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Rock Chalk Talk Roundtable Part Two: The Old Guard

Our roundtable concludes with getting thoughts from our "old guys" about the upcoming football season.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, here we are, the grizzled vets, those who have suffered through the horribleness that has been writing about Kansas football for the past four seasons.  I was really hoping to test Warden's "August of Optimism" but alas, he was unable to participate.  Probably too busy preparing to educate America's future or something... whatever.

Anyway, without further ado, let's see what the old guys think about this year's Kansas football squad.  Same questions... and... GO!

fetch13: Can I say that I don't give a (darn) about football six times over?

mikeville: Sigh.  Just answer the questions...

1. Who will win the Big 12 this year, and will the champion go undefeated?

KUGrad08: Probably either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. I'll go with the Sooners as I think their offense will continue to progress with a true passing QB.

mikeville: I'm a believer in Baylor, but I reserve the right to change my mind if Oklahoma somehow gets DGB eligible for this season.  As others have mentioned, OU has the easiest schedule in terms of home/away, as Baylor has to travel to Austin and to Norman.  I can see them dropping one of those games, but I think a split gets them the title with only one loss.  I'm a believer in Bryce Petty and the Baylor train.

fetch13: I think Oklahoma will win it but I don't think they'll go undefeated. They are pretty set at all the skill positions from what I can tell but the Big 12 is just so deep that I think they'll get tripped up at least once.

Owen: I'm going with Oklahoma but I don't see them going undefeated.  Just getting too hard to pull that off these days.  I like the Sooners because they host arguably the three toughest opponents they'll face and the other they get on a neutral field.  That's a big advantage.

PenHawk: I'll go with Oklahoma at 8-1. I think Trevor Knight will be more consistent in his sophomore year so Oklahoma's offensive issues should improve (they were getting better toward the end of last year already). Baylor should be dangerous enough to give them a run for their money, but teams were starting to figure them out a bit toward the end of last year, and the offense is a shade less explosive without Seastrunk and Reese.

misterbrain: I gave serious thought to Baylor but I'm going to have to go with Oklahoma.  They just have too complete of a team for anyone except for Baylor to really challenge them, and they have that game at home. 
They have a decent shot at being undefeated, and I think they need to in order to make the playoffs this year. The non-con is pretty bad this year, so they can't really afford a slip up in conference either.

mikeville: That's four for OU, one for BU, and nobody (just for fun, except misterbrain) thinks any team will go unbeaten in conference.

2. Convince me (and your readers) that Kansas will NOT finish last this year.

KUGrad08: Iowa State and West Virginia aren't going to be very good, and Kansas could definitely knock off a couple teams in conference. We could probably win two conference games and avoid the cellar.

mikeville: Every year I think we're gonna win six games and play in a bowl, just like every year I think we'll get to another Final Four.  Man, it's hard being a fan sometimes.  A lot of things have to come together - if we can get the O-Line figured out and get them decent, I think that will have a snowball effect.  Cozart will be better, the receivers will be better, the running backs will be better, the defense will be better (due to fewer three-and-outs) and on and on.  The O-Line is the key.

I know, I haven't really answered the question yet.  On paper we seem to be better than Iowa State.  However, I'm really concerned about the effect Mark Mangino is going to have on their offense.  For some reason, I just don't feel like anyone has accounted for that yet.  And this team has been HORRIBLE on the road, so I can't see why anyone would think we could knock off West Virginia again this year.  If we can pick up a couple upsets at home (ISU, TCU, UT?), then Kansas can escape the cellar.

fetch13: I probably can't do that, but eh. The defense might get even better and maybe Kansas can reel off enough long drives so that they'll not let the other team have the ball a lot and win a couple 14-10 games or something.

Owen:  I can't.  Sorry, there's just no way to sit here and optimistically tell you that Kansas is going to do something they haven't done in several years.  Once I see it, I might start to change my tune, but I'm done buying into hope.  Iowa State consistently overachieves and they would appear to be the best option if you're looking for another candidate.  Kansas on the other hand consistently underachieves and seems to make underachievers of some talented players.  Let's be honest, this has been a dumpster fire at times these last two years.

PenHawk: Well, the biggest case for Kansas is the hiring of John Reagan as OC. It's not a home run hire, and he hasn't coached at a BCS school yet, but the guy has shown the ability to put together efficient offenses without big time talent. Nick Harwell gives us the best talent we've seen at WR since the Meier/Briscoe days, and the line play should improve with Reagan's hire as well. Defensively, we return everybody from a back seven that played very respectable football last year. The line has some questions, but even if it's just decent, we could potentially be in the top half of the Big 12 defensively. Iowa State looked to be very low on talent last year, and their recruiting doesn't suggest there will be any huge swing in that department this year. TCU and West Virginia are having trouble adjusting to life in a big conference, and neither looks very intimidating right now, either. All three could potentially be candidates to finish below us.

mikeville: Love it, Pen, love it.  Did Warden write that up for you?

misterbrain: Because I said so.... Seriously though, I think we win two or three in conference this year, with ISU at home being the true gimme.  I don't see ISU getting more than one win in conference this year.  And they won't have the ice to stop us...

mikeville: Maybe Iowa State won't bring the correct cleats.  I guess we'll see.

3. What team not named Iowa State is Kansas most likely to knock off this year?

KUGrad08: I'd probably say West Virginia again. They still have a huge question mark at QB and have a pretty big hole at running back with the loss of Sims. I really don't see West Virginia being any better next season, and we beat them pretty handily.

mikeville: I'm going to say TCU.  Kansas has played TCU tough in both games since they joined the Big 12, and definitely could have and maybe should have won both times.  The Kansas D should be solid again, so if Reaganomics can get us in the end zone a couple of times, I think we can celebrate another Big 12 foe going down in Death Kaw Valley.

fetch13: I'm going to say Texas Tech.

Owen: West Virginia, next best chance...only chance maybe?

PenHawk: West Virginia. I know it's a road game, but that program is not headed in the right direction. It's true they weren't playing at full strength when we knocked them off last year, but they finished 4-8, ranked 76th in F/+ after losing back to back games against us and Iowa State. Now they lose four starters on each side of the ball. The transition to the Big 12 has not gone well, and Dana Holgerson has done nothing to impress me as a head coach.

misterbrain: Has to be West Virgina, as they haven't really improved too much. Even though it is at WVU this year, I think we kept pace with them in the offseason.  As a darkhorse pick, I'd say Texas.  They have a bye before, but two huge games sandwiched around the matchup in Lawrence.  With a new coach and all the off-the-field issues they have had this year, I can easily see us getting over the hump against UT.

mikeville: So that's WVU 4, TCU 1, Texas and Texas Tech 1.

4. Who on KU's current roster can you see playing on Sundays in the future?

KUGrad08: I think Heeney can definitely make it as an inside linebacker at the next level. Pierson could maybe get a shot as a returner and slot guy. I don't know if he will stick due to his size, but I think he will be given a shot. Mundine might get a shot with a strong season.

mikeville: I'd like to see Ben Heeney on Sundays, but I'm worried about his size.  Aren't most NFL linebackers a couple inches taller than he is?  I think he definitely has the drive to overcome any perceptions like that though.  Nick Harwell might be able to spend a few years as a possession receiver in the league.  Tony Pierson might get a look because of his speed.  If Jimmay Mundine can get his drops under control, he has the size to compete at TE or FB in the NFL.  I also wonder if anyone in our secondary will get a look, but I'm not gonna name names right now as I don't think it's very likely.  We'll have to see how this season plays out.  And everything I read says Trevor Pardula has a shot.

fetch13: Obviously everyone is going to say Heeney but I think there's probably a role for Pierson as well. And if nothing else the CFL plays on Sundays too so....

Owen: Tarik Black... unless they've already updated the basketball roster.

PenHawk: Heeney is the first name that comes to mind, but his size will be an issue for him at the next level. Nick Harwell put up some crazy numbers at Miami of Ohio and has enough height for the NFL at 6'1". He lacks the speed to be a standout receiver at the next level, but I could see him playing for a while. I think Isaiah Johnson and Dexter McDonald may have a shot from the secondary as well. I also really like Trevor Pardula, and Phil Steele has him ranked as a Top 10 punter in D1 football.

misterbrain: For sure Ben Heeney.  That's a no-brainer.  Nick Harwell could be a late round pick that could play in the slot on Sundays.  Tony Pierson could make a roster as an offensive weapon, and I could see Jimmay Mundine potentially making a roster somewhere as well.

mikeville: I see votes for Heeney (5), Pierson (4), Harwell (3), Pardula (2), Mundine (2) and (1) each for Johnson and McDonald.

5. Will James Sims make the Green Bay Packers 53-man roster?

KUGrad08: Franklin's injury definitely helped his case, but I think the odds are still against him. Lacy and Starks aren't going anywhere, and the Packers will definitely keep Kuhn as a fullback (and he is also a good special team's player and blocker on passing downs). Sims needs to have a great camp and preseason to get above the other young guys the Packers brought in, and then it will be a matter of how many running backs do they keep?

mikeville: Of course he is.  He doesn't have Chris Johnson-like breakaway speed, but he runs hard, hits the hole quickly, and falls forward - perfect for the NFL and perfect for the "Black and Blue" division of the NFL.  If he isn't the third back on the depth chart, I'll be pretty disappointed in the Packer coaching staff.

fetch13: Yes.

mikeville: Great thought, fetch.  I totally agree.

Owen: Yes, love this guy.  Best thing that's happened to Kansas football over the last four years - possibly the only good thing.  Plays hard, great football IQ and just a solid player.

PenHawk: Starks and Lacy seem to have the top two RB spots locked down in Green Bay, but if Sims can show them something on special teams and impress with his work ethic, I could see him hanging on as their third back.

misterbrain: Out of camp? Unfortunately, I don't think so.  I see him getting snapped up into a practice squad, and likely getting a shot after someone loses a player or two to injury, but there are just too many players with similar skill sets, and he didn't have enough name recognition coming out of school.

mikeville: Four for "Yes" and two for "No."  Way to be a Negative Nancy, Grad and brain.

6. How many games do you honestly expect Kansas football to win this fall?

KUGrad08: I'm expecting four. The team should win two non-con games and two conference games. Anything less than that and Chuck needs to be Audi 5000.

mikeville: I'm also saying four while hoping for five and being scared that we'll only get two.  Wins are pretty hard to find on the schedule and it's been a rough go the past several years, but the needle seems to be pointing upward for the good guys in blue.  I'm optimistic but the last three years have really beat me down.

fetch13: I'm going optimistic and saying four.

Owen: I'll give them three wins, ceiling at four.  So much to change still, just so much it's hard to see much movement yet.

PenHawk: I expect them to win three. I think they're capable of winning five, and I have to admit I'm worried that they might only win two.

misterbrain: I'm going to go with 5.  I know I'm probably being overly optimistic, but I see SEMO, CMU, WVU and ISU as wins.  I see Duke last season as a pretty accurate recreation of the KU Orange Bowl season - easier schedule that will get tougher, extreme luck, etc.  We have a good chance at that one.  If we don't get it there, I see a good shot at any of the other home games.  Oklahoma State and TCU both got worse from last year, and being at home could potentially give us a big boost, especially if we play fairly well leading up to those games.

mikeville: Three of us say four, two of us say three, and No Longer Negative Nancy misterbrain went with five.

Great job, everyone.  Here's a breakdown of how the "voting" went.

Jim Nedrow strathclyde brendan Jim Hammen dnoll5 Kye KUGrad08 mikeville fetch13 Owen PenHawk misterbrain
Who wins the Big 12? OU BU BU OU OU OU OU BU OU OU OU OU
Undefeated champ? Yes No n/a Yes No No n/a No No No No Yes
Any NFL players? Harwell
Heeney Heeney
Pierson Heeney
Tarik Black Heeney
Sims in Green Bay? No No Yes No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No
How many wins? 5 6 4 3 5 2 4 4 4 3 3 5

I'll try to get the roundtable together at least every month, and more often once football and basketball games start up.  Hope you all enjoyed it, and as always, Vote for Pedro!  I mean, Rock Chalk!