Kansas Jayhawks season preview

August, 6, 2014
Aug 6
10:30
AM ET
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Previewing the 2014 season for the Kansas Jayhawks:

Key returners: LB Ben Heeney, RB/WR Tony Pierson, QB Montell Cozart, S Isaiah Johnson

Key losses: HB James Sims

Most important 2014 games: Sept. 13 at Duke, Sept. 27 vs. Texas, Nov. 29 at Kansas State

[+] EnlargeBen Heeney
John Albright/Icon SMILinebacker Ben Heeney is one of the top returning players for a Kansas team looking to improve on last season's 1-8 Big 12 record.
Projected win percentage: 27.1 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: Three wins

Instant-impact newcomer: WR Nick Harwell. The Miami (Ohio) transfer is explosive and proven as a playmaker. Cozart's development should be helped by Harwell, who has the ability to take short passes and turn them into big gains. In addition, Harwell should open up opportunities for Pierson, tight end Jimmay Mundine and KU's other skill players.

Instant-impact newcomer, coaches' version: Charlie Weis essentially fired himself as offensive coordinator and brought in former Rice OC John Reagan to run the Jayhawks' attack. Weis will step back from the offense and take more of a "sounding board" role for KU while Reagan brings a higher-tempo style that will look to take advantage of Cozart's run-pass ability.

High point from 2013: The postgame reaction told the story for Weis’ Jayhawks after a 31-19 win over West Virginia, which snapped KU’s 27-game Big 12 losing streak. It was party time in Lawrence, Kansas, as the Jayhawks finally got to celebrate after years of disappointing conference defeats at home.

Low point from 2013: One week later, KU lost all the momentum it gained from the win over WVU thanks to a 34-0 loss to Iowa State on a frozen field at Jack Trice Stadium. It was a disappointing response to the excitement and momentum created by the win over the Mountaineers.

Biggest question mark: Even though KU is counting on Cozart, a sophomore, to take his game to another level, the Jayhawks' destiny will be decided in the trenches. The offensive and defensive lines must improve if KU hopes to surprise this fall. The Jayhawks' recruiting class featured several big bodies, including ESPN 300 center Jacob Bragg, but it remains to be seen if KU has made significant strides in that area.

Upset special: Several Big 12 teams have learned to be on their toes when visiting Lawrence, but Texas could be the latest team to learn that lesson. The Longhorns' Sept. 27 visit to Kansas is sandwiched between games with UCLA and Baylor, although UT does have a bye before playing KU. The Jayhawks, who suffered a close four-point loss during UT’s last trip in 2012, will see this as a chance to make an early statement.

They said it: “In this offense that we're running, I think athleticism at the quarterback position is a critical factor, and he definitely has athleticism. So besides being able to stand in the pocket and deliver, I think that that added element to either on called runs by quarterback or just scramble ability to bail you out of some trouble situations gives us a better chance to score more points.” -- Weis on naming Cozart KU’s starting quarterback

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BIG 12 SCOREBOARD

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