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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tait

Opinion: JaCorey Shepherd could be two-way standout

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) takes a interception in for a KU touchdown against TCU on Saturday,  Oct. 12, 2013.

Kansas cornerback JaCorey Shepherd (24) takes a interception in for a KU touchdown against TCU on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013.

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Aqib Talib did it when he played at Kansas University. Charles Gordon did it for the Jayhawks before him. And countless other talented college athletes have taken a stab at it throughout the history of college football.

Playing both ways at the college level is more demanding than in high school, but maybe it’s time to consider giving junior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd a chance to do it as well.

“In the beginning, I did (think about it),” said Shepherd, a wide-receiver-turned-cornerback following Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma. “But right now, I’m just trying to do what I can do (on defense). If coach was to ask me, I’d be more than willing to do it, but I’m not thinking about asking him about it.”

The athletic and slippery 5-foot-11, 190-pound Shepherd is the only man on KU’s roster who has multiple touchdown receptions in the same game on his résumé. And that, a two-TD effort in the 2011 season opener against McNeese State, came in Shepherd’s first college game.

Working him in on both sides of the ball would come with some risk. Through six games of 2013 and barely a full year at his new position, Shepherd has emerged as one of the top defensive players on the Jayhawks’ roster and one of the most productive cover corners in the Big 12. At this point, his value is as a starting cornerback, and it is magnified by KU’s lack of proven depth behind him.

Because of that, Shepherd’s focus remains fixed on improving there. But, given that he still has receiver blood flowing through his veins and admits that it took him awhile to get past the point of missing his old position, the junior from Mesquite, Texas, keeps an eye on what’s happening with KU’s passing offense. Saturday, after watching the Jayhawks throw for just 16 yards on 5-of-13 passing, Shepherd offered up his opinion of what went wrong.

“Like (KU) coach (Charlie) Weis says, I think it’s a little bit of everything,” said Shepherd, emphasizing that he’s far from an expert because most of his attention goes to his job as a defender. “Sometimes it comes down to (quarterback) Jake (Heaps) just getting some time, sometimes it comes down to the throws Jake makes, and sometimes it comes down to the receivers going up and catching the ball. You can’t really just point at one thing.”

Sometimes, though, one thing is all it takes to inject life into a struggling offense. For proof of that, look no farther than the impact junior Tony Pierson has had on the Jayhawks’ passing game this season — 21 receptions, 327 yards — and how dilapidated KU’s aerial attack has been with Pierson sidelined for the last two games: 18 completions, 168 yards.

Here are the staggering numbers at KU’s weakest position: Not counting Pierson or Brandon Bourbon, who both play KU’s hybrid running back/receiver F spot, wide receivers have caught just 24 percent of the KU’s completions (21 of 88) during the season’s first six games.

Saturday, against Oklahoma, junior Justin McCay led KU’s receivers with one reception for 10 yards. A week earlier, in a loss at TCU, junior Andrew Turzilli led the Jayhawks’ receivers with one catch for 50 yards. And in the four games leading up to those, no Kansas wide receiver had hauled in more than two receptions in a game.

Could Shepherd help? Possibly. But if he were to get a look on offense again, the smart move would be to mix him in from time to time, not to take him away from the defense altogether.

“Because I played (wide receiver) most of my life, I’d still have some skills out there,” Shepherd opined. “I’m not saying I’d go out there and be 100 percent. Just like at corner, the more I continue to play, the more I get better. But if I went out there, there wouldn’t be much lost.”

Exactly. What does the KU offense have to lose?

Comments

John Fitzgerald 6 years, 4 months ago

We need a change at QB, that's all there is to it. We can sit here and ho hum over what we think might fix the offense, but we simply need to give someone else a shot. Unfortunately for Heaps this isn't a popularity contest, it's a winning contest. Our line didn't play horrible enough nor do our receivers suck bad enough to warrant that bad of a pass game. Changing the QB looks like the next most logical solution. It's play or shut up at this point.

David A. Smith 6 years, 4 months ago

My dad and I have talked about the bone, and it sure makes a lot of sense.

Chuck Woodling 6 years, 4 months ago

Baylor favored by 35 1/2 Saturday. Remember when Bears were Big 12 punching bag?

Joe Ross 6 years, 4 months ago

...do you remember when you penned articles here and YOU were?

Brandon Mahon 6 years, 4 months ago

Well now that we have burned Cozarts redshirt for one series, and 3 plays, we might as well hand the offense over to him. I would hate to put him up against Baylor, and their defense but I would consider it a little better than throwing him to the wolves. The Baylor defense is good but not as good as OUs or TCUs. Baylors defense gave up 40+ pts to WV. So this may be a good week to start the kid, and tell him go out there and just play. We are not expected to win, so there is no pressure to be perfect just go out do your thing and make some plays.

Chris Bailey 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes. I agree bench Heaps of Crap and give the keys to Cozart. You wasted the red shirt so you better use him! He was in on two series I think but either way he wasn't in there much. And expecting him to do anything great in his first action was asking a lot. Let him start. Heaps is terrible. Another failed Weis experiment. Bring on the backup. Can't do much worse and at least he'd have the ability to run. No running threat at all with Heaps. He has NO pocket presence at all. He just feels pressure and falls down. Him being a former 5 star is laughable. The receivers are terrible but his passes are off target a lot.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 4 months ago

A lot of the points Baylor gave up to WVU were in garbage time when Baylor was playing a lot of second stringers.

Steve Corder 6 years, 4 months ago

Remember when K-State was the Big 8 door mat?

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 4 months ago

Remember when Kansas was the Big XII punching bag? Oh, wait... :(

Doug Cramer 6 years, 4 months ago

Had the same thoughts about moving him into a wide receiver role. Seriously...he's probably the best wideout we got.

The root of the problem however...is the O-line.

Also starting to come around to the fact that Weis's offensive game plan doesn't suit our strengths and talent level.

We should get Ed Warriner back as Offensive Coordinator.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 4 months ago

Ed Warriner is not leaving Ohio St. to come back to Kansas in the same role.

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