Top KU football story lines as we head into spring football: No, seriously, spring
All right. Now that we got past the Kansas University football players who didn't get into the action last year, let's take a quick look at what we should watch for from them and the guys who did.
Here's a glance at the top five story lines heading into spring drills, which begin one week from today, snow or no snow.
1. What's up with the quarterback position?
Here we are, three full seasons removed from Todd Reesing's final game as a Jayhawk and we're still searching for a suitable replacement. Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got their turns during 2010 and 2011, and Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings each had a crack in 2012. While those guys collectively had a couple of decent moments, none of them proved to be the answer or even anything close to it. So now the focus turns to Jake Heaps, the BYU transfer who sat out last season and appears to be the favorite to be the guy this year. Making a complete read on Heaps — good or bad — based on what he does this spring would be foolish, but it will at least be the first meaningful evaluation we get to make.
2. What role will familiarity play for the Jayhawks?
I asked KU coach Charlie Weis in December if Year 2 would more closely resemble Year 1.5 because of the crazy amount of turnover and long list of potential new starters on both sides of the ball, some of whom already are here and others who will arrive in June. His answer was a clear no, which led me to believe that he felt pretty good about what his players learned and retained from his first season in town. Coaching transitions are never easy and the second year is almost always better and smoother than the first. The players know what to expect both in terms of coaching style and schemes and the coaches benefit from a having a full year of relationships with their new guys under their belts.
3. Which player becomes “the next big thing?”
Each spring, somebody steps to the forefront and becomes the hot name on offense, defense or both. Last spring, it was Michael Reynolds, who was a monster in the spring game but parlayed that into only minimal success during the season. The year before it was Christian Matthews, who, despite stacking back-to-back solid spring games on top of each other, made next to no impact as a receiver (though he did play a key role as a Wildcat QB). So who will be the guy (or guys) that step up this spring? Always fun to watch, awfully tough to predict.
4. Roster/position changes?
It happens just about every year and we've already heard about one move — incoming freshman Colin Spencer will start at RB instead of DB — but Weis promised that more moves are on the way. In fact, the word he used to describe how many tweaks had taken place was “several.” My best guess is that means all kinds of things — a few guys have left the program, others have changed positions and others may even be looking into new roles while playing the same position. The only clue he gave us was that nobody had jumped from offense to defense or defense to offense. I'm sure this topic will be among the first things he addresses at his pre-spring news conference next Monday, but even after that it will be interesting to see how the changes impact the program and develop throughout the spring.
A quick look at the most updated roster revealed the following changes:
• Dexter Linton has moved from safety to cornerback
• Keba Agostinho is listed at defensive end
• Place kicker Nick Prolago is no longer on the roster
• Punter Sean Huddleston is no longer on the roster
• Long snapper Justin Carnes is no longer on the roster
• Despite rumors about his departure, Huldon Tharp remains on the roster
5. Will the coaching shuffle have any impact?
Linebackers coach DeMontie Cross left for TCU this offseason and stepping in to replace him is longtime Jayhawk Clint Bowen. Bowen knows his stuff and, more importantly, he knows the players. So it seems safe to conclude that the loss of Cross will not hurt the defense much at all. Beyond that, though, there are a handful of other new faces in new places throughout the coaching staff and it'll be interesting to see how quickly those guys can settle in and earn the respect of the players. Many of them are familiar faces simply shuffled into new roles, so that will help. But spring is where it will start.