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Archive for Sunday, August 27, 2006

Keegan: KU will show life on offense

August 27, 2006

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Cavemen could have put on a livelier offensive performance than Kansas University stumbled through in a 12-3 loss to Kansas State last season in Manhattan.

One week later, at Arrowhead Stadium, a couple of Brian Luke passes got the offense going. It just happened to be the wrong offense in a 19-3 Oklahoma victory. No jury in the state of Kansas would have convicted Nick Reid for punching out offensive teammates. The game was in Missouri, so it's a good thing Reid held his punches.

I'll bet you both my chins this season's KU offense won't be as painful to watch as it was on those two endless Saturdays.

Clark Green and Mark Simmons, reliable veterans who were highly intelligent football players, will be missed. Overall, this offense figures to perform a great deal more like it did against Nebraska in a 40-15 victory and against Houston in the 42-13 Fort Worth Bowl rout.

The most obvious upgrade is the running threat from the quarterback position that wasn't there in 2005.

Kerry Meier is much faster than Adam Barmann, Luke and Jason Swanson. The way Meier carries the football suggests he likes doing it. The same couldn't be said for his predecessors. Even when keeping in mind that sacks count against the quarterback's rushing statistics, a total of 51 yards in 96 official rushes is horrendous.

A dual-threat quarterback makes life easier for everyone else on the offense.

The fact this team has an undisputed starting quarterback injects everyone in the huddle with a confidence booster. Meier's obvious talent, his high ceiling, could make teammates play with a little extra strut.

Last season, the three quarterbacks combined for a 53.2 completion percentage, 5.9 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Meier might throw more than 19 interceptions, but it would be surprising if he doesn't have more than 13 touchdown passes, more yards per attempt and a better completion percentage.

Meier also should have better pass protection than last season's three quarterbacks. Kansas returns four starters on the offensive line. The longer linemen play together, the more they feel each other's rhythms, cover each other's weaknesses, think as one. Another year of body building always helps, too.

The blocks most pivotal to the success of KU's offense will be the ones thrown by Jon Cornish. He carried the ball more than 10 times in only five of last season's 12 games because Green was a superior blocker and receiver. Flooding the field with three receivers, as KU usually does, only works if the lone back can protect the passer. For KU to be as dangerous as it can be, Cornish must average at least 16 carries, with human bullet Jake Sharp and human bull Brandon McAnderson doing the rest of the work.

Junior tight end Derek Fine blocks well, and his sure hands, considerable strength, and adequate speed blend to make him a valuable target for Meier, who seems to have the quick decision-making ability needed to utilize a tight end well.

A pair of receivers will need to exceed expectations the way Cornish did as a running back last season for the offense to be complete. It's already nearly guaranteed to be exciting.

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