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Early look at potential sleepers for KU football in 2013

OK, for this week's final set-the-scene-for-spring-football blog, we'll dive into sleepers.

Rather than just pick a few and speculate how they might fit in or what roles they may play, I'll go position-by-position and give you one player whom I could see making a splash that people may not be expecting.

Now bear in mind that this is being written before the start of spring drills and that time, let alone preseason camp, could change things drastically. But, for now, here are the guys I could see stepping up in some way, shape or form this season.

*Disclaimer: Just because they make this list does not mean I'm saying they will make a huge impact.*

Quarterback: Tough one. I'll go Jordan Darling. Jake Heaps looks like the man and Michael Cummings is a known name as his back-up. I don't expect Darling or fellow-freshman Montell Cozart to play, but one of them figures to get a leg up on the other through scout team reps and if Darling can put up the high school numbers he did while moving to a new school each year, I think he could contribute in a positive way as the show team QB in 2013.

Running back: Freshman Colin Spencer. Weis recruited this guy as an athlete/defensive back and already has moved him to running back. That was partially to cover his butt in terms of depth but more so because Spencer can play. I fully expect him to factor into the offense in some manner right away.

Wide receiver: Ishmael Hyman. Remember how Tre' Parmalee played a much bigger role than anyone expected last season? That's what I keep thinking of when Hyman's name pops up.

Tight end: Trent Smiley. I've long been a fan of Smiley's ability to block. He may be as good as anyone on the team. And because of that, you know he's gonna be out there. Playing time leads to production and even though Smiley won't be asked to do much more than block, I wouldn't be surprised if he came away with three or four touchdowns by default this season.

Offensive line: Let's go with Joey Bloomfield. True freshmen rarely do much on the offensive line at KU, but there's something about Bloomfield (probably his 6-6, 305 size) that makes me scratch my head and wonder if he might be ready for some kind of role a little earlier than most we've seen in recent years.

Defensive line: Keon Stowers. Did not make the splash I thought he would last season, but did participate in plenty of snaps and seemed to improve as the season went along. I've heard his name mentioned more than a few times when it comes to offseason workouts and leadership, and, at 6-3, 290 and athletic, Stowers has the make-up to be a pest in the middle.

Linebacker: Victor Simmons. As a true freshman, I had Simmons pegged as a future star at safety. But then the coaching change happened, he moved positions and my prediction fell flat on its face. Simmons is a big-time athlete who can run and during the past two seasons has bulked up nicely to 6-2, 206 pounds. I doubt he plays much, but if he gets a shot, that speed and his physicality could become a factor much in the way Prinz Kande's was before a knee injury cut his season short last year. (Kande was another good option here, by the way, but you never know how a guy's gonna respond to a serious injury like that).

Cornerback: JaCorey Shepherd. I'm going with Shepherd as a sleeper here only because he's still new to the position and I think he's going to be very good one day. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has raved about the former wide receiver since Day 1 and we saw flashes of what he could do last season. Coming off a full offseason devoted to defense, I think Shepherd has a chance to be a terrific corner.

Safety: Dexter Linton. Linton fared well when thrust into action because of injuries last season and seems to be the most proven safety among KU's returners. We may have seen his ceiling in those games and the guys Weis & Co. brought in during the offseason may have more talent, but it would not surprise me if Linton played a decent-sized role this season.

Specialist: Ron Doherty. One kicker (Trevor Pardula) was given a scholarship to help eliminate KU's problems in the kicking game and another (Michael Mesh) was encouraged to walk-on with the idea that he could compete for starting place kicking duties right away. I know Doherty has been strictly average during the past couple of seasons, but what if those moves (and getting past an injury that plagued him for most of 2012) are exactly what the senior with experience needs to deliver a breakout season?

Comments

hawkdds 1 year, 9 months ago

Smiley certainly has the size, it would be great if he would become a go-to receiver also.

clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 9 months ago

I like Smith at TE if he gets a chance. The term "sleeper" is tough because the ceiling on young guys is high, but thanks for the football story in MARCH!

Theonlythingthatexceedsyourbad 1 year, 9 months ago

Great work Mr. Tait! Can't wait for football season! Heck, I can't wait for the spring game!

Spencer - If he's as athletic as it seems he's a perfect scat back/slot guy.

Hyman - Tre Parmalee 2.0

Stowers - Our D-line looks pretty deep. This means he shouldn't garnish any special attention form the opponents, hopefully he can turn that into some big plays this year.

Shepherd - I think we'll see a few picks from JaCorey this year. I'd love to see him take one to the zone.

Doherty - Kickers are like librarians. Don't like 'em . . . unless they drop it inside the 20 or help me find the last copy of Strangers in a Strange Land

Boouk 1 year, 9 months ago

QB: Montell Cozart, RB: Colin Spencer, WR: Mark Thomas, TE: Jordan Smith, OL: Brian Beckmann, DL: Ben Goodman, LB: Jake Love, S: Greg Allen, CB: JaCorey Shepard, Special teams: PR/KR Colin Spencer

jhox 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with yor pick of Cozart. Everyone seems to consider Darling the future QB, probably because Weis runs a pro style offense. However, Cozart is a fabulous athlete with a good arm. I would definitely not concede the job to Darling after Heaps graduates.

Of course, they could always move Cozart to another position to make use of his athleticism sooner.

Fototherapist 1 year, 9 months ago

Linton got burned a lot. I wouldn't hold my breath.

KGphoto 1 year, 9 months ago

Colin Spencer is the longest of longshots. Sitting 5th at RB with the 4 that are in front of him? I don't see it. Barring injuries he's a Redshirt.

Which brings me to Tevin Shaw. If Weis needed an extra RB to make plays, he could've slid the experienced Shaw right in there. But he didn't. Which means I think he likes Shaw much more at safety. He's an amazing athlete for that position.

Jake Love is getting lost in the mix at LB. He has a year of Big 12 and Holsopple under his belt and he held his own last year. I think he'll be tough to unseat, even though the two new guys are getting all the attention.

Riley Spencer at LT. If he stays healthy I think he'll be a good starter.

Ben Goodman got huge last year. If he equals that progress this year... sleeper.

Charles Brooks TE. If Heaps lives up to expectations, 6'6" Brooks, in Weis' offense, would be a nice target.

Dylan Admire C. Born to be a center.

Jordan Tavai DT. Being surrounded by better talent may unlock his playmaking ability.

Randy Bombardier 1 year, 9 months ago

I have to think that Spencer must be a real burner similar to Pierson. We have so much depth at the position that I still don't get it unless he is faster and more elusive than what is known. I liked the video I have seen with him playing D. Real closer, flies to the ball and has a real nose for interrupting the run game.

KGphoto 1 year, 9 months ago

That's a good point about Weis. Even getting to a bowl game would probably put him in the conversation.

Kevin Long 1 year, 9 months ago

I can agree with everything but Doherty. I have seen all want t see of him! The guy cant kick.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 9 months ago

I did not know Darling put up much in the way of numbers. I thought Cozart had better numbers. Am I wrong here?

I agree on Doherty. Most people have forgotten he was a nice punter until he had to do it all as a kicking specialist. The injury hurt as well. I think he becomes his old self and we have an excellent punter if the kickers can hold down their jobs.

Dale Stringer 1 year, 9 months ago

I just hope that either Cozart or Darling (or both) pass Cummings on the depth chart. Cummings numbers were worse that Crist's. Cummings provided that spark. Too bad he overcame it with less ability.

Doherty may get back to being the skilled punter he was as long as he doesn't have to kick too.

machinegun 1 year, 9 months ago

Charlie Weis will make the final decision on his starting QB and right now that player is Jake Heaps. We were dead last in wins, points, and passing offense last season. Charlie Weis is painfully aware that none of his wide receivers caught a TD pass last year. We had more interceptions than passing TDs. The handwriting is on the wall. We will need a QB who can pass the ball all day long if we are going to compete in the Big 12.

David Leathers 1 year, 9 months ago

"...when Hyman's name pops up." Good one Tait.

Jack Jones 1 year, 9 months ago

Isn't it great that despite last year's w-l record, there seems to be a great deal of enthusiasm for this next season. Thanks to you LJW sports writers for the outstanding pre-season coverage which not only helps build that spirit, but also allows us to get to know the many newcomers, and also re-acquaints us with those returning. Good work.

Jason Keller 1 year, 9 months ago

Ron Doherty being on this list is just puzzling... He lacked leg strength badly, that was his problem... It's not like he's a receiver who was dropping passes or something. Unless he is drinking the Lance Armstrong special, I think it's silly to expect him to be a much improved player next year. Pray to god that our kicking game (kicker) has been brought up to near respectability or it will be another loooong season boys.

NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Actually he is a very good punter and the injury bug did plague him last season. I'm not saying I wasn't frustrated with him because I was. But Matt might be right. I just hope they don't expect him to perform kicking duties again. Surely we have someone better than he is in that departement now.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 9 months ago

Saying that Doherty was "strictly average" the past few seasons is a huge, huge overstatment. Average would be a light-hearted compliment to Doherty.

Ron Doherty is a kicker who can't kick...end of story. Sorry for being blunt, but it's the truth. This isn't like a cornerback who can't catch, a tight end who isn't the best blocker, or a running back who doesn't have break away speed.

If you can't make easy field goals, PAT's, and don't have the leg strength to kick the ball....even once....into your opponent's endzone on kickoffs, then you are not a kicker. And thus, you are not a scholarship athlete.

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