2012 Kansas Preview - Can Weis Win?
Kansas S Bradley McDougald
CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Kansas Jayhawks
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Kansas, what, exactly, are you expecting Charlie Weis to do?
Head coach: Charlie Weis
1st year: 0-0
6th year overall: 35-27
Off. 23, Def. 24, ST 5
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best Kansas Players
1. S Bradley McDougald, Sr.
2. LB Darius Willis, Jr.
3. DE Toben Opurum, Sr.
4. WR Daymond Patterson, Sr.
5. WR/KR D.J. Beshears, Sr.
6. RB James Sims, Jr.
7. OG Duane Zlatnik, Sr.
8. WR Kale Pick, Sr.
9. QB Dayne Crist, Sr.
10. RB Marquis Jackson, Soph.
Sep. 1 South Dakota St
Sep. 8 Rice
Sep. 15 TCU
Sep. 22 at Northern Illinois
Sep. 29 OPEN DATE
Oct. 6 at Kansas State
Oct. 13 Oklahoma State
Oct. 20 at Oklahoma
Oct. 27 Texas
Nov. 3 at Baylor
Nov. 10 at Texas Tech
Nov. 17 Iowa State
Nov. 24 OPEN DATE
Dec. 1 at West Virginia
He got Notre Dame within a Bush Push of probably playing Texas for the 2005 national title, and he took the Irish to two straight BCS blowout losses, but that's about it.
Okay, fine, he helped turn Tom Brady loose on the NFL, but both Brady and the Patriot offense turned out to be more explosive and more dangerous after Weis took off. He was fine for the Kansas City Chiefs and did absolutely nothing with a slew of four-and-five-star talents at Florida, and now he's supposed to come in and make Kansas relevant again in an improving Big 12?
It seems like there are plenty of big things happening as Weis tries to clean up from the Turner Gill disaster, but is this really the guy to do it?
Weis stepped in early on and cleaned house, booting the guys who didn't want to put in the work needed to try to turn things around. While that might seem like a good move to instill some semblance of discipline and order, it also means that everyone else has to start playing better. But it's going to take a major miracle for anything to change in a hurry under Weis.
Yeah, the offense got Dayne Crist to come in and be a ready-made starting quarterback, but he stunk at Notre Dame. He has major knee issues, doesn't move, and worst of all, he's just not that good, completing 59% of his passes for 2,327 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine picks during his time in South Bend. He's not awful, and he might come up with a few decent games if he gets time, but can he keep pace in the Big 12 for a full season?
There are lots of big names and flashy transfers, but, like Crist, there's a reason they're getting away from their old schools.
Yeah, Mike Ragone seems like a key transfer at tight end, but the former Notre Damer didn't do anything for the Irish, while Nebraska transfer Josh Williams was nothing more than a backup defensive lineman at Nebraska.
The big positive is that Weis is ultra-motivated. That's not to say he didn't care at his other stops, but the arrogance is dialed back a bit and he seems to come into the situation wiser and battle-hardened. He needs to show the world that he really can coach – it's not like Brian Kelly is knocking it out of the park at the moment in South Bend – and he'll get the chance to try to come up with the big turnaround.
Even with the purging of several players there's still experience and depth across the board.
The stable of running backs is great, and the line, while mediocre, has the bulk and the skill to blast open holes to keep things on the ground. If Crist can stay in one piece he'll have a veteran and speedy receiving corps to play around with. There might not be a ton of talent on the offensive side, but there's enough for Weis to tinker with.
The defense was the worst in America last year and it could take a minor miracle to improve too drastically. Again, experience isn't a problem, but there's no prove pass rush outside of Toben Opurum; the linebacking corps is average around Darius Willis in the middle; and the secondary is a step slow and not all that deep.
On a nine-game losing streak there's nowhere to go but up. That goes for Weis, too, as this might be the last chance to be a head coach at a major level. He'll get plenty of time to make the program decent, but to do that he'll have to surprise and shock a bit. If nothing else, though, it'll be an interesting ride.
What to watch for on offense: Run blocking. Out of all the nightmarish stats to come out of last year, the worst was the scoring disparity early on. KU was outgunned 120-65 in the first quarter and 272-158 in the first half. By the time the teams got into the locker room the Jayhawks had to completely abandon the running game. The offense would come out firing and there was nothing to show for it. Keeping the chains moving and owning things on the ground is a must, and it could happen with a big tough line paving the way for a nice stable of backs.
What to watch for on defense: Lots and lots of new faces for the defensive front. Don't' get too comfortable with any sort of Jayhawk depth chart for the defense. Toben Opurum will start at one end, and as far as the other three spots it's … well … it's complicated. The hope is for John Williams to be a stud on the inside while redshirt freshman Ben Goodman is just one of several options about to be tried out on the right side. Throw in a bigger role for both Shane Smith and Pat Lewandowski in the middle, and KU has plenty of question marks for a line that got shredded at will.
The team will be far better if … it could throw the ball. This has to be where Weis changes things up almost immediately. The Jayhawks finished the year with a mere 2,009 passing yards and 15 touchdown passes. That's a few nice afternoons for most Big 12 teams, and worst of all, KU had just one lonely scoring pass in the final five games of the season and threw for more than 133 yards once over the final seven games. Kansas isn't going to be good enough to go toe-to-toe with most teams, but it has to be able to at least bomb away to keep up and be competitive.
The schedule: Even if Weis is able to work his magic and make the offense work right away, it's going to be another rough year with few layups to count on. Even if KU is merely mediocre, it still might not be enough to pull off more than three wins.
The Jayhawks beat Northern Illinois last year, and they'll have to pull off another win over the MAC power to get off to a nice start. South Dakota State is no big deal and beating Rice is a must to have any dream of doing anything decent.
The week off before going to Kansas State is a plus, but going on the road for four games in six weeks will be rough. The home game against Iowa State might be the best chance at a Big 12 win, and getting a week off before facing West Virginia on the road probably won't help. The Jayhawks will have to catch someone napping, with the best chance coming on November 10th against Texas Tech, who plays Texas the week before and Oklahoma State the week after.
Best offensive player: Senior WR Daymond Patterson. It needs to be Dayne Crist, and receiver-turned-running back Marquis Jackson could be a surprise, but the best talents are at receiver where the ultra-quick D.J. Beshears has to play like an ultra-quick receiver and Patterson has to be healthy after suffering a groin injury. Patterson hasn't exactly exploded over the course of his career, but he's a reliable No. 1 target for Crist to utilize.
Best defensive player: Senior S Bradley McDougald. Running back-turned-defensive end Toben Opurum needs to be even more of a star pass rusher, and linebacker Darius Willis has to start cleaning up more messes in the middle, but it's McDougald who has had to put up with miserable play all around him over the course of last year to try to do what he could. He might have been part of the problem with the woeful pass defense, but he had to spend his season all over the field trying to make things happen against the run. Now likely to move to free safety after starting out his defensive line – he's a former receiver – at strong safety, he should make more impact plays.
Key player to a successful season: Senior QB Dayne Crist. The defensive line desperately needs a tackle who can hold up to a stiff breeze, and a star has to emerge somewhere on offense to revolve things around, but the season won't go anywhere unless Crist can pull his weight against the other star Big 12 quarterbacks. In a league with Geno Smith, Casey Pachall, Landry Jones, Seth Doege and Collin Klein, KU can't afford to be so awful at quarterback again. Crist is a smart, steady leader who came up with some monster games here and there over the course of his Notre Dame career, but for Kansas he'll have to be the best player on the field sometimes to have any hope of winning.
The season will be a success if … Kansas wins four games. Don't judge this season by wins and losses. It'll take a few major miracles to get to six wins, but even if the Jayhawks come up with victories against South Dakota State, Rice, Northern Illinois, Kansas State, Baylor, and Iowa State, it might be a bit of a mirage. Even with all the new transfers and the emphasis on a quick fix, Kansas football has to be rebuilt and Weis needs to show early on that he can be the one to make the big steps forward. The team has to keep improving from week to week.
Key game: Oct. 6 at Kansas State. If Kansas State could shock the world, then can't Kansas pull off a stunner with all of its experience? If everything goes as well as can be reasonably hoped for, KU will start out the season with wins over South Dakota State and Rice before pulling off an upset against Northern Illinois on the road. Forget about beating TCU at home. If the Jayhawks are 3-1 the season will take on a whole new twist if they can win in Manhattan. Not only has Kansas lost three straight in the series, but it lost the last two by a combined score of 158 to 28.
2011 Fun Stats:
- 3rd Down Conversions: Opponents 79-of-154 (51%) – Kansas 73-of-188 (39%)
- Sacks: Opponents 31 for 200 yards – Kansas 10 for 72 yards
- Total yards: Opponents 6,197 – Kansas 3,922
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