2014 Kansas Preview: What You Need To Know
Kansas S Isaiah Johnson
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Kansas (Getty Images)
What You Need To Know
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: After a disastrous season finishing 118th in the nation in scoring – coming up with over 19 points just twice, the two wins – Charlie Weis made a change. In comes John Reagan, who spent the last few years as the offensive coordinator at Rice. He has some work to do on the line that loses two starters and needs to be a bit more consistent, but even with the concerns at quarterback and the departure of top running back James Sims, the skill players should be stronger. Jimmay Mundine is one of the league's better tight ends, and Miami University transfer Nick Harwell was a major coup for an attack that needs a deep threat. It'll be running back by committee for a while until a leader emerges from the pack, but there aren't any questions under center where Montell Cozart
has the job all to himself with Jake Heaps leaving for Miami.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The defense wasn't all that bad considering the offense didn't provide any help, but it's not like it was a consistent brick wall. That might change this year with a veteran group returning and more depth than the Jayhawks have had in a few seasons. There needs to be more of a pass rush and the run defense has to be stronger, but the secondary in the 4-2-5 alignment should be terrific at times with a big group of sound hitters. Ben Heeney is a solid linebacker who should lead the way in tackles, but the line has to do its job and start holding up better after allowing 200 rushing yards or more in seven games.
Overall, though, this should quietly be a very good, very sound defense under
coordinator Clint Bowen.
Players You Need To Know
1. LB Ben Heeney, Sr.
The star of the defense for the last few years, the 6-0, 230-pound veteran followed up a 112-tackle, Second Team All-Big 12 season with 88 stops with two sacks, 11.5 tackles for loss and three picks. Very quick in the middle, he has excellent range and the smarts to always be a step ahead of the play. Size is a factor, he gets beaten on a bit and missed two games in the middle of the season, but he's tremendously consistent, making double-digit tackles in six of the 12 tackles including 15 against Rice and 12 against Texas Tech. A sure-thing all-star again if he can stay healthy, it would be nice if the line could do more to keep him from having to get in on everything, but he'll make the plays when they're there.
2. SS Isaiah Johnson, Jr.
The Jayhawks got the bang for their buck, snagging him from Iowa Western CC and finding an instant star at safety. The Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the year finished second on the team with 73 tackles and a team-leading five interceptions. At 6-1 and 210 pounds he has terrific size for a strong safety and hits like an extra linebacker, but he proved he had the range and smarts to be in the right space to make big plays against the pass with two picks against Texas and 12 tackles against Texas Tech.
3. S JaCorey Shepherd, Sr.
The 5-11, 195-pound veteran can be used as either a corner or a nickel back making 45 tackles with two picks and a team-leading 13 broken up passes. Terrific both on the field and in the classroom, he's a leader who knows what he's doing and should be an all-star being used in a variety of ways. A former wide receiver, he's fast and can move, and he's surprisingly physical for an offensive player – he figured it out in a hurry.
4. CB Dexter McDonald, Sr.
He started out his season at Kansas, went the JUCO route for one year, and then came back last season to earn all-star honors making 29 tackles with two picks and ten broken up passes. At 6-2 and 205 pounds he's huge for a corner, and he can move. Smooth as silk for a player of his size, he's built like a safety and could move if needed.
5. LB Michael Reynolds, Sr.
A playmaker into the backfield at the hybrid Buck position, the 6-1, 240-pound veteran went from being a good special teamer to a nice part of the rotation making 37 tackles. However, he turned into a pass rushing specialist making a team-leading 6.5 sacks and ten tackles for loss, spreading out the production over the season and saving his best for last with a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss against Kansas State. Now he'll get the call at the Buck and will finally get to start – he needs to be a major factor right away.
6. TE Jimmay Mundine, Sr.
While he might not have dominated for the passing game, he's a good, sound receiver catching 20 passes for 229 yards and five scores, spreading the production out over the course of the season. The 6-2, 240-pound senior is a solid target and can blast away as a blocker, used like an H-back/fullback at times for the ground game. A field-stretcher a few years ago, if he becomes targeted more, he could become a true weapon.
7. P Trevor Pardula, Sr.
The Jayhawks needed help, and Pardula was signed on as a JUCO transfer growing into a more consistent blaster than he was at De Anza College averaging 43.7 yards per kick with a 78-yard blast against Louisiana Tech. One of the team's best defensive weapons, he was great at changing the field position with one kick, putting 25 inside the 20 and hitting 24 punts 50 yards or more.
8. QB Montell Cozart, Soph.
The coaching staff appears ready to put the eggs in the Cozart basket. The 6-2, 195-pound senior appears to have taken a big step forward after getting three starts last season and seeing a little bit of work in four others, completing just 37% of his passes for 227 yards and two picks, while finishing third on the team with 214 yards and a score. The 2011 Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year has a nice arm to go along with his mobility, but he has to become more of a passer and has to show he can get the offense moving. The skills are there, but now he has to put it all together and be the team's leader.
9. WR Nick Harwell, Sr.
It's not like the Miami University offense exploded over the years, but Harwell was an all-star for the midrange RedHawk passing game catching 229 passes for 3,166 yards and 23 touchdowns highlighted by a 97-grab. 1,425-yard, nine touchdown 2011 campaign. At 6-1 and 193 pounds he has decent size with excellent deep speed, doing big things with the ball in his hands on the move, and now he steps into the slot where he'll instantly be the team's No. 1 target.
10. OG Ngalu Fusimalohi, Sr.
Coming in from City College of San Francisco, the hope was that he'd step in right away and produce at one of the guard spots. He took over right away and now he'll be the anchor on the left side with 6-2, 315-pound size and the type of physical run blocking ability the team desperately needs. He started all 12 games at left guard and now will be the anchor and the one everything works behind.