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Breaking down spring camp: Kansas

2/26/2013

Kansas will be the next Big 12 team to take the field for spring practice later today. Time for a closer look.

Schedule: The first of KU's 15 NCAA-allowed practices will be today, leading up to a spring game in Lawrence on April 13.

What's new: Kansas made some minor shifts in its coaching staff, but the real attraction in Lawrence this spring is the influx of junior college talent. We'll get to that a bit later. The biggest staff change is Clint Bowen stepping up to coach the linebackers, replacing DeMontie Cross, who left for TCU this offseason.

New faces: This list is about to get serious, so buckle up. That's what you have to expect when about three-fourths of your class is junior college transfers. Kansas is bringing in 11 players early this spring.

  • CB Colin Spencer

  • DT Marquel Combs

  • OT Zach Fondal

  • OG Ngalu Fusimalohi

  • DT Tedarian Johnson

  • DE Chris Martin

  • CB Dexter McDonald

  • DT Ty McKinney

  • P/KOS Trevor Pardula

  • CB Cassius Sendish

  • OL Mike Smithburg

That's obviously a big haul, and KU's focusing on grabbing an immediate talent upgrade. Whether they have one in reality will show up this spring.

All eyes on: Quarterback Jake Heaps. KU seemed like it was set at the position after Heaps and Dayne Crist transferred from major programs following Charlie Weis' hire. Last year's campaign with Crist went poorly and he was benched midway through the season. Heaps would like better results and has already entrenched himself as a leader like Crist did. Will it lead to better results on the field? We may get a feel for that this spring.

Question marks: Kansas needs receiver help and needs it badly. But I like the defense's chances to make some further strides after some improvements last season under Dave Campo. The receiving unit having no touchdown catches last season is inexcusable, though. It just has to be better. Juco transfer Rodriguez Coleman won't be there in the spring, but guys like Chris Omigie, Tre Parmalee and Andrew Turzilli need to show progress this spring and fill in for the losses of Daymond Patterson and Kale Pick.

Breaking out: Defensive tackle Jordan Tavai. There will be a lot of attention paid to Marquel Combs this spring, but Tavai showed up midway through fall camp last season and earned a starting spot by season's end. After going through the offseason program and having a season under his belt, he could be a new man next fall for the Jayhawks. The senior juco transfer could show off some of that progress this spring.