Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Opinion: KU football has shot to recapture past playmaking magic

Kansas Blue team receiver Justin McCay makes a one-hand catch against the White team'ss Nasir Moore on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at the KU football spring game. The Blue team won, 34-7.

Kansas Blue team receiver Justin McCay makes a one-hand catch against the White team'ss Nasir Moore on Saturday, April 13, 2013, at the KU football spring game. The Blue team won, 34-7.


Nobody hands out bowl bids based on most improved this or that, but turnstiles do tend to spin a little faster for football teams that field explosive offenses packed with flashy skill-position players.

For the first time since Mark Mangino, Kansas University’s first winning football coach since Jack Mitchell, was pressured to resign, KU has a shot to flood the field with potent playmakers.

Senior running back James Sims remains the most valuable member of the team. For a change, KU might be able to surround him with a skilled passer and a fleet of talented pass-catchers. Quarterback Jake Heaps, all-purpose burner Tony Pierson, rugged receiver Justin McCay, tight end Jimmay Mundine and possible wide receiver addition Nick Harwell all have big-play potential.

Kansas has a legitimate shot to have the most improved offense in the Big 12, and not only because it by far had the worst one in the conference in 2012, Dayne Crist’s one and only half-season as starting quarterback and Charlie Weis’ one and only half-season (the other half) as a triple-option offensive coordinator.

But the impact of that impending improvement on ticket sales probably hasn’t kicked in yet because Weis’ aggressive recruiting efforts included acquiring players who either haven’t played for a while or are not yet cleared to play in 2013.

Sure, there are question marks:

Will the offensive line supplly ample pass protection?

Can Heaps show he’s a gamer and not just a practice sensation?

Can Pierson make a smooth transition to being used 80 percent of the time at receiver?

Will Miami (Ohio) allow Harwell to take the classes necessary to earn his degree so he can make his family proud, mount his framed diploma on the wall and become immediately eligible to play at KU?

If the answers are yes, yes, yes and yes, somebody else will take the place of the Jayhawks in the position they have occupied since Mangino, Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier hit the road.

With Jordan Webb at quarterback for Turner Gill’s 2010 team, Kansas ranked 111th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams with an average of 17.1 points per game. They finished last in the Big 12 with a 14.5 average.

In 2011, Webb’s offense placed 95th of 120 with 22.3 points a game and last in the Big 12 with a 17.4 average.

In 2012, Crist and Michael Cummings shared QB duties and the Jayhawks ranked 118th of 124 in the FBS with 18.3 points a game, last in the conference with a 15.7 average. At least the run-heavy offense of a year ago ate clock and cut back on the time the defense spent on the field, but an offense isn’t supposed to be so defensive.

The key to improvement, as always, lies with the quarterback and all signs point to Heaps qualifying as a significant upgrade.

Weis’ decision to use Pierson the way West Virginia used Tavon Austin should occupy a good deal of the defense’s attention. That won’t hurt Sims, who did such great work with the D concentrating on him almost every play.

If the spring game accurately captured his talent level, McCay will make Heaps look good by pulling passes out of big crowds. Mundine gets more focused, smarter, with every year.

The one thing Kansas lacked on paper coming out of 2012 was a player who combined game experience as a go-to receiver who also breaks game-changing plays. Harwell, if he gains instant eligibility and isn’t required to sit out a year, fits the profile perfectly. His longest receptions as a freshman (82 yards), sophomore (71) and junior (68) hint at his big-play ability. As a sophomore, he had 97 receptions for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. He’ll make a huge difference, if Miami allows him to get on with his life.

If the answers to the four pressing questions regarding the line, the quarterback, the hybrid sprinter and the superstar transfer receiver are yes, yes, yes and yes, will the Kansas football team have an offense that will keep the town buzzing and the turnstiles spinning? YES!


Theonlythingthatexceedsyourbad 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm a little worried about our WR. I don't know if Harwell is going to be eligible. McCay is an improvement from last year but he's unproven. His spring game was good, however his TD was clearly offensive pass interference. Pierson is a total wildcard, he may just save the WRs because he's going to garner a lot of attention leaving them in single coverage often.

However it is sliced I know we'll have more touchdown passes to WRs this year than last. . . . . . luckily Heaps and McCay have a years worth of chemistry.

Joe Ross 9 years, 2 months ago

You didn't even mention Turzilli and he's at the top of the two-deep. Omigie is not as flashy as others but he is reliable. Justin McCay may be unproven, but if I have a guy like him on the roster, my fears are lessened greatly for many reasons. Sitting out last year gave him time to learn the offense, the fact that this kid played for OU and received instruction there will increase his comfort level in the game (he is not fresh off the high school "boat"), he has something to prove and has been working extra hard, his athletic ability, etc. The bevy of other receivers around these guys means that competition for spots is high, and that means they all benefit. I am not worried about the receivers so much as I am worried about Heaps. He is the catalyst. We have receivers plenty talented enough who can "make plays" (I hate that turn of phrase since the Gill era) if the QB is worth his reputation. As you point out, we have reason to be hopeful regarding Heaps. This is his second year in the program.

KGphoto 9 years, 2 months ago

Omigie is consistently tall. That’s about it so far.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

How is Omigie reliable?

What evidence supports that opinion?

Doug Roberts 9 years, 2 months ago

You can always count on him to drop the pass.

Jeff Worthington 9 years, 2 months ago

Because he's always on time maybe??? As a WR he is consistently inconsistent.

Ksucats68 9 years, 2 months ago

Your backfield is pretty deep which should draw defenders to the line and free up the WR's. Your WR's won't need to be superstars to put up big yards.

Phil Leister 9 years, 2 months ago

From Tait's article a few days ago: "In order for that to happen, Harwell needs to complete a couple of courses that would allow him to graduate from Miami and transfer to KU via the same senior-transfer rule that brought Dayne Crist from Notre Dame and sent cornerback Tyler Patmon from KU to Oklahoma State. According to sources, Harwell is about a week shy of completing one such course online. The others, which also could be taken online, must be under way by July 15, the start date of Miami's final summer session."

Phrases like "a couple of courses" and "about a week shy" are a little concerning because they're so vague. Regardless, it seems like we should know one way or another within the next week. Weis sort of did the same thing to Berglund for a little bit, but this really reflects badly on Miami OH.

hawk316 9 years, 2 months ago

I like very much the sound of this statement:

"Kansas has a legitimate shot to have the most improved offense in the Big 12..."

Tom, good, positive article, full of hope. Here's hoping that you're right on target!

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 2 months ago

I think it is interesting that heaps didn't reach the top ten in keegan's previous article, but mccay did.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

It seems a little late for Harwell to make this season....doesn't it? I would be more upset if the cap and gown / girlfriend issue was the only legal dispute he's had, but after looking at his impressive record of reckless and violent behavior...I'm not entirely convinced he would do more good than harm to the team.

As of this moment, Tony Pierson is our one and only receiver. I have hope for McCay, but he is unproven in games. I like his apparent toughness, but he doesn't have the speed to compliment it.

Argue as you will, I'm sure, but the rest of our WR corp is a joke. I blame most of last season on Dayne Crist and the Mystery of the Disappearing 5-Star Status, but the receiving corp did nothing to help that. Dropped passes, can't get separation, pitiful routes, no get the point. And the only support we have coming in are JUCO transfers, so I guess you can add a 50/50 toss up factor into my prediction.

If we win three games....which at this point would be nothing short of will be because of James Sims and Tony Pierson.

Nothing more, nothing less.

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I agree with you. The WR position is still the biggest unknown going into the season. I do have concerns about our OL, but it wasn't that great last year either despite other opinions on this board. Pretty average at best. We need big play from our OL and the WR position becomes less of a factor because of separation time.

I'm also hoping for a big year for McCay, but even more so for Turzilli. He showed flashes last season and if he did his work in the offseason, he could have a huge impact because of his size. Hard guy to cover downfield...

It does come down to our OL though obviously. Running and passing the ball requires blocking...duh.

texashawk10 9 years, 2 months ago

Miami's second seesion of summer school ends a couple of days after KU's practice starts so not a huge deal in thay regard. I wouldn't count Turzilli out from being good. He had moments last year and with another year of experience is someone who can become a true #1 receiver. I think it's more likely that happens in 2015 though, but I think we'll see him show more this year and have a couple of big games this year.

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I think you might be right assuming that our OL is able to block. I think we should put points on the board this season.

The thing people forget about the Mangino era is the staunch defensive teams he had. People only remember the Reesing era where we scored almost at will. Several of Mangino's teams were tough as nail defensively despite the star rating of the players coming out of H.S. Some of that was due to great scheming under Bill Young, but we really did have some undersized linemen and linebackers that were just tougher than cat ****.

Brad Farha 9 years, 2 months ago

heck yeah, I loved those defensive teams we hand under Mangino. I moved to the KC area in 2004 (season ticket holder since then), and those teams fought hard. Sure it was tough to lose some of those close games, but those teams didn't quit. I hope to see that again this year.

kay_you 9 years, 2 months ago

USA Today has KU ranked as the 96th best team in the country. Everyone on our schedule is ranked ahead of us. I like it.

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 2 months ago

I want to know if if this ACL twitter thing is a joke or serious. We need all the help we can get on D

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 2 months ago

Google/Bing Marcus Jenkins-Moore ACL, it might be seriouse, it might be a birthday joke, no one knows, Tait is looking into it. Some say they arent saying much to try and not slow ticket sales....but no one is saying anything

Reuben_J_Cogburn 9 years, 2 months ago

I think it's real. I read about it over a week ago.

And has been more concerned with creating survey question-guarded articles and all-time KU great basketball lists.

This would be incredibly damaging to our defensive hopes, and no one in the local media is doing their due dilligence to uncover the story or defuse the myth.

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure it's incredibly damaging, Cogburn. We don't really know what kind of impact he would have. Besides, I like our linebackers even without Jenkins-Moore.

Sam Brockert 9 years, 2 months ago

Looks like some rumor started by a KState message board. I have checked his twitter feed for the last 2 weeks and nothing is there about being injured.

stunner81 9 years, 2 months ago

Nice article to try to boost ticket sales.....but winning games is the only thing that will do that!

Dale Stringer 9 years, 2 months ago

Question 5: Can anyone kick a football more than 30 yards... accurately... in the right direction?

That should be back to "Yes", but is unproven too.

Mangino_Maniac 9 years, 2 months ago

So did Marcus Jenkins-Moore tear his ACL or not???

Phil Leister 9 years, 2 months ago

Here's what I don't get. If he tore his ACL, then he had surgery. If he had surgery, then he's on crutches. Lawrence is a small town, and it's easy to pick out a football player like MJM on campus. Surely a student or someone has seen him in the last week. Seems like a reported like Tait could camp outside the football complex one afternoon and get a glimpse of the guy. If he's on crutches, he tore it. If he's not on crutches, he could still be injured, but we'll at least get an idea of the severity of the potential injury.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 2 months ago

I think we will do much better this year. I liked a couple of great grabs by Ford in the Spring game. I think we have a better receiving corps that we have had for a few years. Backfield is great. Now the unknown is how Heaps will do live, in a real game. If he meets expectations we could have a nice year. If he exceeds them we could have a great year.

Armen Kurdian 9 years, 2 months ago

Latest ESPN headline: "KU on track to win National Champtionship."

CHEEZIT 9 years, 2 months ago

Too bad people discovered how to defend the spread offense. That Orange Bowl season was fun to watch. You could tell the offense didn't care if the other team scored because they would get the points back in like, a minute, minute and a half!!!

Bryce Landon 9 years, 2 months ago

If Kansas is to have any chance at sniffing success this year, we must, must, MUST have consistency at quarterback. We've not had a decent QB since Reesing graduated, and QB controversy has been a never-ending source of frustration for us since No. 5 moved on.

Skyler Owen 9 years, 2 months ago

What about WR Coleman and Thomas the incoming recruits how much of an impact can they have this year?

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 2 months ago

I like your take on things. We need time. That 8-5 season of 2008 looks pretty good now. We were all disappointed after the narrow miss of playing for the Naty in '07 season. I'll take 8-5 year in, year out. I said it with TG and I'll say it again. Give this staff time. Time=stability. Stability gives you the chance for momentum, incremental improvement and more wins. I don't buy that Weiss is one of the worst D1 coaches as I read recently. Don't buy that at all. Seems like he is pulling out all the stops. I expect to read any day now that we are getting one of the top-ranked QBs in the land. I believe this staff can do that which has never been done before, bringing in some of the best talent in the land.

Brandon Mahon 9 years, 2 months ago

I will say this Weis can recruit, now we have to see if he can develop. He had innovative playcalling last year. We had to run the ball every play, because of the lack in kicking and passing game. We still manage to stay in games if I am correct 5 or 6 games last year we were winning or down by 3-7 points in the 4th quarter. Compared to TG's teams Weis's team competed last year. Yes we were 1-11 but we only got blown out a couple times. If Weis can continue to get the team to compete, can recruit, and the talent develops... LOOK OUT we will have a lot better record. I have not been this excited and jacked bout KU Football since 2008.

sadester30 9 years, 2 months ago

Heaps will surprise and excel initially, but lull into into a coma for a couple of games as teams adjust. But I believe Weiss can and will re-adjust and make for an exciting season. Isn't that enough interest to buy tickets?

Bob Bailey 9 years, 2 months ago

neb j 8 has it right!! The same was true of Weis his last year at ND. No Defense! Weis couldn't make up for the points his Defense gave away. Same was true last year for Weis. After the '13 Spring Game my forecast for '13 was Wins 0; Losses 12. The Defense crew can't teach tackling or coverage. His recruits this year have been great. No one should complain about lack of talent. But tackling and coverage are elementary Defense; Defense Scheme becomes irrelevant.

Maybe the 'talent' can make up for it, but not likely. Will watch the first game; if no Defense, give up. It is impossible to make up the points the Defense gives away!

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