Monday, September 28, 2009

Early-season grades: Kansas football

Head of the class –

Maxwell Onyegbule. Big Max is finally putting it all together in his senior season. He was chosen Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Duke, which included an interception return for a touchdown.

Dezmon Briscoe. Dez is a stud and against Iowa State should break Kansas receiving records both for number of receptions as well as receiving yards. Yes, he’s dropped a couple of catchable balls, including a sure TD pass against Duke, but he also is a guy who will go up and catch basically anything thrown up for grabs in his direction.

Chris Harris. After a puzzling sophomore season, this kid has turned it around and regained his swagger. He is perhaps the surest tackler on the defense.

Kerry Meier. What else can you say about Meier? He has great hands, runs good routes, and consistently gets open. He’s a threat to throw from his receiver slot and is an accomplished blocker. But, perhaps his play of the non-conference season was chasing down a Duke defender who had blocked and scooped up a blocked PAT.

Todd Reesing. Touchdown Todd passed Vince Young in the Southern Miss game for seventh all-time on the Big 12 total offense list. He is the heart and soul of this team. Nuf sed…

Honor roll –

Toben Opurum. The true frosh has filled in admirably for the injured Jake Sharp. He’s a punishing runner who will only get better as he learns to run lower. For a big man, he also has outstanding hands.

Jake Sharp. Jake had started out with two 100+ yard games before being injured and sitting out most of the Duke game and all of the Southern Miss game. The open week will allow Sharp time to heal in time for October 10 and Iowa State.

Jake Laptad. Leads the team in sacks.

Darrell Stuckey. Stuckey injured his elbow on a late hit in the first game but the defensive captain has a huge motor, and loves to hit. He's the leader of the defense.

Justin Thornton. JT has one pick thus far and, with Stuckey, provides senior leadership to a secondary which is still maturing.

Arist Wright. Wright is smallish for a linebacker but seems to always be all over the field.

Passing grades –

Daymond Patterson. Patterson’s getting better each week in a position he’s still learning. His size is a detriment against tall receivers.

Justin Springer. Springer has been solid at LB after returning from injury.

Jeff Wheeler. Wheeler came off a one-game suspension and promptly had a good game against UTEP.

Alonso Rojas. Rojas has perfected the rugby style kick and is doing a good job of getting the ball inside the 20.

Offensive line. This unit admittedly is still gelling. And, they did not have a good game against Southern Mississippi. But, for now, we’re giving them a passing grade headed into Big 12 play.

Jonathan Wilson. The receiver of whom much has been expected, after his terrific end to last season and a very solid spring, has disappointed with too many dropped passes. This grade turned into a passing one, though, after his performance against Southern Miss—he didn’t drop a ball and made two catches which kept drives alive.

Rising stars –

Huldan Tharp. Mark Mangino bragged on this kid early and with good reason—he does not miss tackles.

Bradley McDougald. Sure hands, big, and hard to bring down after the catch. He will take over Briscoe’s spot as the “go to guy” next season.

Kale Pick. We haven’t seen Pick pass much, but his running, oh my…

Stay after class –

Jacob Branstetter. Jacob has not had been called upon much for FGs. That’s good—he’s only 1 for 3 beyond 30 yards. His kickoffs are not high enough or deep enough on a consistent basis.

Anthony Davis. Davis was the starting corner in game one but promptly received three pass interference penalties, leading the coaches to move Chris Harris back to corner, Justin Thornton to the nickel back and Phillip Strozier to safety. Davis was also very involved in the drama between the Kansas football and basketball teams last week.

Coaching –

Mark Mangino – A. The Jayhawks are 4-0. They’ve taken care of business thus far and, while not sharp, withstood their toughest test against Southern Mississippi by doing the things they needed to do to win. Mangino always has his teams ready to play.

Ed Wariner/Offense – A-. It’s hard to argue with the offensive numbers being posted by Kansas. Wariner has adjusted to what defenses are doing to KU by amping up the run game. The only question is whether he has a tendency to rely upon gadget plays too often.

Clint Bowen/Defense – C+. Give Bowen credit for making adjustments in the secondary after the week one meltdown at one corner position. And, his defense made the plays at the end of the game, when necessary, against Southern Miss. Yet, the Golden Eagles sliced up Kansas’ secondary for 331 yards and three TDs and pressure on the QB was inconsistent. Will this defense stand up to the offenses of upcoming conference foes Missouri, Nebraska, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech?

Special Teams – B-. The kick coverage allowed too many yards against Southern Miss but Kansas’ returners Bradley McDougald and Darrell Stuckey broke off long gainers versus the Golden Eagles. Punting and punt coverage have been a strength. Jacob Branstetter has been disappointing and has had a PAT blocked. Mangino has always stressed special teams play so I expect this will be a focus area in the bye week.

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