2013 Kansas Preview – Offense
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Kansas Jayhawk Offense
Preview 2013 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The running game couldn't have been more of a pleasant surprise in the first season under Charlie Weis, with James Sims and company rumbling for 2,540 yards and 19 touchdowns even though everyone knew what was coming. The passing game couldn't have been more of a stunning disaster, finishing dead last in the nation in passing efficiency with just seven touchdown passes and 13 picks. Fortunately, help is on the way with former BYU superstar recruit Jake Heaps set to take over at quarterback and with several good new receivers coming into the mix to play right away. The offensive line might need some retooling, but three JUCO transfers will help in the transition to pave the way for Sims and one of the Big 12's best stables of backs.
Star of the offense: Senior RB James Sims
Passing: Michael Cummings
43-94, 456 yds, 3 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: James Sims
218 carries, 1,013 yds, 9 TD
Receiving: Tony Pierson
21 catches, 291 yds, 2 TD
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Andrew Turzilli
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Jimmay Mundine
Best pro prospect: Sims
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Sims, 2) OT Asiam Sterling, 3) OG Mike Smithburg
Strength of the offense: Running Backs, JUCO Transfers
Weakness of the offense: Pass Protection, Proven Receivers
It's time for Jake Heaps to show what all the fuss was about. Considered the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the country in 2010, he was supposed to be the next big thing at BYU, and he got his chances right away and wasn't bad throwing for 2,316 yards and 15 scores with nine picks as a true freshman. He started to shine late in the year with five straight 200-yard games while slowing down the mistakes and doing more to push the ball down the field. All the good things that happened at the end of Year One went away early with an awful start to 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 210 pounds and he has to show he can consistently lead an offense. With a year to learn under Charlie Weis and groom for the job, he should be ready.
Sophomore Michael Cummings might not be the type of quarterback to fit what Weis wants, but he was an interesting fill-in when the season was going south, using his mobility and running skills to keep plays alive in close calls against Texas and Texas Tech. However, the 5-10, 206-pounder couldn't throw the ball a lick. He has a good arm and can stretch the field, but he completed just 46% of his throws for 456 yards and three scores in his little bit of work – the 6-of-11 day in the finale against West Virginia was the only time he hit more than half his throws. Even so, he's a veteran now who could step in and work as an emergency backup.
Watch Out For … Jordan Darling. At 6-4 and 226 pounds, the new recruit has the right size and the right NFL look for Weis to tutor. A pure pro-style passer, he has a big-time arm and good poise. Now he needs seasoning and time to mature. Also coming aboard is 6-2, 180-pound recruit Montell Cozart out of Kansas City. More of a baller, The 2011 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year has a nice arm and decent enough passing skills to do it all.
Strength: Weis. Whether or not the reputation is overblown doesn't matter; Weis knows how to get production out the quarterback. That didn't happen last season, but with Heaps ready to roll, the production should come.
Weakness: Proven passing game. Heaps didn't exactly set the world on fire at BYU, and Cummings struggled was too much to get the passing attack working. It wasn't just Cummings, Dayne Crist only completed 48% of his passes and KU finished dead last in the nation in passing efficiency.
Outlook: It's been a while since Weis actually got a passing game to rock, but in Heaps he has a talent to develop for the next few seasons. The depth has to develop and the receivers have to do more, but the season will be made or broken on No. 9.
Unit Rating: 7
Senior James Sims deserves preseason all-star recognition and should be on the short list for really, really big awards if he's able to carry over the success of the second half of last season to 2013. The 6-0, 202-pound veteran finished the season with 1,013 yards and nine scores, but he carried the offense after missing the first three games serving a suspension for operating a vehicle while intoxicated, ripping off 91 yards and two touchdowns against Northern Illinois before rushing for 100 yards or more in six straight games. He finished up with 81 yards against Iowa State and 57 against West Virginia, but both games were blowouts and he wasn't a part of the mix late. Tough, quick and with good hands, he has the talent and ability to once again be the star of an offense that's still trying to find its passing attack.
Also returning are the other top rushers from last season, senior Taylor Cox and junior Tony Pierson. The 5-11, 212-pound Cox finished third on the team with 464 yards and three scores averaging 5.1 yards per carry, pounding away a bit after coming in from the JUCO ranks, running for 1,507 yards and 14 scores for College of the Siskiyous in 2011. He can catch, run between the tackles and can potentially be a dangerous third down back if he doesn't turn into a main ball-carrier. Pierson turned into a do-it-all back catching 21 passes for 291 yards and two scores while finishing second on the team with 760 yards and four scores. Only 5-10 and 171 pounds, he's not all that big, but he handled himself well taking the ball in the first few games when Sims was out, running for 124 yards against South Dakota State and 120 against Rice. Against Texas Tech he came up with big play after big play, running 16 times for 202 yards.
Bringing more thump and power is junior Brandon Bourbon, a 6-1, 225-pound blaster who rumbled for 41 yards on 12 carries in his limited role, but he caught eight passes for 56 yards and a score while also being used as a blocker. 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.
Watch Out For … true freshman Colin Spencer, who could work his way into the mix even in a crowded backfield. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, he's an ultra-quick athlete with the potential to be moved to cornerback, his top high school position.
Strength: Options. There won't be any problems keeping everyone fresh. Sims is the all-star who needs to be fed the ball early and often, but Pierson, Cox and Bourbon are all good enough carry the ball for extended stretches.
Weakness: Fumbles. It wasn't all the fault of the running backs, but the team struggled at times to hang on to the ball putting it on the ground five times against Texas – losing one – and five more times against Iowa State – losing three. It wasn't always a problem, but the offense can't afford to drop the ball.
Outlook: It's not crazy to call this one of the best backfields in the Big 12. The talent might not be there like it is at Texas, and Baylor's backs are going to rock, but Sims, Pierson and Cox are a terrific trio and Bourbon will see time. This should be the team's biggest strength.
Unit Rating: 8
It's going to be a work in progress after losing top targets Kale Pick and Daymond Patterson, but they only combined for 47 catches with no touchdowns. Ready to try breaking out is junior Andrew Turzilli, a 6-4, 188-pounder with nice size and enough deep speed to do far, far more with Jake Heaps at quarterback. While he only caught 17 passes for 287 yards and didn't score, he averaged a team-best 16.9 yards per grab and was solid early when Dayne Crist was throwing to him. As soon as Michael Cummings came in, he disappeared. Turzilli will rotate in with JUCO transfer Justin McCay, who started out his career at Oklahoma but didn't do anything in his little bit of time. A superstar recruit out of Kansas City with 6-2, 213-pound size and next-level tools, he could instantly be the team's best target.
Sophomore Tre Parmalee is a quick interior target at the Z, catching seven passes for 79 yards while making the most noise as a kickoff returner. At 5-10 and 172 pounds he isn't all that big, but he can move and should be dangerous with the ball in his hands. He'll work with veteran Chris Matthews, a runner in the Jayhawk formation with 14 carries for 92 yards and a score. At 6-1 and 192 pounds he has good size and excellent toughness to become more of a short-range target.
Junior Jimmay Mundine has breakout potential with more of an emphasis on the passing game. The 6-2, 242-pounder is built more like a fullback, but he can catch and has the ability to stretch the field a bit catching 14 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns on the way to honorable mention All-Big 12 honors. He's a good blocker, too. He'll work with 6-6, 245-pound senior Charles Brooks, who looks the part with good size and a great frame. However, he didn't catch a pass last season. The best tight end of the bunch should be true freshman Ben Johnson, a 6-5, 230-pound athlete with good toughness and the potential to grow into an all-around star.
Watch Out For … the JUCO transfers. McCay has superstar potential if he can put it all together, but he's not the only newcomer who should blow up. True freshman Ishmael Hyman is the second most talented new guy behind McCay with next-level speed and quickness, but 6-3, 195-pound Rodriquez Coleman should be a more immediate factor after catching 70 passes for 1,055 yards with seven scores. 6-0, 210-pound Mark Thomas is another ready-made target coming in from Nassau CC in New York with good all-around quickness and skills.
Strength: The new guys. The JUCO transfers should instantly provide the bulk needed for the passing game to start turning around. Yes, KU is losing some of its top receivers from last year, but they didn't actually do anything.
Weakness: The proven passing game. Things should quickly change with the emergence of Jake Heaps, but there isn't a sure-thing guy who's going to come out of the box and scare the heck out of defensive coordinators. There's potential, but little proof.
Outlook: If McCay can play up to his tools and talent and Turzilli and Parmalee can progress, the makings are there for a nice receiving corps to emerge as the season goes on. It might take a little while, but with the improvement at quarterback expect bigger production.
Unit Rating: 6
The line did a decent job for the ground game but struggled in pass protection. It could take a little while to find the right combination and there will be battles for jobs well into the summer. One likely given is at right tackle where 6-5, 312-pound senior Asiam Sterling is back after stepping in from the JUCO ranks into a starting job. He started the first two games of the season at right guard before working in a rotation on the outside. While he doesn't have the best feet, he's physical and can bury his man for the ground game. Inside at right guard will be either senior Randall Dent or Mike Smithburg with the two likely to rotate. The 6-4, 293-pound Dent started the last ten games of last season and did a decent job, but Smithburg is a decent JUCO transfer with 6-3, 300-pound size and mauling ability for the ground game.
Taking over at left tackle for Tanner Hawkinson will either be 6-5, 287-pound junior Pat Lewandowski or 6-6, 302-pound senior Riley Spencer, who got in a little work to start the season with smarts, size and athleticism before getting knocked out hurt. Lewandowski is a former defensive lineman who moved over to the other side to add nice size and toughness to the line. Now he's being thrown into the all-important left tackle mix and needs to be a steady pass protector.
Center Trevor Marrongelli is gone after starting every game, but 6-3, 280-pound sophomore Dylan Admire is a very smart, vary agile option who shouldn't have any problems being the quarterback up front and making the right line calls. He'll be backed up by 6-4, 300-pound senior Gavin Howard, who adds a little more size. He could move to guard if needed.
6-3, 300-pound Ngalu Fusimalohi is coming in from the City College of San Francisco to take over Duane Zlatnik's left guard spot. A blaster of a run blocker, he's extremely physical. 6-3, 295-pound sophomore Damon Martin stepped in and started against Texas, but he didn't see much time throughout the year. He'll fill in at either guard spot if needed.
Watch Out For … Zach Fondal at tackle. JUCO transfers Fusimalohi and Smithburg are both ready to go, but Fondal could find a big role right away, too. The 6-5, 290-pounder from Navarro College could've been a key part of Bret Bielema's first class at Arkansas, but he's expected to grow into a run blocker for KU.
Strength: The JUCO transfers. This should be a good run blocking unit with a little bit of time, and the coaching staff made sure that the transition would be easy after losing plenty of starting talent. The JUCO guys should fill in and play right away.
Weakness: Pass protection. Part of the issue was the mobility of quarterback Michael Cummings, who tried to make things happen and was sacked, and part of the issue was Dayne Crist, who couldn't move a lick, but the line struggled to keep the quarterbacks upright.
Outlook: It's going to be a little while before everything comes together, but it's a big line that should be solid once all the new guys mesh with the returning veterans. The depth isn't all that bad and there should be a nice starting five for the ground game, but the pass protection could be an issue early on.
Unit Rating: 6.5
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