> Two years after going 12-1 and getting an Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech, the Jayhawks are looking to rebuild under new coach Turner Gill, who takes over for Mark Mangino after Mangino resigned amid mistreatment rumors. Gill comes from Buffalo after having turned one of the worst teams in college football into a conference champion.
Offense - Despite returning eight starters, it may be the four that they lost that will be the most crucial. Gill will have to replace departed seniors quarterback Todd Reesing, wide receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier and running back Jake Sharp. It will be interesting to see how the team responds to Chuck Long’s scheme.
The loss of Reesing hurts the Jayhawks the most. Reesing threw for 3,616 yards on his way to breaking numerous school passing records. He leaves Kansas as the school leader in career passing yards (11,194), career attempts (1,461), career completions (932), career touchdown passes (90) and total offensive yards (11,840). The returnees, however, only threw for a combined 38 yards in 2009. That’s not to say that there won’t be any depth at the position tho. Kale Pick was four of five passing for 22 yards, while adding 167 rushing yards on 14 carries as a backup in 2009. Quinn Mecham is a junior college transfer who threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns at Snow Junior College in 2009. He is already on campus and will participate in spring practice. A trio of quarterbacks redshirted as freshmen in 2009 including Christian Matthews, Jacob Morse and Jordan Webb.
Toben Opurum led the team in rushing as a freshman, rushing for 554 yards and nine touchdowns in 2009. Rell Lewis saw limited time running for 72 yards on 13 carries. Angus Quigley, a running back at KU until playing linebacker last season, returns to his original position after gaining a medical hardship. Quigley ran for 309 yards in 2008.
The Jayhawks lost the two most productive wide receivers in school history in Dezmon Briscoe, who declared for the NFL draft after his junior campaign, and Kerry Meier. In 2009, Briscoe caught 84 passes for 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns, while Meier pulled in 102 balls for 985 yards and eight scores. Johnathan Wilson had been the third option in his career and pulled in 35 receptions for 449 yards in 2009. Bradley McDougald started six games as the fourth wide receiver and caught 33 passes for 318 yards last year. Tertavian Ingram saw action a year ago and had two catches. Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears, Erick McGriff and Chris Omigie ,a pair of redshirt freshmen all could make an impact.
Defense - A mix of experience and youth returns on the defensive side of the ball for Kansas, including seven starters. Among the returnees are All-Big 12 Honorable Mention players in defensive end Jake Laptad and linebacker Drew Dudley. Linebacker Huldon Tharp and safety Lubbock Smith earned Freshman All-America honors in 2009. Chris Harris has been a regular in the secondary for the past three seasons. In all, five of the top eight tackle leaders from 2009 return.
All-Big 12 Honorable Mention players in defensive end Jake Laptad had 49 tackles, including a team-high 12 for loss and six and a half sacks. Quinton Woods, who saw limited time with four tackles, is the only other end with experience. Inside, John Williams started the final seven games of 2009 at tackle after moving from the offensive line. He replaced Richard Johnson in the starting lineup, but Johnson returns this season as well.
Last season Kansas used two linebackers in its 4-2-5 alignment and two of the main three players in last year’s rotation return. Drew Dudley was second on the team with 88 tackles last year, while Huldon Tharp made 59 stops as a true freshman en route to earning some Freshman All-America honors. Justin Springer has been a key reserve and last year had 25 tackles.
The 2009 secondary was a team effort as 10 different players started games during the season. KU lost two long-time regular safeties in Darrell Stuckey, who led the team with 93 tackles, and Justin Thornton, who registered 80 tackles in 2009. Chris Harris leads the returnees. Harris has played safety and cornerback in his career and last year was third on the team with 84 tackles, while leading the team with nine passes broken up.
Recruiting - The Jayhawks signed a class of 18 in 2010, including 10 on the offensive side of the ball. Of those 10, four are wide receivers. Of the eight defenders, four are on the line. Kansas was able to pull Brandon Bourbon out of Missouri and boy did they get a player. On his way to being named the 3A Player of the Year, he amassed a school record 2,531 yards and 34 touchdowns. He finished his high school career with 5,551 rushing yards. On defense, the stud is linebacker Ed Fink. He registered 149 tackles and eight sacks as a senior.
Schedule - This year’s schedule is relatively tougher than last year’s as two of their four nonconference opponents qualified for bowls, including a BCS bowl game. Three of the team’s nonconference games are in Lawrence, as North Dakota State and Georgia Tech come to Lawrence, before the Jayhawks