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Kansas Vs. South Dakota State: What I'm Looking For From The Jayhawks In Week One

Apr 28, 2012; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Dayne Crist (10) drops back to pass in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
Apr 28, 2012; Lawrence, KS, USA; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Dayne Crist (10) drops back to pass in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Two years ago when Turner Gill took over we all talked about the opener against North Dakota State in terms of a the game being a tune up. We talked about what we hoped to learn from the game and see in our team. What happened next was a pretty embarrassing and shocking loss. So first and foremost any Kansas fan should go into this game looking for a win.

Win the game and that's at least a start that can give us far more optimism about his regime than the last. Beyond that, what indicators or improvements are important to see from Kansas in week one? Move past the obvious organization, competitiveness and general execution of a gameplan because those things should be expected. They weren't a given with our last staff but given everything we've heard and seen from this staff, I believe we will see signs of those things changing in a hurry. So let's talk about those things on the field, positional units, player specific and results that you want to see in game one.

  1. Defensive Line - This unit does have the ability to make the biggest impact on defensive improvement as a whole. We've added competition to the roster, we're hoping that the players on the roster already have had the opportunity to reshape their physical conditioning and put themselves back in a position to succeed. This is a combination of accountability, coaching and an influx of new blood. Change the culture and productivity with this group and the defense can go from bad to serviceable.
  2. Offensive Gameplan - Chuck Long was forced into a stagnant ultra conservative offensive gameplan on a weekly basis. We have a new quarterback, an experienced offensive line and a coach who has been extremely successful as an offensive play caller. Is this unit ready to take a step forward?
  3. Wideout - DJ Beshears, Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick will start. Kansas has some big wideouts that haven't moved into the mix but would seem like high potential type players. Who steps up at this position outside of the starters. I think we know what we have in those three, but we need to find someone in that Chris Omigie, Christian Matthews, Josh Ford, Andrew Turzilli group. Those are big targets for Dayne Crist and they could add a lot to our offense.
  4. The Kansans - Maybe it's silly to lump a group like this together but I feel like Kansas has been successful in the past when we've had a local group step up to the plate. Zlatnik, Hawkinson, Pick, Heeney, Tharp, Young, these are all very capable contributors that have a ceiling higher than what they've shown. Do any of them make a leap and represent the home state University with that extra level of pride that comes from being an in state player.
  5. Personnel Groupings - Weis has talked about personnel groupings and looking for different situational uses for these groupings. How does that look? What role does Trent Smiley play as a FB? Defensive groupings? There could be a lot of different looks and set variations that could prove intriguing.
  6. Defensive Pressure - How do we achieve this? Line improvement? Blitz Packages? Dave Campo has been charged with creating it, can he do it and how does he do it?
  7. Anthony Pierson - This is the most explosive player on the roster and you can tell Charlie Weis is excited to incorporate him. We might not see too many wrinkles in week one but how early and how often do we see Weis go to Pierson with the offense.
  8. Dayne Crist - Does Crist have the ability to change the trajectory of the season?
  9. Special Teams - So many questions, so few answers. I'm not holding out huge hope for improvement in our kicking game. Doherty was serviceable but I don't expect him to become an all world performer overnight. What I'm more interested in is how we cover, discipline level and what players step into these roles.
  10. Turnovers - Do we look like a team that could become opportunistic and are we a team that takes care of the football. The season could shift substantially if we are successful with both of those things.

That's 10, it's a quick gut check of what I'll be watching for at Memorial stadium. What did I miss? Let's hear it.