Rock Chalk Talk Roundtable: Kansas Football Preseason Predictions

For good measure...the Bensa creeping in on the Roundtable photoshop by Grad. Also, anyone notice how the guy on the left looks like Christian Slater from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves?

The RCT Roundtable is back for the 2011 season.  The format of this might change a bit if we can figure out the best platform and method to pull off a podcast but for now we're still working old school.  Kansas football, the Big 12 and season expectations is the topic of the week.  Andrew, Fetch and PenHawk are the familiar faces joining me and also jumping into the conversation is a new writer here at RCT, AJanzen. 

AJanzen approached me about writing at the tail end of basketball season.  Heading into summer isn't always the best time to try your hand at blogging because there isn't a whole heck of a lot to talk about so we put it off until earlier this week.  Heading into football season he will help us continue to expand on our football perspective and general Kansas sports conversation here at RCT.  Big welcome to AJ and glad to have the help.  If anyone else ever has the desire to try their hand at writing/blogging Kansas sports, shoot me an email and I'm always happy to discuss.

This week's topics/questions and discussion points:

  • Conference Standing Predictions, let's hear em and let's have the why's for your top spot and the Jayhawks position.
  • Top offensive player, top defensive player and top newcomer (Overall Big 12)
  • Moving to Kansas specific, who's your impact newcomer and under the radar guy that is going to step in right away?
  • Record prediction.  Who do you have the Jayhawks beating and any toss up surprises?
  • Thoughts on realignment.  What is Kansas' best course of action and do you think the Big 12 survives?
  • End of the season MVP's on offense and defense for Kansas?
  • What improvements are you expecting from Kansas in 2011?
  • Bold prediction of the year?  Can encompass whatever related to the Kansas football team.

1. Conference Standing Predictions, let's hear em and let's have the why's for your top spot and the Jayhawks position. 

Owen:  

1: Oklahoma 2:A&M 3:OSU 4:Texas 5:Missouri 6:Baylor 7:Tech 8: KSU 9: KU 10: ISU

Oklahoma in the top spot because they have the horses and continuity which is important.  I was tempted to slip A&M in the spot but I just think Oklahoma has more consistency in the program and they've been there.  

I slipped ISU to the bottom because the optimist in me thinks that Kansas can win a couple games based on what I'm hoping is improvement.  Truthfully one of those wins might not be ISU but with the amount of turnover on the Cyclone offense they could knock off our squad in Ames but struggle to win another game.

Fetch:

I like your standings but I'm going to flip Texas and Oklahoma State. Even though they sucked last year theyre still Texas and have as much talent as anyone. But it does seem like there is a huge gap between Oklahoma and everyone else.

likewise, I think we'll win a couple conference games and I think we'll improve over the course of the year with all our youth.

PenHawk:

1) OU, 2) Mizzou, 3) Texas, 4) OSU, 5) A&M, 6) Baylor, 7) KSU, 8) TT, 9) ISU, 10) KU

Honestly, 2-5 are kind of tied for second in my poll.  Mizzou's defense made great strides last year and if Franklin works out at QB, they're going to be very good.  Last year was an anomaly for both Texas and OSU, and I look for both play more true to form this season.  I had to put Kansas last.  I think our offense will surprise some people this year, but I am really concerned about our defense.

Andrew Clark (aka the artist formerly known as Grad):

1) OSU 2) OU 3) Texas 4) Mizzou 5) A&M 6) Baylor 7)Tech 8) KSU 9) KU 10) ISU

Thats right, I'm a gambling man baby. I think Oklahoma is stout, but I feel like the Cowboys got some magic in them a la Texas Tech a few years ago (when the Red Raiders finally realized their potential and went 11-1). I think the Bedlam Battle decides the league.

At the bottom, KState has too many question marks on defense and offense for me. Also, Iowa State lost a lot, and they didn't beat us by much in Ames last year (we were winning at halftime of that game with Mecham seeing his first college action). I think we beat ISU this year. Koolaid!

Owen:

I was tempted to go out on the same limb with OSU but I feel like there have been enough changes there that they won't be able to put it together. Oklahoma has been there before and like I said I think that means a lot.

Austin:

1) OU 2) OSU 3) Mizzou 4) A&M 5) Baylor 6) Texas 7) KSU 8) TTU 9) KU 10) ISU

I debated putting OSU at number one as well (especially after OU started losing key defensive players to injury), but I decided not to go out on a limb until Gundy proves he can jump that final hurdle. Still, I won't be surprised at all if they end up conference champs. Like usual, they have a hell of an offense, and their defensive talent has been improving.

Also agree with Owen and Andrew putting KU ahead of the Cyclones. I think the two teams were about even last year, and ISU has to break in new starters at QB (half-untrue, since Tiller got a lot of playing time when Arnaud was hurt) and RB, which as we all learned, can suck. Homerism also may or may not have played a small role in this ranking.

I thought I might be the only one to rank MU so highly, but it looks like I kinda fall in line with the consensus here. The only real question mark for Mizzou is QB, but Pinkel has yet to have a quarterback fail since he's been there, so I don't see them slipping much, if at all.

Owen:

Felt a little odd only ranking 10 teams for the BIG 12!!!

 

2.  Top offensive player, top defensive player and top newcomer (Overall Big 12)

Owen:

It's hard not to go with Justin Blackmon on Oklahoma State but I think Ryan Broyles has a chance to be just as productive for a variety of reasons.  Blackmon exploded on the scene last year and maybe he draws more attention.  Plus they have a new o-coordinator so that could change things ever so slightly.  

On defense Tray Lewis is now out for OU so I really like what the Cyclones have in Jake Knott.  Probably not on a team that will get him the attention he deserves but he's a player.

Newcomer, I don't think it's any secret that Malcolm Brown is expected to play a role in Texas but there is also a very strong class arriving in Lubbock and a handful of players including defensive end Leon Mackey who could make an impact.  I suppose I better include Bryce Brown and Sheldon Richardson just to appease the neighbors.

Penhawk:

I agree with Owen's Broyles pick.  I really think OSU will fall victim to the same bug that bit Mizzou in ‘08 and Kansas in ‘09.  For some reason, the offense-heavy teams that come in with big expectations always seem to regress a bit.  With that in mind, I'll shy away from taking Blackmon.

Not a lot of incredible talent on defense in the conference this year.  Jake Knott, Kheeston Randall, Keenan Robinson and the pair of DEs from Mizzou are all candidates.  I really don't have any one guy who stands out to me.

Like Owen mentioned, Malcolm Brown is the most hyped freshman, but I'll actually pick Arthur Brown here.  He comes with less hype than his brother Bryce, but everything I hear says he's already assumed a leadership role in Manhattan, has worked hard and improved quite a bit, so I'll go out on a bit of a limb and say he leads K-State in tackles and wins this title.

Owen:

Good call on Arthur Brown.  I guess I always tend to think offense in the Big 12 of late, but he could be a good one based on what is being said in Manhattan.  Sounds like he's put in the work and has the right attitude.  Maybe some maturity with age.

Andrew Clark:

Blackmon is the easy choice here, but don't forget about Robert Griffin III. He had a very good season last year and could be poised to have a monster campaign.

On defense, it looks like you guys already covered the rest of the league so why not give some Jayhawks a little love? Steven Johnson was a tackling machine last year, and he is better suited to be a 3-4 ILB (compared to being a 4-3 outside LB which he played last year). He could put up huge numbers. Bradley McDougald could go off as well. Speaking of DBs, keep your eye on KState's secondary. Several playmakers back there.

For newcomer, I'll echo all of the Browns.

Austin:

Top offensive player is tough. Landry Jones, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, and Jeff Fuller are all legit picks, but I like Robert Griffin here, too. He has unbelievable athleticism, and their offense is pretty much built around his talents, so he could put up some huge numbers.

Since I did my writing later than the others, I can factor in the breaking news of the (KSU) Brown kids being involved with the whole Miami mess. Will they get suspended? Doubt it, but if they get dragged in to the investigation it could hurt their focus, which is enough reason for me to stay away from a guy I wasn't super confident in anyway.

Malcolm Brown is probably the right choice, but UT's run blocking last year was pretty bad, so I think he could be hamstrung there. I'll drink some more Kool-Aid and go with Darrian Miller. I think he becomes more of a lead back for the Hawks than people are expecting, and he certainly looked impressive in spring.

Defense, my first thought was David from Nebraska, but alas, conference realignment and all. Tony Jefferson from OU seems to be among the favorites, and he's the guy I'll pick. He impressed as a freshman last year, and he might become more of a leader with the injuries to key guys elsewhere on the Sooners' D.


3.  Moving to Kansas specific, who's your impact newcomer and under the radar guy that is going to step in right away?

Owen:

 I'll go Darius Willis as the impact newcomer although I'm not sure if he would be eligible based on how they require the vote.  If it's not him I'll take another linebacker in Tunde Bakare and hope that between the two we see an improvement on defense.  

Under the radar guy(s) right now I'll go with Marquis Jackson and/or Jacorey Shephard.  WR has a lot of bodies but outside of Patterson and Beshears they are mostly unanswered questions. That means there is opportunity and both of these players had strong summers.  They also have a little more get up and go than some of the existing roster and could make an impact in the return game.

PenHawk:

I'm not exactly reaching here, but I'll go with Darrian Miller.  Obviously he isn't going to get the bulk of the carries, but this kid has serious game.  Iowa and Wisconsin don't both go out-of-region and offer a running back who isn't going to be a player.  I think he'll end up with some of our most memorable offensive plays this season.

As for under-the-radar guys, I'll go with Malcolm Walker.  Bakare seems to get mentioned more often, but I really liked what I saw out of Walker at the spring game.  He has good coverage skills and a nose for the ball.

Andrew Clark:

I think that Sizemore could be a sneaky good upgrade for the running game. He has drawn rave reviews so far, and if our coaches want to pound the rock, he could be a valuable asset to our offense. I think we will get a big boost from Miller, Bourbon and/or Pierson as well. One of these guys is going to step up and add a spark to the offense.

Under the radar, I'll echo Malcolm Walker and Marquis Jackson, two guys who have potential to get some PT and contribute. Also, and this may be wishful thinking, someone on the defensive line could finally breakout. I'll say Kevin Young.

Owen:

Great point on sizemore.  It's hard to remember the fullback sometimes.  Especially with how little we've used one in recent years.  As for Young, that's a must now that we're down Dorsey.

Austin:

I went with Miller as my Big XII newcomer, so if I exclude him for the Hawks' newcomer, I'll take Bakare. Reports from camp about the linebackers have been pretty positive, and Bakare has been the one whose name I've noticed most. He's a little small, but has great speed for a ‘backer, and we've gotta hit on a JUCO guy again eventually...right...?

 

4.  Record prediction.  Who do you have the Jayhawks beating and any toss up surprises?

Owen:

I'll go four wins.  McNeese St, Northern Illinois, Kansas State and I'll go with Baylor at home for the 4th.  A little scary to think that we could easily drop 3 of those four I listed and it wouldn't be a surprise, but I do think this team will be more competitive, more organized and snag a few at home where they have a little more confidence.

PenHawk:

Another 3-9 season.  Contrary to my "Why Not Us" piece a while back, I don't see a record improvement this season with the schedule we have.  I'll give us McNeese State, and another two out of the following: Northern Illinois, K-State, Texas Tech, Iowa State.  Like I've been saying all year, this season won't be measured in terms of wins and losses, but rather the overall look of the product on the field and the development of young guys who will be with us for the next two or three years to comel.

Andrew Clark:

Really, the first game is the only game we should be confident that we will win. I think Northern Illinois is very winnable, and don't forget we did beat GTech last year. In Big 12 play, I think we have a good shot against ISU. KState is beatable too - remember that last year a team with a one dimensional offense and crappy defense came into Lawrence and got beat (yep, GTech again. We didn't have a ton of unique highlights to last season). Baylor and Tech are slim chances, but who knows?

Owen:

I'm sorry, I don't follow how you answered the question and predicted a record?  : )

Austin:

This is probably toughest question for me, becuase I can see anywhere from a zero or one win season, all the way to a five or six win season, if some pieces fall into place quickly. My prediction will be two wins: McNeese and either K-State or Iowa State for the other.

Depending on how Tech looks, that could be a winnable conference opener, the Border War is always tough to predict, and (fingers crossed) UT might still be starting Gilbert when we face them. I was pretty optimistic going into last season (predicted 6 wins), but this year, I'm not expecting a whole lot of wins, but we'll see some flashes from the young guys that make you say ‘Hey, this team could be pretty good next year'. So basically, the Royals of college football.

 

5.  Thoughts on realignment.  What is Kansas' best course of action and do you think the Big 12 survives?

Owen:

Right now the best course of action is to stay the course.  It sounds like we have better aligned ourselves with OU and Texas so if they stay, obviously we want to stay and you don't want to jeopardize those relationships because they may be part of what saves us if the Big 12 dissolves.  Which leads me to the next question.  Do I think the Big 12 survives?  I think it hinges on how serious the SEC/Missouri talk is.  If Missouri and A&M depart, the scramble ensues.

PenHawk:  

My inclination is that the Big 12 dies, but then most didn't think it would make it through last summer, either.  I know they've started talking expansion now, but who are they going to draw, other than mid-major teams who would be taking more from the pie than they would be adding?  I still say the Big 12 is doomed.  If that's the case, I'd like to see us part of a Pac-16, but quite frankly I'm fine with any conference that maintains our status as a BCS school.

Andrew Clark:

Our best course of action is to start looking for a new home because this league is not staying together. A&M is leaving and Mizzou has made it clear it would jump. We need to plan for the future and get resourceful. Pretty much lets do the opposite of what the Big 12 did last year.

Austin:

I think most people are expecting the Big XII to die. There's talk of replacing aTm with Houston (no thanks), Notre Dame (not happening unless total conference Armageddon happens, and even then, I think they'll look elsewhere first), or TCU (possible, but I think they're in a good spot with their move to the Big East).

So what's KU to do? It looks like the administration's current plan is to hold on for dear life and pray that the Big XII stays together. I don't like that this seems to be the case, even if there are some behind the scenes conversations going on.

Most of the speculations has been about KU going to the Big East (possibly dragging KSU along for the ride), which makes sense for a few reasons (basketball, football can compete more quickly), but I'm hoping for the B1G or Pac-12, between which I'd take the Pac. I actually am just starting to write a FanPost making KU's case in a couple of different realignment scenarios, so I won't go any further here to prevent redundancy.


6.  End of the season MVP's on offense and defense for Kansas?

Owen:

Offensively I'm going with Sims.  Offensive line looks to be a strength, they have said they are going to split the carries, but Sims had a very solid freshman campaign and he's a guy that will make the most of every rep he gets.

Defensively I have to go with Steven Johnson.  His season last year could be viewed as a product of an overall dip in talent around him.  With that in mind his numbers could drop this year but he's clearly a leader on the team and will out work just about anyone.

PenHawk:  

I may be crazy, but...I'm going with Jordan Webb.  Obviously, Sims is the better football player, but I think we'll see a bit of a "running back by committee" situation this year, so he won't get a ton of carries.  Patterson is our best receiver, but we don't have a real stand-out talent there.  With an improved o-line, another year of experience, and a lot of the numbers getting spread out among the skill positions, I'll go with Webb having a surprisingly solid year and being our offensive MVP.

Defensively, I'll take Toben Opurum.  He should lead the team in sacks, and if he's going to be playing OLB in the 3-4, which many are saying, he's a candidate to be among our top tacklers as well.

Andrew Clark:

I think the RB by committee thing could hurt someone like Sims getting it, but he still has to remain the favorite. Patterson could break a few huge plays and he will rack up a lot of catches (as he did last year).

On defense, Opurum and Johnson are easily the favorites. I'd add Tharp as a dark horse candidate, especially if he not only racks up the tackles but forces a few turnovers as well. McDougald would be another dark horse candidate.

Austin:

Offensively, it'll probably be whoever emerges as the lead back, which I think will be Miller. PenHawk makes a great point that the quality of depth may cause the backs to cancel themselves out, but I'm still too skeptical of the passing game to pick Webb or a receiver.

Defensively, I am definitely on board the Opurum hype train. He was clearly the most talented guy on that side of the ball last year, and he should only improve as he settles in and improves his technique.

 

7.  What improvements are you expecting from Kansas in 2011?

Owen:

I think offensively we're going to be able to move the football more consistently and more effectively play a ball control offense which we were told this staff would aim for when they arrived.  

I'll also say that from a conditioning standpoint this team looks better, we've heard the word speed over and over and I just don't see how that doesn't lead to this group being able to compete with the teams they should. In short, the embarrassments against Kansas State and Baylor shouldn't happen again. That's not to say we beat them for sure or that we don't get blown out by someone like Oklahoma, but the 55+ to 7 shouldn't happen.

PenHawk:

I think the offense might not only improve, but might even be kind of, you know, good.  Obviously, Webb must actually be more mature and improved like we keep hearing he is for this to legitimately happen, and the offensive line must stay healthy as well.  Overall though, I look for the team to move the ball a bit.

The other improvement I expect is better linebacker play.  Last year Steven Johnson led the team in tackles, but I felt like it was only because, well, somebody had to lead the team in tackles.  Johnson is a solid football player, but more from the Mangino mold...a big, slow guy who won't make it at the next level, but knows how to play the game.  With guys like Willis, Tharp, Bakare and Walker, he'll be surrounded by guys who have some speed and know where to be.  I look for the linebackers to be a real bright spot for this team, and will have to really play well to keep this defense looking respectable.

Andrew Clark:

I think our offensive line is going to be a lot better, which makes the offense better as a whole. Give Webb time to throw, more holes for our RBs, etc. With some sustained drives, our defense stays on the sideline, which will help as well.


Also, I think we do a much better job of putting pressure on the QB. I think Opurum will be a weapon outside and that we will dial up a few creative blitz packages from our new 3-4.

Austin:

Two places I expect there to be improvement in the running game and the passing defense. Despite the running game being just about our only strength last year, there is room for improvement with the talented newcomers, Sizemore stepping in at fullback, and the anticipated improvements along the offensive line. I think Spikes and Hatch have the potential to be all-conference players, and while I won't go as far as to predict that, I will say that Hatch's weight loss and Spikes's return will make a pretty significant difference for the offense this year.

For the pass defense, some of the corners looked better towards the end of the year last season, Terry and McDougald look like they could be breakout kind of guys, but I expect the pass rush to improve quite a bit, which should help the pass D more than just about anything.

Another minor prediction: I expect Pick to emerge as a pretty good wideout. If he and another guy can emerge there, we could have the core for a pretty solid offense come 2012. I just hope we didn't ‘David Carr' Jordan Webb last year.

 

8.   Bold prediction for the 2011 football season? Wins, recruiting, whatever....

Owen:

Kansas knocks off Georgia Tech on the road to start the year 3-0.  Ok so that might not jive with my 4 win prediction but I think it can happen and I think if it does then the confidence factor could propel this group to my win ceiling prediction of 5...or dare I say 6?

PenHawk:

Kansas scores 30+ points in at least four games this year (and at least three conference games).  As I've said a few times already, I really think the offense could surprise some people behind a healthy, experienced, better-conditioned o-line, and with an array of weapons in the backfield.

Andrew Clark:

Kansas wins three Big 12 games. ISU, KSU, TTech, Baylor, A&M all possible. Three league wins baby ::chugs koolaid::

Austin:

My prediction, Gill lands a stud recruit that exceeds the hype of Berglund and Bourbon. Kind of a lame one since it's not related to on the field performance this year (I'd probably do something like Opurum gets over x number of sacks, which isn't very fun either), but hey, the question says it could encompass whatever.

Gill and the staff have done pretty well on the recruiting trail, but haven't landed a prospect who looked like he could be a building block kind of guy (Berglund might've fit this description, but the off the field drama kinda dampened the hype). I'm hoping for a stud defensive lineman, but it seems like most of the higher rated guys that've been pulled in under Gill have been skill position players. So perhaps Devin Fuller? Maybe, but I think at some point this year KU lands a big fish to help build excitement for the program, which might be as important as on the field performance this year.

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