We know all too well the team was terrible, but there were a handful of positives to take away from the season in the form of individual performances. While the overall product on the field was hard to watch, this team had some very good players, and it showed here and there. In the interest of finding just a little bit of joy out of this 2-10 season, I went ahead and picked out my Top 10 individual performances of the year. Some of you may remember a few that I don't, so feel free to make suggestions to the list in the comments section.
It's easy to forget about Shepherd. He showed a lot of skill in this first game, but was injured the next week and, like the offense overall, he didn't really have much success later on in the season. Shepherd hauled in touchdown catches of 48 and 56 yards, showing great speed and the potential to become a legitimate downfield threat in the process. If we get a competent offensive staff in place, I think Shepherd could be a special receiver for the Jayhawks.
9. Bradley McDougald (vs Missouri) - 8 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 int, 1 TD
McDougald had more tackles in several other games, but his pick 6 against Mizzou was huge, as it put us up 10-0 and game fans a glimmer of hope that we might win the final Border War matchup. McDougs would get my vote for "Most Improved" this season, as he went from a weakness to arguably our second best defensive player, and this game was representative of that development.
8. Steven Johnson (vs McNesse State) - 15 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 forced fumble
This is not the only time Johnson appears on this list. Johnson showed us all what to expect out of his senior campaign right out of the gate with a monster game. Believe it or not, 15 tackles were not even his season high. He was a nightmare for McNeese State making two tackles behind the line and stripping the ball on one occasion.
7. Steven Johnson (vs Texas) - 18 tackles
Sure, Texas ran about a million plays in this one, thanks to an impotent offense, but you can't deny an 18 tackle performance a spot on the list. This guy was an absolute machine and I hope we get a chance to watch him on Sundays.
6. Darrian Miller (vs Baylor) - 24 rushes, 148 yards
Miller never made it into the endzone in this one, but did manage to post the biggest rushing game of any 2011 Jayhawk. Miller repeatedly squirmed out of tackles and earned extra yards after the first hit. This is another guy I'm looking forward to seeing in the crimson and blue for years to come (please stay, Darrian).
5. Bradley McDougald (vs Iowa State) - 11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 int
Turnovers were hard to come by for the defense this year, but McDougald managed to create two in this game alone. He also had two tackles for loss and played a huge part in one of the team's best performances of the season.
4. Jordan Webb (vs Northern Illinois) - 21/30, 281 yards, 3 TDs
Webb looked like a real quarterback against the Huskies. He kept plays alive with his legs and made some very nice throws, including a game winning TD pass late. There were a few drops in this game, or the stat line would look even more impressive. For whatever reason, Webb faded as the season progressed, leaving Jayhawk nation to wonder what, exactly, we have in our starting signal caller.
3. James Sims (vs Northern Illinois) - 26 rushes, 110 yards, 2 TDs, 2 rec, 49 yards
Sims didn't put up electrifying numbers this year, but he was a tough, reliable backfield option. This game was par for the course, in that respect. Sims' 100+ yards and 2 scores were impressive, but he also had a 40 yard touchdown run called back on a holding penalty (another recurring theme this year).
2. DJ Beshears (vs Northern Illinois) - 7 rec, 70 yards, 2 TDs
While it's sad that a 70 yard performance is one of the best by a Kansas receiver this year, Beshears was huge in this game. DJ set up the game winning drive with a 51 yard kick return, then polished it off with game-winning touchdown with just seconds left on the clock.
1. Steven Johnson (vs Oklahoma) - 13 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 interception, 1 pass broken up
This one is just as much about the opponent as the performance. Johnson was not just a guy who racked up a bunch of garbage time tackles on a bad team. Johnson gave everything he had on every play. The fact that this, one of the best performances of his career, came against an Oklahoma team that was supposed to have us put away by halftime is a testament to him as a player. This stat line might not look like a "best performance of the year" showing, but I just couldn't see giving the #1 slot to anyone else. I cannot say enough about this guy.