Today we take a closer look at Kansas, a squad looking to rebound after being the lone Big 12 team that didn’t make a bowl game in 2012.
Coach: Charlie Weis (36-38, six seasons, 1-11, one season at KU)
2012 record: 1-11 (0-9 in Big 12)
Key losses: WR Kale Pick, CB Greg Brown, S Bradley McDougald, DE Toben Opurum, OL Tanner Hawkinson
Newcomer to watch: DB Cassius Sendish. The junior college transfer was immediately impressive in the spring, on and off the field. So impressive, in fact, that the Jayhawks brought him to Big 12 media days. He's already drawn praise from Weis for his versatility during KU’s preseason camp.
Biggest games in 2013: The middle of the season is brutal for the Jayhawks. A five-week stretch of TCU, Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State will show if the Jayhawks have improved or if they still have a long way to go.
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Will the Jayhawks' influx of Juco talent make a difference?
Defensive lineman Marquel Combs, the No. 3 player in the ESPN JC100, leads the way as the headliner of a group which includes Sendish and receiver Rodriguez Coleman, another juco signee who is making waves in KU’s preseason camp.
Weis, mimicking Kansas State, hit the junior colleges hard in the hopes of turning the Jayhawks' fortunes around with an infusion of college-ready talent. Time will tell if it pays off.
Forecast: Even though the Jayhawks finished 1-11 in 2012, KU showed more fight than its final record displayed. Texas and Oklahoma State barely escaped Lawrence with victories, and Texas Tech needed double-overtime to knock off the Jayhawks in Lubbock.
KU has several offensive weapons, including running back James Sims and dual threat Tony Pierson, who would be key offensive threats for any Big 12 squad with their explosive playmaking ability. Sims rushed for 1,013 yards in nine games last season, while Pierson rushed for 760 yards in 11 games in mostly backup duty after Sims’ return early in the season. At quarterback, BYU transfer Jake Heaps could be the key to KU’s success as he looks to improve on the Jayhawks’ average of 148.67 passing yards per game last season, which ranked No. 113 in the nation.
Defensively, the Jayhawks hope players like Sendish and Combs can join returning linebackers Ben Heeney (112 tackles) and Jake Love (36 tackles) to slow Big 12 offenses. KU will be counting on Combs to make a major impact in the middle after he turned down offers from Kansas State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ole Miss and others to be a Jayhawk.