CFN Preview 2013 - Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas RB James Sims
Kansas RB James Sims
Posted Jun 8, 2013 2013 Preview - Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas Jayhawks

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Charlie Weis
2nd year: 1-11
7th year overall: 36-38
Returning Lettermen: 35
Off. 18, Def. 14, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 27
Ten Best Kansas Players  
1. RB James Sims, Sr.
2. LB Ben Heeney, Jr.
3. QB Jake Heaps, Jr.
4. RB Tony Pierson, Jr.
5. DT Marquel Combs, Jr.
6. DE Chris Martin, Jr.
7. RB Taylor Cox, Jr.
8. CB Cassius Sendish, Jr.
9. LB Jake Love, Soph.
10. LB Marcus Jenkins Moore, Jr.
2013 Schedule
9/7 South Dakota
9/14 at Rice
9/21 Louisiana Tech
10/5 Texas Tech
10/12 at TCU
10/19 Oklahoma
10/26 Baylor
11/2 at Texas
11/9 at Oklahoma State
11/16 West Virginia
11/23 at Iowa State
11/30 Kansas State
Really, just how far is Kansas away from being halfway decent? Forget about challenging for the Big 12 title like it did a few years ago, how about just now being awful? It's possible that change could be closer than you might think.

The 2012 Jayhawks finished dead last in the nation in passing efficiency. They were dead last in the Big 12 in offense, scoring and passing. They were dead last against the run and getting to the quarterback, and they managed just one win on the year beating South Dakota State from the FCS.

By almost every and any measure it was a miserable first season under Charlie Weis with little to count on and little to get fired up about. But for Jayhawk fans desperately ready for the athletic department to be more than just the basketball program again, there really is reason to think things could be better sooner than later.

For all the problems and all the issues of last year, KU was still achingly close to coming up with at least a few wins. Despite not having getting any semblance of production from the defensive line, and even though the passing game was painfully sad over the second half of the season, the Jayhawks lost to Orange Bowl-bound Northern Illinois by seven. They pushed Oklahoma State in a six point loss and had Texas Tech in huge trouble in a double-overtime defeat. Sure, they got blasted out of the water by Iowa State, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State, but they had Texas dead before losing late in a brutally painful 21-17 loss. In all, they lost five games by a touchdown or less, and with more time and more experience, some of those could and should turn into wins.

But it's going to take a whole lot more talent to turn those 52-7 games into competitive battles.

Give Weis credit for figuring out right away that Kansas simply couldn't keep up with the better Big 12 teams, the mediocre ones, and everyone in between, and it showed with a recruiting class full of 17 JUCO transfers to come in and play right away, including most of the best options for the defensive line, receiving corps and defensive back seven.

All the newcomers, along with former BYU star recruit Jake Heaps at quarterback, means the Jayhawks should be in for a complete overhaul and a big infusion of talent to try improving things right away, and it could happen.

Kansas isn't going to win the Big 12 title, but the running game should be among the best in the league, the passing game can't be less efficient and the defense should be more athletic and more effective with decent depth thanks to all the JUCO transfers.

It might still take a little while before Kansas knows whether or not Weis is the right man for the job, but for the moment, he's certainly not standing still and he's not looking for a long term rebuilding project. This team, with all these moves, has the potential to be scary if everything breaks the right way.

What to watch for on offense: The emergence of the wide receivers. How many touchdown catches came from Kansas wide receivers last year? As many as you caught. The running game should be terrific with James Sims and a loaded backfield ready to keep rolling after averaging 212 yards per game. Jake Heaps is a real, live passer who can help get the nation's least-efficient passing attack moving, but he needs people to throw to with the top wide receivers of last year – Kale Pick and Daymond Patterson – but it's not like they lit anyone up. Andrew Turzilli is going to be used as a deep threat at the X, but Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay has the tools and talent to be far better. Tre Parmalee is an emerging speedster, and JUCO transfers Mark Thomas and Rodriguez Coleman have to produce.

What to watch for on defense: all the JUCO guys. The coaching staff went out and got a whole new defense to work around linebackers Ben Heeney and Jake Love. In all, it wouldn't be shocking if at least seven JUCO players ended up starting. It all starts on the line with tackle Marquel Combs and end Chris Martin two of the team's top recruits, while end Andrew Bolton and tackles Tedarian Johnson and Ty McKinney will be involved. Samson Faifili and Marcus Jenkins-Moore are in at linebacker, and corners Kevin Short, Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish will join safety Isaiah Johnson in the defensive backfield.

The team will be far better if … there's a pass rush. Kansas went bye-bye on the defensive front for almost the entire midsection of the season, and it showed. The defense came up with two sacks against South Dakota State and three against Rice in the first two games, and it cranked up three sacks in the season finale against West Virginia. In the nine games in between, the Jayhawks generated just four sacks and the secondary couldn't hold up. In the Big 12, if you're not making quarterbacks rush, you're in big, big trouble. KU has to come up with more playmakers, and again, that's where the JUCO guys come in.

The schedule: The Jayhawks return a ton of veteran players, and now they need to win and win early with three good chances to get off to a nice start. After starting out against South Dakota, going to Rice and hosting Louisiana Tech won't be easy, but if KU can't win those, it's going to be ugly once the Big 12 season kicks in. Worst of all, after getting a week off at the end of September before the conference slate starts, the Jayhawks don't get another week off the rest of the way with nine straight games.

Three of the first four Big 12 games are at home, starting out against Texas Tech before going to TCU and getting Oklahoma and Baylor in Lawrence. However, three of the next four games are on the road starting out with back-to-back away games at Texas and Oklahoma State before hosting West Virginia and going to Iowa State. The brutal run finishes up against Kansas State.

Best offensive player: Senior RB James Sims. Is he really going to be that good for that long again? With nothing else working, Sims was the one shining star after missing the first three games suspended with a run of six straight 100-yard games and with 91 against Northern Illinois and 81 against Iowa State. The production didn't lead to wins, but with no passing game whatsoever, he came up big.

Best defensive player: Junior LB Ben Heeney. But this could quickly change. With so many good JUCO players coming in, especially up front, there will be some key new players who'll shine, but Heeney is the sure-thing to work everything around in the middle after making 112 tackles with a sack and 12 tackles for loss. He's only 6-0 and 227 pounds, but he's tough for his size and he's great at getting sideline to sideline. While he'll need bigger players around him, he'll hold up.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Jake Heaps. The Kansas passing game was embarrassing with Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings combining to complete just 47% of their passes for 1,784 yards and seven scores with 13 picks, but that's going to quickly change. How bad did things get? The offense came up with 29 passing yards – but with two scores – against Texas Tech and 39 against Texas. Those happened to be two close calls because the running game worked, but the Jayhawks have to be able to bomb away with the best of them, and that's where Heaps comes in. The former superstar recruit has the talent and the arm, and now he has to show it all off.

The season will be a success if … the Jayhawks win four games. It's not going to be easy as the likely underdog in every game buy South Dakota and Rice, and possibly Louisiana Tech, but it's going to take a far better defensive effort and far more consistent passing game to come up with a few Big 12 wins. 4-8 might not be great, but it would be a positive move forward.

Key game: Sept. 14 at Rice. Beating South Dakota has to be a given, but coming up with the first FBS win in the Charlie Weis era is a must to show that this is a different year with a different attitude. The following home game against Louisiana Tech is winnable going into a week off to prepare for Texas Tech, so if the Jayhawks can just come up with one win the get the ball rolling, it could mean a strong first half of the year.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Passing Yards: Opponents 3,471 – Kansas 1,784
- Penalties: Opponents 59 for 578 yards – Kansas 45 for 360 yards
- Sacks: Opponents 26 for 183 yards – Kansas 12 for 82 yards
- 2013 Kansas Preview | 2013 Kansas Offense
- 2013 Kansas Defense | 2013 Kansas Depth Chart