Monday Charlie Weis announced some additions and some subtractions from the Kansas football roster and then yesterday the athletic department released the up to date roster as we head into winter workouts. For what it's worth I have been told, and other outlets have also confirmed, that the early workouts have moved in quite a different direction from last year.
"the difference was like day and night. most of the players were very tired. The team was heavily supervised and everyone was watched closely."
Again, take it for what it's worth but at least the signs are there early that we might see some of the concerns in this area addressed.
Moving back to the roster I thought it would be worth a quick glance position by position to see what we're working with and where the initial concerns might be in terms of depth.
There are four on the roster. Dayne Crist (6'4" 235. anyone else like the sound of that?) is your likely starter and Jake Heaps is not eligible. That means you have Blake Jablonski and Michael Cummings are competing for the backup spot heading into Spring.
Now some have been quick to point to Cummings while overlooking the preferred walk on in Jablonski. That surprises me at Kansas. Why? Well we have had several successful walk-ons contribute meaningful minutes and seasons to our prestigious basketball program and that is really less often the case than in football. Plus, Steven Johnson was once a walk on and he was probably our best player a season ago.
The point is that this will be a two person battle at backup. In fact I think Jablonski, who is the more polished passer, could benefit from the coaching change. Either way we have to hope that one of them can develop into a nice insurance policy should we face the worst case scenario. And regardless this position looks improved on paper at the top of the depth chart.
Darrian Miller is gone, but we return James Sims, Anthony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon. The roster also lists Ryan Burton. With Bourbon's injury concerns and Pierson being more of a situational back, this is again an area where we lack some depth. What we have could be very good. We know what we are getting in James Sims and he can should a heavy load with his savvy no-nonsense style. Pierson is explosive and a threat on every play.
Now Bourbon could be the one that benefits the most. Remember that Bourbon was committed to play in a pro-style offense with Jim Harbaugh at Stanford before switching to Kansas. That's a strong program and they saw something. We've seen flashes, he just hasn't been able to say healthy. If he can do that, we might be in a good place.
Nick Sizemore and Ed Fink are your bruisers and both did some good things while blocking last year. One might think that we'll see even more of this position under Weis, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Here's what you can say about this position. We have options. Daymond Patterson and DJ Beshears are really the only two that have proven themselves over any length of time. After that we have a host of names to consider. Kale, Pick, Christian Matthews, Marquis Jackson, JaCorey Shepherd, Erick McGriff, Chris Omigie, Ricki Herod, Andrew Turzilli, Brian Maura, Neal Barlow, Connor Embree and the recently added Justin McCay.
If we work under the assumption that McCay has a case and is granted his hardship waiver by the NCAA, then I have to think he's in the conversation. The way Weis paraded him out in front of the media means he thinks pretty highly of him.
Then when I look at the rest of the roster and think about the type of receiver that Weis favors, I start to think that this could be a good situation for a lot of them to get a new lease on their career. Turner Gill valued speed above all else. We have some big bodies on this roster (6'6", 6'2", 6'4", 6'4", 6'3", 6'3", 6'1", 6'4") and most were young and didn't seem to really serve much purpose to Gill other than blocking. We now have a 6'4" quarterback who can take advantage of a smaller window and a host of big physical receivers that can compliment the speed of players like Patterson and Beshears. I'm very curious to see how this group looks this Spring and into the Fall.
Trent Smiley has to be excited about this change and if Jimmay Mundine can't take advantage of his second opportunity it is a huge mistake. Those two are your tight ends at heading into Spring and both have looked like solid prospects. Had we not had three seniors who were all very reliable at the position, these two could have seen more time last year.
In addition to Smiley and Mudine the roster lists Justin Puthoff, Bradon Olson and Scott Baron. There is some size and some raw talent to work with there. Obviously the staff is bringing in a junior college player this summer, but these five will have a huge opportunity laid out in front of them this Spring.
I think we can assume that Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik will all start. That's a solid corps and it basically leaves us looking for a center and either a right or left tackle depending on where Hawkinson ends up. Dylan Admire was the heir apparent to Jeremiah Hatch and I think everyone would love to see that work out.
Right tackle is a little more open. Riley Spencer is now a redshirt junior and for years he has been labeled the most NFL ready body on the team. He just hasn't been able to avoid injury and put it together on the field. This is a big year for him as he has two left to play. Realistically he's exactly the mold of a player that Kansas can really thrive with on the offensive line. A player who comes in to the program with great size, but perhaps a little lower in the pecking order for other schools during recruiting. Redshirt a year, develop for two and knock it out of the park for two years. Iowa State has been doing this very effectively over the last 2-3 seasons.
The other player in contention at tackle will be Gavin Howard. Howard, now a junior, stepped in late last year when Spikes and Spencer were both injured. Beyond that we're looking at the young crop from Turner Gill's class and it is a nice looking group on paper. Luke Luhrsen, Bryan Peters, Damon Martin and Chad Kolumber are all very big bodies that could turn into a nice group for Kansas with time.
This is a spot where we are painfully thin once again heading into the Spring. Now we are bringing in two junior college players to boost this position but for now we're working with what we have.
On the roster we're looking at Kevin Young, John Williams, Shane Smith and Randall Dent. If John Williams can comeback from his injury he is a player that can hold down one spot. Young and Dent are two players that just need the light to come on and they can be very productive. A solid offseason training program could do wonders for both and with each having just two years left it's time to start turning a corner.
Smith played quite a bit a year ago and he's a fighter. We'll have to see if that experience translates in further opportunity for him. All in all this is a position that really just screams out as a cause for concern right now and we really need to hope some positive things happen with the four listed above.
This is an area I'm cautiously optimistic about. Toben Opurum returns for his senior year and pretty much everyone that was young and on this roster has decided to return. Pat Lewandowski is back and should be healthy. Keba Agostinho is entering his junior year.
Then you have Michael Reynolds, Javonte Daniels, Ben Goodman and Julius Green all entering year two in the program. Now none of these are proven commodities, but physically and athletically they all brought some nice things to the table. We just have to hope that everyone makes it through Spring, Summer and into Fall before we can get too excited.
The team has a tall order in replacing Steven Johnson but they have the bodies to create some competition for that opportunity. Like receiver, this is a position that will be interesting to watch in terms of how this new staff approaches the personnel. Darius Willis, Tunde Bakare and Huldon Tharp all return. Those three have the most experience but Ben Heeney and Collin Garrett both looked very intriguing on special teams and in limited action last year.
Then there are a host of other names that we just haven't had too much to evaluate them on. Prinz Kande, Jake Love, Jake Farley, Tyler Hunt and Steven Mestan. Some of these are young, some of these are walk-ons, but in general the staff has the makings of a solid rotation depending on how they piece things together. It also wouldn't be a huge surprise to see some position changes from this group as well.
Add this one to the list along with defensive tackles in terms of positions that look a bit scary. Frontrunners for the starting spots would have to be Tyler Patmon and Greg Brown. Also on the two deep? Well, there are only other three options. The other corners on the roster are Chris Robinson, Corringan Powell and Dexter Linton. Seriously? This is painfully thin for a league that has made its name in recent year because of explosive offenses with great quarterbacks and a bevvy of passing yards.
Weis better find a way to keep our offense on the field and producing because this group is going to be hard at work.
Bradley McDougald, Lubbock Smith, Ray Mitchell, Alex Matlock, Victor Simmons and Brandon Hawks. It's a young group but a group that has some promise. McDougald is in his final year and late last season he really seemed to be hitting his stride. It would be great if Lubbock Smith could return to form from his freshman season and then the three newbies in Mitchell, Matlock and Simmons will all have a chance to push for minutes. In fact, Simmons had some really nice moments last season when the staff put him in.
I'm curious if any of these can help support our corners if we don't address that area in recruiting.