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2010 Kansas Preview
Kansas DE Jake Laptad
Kansas DE Jake Laptad
Posted May 12, 2010

Kansas appeared to be rocking and rolling on its way to a big year when the team collapsed, the coach got his yell on and got canned, and the program had to start over. With Turner Gill at the helm, can the Jayhawks take another step forward? Check out the 2010 CFN Kansas Preview.

Kansas Jayhawks

Preview 2010

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Turner Gill
1st year
5th year overall: 20-30
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 15, Def. 22, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best Kansas Players

1. DE Jake Laptad, Sr.
2. LB Drew Dudley, Sr.
3. CB Chris Harris, Sr.
4. RB Toben Opurum, Soph.
5. TE Tim Biere, Jr.
6. FS Lubbock Smith, Soph.
7. WR Johnathan Wilson, Sr.
8. QB Kale Pick, Soph.
9. LB Huldon Tharp, Soph.
10. P Alonso Rojas, Sr.
2010 Schedule

Sept. 4 North Dakota St
Sept. 11 Georgia Tech
Sept. 17 at Southern Miss
Sept. 25 New Mexico St
Oct. 2 at Baylor
Oct. 16 Kansas State
Oct. 23 Texas A&M
Oct. 30 at Iowa St
Nov. 6 Colorado
Nov. 13 at Nebraska
Nov. 20 Oklahoma St
Nov. 27 Missouri (in KC)

Kansas was able to come up with a few nice seasons over the last several years, but it wasn’t a power in any way in Big 12 play until Mark Mangino arrived. There was a BCS appearance, a shot at the national title, and a high octane attack that was as much fun as any in the Big 12. But there was also a sense that the act, at least internally, was wearing a bit thin and the program needed a change. Consider Mangino’s firing a possible step back to take a leap forward.

If nothing else, Turner Gill is a hot name. He might be living off his reputation as a great quarterback for a juggernaut Nebraska team, and he had a perfect storm of events lead to a MAC championship for Buffalo a few years ago, but it’s not like he has been a consistently great coach and the expectations might be a bit too high early on.

While Gill has more than earned his chance, it’s not like he was able to carry over Buffalo’s 2008 success to 2009, and his title team got every right break.

First, UB played in the far, far weaker MAC East; forget about a title if UB had been in the West that year. Second, that was a veteran Bulls team led by Drew Willy, a four-year starter at quarterback who made life much easier for the offense. And then there was the good-fortune factor.

UB needed a Hail Mary to beat Temple, won three overtime games, and got every good bounce and big turnover. That team was third in the nation in turnover margin partly due to an aggressive defense and partly due to Willy, who almost never made mistakes, while the 2009 Buffalo team finished 102nd in the nation in turnover margin and didn’t beat anyone with a pulse.

But still, that was Buffalo, one of the worst programs in college football, and Gill made it happen. So how much of a turnaround is needed a KU, who appeared to be ready to make a deep run in the Big 12 before gacking away its final seven games of last year?

Unlike the screamy Mangino, Gill is installing a curse-free policy around his program, is more likely to give a pat on the back than a kick in the butt, and he has a way to make players want to run through a brick wall.

This year’s team has just enough talent and more than enough experience returning to get back to a bowl game, but it has to be far more consistent, far more balanced on offense, and far more opportunistic on defense. The potential is there to make a big turnaround after last year’s clunker, and compared to trying to make Buffalo relevant, this should be a walk in the park for Gill.

What to watch for on offense: The backfield. Is it going to be Kale Pick or Jordan Webb at quarterback? Will Toben Opurum, the team’s most talented running back, be able to beat out Angus Quigley and Deshaun Sands for playing time? With all five starters returning up front and a good receiving corps, considering the loss of Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe to the NFL, the young backfield has to be a plus. With underclassmen at all the key places, except for Quigley, a senior, this will be the area to watch over the next few seasons. If offensive coordinator Chuck Long can get everyone to play like veterans right away, KU’s offensive production won’t drop off that much, if at all.

What to watch for on defense: The move back to a 4-3. KU played a 4-2-5 for most of last year, and despite a lack of superstars ended up coming up with a decent statistical year, even if it didn’t show up on the scoreboard. The linebacking corps should be sneaky-good as long as Drew Dudley doesn’t have any shoulder problems in the middle. The front line is solid and there should be a steady stream into opposing backfields with the change in alignment likely to mean more production.

The team will be far better if … the offensive line doesn’t stink. Five starters are back with Trevor Marrongelli a new starter at right guard. Now the line has to be better after allowing 32 sacks last season and paving the way for just 1,345 yards of rushing offense. The veteran line will be asked to do more run blocking and there’s enough depth to hope for a decent rotation, but if this group hasn’t improved with the coaching change, the team will sputter with all the young skill players needing time to work.

The schedule: There’s no real excuse for Turner Gill in his first season to not get KU into a bowl game with a schedule like this. The Jayhawks don’t have to play Texas, Oklahoma, or Texas Tech from the South, and get Texas A&M and Oklahoma State at home … Merry Christmas. A good team finds a way to get through the first nine games with eight wins, at least, but there are sneaky-tough games at Southern Miss and at Baylor and Iowa State while the home dates against Georgia Tech, Kansas State, and Texas A&M aren’t going to be layups. KU has to have six wins and a bowl sewn up after the November 6th home game against Colorado with at Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Missouri to finish things up.

Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Toben Opurum. Call it a message being sent, or call it a chance for other backs to get their shot, but Opurum, the team’s leading rusher last year, wasn’t even on the depth chart coming out of spring ball. With his combination of size and speed, he’s the team’s best weapon and could carry the offense at times if he’s healthy and if he can play through his dings. But if the depth chart really is true and he’s no better than a third stringer coming into the season, watch for former linebacker Angus Quigley to be the pounding runner the offense work around.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Jake Laptad. A two-time Honorable Mention All-Big 12 pick, the 6-4, 260-pound senior has been the team’s best pass rusher over the last few years. The leader of a big, deep line, he’s the one who’ll take the attention away from everyone else and will have to be a steady force for the entire season. Considering the call has gone out for the defense to be even more disruptive, he’ll get his chances to pin his ears back and fly into the backfield.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Kale Pick … or redshirt freshman QB Jordan Webb. All Todd Reesing did was finish fourth in the nation in total offense and finish up his great career with 11,194 passing yards and 90 touchdowns with 646 rushing yards and 15 scores. Pick and Webb are the same sort of undersized ballers who find ways to make plays out of nothing, and now it’s up to one to distinguish himself. Pick had a strong offseason and is the favorite to win the job.

The season will be a success if … KU wins nine games and finishes in the top three in the North. That might not seem like the loftiest of goals, but considering the new starters at quarterback and receiver, and with all the changes in the coaching staff, a nine-win year would be cause for celebration. The schedule is just light enough to get off to a hot start, and without Texas or Oklahoma to deal with from the South, and with a not-that-bad non-conference schedule (outside of a home date with Georgia Tech), there aren’t any excuses to not at least get to a bowl game and win it.

Key game: Oct. 2 at Baylor. While this might appear to be the easiest of all Big 12 games, it’s on the road against a potentially dangerous team, assuming QB Robert Griffin is healthy, and it’s Turner Gill’s first Big 12 game as a head coach. If the Jayhawks can pull off the win, there’s a chance to get off to a big conference start with three home games in the next four and with the lone road trip at Iowa State. Things get tougher in November, so a win over Baylor might be a must just to keep the pressure off early.

2009 Fun Stats:
- Interceptions thrown: Kansas 10 in 506 attempts – Opponents 7 in 423 attempts
- Penalties: Opponents 72 for 701 yards – Kansas 72 for 586 yards
- Points allowed in the first five wins: 90 – Points allowed in the final two losses: 92

- 2010 Kansas Preview | 2010 Kansas Offense
- 2010 Kansas Defense | 2010 Kansas Depth Chart
- Kansas Previews  2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006