This week kicks off the start of our position previews for the 2010 season. To some extent the linebackers have been covered with the recent injury questions and new faces, but over the course of the next week or two we'll dive a little further into the other groups on the field.
Today we'll kick things off with the offensive line. At the end of 2009 Kansas had a corps group that was believed to have the ability to provide some stability to an offense needing to replace a huge chunk of their production. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson had developed nicely in his first full year at the position and all in all the depth looked pretty good.
Fast forward through the summer and into fall camp and a few injuries have raised some concerns as to the units depth, but all in all things appear to be on the up and up. Two weeks into camp a definitive rotation has yet to be set, but the picture is becoming a little more clear and the group is getting closer to full strength.
Projected Depth Chart
LT: Tanner Hawkinson, Gavin Howard, Chad Kolumber
LG: Sal Capra, Duane Zlatnik, Tom Mabry
C: Jeremiah Hatch, Alex Smith (In all reality, I'd expect Thorson or even Capra here if needed)
RG: Trevor Marrongelli, Michael Martinovich
RT: Brad Thorson, Riley Spencer, Chad Kolumber
Thorson returns to practice this week and that moment couldn't come soon enough. Two redshirt freshman and one true freshman have been rotating most of the snaps at right tackle so far but with Thorson's return he should solidify his position on the right side.
Thorson has turned into a team leader through Manginogate and into the Turner Gill era. Thorson brings a high football IQ to the offensive front and measuring 6'5" 310 in the latest media guide would appear to be an upgrade over last year size wise.
Tackle might be slightly out of position for Thorson, but he's managed to more than hold his own and if there is an injury elsewhere, he's the type of player that has shown the ability to move and pick up a new spot at the drop of a hat.
Marrongelli was usually the first or second man off the bench last year to provide depth on the line as a redshirt freshman. He was the type of player that always seemed to be pushing downfield looking for someone to hit and it's that mean streak mentality that could turn him into a fan favorite on the interior.
With the departure of Jeff Spikes, Marrongelli should see a starting spot at guard and he might have won out anyway.
All Big 12 potential has been the buzz phrase surrounding Hatch since the beginning of last season when he had the opportunity to move back to his natural position at center.
His redshirt freshman season spent bouncing from right tackle to left certainly showed tremendous promise, and his transition back to center was a fairly seamless one. During the offseason there was some talk of a minor injury to Hatch but that appears to be settled and he's sitting at 6'3" 332 heading into camp.
The belief is that the staff would prefer him to get his weight down slightly, but all in all a healthy Hatch is all that's important to the Kansas offensive line.
Program player. Sal Capra enters his senior year after a career spent transforming from a low level linebacker recruit into a starting Big 12 guard. Capra is a great story, a smart player, gets the job done on a consistent basis and can play any one of the three positions on the interior.
He may not be the mammoth offensive guard that fits the ideal, but he is a great representative of Kansas football and should once again be a solid player at guard.
This season needs to be a breakout season for Hawkinson. He's been rated the top line prospect on the Kansas o-line, picked as one of the top left tackles in the conference and his first full offseason committed to the position needs to pay off.
If Hawkinson can pull together a solid year protecting the blindside of whoever ends up as the Kansas quarterback, it will afford Turner Gill and Chuck Long a pretty substantial luxury during a time of transition.
6'4" 326 pounds, a former state champion wrestler and defensive lineman turned guard. Zlatnik certainly has an outside shot at a starting job and he will be a critical piece to providing depth should anyone get injured.
A redshirt sophomore, Zlatnik has three years of eligibility remaining and entering just his second full season on offense, there is certainly a good amount of potential for him to contribute an improve in the near future.
Martinovich is currently playing some backup guard and the transfer has added some weight to his frame now up to 6'5" 280.
Martinovich is exactly what you'd expect from a player transferring in from Air Force. He's disciplined, a hard worker and does the right things. That seems to keep him in the conversation at this point.
The redshirt freshman stands an impressive 6'7" 300 pounds and in all reality he's probably #2 on the depth chart at either left tackle or right tackle. With Thorson out for the initial two week timeframe he has been seing most of the snaps at right tackle and he continues to look like a solid tackle prospect for the Jayhawks in the future.
Howard is probably a bit of a forgotten man for most Kansas fans. Like Spencer he's a redshirt freshman, but he doesn't have that "in state" draw that Spencer get's as a Kansas native. Throw in the fact that his stature isn't as imposing at 6'5" 292 and it's easy to look past Howard.
Perhaps we shouldn't. The Owasso Oklahoma native has been taking the majority of the snaps with the #2 offensive line at left tackle. At the end of the day he probably ends up getting 2nd team reps at right tackle when Thorson returns.
If disaster were to strike and Kansas would need to replace two tackles, he's the guy. Probably not going to happen, but I found it interesting that he's seeing those reps.
The MIGHTY Kolumber. I imagine Chris Berman would enjoy Chad Kolumber playing at Lambeau field on a frozen December night. For now though, he'll have to settle for practice reps.
Kolumber is taking 2nd team reps at right tackle for the moment and 3rd team reps at left tackle. Redshirting looks likely but it's far from a lock at this point. Physically he's a behemoth and if needed it sounds as if they think he could do a serviceable job. Ideally for Kansas though, this one takes a redshirt and has four more years to carry that 6'8" frame to the next level.
Another redshirt freshman worth keeping an eye on. Currently Mabry is seeing 2nd team reps at left guard. He's probably not the first off the bench as I'd expect that role goes to Zlatnik, but Mabry could be one down the line for Kansas.
Started in the scrimmage this weekend at center. I wouldn't expect that to continue. Smith checks in at 5'11" 266 and while he certainly deserves credit as a senior who's put in the time, Hatch should start and if he goes down Thorson or Capra are capable backups.