Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson
In case anyone needed any further proof of just how important the offensive line will be to the Kansas football program's chances on the field this fall, we're now encountering our second lineman in three tries during our summer series that highlights the most crucial Jayhawks for 2016.
Guard Jayson Rhodes came in at No. 25 on Monday. And today it's the only player guaranteed to touch the ball on every offensive snap.
Reminder: 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.
Matt Tait 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.
Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.
23. Joe Gibson, Jr. Offensive Lineman
Walk-ons must play a big part in Kansas digging out of the scholarship deficit partly responsible for an 0-12 season in 2015 and Las Vegas setting the over/under for 2016 victories at 1.5.
Walk-ons who earn scholarships after two years in the program, don't count against the maximum 25 scholarships per class, just against the 85 total. It's one thing to tell walk-ons that they have a legitimate shot at earning scholarships once they prove themselves in practice. It's a far more powerful thing to be able to point to an example of a walk-on who worked his way into a scholarship and then into a starting assignment.
Joe Gibson a fourth-year junior out of Rockhurst High, projects as the team's starting center, although he faces a strong battle from emerging red-shirt freshman Mesa Ribordy, a walk-on from Louisburg.
Gibson, 6-foot-3, 310 pounds, missed the second half of last season with an injury. In his three starts before that, he showed that he was more ready for competition than as a red-shirt freshman, when he played in eight games, started seven, and at times was dominated by more athletic, bigger, veteran Big 12 behemoths. For example, his play against Baylor from freshman to sophomore season noticeably was better.
Centers have responsibilities that extend beyond blocking and snapping. Gibson has the brain to handle those, having earned Academic All-Big 12 second-team honors.
Gibson and fifth-year senior Jordan Shelley-Smith, in a battle with Clyde McCauley for the starting spot at left tackle, share the team lead for career offensive-line starts with 10.
Convincing Gibson to come to Kansas as a walk-on wasn't a tough task, thanks to his lineage. His great uncle, Ray Evans, was an all-time KU great, starring in football and basketball. Evans is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Joe's uncle, Harry Gibson, was a basketball standout for the Jayhawks. Gibson's father, Paul, played football at Pittsburg State.
Idaho, Pennsylvania and Western Michigan recruited Gibson, but walking on at KU appealed to him more. A healthy 2016 season from him would do a lot to stabilize the O-line and build chemistry on it. In the event he suffers from injuries, Ribordy or projected starting guard Jacob Bragg could slide in to replace him.
Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016: