Who are the top 10 returning players for the KU football team?


Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, shopping for a new football coach, can lure candidates with a big salary (Mark Mangino’s annual pay reached $2.3 million), a swanky new football complex, a big-time conference and for the family-man coach, a very livable city with strong public schools.

What Perkins can’t honestly promise a candidate is that he will be coaching an abundance of talent in his first season. Quite the contrary.

The departures of Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Darrell Stuckey leave Kansas with a shortage of playmakers, though witnesses say receiver Chris Omigie, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound freshman from Arlington, Texas, left quite an impression during practices while red-shirting.

There isn’t a proven linebacker or defensive tackle on the roster. The secondary has a few solid players, but no sure thing.

The new coach will inherit a better roster than Mangino did, but not one that, on paper at least, seems equipped to win many Big 12 games.

A look at the 10 best players on the 2010 roster who have played in games for at least one season at Kansas:

1. Toben Opurum: He doesn’t have the speed to turn the corner, but can really carry a pile. Former running back Brandon McAnderson is convinced Opurum will get better at cutting once he learns to angle his shoulder pads instead of running with such square pads. Opurum, who averaged 4.2 yards per carry and rushed for nine touchdowns, also showed terrific hands in making 13 catches for an average gain of 8.1 yards.

2. Bradley McDougald: It will be interesting to see whether the new coaching staff plays him on offense, defense or both. On paper, he’s the team’s best returning wide receiver and safety and figures in the mix at kick returner as well. He has the sort of body movement that screams “big-time athlete.”

3. Jake Laptad: Not blessed with agility that would give him good maneuverability, but Laptad is fast running straight ahead and he’s strong. Laptad, who gets a little bigger and a little better every year, was credited with six-and-a-half sacks and six quarterback hurries as a junior.

4. Daymond Patterson: Two games into his true freshman season, Patterson had been thrown to 11 times and had 11 receptions, two for touchdowns. On third down, he had four catches for 100 yards. Then he fumbled the ball a couple of times, took up residence in the receiver doghouse and was switched to cornerback, where he finished his freshman season and started his sophomore year. He played well there for a few weeks this past season, then started getting burned routinely, perhaps because he wasn’t 100-percent healthy. Whatever the reason, he’s back at receiver and primed for a break-out season.

5. Chris Harris: He has played corner back, where speed concerns limit him, safety, where he’s undersized and nickel back, which just might be his best position. He knows how to play the game and is a hard hitter.

6. Tanner Hawkinson: Undersized for a left tackle, he compensated with quick feet and for the most part, in his first season as an offensive lineman, did a solid job of protecting Todd Reesing’s blind side.

7. Johnathan Wilson: After a promising sophomore season, didn’t reach the end zone once in 2009 and the 66 receiving yards he gained in the second week of the season at UTEP stood up as a season high. As a sophomore, had 10 receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns at South Florida and had eight catches for 93 yards against Texas.

8. John Williams: Made the midseason switch from the offensive line to defensive tackle and showed flashes. He was able to get more surge than any other D-tackle on the team, which isn’t saying a great deal.

9. Lubbock Smith: Showed aggressiveness after becoming a midseason starter at safety as a redshirt freshman.

10. Ryan Murphy: A part-time player, he led team with — brace yourself — two interceptions. He also showed an ability to blitz well. Got badly turned around by Texas Tech receiver Detron Lewis and surrendered a 61-yard touchdown. That one play caused a demotion to special teams-only duty for the final four games. Look for his confidence to be restored quickly during spring football.


Swamphawk 10 years ago

Not being able to watch many games at the end of the season, does Huldon Tharp still warrant a mention? He looked good but young early on, did he just disappear?

sevenyearhawk 10 years ago

Good info and assessment ...

Thanks for compiling and writing, Mr. Keegan!

Layne Pierce 10 years ago

One big assignment for the new coach is to reevaluate all the players. I truly believe that our talent was underutilized by Mangino and his staff. Player evaluation was a strange phenomena. Why in the world do you have to change the offense and the defense in the middle of the year?

On defense, speed has to become our watchword, and agility. Big slow guys are only good close to the goal line.

I also think that Huldon Tharp is one of our ten best players, also I think Hatch is a key at center.

Clarence Haynes 10 years ago

Not to mention the good crop of red shirt freshmen that will be available. Just wish that we could find some good lock down corners (preferebly 6 ft or better)!

hoopsdr 10 years ago

Would have preferred the O line to be referenced as a group instead of just Hawkinson. All of them will be returning next season to pave the way for Toben. And I agree with nebhawk about Hatch... He looked strong all year and when Spikes was moved to right guard against Nebraska he played really well against Suh... who almost won the big 12 title all by himself.

nckujayhawk 10 years ago

I agree cshjawk. Why do we continue to recruit CBs that are 5'9" to 5'11", when the receivers they are up against are over 6'

grandpa 10 years ago

I agree that the offensive line should be listed as a group as they have all definitely improved. Hatch is a very solid center and he held his ground with some good blocking> Patterson is a good player if he is used properly. Wilson was not used by Warriner and Reesing as he should have been . Reesing chose to throw to Meier and Sharp many times when Wilson was open. Wilson has at least a 40"verticle leap and was never thrown to in the end zone. Briscoe's 40 was 4.54 and Wilson's is under 4.5 McDougal is also going to come forth. His 40 is somewhere around 4.5. We need to develope a good defense secondary with players at least 6 ft.

tdub 10 years ago

With the change in the Big 12 schedule, if we can avoid transfers we may be a decent bowl team next year. Maybe 7-8 wins.

milehighhawk 10 years ago

I expected Tharp to be somewhere on the list.

andy63 10 years ago

Huldon Tharp should be on this list. After Stuckey, he was pry the most consistent defensive player on last years team which explains why the defense was so bad last year. Some of that has to do with the guy running the defense, but it also has to do with the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Also, Rell Lewis is going to be a big player for the KU offense next year and should be recognized.

jayhawkjoe98 10 years ago

It's time for Jeremiah Hatch and Jeff Spikes to have a break out season. They've had two full years of starting and should be able to make the impact that they are capable of making.

nejayhawk 10 years ago

Hand down the most under utilized and better talents on the team even this season was Tim Biere. His long catch in the Border War confirmed this to me, what an amazing catch for a TE. The kid can block and should of been used much like Fine was in 2007.

Tharp should be on that list as well and I personally think Lubbock Smith should be higher than he is.

Rell deserves some mention as well, the kid has definitely been dealt the short end of the stick thus far and needs to get more of a chance next year.

Bill Kackley 10 years ago

I think this article does an injustice to the talent available. Fact is, the coaching staff was lulled into thinking they could red-shirt a lot of players due to the early season success and by the time everything fell apart it was too late to take the red shirts off. The cupboard is anything but bare. Last years recruiting class was highly rated and several of them never saw the playing field. I think our offense will be very solid and the defense could be adequate. Special teams is what we really to beef up and that might happen with the addition opf players like Sands, etc.

KUFan90 10 years ago

No mention of Kale Pick?

O Line was looking good and returns. Lots of options at receiver with Omigie, Wilson, Patterson, McDougald. Same at RB with Opurum and Rell Lewis. If Pick can play, not a bad offense that could gel as the year goes on.

Defense will be a challenge. D line with Laptad and Williams as anchors to start. Linebacker and D backfield are huge question marks. We could get lit up frequently.

So promising offense and holes on defense, but things could be worse.

GridironHawk 10 years ago

I agree with kackley.... Next year's team is anything but an empty cupboard. They will still be pretty loaded with talent and possibly a better overall share of talent which is very important. Yea, no one will be able to match Briscoe's talent but that also means teams and a QB (Reesing seemed to always look Briscoe & Meier's direction only and forced way too many) won't be able to key on one player. Depending on the coach and/or OC I see this offense possible putting up better numbers than last. You will have a good experienced O-line which can make a world of difference especially when breaking in a new QB. The receiving core will be overall more talented but will miss Briscoe's big play ability (but not his drops) and the consistent third down ability of Meier (though Biere at TE could fill that void). Our running situation will be much improved over the '09 team as Toben, who is far more talented than an injured Sharp, gets another year under his belt. Also, Lewis will give us any speed we need. Last but not least our QB has more size and god given talent than Reesing. However, we don't know his intangibles as of yet. Let's hope some of Todd's magic rubbed off.

mdfraz 10 years ago

I'm guessing Wilson didn't get as many throws for a number of reasons, but two are that Meier and Bryant were two of the best receivers in the conference, and Wilson dropped a TON of balls this year. He wasn't the only one, but it seemed like he dropped almost half the passes thrown his way. If he can't be a reliable option, he won't have much of an impact. It's disappointing because in the 2008 season I was very impressed with what I saw from him.

hawk316 10 years ago

Huldon Tharp seemed to play awfully well for an undersized freshman linebacker who hadn't played football since his junior year in high school (due to an injury). As he gets bigger and stronger, he could very possibly evolve into a force on defense for the next several years.

mdfraz 10 years ago

And in my comment above of course I mean Briscoe, not Bryant.

grandpa 10 years ago

mdfraz. I watched every game and kept a record of every pass Wilson dropped. He did not drop a TON of balls. On the contrary, he dropped very few passes. Of the limited number of passes thrown to him, a high percentage were uncatchable, thrown poorly and thrown into the dirt. His yardage per catch was just behind Briscoe. By the way, who is Bryant? You will see a lot of Wilson in 2010.

Eric Williams 10 years ago

Anyone else notice the consistency with our defenders playing time while under Mangino.

If you made one mistake, you were off the field. No wonder our defense couldn't find rhythm.

Mike Johns 10 years ago

a couple of you beat me to the punch - but i think Rell Lewis is going to be a factor.
He looked explosive and had moves.

rock chalk

mdfraz 10 years ago

grandpa, if you note my post at 1:20, I corrected my mistake. Had just been skimming about the Okie St. bowl game prior to my first post.

And "uncatchable", by whose definition? I won't deny that not every pass was right in his hands, as Todd clearly struggled through a number of games. However, I can think of two in the MU game alone that were thrown to Wilson that I would have said were catchable, and he didn't make the grab. They weren't perfect, but they wouldn't have been highlight reel catches or anything. I'd love to see your numbers on the drops for him, and actually I'd love to rewatch the games to see how many passes he did drop.

Buckets 10 years ago

Kufan90 said it best. pretty much sums it up man.

Eurekahwk 10 years ago

We are going to have to scrap the spread offense and get back to the basics. Running the football, wearing down defenses with Toben's power and Rell Lewis' speed. And then I'm sure Wilson, McDougald, Biere, and another WR will be fine so long as we have a good pocket passer. That was Reesing's ultimate failure in his final season. Teams closed him in the pocket.

mdfraz 10 years ago

There's nothing wrong with the spread itself, but I could see us getting back to a spread option attack next year, a la 2007, especially if Pick is the guy. We got away from that the last two years, and with Toben and Rell/DeShaun/whoever, we would have a nice one-two punch like with BMac and Sharp. 50/50 run/pass if possible. That takes a lot of pressure off any QB, especially a new starter, like we will have.

Andy Tweedy 10 years ago

nejayhawk nailed it. Tim Biere! I can only assume he was kept in to block, which limited his receptions, but he has good hands and is a big target!!! As for the defense, I saw improvement, but there has to be some depth...the D seemed to really get worn down in the second half. I sure hope some of the young d ends and safeties they've recruited can step up next year.

grandpa 10 years ago

mdfraz. Yes, I would love for you to rewatch the games. It is interesting that everyone notices dropped balls and makes a big deal out of it.Even the pros drop balls.Wilson had a great 47 yard catch against Texas and last year he had 8 catches against Texas. Reesing threw terrible passes all year and no one said much about it. When he did throw a strike everyone thought he was wonderful. I was at the Texas Tech game and watched his passes thrown into the dirt while the opposing quarterback, Potts was picking us apart.

Pbbut 10 years ago

Outside of Williams and Hawkinson, everyone on Keegan's list plays on the edge. If we only have one lineman from each side of the ball on this list, we're in trouble.
I think the offensive line will be the strength of this club the next couple of years at least, allowing some of these "skill" players to show their stuff.

Mike Barnhart 10 years ago

In the past three years some pretty good athletes have been added to the roster.

Coach them up!!!!!!

jmsuther 10 years ago

Rell Lewis will we the best player on our team next year.

jayhawkintx73 10 years ago

cshjhawk, does have a 4-star DB that is from INdependence Community College. He's 6'2".

Dirk Medema 10 years ago

grandpa & mdfraz - Stop arguing. You're both right. Todd had plenty of poorly thrown balls this year, and it is irrelevant how many Wilson dropped. The point is that he dropped enough for Todd to lose confidence in him, so he didn't have more opps because Todd stopped looking for him. It definitely seemed to be a confidence issue on both ends of the pass.

The good news is he has shown he has the talent to do a lot more in his Sr year.

Dirk Medema 10 years ago

CB's > 6' are few and far between. Most DB's that size are S's. That's why Talib was so rare.

Dirk Medema 10 years ago

Glad to see others have confidence in Rell. I was ripped in the middle of the season when I said it was bad for him to not have seen the field. When given the chance (Spring game, mizzoo), he has shown that he is very capable of making plays.

That is the thing that I look forward to most with the new coach. Mangino was great for moving players to positions that fit their strengths (Tanner, etc), tho I think he over tinkered at time mid-season as mentioned above, but he also seemed to have a dog house big enough to include about half the team.

Unleash the dogs.

Dirk Medema 10 years ago

What Perkins can’t honestly promise a candidate is that he will be coaching an abundance of talent in his first season. Quite the contrary. The departures of Todd Reesing, Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier and Darrell Stuckey leave Kansas with a shortage of playmakers, ...

IMO, the comments show just how inaccurate this statement is, tho it does simplify the storyline to match the existing format from the games (10 players chosen). We will spend the next 8 months hearing about those departures, and they are great losses. There is plenty of returning talent available to the next coach who is able to motivate them properly.

HINULB45DAD 10 years ago

I agree with the Rell Lewis assessment. He was hardly utilized and has some real potential. Thinking about the top 10, 2010 is going to be a long tough year.

John Randall 9 years, 12 months ago

"""Not being able to watch many games at the end of the season, does Huldon Tharp still warrant a mention? He looked good but young early on, did he just disappear?"""

Swamphawk -- Tharp is one of those players who gives more than he has.

Undersized, he plays bigger. Inexperienced, he plays smarter. Not real fast, he plays quicker. Not really mean, he plays tougher than nails.

Coaches will always try to replace this kind of player with someone bigger, faster, meaner -- and find out they shouldn't have.

Huldon Tharp is the kind of guy the game of football was made for.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.