Friday, August 29, 2008
So ya gotta hang on
Come what may
I love ya
The season starts to-morrow
I love ya to-morrow
You're only a day away!
And yes, I did just alter the closing chorus of a song from Annie to depict my excitement. And yes, it very well may be the first time college football and the little red-headed orphan has come together in such a wonderful unison. For that reason – along with my schoolgirl-like giddiness – I make no apologies.
As was somewhat expected, the games last night were mildly disappointing, aside from Stanford/Oregon State. Baylor still sucks. But NC State may be worse. And Iowa State did their best USC impression (at least from a uniform standpoint) against the always gritty South Dakota State. In short, we didn't find out a whole lot. But it sure did feel good to be watching college football again. So you can imagine my excitement for an actual college football Saturday, culminating with a Kansas win.
About that Kansas win, I think it will come pretty easily. So easily, in fact, that I think they'll win by the third biggest margin in the conference (Tech and OU by more), somewhere in the vicinity of 40 points (spread has moved down to 35.5). Per the poll, it seems that Jake Sharp (my vote also) is the most likely to score the first touchdown. But then again, everyone has received at least one vote so I wouldn't go laying any money down just yet. Since this game really has no business being close much past the first quarter and we can't give you any more insight than Pete Pelegrin, I would say that you should instead watch for a few things from Kansas.
#1 – The Tackles. Offensive and defensive. Taking nothing away from the other pieces the team lost, but if the offensive tackles can play well, this offense will be every bit what it was a year ago, if not more. Defensively, watch to see how many blockers they're occupying. This is likely to be the worst offensive line the team sees all year, so if the d-tackles can't get a push on them, we probably shouldn't expect much of a push against Oklahoma (or anyone else).
# 2 – The Ends. Offensive and Defensive. Offensively, I think they'll be fine from a pass catching perspective. But watch to see how they block. I don't think we can reasonably expect either to equal Derek Fine, but there's no reason we should count on them to at least provide good edge help for the tackles. Defensively, watch to see if any of them can get to the quarterback. And watch Wheeler, Laptad and Onyegbule to see if they also maintain their position against the run.
# 3 – Enjoy. In a game like this, the domination should be in the trenches. If the line can't dominate FIU, troubles are on the way. If they can, the skill players will take care of the rest. Kicking game aside, I worry about little else on this team other than points 1 & 2. Don't expect anything flavored tomorrow, but that aside there's no excuse for not man-handling this team and I fully expect the Hawks to come out and do just that. Let's say…
KU 52 FIU 7
p.s. Good piece in the Journal today about college coaching salaries.
p.s.s. I'm sorry for wasting your time with this pointless drivel when i could have just linked this from the beginning, because it's probably the best college football preview I've ever read. And now I am even more excited for to-morrow!
Thursday, August 28, 2008
In all honesty, what in the hell is Dugan Arnett doing over at the LJW? In this, the week preceding the 2008 football season, he has managed to churn out a grand total of three articles: One on the release of the depth chart, one on Rojas and the kicking job and today’s solid piece on Jonathon Wilson. Over those four days, the Journal World as a whole has released 14 articles, though at least half would be considered more of a snippet than an article. (This is not even to mention the lack of “beat worthy” reports he’s given. Hell, just yesterday I was given great info without even trying. We weren’t positive of it’s accuracy at the time, but we posted it anyway. We later learned that we may be off slightly, but not by much. How is all of this eluding the KU beat reporter for the only mass published newspaper in Lawrence?)
Meanwhile, the University Daily Kansan (and yes, I get it that they only have to cover KU sports while the LJW should be covering all of Lawrence and even national news) has published 15 articles – none of them blurbs – in those same four days. In fact, they had 8 articles today alone! I suppose as someone looking for readership from Kansas fans I shouldn’t complain too much, but this is getting ridiculous. A job well done, UDK.
/End of rant
Newspaper angst aside, I wasn’t able to sleep very well last night. Clay Travis would like to explain on my behalf.
From the NFL, Aqib Talib has continued to impress in the preseason, which is always good to hear, especially with Fine getting hurt.
In more national pub, The Sporting News has a good read on JoMo.
To send a little love the way of our pal Tim Griffin, here is a link to Kansas’ Five Pressing Questions. I completely agree with 1, 3 & 5. All are big questions that will need to be answered. #4 has some legitimacy, but it’s true for every school fielding a team this year. Whether or not the schedule is more difficult than last year is irrelevant – each team will still need to “handle” their schedule. And # 2 is just plain moronic. There are two quality starting running backs and a third waiting behind them. Yes, there may not be a bevy of personnel if there are persisting injuries, but that’s probably the case at every position on the field for every team in the country. Moving on…
Barking Carnival has a nice update on the Bobby Reid/Mike Gundy, ummm…situation. I said from the beginning that this whole thing was more embarrassing than the article itself and it appears young Bobby Reid is not backing off that assertion.
And finally, we have a couple links involving our pal, Pete Pelegrin. In following our Q&A, the Journal World did a Spodcasters edition with him and Rock Chalk Talk did their own 5 question interview.
Finally, we must leave you but not before apologizing that we will not be making picks this week. Since there are only a couple of games that should even be anywhere near close, we aren’t going to bother (We will have a short write-up and prediction for the KU game tomorrow). Yes, yes, that’s what spreads are for, but quite frankly with these Thursday night games we just don’t have the time. So root for Baylor (the only league team that has any business losing its Week 1 game) tonight as they go up against Jim Grobe’s Wake Forest Demon Deacons and know that you are now less than 50 hours away from kickoff.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
So, who fills the holes in the lineup without Rivera, Holt and Wright? Wish I had an answers rather than speculation...but what the hell is this blog for, if not being speculatory?Here is the depth charts two deep, based off this there are only 3 servicable LB's in the two deep. While we will most likely get to see Dakota Lewis starting it brings up some pretty interesting questions about who will play if Holt really isn't able to go. As you might recall we discussed that true freshman Steven Johnson was getting Rivera's first team reps during Fan Appreciation Day. Though, in Mangino's recent discussion of freshman that could forego red-shirting, Johnson was not mentioned. Has that changed, or do we burn it for a few games where Clay Aiken could man all 3 spots and KU would still come out on top? How much does the fat man see in him?
We haven't really discussed Drew Dudley(SO.) much at all this year, primarily because he hasn't popped up in practice banter. Wonder if he is still one of the guys that Mangino has been high on?
Other possible candidates are Jake Schermer(JR.) and that is pretty much it...outside of a bunch of other freshmen. I expect Schermer to play, hell, maybe even has a chance at starting...but not because of raw talent, just as a fill in. I might add that I wouldn't expect Springer(SO.) to jump to the outside, to avoid mixing him up, but who knows in this crazy, recently thin linebacker world we live in. Get healthy for USF boys, we need you.
Should make for an interesting Saturday
Because we find them hilarious and Orson has already staked his claim to moustaches (imitation is flattery), we will honorably declare today and every one just like it, Mullet Wednesday. Enjoy. We know we will.
Are you kidding me?
Next up, we have the semi-newly released bowl projections of your resident college football experts at the WWL, Mark Schlabach and Bruce Feldman. Yes, the very same Bruce Feldman that wrote Meat Market. So if you were considering writing off his opinion, well…let's just say you better rethink that, champ. Feldman has already made light of the fact that he doesn't even think Kansas should be ranked to start the year, so I was somewhat surprised he even let them slide into a bowl (Texas v. East Carolina). Thanks, Bruce. Schlabach, on the other hand, has the Jayhawks matched with Dick Rod's Michigan Wolverines in the Alamo Bowl (I like San Antonio!). Obviously I'm hopeful for a better result, but if the Alamo is the ultimate destination I will in no way be surprised or disappointed.
Only Feldman has KSU in a bowl (Independence), but that surely won't bother potential #1 draft pick, J-Free. Hell, J-Free doesn't even miss having Jordy around, let alone the rest of that poor excuse of a senior class. In all honesty, you can't fault the guy for trying not to dwell on Jordy and instead concentrating on the players they have this year. But try not to throw the entire class under the bus next time. Maybe they were shitty leaders. Maybe they were shitty players. But everyone seemed fine with them after the trip to Austin. Only after the humiliating slide to end the season were these worthless vagabonds not worthy to be Wildcats. An honor, indeed.
Now this is actually a pretty good idea.
Back to KU, J Brady McCullough and Tom Keegan wrote the exact same story today about Jocques Crawford and his goal to rush for 2,000 yards this year. Which, I guess is understandable considering the headline said goal provides. I can't say I fault young Jocques' optimism, but as long as he and Jake combine for 2,000 that will be plenty to sassify me, while remaining realistic.
I have been saving this link for a few days, (pretty much for no reason) but it's a mini-interview with Todd by the Fort Worth Star Telegram. Worth a glance if you haven't seen it yet.
Also, if you haven't been reading them, our pals over at Rock Chalk Talk have been unveiling their position previews. If you're into detail, check them out, because they are much more in depth than the ones we provided earlier.
Also mentioned in McCullough's earlier linked article, as well as a piece by Dugan Arnett is the continued kicking worries the team is facing this year. Per the Big Man, apparently had he been kicking from the get-go, Rojas would be the PK as well, "lock, stock and barrel." Hopefully that means he's been kicking extremely well. But it could also mean that Grady Fowler is even worse than we had imagined. Since Rojas is already set to kickoff, I would anticipate we'll see him on kickoffs and long attempts, while Fowler will be used for PATs and shorter tries. I really wish I didn't feel like place kicking was going to fuck this team this year.
Sticking with the KC Star for our final blurb, Blair Kerkhoff has a story about how Kansas and Methzou rose from the bowels of college football. Barking Carnival offers up their response to the article here.
From the time of this post, we are but a mere 75 hours from kickoff. You've got but one day until it's time to crack open a few cold ones and start rubbing down those ribs. And that, my friends, gets me even more excited than Houston Nutt.
1. Last year when FIU came to town, Wayne Younger was clearly the starter and actually had some decent success (16/33 for 133, 1 INT & 10 rushes for 58 yards) considering the outcome. Per your reports though, the team has still not settled on a starter this year, with Paul McCall giving Younger a run for his money. What are the strengths of each? Weaknesses? And finally, who do you expect to start?
Younger is the more mobile quarterback, better athlete. McCall is the better pure passer and has a stronger arm. But a funny thing happened over the summer and in camp. Each QB started getting better at the other's strength. Younger has shown a better command of the offense and a stronger arm. McCall, with the help of some speed drills from strength coach Rod Moore, seems faster and more mobile in camp. My educated guess is that McCall will be named the starter, but Younger will play as well at some point throughout the season. Younger is too good an athlete to keep on the sideline.
2. It seems that T.Y. Hilton is not only the fastest Panther, but also one of their better playmakers. Talk a little about how they like to use him and Anthony Gaitor. Also, are there any other playmakers we should know about? How are they used?
Hilton and Gaitor both possess the classic Miami high school football speed. Give them an opening and you're not going to catch them. Both will be used in the return game and Gaitor is probably FIU's best cover corner. Hilton will see plenty of action on offense too. Safeties Jeremiah Weatherspoon and Marshall McDuffie and DB Robert Mitchell all missed last season and are back in the secondary, which should be the strength of the team. Weatherspoon is also a kick returner. Freshman WR Junior Mertile is the second fastest Panther and might have earned a starting job.
3. Obviously last year was one most Panthers would like to forget. Based off the game I saw and the stats I've seen, the defense was slightly better than the offense. Would you agree with this and which unit do you expect to be better this year?
Last year was a wash between the O and D, then-1st year coach Mario Cristobal inherited a roster lacking talent from previous coach Don Strock. This season in camp, the defense seems to be ahead of the offense with all this new speed from freshmen DEs Jonathan Jackson and Kambriel Willis, plus some other defenders that have made some serious strides in the weight room like LBs Scott Bryant, Toronto Smith and Tyler Clawson. Freshmen LBs Aaron Davis and Franklin Brown have also had great camps.
4. With Gustav reaching Haiti and picking up speed, do you plan to leave the Miami area for Kansas this weekend?
My flight leaves early Friday morning at 5:40 a.m. Only Southwest flight that was non-stop to KC, that's why I'm leaving at that ungodly hour. I'm nocturnal by nature so I don't like getting up until the sun is way up there in the sky. Gustav is not expected to be near Miami until Sunday or Monday, if it does head this way.
5. Assuming the answer to the previous questions is yes, I think you owe us a thank you/apology on behalf of the weather. When many of us Jayhawks tried to escape the cold in January for the Orange Bowl we were greeted with the coldest weather Miami had seen in 10 years. And despite that slap in the face, we are welcoming you all to wonderful 80 degree weather, in our hottest month no less. Quite frankly, I think you owe us one.
C'mon. The coldest weather in Miami? That's got to be like a day at the beach for you good people up there in the land of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. For us down here, yeah last January was like the North Pole, but you guys ought to be used to the cold. Anyways, thank you for the comfortable 80 degrees for this weekend.
[Editor's Note: We may be used to it, but it's still not what we wanted (or expected) out of a trip to Miami.]
6. Weather issues aside, we loved Miami (the OB win may have had something to do with it). In particular we liked the scene at the Delano. As a Miami born & bred guy, you must have a preference: hotels or clubs? If you couldn't live there where would you choose instead?
No other place I would like to live in the world other than here. I'm not sure if I own a jacket, gotta check deep in the closet. Shorts and T-shirts all year long. Nice weather, nicer ladies and they're at both the hotels and clubs so either one will do.
7. Along that same notion, what can you tell us about the FIU coeds? Any famous alums?
All you need to know about the FIU coeds is here:
Please click on the first photo to enlarge and you will see the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders of the NCAA: The FIU Golden Dazzlers or are the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders -- the FIU Golden Dazzlers of the NFL?
Famous FIU Alums: Actor Andy Garcia (Godfather and Ocean 11 movies), Boston Red Sox 3B and 2007 World Series MVP Mike Lowell, Baltimore Ravens LB Antwan Barnes.
[Editor's Note: If you had not already gathered, we did the homework for you and you can enjoy the fruits of his link above and to the right.]
8. Before we let you go, we know next to nothing about you other than what we've read on your blog. Feel free to tell us as much or little as you want here, but specifically; how long have you been at the Herald? And do you like to drink and go bowling with Dan LeBetard?
Been at Herald for 6 years and have covered the FIU Panthers football program since its inception in 2002. Played center field and pitched in high school, but never played football, because got scoliosis as a kid and the one sport the doctor said I could never play was football, because of my back. Back has been fine since. You should ask Dan LeBatard if he likes to drink and go bowling with Pete Pelegrin.
9. And finally, is there any way the Panthers pull the upset this weekend? Score?
I'm a glass is half-full guy. There is always a way for FIU to pull an upset. It's just a matter of everything going their way. First, no turnovers, that killed FIU last year at KU. Have to keep the explosive KU offense off the field and the FIU offense has to score when it is in the red zone and not settle for FGs. Not that, that's a sure thing, because FIU's kicking game is mediocre at best right now. That's why they have kicker tryouts every week. Still, with all of the above, I don't see FIU stunning KU, unless KU just falls asleep on the Panthers. My score: KU 44, FIU 14
Again, thanks to Pete for taking the time to answer our questions. If you see him, be kind, but also be sure to give him crap for mistakenly staying in Overland Park over the weekend.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
The Panthers would like you to believe that they have put those transgressions in the past. In all fairness to them, they have neither been in another enormous brawl since that one, nor have they been beaten by such humiliating scores as 55-3 since the one experienced last year. For this, we must give them credit. We also must give them credit for getting a brand new on-campus stadium built, even in the midst of a 1-17 streak in which they've been the underdog all 18 games. Given that they start: @ KU, @ Iowa, v. South Florida (inaugural game in stadium) & @ Toledo, I would expect that underdog streak to make it to at least 22. Game 23 in this streak will be player @ North Texas, the lone team responsible for losing to FIU during this horrid stretch. Oddsmakers, the floor is yours. But, I digress.
Even though we already know what would happen (and did) when last year's KU team played last year's FIU team, here is a look at the stats anyway…
As you can see, FIU was better in exactly one category: sacks. And in reality they actually had less of them, but since they played in one less game, the per game average was actually slightly better. We have made no secret of our hope for a more consistent and overall better pass rush out of the Jayhawks this year. And now knowing that they sacked the quarterback less frequently than Florida International, we feel more strongly about this than ever. If Florida International is doing anything better than you, that problem must be rectified.
Aside from that I would also direct your attention to the rushing yardage in both charts. As you've likely noticed, not only were the Hawks better than the Panthers, but often they weren't even in the same stratosphere. The most telling of these differences comes from the running game. Assuming the team has watched some tape on FIU, Jake, Jocques and Angus presumably cannot wait to do their best Knowshon Moreno impressions this Saturday (If I haven't mentioned it, I want to be Knowshon Moreno when I grow up). I'm sure Todd and the receivers will put up their stats. I'm sure the pass defense will look just fine. But the pure domination of this game is likely to be centered on the ground game (or lack thereof) that each team will enjoy.
We'll try to have more for you as the week goes on, but though the passing game is thought to be a "strength" of this team, they have yet to decide on a quarterback. So needless to say there is not exactly a bevy of information out there and much of what is out there is all second hand, because I only saw them the one time. You all saw what this team had to offer last year. Barring an unforeseen collapse on the part of Kansas and surge on the part of FIU, I'll be shocked to see something all that different from what went down last year. However, I won't be holding my breath for another 100+ yard interception return for a touchdown. Thank you, Aqib.
Before we go, I should also direct you to Tim Griffin's preseason All Big XII teams. No Jayhawks on offense, but three of them (Mortensen, Rivera, & Harris) on defense. No complaints here.
Note: If there's something you want to know about FIU, put it in the comments and I'll see what I can do.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The first of which comes from good pal Tim Griffin, as he ranks the schedule difficulty of all Big XII teams. Heading the top of the list are your very own Kansas Jayhawks.
To go along with that schedule, the Jayhawks are dealing with some pretty lofty expectations around Lawrence,or so says the KC Star. Personally, I don't think that's necessarily the case; I think that there's just a lot more interest and excitement than in year's past. Every fan base has its unrealistic, debatably moronic, fans and KU is no different, but my feeling is that the vast majority understand that 12-1 doesn't happen every year at the best football schools in the country and it sure as hell won't happen at Kansas. With that said, though, Mangino and company proved that it can happen. Mixing in a few years like that, along with keeping them in bowl games most (if not every) years should typically appease the fan base.
But despite creating that hope, Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera can't believe that Mangino is paid such a hefty salary. Furthermore, he goes on to make some predictions about the upcoming Big XII season. Below is what he had to say about our Jayhawks…
"Kansas fans will wonder where the magic has gone when Mangino's Marvels lose six games this year -- five more than last year. By November, order in Lawrence will be restored, which means KU fans will be looking forward to basketball season."Amazingly, he may have been even more pessimistic about what's to come for Methzou.
Speaking of the Tigers, they are planning a very special surprise to aid Chase Daniel's Heisman campaign. Apparently ChaseTheHeisman.com was not getting it done so they are going to throw another $50,000 toward the objective. Says the director of media relations, Chad Moller,
“What we’re doing I think is going to be viewed as creative, but not over the top,” Moller said. “We wouldn’t want to do that."We'll reserve our judgment until after the surprise is unveiled. But honestly, I can't blame them for bringing as much attention to this as possible. Old Booger probably deserved even more consideration than he got last year and for a program hoping to make itself into a national name, the best way to do that is to get it out there. Oregon may have a notoriously tacky and over-the-top feel to them (then again, that's how everyone views Phil Knight), but low and behold, they have become a household name. Whatever Methzou can do to ensure a similar renown is advisable.
Back to the good guys…J Brady McCullough thinks that "success could make KU's Mangino more attractive to other programs." And yes, that is the headline of the story. Other headlines considered for similar stories were:
"KU prefers winning to losing"
"Despite the addition of South Florida KU's Mangino still enjoy cupcakes"
"Expectations aside, Methzouri sure to soon disappoint"
And finally, "Sun planning to rise AND set tomorrow"
*EDIT* - Also, I'm not sure how we missed this, but on Friday, Tully Corcoran did a Q&A with Dr. Saturday (perhaps we should do the same). It is a pretty good read and you can find it here.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
So truth be told I have no idea if Todd knows this girlie any more than the three seconds it took to take this picture. But either way it's still reminiscent of the picture that emerged last year with the eventual Heisman trophy winner and Brett Favre's only legitimate rival as media darling. One can only assume that Tebow's success was directly linked to this picture being posted last year, so we feel that we owe Todd the courtesy to similarly publicize one of him. So there you have it, Todd, the Heisman is yours for the taking. Although, if you want similar media attention, you'll have to spend your spring break snipping foreskin. The call is yours.
Friday, August 22, 2008
I've got to be honest; I'm worried about the South Florida game. I'm not quite sure if they're rally a top 10-20 team (the same could be said of KU), but I know that Raymond James is a tough place to win at night (see: West Virginia). And more importantly, Matt Grothe has damn near cut Chick-fil-A out of his diet. Any man that can reduce his delicious goodness intake from 7+ times per week all the way down to one is obviously someone very serious about becoming a better football player. Grothe was pretty good when he came to Lawrence a couple years back and he obviously hit the national stage last year, but now as a nearly Chick-fil-A free Grothe, he seems primed to take over college football. Add to all of that Jim Leavitt being certifiably insane and this has the makings of a damn tough non-conference game. Where hath thee gone, Toledo?
Speaking of improving one's diet, it seems Sherron Collins kind of went the other way. It's August so I'm not worried. And obviously I can understand him just wanting to spend a little time with his kid. But if he has hopes of making the League, I would strongly recommend removing his ass from the couch and instead finding his way to a treadmill.
Back to football, the KC Star ran a story this morning in which KU players were at the very least toying with the fact that the secondary could be even better this year. As we mentioned during our preview we definitely don't expect this to be an issue area, but we still wonder how much inherent value you lose simply on account of the fear factor. I have little doubt Harris can perform similarly to Aqib, but actual performance aside, QBs simply didn't want to throw to his side of the field if they didn't have to and you can't undervalue the effect that has on an offense. (Note: Don't confuse this reticence with me not being downright giddy that the team thinks this way. Let me reiterate; I know nothing. Trust them, not me.)
Speaking of what the team thinks. Apparently Crawford, along with others, aren't too happy with their ratings on NCAA '09. I've yet to play it, but I'm sure that despite the perceived slight they are still more than capable of winning most games 76-39.
Next up is a link to the Bleacher Report where Mitch from Miami has a detailed report of why the Big XII is overrated. Feel free to read it if you want (make sure to click the link at the bottom for some more details), but the crux of his article is the league has been bad out of conference. There are certainly valid points, but he also glosses over some big accomplishments. And more importantly, you have to remember that you can do this with every conference (even the SEC to extent since none of them ever travel during OOC) so while his report is accurate; it's also skewed by the point he wanted to prove. For example, if I wanted to prove that the Big Eleven was bad last year I could point to the fact that the league's best win was Ohio State at Washington. And it's not even close. Now obviously the Big Eleven did suck last year so that point resonates. But just because Ohio State (or any of the other 10 teams) didn't beat anyone better than Washington doesn't prove they weren't any good. All it proves is that they didn't play anyone. Now if you want to point to Michigan's loss to App. State (then again, they did also beat Florida) or Minnesota's to FAU then you have yourself an argument. By far the most entertaining part of this link though is his dispute with commenter Evan in the comments that follow his piece.
And finally, we are providing two links to the blog, Mizzourah. The first is the more recent and depicts the Big XII north Co-Champs trophy Kansas displays in the Anderson Family Football complex. As you would expect, it's extremely clever. Secondly, we'll send you to one from earlier in the week that was submitted by one of their readers. In an attempt to emulate the Bud Light: Real Men of Genius commercials they have come up with a KU football version. Though a clever idea, the most comical part to me was the irony. Is there a more over-confident-for-no-reason fan base than Methzou? Talking to some of them, you would think they have done a lot of winning in their time. Or at least some winning. In honor of the fact that they of course have not, we put together our own quick (read: shitty) version of the jingle…
Bud Light Presents: Real Men of Genius
(Real Men of Genius)
Today we salute you, Mr. Delusional Methzouri Sports Fan
(Mr. Delusional Methzouri Spoorrrts Fan)
You've got a Booger eater and you're going all the way!
(Who cares if he's really a pizza delivery guyyy)
Sure, you've never won anything of any importance
(Significance is overrated)
Who cares if you've accomplished nothing nationally
(Occasionally we beat our riiiivals)
So when you fail, you'll have to hang your hat on something
So crack one open, you eternal disappointment you. After all, you might win something someday…OK, probably not, but still.
(Mr. Delusional Methzouri Sports Fan)
Bud Light, InBev, Leuven, Belgium
Thursday, August 21, 2008
As you all know, yesterday was fan appreciation day at Memorial Stadium. And I know I speak for all of when I say that we feel the appreciation every day, but it sure is nice to have it recognized every so often. Which is exactly why catching a glimpse of the last hour of practice is very much appreciated by us, the fans.
As was to be expected, no "breaking news" came out of this glimpse of the team. However, Jesse Newell did report that Mike Rivera did not participate (though was in uniform and with a knee brace) and he was replaced by true freshman Steven Johnson (6'2' 225) Pennsylvania. I am of the opinion that Gino was just throwing a little love to a fellow Pennsylvanian because he knew they public would be watching. However, if this isn't the case and Johnson has truly moved past Arist Wright and the slew of linebackers, then we may have a special talent on our hands here. My money is on the former.
Other than that, it looks like Bradley Dedeaux still has a hold on the first team TE spot. As we mentioned last week, we think the drop-off from Fine to a converted QB, Steward, would just be too much from a blocking perspective. Unless Steward is just too incredible of a playmaker to keep off the field (unlikely), we don't expect to see a ton of him early on until he learns his techniques, etc.
And lastly, apparently Sharp and Crawford were used in a two-back set. Consider me giddy.
Oh, and did I mention that I love Mike Leach. Below is an excerpt from his comments in regards to Usain Bolt and the rest of the Jamaican sprinters…
"I got to be honest, I've been thinking about recruiting Jamaica since I saw that stuff," Leach told hosts Andrew Siciliano and Krystal Fernandez. "I've been to Jamaica and let me tell you something ... here's the extent that I've thought about that subject, there's approximately 2.8 million people in Jamaica, which is approximately the size of the state of Iowa or Kansas, or the city of Houston. It's almost like the country of Jamaica is sitting there saying, 'If you would have just told us that this was important we could have won a lot of this stuff a long time ago.'"
Before we go, we should turn our attention to the hardwood. Well, not quite that far but to the players hoping to play on it this year. Yesterday, it was released that incoming freshman Markieff Morris faces a battery charge for hitting a 47 year old woman in the arm with a plastic BB, late Saturday night. Obviously he was drunk. Obviously it was stupid. And obviously I should be mad (if for no other reason than the press), but I just found this too funny to care. Chalk me up as immature (I am), but as long as the kid can play and he doesn't actually cause malicious harm to others, I could really care less.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
As recently as yesterday, if you were to have told me that someone got an enormous back tattoo depicting their school's 2008 National Championship I would have immediately assumed you were talking about LSU. When you informed me that I was wrong, I would have tried to think of some other southern team that won something and when I realized that no others did, I would have figured perhaps Nick Saban got into the head of this strapping lad, causing him to become so demented that he convinced himself that Alabama won the national championship.
No longer can I assume such things.
Quite frankly, I didn't think we had it in us. Gorgeous!
Before we get going with our own preview, we would again like to direct your attention to Barking Carnival. Henry James has posted the State of the Union for Methzouri. And it is absolutely worth your time to read. One enjoyable excerpt (discussing their defense) reads…
"They have some very good individual players among their ten returning starters, but unlike say Kansas, they’re not much better than the sum of their parts. Think of them as the Audioslave of Big 12 defenses."
Since that's a little tough to follow up, we won't even try. But since two people (see: poll to the right) apparently are most concerned about Kansas' backfield this year, it's imperative that we discuss them. In my always humble opinion, I don't have a fucking clue what those two people are thinking (if that's you please elaborate in the comments).
There's no sense kick starting a discussion on the backfield without first mentioning Hot Toddy Reesing. (Yes, I aspire to be Bill Mayer). Despite his awful nicknames he is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at the University and is currently one of the best in the country. If the spread offense (and more locally, Reesing and Daniel) have proven anything it's that a QB simply has to be smart, accurate and instinctive to win at the college level. Neither has an incredibly strong arm, one is short, the other is fat, but both know where to get the ball and how to get it there. I certainly can't guarantee that Reesing will match his 3486 yards, 33 touchdowns and 7 INTs, but I'd be willing to bet that if he's healthy he won't be that far off, either.
Waiting in the wings behind him is original golden boy, Kerry Meier. Though Reesing has shown the ability to run a little bit (and more importantly, make throws on the run), Meier is actually much more of a dual threat quarterback. In fact, he's probably a little better runner than he is passer, which is why Reesing is starting in the first place. But make no mistake, if something is to happen to Todd, Kerry can come in and run this offense pretty damn well. As it stands now though he will primarily be used as the teams #3 wideout, but don't be surprised to see him used in some throwback situations. In fact, I'd count on it.
At the tailback position is three very capable players, two of which figure to see the bulk of the carries. Since he's the leading returning rusher, we'll start with Jake Sharp. As many of you know, he's a homegrown Kansas kid out of Salina, where he set the state record for touchdowns in a season with 63 (57 rushing). That was done in 13 games on the way to a 5A state championship. He played sparingly as a true freshman and much moreso last year as a sophomore when he racked up 821 yards (5.6 per) and 7 TDs. He also caught 21 balls for 163 yards and 2 TDs. Though many of his yards were piled up earlier on in the season, I would attribute that more to the play of B-Mac than I would Sharp. I fully expect him to have to share a semi-similar amount of carries with Jocques Crawford, but don't mistake that for him not being a capable #1.
Despite his ability, though, I don't expect the team will need him to carry the load on account of the aforementioned Jocques Crawford (6'1" 230). Last year Crawford was named the JUCO player of the year by leading the nation in rushing yards with 1,935 (6.8 per) and scoring 19 TDs. There's not a whole lot I can say about Crawford having never really seen him play a game, let alone a game in this offense. But given his track record, his physical attributes and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, I don't foresee production being an issue here. As long as he can learn the offense, I fully expect him to be getting as many, if not more, carries than Sharp come Tampa time.
The third back is Angus Quigley. From what I can gather I think I'm higher on Angus than anyone else. However, I'm also told that he doesn't really run with a killer instinct. To quote a reliable source, "if you need a guy to get you off the opposing goal line, don't call on Angus." Chalk it up to bias if you want, but I think that's partly attributable to a lack of meaningful carries. I'm not in practice every day and obviously I haven't been able to see him all that much during games, but I've always just had the feeling that he's one of those guys that would thrive off more carries. With that said, I don't expect to see a ton of him this year.
I don't want to take anything away from what Brandon McAnderson accomplished last year (1125 yards (5.9 per) and 16 TDs – also 21 catches for 213 yards), but as far as production goes, he's replaceable. What remains to be seen is if any of these guys can match his emotional contributions or his blocking ability. When you're spreading out four receivers (and especially with the loss of Fine) it's going to be all the more important to have a running back capable of protecting Todd. A converted fullback, McAnderson had that ability. Not only was he big enough to take on all comers, he was also a very skilled and dependable blocker that wasn't about to take a play off. I hope his replacements surprise me, but until I see otherwise, this is a cause for concern. Fortunately, when it comes to the backfield, that's where my concerns stop.
Note: Not mentioned here is how these backs will be affected by the revamped offensive line, which is obviously a huge concern (and if the poll above is any indication, you clearly agree). Optimistically, I like to believe Ryan Cantrell and think that these new tackles can fill the void. But that obviously remains to be seen and could easily become an issue as the season goes on, especially as they get into conference play.
Yeah yeah my photoshopping could be better. deal.
Also I heard Rivera was out for the first two games but have not heard anything else about it, anybody got more on this?
KUs Kicker woes continue with Hoge and Branstetter leaving and facing ineligibility issues looks like Fowler will be our starting kicker with nothing really behind him. rutt-row.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Monday, August 18, 2008
Nothing beats watching a good linebacking unit. And this year's Jayhawk trio is widely considered to be the best in the league. Part of that is the relative strength, or lack thereof, among the league linebackers. But even in the SEC this would be one of the top units, despite its overall light pigmentation. All three are seniors and not only started all of last year (in position), but also started in 2006 as well, when they went through a few growing pains (see: Bowman, Adarius). But all of that is now in the past and these three are back to anchor a defense that returns 9 starters and, more importantly, 20 of 22 on the two deep.
In the middle is Crazy Joe Davola (or Mortensen) and he is out to do one thing; put the kibosh on you. It matters not who you are. Seriously though, he probably wants to kill you. In fact, after football he wants to join the Marines. To kill people. This is exactly the type of mindset I want from a guy anchoring the middle of my team's defense. And as long as he is really fully recovered from his off-season knee surgery, that's probably all I need to say about him.
Next up is his slapping-mate, Mike Rivera. For those of you unfamiliar, Davola and Rivera like to get ready for the game (and the second half) by slapping each other repeatedly across the face. Again, I like this. And this is what makes good linebackers fun to watch. Whereas Joe is the perfectly suited for the middle, Rivera is absolutely perfect for the outside. Not only is he huge (and also a bit nuts), the guy can fly. When he gets going downhill, get the fuck out of the way. Unfortunately, I don't think he's the brightest, because there are quite a few times where he simply doesn't do what he's supposed to. When he does, though, the results are quite favorable. (Note: There is something we may need to watch for early on though as he did suffer a minor injury to his knee over the weekend, but it's said to only keep him out two weeks. I'd be surprised if Mangino ever acknowledges it publicly.)
The third of this tripod is James Holt. As you can tell from just his size (6'3" 222), Holt is relied on more for speed than power. But despite the fact that he's probably more suited to be a big safety, Holt is a tremendous linebacker, because he always gets to the ball. This can be attributed to both his speed and his ability to read the offense, along with being assignment sound. Whatever the reason, he found his way there to the tune of 99 tackles (51 S, 48 A, 13.5 FL) and a couple sacks. We have no reason to expect anything but more of the same from him this year.
Aside from the three starters, there is actually some pretty good depth at linebacker as well. I would count on seeing plenty of Arist Wright, *EDIT: Justin Springer,** Drew Dudley, Dakota Lewis and Jake Schermer. Most likely in that order. But all can play a good linebacker and if it were not for the three in front of them would be seen as legitimate starters (Schermer aside).
All in all, this is a definite strength of the team, if not THE strength. All three are seniors. All three are talented. And all three know that for the defense to be successful they have to fly around the field and knock some people the fuck out. Personally, I can't wait to watch them do exactly that.
P.S. Here are a couple links of interest...
Apparently last season's success has inspired some new band interest at KU. Splendid!
Secondly, Dan Steinberg has spotted Judo's version of the Big Man over in Beijing.
And lastly, are you kidding me?!
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Much of the offseason debate has centered on who would be called upon to replace departed All-American Anthony Collins (left) and his right side counterpart, Cesar Rodriguez. Originally, the four in consideration were Matt Darton (started in place of Collins v. ISU last year), Ian Wolfe, Nathan D’Cunha and Jeff Spikes. It became evident pretty quickly that Spikes and Darton were the frontrunners. Yesterday Mangino removed the suspense as he announced that Spikes would start on the left side, while Jeremiah Hatch (surprise!), who was originally being groomed as a guard, will start on the right.
We’ll start with Spikes as he has the biggest shoes to fill replacing an All-American. The first thing you have to understand is that this won’t be a seamless transition, considering the guy has never played a down of college football. The second thing you should also know though is that the coaches think he can (and will) be decidedly better than Collins. At 6’6” 314 pounds, the problem clearly won’t be his size. And from what I understand he’s also incredibly quick and agile. The problem will simply be experience. In many cases he’ll be going against not only the other team’s best pass rusher, but often one who is a few years older and has played a couple dozen more games at the collegiate level. It will be interesting to watch his development and I think we’ll all be pleasantly surprised. (Note: Our good pal, Dugan Arnett, has a nice profile of him in today's LJW.)
On the other end will be the surprise of the line, Jeremiah Hatch. Another RS Freshman, Hatch simply made the staff find a place to play him. Or at least that’s my hope, considering that they were pretty high on Darton, once upon a time. At 6’3 311 pounds, you can certainly see why they would rather play him at guard but as #5 has shown us, you don’t always have to be the prototypical size to play a position well. That is especially true if you work harder than the guy you’re going against, which seems to be why Hatch won the job. Same as Spikes I’m sure we’re going to have a few rough moments with Hatch, but so much of being a good lineman is trusting your team enough that you can concentrate on winning your 1-on-1. In that scenario, more often than not I’ll take the guy working his ass off. Frankly, though, my biggest worry is that the penalties will increase. Collins and Rodriguez were so confident in their ability that they rarely false started or had to hold; I’m hoping Spikes and Hatch can develop a similar ability, but we’ll see.
As has been well documented, the interior of the line is said to be the strength, simply because all three are returning starters entering their senior campaign. And there is certainly some truth to that as both their experience and chemistry are going to be well beyond that of the tackles. But a line is only as good as its weakest link so for them to succeed they will need to bring along the newbies and work as a unit. Of this trio, Cantrell is the anchor, and the most talented. Hartley is a beast, who is rarely going to get beaten. The only question mark is Mayes, who at times had some trouble (much more so with pass protection that run blocking) when going against some of the better DTs the team faced a year ago. If they can come together as seniors and integrate the young freshman outside of them, this unit has the potential to duplicate last year’s success.
Aside from the penalty issue I mentioned above, though, my biggest worry here is one that has seemingly gone largely unnoticed. And that is the loss of Derek Fine. Yes, he was a solid pass catcher, but more than that he was a third tackle. He loved catching passes and scoring touchdowns, but more than anything he viewed himself as an extension of the line; and he performed accordingly (see: Reesing’s 60 yard run v. CU). It seems that Fine’s replacement will be a duo comprised of his backup from last year, Bradley Dedeaux (6’3” 250), and converted QB AJ Steward (6’4” 225). Both have as much, if not more, athletic ability than Fine. And I have little doubt that they’ll be able to effectively replace his production as a receiver.But until I see it, I’m going to have to assume that they won’t be able to match what he added to the O-Line, especially in run blocking. (Note: My guess here is that Dedeaux is the better blocker and Steward the better playmaker, but in order to not give away what’s coming they’re each going to have to at least be a threat in both areas to be effective).
As you already knew, there are certainly some unanswered questions on this part of the roster. But with three seniors anchoring the middle, and two hard working talents on the outside, I expect this unit to perform pretty well. Far and away my biggest concern is what kind of help the TEs can give their tackles, but then again, Martin Rucker had a pretty successful career and he blocked about as well as I could, so perhaps the spread negates this need more than I think. Then again, maybe he just didn't feel like blocking for this douche. We’ll know soon enough. After all, the opener is but a fortnight away...
Friday, August 15, 2008
Now we've already chronicled our concern for a better pass rush. One of the reasons it has to be better is because this year's secondary will be without its star, Aqib Talib. After declaring early, Talib officially went from 2 star recruit to first round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But alas, he is gone. And replacing him is the guy who was originally lining up opposite of him last year. After going down with an early season arm injury, Kendrick Harper was replaced by true freshman, Chris Harris. Seeing as how Harris went on to become a Freshman All-American, I'm sure you know that Harper never really got his job back. However, he did get some PT, participating in 8 games, starting 3 of them. And in that time, he showed why he is the preemptive starter this time around.
In that limited action, Harper showed the ability to lay some wood and the overall ability to be a solid zone corner. I don't think he has the speed to cover 1-on-1, but in the spread offense, who really does? Harper racked up 19 tackles (10 S, 9 A, 2 FL), 1 interception, 3 PD, and he recovered a fumble. Not exactly a record breaking year, but solid production out of your # 3 CB. This year, though, he won't have the luxury of being #3. He needs to be at the very least 2, if not 1A, as we still have yet to see how Harris handles the conversion to being "the guy."
Speaking of Harris, can he become a true #1? My instinct tells me he'll be great, but not quite there. Not to take anything away from what he did last year - because he went far and above what we could have realistically expected from him – but it's undeniable that it's much tougher being the #1 guy. Still though, when you look at what he did as a true freshman you have to believe that this kid is going to become a star either this year or the next. He played in all 13 games, starting 10, and in that time he racked up 65 tackles (40 S, 25 A, 1.5 FL), intercepted 2 passes, broke up 4 more and recovered a fumble. Unfortunately, what those stats also tell you is that he tackled his guy a lot more often than he defended him. This is always going to be true with a corner, but it especially was with Harris last year as it seemed that he preferred to concede the small gain, while remaining in position to never give up a big one. There certainly is a lot of merit to this mindset and as you saw, he's about as good an open field tackler as you'll find. But as a second year guy trying to make the leap, I think the Big Man would like him to do a bit more.
Aside from those two, however, there is not much depth at the corner position. Isiah Barfield (6', 175) is a RS Freshman and appears to be the clear # 3. Mangino has been speaking extremely well of his abilities and he was originally signed as a WR who could fly. However, I would expect a third safety more often than a third corner in most nickel packages, but we'll get to that in a moment. Aside from him, there isn't another player officially listed as a corner on the entire roster. As they go deeper on the depth chart though, I would expect to possibly see some of Anthony Davis (6', 192), the RS Freshman out of Tulsa. But since I don't know a thing about him, I'll just leave it at that.
On to the safeties. Now here is a crowded spot on the field. Darrell Stuckey returns as the team's fourth leading tackler (72 – 36 S, 36 A, 2 FL) and the only player from the secondary that started all 13 games a year ago. In addition to those 72 tackles, Stuckey intercepted 2 passes, broke up six and recovered a couple of fumbles. Long story short, the guy found his way to the ball more often than not. He's a natural leader and a guy that loves to hit. He's much better at run defense, but as you can tell, he plays a pretty good centerfield back there also. I find that to be the strength of the guy next to him though.
That guy is Justin Thornton, who came on strong at the end of last year, ultimately starting the last four games. While playing in all thirteen he racked up 46 (26S, 20 A, 1 FL) tackles, broke up 9 passes and tied for the team lead with 5 INTs. Again, a long story short, the guy has a nose for the ball. Because of that, along with his speed, I look at him as the better of the two in pass coverage, but he's no slouch against the run either.
Behind these two are a few guys waiting in the wings. The first of which, Patrick Resby, started the first 8 games last year before losing his job to Thornton. In that time he had 22 tackles and he recovered a fumble. He has all the tools to play a solid safety, but he often appeared out of position, which I believe is what ultimately lost him his job. Aside from him are Tang Bacheyie and Olaitan Oguntodu, which if paired next to each other would easily lay claim to the coolest duo of names at the safety position. Tang saw time in all 13 games last year and notched 8 tackles in that time. Olaitan didn't do nearly as much, but if you think Stuckey and Thornton like to fly around, wait until you see these guys. Again, it's hard to say how much time they'll get with the guys in front of them, but I wouldn't be surprised to see either making a contribution.
In short, it's unlikely they'll fully replace Talib and his 65 tackles (42 S, 24 A, 3.5 FL), 5 INTs (195 return yards) & 13 break ups. And they definitely won't replace the fear factor that he put into opposing QBs. Sure, he got beat from time to time, but you can't discount how rarely he was thrown at and how he nearly eliminated his side of the field. But that's part of what makes zone coverage so useful. Harper is no Talib and neither he nor Harris can probably cover as well 1-on-1, but when you put the two of them back there with Stuckey and Thornton helping out as well, they form a pretty solid unit. I wouldn't expect the numbers to be quite as good this year – partly due to competition, partly the loss of Aqib – but if the Ends can produce a decent pass rush, this isn't a unit that's going to get torched either.
Before we go, here are a few links of interest…
First, Barking Carnival's Henry James has posted the Kansas Preview: State of the Union. Not nearly as entertaining as last year's, but worth a read nonetheless. And it's always good to read an objective opinion, especially when they're at least semi-informed, unlike most of the national media.
Next, here is a different look at the Top 25 from Deadspin's Balls Deep column, by Drew Magary, giving you a reason to hate every team on the list.
And finally, it appears that Josh Freeman, or "J-Free," will be doing some blogging this year. We'll look forward to that…
And lastly, if you didn't catch Jesse Newell's Sideline Report with Joe Mortensen, be sure to.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I know what you are thinking...yet another post extolling the wonder and excitement I derive from watching awfully awesome Val Kilmer movies? Not quite.
Apparently Kansas State CC procured themselves a certified fucking genius QB coach out of where else, Elon Goddamn College of course. Science damn you!
Obviously, this raises some questions. How did we miss this golden opportunity to elevate Todd Reesing to the upper echelon of college quarterbacks? Where the shit is Elon College? Who the hell cares? Will Ron Prince make him run stairs with the other coaches?
I may or may not choose to answer my own questions, but the only thing you need to know is who bequeathed the label "genius" unto this Rudy-lookalike wunderkind....a former player under said "genius", Southern Conference freshman of the year Scott Riddle. I may not know this Riddle character, but he does have some kind things to say of his former coach. However, I do question his authority to proclaim Ruggiero a genius. (Maybe Prince should have done a package deal and lured Riddle to campus?)
But, let's let the man speak on, well, himself:
“I have a pretty confirmed idea of how to develop a quarterback,” Ruggiero said. “I’ve coached enough quarterbacks at different levels of the totem pole to be able to say, ‘What do we need to get a quarterback to the top?’
“My experience, more than anything else, has helped me get to the point right now where I feel with each (quarterback) I know what I have to do to get them to the top.”
All fine and dandy...except the new ladder he must climb to get his QB to the top is something he is none to familiar with:
Prince couldn’t stop thinking about Ruggiero, although he’d never coached above the Football Bowl Subdivision level (formerly Division I-AA).
*(Admittedly, the reason Prince couldn't stop thinking about him(OMG!) was because he sought out fresh meat to put bunny-ears on during photo-ops.)
Last but not least:
K-State coach Ron Prince said he was swamped* with inquiries from assistants hoping to advance their career with the opportunity to tutor Josh Freeman.
*Applicant List to "tutor" Soul-Glo: Michael Bishop, Elon's other paid coach, North Dakota State's waterboy, Fred Phelps, Prince's neighbor and a John Deere tractor once rumored to have been used by Brett Favre.
Who knows, the guy might be a QB coaching savant and miraculously turn Josh Freeman into something other than a guy who would have been a good tight end. Their offensive scheme still blows and he still has no one to throw the ball to. One thing is for sure, Ruggiero should have him ready to play that tough Montana State team out of his old stomping ground, the FCS.
“I couldn’t find anyone better than him,” -Ron Prince
More true words have never been uttered, Ron. Never.
NCAA 2009 Rosters
Special Teams: #6
Secondly, I want to direct you to Barking Carnival for the KSU State of the Union. Though the site is often great, the SOTU posts take the cake, and this one is no different.
Without further ado, let's take a look at the Kansas receiving corps. As noted above, Rivals has them ranked #5 in the league behind Methzou, OU, Tech and OSU. Considering they lost Marcus Henry and Derek Fine, I have no qualms with this placement. With that said though, I think they can be every bit as good, if not better, than they were last year.
I've already chronicled my hope for Dezmon Briscoe this year so in the interest of avoiding redundancy I'll keep it short. But like I said then (and per the poll in the upper right hand corner) he just may be the break out star in 2008. What I really want to see from him is more consistency. His seven TDs were great last year (though I'll expect a few more this time around), but of those seven, 3 came in the throttling of Nebraska. Furthermore, he went without a score in seven, not even catching a pass in two (SE La., CU).
If Dezmon is to replace Marcus Henry's scoring production, Dexton Fields needs to replace some of his yardage. Despite catching more balls than Henry last year (63 to 54) Fields finished with 150 less yards. However, he did turn it on late, averaging 9 catches for 109 yards and a TD in the final three games (ISU, MU, VT). And to be candid, it would behoove Dexton to get into the endzone a little more consistently as well, considering he also did not score in seven games. Part of that, though, is his height. It's not that he's a real short guy (6'), but in the red zone guys like Henry, Briscoe and even Meier are easier targets for Todd. With that said, I'll be expecting a couple more scores out of Dex this year.
If those guys are 1 & 2, after that it's pretty much a free for all for 3, 4 and so on. Kerry Meier is the by far the leader when you look at last year's production. And while I fully expect him to contribute to an even greater extent this year; I think Jonathon Wilson is going to give him a run. It's tough to project what Meier will do as we don't know exactly how he'll be used. And since we really haven’t seen much of Wilson yet (3 for 52) we don't know exactly how he'll do on a game by game basis, but I'm under the impression he has the best hands on the team (and he's not lacking in size at 6'3" 187). With that said, between these two I'm expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of a combined 50 catches for 600ish yards and a handful of scores. I think that's pretty realistic, but also enough to make any Jayhawk fan very happy.
Behind them you've got Marcus Herford and Rod Harris, Jr. I won't be expecting much of Herford in this capacity, though I'm hopeful he can continue to return kicks as he did a year ago. As for Harris, I've seen his JUCO highlight tape and the guy definitely has the skills. His numbers, however, weren't all that impressive so I'm wondering if consistency, motivation, etc. is an issue for him. Because of that I'm not holding out high hopes for him to contribute on a game by game basis, but he clearly has all the tools to be a big play guy, so I wouldn't mind seeing a few of those from him.
Lastly, I want to touch on the tight end position from a pass catching perspective. We'll get into this more as it pertains to the O-Line, but Derek Fine is going to prove to be a much bigger loss than anyone is giving credence. Though he's not nearly as massive as some of the other TEs in the league, Fine was pretty much a sixth offensive lineman that could also catch 46 passes. I'm not thinking we're going to see 46 catches out of the TE position this year, but I do think that a lot of his production here can be replaced.
From what I'm hearing, AJ Steward is coming along nicely and is going to contribute right away. Given that he's 6-4 230 and is a converted QB this isn't very surprising. Seeing is believing, though, and I've yet to see much. My thought here is that they may even copy Methzou a bit by lining up 4 wide with Fields, Briscoe, Meier and Wilson and go for that Rucker/Coffman approach by saying to the defense, you can either choose to defend us with size or speed, but one way or the other, we're going to beat you. Throw Crawford/Sharp in the backfield and that becomes one spread out field that is nearly impossible to defend.
There are two other guys I've yet to touch on that I expect to here from this year. The first is the other TE, Bradley Dedeaux. In limited action last year we didn't find out much about his pass catching (1-11), but he did seem to be a solid blocker and since Steward is a former QB, I'll give Dedeaux the nod here for now. Secondly, there is true freshman Daymond Patterson. He's 5-9 175 and he can fly. For one thing, I expect him to bolster the punt return team from a year ago (not a difficult task), but I also wouldn't be surprised to see them try and get him the ball in space on offense as well. We all know how much the Big Man likes those bubble screens. And to be honest, if they're not used every other play they're pretty effective, especially with a quick little shit like Patterson out there catching them.
As I'm sure you've surmised, this should be a strength of the team this year. Yes, they lost Henry and Fine, two guys that won't be easy to replace. But let's not forget that as recently as 2006 Marcus Henry had only 25 catches for 316 yards and 3 scores. In that same year Fine had 28 for 355. So in one year Henry more than doubled his production (+29 catches, +698 yards, +7 TDs) and Fine certainly increased his as well, so quite a bit of this success can also be attributed to the quarterback and the system.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
For one thing, the competition gets tougher. Secondly, they lost their two best players. I think Kendrick Harper is a fine player, but he is not Aqib Talib. Aside from Talib's fairly impressive stats, you can't discount the value he provided simply by being on the field. True, Talib gambled a little too much to be a true shut-down corner, but he was good enough at it that opposing quarterbacks avoided him when possible.
As with Aqib, it's tough to quantify McClinton's value. But as much as I like Blakesly, Greene and Johnson, Jr. none of them get off the ball like James did. He was never the biggest guy on the line, but he required a double team on nearly every snap because he was way too fast for single coverage. And even then, he was often able to split the blocks and get into the backfield (see: OSU when he nearly took the handoff). I have high hopes for his replacements, but this is a luxury the team will no longer have.
As we all know, the d-line is more about occupying blockers and freeing up their linebackers than making all of the tackles on their own. However, if you can't get a pass rush with four then you can't create much of a pass rush. In any version of the spread (since it seems like everyone is running one) the last thing you want to have to depend on is blitzing your linebackers, because once you do that you leave open some real wide holes in your coverage. With the pass-happy schedule KU has this year, this simply cannot happen unless they plan on scoring 45 points per game.
Here's a quick look at some of last year's stats...
Worried yet? Obviously the most glaring issue is the lack of sacks. But if you look at it as a whole, you can tell that it's really an issue of just getting into the backfield. It's completely inexcusable for your starting D-ends to have a combined 4 QB hurries. McClinton had five by himself.
And that's the kicker. Because you can see that in MUCH less playing time (and to be fair, sometimes against lesser competition) Laptad, Wheeler and Onyegbule were much better at getting back there. But the only one of them that really showed much ability to rush the passer, while also maintaining his assignment was Laptad. This is obviously not a trade-off the staff is willing to make, and understandably so. But with the spike in competition this year, I firmly believe that not only will they have to replace McClinton's production (as well as Haselhorst's), but also improve upon those numbers. I don't think the sack number has to improve dramatically, but without a doubt the pressure does. Unfortunately, I'm not utterly convinced that it will.
I love the depth at safety. I think the corners will be just fine. And the linebacking corps is probably the best in the league. But none of those units can make up for a poor defensive line. As I mentioned earlier, in a league like the Big XII, the last thing a defensive coordinator wants to do is depend on blitzing his linebackers. But if you don't get pressure with four that's exactly what you have to do. Here's to hoping they prove me wrong.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Rod Harris, Jr.
Comments: You can see here what you probably already knew. The team is heavy on skill players, solid on the line, but clearly there are some holes to fill from last year. At this point Crawford is entirely a guess on my part but having seen the guy and knowing what he did at the JUCO ranks I think it's at least somewhat warranted. The one that worries me the most is how far down I have Adrian Mayes as I thought he was the definite low-man last year. Here's to hoping I have him pegged a little too low…
Richard Johnson, Jr.
Comments: Again, no real surprises here with linebackers dominating the board. Of more concern is the d-line, which only had two representatives in the top ten. That being said, there are still 7 reps among the 20 slots so it's not like they don't have the bodies to throw out there. Of similar concern to me would be the depth at cornerback. Harris and Harper are somewhat proven commodities, but beyond that it's hard to know what we can expect from Barfield, who is one of only two others listed on the roster as a CB (of course, since Mangino runs this team no one knows where he'll play anyone once the season actually starts).
The biggest difference between the two units is depth. Offensively, I'd be surprised if a player not on my list had any sort of impact on the year. Defensively, though, I got to twenty before I could incorporate Jake Schermer, Tang Backeyie, Maxwell Onyegbule, Darius Parish, Patrick Dorsey, etc. The first three of which are sure to see the field and could definitely make an impact; that isn't going to happen on the other side of the ball.
Before we go, I'd also like to provide you with a link to an Excel spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is organized by tabs and features a schedule for every team in America (denoted by helmets) and even has a tab for the five biggest games of each week. Download and save.
I believe I know you to be a Kansas graduate, but little else. Care to elaborate?
"Sure. I'm was born and raised in Emporia, a nice town that doesn't smell as bad as people say. I always liked sports, and in high school decided that sports journalism would be the way to go. I started writing for The Emporia Gazette my sophomore year of high school. During my time at KU, I also had stops at the University Daily Kansan, Topeka Capital-Journal and Lawrence Journal-World. After graduating from KU, I went back to The Gazette to cover Emporia State athletics two years before accepting the KUsports.com Online Editor position a few weeks ago."
How long have you been with the Journal World? If I'm remembering correctly, didn't you tryout for the basketball team a few years ago? If so, would you say a few words on that?
"I've been KUsports.com Editor for a week now. In college, I was a part-time writer for the LJW, and that's when I wrote the column series about walking on for the men's basketball team. Journal-World men's basketball beat writer Gary Bedore first asked me to consider trying out, and I just laughed at him. Then, the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed like the right thing to do. I'd been a KU basketball fan growing up, and I figured I'd never have another chance to do that. It turned out to be one of the most memorable things I've ever done."
[Ed. note: Very jealous]
When did you start as the KuSports.com Online Editor? What do you think of it so far?
"I actually started on Monday. So far, I'm just trying to learn everything on the fly. There's so much more to it than I thought -- plenty of computer programs to learn and items to update. I love it, though. It's been a lot of hours, but it doesn't feel like work."
I like your idea for the Sideline Report; how often can we expect similar features?
"There should be five total coming in the next few weeks that I did during media day. We'll space them out a little bit, but I would expect that those will run about twice a week. Media day is the perfect time to get those, as you can get a lot of athletes one-on-one. I'd like to keep those going during the season, but a lot will depend on access once the year starts."
Did you have any desire to replace Ryan Wood as the Kansas football beat reporter?
"I did have interest in Wood's job right before the KUsports.com Online Editor position opened up, but I'm really happy with how things turned out. Honestly, I think I'm better suited for the KUsports.com Online Editor spot with my previous experience. Also, I know people won't want to hear this, but Dugan really is a good guy. I know he made some people mad with his first blog and also his alma mater, but it's way too soon to start trying to throw him out of town. I know for a fact he's a great writer, and though not everyone understands it all the time, it is his job to be objective. It’s my job, too. I know I mentioned being a KU graduate in my first blog, but really, our alma maters shouldn’t have an effect on the way we cover KU sports. We both have jobs to do, and that job involves reporting, not cheering."
[Ed. note: Couldn't agree more. However, the first game is a mere three weeks away and we're not even getting one football story a day in the LJW. Come on now, I need my fix.]
Who is your favorite Kansas athlete of all time? Why?
"I'm guessing this means basketball, too? I would say Jacque Vaughn. He was everything a student-athlete should be. I remember wearing rubber bands on my wrist during rec-league games just to be like him. Raef LaFrentz and Nick Collison would be a close second and third, with Darnell Jackson not too far behind."
Which Kansas team is your all-time favorite? Why?
"In basketball, it was the '97 team. That team was impossible to not like. Vaughn, Haase, Pollard, LaFrentz and Pierce with Thomas off the bench -- talk about loaded.
In football, the 2005 team was a lot of fun to watch. That, to me, was a great season because it was when the Kansas players and fans first started to taste success. The Nebraska victory at home was a huge step for the program, and I still remember driving down to Fort Worth thinking that this whole bowl game thing was kind of fun."
Does Chase Daniel look more like a frog or a toad?
"I’ll ask Dugan and get back to you ..."
Is there a player on this Kansas team that you expect to break out this year?
"It's pretty tough to tell this early. After talking to him on media day, though, I would expect tight end A.J. Steward to be KU's latest converted-quarterback success story."
[Ed. note: Another Steward vote? Very interesting. Perhaps I should have added to him to our poll...]
We have gone on record as predicting a 10-3 season for this Kansas team (with a loss to OU in the Big XII Champ.); what are you predicting?
"I'll go with 8-4. It's easy after a 12-1 season to quickly overlook the Colorados and Kansas States and count them as wins this year, but my gut tells me that KU can't go two years in a row without losing via an upset. In my eyes, KU loses one it's "not supposed to," then splits its six "tough" games (at South Florida, at Oklahoma, Texas Tech, at Nebraska, Texas, Missouri)."
Finally, feel free to opine on anything else that you don't mind 6, or possibly 7 people reading.
"Mark it down now: Texas Tech will win the Big 12 South. You heard it here first."
[Ed. note: Agree to disagree]
Again, big thanks go out to KUSports.com Online Editor, Jesse Newell, for taking the time to answer our questions. It should also be mentioned that in some correspondence with GingerBalls he promised pictures of the new hair trimmings of at least Darrell Stuckey and possibly Dezmon Briscoe as well.