2014 CFN Preview - Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas TE Jimmay Mundine
CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - It's been a rough ride for the Jayhawks. Are things about to turn around? (Getty Images)
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It's only fair to give a coach a little bit of time to rebuild a program, but three years should be enough.
Head coach: Charlie Weis
3rd year: 4-20
8th year: 39-47
Off: 16, Def: 14, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 23
1. LB Ben Heeney, Sr.
2. SS Isaiah Johnson, Jr.
3. S JaCorey Shepherd, Sr.
4. CB Dexter McDonald, Sr.
5. LB Michael Reynolds, Sr.
6. TE Jimmay Mundine, Sr.
7. P Trevor Pardula, Sr.
8. QB Montell Cozart, Soph.
9. WR Nick Harwell, Sr.
10. OG Ngalu Fusimalohi, Sr.
Sep. 6 SE Missouri St
Sep. 13 at Duke
Sep. 20 Central Michigan
Sep. 27 Texas
Oct. 4 at West Virginia
Oct. 11 Oklahoma State
Oct. 18 at Texas Tech
Oct. 25 OPEN DATE
Nov. 1 at Baylor
Nov. 8 Iowa State
Nov. 15 TCU
Nov. 22 at Oklahoma
Nov. 29 at Kansas State
There was a time when a coach was able to put in place a five-year plan to have an honest chance and to get through an entire recruiting cycle to make a program his, but that doesn't work anymore. There are too many coaches doing too many big things to be patient and wait to see if something might work, because if it doesn't, then all of a sudden comes another rebuilding job.
Bill Belichick disciples haven't exactly lit up the coaching world after going out on their own, but Charlie Weis was supposed to be something different. This was the guy who turned "Tommy" into Tom Brady. This was the coach who would've been the head man at Buffalo if a pesky run to the Super Bowl didn't get in the way. This was the one who was supposed to turn Notre Dame into a superpower again, and even with all that Brian Kelly did, set the foundation for a run to the BCS championship game.
And to be fair, he started down a few laps after the disastrous-but-brief Turner Gill era and he's trying to do what he can to make the program relevant and strong again in a ten-team league that doesn't have any major duds now that Baylor has started to play college football and with Iowa State a not-that-bad also-ran.
However, if you're looking around the table trying to figure out who the bottom-feeder is, it's probably you.
Weis gave it a shot to get the offense going by bringing in one-time BYU super-recruit Jake Heaps, but that hasn't worked out, and he's trying to instill the right attitude on both sides of the ball, but the Jayhawks haven't even been close. Wins over Louisiana Tech and West Virginia last season seemed more like aberrations than indications that things are improving – no, you don't loss to Iowa State 34-0 the week after beating West Virginia – and while there's always pressure on, this really is a produce-or-else year for Weis.
And by producing, that doesn't necessarily just mean going to a bowl and going back to 2007 again. It just means taking a big step forward to make it look like the program is starting to come together. Kansas can't look like Kansas anymore.
The defense has no excuse to not be the best in Weis era by a long, long shot. There's talent and experience with potential all-stars in several key spots. The offense lost RB James Sims, but it has hope with Montell Cozart appearing to be ready to finally settle the quarterback situation.
Yes, Charlie Weis really can coach, but now he can show he can win.
What to watch for on offense:
Can the offense complete a forward pass? James Sims was everything for the offense, running for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns, but now he's done and the attack will utilize a few different backs in a rotation to pick up the slack. The biggest key to the season is the passing game that hasn't shown up in the Weis era – a shocker considering he made his name as a top offensive mind. The passing game was abysmal with Jake Heaps and Montell Cozart failing to complete half of their passes and combining for eight touchdown passes and 12 picks. A big part of the problem was the leading receiver – James Sims. The offense needs a dangerous wide receiver, the line has to provide the time, and the quarterbacks have to be able to make something happen. Kansas can't start to compete in the Big 12 until it's better than 121st in the nation in passing efficiency.
With Heaps transferring to Miami, there are fewer options at quarterback to play
What to watch for on defense:
The defense is coming together a lot faster than the offense. There are signs of improvement on the offensive side, but the defense is where the real change should come. It's a veteran group with nine of the top ten tacklers back and now, unlike the last few years, there's reliable depth to work with. There were some coaching staff changes, but defensive coordinator Clint Bowen is back for his third year, and while the success hasn't quite been there, the failures on offense to have been part of the problem – it's hard to play D when the offense is scrambling all the time. The back seven is full of veteran hitters in a modified 4-2-5 alignment, and the results should start to come.
The team will be far better if … everything else is done right. Yeah, it would be nice if the offense could score more than 15 points a game, and yes, the defense has to hold up tougher to give the O a little more to work with, but for a team like Kansas to win, there has to be improvement on both sides of the ball and everything else needs to be sound. How does Kansas State keep winning? It doesn't screw up. Meanwhile Kansas averaged over seven penalties a game. The defense was able to take the ball away, but the offense gave up 23 turnovers and almost never did much of anything once the D provided the big play. The offense has to start converting its third down chances – hitting just 28% of the time – and it has to come away with points every time it's inside the 20 – scoring just 70% of the time in the red zone.
Normally, a non-conference game against Duke would be chalked up as a must-win, but not anymore. Starting out against SE Missouri State is good, facing Central Michigan at home is a positive, but if the Jayhawks can't win at Duke, it could be next to impossible to finish up bowl eligible.
Starting the season on September 6th is a problem – there's only one bye week. There isn't a break until late October, starting out with seven straight games, and it's going to be a rough run with back-to-back road games at Texas Tech and Baylor wrapped around a week off, and it stinks to close out the year on the road at Oklahoma and Kansas State. There are only two home games from October 11th on, and the KU has to take advantage of dates against Iowa State and TCU.
Best offensive player:
Senior TE Jimmay Mundine. The hope is for QB Montell Cozart to grow into a star, and guard Ngalu Fusimalohi should be an all-star for a potentially decent line, but Mundine could be the key to the offense as a top blocker and a good receiver, leading the team with five of the team's nine touchdown catches. He's a good short-range target and is used more like an H-back – the versatility is key for an offense that needs a little bit of everything.
Best defensive player:
Senior LB Ben Heeney. Not just the leading tackler, he was also one of the team's best defenders in pass coverage and did a decent job of getting behind the line. He doesn't necessarily need everything to be funneled his way, and he holds up well even though he's not that big and has logged a lot of miles. The stars might be in the secondary, but the hope is for Heeney and the front six/seven have to get the job done to keep the defensive backs from making so many plays. Heeney will do his part.
Key player to a successful season:
Sophomore QB Montell Cozart. He has a good tight end in Mundine to work with, and he has a new weapon in Miami University transfer Nick Harwell to throw to, but he has to start producing.
Jake Heaps was supposed to be the main man when he came in from BYU, but that didn't work out
and now he transferred to Miami after Weis anointed Cozart the starter - it's
sink-or-swim time. Can Cozart start to throw a bit better? More of a runner so far, he failed to throw a touchdown pass in his limited time, but he finished third on the team in rushing. If he fails, there will be a new coaching staff in 2015.
The season will be a success if …
the Jayhawks win five games. After winning five games over the last three years, getting to the five-win mark of 2009 would be a huge step forward. There isn't enough talent to come up with a winning season without a slew of big breaks, and it's going to take a few upsets just to get to five wins, but it's a goal the coaching staff needs to hit. Beating SE Missouri State and Central Michigan are a must, and coming up with a home win over Iowa State and at least one other Big 12 win are needed to get close, and then it might all come down to the road date at Duke and generating one other shocker.
Nov. 15 vs. TCU. The Duke game could be the key to a successful season overall, and there has to be a road win over a West Virginia or a Texas Tech thrown into the mix, but closing out the home part of the schedule against TCU might turn out to be the biggest part of the season. With road games at Oklahoma and Kansas State to finish up the year, the hope is to have a good base of wins already banked, and then come through against the Horned Frogs.
2013 Fun Stats:
- First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 91 – Kansas 23
- Penalties: Kansas 88 for 713 yards – Opponents 63 for 554 yards
- Third Down Conversions: Opponents 73-of-179 (41%) – Kansas 53-of-190 (28%)
- 2014 Kansas Preview -
What You Need To Know & Top Players