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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

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Each summer, across the country, football fans spend time watching, waiting and anticipating the arrival of another college football season. And while that might not always be a favorite pastime of KU fans, many still get sucked in to the journey.

Will this be a better season? Is this the year that things finally get going in the right direction? Will Kansas at least be competitive therein making Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall the place to be instead of a place to avoid? All are common questions KU fans wrestle with every year.

So in order to help you predict the answers to those questions and more, we set out to pinpoint the 25 players that could make the biggest impact for the Jayhawks this fall.

Big seasons from these guys — be them in the form of yards and touchdowns or just consistency and perhaps overachieving — could go a long way toward increasing KU's chances at success during the upcoming season.

This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Tom Keegan and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Remember, this is not an exercise designed to identify KU's best players but an attempt to pinpoint which players, with strong seasons, could have the biggest impact for Kansas this fall.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order.

Kansas offensive lineman Jayson Rhodes (65) picks himself off the ground after falling down laughing while fellow lineman field kickoffs during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas offensive lineman Jayson Rhodes (65) picks himself off the ground after falling down laughing while fellow lineman field kickoffs during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

25. Jayson Rhodes, Jr. Offensive Lineman

Rhodes is a good one to kick off this summer’s series with because he represents a couple of key aspects of the KU football program at this point in time. One, through hard work in the weight room and with the strength coaches, Rhodes has reworked his body and is in the best shape of his career, a move that allowed him to slide into the starting left guard spot throughout the spring.

Two, Rhodes plays offensive line and there’s no question that the most important position for the Jayhawks this fall will be the big bodies up front. Not only will they need to keep carving out holes for the Kansas running backs, but they also, and more desperately, have to keep opposing defenders off of KU’s quarterback if the Jayhawks hope to be competitive in 2016.

The 6-foot-4, 311-pound Rhodes is well equipped to do just that. Even with his former physique, which featured more fat, less muscle mass and more bad weight, he showed good feet and solid athleticism, especially for a man his size. Now, with a more efficient frame and a new home at guard instead of on the outside against speed rushers, Rhodes can use those feet and his newfound strength to move bodies and get up the field.

The communications major who is minoring in sociology played in just three games a season ago but, all of a sudden, has the look of a guy who believes he will be a 12-game starter.

That kind of swagger can become contagious and, on an offensive line that is starting to develop some depth and could benefit from positional competition as much as any spot on the roster, that attitude carried by Rhodes and others can only mean good things for the Jayhawks in 2016 and beyond.

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