Column: Five KU football seniors deserve mention

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The question of where Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger would turn for his next head coach dominated the headlines for most of the 2014 football season, which overshadowed fine performances from a handful of seniors worthy of all-conference consideration.

A lack of depth, blocks and for the first 37.5 percent of the season accurate passes, led to KU finishing with 3-9 overall and 1-8 conference records, the latter good for ninth in the 10-team Big 12. Kansas had enough play-makers to do so much better.

Five seniors who played during the worst five-year stretch in the history of Kansas football (12-48) merit first-team, All-Big 12 consideration.

First, the toughest first-team call on the ballot. Let’s look at whether Iowa State’s E.J. Bibbs or KU’s Jimmay Mundine deserves the honor.

Strangely, back in the day, the player with the most receptions, not yards, was most celebrated. Somewhere along the way, the stat freaks got it right.

The comparative stats:

Receptions: Each had 45. Reception yardage: Mundine 584, Bibbs 382. Huge advantage to Mundine. Average yards per reception: Mundine 13.0, Bibbs 8.5. Again, huge advantage to Mundine. Touchdown receptions: Mundine 3, Bibbs 8. Huge advantage to Bibbs.

A big-play threat and possession receiver, Mundine was a much bigger part of KU’s passing game than Bibbs was Iowa State’s, except in the red zone, where Bibbs came up huge for the last-place Cyclones.

Mundine, who did a great job of getting open and unlike last year caught everything thrown his way, took off once Michael Cummings took over at quarterback midway through the West Virginia game.

Mundine had 22.1 percent of his team’s receptions, Bibbs 16.9 percent. Mundine had 24 percent of his team’s receiving yards, Bibbs 13.5 percent of his team’s. Bibbs had 38.1 percent of his team’s TD catches, Mundine 21.4 percent of his team’s. Mundine’s total reception yardage was higher than anyone on KU’s or Iowa State’s roster. Bibbs ranked a distant third on his team in that category.

Mundine had an even more positive influence on KU than Bibbs did on ISU. My vote goes to Mundine.

Ben Heeney, the Big 12’s leading tackler, won’t have any trouble making the first team.

JaCorey Shepherd made huge strides working for three seasons under Dave Campo at cornerback and capped it with a standout senior season. Shepherd entered the weekend tied for first in passes defended with 18 (15 breakups, three interceptions).

Hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker Michael Reynolds led the conference with five forced fumbles and entered the weekend tied for fifth in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (14.5), despite drawing so many double-teams.

Punter Trevor Pardula was first in the Big 12 with 44.3 yards per punt. He not only kicks them long, he kicks them high. He is believed to be the first punter in the history of football given the authority to call a fake punt. And if you believe that, I’ve got a former offensive coordinator in Florida I’d like to sell you on.

Pardula had a national-high 3,673 punting yards, a ridiculous stat that speaks more than anything to quality of KU’s offense.

As it stands now, Kansas will have far fewer play-makers next season, especially on defense, but if new coach David Beaty and his staff can find a way to upgrade recruiting, particularly on both lines, better times can be reached within a few years.