| ||2011 SEASON IN REVIEW:While lacking pizzazz, a pair of season-opening wins over McNeese State and Northern Illinois was obviously a positive for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2011, but the euphoria was short-lived as the team would go on to lose 10 straight games in suffering through yet another abysmal campaign. |
Most of the decisions were lopsided, but a 13-10 setback at Iowa State followed by a heart-breaking 31-30 overtime loss versus Baylor, both late in the season, at least had the team feeling a little better about the effort. Of course, a 61-7 shellacking at the hands of Texas A&M and a two-touchdown loss to Missouri in the finale brought the team back to reality.
Another losing season meant the end of Turner Gill's brief tenure as head coach -- his two teams amassing a paltry 5-19 record. He was just 1-16 in the Big 12, and feeling a need to make a splash with its new coach, the KU administration turned to former Notre Dame head man and long-time NFL assistant Charlie Weis.
It remains to be seen if Weis is the answer, but the return of 16 starters at least gives him a chance.
Given the Jayhawks' struggles of late, he knows it's not going to be easy. "I think that the first thing you better do is get your team to be more competitive on a weekly basis. Because once you get your team more competitive, more wins will naturally follow," He continued, "I think that that's the number one job that me together with my staff, I think that we have to permeate all the way down to our players is that we expect them to know what to do and go out and do it hard for 60 minutes."
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|S 1 vs. South Dakota State |
S 8 vs. Rice
S15 vs. TCU
S22 at Northern Illinois
O 6 at Kansas State
O13 vs. Oklahoma State
O20 at Oklahoma
O27 vs. Texas
N 3 at Baylor
N10 at Texas Tech
N17 vs. Iowa State
D 1 at West Virginia
WR Kale Pick
OT Tanner Hawkinson
OG Duane Zlatnik
C Trevor Marrongelli
DE Toben Opurum
DE Keba Agostinho
LB Darius Willis
LB Tunde Bakare
CB Greg Brown
FS Bradley McDougald
OFFENSE:The Jayhawks had a difficult time establishing much in the way of a passing game last year, averaging a dismal 167.4 ypg through the air. Jordan Webb took most of the snaps, but despite hitting better than 63 percent of his passes, he was nearly even in TD-to-INT ratio (13-to-12).
The offensive-minded Weis brought in former Notre Dame signal-caller Dayne Crist to run the show this fall, with juco transfer Turner Baty expected to serve as his primary backup. Crist, who is entering his fifth year of eligibility, will look to a trio of senior WRs in D.J. Beshears, Kale Pick and Daymond Patterson to make plays down field, the first two having combined for 74 catches, 781 yards and 5 TDs a season ago.
Crist, who suffered a pair of significant knee injuries while at Notre Dame, had his best year in 2010 when he threw for 2,033 yards, 15 TDs and 7 INTs. Weis has complete confidence in Crist, and believes the veteran signal-caller will flourish in his new surroundings.
"He's such a natural leader that it is easy for the players to follow," Weis went on to say, "He has spent a ton of time with the offensive line. Shows you he's a very intelligent young man because he wanted to know whether or not he thought that the offensive line would give him an opportunity."
He clearly earned their respect as despite being one of the new guys on campus, Crist was named a team captain for the 2012 season.
As for the KU rushing attack, junior James Sims (182 carries, 727 yards, 9 TDs) is the top returning rusher, but he is expected to split time with sophomore Tony Pierson (71 attempts, 396 yards, 3 TDs).
The offensive line boasts three returning starters in seniors Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli, but the unit as a whole will need to be much better than last season when it allowed a total of 31 sacks.
DEFENSE:The KU defense was clearly the reason the team struggled as much as it did last year, as foes generated more than 516 yards of total offense per game -- 238.5 on the ground, 277.9 via the pass. As a result, the Jayhawks surrendered 43.8 ppg.
After ranking dead last in the FBS in total defense in 2011, there is only one direction the team can go and if it's up to seniors Toben Opurum (45 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4 sacks), Bradley McDougald (89 tackles, 2 INTs) and Greg Brown (43 tackles, 2 INTs), the Jayhawks will be much improved this time around.
The defensive line will be the key to any success the unit enjoys, but there are questions as only Opurum and junior Keba Agostinho offer much in the way of known ability. An infusion of new blood is welcomed, and one guy to keep an eye on is former Nebraska Cornhusker Josh Williams.
The linebacking corps is rather thin on experience, but there is some talent there, and the secondary should be solid with both McDougald and Brown leading the way.
SPECIAL TEAMS:Coming off a year in which he averaged 42.8 yards per punt and made good on 3-of-4 field goal attempts, junior Ron Doherty is expected to handle both aspects of the Kansas kicking game. After amassing more than 1,000 yards on kickoff returns last year, Beshears will likely get the bulk of the chances in that department, and he will likely serve as the team's primary punt returner as well after bringing back 10 boots last season. The Jayhawks were credited with only 12 punt returns as a team in 2011 -- yet another disparaging stat indicating the defense's inability to stop anyone.
OUTLOOK:Overall, Kansas appears to be in better shape than it has been the last couple of years, but that doesn't mean the team will make significant strides in the Big 12 this season. Winnable non-conference games against South Dakota State, Rice and Northern Illinois could have the Jayhawks feeling pretty good about themselves, but the league slate is as daunting as ever.
After going 19-6 in his first two years at Notre Dame, Weis managed just a 16-21 mark over his final three seasons. He obviously had more talent there compared to what he has now, but don't be surprised if the Jayhawks show marked improvement this fall, although it may not necessarily be reflected in their overall record.
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor