should be more than fine in the new role. Watch out for him to become one of the team's best run blockers. If he moves back to guard, 6-3, 277-pound redshirt freshman Dylan Admire will step in and should be fine. While he's not all that big, he's quick, smart enough to handle all the line calls, and extremely talented. This will be his job next year.
With Marongelli moving over, 6-4, 311-pound senior Duane Zlatnik will likely move over from right guard to the left side. The former defensive lineman is mediocre in pass protection but he's a big, strong run blocker who should be able to blast away a bit. He'll be the team's most physical lineman.
The right guard spot will be the one big question mark. Zlatnik could move back there if needed, but 6-4, 292-pound junior Gavin Howard has good upside and is versatile enough to play in a variety of spots. He's built like a tackle but is far better suited to the inside. Battling for the job will be top JUCO transfer Aslam Sterling all but certain to step in. At 6-5 and 330 pounds he's massive, but he has just good enough feet to be tried out at tackle if needed.
Watch Out For … a depth chart written in pencil. It's all up to Sterling. If he shows he can handle himself at tackle, he'll probably work on the right side and Spencer will kick inside to guard. Will Marrongelli really stick at center? Will Zlatnik stay on the left side and does Hawkinson have enough to keep Crist healthy? Stay tuned.
Strength: Experience. The Jayhawks had the same combination of all five starters for all 12 games. While two of the pieces are missing, the shuffling won't be a problem to fill in the gaps. The potential is there for the starting five to be a rock once the coaching staff settles on the positions.
Weakness: Production. Yeah, all five starters played every game. They weren't any good. The run blocking was fine at times but the pass protection was non-existent. Zlatnik has pro potential and most of the line looks the part, but now it has to block someone.
Outlook: The line has to do two things well. It has to run block early to set the tone and keep the Jayhawk defense off the field, and it has to keep QB Dayne Crist upright. The tackles are merely adequate but the interior should be solid and strong.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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