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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Tait

Matt Tait: Big 12 honors elude Kansas football; here are top Jayhawk candidates

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) watches the video board while the Jayhawks offense takes over on the field during the third quarter against South Dakota State on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) watches the video board while the Jayhawks offense takes over on the field during the third quarter against South Dakota State on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

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Wednesday, the Big 12 Conference released this year’s preseason all-conference football selections as voted by the media.

As you might have guessed, no Kansas University players were mentioned.

Because it’s just the preseason, the list was limited to a first-team offense, a first-team defense, place kicker, punter and return man.

Just one member of this year’s squad — Oklahoma running back Semaje Perine — also was voted to last year’s All-Big 12 preseason list. And only 15 of the 31 total selections (ties added extra spots) earned spots on last year’s postseason first or second teams.

Those facts prove that a lot of good players left the conference after the 2015 season, and their departure created the potential for a Jayhawk to crack the list.

But it did not happen. It should not have happened. And nobody, anywhere, was even a little surprised.

Imagine for a second, though, if the Big 12 operated like Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. I’m not talking about the glitz and glamour and celebration. I’m talking about MLB’s decades-old tradition of including every team in its mid-summer classic, regardless of how lousy or devoid of talent a team is.

Until the recent resurgence of the Royals, the only All-Star-related noise out of Kansas City came in the form of debates in the weeks leading up to the game about which average player deserved to be included. Today, things are different. Eric Hosmer is the All-Star Game MVP, and Kansas City’s boys of summer have been all over recent All-Star rosters.

So what if the Big 12 made a rule that every program had to be represented on the All-Big 12 teams? Which 2016 player would represent KU, and why?

Here’s a quick guess, ranked from most likely to least.

  1. Joe Dineen, Jr., linebacker — Dineen already has cemented himself as one of the best tacklers in the Big 12, and he had a breakout season in 2015, finishing 10th in the conference with 86 tackles. Six of the nine players ahead of Dineen in the top 10 also play linebacker, but only one (OU’s Jordan Evans) claimed one of the three linebacker spots on this year’s preseason squad. That leaves two spots for Dineen, who should have an even better year this year than he did last year, to slide into.

  2. Fish Smithson, Sr., safety — Last year’s Big 12 leader in tackles per game (10.1) and the nation’s leader in solo tackles per game (7.9), Smithson also would be an obvious guess. Here’s the problem: While Smithson no doubt has improved his own game, so has the defense around him. The former juco transfer made a lot of tackles a season ago simply because no one else in front of him did. With the KU defensive-line and linebacking corps seemingly improved, those opportunities might not be quite as available for Smithson this season. It’s possible he could be a better player in 2016 but have worse stats.

  3. LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Jr., wide receiver — The receiver slot on these teams is a tough one to crack. Year after year, the Big 12 has employed some of the best offenses and pass-catchers in the country. Given KU’s recent struggles at O-line, QB and even wide receiver, finding a wideout that even deserved to be in the conversation for a first-team nod has been tough. But if what we’ve heard about Gonzalez is true, and they really do find a way to get him the ball all over the field and in a variety of ways, he might have a shot.

  4. Ben Johnson, Jr., tight end — Johnson’s a solid player and well could be on his way to making a name for himself both within the KU offense and in the Big 12. But, at least for now, he only deserves to be mentioned on this list because of the Big 12’s limited tight-end presence. Oklahoma sophomore Mark Andrews, now in his third season with the Sooners, got the nod as this year’s preseason pick, and he’s coming off of a 19-catch, 318-yard season. It’s easy to see a scenario in which Johnson matches or surpasses those numbers, but it’s harder to envision him topping Andrews’ 2015 total of seven touchdowns.

All-Big 12 Preseason Team

Offense

QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma 6-1, 212, Jr.

RB Mike Warren, Iowa State 6-0, 205, Soph.

RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma 5-11, 237, Jr.

FB Winston Dimel, Kansas State 6-1, 235, Soph.

WR KD Cannon, Baylor 6-0, 180, Jr.

WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State 6-5, 223, Jr.

WR James Washington, Oklahoma State 6-0, 205, Jr.

TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma, 6-5, 244, Soph.

OL Kyle Fuller, Baylor 6-5, 310, Sr.

OL Orlando Brown, Oklahoma 6-8, 357, Soph.

OL Patrick Vahe, Texas 6-3, 326, Soph.

OL Connor Williams, Texas 6-6, 288, Soph.

OL Tyler Orlosky, West Virginia 6-4, 295, Sr.

PK Clayton Hatfield, Texas Tech 5-10, 170, Soph.

KR KaVontae Turpin, TCU 5-9, 153, Soph.

Defense

DL Will Geary, Kansas State 6-0, 297, Jr.

DL Jordan Willis, Kansas State 6-5, 250, Sr.

DL Charles Walker, Oklahoma 6-2, 299, Jr.

DL Vincent Taylor, Oklahoma State 6-3, 310, Jr.

DL Josh Carraway, TCU 6-4, 250, Sr.

DL James McFarland, TCU 6-3, 250, Sr.

DL Noble Nwachukwu, West Virginia 6-2, 275, Sr.

LB Elijah Lee, Kansas State 6-3, 218, Jr.

LB Jordan Evans, Oklahoma 6-2, 233, Sr.

LB Malik Jefferson, Texas 6-3, 238, Soph.

DB Dante Barnett, Kansas State 6-1, 193, Sr.

DB Steven Parker, Oklahoma 6-1, 208, Jr.

DB Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma 6-0, 187, Jr.

DB Jordan Sterns, Oklahoma State 6-0, 200, Sr.

DB Davante Davis, Texas 6-2, 199, Soph.

P Austin Seibert, Oklahoma 5-10, 214, Soph.

Comments

Brett McCabe 5 years, 3 months ago

Kind of an interesting list. I'm surprised that TCU and Baylor are so lightly represented. Also surprised by the purple pussycat presence on defense.

The good news for us would be if Matt's list became real on the actual two-deep at the end of the season. Plus Willis as an HM, and maybe the kid from Arkansas. Then we might have something to talk about as we wait for signing day.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 5 years, 3 months ago

I have a notion about this. Kansas is a basketball school. You see articles in this newsrag in April about all the wonderous, great basketball "one-year-wonder" prospects who want to bounce a ball around for a few games and then jump to the NBA.

The University celebrates this situation every year with a huge orgy in the field house for the basketball team before any ball is ever thrown in play.

I do not see this level of support for the football team. Last year's team lost every game.

Do you not think that this terrible situation might just have some effect on the young men who come here (probably regretfully) to play football?? I do.

Michael Maris 5 years, 3 months ago

I can understand your message. I think what really needs to be done, is that the Jayhawk Football Alumni Base needs to be even more active and supportive of the Jayhawks program (than they currently are).

Fred, you speak of the the Midnight Madness ''huge orgy'' as if it's a negative thing. ESPN created Midnight Madness festivities, based on teams beginning their 1st regular season practice @ 12:00am.

ESPN seen an opportunity to create more excitement and live TV opportunities and created this festive atmosphere (that you speak of).

And, ESPN does the same for College Football. It's just that Kansas Jayhawk football history has been more of a disappointment (than a pleasure).

So, ESPN's going to cater to the schools that generate the $$$$$$$$$$$$$'s (just as they do for NCAA Basketball programs).

Jay Scott 5 years, 3 months ago

Eyeore/Fred...I have a feeling that when these young men arrive at Kansas that they already know several things:

1) Kansas football is not very good.

2) Kansas football isn't the toughest ticket in America.

3) Kansas basketball is very good.

4) Kansas basketball is among the toughest ticket in America.

Seeing this first hand is unlikely to cause college football players to be diagnosed with depression. Just as Alabama, LSU, Clemson and FSU basketball players won't be.

Reality isn't nearly as elusive for others as you might find it to be.

Would you suggest that KU sports administration try to artificially limit the enthusiasm for basketball? Should Kansas try to be less successful at basketball, in order to encourage these fragile football players you believe exist?

Dirk Medema 5 years, 3 months ago

They get the opportunity to continue playing a game they love.

They get an opportunity to work towards a successful life, whether coming from very little or lots. Football is someone providing them an opportunity to make something of their lives. Others choose to go to a lesser level to be successful. That's their choice. The ones coming here choose a greater challenge, with a greater potential return on the investment.

Any of the athletes worth having on the team isn't whining about not winning enough (that's for spoiled fans). They are fighting to earn a spot on the team. They also get to see pix and meet with players from unsuccessful teams that have made it on the biggest stage. According to the coaches, they also attend those orgies at the fieldhouse, and realize that if they win the fans will come out to see them as well. For any athlete worth having on the team, this is motivation not discouragement.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 3 months ago

I don't know why you insist on posting comments about a program you clearly have no concern about. If I were you Fred, I'd be more worried about whether football will still be around in another decade or two.

Michael Maris 5 years, 3 months ago

I feel that this article is really what Coach Beaty mantra is all about. #EARNIT!

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