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Kansas Football 2007: Who was the X-factor?

Our writers talk about which player from the 2007 team made an unexpected impact.

NCAA Football - Iowa State vs Kansas - November 26, 2005 Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images

The 2007 football season was the arguably the greatest in Kansas history, when the team went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. 10 years later, the football program is again hoping to make an unlikely run to relevance in the college football landscape. Before we turn toward the upcoming season, we take a look back at the season where most of our football dreams came true. The entire SB Nation network is looking back at that season, and we are buying in fully, with lots of content coming to you the rest of this week to commemorate that wild season.

Being a fan of any team is all about the experience. We live and die with our teams. Their victories become ours. Their shortcomings can be a personal affront. Our fandom is defined not just by the games we witness, but also by the thoughts, feelings, emotions and experiences that surround those games.

To help in remembering the insanity that was 2007, I asked our contributors (both current and former) a series of questions meant to explore their memories and impressions from that time frame. This is the fifth in a series of 7 articles, with each exploring a different question.

Check out our answers, and then share your answer below in the comments.

Everyone knows the big stars of that team: QB Todd Reesing, WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, DBs Aqib Talib, Darrell Stuckey and Chris Harris. Which lesser known player do you think was an X-Factor on that team, an unheralded guy that made a huge impression in either a single game or over the course of a few games?

dnoll5: Jake Sharp. And he got even better the next season.

Winmore: That ‘07 ‘Hawks team was absolutely loaded. Strangely so when you think about how bad KU football has been since that team. But that defense was legit. There is a reason three fourths of our defensive backfield - Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Darrell Stuckey - have all become NFL mainstays, with Talib and Harris Jr. considered two of the best corners currently in the game. The linebacking trio of Joe Mortensen in the middle and James Holt and Mike Rivera outside, were lightning quick, heavy hitters. Those three guys got to hunt heads behind that line of scrimmage because, arguably, the most underrated defensive player in the history of the program, James McClinton was an absolute beast at nose tackle in the center of that D-Line. But it wasn’t just the defense. The ‘07 ‘Hawks offense was solidly constructed as well. Left tackle Anthony Collins finished as a first team All American on his way to the NFL, the anchor and blue chip prize on a fantastic O-Line. Behind that line Reesing was able to run around and sling the ball like a stud, and Brandon McAnderson, and Jake Sharp made for a stout one-two punch out of the backfield. But that receiving corps was vastly underrated. Wideouts Marcus Henry, Dezmon Briscoe, and Dexton Fields all had NFL size and speed. Tight End, Derek Fine, also made it to the league. Once the team added Kerry Meier to the fold, it was almost an embarrassment of riches. And let’s not forget the fact that Marcus Hereford, for whom there was no room for him to catch any balls as a wideout, went on to be named Big 12 return man of the year on special teams. That ‘07 ‘Hawks team was ridiculously good in all three phases of the game.

Mike.Plank: James McClinton allowed the defense to be as good as it was. He would take up two or even three blockers on almost every play, and had to have been worn down by the time November rolled around (which I think showed in giving up 39 points to Nebraska, 28 to Oklahoma State, and 36 to Missouri). He’s the guy no one ever talks about when they think about the 2007 Jayhawks, and that’s a shame.

KU Grad 08: Agree that McClinton was crucial to the defense. That defense only lost he and Talib after that year and they went from being great to below-average the next season. Obviously losing the best CB in college football was a big blow, but it also shows how important McClinton was to the defense.

Also don’t forget about Anthony Collins at LT. Had a really great season protecting Reesing’s blindside.

Andy Mitts: Winmore stole mine by sneaking in a reference to Hereford. You can be a good team without really good special teams play. But if you want to be an elite team, you can’t afford to be bad, especially in the return game. Hereford was consistently great, allowing Kansas for the most part to win the field position battle, which set the team up for a lot of success.