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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Keegan

Opinion: Kansas football still needs help at wide receiver

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It appears Charlie Weis, motivated by a miserable first season as Kansas University football coach, is in the late stages of a remarkable recruiting haul on the junior-college front.

Provided all the players who have committed to Kansas honor their words and take care of remaining academic requirements, Weis appears to have upgraded the defensive line, the linebacker depth and secondary. It looks as if he has gone a long way toward filling the giant holes created by three departing multi-year starters on the offensive line as well.

All season, Weis has preached that available playing time would result in luring junior-college players to Lawrence. He was right. Strangely, however, wide receiver, the second-least-productive position (behind quarterback) for the 1-11 Jayhawks still doesn’t look strong on paper.

Weis built his coaching reputation as an NFL offensive coordinator who brought the best out in quarterbacks. Wide receivers want to play with quarterbacks who make them look good.

One lousy season of quarterback play does not a coach’s reputation destroy. Or does it in the minds of recruits easily persuaded by negative recruiters preying on athletes raised in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately culture?

It’s not tough for the negative recruiters to zero in on an alarming statistic to pack in the briefcase they pop open in living rooms during recruiting visits.

That stunning statistic illustrates better than any other the ineptitude of the passing game. As everybody with a passing knowledge of local football must know by now, Kansas wide receivers did not catch a single touchdown pass in 2012.

Quarterback Dayne Crist, a fifth-year transfer from Notre Dame, ranked last in the nation among the 116 quarterbacks who threw enough passes to qualify for passing-rating leaders. He was hyped to the moon and fell far short of the clouds.

Now it’s Jake Heaps’ turn. He won the starting job at Brigham Young early in his freshman season and lost it early in his sophomore season. He’s the object of hype now the same way Crist was a year ago. Negative recruiters could use Crist’s season against Kansas in trying to woo receivers, but anyone who believes that comparison is more shallow than KU’s kicking depth was this season.

Crist had two serious knee injuries, and after Kansas opened its season with a victory against South Dakota State of the Football Championship Subdivision, Weis touched on a concern he had coming into the season.

“It’s actually good that he got hit a couple of times,” Weis said of Crist. “You’ve been injured a whole bunch, and sometimes quarterbacks get a little gun-shy, but that certainly wasn’t the case tonight. I think that was a good first step for him.”

One good step followed by the thundering sound of footsteps. Crist looked gun-shy. It very well could have been the central issue in his disappointing season without Crist even knowing it.

The only injury Heaps had at BYU was a broken rib, and he threw four touchdown passes with it in a 52-24 victory against UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl as a freshman.

Nothing suggests wide receivers should be anything but salivating when picturing running under Heaps’ passes. He threw 24 touchdown passes for BYU, and 23 were to wide receivers: Cody Hoffman (eight), Luke Ashworth (seven), Ross Apo (six), McKay Jacobson (one), J.D. Falslev (one). Tight end Matthew Edwards, grandson of former BYU coach LaVell Edwards, was the only non-wide receiver to catch a Heaps touchdown pass.

Heaps finished his freshman season with a hot hand, throwing 13 touchdown passes and two interceptions in his final five games.

He also performed well at the end of his sophomore season. Riley Nelson, the since-benched QB who beat out Heaps, suffered an injury in the first quarter of a 42-7 victory against Idaho, and Heaps completed 15 of 20 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The following week, Heaps led another 42-7 victory, against New Mexico State. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 238 yards and four touchdowns and threw one interception. He threw just one pass in the remaining two games and decided to transfer to Kansas.

Negative recruiters can’t point to Weis’ Notre Dame teams to try to say his offense doesn’t highlight wide receivers. In Weis’ first season heading the Fighting Irish, wide receivers Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall combined for 26 touchdown catches. They had a combined seven career touchdown receptions heading into that season.

Three wide receivers are among the 23 players to commit to Kansas, but the list of schools pursuing them isn’t as impressive as the schools who tried to land KU recruits who play other positions, most notably defensive linemen.

Comments

jayhawkintx1973 1 year, 4 months ago

It has been confirmed by Rivals, Ty McKinney is committed to KU and was affirmed today by Rivals.com as a commitment today.

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Boouk 1 year, 4 months ago

I think we MUST land at least one more safety capable of starting immediately alongside Isaiah Johnson. I don't want us to be relying on Tevin Shaw, Dexter Linton, or Ray Mitchell starting next season. What really concerns me is that we don't appear to be recruiting any safeties right now.

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budsitz 1 year, 4 months ago

The college game requires both an excellent punter and an outstanding Field Goal Specialist.
The punter gets a struggling offense out of holes. And, a quality Field Goal kicker, someone that is consistent inside 45 yards, wins alot of close games! Currently, I do not see anything in this recruiting class that has helped KU in either of these 2012 critical weaknesses.

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jayhawkintx1973 1 year, 4 months ago

There are two four star WR's uncommitted that have KU on their list, but there is another one from Waco that I like a little better because of his size, and he runs a sub 4.5 40. KU will probably land at least one more WR, I only got through 1/5th of the pages and found 5 with KU on their list.

With that said, we also need to add some depth along the Defensive line and in the Defensive backfield, but the guys coming in are certainly faster and I've watched some video on some of them. They are also more physical and can play press coverage that will give the DE's and the DL another half a second to get pressure on the QB. A 1/2 second doesn't sound like much, but that's a lot of time in a game this fast.

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machinegun 1 year, 4 months ago

When I spoke to Charlie Weis before the season started he never mentioned anything about having a problem with his wide receivers. Keegan is all wet as usual. He thinks he knows more than Charlie Weis. Now, is Heaps going to be the answer at QB? Who knows? But let's give him a chance and hope that he will succeed.

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Jake Waddle 1 year, 4 months ago

McCay/Turzilli = Big Wideouts to go up and make plays, Turzilli both impressed and disappointed me at times. I think he's got a TON of potential tho. He seemed to get open downfield a lot, but at times didn't make the catch jumping over the smaller DBs. If he can do that, he'll be a big time threat. Parmalee will be a good slot guy with speed and Pierson needs to be a slot option also! Sims/Cox in the backfield McCay/Turzilli/Pierson in at WR... I like the skill spots. This doesn't account for any of the new guys making an impact. Hopefully 1 maybe 2 can give us 15-20+ catches.

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KGphoto 1 year, 4 months ago

Interesting piece by David Ubben at ESPN, running down the Big 12's best offensive performers and their high school scout info.

As he states... "There wasn't a true superstar blue-chip recruit in this bunch, but what's even more interesting? Not a single juco recruit in this bunch, either."

What scares me about this, is that most of these guys are coming from the high-powered, spread or option attacks that equal the playing field for lesser talented players, and we don't have an offense like that.

I really hope Jake Heaps is the real deal, because in a pro-style offense, if he isn't playing at a 4 star level or above, it's gonna be tough for any new WRs to make much of a difference.

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Layne Pierce 1 year, 4 months ago

while crist left much to be desired Omigie dropped 3 or 4 passes in his hands at crucial times.

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beebe1 1 year, 4 months ago

Crist telegraphed his receiver --everyone and anyone could/did gang up on him. He also got excited and over threw the receivers; he never looked for an open man. How could anybody expect a better performance from WR's?

Recruiting is surprisingly good, Our biggest need now is Defensive coaches who can teach tackling, coverage, and defensive reponsibility to our players.

Sometimes our commenters baffle me -- what are they seeing? Not even the pro's have good Defense. GB exhibition 2012 -- San Diego wideout caught a pass to the right, behind the scrimmage line. He took two little steps to the left (not ahead), and the GB corner back rushed past him, not even touching him, and fell flat on his face, behind him. The wide receiver had a clear field to the 6 yd line. We're talking about a pro? He made all three of the mistakes a so-called tackler can make. Hell, they taught tackling in high school.

In LSU vs Old Miss -- they both had Saban trained coaches. Did you see the defensive backs lined up on the goal line, 6 yds apart? The LSU receiver caught a pass crossing the goal line, 3 yds separating him from the nearest Defenders. The Defenders hadn't even moved. What were they defending, it certainly wasn't the goal line? They were all out of position and doing NO covering.

Our coaches are nice guys --but we need coaches that can teach Defense.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 4 months ago

In my opinion, the biggest disappointment this season was Daymond Patterson and DJ Beshears. Those two showed such potential, and I had high hopes for them. But in the end, they were truly worthless.

I suppose you can blame that on quarterback play, or lack thereof. But I had seen flashes of brilliance in them earlier in their careers. They went out on a low note.

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W Keith Swinehart II 1 year, 4 months ago

From what I've seen our coaching staff seems to be bringing in the right talent. Last game roster (2012) shows 11 WR coming back in addition to three we have coming in. True, we didn't have performance from WR in 2012. I don't think it was strictly from the lack of capable bodies. I'm comfortable that our coaches know what we need and are addressing same.

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Ron Prichard 1 year, 4 months ago

Don't forget about Parmalee. He showed a few flashes and I think he will continue to improve and hopefully see the field a little more.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 4 months ago

Isn't the title of this article stating the obvious....just a little?

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phog1004 1 year, 4 months ago

In all honesty, I don't think we are giving enough credit to the incoming guys. Rod was a Cincy commit out of high school, and stayed committed to them throughout his first year at Garden City......so he was more or less off the board and teams just flat out didn't recruit him because of that. Not only that, but he redshirted his first year, and there was questions as to whether he would even come out this year, or reclassify to 2014. Kid was a first team all Jayhawk league receiver though, and should be an immediate upgrade.

Mark Thomas, while not highly touted, is still ranked as a top 15 WR in the JUCO ranks, and the scouting on him lists his strengths as having great hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic, which is something we haven't had in a long time.

Hyman is a blazer, and could turn out to be similar to how Shepherd performed his first year at WR.

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Jeff Suther 1 year, 4 months ago

We need more talent at WR but I don't think it will be as big of an issue as many would think. Most if the problem was the QB play. How many times this season was a WR open right up the middle on a post for a TD and crist over threw him by 10 yards? I also would like to see Pierson in the slot. Even get bourbon involved in the passing game more. We have the athletes for the receiving game!

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jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

Personally, I'd like to see Pierson used more in the slot. That would get him more one on one opportunities, where he really shines.

I appreciated the stats on Heaps. That just reassures me that my eyes were not lying to me at the spring game.

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Aaron Carpenter 1 year, 4 months ago

Keeg- While I agree that Potter lake is beautiful, especially in the fall, nothing tops when we soiled it with goalposts after defeating Oklahoma. Oh what a day. I really miss the donuts at Joe's, those were great. I'm sorry I must have gotten off track, weren't we supposed to be talking about wide receivers? Look Russ, no lines.....whew, what happened there?

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Randy Maxwell 1 year, 4 months ago

Adding McCay, Rod Coleman, Tim Thomas and the emergace of Josh Ford is as big an upgrade at WR as any other position. Keegs way off today

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Boouk 1 year, 4 months ago

I think we'll be fine at WR next season with just McCay, Ford, Mark Thomas (who runs a 4.4 40) and Rodriguez Coleman. I can see McCay being a bit of a disappointment, but Ford will finally have the playbook down and Thomas and Coleman will be better than people think.

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Matt Kenton 1 year, 4 months ago

Could it be that we are targeting high school players for WR?

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Jim Stauffer 1 year, 4 months ago

I have to agree with the other comments. This article ends abruptly and without the satisfaction of exploring the actual possibilities of already committed and signed guys.

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Mark Lindrud 1 year, 4 months ago

You would have thought the article was about our qb situation. Keegan, could you go into detail about our current receivers, and the current recruits? Just when I thought he was going to have a good article, he strikes again.

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JayDocMD 1 year, 4 months ago

Is there a page 2? Where's the rest of the story? Surely you break down the returning receivers (including at least a mention of McCay.) I'm not saying you're wrong bout the need for help at WR, but finish the article. Running low on space/words? Cut 75% of that paragraph talking about Heaps' stats at BYU. This article is, after all, about the need for WR's, no?Mention the incoming WR recruits by name and talk about how Heaps has been one of KU's best recruiters.

Or not.

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, the scout team starring Heaps + McKay, has allowed those pivotal 2 players to develop quite a lot of chemistry--especially since they were busy mimicking the other Big12 spread offenses. Even if McKay ends up being a possession-type receiver, we could desperately use a "possession/move the chains" type of receiver. Someone will have deep speed. Then you add Pierson, Mundine, Sims as targets, and Heaps will have some well-rehearsed targets to throw to, unlike Crist, who had starters injured and was working with the totally inept KU 2nd string WRs. So was Cummings, so he fared no better. Look, for the passing game, 2012 was rock chalk bottom. Passing game simply cannot remain broken under Weis, as that is his calling card. As painful as this season was in the passing game, Im not worried.

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David Leathers 1 year, 4 months ago

Other than a week closing sentence, this was a great read. I completely agree that we would all like to see some more talent at WR come and play next season. Hopefully we get 1 or 2 more receivers in this class. Hopefully some of the ones who have committed end up panning out nicely. But I think McKay, Ford, Turzilli, and Parmalee aren't going to go down too easily. With the exception of McKay (transfer rules), those guys didn't see the field too much because of their lack of playbook knowledge. I'm not going to predict a ridiculous amount of wins next year, but I have no doubts that our offense won't be so one-sided anymore.

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