If you're devoted enough to be reading this relatively obscure blog, you're well aware of what the Kansas Jayhawks will be returning on offense in 2009. And even though this 2008 team has one big thing left to accomplish, now seems an ideal time to take a gander at exactly how next year's offense should look. Prior to doing so, I would like to direct your attention to the Sports Business Journal and it's listing of the gifts teams will be receiving for bowls - Insight: 26" Vizio LCD HDTV, Bulova watch and a hat and I'm guessing there will be more. Onto the projections...
QB – Todd Reesing, Kale Pick. Obviously what we're most excited about is the prospect of Todd returning for his senior campaign and possibly breaking even more of his own records. But the story here is Pick moving to second string ahead of Kerry Meier. And while I don't know this to be the case, I would anticipate it being so, in order to: 1) start getting him prepared for the following year; & 2) to give Kerry a fair shot at being a full-time receiver.
RB – Jake Sharp, Jocques Crawford, Angus Quigley. Until proven otherwise, Jake will remain the guy here. And if you doubt that, please rewatch the Missouri game in which neither of the other two touched the ball, despite Jake having broken ribs. However, while Jake has shown he can carry the load, he's still not a guy that falls forward, but rather one who hits the hole he's given. My guess is he's still the guy, but if either of the others can prove that they can get the tough yards AND hang onto the ball, they'll be sure to get some big time minutes as well.
WR – Dezmon Briscoe, Kerry Meier, Jonathan Wilson, Raimond Pendleton, Rod Smith, Jr. After the first three, it's pretty speculative and I wouldn't be shocked to see Daymond move back to this side of the ball. The important thing to notice here is the top three returning. We all know what Dezmon and Kerry can do. Though if Dez's improvement from year 1 to year 2 is any indication, he could get even better. And it will be interesting to see how Kerry's game changes if he really does become a full-time receiver. As for Wilson, I'm tempted to believe we haven't yet seen his best. I don't have much to prove that aside from comparing Dez's 2007 stats (43 for 497 & 7) to Wilson's from this season (41 for 556 and 2). I'm not suggesting he'll make the same leap, but a reasonable improvement seems plenty reasonable and we all know the ability is there (see: South Florida and Texas).
TE – Tim Biere, Bradley Dedeaux, A.J. Steward. I feel like Biere is pretty supplanted here and for good reason. He seems to be a good blocker and as a true freshman, he's obviously got time to get much bigger and better. He also seems very sure handed and I would think we'll want to incorporate him into the passing game more as we're able to trust our tackles a bit more. Not much to analyze yet with the others as Dedeaux is the blocker and Steward supposed to be the playmaker. But with Biere able to do both as well or better than the others, he doesn't look to be moving anytime soon. Another sign of him having a hold on this spot is that Tanner Hawkinson (highly rated TE recruit) moved to DE during the year, so apparently the writing is on the wall there.
LT – Jeff Spikes, Ian Wolfe. Here's my first real leap of faith. As you all know, Spikes switched to RT at the start of conference play as he was a bit behind Hatch in terms of being able to set his feet. The move worked well and while Spikes still probably isn't quite ready, I think they really want him back at left. I've been told they think his ceiling is much higher than Anthony Collins' and it's already clear that he's very much improved at getting to the second level in the run game. If we can get him a little quicker off the ball and a little quicker into his stance, he has a ton of potential at LT.
LG – Jeremiah Hatch, Trevor Marrongelli. Another leap of faith on my part, Hatch really should be a guard. As much as he filled a need at tackle, he was out of position at only 6'3" and with short arms even for that size. Hatch handles size and strength by matching them with his own and utilizing his good feet. But he struggles against speed rushers off the edge, and really, there isn't much he can do about it other than get back into his stance as quickly as possible, which makes him vulnerable to inside moves. All of this adds up to him being a perfect fit at guard if Spikes can regain his spot at LT. I'm basing a lot of this one having a full year to get better, but if it happens, you can bet we'll be running left on a regular basis.
C – Brad Thorson. This is absolute speculation. But for those that don't know Thorson came to us as a transfer from Wisconsin after leaving the team (perhaps by mandate). I don't actually know the details, but I'm under the impression that it stemmed from a fight and/or dirty play in practice. And while I don't necessarily condone that, I can't say I mind that type of a mean streak out of my offensive linemen. Like I said, I don't know anything about his abilities, but from what I've heard, we can expect him to step in and do well though I think we've been pretty spoiled with Ochoa and Cantrell the last few years.
RG – Sal Capra, Carl Wilson. As you've likely noticed, Capra has actually taken quite a few snaps from both Mayes and Hartley throughout the year. Part of that was to give Hartley's knees a rest and part was production. He came to us as a linebacker, so he's not entirely refined as an o-lineman yet, but he has proven capable. There are several others that could also vie for this spot, including Wilson, but Capra is the only one to have earned PT thus far, so for now I think we have to look at him as the likely replacement.
RT – Ben Leuken, Nathan D'Cunha. And pretty much all of this depends on Leuken taking this spot. Given that he was given plenty of snaps here, mostly late in games, and burned his RS in the process, I'm inclined to think Mangino was trying to get him some reps and proper evaluation in order to put him here next year. In his limited duty, it was clear that he'll need to add weight and muscle, but he has the quickness, height, reach and motor to be a very productive player. D'Cunha seems to be a bust for the time being, but only time will tell.
At the skill positions we clearly return more talent than anyone else in the north and really, the entire league. But as we all saw this year, the key is on the offensive line. We have to replace three positions there and if I'm right we may do some realignment as well. If we can get enough stability there to generate an effective running game and give Todd some time this offense stands to get even better and will almost assuredly be the best in the north.