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RCT Spring Football Preview: The Offense

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Offense has been the calling card for Kansas over the last few seasons with record setters Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe leading the charge.  With the departure of all three, Kansas will be in a bit of a rebuild mode, but at the same time they will return nearly every player on the line. 

There are question marks at quarterback, question marks in terms of what the offense will even look like.  Still, if you are a Kansas fan, you have to like the way things are stacked up on the offensive side of the ball, much more than on the defensive side.  Kansas has developed depth, experience, talent and competition at almost every position. 

Chuck Long and Turner Gill certainly don't take over with a bare cupboard, it's just a matter of how well and how quickly the Jayhawks adjust to the new faces and what should be a slightly new look.

Quarterback

For the first time in three years Kansas has to find a quarterback.  Throughout the history of Jayhawk football this hasn't always been an easy task.  How the Turner Gill era kicks off will rely tremendously on what Kansas can find for this position.

Kale Pick

Pick was the backup during the 2009 season and showed flashes of a rather incredible ability to run the ball.  With the struggles of Todd Reesing it even got to the point where Pick would see the occasional snap in a competitive ballgame.  The problem Pick faced is his coaches didn't give him the opportunity to throw, which he can do.  Pick has the speed to make a play with his feet and without a doubt can make the same throws that Reesing did.  The big question with any new quarterback is whether or not they have the "it" factor to take care of the ball and win games. 

Quinn Mecham

A junior college addition out of Utah, Mecham has looked good in 7 on 7's but the reality is that's about all anybody has to go on so far.  He was good at the junior college level and ironically comes from the same program where Chuck Long coached QB of the past Josh Huepel played.   Junior College players are often viewed as an opportunity to provide depth and competition.  Mecham appears poised to provide both and will push Pick for the starting job with the competition wide open.

Jordan Webb

Webb took a redshirt last season and this will be his second round of spring practices after arriving on campus as a mid year last January.  Webb is probably the darkhorse going into spring as he's been compared to Reesing based on his size and style of play.   Biggest problem with Webb, his speed.  He just doesn't have any.

Christian Matthews

After spending time between wide receiver and quarterback as a redshirt, Matthews is one of those players that really should fall under the position "change back" category.  Matthews will be giving it a go at quarterback and while he's probably a long shot for major minutes, he does bring a different dynamic to the position compared to the other three with better speed, athleticism and size. 

Wildcards/Freshman

None

Prognosis and "Spring Starter" projections
  • No matter how good you feel about the quarterback position, it's impossible to get comfortable.  Kansas fans will be holding their collective breath on the first offensive series of the season as they see a new quarterback take over for one of the all time Kansas greats.  How will he do?  How will he respond?  How will the offense respond?  Plenty of questions but hopefully whoever it is can benefit from an experienced offensive line and a multitude of weapons at the skilled positions.
  • Spring Starters: Kale Pick

Running Back

A position that was depleted following the 2007 season finally seems to be returning to a good position.  The Jayhawks have some youth, some depth and a few new faces for 2010.

Toben Opurum

Toben should be expected to be the front runner after leading the Jayhawks in rushing this past season.  He returns to the practice field after rehabbing a late season injury sustained against Texas.  Opurum is blessed with size, a physical running style and good enough speed to be dangerous.  If he can improve his blocking in the backfield and pose a threat as a receiver, he'll be as solid as Kansas has had at this position since Brandon McAnderson. 

Rell Lewis

There wasn't much to see from Lewis in 2009 primarily because he wasn't on the field all that often.  When he was, he looked the part.  Whether it was the spring game last year or Missouri this year Lewis looked to be a spark in the backfield when he entered the game.  File him under a player who needed a fresh start but again those issues are a two way street and Lewis could lay claim to at least some of the responsibility for his lack of time.  With a new staff and a new look Kansas fans might see one of the better athletes on the Jayhawk team see the field more often.

Deshaun Sands

Sands is a low to the ground, well built, shifty back.  He turned heads all season long on the scout team and will be participating in his second spring season after graduating early and joining the Jayhawks in the spring of 2009.  Sands could definitely play a role in the running back rotation and Kansas fans might feel like they are watching a highlight tape from the past.

Angus Quigley

Back to offense and yet another position change for Quigley.  Originally planning to wrap up his career after 2009, Quigley has decided to return for one last year with a new hope and a new coach.  There were times in 2008 where he looked like the answer at running back, but consistency and turnovers frustrated the previous regime.  Can all that change this late in the game?  Maybe, but I wouldn't expect Quigley to be relied upon at that level to begin with.  "The Beef" could see the field, but it might be a longshot for him to jump into starter type minutes.

Steven Foster

Here's a player that I'm excited to see back in a position where he can make an impact.  Foster is a local product, a hard worker and a talented player who never found a home in the previous offense.  With Turner Gill returning to an offense that includes a fullback at times, Foster has a home and moves back to offense after a year on defense.

Wildcards/Freshman

Brandon Bourbon, James Sims, Josh Smith(FB) - All three could see the field as true freshman.  In fact, I'd almost expect one of them will.

Prognosis and "Spring Starter" projections
  • The running back position has been a little bit of a sore subject for Kansas fans since the 2007 season.  Lack of depth, injuries and defections translated to a very short bench with very little experience.  Now this group seems to have a balance returning with some solid experienced options and some potentially game breaking youngsters waiting in the wings.  
  • Spring Starters: Toben Opurum, Steven Foster

Wide Reciever

Sit back, relax and pull up a chair.  Kansas has a tremendous amount of depth at wide receiver and the Jayhawks appear well positioned for several years.

Jonathan Wilson

After a 2008 season where Wilson was a bit of a breakout third option, he seemed to struggle through his junior year with a fair amount of drops.  He's well respected by his teammates, has good speed and length and hopefully Wilson will find the ability to be a weapon as was expected last season.

Bradley McDougald

McDougald is moving from the slot position to the outside this year and should continue to progress as a player within the Jayhawk program.  Not much needs to be said other than the fact that McDougald played as well as anyone could expect for a freshman.  Sure there were mistakes, but he has three years to go and should start in all of them.

Daymond Patterson

Back to offense for Patterson and the slot receiver position where he showed great potential in '08.  He's a player that can catch the ball over the middle, make a move and take it to the house.  Unfortunately the defense needed him more and his potential on offense took a bit of a back seat for a year and a half.  This is where he belongs, this is where he can make a bigger impact.  After nearly transferring, it's good to see Patterson get the shot he deserves.

Rod Harris

A junior college transfer once getting serious looks from the likes of USC.  He's battled injury since arriving at Kansas, but always finds himself in the conversation during offseason workouts and spring ball.  That is proving to be the case once again, so we'll see what happens.

Chris Omigie

Nearly had his redshirt pulled late last year.  Great size, length and good speed.  Omigie is a big target and should see time as a redshirt freshman.  Maybe even start depending on the set.

DJ Beshears

Daymond Patterson 2.0.  Beshears moves back to offense after the last staff blew a redshirt year by throwing him into the fire on defense.  Beshears, like Patterson, is a slot man over the middle that can break a play at anytime.  Another great move by the staff to give this a try at the very least.

Wildcards/Freshman

Tetravian Ingram, Erick McGriff, AJ Steward(TE/WR), Keeston Terry, Ricki Herod, Andrew Turzilli, Brian Maura

Prognosis and "Spring Starter" projections
  • Whatever happens this year, it won't be due to lack of weapons offensively.  Kansas is deep at wide receiver and has plenty of competition to keep players hungry for more.  It will be interesting to see how Coach Long, Coach Gill and Coach Wyatt work with this much depth and who sees the field and how often.
  • Spring Starters: Jonathan Wilson, Bradley McDougald, Daymond Patterson, Chris Omigie

Tight End

Tim Biere

Kansas found a good one in Tim Biere and as a junior this could be the breakout year for Biere in a new offense.  He's an excellent blocker, a load after the catch and he seems to grab anything in reach.  Biere definitely falls in the traditional tight end role, but the Jayhawks should look to get him involved at some level to open up the offense across the board.

Bradley Dedeaux

Now a senior Dedeaux was a player with high expectations when he came to Kansas and just hasn't been able to find a spot.  He's been reliable on special teams and a serviceable blocker when needed.  Is this the year? 

Ian Wolfe

Probably belongs under the "wildcard" section but Wolfe has moved from tackle to tight end, a position he played in high school.  I'm actually hearing that he looks really good at this spot and could be one of the better options available to spill Biere.  A potential surprise, and it sure would be nice to see Wolfe finally contribute.

AJ Steward

I've been singing the praises of Steward since last spring and I think I'm ready to take a more wait and see approach.  It's becoming clear that he'll always be a bit of a tweener and if Kansas needs a TE/WR type he's the guy.  It's just unclear if that's a role that will ever be truly necessary.  That said, he's a physical specimen and one of the harder working players ont he team.

Wildcards/Freshman

Nick Plato, Jimmay Mundine, Trent Smiley

Prognosis and "Spring Starter" projections
  • For the amount of sets Kansas will use a tight end in, they appear to have what they need.  Biere is a proven commodity and more than prepared to play a majority of the minutes.  A few interesting opportunities at the backup role and overall this should be a solid position for Kansas.
  • Spring Starters: Tim Biere

Offensive Line

The offensive line is pretty well set as the Jayhawks return all of their starters from a year ago.  Great teams are built in the trenches, Kansas at least appears headed in the right direction in this area.

Tanner Hawkinson

A freshman all america selection returns to anchor the left side for what will be year two of either three or four at the left tackle spot for Kansas.  Hawkinson is agile, fairly quick and with a second year at the position should begin to find a comfort level.  There's a lot to like about Hawkinson and he's still looking at a huge ceiling.

Sal Capra

Started most of the year at one of the guard spots, Capra has been described as a program guy.  He transformed his body to work his way into the Kansas lineup and plays smart, mistake free football.  The biggest thing that could be holding him back is the talent coming up through the system.  Don't count Capra out anywhere along the way though as a senior with his type of drive will never go down without a fight.

Jeremiah Hatch

A potential All Big 12 type offensive lineman at center, Hatch enters year three as a starter.  He's tough, powerful and played big against some of the best defensive tackles in the country last year.  The biggest thing that Hatch needs to continue to develop is that leadership on the offensive line that the last staff was looking for from him. 

Brad Thorson

Thorson has probably emerged as the leader for this group and one of the primary leaders of the team.  It's a great story and Thorson moving to guard last year was one of the best things that could have happened to this group.  Had he remained buried on the bench behind Hatch at center, Kansas would have missed out on a big contributor for two years. 

Jeff Spikes

When will the light bulb turn on.  Kansas fans have been sold greatness with this one from day one.  The problem was that it was based entirely on potential and no real track record of success.  With his game against Suh last year however, Spikes deserves one more shot.  He's a monster, has two years now and two to go.  Plenty of time to turn the corner and be a great right tackle for Kansas.

Trevor Marrongelli

This one is fun to watch.  When Marrongelli is in the game, watch him.  What you'll see is a nasty player running around trying to hit someone.  He dives over piles, finishes blocks and finds the next one.  If there is a player that will challenge at guard, it's Trevor.

Riley Spencer

Here's your surprise on the offensive line.  Spencer will compete for the right tackle starting spot.  He's done a great job of getting his body in division one condition and he showed potential all year long as a redshirt.  There was talk at times that he might find his way in the lineup as a true freshman.  Spencer might not overtake Spikes or Thorson at right tackle, but the depth and competition can't hurt the overall quality of play on the line.

Duane Zlatnik

Zlatnik moved from d-line to o-line last season and while he's not likely to break the lineup this season, I put him here because he is an interesting possibility to move into one of the guard spots next year.  A Kansas product that many probably have tracked during his career and a player that I for one am rooting for.

Wildcards/Freshman

Carl Wilson, Mike Martinovich, Alex Smith, Gavin Howard, Tom Mabry, Chad Kolumber

Prognosis and "Spring Starter" projections
  • Like the wide receiver position this is a strength for Kansas.  The Jayhawks are experienced, have some depth and this group will be relied upon to help ease the transition for the new quarterback for Kansas.
  • Spring Starters: Tanner Hawkinson, Sal Capra, Jeremiah Hatch, Brad Thorson, Jeff Spikes

 

Best Guess Spring Two Deep*

*Does not include players sitting out of spring practices

Bold indicates starter dependent on the offensive set, i.e. four wide, two back.

LT - Tanner Hawkinson (RsSoph) / Riley Spencer (RsFr)

LG - Sal Capra (Sr) / Trevor Marrongelli (RsSoph)

C - Jeremiah Hatch (Jr) / Alex Smith (Sr)

RG - Brad Thorson (Sr) / Duane Zlatnik (RsSoph)

RT - Jeff Spikes (Jr) / Riley Spencer (RsFr)

 

QB - Kale Pick (RsSoph) / Quinn Mecham (Jr)

 

RB - Toben Opurum (Soph) / Rell Lewis (Sr)

FB - Steven Foster (situational)

 

TE - Tim Biere (Jr) / Ian Wolfe (Sr)

 

WR - Johnathan Wilson (Sr) / Tetravian Ingram (Sr)

WR - Bradley McDougald (Soph) / Rod Harris (Sr)

WR - Daymond Patterson (Jr) / DJ Beshears (Soph)

WR - Chris Omigie (RsFr) / Rod Harris (Sr)