Saturday, August 18, 2012


Five sleepers who could be a factor for Kansas football in 2012

Linebackers Prinz Kande, right, wraps up Michael Reynolds during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Linebackers Prinz Kande, right, wraps up Michael Reynolds during a morning practice on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.


Camp life is over for the Kansas University football team, no more cramped quarters, uncomfortable beds or snoring roommates for the Jayhawks.

Instead, the focus shifts — under much more cozy living conditions — to the upcoming season, South Dakota State on Sept. 1 and, well, proving the doubters wrong.

That last part has driven these guys for the past several months, and whether you’re talking about the head coach who is trying to redeem himself, the quarterback looking for one more chance to prove he can play or any number of returning players who want to make it clear that 2010 and 2011 were fluke seasons, the stakes are high for the entire team, even if the pressure is not.

A lot of the names you know. The Toben Opurums, Kale Picks and Daymond Pattersons have been around for years and have reached a certain level of notoriety. But there are guys behind them.

And not just back-ups. KU coach Charlie Weis has made it clear that this team will be only as good as its depth, which can show up in a number of different ways and places. While that typically involves the first- and second-string guys, you never know when one of the guys behind them will be called into action. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, their depth extends beyond two deep at some positions.

So here they are, in no particular order, five secret assassins to keep an eye on this season. These guys might not be starters, might not play much and might not finish the season among the team’s statistical leaders. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that each will make a significant impact at some point this season.

Prinz Kande, junior linebacker: Kande’s is a name people know. Recruited by former KU boss Mark Mangino and nearly invisible while Turner Gill called the shots, Kande has a chance to earn a few snaps because of his speed. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has said a successful defense in the Big 12 has guys who can play in space.

Kande, a former safety, should be one of those guys, and the extra bulk he added a season ago while transitioning to linebacker should aid his ability to bring down ball carriers once he gets to them.

During a couple of recent practices, Kande has worked with the first team. It doesn’t mean he’ll stay there or ever even start there, but it does mean he has a chance to play. And it likely means he’s ready.

John Williams, junior defensive tackle: Williams did not work as hard as he did to transform his body to sit on the bench. Williams was KU’s best defensive lineman a season ago before an early injury wiped out his potential to blossom, and coaches have said the now more-chiseled Williams picked up where he left off. With so much of the defensive-line focus on the Jayhawks’ newcomers, Williams has worked in the shadows throughout the offseason.

With Weis and Campo pledging to roll in first- and second-string guys throughout the season, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Williams is not one of the four best interior linemen in crimson and blue.

Andrew Turzilli, sophomore wide receiver: Turzilli might not have caught a meaningful pass for the Jayhawks during his first two years in town (one was a red-shirt season), but all signs from camp point to that ending in 2012.

Quietly catching everything thrown his way this preseason, Turzilli could be in for a breakout year. With seniors D.J. Beshears, Patterson and Pick receiving a lot of the throws from senior quarterback Dayne Crist, there figure to be precious few catches to go around. But Turzilli, with his 6-foot-3-inch frame, slippery athleticism and sweet timing should get quite a few looks down the field.

Ben Goodman, red-shirt freshman defensive end: Before the coaching change, Goodman was one of the most promising young players on the KU defense. The good news for Goodman is his position coach, Buddy Wyatt, is still around, so all of that goodwill he built up during his red-shirt season will not go wasted.

Goodman has more competition now, but the 6-foot-3, 260-pound end is athletic and explosive, and Wyatt’s recent reminder that people should not forget about him likely serves as a sign that the Beaumont, Texas, native has something to offer when it comes to rushing the passer.

Tre Parmalee, freshman wide receiver: Weis raved about Parmalee this preseason, even going as far as to use him as an example of a guy he would use if he thought it would help the team, regardless of his red-shirt potential. We might not have learned everything about Weis yet, but we have learned enough to know this was no accident. He’s not the type to single out a guy unless the guy deserves it. And Parmalee deserves it. The Bishop Miege High grad has been one of the most consistent wideouts in practice and already has earned the trust of his teammates.

KU’s receiving corps is deep and talented, and this might not be the year that Parmalee is called on to catch a lot of passes. But it seems like a safe bet that he will find a way to get his hands on the ball somehow, even if that’s just in the return game.


Laurence Cooley 9 years, 9 months ago

I am a fan of Turzilli. I think that kid has a lot of potential to be special. Now we have the arm to get the ball to him, he can use his size to snag some big catches for us.

Doug Cramer 9 years, 9 months ago

JaCorey Shepeard - what happened with that guy. I thought he showed flashes of promise last season as a true freshman.

Also - I'm really hoping to see Brandon Bourbon mow some defenses over if he ever gets the chance this season.

tical523 9 years, 9 months ago

Totally agree, Shepard was awesome last year, he had great hands and ran excellent routes.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 9 months ago

Shepard started the year great but slowly worked his way into oblivion. Most of his catches were made in the first few games. I agree that he showed flashes of promise, and on more than one occasion as the season wore on I wondered what happened to him. I hope he regains that early season promise and competes for playing time.

troutsee 9 years, 9 months ago

Agree about Bourbon. He did not get to play a lot last year due to injuries and a crowded backfield. But when he got his chance, he showed he could be a great back.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 9 months ago

It is very interesting. The last two years, we have been worried about even having a somewhat solid first string. Now we have an incredible second and third string? I'm all in for drinking the Kool-aid, but I still believe that comes from our first string being healthy and our second string being able to hold its ground on a limited basis. If we are talking about our third-string being playmakers, I think that we really are being way over zealous with the abilities our new coaching can do in a period of 7-8 months.

Like I say, I'm all in and I'm even thinking possible bowl game, but I'm in with a healthy first string.

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

Does Huldon Tharp count as a sleeper? He's up to 227 pounds and I get the feeling he's about to open up a can, or two. The look on his face most of last year told the story. This kid can play, and he knows he was getting screwed. Now is his chance. He's healthy, he's filled into his man-size linebacker shoes, and he's quietly hungry.

Matt Tait 9 years, 9 months ago

He's listed as a starter and might be the team's best linebacker so I wouldn't count him. But your reasons are all valid. I'm with you... I think he's in for a big season.

danmoore 9 years, 9 months ago

who took the picture of Bill Self for the celeb calls ad? Doesn't even look like him. If his name wasn't attached to it I would not have known it was him.

waywardJay 9 years, 9 months ago

Parmalee looked impressive on Day 10. It was commented as just 3 Td's two returns and and reception for a Td, but the speed at which he pulled away from our team cannot be understated. he Broke a Linebackers ankle on a cut on the reception, and both returns were because of great vision and again Breakaway speed. This kid deserves to see the field as a return and a receiving threat.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 9 months ago

Bourban had the highest average per carry last year so I sure hope he sees a lot of carries. Of course I would like to see him, Pierson and Cummings in the option.

What I would love to see is at least two defenders who have at least 3 picks for the season. That would be huge.

I too was wondering about Jacorey Shepherd. He looked great last year.

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