KU football's usual suspects getting the most national love this offseason
The Big 12 blogging crew over at ESPN.com has been awfully busy lately wrapping up its spring football coverage with a bunch of different looks at each of the 10 teams in the Big 12 Conference.
They've done everything from a quick look at each team's most indispensable players to a full-on, 22-round draft of the top football players in the Big 12 and everything in between.
Although the Jayhawks have not been regarded in the exercises as a sleeper team for the upcoming season or anything like that, they have been given a little bit of love.
Here's a quick look at just how much.
Most Indispensable Player
First, we'll start with the most recent entry, which identified KU's most indispensable player. Not surprisingly, they picked senior linebacker Ben Heeney and it's hard to argue with that pick.
When Heeney was out last season, the KU defense was not quite the same. Not only is he the most accomplished and decorated player on KU's ever-improving defense, but Heeney also sets the tone for the way the entire unit plays. Rough, tough and relentless, Heeney has never shied away from contact or throwing himself in harm's way to make a play. Slowly but surely during the past couple of seasons, that mentality has rubbed off on those around him and toughened up KU's defense as a whole.
Of Heeney, ESPN.com's Brandon Chatmon wrote:
Heeney is the best and most productive player on the team and provides peace of mind for the coaching staff.... Without Heeney, the Jayhawks would have to replace a major hole in the middle of their defense. His experience, consistent play and attacking style make him one of the Big 12’s top linebackers. And his leadership is evolving heading into his final season with the Jayhawks.
Imaginary Big 12 Draft
Last week, the ESPN.com trio of Chatmon, Jake Trotter and Max Olson, ripped off a 22-round draft of the Big 12's top talent designed to fill out a starting 11 on both offense and defense.
In all, just three Jayhawks were picked in the 66-man draft, and, somewhat surprisingly, senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was the first KU player taken. Chatmon took Shepherd in the 13th round.
A couple of rounds later, Trotter snatched up senior linebacker Ben Heeney. And in the 19th round Chatmon swiped senior wide receiver Tony Pierson.
In a league with as much talent as the Big 12, it's not all that surprising that only a few Jayhawks were chosen. However, I was a little surprised that both cornerback Dexter McDonald and safety Isaiah Johnson went undrafted. Most within the KU program thought that McDonald was the better of KU's two cornerbacks last season and Johnson is the reigning Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year.
It would be interesting to see these guys do this draft again at the end of next season, or perhaps midway through, as newcomers like Kevin Short and Nick Harwell, along with a couple of other returning talents might be able to crack the draft with strong seasons.
Here's a link to the results of the complete imaginary player draft.
Strong and Weak
Finally, Chatmon was charged with taking a quick look at the Jayhawks' strongest and weakest positions.
To almost no one's surprise, his take was right in line with what most people believe to be true about the Jayhawks heading into 2014.
Strongest position: Secondary.
The Jayhawks have arguably the best returning cornerback duo in the Big 12 with JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald.... KU’s safeties (Isaiah Johnson and Cassius Sendish) are just as productive... Add cornerbacks Kevin Short and Greg Allen, who looked ready to contribute during the spring, and the Jayhawks secondary brings experience, production and depth to the field, three traits several other Big 12 teams wish they had on their rosters.
Weakest position: Offensive line.
The Jayhawks return a league-worst 34 career starts along the offensive line, with All-Big 12 honorable mention guard Ngalu Fusimalohi as the lone returnee with double-digit starts (12).... If KU has any hope of John Reagan’s offense taking off during his first season as offensive coordinator, the offensive line will have to reach new heights.