Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Weak and Strong: Kansas Jayhawks
By David Ubben
Turnover is an annual tradition in college football, but with that, teams' strengths and weaknesses constantly shift, too. Today, we'll continue our look at the biggest strengths and weaknesses for each Big 12 team.
Next up: Kansas.
Strongest position: Running back
It seems like this has been the case for awhile at KU, but don't expect it to change in 2013. Say what you will about Turner Gill, but the man recruited the heck out of the running back position, and the Jayhawks are reaping the benefits now. James Sims and Anthony Pierson highlight the group, and both were among the Big 12's top 10 at the position. Before Lache Seastrunk's late-season emergence, Sims had a pretty good case ahead of Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle as the Big 12's best back.
Sims topped 1,000 yards on just 218 carries and scored nine times, averaging better than 4.5 yards per carry with an offense that had zero passing threat for opposing defenses. The closest thing to a passing threat was the Jayhawks' No. 2 back, Pierson, who ran for 760 yards and four scores on just 117 carries, averaging better than 6.5 yards a touch. Pierson helped the passing game tremendously, catching 21 balls for 291 yards and two scores. KU's backs run pretty deep, too. Taylor Cox added 464 yards on 91 carries, scoring three times. Brandon Bourbon has had issues staying healthy, but he can provide even more depth.
KU's still trying to get over the hump and end its 21-game Big 12 losing streak, but without the running backs, the close calls in 2012 like games against Texas and Texas Tech wouldn't have been possible. If KU wins a league game this time around, the running backs will be a huge reason why.
Weakest position: Receiver
If I told you a Big 12 team fielded an offense in which no receiver caught a touchdown pass in 12 games, I'm betting you wouldn't have a hard time believing that Big 12 team won exactly zero conference games. You've got to be able to produce big plays and score points in the Big 12 to be competitive, and KU couldn't do that with its passing game.
The lack of a passing threat was something of a chicken-and-egg situation last season, but as much as Dayne Crist struggled, he got zero help from his receivers. Kale Pick led the unit with 390 yards on 26 catches, but he's gone this year and Pierson's actually the team's leading returning receiver. So is Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears, but KU's got to restart at the position and find a new set of threats. Returning players Andrew Turzilli and Tre Parmalee have some potential, but for KU, now is the time for Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay to step up. New quarterback Jake Heaps needs all the help he can get, and McCay's the most physically gifted player in the group. Newcomers Rodriguez Coleman, Mark Thomas and Ishmael Hyman don't have much standing between them and playing time, though. Receivers across the Big 12 are great. KU doesn't have anyone who fits that bill. It needs to change fast.