Depth remains an area of concern for the Kansas University football team, which has exciting talent, but looks thin in some spots.
Jeremiah Hatch’s return to the lineup improved the offensive-line play, but Brad Thorson’s leg injury has prevented him from playing effectively. The hobbled Thorson repeatedly was beaten, and another shuffling of the line could be upcoming. Red-shirt freshman Riley Spencer could replace Thorson at right tackle, or Duane Zlatnik could return to the lineup at guard, with Sal Capra moving back to center and Hatch to right tackle.
KU was boosted by exceptional linebacker play, but staying healthy here is a must. Toben Opurum’s crash course here has been stunted by an ankle injury.
Shy on overall depth, there is no shortage of exciting playmakers. Five names on the roster stand out as athletes who make us keep watching closely. Here they are, with a nod to a very important sixth factor.
1. Justin Springer, middle linebacker: Nick Reid won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2005. No reason Springer won’t be considered if he continues his superior play. He gets into the backfield so quickly, and in short yardage situations stands up ballcarriers at the line of scrimmage so well. What an entertaining blend of speed, strength and passion.
2. Daymond Patterson, receiver: In the wake of the thrilling 28-25 victory against Georgia Tech, Patterson let loose with his true feelings and said, “Playing offense is way more fun.” Watching him play it isn’t so bad either. He’ll make defenses worry about him all year. He knows how to get open.
3. James Sims, running back: Cutting so sharply can’t be taught. It’s a gift, and he has it. He also has power and runs with hunger.
4. Jordan Webb, quarterback: Hung in there under serious heat and didn’t get nervous feet. Webb’s a confident leader who knows how to fire up teammates. Plus, he throws an accurate ball and will stretch defenses who forget what a strong arm he has. Webb’s performance Saturday killed the quarterback controversy before it gained much momentum.
5. Keeston Terry, safety: Switched from receiver to safety a couple of weeks before the season started, Terry, a fluid athlete who closes quickly, has made an impact already. He and fellow safety Lubbock Smith really know how to make open-field tackles, a great quality for a safety. A true freshman, Terry has the sort of frame that will make packing on the pounds easy. His father, Doug Terry, played defensive back at Kansas (1988-1991) and for the Kansas City Chiefs (1992-1995). His son has the potential to play on Sundays as well, but first he has to get ready to play Southern Mississippi on Friday night.
6. The student section: Loud, proud and classy, the students knew a great game was brewing, had the discipline to delay reveling and stayed put for the second half. Clearly, their energy was felt by the players, many of whom exhorted them to get louder, louder, louder. Connections between performers and audiences — especially given the onslaught of impersonal methods of communication — can be tough to strike, ask any rock band, but this one was real.