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.