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Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Kansas spring wrap

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 0-9
Returning starters: Offense 7; defense 6; P/K (2)

Top returners:
RB James Sims, WR D.J. Beshears, S Bradley McDougald, OL Tanner Hawkinson, DE Toben Opurum, RB Tony Pierson

Key losses:
QB Jordan Webb, RB Darrian Miller, LB Steven Johnson, CB Isiah Barfield, DL Patrick Dorsey

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: James Sims* (727 yards)
Passing: Jordan Webb (1,883 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Beshears* (437 yards)
Tackles: Steven Johnson (119)
Sacks: Toben Opurum* (4)
Interceptions: Bradley McDougald*, Greg Brown* (2)

Spring answers

1. A culture change is underway: Kansas' players have been beaten down over the past two years. Faith that a corner would be turned under Turner Gill wasn't rewarded. Part of what new coach Charlie Weis has to pound into his team is a sense of confidence. He memorably got his team to practice celebrating a win during one of this spring's open practices, producing a video that went viral. Confidence has to be KU's first step back from five wins in two seasons.

2. Recognizable names looking for a new start: Weis isn't the only person looking for a fresh start in Lawrence. KU welcomed six Division I transfers this fall, including starting quarterback Dayne Crist. Jake Heaps is waiting his turn to take the quarterback spot in 2013, but Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay had his appeal to waive the redshirt year denied by the NCAA. He'll be back in 2013, but defensive coordinator Dave Campo brings a big resume to Weis' staff, too.

3. Underrated at receiver: Kansas' receivers were obviously not very productive, but Weis actually left the spring really impressed with the unit. That's a good sign for Crist, and that's even without McCay suiting up. Former quarterback Kale Pick should contribute alongside D.J. Beshears and Daymond Patterson, who sat out the last 11 games of 2011 with a groin injury. JaCorey Shepherd, 6-foot-4 junior Chris Omigie and junior Christian Matthews fill out the unit that had enough depth to move Marquis Jackson to running back.

Fall questions

1. Can Charlie Weis reward the KU administration's faith? Kansas is very different than Notre Dame. It's very different from the Kansas City Chiefs and Florida Gators, too. The prospect of building a team from the bottom up appealed to Weis, and KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger made a hire that was panned by most across the country. Weis will coach with a chip on his shoulder, and the man knows football. Can he prove his detractors wrong?

2. What will the defensive line look like? This unit was the biggest hole on Kansas' team last season, and handcuffed what Weis saw was an underrated secondary. Weis noted the Jayhawks needed some bigger "muchachos" up front, and noted that reinforcements were on the way. Players that were working with the first team during the spring may be sliding way down the depth chart in the fall. How will it play out? Well, that's what fall camp is for.

3. How will the running back spot shake out? James Sims has led Kansas in rushing for each of the past two seasons, but was suspended for the first three games of 2012 after an OWI arrest. That's bad news for Sims, who had a bunch of competition at KU's best position, even after Darrian Miller was dismissed from the team during the offseason. Jackson and Tony Pierson both made huge impacts in the spring game, and Sims could have serious trouble earning his spot back when he returns in the fall. Weis won't waste first-team reps on Sims during fall camp, and with a new staff, that's a lot of exposure for Pierson, Jackson and Brandon Bourbon.