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2009 Kansas Preview - Offense
Kansas QB Todd Reesing
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What you need to know:
The offense wasn’t as consistent, efficient, or as
effective as it was in 2008, but it still finished 21st in the
nation averaging 432 yards per game thanks to Todd Reesing and a
passing game that averaged 306 yards per game. Reesing returns
and should put up even better numbers than last year when he set
school records in completion percentage (67%) and yards 3,888
yards thanks to his receivers. Dezmon Briscoe is becoming a
special talent while Kerry Meier is a NFL caliber H-Back who’ll
catch 90 passes. The problem is the O line that struggled last
year and now has to replace the interior. The tackles will be
fine, but there has to be a push for the running game and better
overall pass protection. It’ll be running back by committee with
Jake Sharp getting the first look, but with Jocques Crawford
looking to be the main man early on if he's out of the team's
Star of the offense:
Senior QB Todd Reesing
Passing: Todd Reesing
329-495, 3,888 yds, 32 TD, 13 INT
Rushing: Jake Sharp
186 carries, 860 yds, 12 TD
Receiving: Kerry Meier
97 catches, 1,045 yds, 8 TD
Player who has to step
up and become a star:
Junior OG Carl Wilson
Unsung star on the rise:
Sophomore OT Jeff Spikes
Best pro prospect:
Junior WR Dezmon Briscoe
Top three all-star candidates:
1) Reesing, 2) Briscoe, 3) WR
Strength of the defense:
Quarterback, Kerry Meier &
Weakness of the defense:
The interior of the line, tight
He might not fit the mold of a
high-octane passing quarterback, but senior
Todd Reesing is about
to close out his career as the best passer to ever play at
Kansas. He’s only 5-11 and 200 pounds, he not necessarily a
runner, and he doesn’t have a rocket arm. However, he’s a
pinpoint passer when it comes to getting his targets on the
move, and he’s a pure gamer. Tough as nails, he managed to fight
his way through injuries at the end of last season to beat
Missouri in a classic with 375 yards and four touchdowns. Then
he healed up in time to beat up Minnesota with 313 yards and
four touchdowns to close out his second straight season with 30+
touchdown passes, and he’ll be a lock for a third if he stays
healthy. He struggled a bit at times against the better teams
last season, but he still finished with tremendous, KU-record
3,888-yard, 32-touchdown season with four rushing scores and 13
interceptions. While he’s fine in the pocket, he’s better when
he gets on the move and makes things happen with his creativity.
While he’ll take off when needed, he’s a bomber who’s at his
best when he can get into a rhythm. With the receiving corps he
has returning, he should be in for a tremendous season.
Reserve: There are few more interesting players in the
Big 12 than senior Kerry
Meier. The 6-3, 220-pound wide receiver started off his
career as a quarterback, and will serve as the backup again,
with 1,542 career passing yards with 17 touchdowns and ten
interceptions. He has also run for six scores and is also the
backup punter. Beaten out by Reesing for the starting
quarterback job in 2007, Meier has made himself into a top
target who’ll only move back under center in an extreme
emergency. He has a good arm, but his strength as a quarterback
is his mobility. While he’s not the bomber that Reesing is, he
can step in and keep the offense moving if needed.
Pushing for playing
time this season in mop-up mode is
Kale Pick, a redshirt freshman who got to school early last year and
has had more than a year to prepare. The star of the scout team,
the 6-2, 200-pounder has the athleticism to grow into the type
of quarterback who can keep Reesing’s production going next
year. He has been asked to do even more in practices, and after
a rough start, he came through with a nice spring game showing
crispness and accuracy.
Watch Out For ...
Reesing to have his best year yet. With a veteran receiving
corps that knows exactly what it’s doing, Reesing should be able
to exploit the mismatches more than ever. Expect the success of
the last few years to continue with plenty of yards after the
catch with Reesing doing his job to get the ball to his targets
where they can do something with it.
Todd Reesing. In a conference with Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, and
other big-time statistical stars, Reesing belongs in the
discussion among the best Big 12 passers with 7,578 yards, 68
touchdowns and 23 interceptions. KU will win at least two games
this year simply because its quarterback is better than the
other team’s quarterback.
inexperience. While Meier can step in and play, it would be a
huge hit for the KU offense to take him away from the receiving
corps. That means Pick might have to be ready to hit the ground
running to make sure the best players are on the field in the
Outlook: It’ll take a limb
to fall off for Reesing to be taken out of a game, and he’ll
have to do everything possible to stay on the field. As long as
he’s under center, the Jayhawks will put up huge offensive
numbers and will be in every game. He has to guard against
pressing too much, but with his experience and knowledge of the
attack, and with Meier a nice emergency option, the situation is
It doesn’t seem like senior
Jake Sharp is necessarily wanted as the team’s top running option,
the KU offense usually likes a 200+ pound thumper, but he turned
out to be the team’s best back after lobbying for more work and
earning it when he got his shot. The Honorable Mention All-Big
12 back led the team with 860 yards and 12 touchdowns while
catching 25 passes for 283 yards and a score. His production
came in spurts with a 118-yard, three touchdown day against
Colorado and a 181-yard, four touchdown day against Kansas
State, so the question remains whether or not he can be a back
who carries the ball 20 times a game. The coaching staff gave
him the chance late in the year, and he produced despite not
getting much room to move. He’s a smart, quick, versatile back
who’d be at his best as a third down player and a change-of-pace
runner, but for now, he’s the main man.
Reserves: It seemed like a foregone conclusion that JUCO
transfer Jocques Crawford
was going to come in and take the team by storm. After all,
he was the 2007 junior college offense player of the year after
leading the nation with 1,935 yards and 19 touchdowns for Cisco
JC. But he wasn’t quite ready for prime time yet as he struggled
to get more than a backup and special team role finishing with
232 yards and four touchdowns. At 6-1 and 230 pounds, he has the
size to go along with excellent speed. He had problems in the
past with a knee injury, and his status for the season is in
question after being suspended for violating team rules, but if
he’s in the mix (and that’s not a given), don’t be shocked if he
turns into a breakout player.
Rell Lewis is a 5-10,
199-pound speedster who has only seen time on special teams so
far. He made three tackles in his first season, but now he’s
expected to be used as a variety of ways as the third back, and
possibly the No. 2 man, after a good offseason.
freshman Toben Opurum will bring the power the
team didn't have last year. The 6-2, 235-pound power back has
good speed to go along with his size and should be fantastic
around the goal line and in short yardage situations. Versatile,
he can also catch a little bit.
6-2, 222-pound senior
finished second on the team with 309 yards and three
touchdowns, but he wasn’t able to take the starting job by
the horns and was eventually relegated to a backup role. He
was still in the rotation late in the season before being
moved over to linebacker just before the bowl game. While
his move to the defensive side will be permanent, he could
switch back over to offense whenever needed.
The offense almost never uses a
fullback, so 6-2, 232-pound junior
Drew Dudley will mostly be used as a part-time linebacker and on
special teams. He has 25 tackles over the last two years,
but now he’ll be a full-time offensive player used as a
blocker and an occasional short-yardage runner.
Watch Out For ... Crawford … maybe. The light
bulb never went on for the former JUCO star in his first
year in Lawrence, but if all is fine off the field, he’ll
get more work and more chances to become the main man. The
offensive line is in a state of flux and won’t give him too
much room to move early on, but he has too many skills to
not be a major player.
rotation. In KU’s perfect world, a big back like Crawford
carries the ball 250 times this year and becomes the stud
the offense can work around. What’s more likely to happen
will be a combination of backs with Crawford, Sharp, and
possibly a third option like redshirt freshman
Tyler Hunt or
Lewis splitting time depending on the situation.
Proven home runs. There’s plenty of speed in the KU
backfield, but the longest run last year was a 47-yarder
from Sharp. The team averaged just 3.7 yards per carry and
almost never came up with a big run to help out the passing
game. That put even more pressure on Todd Reesing to make
things happen downfield.
Outlook: For the
Kansas offense to be at its best, it needs Crawford to be
another Jon Cornish or Brandon McAnderson. However, with a
veteran back like Sharp in the mix, there will be more of a
running-back-by-committee approach. At the moment, this is a
good group of backs, but it needs Crawford to shine for the
unit to be great. Helped by the running of Reesing, KU will
finish with over 1,700 rushing yards, but it would like to
be closer to 2,000 to balance out the attack.
turned out to be the team’s breakthrough player of the
season finishing with 92 catches for 1,407 yards and 15
touchdowns highlighted by a 12-catch, 269-yard, two
touchdown game against Oklahoma and an Insight Bowl MVP
performance with 14 catches for 201 yards and three scores
against Minnesota. The 6-3, 200-pounder earned Second Team
All-Big 12 honors as he grew into a deadly all-around
threat. With his size, defenders bounce off of him if they
don’t wrap up. With his speed, he’s able to get by most of
the slower defensive backs as long as he can beat the jam.
While he’s growing into a No. 1 target, he makes the most
noise when defenses have to concentrate on other areas.
Briscoe destroys single coverage.
While Briscoe led
the way in scoring, senior
Kerry Meier led the team in catches with 97 grabs for 1,045 yards
and eight touchdowns. The former quarterback has grown into
a tremendous receiver and an NFL-caliber H-Back at 6-3 and
220 pounds with excellent speed. He was consistent all year
long, and then he was dominant late in the year once
everyone started to worry about Briscoe with 24 catches for
219 yards and three scores in the final games against
Missouri and Minnesota. A big, physical target, he’ll be
used in a variety of way and he’ll be Todd Reesing’s go-to
target on key plays.
Not to be ignored is 6-3,
187-pound junior Johnathan Wilson, a big, athletic
home run hitter who benefitted from all the attention paid
to the other targets. While he only averaged 13.3 yards per
catch after averaging 17.3 yards per grab in 2007, he got
into the end zone with three touchdown catches on 43 grabs.
He’ll have a few double-digit catch games this year and will
have at least two 50+ scoring grabs.
Tim Biere turned
into the team’s top tight end as his true freshman season
went on working in four-wide sets and being used as a
blocker. The 6-4, 243-pounder made six catches for 65 yards,
and now he’ll be asked to do even more. He’s a big target
with soft hands and decent route running ability.
Projected Top Reserves: 5-11, 192-pound senior
will get the first look at replacing Dexton Fields in the
No. 4 receiver role. Pendleton made four catches for 29
yards last season in mop-up duty, getting one start against
Sam Houston State, and now he’ll get a longer look as a
quick option who’ll be great in the open field. He can be
used as a punt returner if needed.
Working to be more
involved as a tight end and a big receiver is
A.J. Steward, a
6-4, 228-pound sophomore who made a catch for six yards
against Colorado. He came to Kansas as a quarterback and is
taking the Kerry Meier route to grow into a regular target.
While he’ll see some time at tight end, he’ll work mostly as
a tough inside receiver.
6-3, 252-pound junior
was supposed to take over the tight end job, but he only
made two catches for nine yards. A top talent coming out of
high school, he has yet to come close to playing up to his
immense potential. He has the size and the blocking skills,
and now he has to prove he can be a consistent receiver.
At some point,
Roderick Harris needs to play a big role. The 6-2,
200-pound JUCO superstar didn’t do anything on offense but
saw time on special teams. He’s a phenomenal athlete with
elite speed, but he has yet to show it off in any way. He’ll
get a shot to show what he can do on the outside.
Watch Out For ... Wilson. It was a pick your
poison situation for defenses when it came to Meier and
Briscoe, and it’ll be even more so going into this year.
It’ll be up to Wilson to make defenses pay, and he’ll have
the opportunities to do it facing plenty of single coverage.
Strength: The Meier/Briscoe combination. These
two might combine for 200 catches this season. Meier has
excellent speed for his size and will move the chains, but
it’s Briscoe who has the potential to be truly special.
Weakness: Depth. So much work was going to
Briscoe and Meier, and occasionally to Wilson, that there
wasn’t any passes to go to anyone else. While this isn’t a
bad situation considering how good the starters are, KU has
to identify playmaking wide receivers who could be able to
step in if needed.
Briscoe might not be
considered All-Americans by anyone, but they should be.
They’ll be among the most productive receivers in America
and they’ll take turns coming up with huge games. Meier is
an established, reliable target, while the sky’s the limit
for Briscoe, who’s already good as is. More established
depth is needed and a receiving tight end needs to emerge,
but this is a good situation overall.
6-3, 311-pound sophomore
Jeremiah Hatch came up with a solid freshman season starting out at
right tackle before moving to the left side for the second half
of the season. While he struggled with his overall consistency
and was average in pass protection, he has the potential to grow
into a solid all-around blocker after moving to center this
Tanner Hawkinson was one of the finds of spring ball,
playing well enough to earn a long look on the left side. While
the former tight end is hardly a sure-thing to win the starting
job, he’s tall, athletic, and got bigger after starting out as a
6-6, 245-pound spring-bean and getting up to 260 pounds.
Starting again on the right side will be
Jeff Spikes, a 6-6,
314-pound sophomore who was the best of the young tackles. He
started every game, getting the call on the left time for the
first four games before moving over to the right side. He had
the unenviable task of moving over from Anthony Collins early
on, but he turned out to be better on the other side when he
wasn’t as responsible to handle the killer speed rushers.
Pushing for one of the open guard spots will be
John Williams a huge option who’ll be a key factor in the rotation
if he doesn’t win a starting gig. Williams is a 6-4, 338-pound
redshirt freshman with excellent strength.
Sal Capra was one of
the team’s top backup guards last year, seeing time in every
game. Good enough to play either guard spot, he’ll likely get
the first look at right guard in place of Chet Hartley. A
top-shelf recruit who was a high school star out of Kansas City,
the time is now for the junior to shine.
Top Reserves: Taking over will be
Brad Thorson, a 6-3, 290-ound transfer from Wisconsin who wasn’t
able to do much on offense, but had a role on special teams.
He’ll have to fight to keep the job, but he’s the most natural
center in the mix.
The other big loss up front is
All-Big 12 left guard Adrian Mayes, a stalwart on the line for
the last few seasons.
Carl Wilson, a 6-4, 288-pound junior will get the long look
at taking over the job. While he’s not a space-eater and he’s
not all that big, he can move just enough to be decent at being
used in a variety of ways.
6-4, 285-pound redshirt
Marrongelli was one of the team’s scout team stars last
year. While he’s built more like a tackle, he’s a guard who’ll
push for time at both spots on the inside. He’s athletic and
tough; he should grow into a top starter in the next few years.
A vital backup all year long at right tackle was
Ben Leuken, a 6-6, 300-pound true sophomore who saw time in every
game and can be counted on for the running game. He’s not quite
quick enough to be a steady left tackle, but he’ll hardly be a
liability if he has to move to the other side. First, he has to
get back healthy after suffering a few injuries in a car
The team’s key backup tackle will be junior
Ian Wolfe, an athlete 6-5, 295-pound veteran who saw a little bit of
time. He has beefed up over the last few years and should be
ready to step in at left tackle. He has a little bit of starting
experience and is decent in pass protection.
most interesting prospect for the O line is
Nathan D’Cunha, a 6-6, 307-pound Australian who was brought in to be
part of the starting mix if he was able to surprise, but he
redshirted. A fantastic athlete, he’s extremely raw with
tremendous upside coming out of Santa Barbara CC.
Watch Out For ... Shuffling on the inside. The
tackles are set, but the guards have to be found with four
players in the mix. Thorson has potential at center, but he’s
hardly a given. The interior of the line won’t be settled until
Strength: The tackles. They struggled in
their first season in starting spots, but they were redshirt
freshmen. Spikes has the potential to be special, while
Hawkinson is a good one who should be far better with more reps.
Weakness: Production. The line struggled
throughout last year in all phases, failing to get enough of a
push for the ground game and having problems in pass protection.
Now the interior of the line has to be replaced … that’s not a
Outlook: The line struggled to keep Todd
Reesing upright after finishing 97th in the nation in
sacks allowed and it didn’t do enough for the ground game paving
the way for 127 yards per game. The outside will be solid in
time, Hatch and Spikes are good ones to build around. The
interior of the line needs to find starters, but there are