It’s time for another edition of the roundtable! In each edition, our staff gets together to look at two questions about the Kansas Jayhawks that are being talked about by those who follow the program. Take a look at our answers, and then give us your own in the comments below.
This team lost some key guys in the offseason. Which one do you think the Jayhawks will miss the most this year?
David: Dineen is a big loss, but I think we’ll miss Wise the most. Explosive, disruptive DTs don’t grow on trees, especially at the college level. Because he spent most of his time in the interior, his impact was fairly quiet, but having a lineman that opposing teams have to scheme around was a rare luxury KU had for the last few years. It’s unlikely that anyone on the roster can just step up and fill that role.
Brendan: You can’t go wrong picking either Dineen or Wise, but I’ll take the Dineen angle. Obviously both were players who led by example, but Dineen’s contributions as a vocal leader and emotional presence is something that is particularly hard to replicate. Also, let’s not shrug off the fact that he had to make a ton of tackles over the course of his career; it’ll be tough to lose a safety blanket like that, so to speak.
Mike: I don’t disagree with either Dineen or Wise, and if I’d have spoken up first, I probably would have taken one (or both) of those guys. But let me throw this out there - how about Steven Sims? Seemingly very quietly, he has a solid argument for being a top-5 receiver in school history. He’s #3 in receptions and #2 in yards and touchdowns all-time at KU. Due to Sims’ graduation, Les Miles will be looking for playmakers at the WR position, and it looks like he’s turned to the Juco ranks to do so - hardly a good sign.
Kyle: I went in the same direction as Mike with Steven Sims. I’ll add to it by saying that KU has a lot to replace at WR not only because of Sims, but because of Jeremiah Booker as well. Booker had the most receiving TDs on the team last year (5), had the second-most yards behind Sims, and had the second-best yards per catch for a KU receiver with at least 15 catches (11.1; Sims’ was 10.1). Booker isn’t the big name that the others are, and won’t singularly be missed the same way, but him, in addition to Sims, leaves a pretty big hole.
Andy: I’m going a completely different way from everyone else (mainly to make it interesting, not because everyone else is wrong). Given how important he was to the scoring of this team over the last couple of years, I’m going with Gabriel Rui. Kansas needed all the help it could get in putting points on the board, and he was 29-37 on FGs and a perfect 51-51 on extra points. The kickers on the roster are very unproven, and it’s no guarantee that they will be able to match his production. Also, WR is even more of a whole than Mike and Kyle said, since Kerr Johnson was the third leading receiver, and he was also a senior last year.
Which player do you think is ready to take the biggest step forward this year?
David: Azur Kamara. He didn’t rack up big numbers as a DE last year, but he seemed to have some speed off the edge in pass rushing situations. The new “HAWK” position, which looks a lot like the role we’ve seen edge guys like Toben Opurum and Ben Goodman fill under previous coaches, ought to be an ideal one for his skill set. I think he could create some havoc in opposing backfields this year.
Brendan: There’s no point in me giving up on my undying optimism for Daylon Charlot at this point, so he’s my answer. The hopeful scenario is that he’s able to settle into the No. 1 receiver role, and what should be better quarterback play will lead to him getting more chances to make plays. There’s a reason he was a four-star prospect and there’s a reason Nick Saban wanted to keep him at Alabama; hopefully he’s finally able to break out this season.
Mike: “Undying optimism,” I love it. I love the Kamara answer, I think David is right on point there, and I think all KU fans feel the way Brendan does about Charlot. I’d like to add “whoever gets the start at middle linebacker,” but we have no idea who that’s going to be. Kyron Johnson? Dru Prox? Denzel Feaster? The safe answer is Kamara, however, I reserve the right to change my pick to Carter Stanley should he somehow win the starting QB job in fall camp.
Kyle: I don’t necessarily think he’ll take the biggest step, because he was good last year, but I think someone we could be talking about a lot this year is Corione Harris. He didn’t have a bad freshman campaign by any means, he just didn’t have as many big plays as fellow cornerbacks Hasan Defense and Shakial Taylor. Yet Harris had the most tackles out of the three (44, compared to 43 and 34 respectively) and second most passes defended (five compared to Defense’s six). If he keeps up his strong play on receivers and gets a few more picks and fumble recoveries, he’ll be getting a lot of credit on what could be a pretty decent secondary.
Andy: Kyle stole my answer, and now I’m mad. But again, in the interest of highlighting someone that hasn’t been talked about yet, I’m going to go with Api Mane. Hakeem Adeniji was raving about him after the spring practices and during camp this year, and he seems to have solidified his spot at center. And getting an anchor on the OL to go with Adeniji will be huge for setting the offense up for success.