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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.

;

Comments

TxJyHawk 10 months ago

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

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Matt Tait 10 months ago

Yep. Not something you want to be leading the nation in. Just a strange deal. Pretty sure Tre' will be ready to go by next weekend, though...

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Jonathan Allison 9 months, 4 weeks ago

what are they feeding these guys?

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Mpalmer 10 months 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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Todd Simpson 10 months ago

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

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Jason Keller 10 months 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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Jim Jackson 10 months ago

Solid point. Have to admit though, our Oline is very anemic.

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Al Martin 10 months ago

An interesting point. Weis seemed to be heading in that direction against LaTech.

I've been assuming that if the O-line doesn't improve we are toast. But Weis adjusted last year to suit our strength and went to a running attack. This year the best approach may be a quick passing attack.

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Doug Cramer 10 months ago

Agree - Our O-line is in trouble. D-line I think will also get exposed in the coming weeks.

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Al Martin 10 months ago

I'm pretty much with you on the D line, too. I've thought that our linebackers and secondary have covered for them, but quite a few on the board here have disagreed with me. I'm as likely to be wrong as anybody else, so here's hoping I am. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if Big 12 offenses expose them, though.

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Mark Lindrud 10 months ago

The defense has been solid, but not spectacular. The offense needs to become more consistent by staying on the field and scoring points, otherwise the defense will get gutted like a fish. I'm with Matt, there are winnable games, but we need to make instrumental steps to get those wins.

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90sHawk 10 months ago

Need our receivers to step up even more ...

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KGphoto 10 months 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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Brett McCabe 10 months ago

"What you said" on Campo. We really need coaching consistency for at least a couple more years at all spots, if possible.

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Dirk Medema 10 months ago

Campo retains the DC title, but it would seem that there is a bit of transitioning already taking place with Bowen assuming D play calling responsibilities. Hopefully, all stay positive about these roles and responsibilities. Campo brings so much experience and cred with recruits in particular that it would seem worthwhile to figure out a way to keep him on staff.

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Dirk Medema 10 months ago

Could MJM, Reynolds, or Goodman become big enough to become a more traditional DE, and the others fill the Buck roll? We're going to lose some of our big DL and could use some reinforcements up front. Definitely more so than LB.

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jhox 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Sendish has been pretty solid, but he's gotten away with some pretty physical play. I doubt officials continue to let him get away with him using his hands as much as he has, in the conference season. But, I do like the way he plays.

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KGphoto 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Haven’t seen enough on TV to critique his coverage, but he hits like a truck when he has the chance.

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Brett McCabe 10 months 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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texashawk10 10 months ago

Tech has a pair a freshmen QB's and haven't looked great the last two games. Tech is still a winnable game, but maybe not as winnable as predicted in August.

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HighQ 10 months ago

Athletes can only

Do so much. Play calling will

Determine our wins.

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KanFan27 10 months ago

Your spacing on that was so weird that it had me reading it as though William Shatner was saying it lol.

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mikehawk 10 months 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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90sHawk 10 months ago

I'm thinking OU has brought more than enough lately to beat us with the last 3 game scores of 52-7, 47-17, and 35-13. I don't see us getting close to upsetting them, but I think an ISU or TCU is ripe to be picked off ...

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Rivethead 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Both on road.....we don't win the road very often.

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David A. Smith 10 months 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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Doug Cramer 10 months ago

Catsandwich - We have a long way to go in many position groups...not just the O-line.

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Brett McCabe 10 months ago

New O-Lines historically take awhile to gel. I agree that, if our OL gets it together, it will have a dramatic impact on the entire team as possessions will lengthen, result in points and change the tilt of games.

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Doug Cramer 10 months 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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Michael Luby 10 months ago

Well I'm with you. Reality sucks sometimes but KU still just isn't any good at football. Personally, I highly doubt they win another game. 2-10 for the year. But at the same time, I don't think it means we need a new coach. Weis needs at least a couple more seasons here to prove himself or not.

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Brett McCabe 10 months ago

Call Joan of Arc and tell her you want your martyrdom back.

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Michael Luby 10 months 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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Matt Tait 9 months, 4 weeks ago

I really don't know what you're talking about here. Gary Bedore hasn't missed a game in 20 years and we haven't had fewer than two guys on a basketball game for as long as I can remember... We'll make sure both football and basketball will continue to get the love they deserve, even when the hoops team is playing in the Bahamas and football is playing K-State.

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FCCoHawk 10 months 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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Dirk Medema 10 months 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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Nathan Scholl 10 months ago

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

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Dirk Medema 9 months, 4 weeks ago

You apparently missed the 17 comp to Pierson & Bourbon last game. Expect a heavy dose of quick passes/long handoffs to these 2 going forward. 1/3rd+ traditions running plays to Sims/Miller/Cox, 1/3rd to Pierson/Bourbon, 1/3rd- to the others.

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Micky Baker 9 months, 4 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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Jonathan Allison 9 months, 4 weeks ago

Nice post. We should be able to move the ball in small chunks with short, quick passes. And if the OLine progresses, then we should be competitive with TTU, TCU, ISU, WVU, and KSU. OSU wasn't impressive this week, and UT is vulnerable. OU and Baylor look like tops in the conference.

We definitely need those incremental gains in the offense to sustain drives and score points. But that will change the entire complexion of the game for this team.

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