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The Ultimate Fantasy Draft, 2009 KU football style

If you could pick one former Jayhawk football player, in his prime, to join the 2009 KU football team to give it the best shot to win the Big 12 North, who would you pick?

Obviously, you could look at this a lot of different ways. Would you take the best player? Would you look at the biggest position of need? Would you take a player based on his versatility?

After doing some research and getting other opinions, here is my top ten ranking of players I'd select for the 2009 Jayhawks:

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10. Ray Evans, cornerback (1947) Played in a different era, but the first-team AP All-America is the only player ever to lead the nation in passing yards (1,117) and interceptions (10) in the same season. With Todd Reesing on the roster, KU coach Mark Mangino is happy to let Evans test his intercepting skills as a full-time cornerback in the pass-happy Big 12. Gil Reich (1952), a one-year player and first-team All-American at defensive back, also deserves mention as a player that would thrive in the Jayhawks secondary.

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9. Anthony Collins, offensive tackle (2007) Last season, KU struggled offensively against teams with dominant players up front. With Collins in and a second more protection for the quarterback, how many more yards could Reesing throw for?

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8. John Riggins, running back (1970) The Jayhawks might not throw as much if they had the luxury of having "The Diesel" in the backfield along with Jake Sharp. Known as one of the hardest runners in KU history, Riggins rushed for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1970. He later was chosen as a first-ballot NFL Hall-of-Famer.

7. Charlton Keith, defensive lineman (2005) Keith was dominant during his final year of school, picking up nine sacks during the 2005 season. He ended his career memorably in the Fort Worth Bowl with an interception and return for touchdown. He also had 23 tackles-for-loss in 2005, which set a new school record. With Jake Laptad on one end and Keith on the other, the 2009 Jayhawks would have a front line to be feared.

6. Charles Gordon, defensive back/returner (2005) Char-les Gor-don (clap, clap, clap clap clap) would have the ability to shore up two positions: secondary and punt returner. Gordon was a third-team AP All-American at cornerback in 2004, and he also has the two best punt return seasons in KU history (398 in 2005; 341 in 2003). Gordon's 999 career punt return yards are 393 more than the next-best Jayhawk (Donnie Shanklin).

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5. Mike McCormack, offensive tackle (1950) This honorable mention All-American was a captain for KU and showed how dominant he could be once he turned pro. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and won two championships with the Cleveland Browns before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984. Cleveland head coach Paul Brown called McCormack "the finest offensive lineman I've ever coached." Yeah, I'd say he'd fit well protecting Reesing's blind side.

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4. Willie Pless, linebacker (1984) Need a sure tackler at the linebacker position? If so, you can't get any better than Pless. The three-time All-Big Eight selection not only has KU's single-season record for tackles (206 in 1984), he also has the second- and third-best single-season marks as well (191 in 1985; 188 in 1983). A 1985 AP second-team All-American, Pless went on to become the Canadian Football League's career tackles leader and was inducted in the league's hall of fame in 2005. The 2009 Jayhawks also clearly would have a spot for a reliable, every-down linebacker.

3. Aqib Talib, defensive back/receiver/punt returner (2007) Another player who could help the Jayhawks in a variety of ways. Of course, his biggest contribution would be in the secondary, where the 2009 team definitely could use his services. Talib was a first-team All-American at cornerback in 2007, and the '08 secondary struggled without him there. Add in his playmaking ability as a receiver and potentially as a punt returner, and Talib becomes one of the top players on this list.

2. Gale Sayers, running back/kick returner (1964) If we are drafting based simply on "best player available," there's little doubt that Sayers is the pick. "The Kansas Comet," simply, was one of the greatest running backs in the history of football. He was a two-time, first-team All-American selection at KU and led the Jayhawks in rushing, touchdowns and kick returns in all of his three years in the lineup. He ended his career with 2,675 rushing yards and 3,917 all-purpose yards before going to the NFL, where he led the league in rushing in 1966 and 1969. After a knee injury shortened his career, he was the youngest person ever elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977 at age 34. Would running back be the biggest need for the 2009 Jayhawks, though? KU could certainly use the help at kick returner, as the 2008 team was 118th out of 119 teams in kickoff returns (17.54 yards per return).

1. Dana Stubblefield, defensive lineman (1991) Stubblefield takes my No. 1 spot based on both talent and team need. The second-team AP All-American was a force for one of the best defensive lines in KU history. He recorded 10 sacks in 1991 then followed that up as a team captain in 1992, helping the Jayhawks to an 8-4 season and Aloha Bowl victory over BYU. In the bowl game, Stubblefield had three sacks, three hurries, one tackle-for-loss and was named the Aloha Bowl Most Valuable Player. Stubblefield was a first-round NFL draft pick and was later selected as the Defensive Newcomer of the Year during his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers. With one more dominant pass rusher, KU's linebackers and defensive backs immediately would be improved as well, as they wouldn't have to cover Big 12 receivers for nearly as long. The team need at defensive line and the talent of Stubblefield puts him on the top of my former Jayhawk wishlist for this year's team.

Other staffers' picks
Tom Keegan: Gale Sayers
Dugan Arnett: Aqib Talib
D.J. Whetter: Charles Gordon (or Chip Budde, so he could get more than 1 1/2 wins in a season)
Chuck Woodling: Gale Sayers
Andrew Baker: Aqib Talib
Kevin Romary: Dana Stubblefield
Bill Mayer: Mike McCormack
Eric Sorrentino: Aqib Talib
Matt Tait: Nick Reid, linebacker (2005)

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Comments

LawHawk2011 5 years, 2 months ago

Jesse always brings us great stuff! Fact filled and fun to read. LJW PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE let Jesse do ALL (or as much as he wants) of the football writing. Doogie isn't really working out. I appreciated your equal opportunity hire of a Methsourian but Jesse has talent! Shoot, if Newell did more writing for this rag, I might actually subscribe!

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rolo2383 5 years, 2 months ago

Stubblefield would also be my number 1 choice. His presence alone would create a lot more pressure on apposing QB's.

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jmsuther 5 years, 2 months ago

Gale Sayers obviously... if we had a dominate running game.. how could our offense be stopped?

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Tribehawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Great concept. Great list. I agree on Stubblefield.

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Jaminrawk 5 years, 2 months ago

I say Gordon. I love Talib, but I think Gordon was a better corner. Plus, as stated, we need a kick returner. Gordon was a corner, receiver, punt returner and kick returner. How could anyone not want that?

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justanotherfan 5 years, 2 months ago

Has to be Sayers. He could play RB and return punts and kickoffs. How dangerous would he make this team? Seriously?

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LawHawk2011 5 years, 2 months ago

bjbabyjay = Doogie? ;-)

Stub is the pick, he instantly provides pass rush which is something we desperately need!

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vmwskywalk 5 years, 2 months ago

I have to agree with justanotherfan. You put Sayers in there and the question becomes...Do we score every posession?

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kusayzone 5 years, 2 months ago

LawHawk2011 Pretty mushy stuff...yep odds are and my two cents is that it must be his mom!!!

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Jesse Newell 5 years, 2 months ago

Family talk aside ... If Sayers magically joined this year's team as some of you suggested, would you move Sharp to the secondary? How about moving Sayers himself? With a free player, it seems like you would need to still address the defense somehow. This offense could average around 35-40 points per game next year without the help of anyone else.

Oh, and my unofficial count from the comments has: Sayers 3, Stubb 3, Gordon 1.

I went ahead and added a poll on this topic for those who are interested:

http://www2.kusports.com/polls/2009/may/if-you-could-pick-one-former-jayhawk-football-play/

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bayareajhawk 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree with LawHawk2011. Newell's columns are always good and Doogie's are, well, not. Keep up the good work, Jesse.

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jayhawktownie 5 years, 2 months ago

you definitely have to take talib over gordon. he was a bigger, faster, more dominant corner. when he played receiver he was our best home run threat and he never got too much of a shot at returning because mangino wanted to rest him at some point. gordon maybe stood out more because the rest of our team was mediocre while talib had much more around him.

anyways, my pick is either talib or stubblefield because either one would significantly improve our defense right away. i'm not sure sayers improves our offense as dramatically. we are going to score a ton of points anyways. if anything i would take offensive line help first.

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Greg Ledom 5 years, 2 months ago

To suggest anyone but the Kansas Comet as the top Kansas player out of this list is absurd.

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minnhawk84 5 years, 2 months ago

Well, I am amazed All-American John Zook didn't make this team as a defensive lineman, and how do you keep the super athlete, Nolan Cromwell off of this list? Put him in at DB if you prefer, but he was one of the best athletes to ever step on the football field as a Jayhawk. Safety Kurt Knoff, punter Bucky Scribner, and TE Otto Schnellbacher combined with the above would lead to a Big 12 Conference title and a BCS team for sure.......of course, if OU, Texas, and Nebraska could do the same with their great players of the past, I believe they would dominate even this KU dream team......

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coachchip 5 years, 2 months ago

I can't believe not one person has said John Hadl. Reesing is good, but he's no Hadl. Hadl is your ultimate all around player. He plays defensive back, running back, quarterback, punt returner and punter. He was slash before slash was invented!

Here's his history at KU (without even mentioning his pro career): After playing halfback on both offense and defense at the University of Kansas as a sophomore, Hadl played quarterback for his last two years at Kansas, and was selected as the school's Player of the Century. He was an All American at running back in 1960 and at quarterback in 1961. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. Hadl was the first KU player to be picked twice for All-America (1960 and 1961) honors for his skills as a quarterback and half back. Hadl also excelled as a defensive back, and punt returner and punter - he led the country with a 45.6-yard average in 1959. Hadl's No. 21 jersey is one of only three KU has retired. Hadl, who was picked for the all-conference team for three seasons, wound up with 1,281 yards passing and 1,016 yard rushing. Hadl still holds two KU records: Longest interception return, a 98-yard run against TCU; and longest punt, 94 yards vs. Oklahoma. With Hadl running the offense, the 'Hawks were ranked in the top 20 during his junior and senior years, finishing 15-5-2. He wrapped up his KU career leading his team to a 33-7 win over Rice in the Bluebonnet Bowl. He was also named MVP in the East-West Shrine game and the College All-Star Game.

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Dirk Medema 5 years, 2 months ago

Hadl's interception return isn't the longest anymore - Talib went 99 or 100 in '07.

Many great players to choose from, but t would seem to me that the biggest need to take this team to the next level is better line play - on both sides of the ball. There aren't stats to flaunt for it, but it is most definitely the heart and soul of the game.

Jesse, will you be following up on the last bit of discussion from your "draft" blog about the youth of the OL? Has the team released a 2-deep for '09?

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KGphoto 5 years, 1 month ago

Okay, I'll take the position unpopular with the old-timers. It's sort of biased, but mostly logical. We are picking players for this year, to play against other players from this year. And although I respect guys like Zook and McCormack, they simply couldn't physically play todays game. Both were lineman weighing under 250 lbs.

Same goes for the Hadl and Cromwell argument. Great all-around players. But in today's game, you don't win with multi-position/iron-man players (Although Talib and Gordan were close, and I'd take either of those two before Hadl or Cromwell). And even though Mangino excels at using players creatively, neither would have an impact for the 2009 Hawks. Not with Reesing's accuracy at QB. Not with our current stable of running backs. And not against Big 12 offenses, (Cromwell at DB) especially with Stuckey leading a pretty stacked secondary.

So I'll have to go with Stubblefield or Gilbert "Gravedigger" Brown. Both play the position of greatest need, and both have the physical ability to matchup with today's O-lineman.

Although one could make an argument that if Parrish and Johnson make huge strides this year, Talib or Pless would be the benefactors. And would ultimately improve this team the most.

Cool idea Jesse.

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