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Self Scout: A look back at my preseason predictions and a look ahead to Big 12 play

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back.

Kansas defensive lineman Keon Stowers comes away with the ball after recovering a Louisiana Tech fumble late in the fourth quarter to give the Jayhawks the ball back. by Nick Krug

With KU's second and final bye week of 2013 nearly finished and the Jayhawks on the verge of getting back to a regular work week, I figured now was as good a time as any to do a quick self scout.

After all, KU coach Charlie Weis and KU spent part of this week doing their own self scout, so why not join them?

Just a quick and easy exercise here, which looks back at two preseason articles that predicted a total of 10 players to watch in 2013 — five who needed a big fall camp to earn their spots and five who were a little under the radar.

First, a look at the five guys I said were flying under the radar and how they've done so far this season.

1. TE Charles Brooks – Even with the early struggles of Jimmay Mundine, Brooks has not been a part of the offense during the first three weeks and I'm guessing he won't be going forward. Call this a miss.

2. OL Randall Dent – He was decent against Rice and missed the LA Tech game because of injury. But with KU's O-Line still coming together, Dent, with his strength and experience, figures to still have a shot at being relevant this season.

3. WR Tre' Parmalee – An appendectomy kept him out of the Louisiana Tech game and all he had done since then was elevate himself into a starting role. Parmalee has not been targeted a ton so far this season, but his sure hands and crisp routes make him an attractive option in a struggling passing game.

4. CB JaCorey Shepherd – Shepherd has been fantastic early on and only appears to be getting better each week. Last year, after being thrown to the wolves after switching over from wide receiver, Shepherd's speed and athleticism often landed him in the right place but he rarely made a play once the ball arrived. Now that he's more sure of his coverage skills, the junior is recording enough pass break-ups to be a worthy complement to Dexter McDonald on the other side.

5. DL Jordan Tavai – Tavai has been solid in a second-string role on KU's improving defensive line. Not good enough to stand out but not bad enough to disappear, the second-year Jayhawk has recorded seven tackles (two for losses) and a quarterback hurry in three games. Solid production from a second-string guy.

And now let's move on to the five guys I said needed a strong fall camp to solidify their spots on the depth chart.

1. Buck Michael Reynolds – Reynolds is off to a great start. Not only has he put pressure on opposing quarterbacks but he also has earned more trust from the coaching staff and has been out there on more than obvious pass-rushing downs.

2. DB Victor Simmons – Simmons has been one of the more solid players on KU's defense during the first three weeks. Second on the team in tackles (22), with a sack, a pass break-up and three tackles for loss, the junior nickel back is using his physical frame and legit speed to run down ball carriers and get them on the ground.

3. WR Rodriguez Coleman – Coleman has not yet broken through but it seems like it could be just a matter of time. Confident, fast, long and improving, the juco transfer made his first start and first catch against Louisiana Tech.

4. OL Damon Martin – Like Dent, Martin has been given a chance to deliver and has performed fairly inconsistently thus far. His strength and physical nature cannot be questioned, but he has to bring it on every play and be more reliable if he wants to be a key part of KU's O-Line from here on out.

5. K Michael Mesh – The odds-on favorite to win the kicking job heading into the summer, Mesh struggled with the pressure of the preseason competition and watched Matthew Wyman flourish and win the job.

As you can see, I was decently locked in on some of those predictions and flat-out missed on a couple of them. A tip of the cap to Reynolds, Simmons and Shepherd for making me look good.

Let's push our luck a little here and commit to three players who have not done much yet but I'm expecting to step up big time for the Jayhawks during conference play, which starts Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium against Texas Tech and runs straight through Nov. 30.

1. RB Brandon Bourbon — Bourbon has looked great in a reserve role behind Tony Pierson and the KU coaching staff appears to have determined that the powerful back with great speed needs to be on the field even more. I'm betting we'll see it.

2. LB Schyler Miles — Ben Heeney can't play every down (don't tell him that) and when you play as hard as he does, you're bound to take a beating from time to time. When Heeney does, Miles has proven to be a solid replica and his presence should make it easier to give Heeney a rest from time to time.

3. DL Tedarian Johnson — The coaches really liked Johnson this spring but worried that he would not be able to get on the field because of so many bodies ahead of him. Well, Marquel Combs and Chris Martin are gone and Andrew Bolton is red-shirting. Johnson will play. And he should only get better.

Real quick, before I head off to regroup for next week and KU's return to action, here are a few non-conference awards that probably will not surprise anyone.

Offensive MVP: Tony Pierson. Easily the Jayhawks' best offensive player through three weeks and a guy who KU needs to get more involved ASAP. His performance against Louisiana Tech — eight catches for 92 yards — was a good sign and should be proof that the ideal number of touches per game for the dynamic speed back is right around 15. Honorable Mention: Matthew Wyman: KU's walk-on kicker has been far from perfect, but the mere fact that KU coach Charlie Weis now does not hesitate to call on him when KU reaches field goal range tells you how valuable he is.

Defensive MVP: Ben Heeney. Heeney is the heart and soul of the KU defense and his relentless effort on every play has been and should be contagious. Heeney leads the Jayhawks with 32 tackles and also recorded his first career interception on a classic Ben Heeney hustle play. Should be more where that came from in the next few months. Honorable Mention: Dexter McDonald. Ranks among the nation's leaders in pass break-ups and has provided KU with much-needed confidence and quality in the pass game.

Top Plays: Matthew Wyman's 52-yard game-winning field goal against Louisiana Tech; Tony Pierson's 76-yard touchdown reception against Rice; Any number of Trevor Pardula bombs in the punting game; Michael Reynolds' strip and Keon Stowers' recovery of the fumble that saved the Louisiana Tech game.

Please Forgive and Forget Me: Jimmay Mundine for his first two games in which he dropped five passes; Justin McCay for his disappearing act after the first half of the first game; Marquel Combs for failing to stick it out; KU's offensive line for struggling with consistency.

Bold Big 12 prediction: I still think KU can win two games in conference play this season (if you remember, I predicted five total wins, with all three non-con games and two in conference), with Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia and even Kansas State being at the top of the list of most likely to fall.

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Comments

Micky Baker 6 months, 3 weeks ago

West Virginia, Iowa State, TCU, Texas, and Texas Tech are all vulnerable. Even Oklahoma State looked vulnerable against West Virginia, but we have to get the passing game going and this is going to rely on play calling as much as it will the OL. If the OL does improve dramatically in pass protection, that will be a plus, but we have to keep other teams from stacking the box against the run game. This is something we should be much better at.

Jake has to take what the defense gives, and that means he's going to have to read the defense better and know where to go with a 3 or 5 step drop and release the ball. If they continue to try to come after him in doing that all game, they'll slow down either from getting tired or from frustration. The play calls are also important in that aspect. If we have 3rd down and 5, we don't need a 40 yard bomb, don't call that play. If we have a 2nd and 3 or less, then you can use play action to beat someone over the top, especially an aggressive secondary that tries to jump a route on a double move.

The biggest key is getting the OL to be physical on every play. Our defense is developing much like it did during Mangino's second year, and we do have the talent on the offense to score some points.

Weis, you have to get better at play calling. OL players and coaches, you have to get angry, get physical, and punish some guys. On defense, you have to be very good at scouting the other team, and then you have to recognize plays as they develop and swarm to the ball.

This team can win 3 or 4 more games this year if the shore up some of the most obvious deficiencies on the offensive side of the ball. The other team can't score if you sustain drives and put up points in the process, and we need Touchdowns. I don't know if it will happen, but I think we can win do this and be close to, if not bowl eligible.

Weis, call the right plays and no stupid trickery.

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Ralster Jayhawk 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Yeah. Lets all say the Hawks wont win another game this season...Its sooo much fun predicting your own team's demise, isnt it? I love the clairvoyance--> If someone tells me how to make such ROCK SOLID predictions, man, I could take that skill to Vega$!

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Ferd Magellan 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"1. RB Brandon Bourbon — Bourbon has looked great in a reserve role behind Tony Pierson and the KU coaching staff appears to have determined that the powerful back with great speed needs to be on the field even more. I'm betting we'll see it."

If we hope to keep any of the Big 12 games close, I pray that Weis swallows his pride and goes with a 80-90% rushing attack. We have no passing game like last year, while we have the best group of RB in the conference. And for the love of god drop the Jayhawk formation.

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Nathan Scholl 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I love my Jayhawks, but they won't win another football game this season.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Matt - You deserve double pts for the Simmons pick. He didn't just earn PT, he moved one of the best players on D to another position and has turned into one of the best himself.

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FCCoHawk 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Ok, I know I am being optimistic and don't want to jinx things, but I am going to say 5 wins. WVU is not good this yr and we play them at home. ISU is definitely beatable. Finally, maybe KSU, I don't think we can beat Texas Tech. I know none of these are gimmies, but games we could win if we play well. That is why we play the game. Sure, KSU may need to have an off game, but who knows, it be the same week we play great. I know our OL has looked bad but hopefully can improve as the season progresses. I do think Bourbon needs to be involved more. If we can get several more wins in, we should have a lot of confidence going into next yr with the number of experienced players coming back. Gotta keep the faith. Finally, I do think an offensive coordinator would be helpful, play calling needs to improve also. Go 'Hawks, wish the game was this week.

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Michael Luby 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Which brings me to my continued rant about the journalists missing out on covering basketball games last year until the football season was over. This better not happen this year! 2 of you stay on football and send TK or Newell over to Basketball for the start of the season. Make it happen.

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Doug Cramer 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I predicted 3-9...and was blasted on these chat boards and was called "negative nancy". Gonna stick to the 3-9 prediction...although after witnessing the La Tech game...I don't know where the third win will come from. Maybe K-State...but I just don't know.

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David A. Smith 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Really, the offensive line is the last group to solidify. If it comes together, the difference will be remarkable. Then, suddenly, our ceiling is much higher. We're close...very close.

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mikehawk 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I hate it, Matt, but I'm going with one more win this year. Gee, I hope I'm wrong. I honestly don't know who else is left we can just line up and beat. We need some turnovers and other breaks, and the kicking game must hold. I think we can sneak up on someone and beat them because they are taking a week off mentally playing us. That almost happened last year in a least two games. Kansas State will not be one of those teams, and I don't think we have the horses to just beat them, even at home. Iowa State and TCU might be our best candidates. We seem to always play pretty well against OU, but they seem to always bring just enough to beat us. You can bet Blake Bell will be ready in that game. He reminds me of K-State's QB last year. He just finds a way and most of the time it isn't that pretty. Regardless, it is clear the program is headed in the right direction, overall. We can celebrate that.

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HighQ 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Athletes can only

Do so much. Play calling will

Determine our wins.

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Brett McCabe 6 months, 4 weeks ago

On the Wyman front, he'll only get better with reps. And I don't mean consistently hitting 52-yarders, I mean not missing 28-yarders. Remember, the guy kicked one field goal in high school. Every game he'll get more and more consistent on everything inside 40, which is critical. And he's clearly shown the leg to hit the bomb when needed.

On projected wins, people have been talking about TTU all pre-season and I think that it's time to realize that this team is ranked. What looked like an unstable program in the off-season has turned into a solid offensive team. We can definitely beat them but I think the best chances for wins are WVU at home and ISU on the road.

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KGphoto 6 months, 4 weeks ago

I’d like to add Sendish to that list of players who I expect to improve as conference play starts. He is about as physical a FS as I’ve seen.The guy could be a MLB. Love the way he tackles.

So, now that we seem to be pretty loaded at LB and the LB/Safety hybrid we like to play at Nickel, where does this put MJM next year? Everybody is playing pretty well and they are all coming back. Faifili, Love, Sendish, Johnson, Heeney, Miles, Arnick.

Which slot is he gonna compete for? I’m assuming Campo will want to slot him into either OLB or Nickel, but he’s gonna have to be pretty stout if he wants to crack the two-deep at either spot. If I had to guess right now, I’d say he might beat out Arnick for the 2 slot at nickel. Simmons just looks too strong right now.

Let’s not forget we are bringing in stud OLB next year as well. Kyron Watson. It’s gonna be pretty crowded in there.

By the way, when are we planning on offering an extension on Campo’s deal? I don’t even want to think about messing with the defensive coaching situation right now. Shore it up for a few more years.

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Jason Keller 6 months, 4 weeks ago

The solution is simple. Jake Heaps has to become possessed. He needs to unload it so fast that our offensive line becomes obsolete.

Without elite play from him for the rest of the season, we're in trouble.

Jake, if you're reading this, you know what you gotta do. If you want to play in the league, you should be able to carry this team to .500. Go get it, brother.

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Charles Logan 6 months, 4 weeks ago

My posts keep getting deleted from here, but here goes another one.... I was one thinking KU could win 6 or 7 games. I thought they may have the possibility to go undefeated at home....... HOWEVER. After watching game #1 that all changed. Baylor looks like tops in the league, and KU?.......... KU looks like a bottom dweller for Conference USA. Not even a Big XII caliber team. KU struggled with South Dakota. Rice was supposed to be a good team... The only Team Rice has beaten this year is Kansas. KU was 2 lucky fumbles away from losing 24-3 to Louisiana Tech! Louisiana Tech was dominating KU. No Short, Combs, Martin, Jenkins-Moore etc. Have made a big difference. At 6'8 I was just thinking Pearce Slater could just stand there and be good enough blocker on the O-line. And what happened to Turzilli? Everything I thought would help KU isn't even there now. The way this team is looking how can anyone pick them to win? I'm a fan and I can't. I can hope for them to win, but I can't pick them to win......

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Todd Simpson 6 months, 4 weeks ago

lol guess Our Football team has to be # 1 at something :)

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Mpalmer 6 months, 4 weeks ago

Matt- Thanks for the great KU coverage! On Victor Simmons- is it not great watching him come I to his own, I see big things ahead!! I know this is a player (local Olathe North) that you have covered since high school. I think the Defense continues to impress!

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Janet Scott 6 months, 4 weeks ago

KU will be 0-9 in the conference this year. You can't play like a bunch of 90 year old invalids as KU does, with headlines in the local paper (LJW) decrying your toughness, and expect to beat anyone except vo-tech beauty schools which is what SD is. This team is one of the poorest I've seen over many years at the Div I level.

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TxJyHawk 6 months, 4 weeks ago

regarding Tre' Parmalee....isn't that the 3rd appendectomy on the team this year?

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