Official Husker Locker Blog
2010 Apr 29
SPRING OPPONENT REPORT: Kansas
Coach: Turner Gill (1st year at Kansas, 20-30 overall)
Plays Nebraska: Nov. 13, 2010
Spring Game: Apr. 24
Summary: In approach, demeanor and I’d argue life experience, Turner Gill is a polar opposite of the deposed Mark Mangino. But who Gill is - and quality is the best way to describe the man - won’t matter much unless he can work with what Mangino left in the cupboard at KU. And what Mangino left behind is typical of his time in Lawrence: Solid skill talent. Iffy talent - and even more iffy depth - along the offensive and defensive lines. With Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long switching to a multiple, power-running offense, an athletic, deep offensive line is a must. On defense, the Jayhawks will rely more on blitzes and scheme than it will on a great defensive line, but progress still needs to be made there.
On top of that, Gill conducted a giant, six-player quarterback competition that even drew the participation of KU basketball player Connor Teahen. Although it appears junior Kale Pick has wrested control of the job for now, remember: Gill likes playmakers. Pick has to be versatile as a runner, too, and with super-quick Jordan Webb nipping at Pick’s heels, the race should extend into fall.
Kansas is a year away from Mangino’s two best recruiting classes - the 2008 and 2009 crops - maturing fully into leadership roles. If Gill can survive this year without mass defections or a total loss of self-confidence, 2011 sets up like 2007 did for Kansas. And that’s a recipe for success.
Progress so far: KU had to replace the quartet of Todd Reesing, Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier and Dez Briscoe; the Jayhawks are closer on the running back and receiver front than they are at QB. The offense heads back under center after years out of the shotgun; the adjustment will take a year, at least.
That said, in the spring game, Pick, a Dodge City product, hit 14-22 passes for 210 yards and touchdowns in a 14-10 win. He hit receiver Chris Omigie for a 72-yarder and showed a nice blend of elusiveness and accuracy. Smallish receivers Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears were moved from the secondary to wide receiver, and are likely to play quite a bit despite their heights being listed below 5-foot-11.
The running game struggled Saturday - just 45 carries for 53 yards. Toben Opurum is more effective as a big-back alternative than he is a workhorse.
The biggest question on offense is still the line - which was the worst , no bones about it, in the Big 12 for the last two seasons. Featuring a converted tight end and converted linebacker, it’s a patchwork unit that at least has a year of experience together. Then again, what’s that worth, given the performance? The lines combined to give up nine sacks in the spring game.
On defense, the secondary, no surprise, is the strength. It always was under Mangino. Safety Lubbock Smith could contend for all-conference honors next year. The front seven is thin on depth and standout talent, although Darius Parish, the best line recruit of the Mangino era, remains the hope of Jayhawk backers.
Breakout player: Tight end Tim Biere - an Omaha Westside product - was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the offensive change. He had a nifty catch in the spring game for a touchdown, and he could be a 30-40 catch guy during the year. Remember Long’s Iowa roots. The Hawkeyes were Tight End U for years; still are, in fact. Also watch converted quarterback Christian Matthews as a Wildcat/punt returner/kick returner.
What You May Not Know: KU drops Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech from the conference schedule and brings on Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Baylor. That’ll ease the transition some.
Keep an eye on: KU’s recruiting over the summer. Gill has work to do. He absolutely must rebuild the lines, or, after 2011, the program will head into a nose dive.
Spring Opponent Reports: Kansas State Kansas, Western Kentucky, Colorado
Husker Spring Reviews: Quarterback, Offensive Line Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Backs, Special Teams
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