Advertisement

Advertisement

Six surprise performers through KU football's first four games

By now, you’re all surely aware that we’re nearing the end of the Kansas University football team’s bye week.

But instead of taking the bye myself, I’ve spent the week looking back at the first four games of the 2012 season, trying to determine what went right, what went wrong and why as the Jayhawks sit at 1-3 overall, with the lone victory coming in the season opener against South Dakota State and two of the three losses coming in disappointing, fall-from-in-front fashion.

As we get closer to the end of the bye week, and therefore to the start of K-State week, it only makes sense to look ahead a little bit. So today, I’ll give you a quick look at the top six players who have surprised me during the season’s first four weeks, followed by a quick comment on why that’s the case and whether I think they’ll be able to keep their roll going.

And then Friday, in addition to our regular weekly chat — submit questions here — I’ll give you a quick look at the six Jayhawks I think are headed for better days in the next couple of months and could be considered breakout players by the time the season’s finished.

Anyway, enough about what we’re doing or what we’ve done, let’s jump right into today’s edition of the bye week blog, with the top six KU surprises of the first four weeks.

Kansas defenders Lubbock Smith (1) and Tunde Bakare (17) force Rice receiver Luke Willson out of bounds on a two-point conversion atttempt during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defenders Lubbock Smith (1) and Tunde Bakare (17) force Rice receiver Luke Willson out of bounds on a two-point conversion atttempt during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

1. Tunde Bakare — His stats don’t necessarily show it (13 tackles, 1 sack), but Bakare has been all over the field so far this season for the KU defense. His speed is what has made him stand out, as Bakare is one of the true burners on KU’s defense. The strides he made in the offseason with regard to a better mental approach to the game are what have made him effective. No longer is Bakare just running as fast as he can at a guy and not knowing what to do when he gets there. Bakare’s as tough as they come and has been in on a lot of plays that he didn’t necessarily end up getting stats for.

2. Dexter Linton — Pushed into extended action because of the injury to senior starter Lubbock Smith, Linton has impressed me more and more each week. We all knew that the junior from Arlington, Texas, was a solid athlete, but it’s been his brains and confidence that have made him effective in Smith’s absence. After being thrown into the fire against Rice without much experience, Linton has looked more and more sure of himself each week since and appears to be developing into a nice player. His emergence not only gives KU solid depth this season but also some much-needed returning experience in 2013.

3. Christian Matthews — I’ll admit it, I thought Matthews was finished when he fell off the depth chart at wide receiver during fall camp. I don’t think I’m alone. We heard next to nothing about this guy throughout August, but his performance in last week’s loss to Northern Illinois — five carries, 43 yards out of the Jayhawk formation — clearly shows that the 6-1, 200-pound junior is still very much a part of KU’s plans on offense. Look for him to be on the field more and more in the coming weeks as KU likely mixes more Jayhawk snaps into the offense.

Wide receiver Christian Matthews (12) stiff arms Sean Evans (2) on a run in the second half of KU's 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois Huskies Saturday, September 22, 2012, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill.

Wide receiver Christian Matthews (12) stiff arms Sean Evans (2) on a run in the second half of KU's 30-23 loss to Northern Illinois Huskies Saturday, September 22, 2012, at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill. by Mike Yoder

4. Trent Smiley — The sophomore tight end has played a ton and has made a major impact on KU’s successful rushing attack. Haven’t noticed him? Pick any play and watch #85... He’ll be the guy driving his man down the field and still blocking through the whistle.

Kansas tight end Trent Smiley (85) walks off the field following Kansas' loss to TCU Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas tight end Trent Smiley (85) walks off the field following Kansas' loss to TCU Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by John Young

5. Kevin Young — This offseason, Young dropped some serious and unnecessary weight and he finally looks like the player he was recruited to be. He’s more explosive on the D-Line than we’ve ever seen him, and his added muscle has transformed him into a ferocious tackler. Let’s just put it this way, KY’s one of those guys you don’t want to run into if you’re an opposing ball carrier.

6. Randall Dent — Still listed as a defensive tackle throughout the spring, Dent shifted to offensive line when fall camp opened and, a few weeks later, worked his way into the starting role at right guard. He has not been flawless in that spot, but the simple fact that he was able to move up that fast and perform as well as he has is impressive. The 6-4, 300-pound junior certainly looks comfortable in his new home, now he just has to become consistent.

;

Comments

Ron Prichard 1 year, 10 months ago

Nice article, Matt. I agree with all your picks. I would also add Schyler Miles to the list. We knew he would be good, eventually. Even though he doesn't start, when he gets in he always seems to be around the ball. I can't wait to see what this kid can do in a couple years when he matures and gets some experience under his belt. If he has a weakness it appears to be in pass coverage. Still, it takes a stud to play middle linebacker in the Big XII as a true freshman.

0

KGphoto 1 year, 10 months ago

Definitely surprised with Young, Smiley, Linton and Dent. I'm not as surprised by Bakare just because this is kind of what I expected when I saw video highlights of him after he committed.

That leaves Matthews. I would say I'm surprised that Weis decided to go there, but not surprised in Matthews play. He was tearing Misery up last year doing exactly the same thing.

So, Matt. Can you clear up the Jayhawk vs. Read-Option thing for me. What I see Matthews running is the Read-Option not the Jayhawk. I DO see Crist on the field as a WR, but Matthews doesn't necessarily have an extra blocker because the running back is still right there with him, with a chance to run it himself.

The way I understood it, in the Wildcat the RB takes the snap alone in the backfield (or with another RB/blocker with him) which gives him an extra blocker, then he also has the option to pass it.

In the Read-Option the QB takes the snap with a RB in the backfield with him, then he has the "option" of keeping it or giving it up, and in the case of Northern Illinois even passing it.

It's not a huge deal, but the lines are getting crossed a bit, at least from the original Wildcat I remember seeing, and even the Wildcat we ran so often last year under Gill. I don't remember ever seeing the RB hand it off to another RB in the Wildcat.

0

pbouldenv 1 year, 10 months ago

Good list, Matt. I am really happy with how Dexter Linton has played overall. Glad you had him on the list. It is also great to see things finally coming together for Kevin Young. Beat KSU!

0

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 10 months ago

Taylor Cox has been a big suprise to me, I didnt expect him to be the #2 back (or #3 if Sims jumps him) going into the bye week. He has been really good in a position we have depth

2

Matt Tait 1 year, 10 months ago

Good point. I just think because of what he's done during his first two years it's hard to say anything he does from here on out is a surprise. The guy's legit and getting better.

1

Chris Bailey 1 year, 10 months ago

I was impressed with Anthony McDonald. The transfer linebacker from ND that was out the first two weeks. I went to the TCU game and it seemed like he was in on every tackle when he was in there. He was either in it or right there with it. He looks like a beast if he can stay healthy.

0

hawksquawk 1 year, 10 months ago

The picture of Matthews... You don't see a lot of action shots like that with such foliage in the background... Is this recess?

0

Jason Keller 1 year, 10 months ago

Where is Ben Heeney? That dude can do it all. He brings speed and toughness to a defense playing in a pass happy Big 12. As a sophmore, Ben will be a nice piece moving forward.

Lets go wipe the smile off Bill Snyder's face!!!

1

Matt Tait 1 year, 10 months ago

It's a list of surprise performers. I'm not surprised at all that Heeney has been a monster out there.

0

Fototherapist 1 year, 10 months ago

I was a little "surprised" that Dayne Crist hasn't performed as advertised.

0

Tony Bandle 1 year, 10 months ago

I was totally perturbed when I saw no articles on football today......then I realized it was a bye week. I guess that applies to journalists as well.

0

Jason Sinclair 1 year, 10 months ago

Oakville, how much of a right do you have to be "totally perturbed" if you didn't realize it was a bye week until today?

0

Matt Tait 1 year, 10 months ago

I've written at least one KU football story/blog every day this week... Most have been blogs because we don't get any access to the team this week and there's no real news taking place, but don't think for a second that I've taken the week off.

Check out the Friday morning chat, too. And look for a couple of bigger stories this weekend and early next week. Also spent a ton of time this week working on those...

Have a great day!

0

Jason Sinclair 1 year, 10 months ago

Not to mention the spodcasters - which is always fun and much appreciated. Nice work, Matt.

0

Keith Hummel 1 year, 10 months ago

Thank you Matt for all your hard work. It seems like every time I visit the site there is a new football article of some kind, and they are always well done. You cover KU football like Kudzu covers the South - your all over it. I'm guessing Oakville was just disappointed it was a bye week, and didn't mean to imply you weren't working. You've spoiled us with your great coverage. Please keep up the great work.

0

hawk316 1 year, 10 months ago

OK, Rogers, time to come clean. Are you really Mark Mangino?

0

Commenting has been disabled for this item.