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Archive for Tuesday, August 18, 2009

High-flying offense should continue

August 18, 2009

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Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing heaves a pass over the Minnesota line as Jake Sharp (1) looks to make a block during the fourth quarter of the Insight Bowl in this photo from Dec. 31, 2008, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Reesing and Sharp both return this season.

Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing heaves a pass over the Minnesota line as Jake Sharp (1) looks to make a block during the fourth quarter of the Insight Bowl in this photo from Dec. 31, 2008, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. Reesing and Sharp both return this season.

The Kansas University football team’s offense left little to be desired during a 2008 season in which it finished among the most potent in the nation.

Among their offensive accomplishments, the Jayhawks finished with a school record for passing yards per game (305.6), while posting the school’s second-highest total yards-per-game average (432.4) and third-highest points-per-game total (33.4).

In the process, they scored 35 points or more in a game nine times, including a 52-point showing against Kansas State on Nov. 1.

And with eight offensive starters returning this season — including a nucleus of quarterback Todd Reesing and receivers Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier — 2009 looks to feature more of the same.

Quarterback

For one more year, at least, Kansas coach Mark Mangino and his staff don’t need to spend much time worrying about their team’s quarterback situation.

Senior Todd Reesing returns after throwing for 3,888 yards and 32 touchdowns and leading the Jayhawks to their second straight bowl game in 2008. Playing in the pass-happy Big 12, he finished the year in the Top 10 nationally in passing yards, passing yards per game (299.08), total offense (4,112) and completions per game (25.3).

In just two years as the starter, Reesing has broken nearly every significant passing record at the school, and with his top three receivers returning this season, he’ll look to propel Kansas to its first outright Big 12 North title in school history.

Kale Pick, a red-shirt freshman from Dodge City, figures to enter the season at the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

Running back

Following a slow start last season, Jake Sharp secured the starting running back spot after compiling 186 yards in a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State. He finished the year with 860 yards and 12 touchdowns (adding 25 catches for 283 yards) and returns for his senior season as the team’s clear starter.

There are question marks behind Sharp, however.

The summer departure of Jocques Crawford could open up a spot for true freshman Toben Opurum, a physical back out of Plano, Texas, who selected Kansas over Notre Dame and Florida. Rell Lewis, who rushed for 64 yards on 14 carries in the spring game, also could see playing time at the position.

Wide receiver

As it was a season ago, the receiver position figures to be Kansas’ strength heading into 2009, led by standouts Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier.

Briscoe burst onto the scene as a sophomore last season, catching 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns and showing a knack for gaining yards after the catch. And despite missing most of the spring due to suspension, he is back with the team and figures to be one of the conference’s top offensive weapons in ’09.

Meanwhile, Meier, who is expected to leave his role as the team’s backup quarterback to focus on receiver full-time, has become Reesing’s go-to receiver, catching a team-high 97 passes for 1,045 yards, including arguably Kansas’ biggest pass last season — a 26-yard strike from Reesing in the fourth quarter against Missouri to give the Jayhawks a 40-37 victory.

While promising receiver Daymond Patterson — who had eight catches for 130 yards against Louisiana Tech as a true freshman last season — has moved to cornerback full-time, the team doesn’t appear to be lacking depth at the receiver position. Johnathan Wilson returns after a promising sophomore season, and he’ll be joined by Raimond Pendleton (four catches, 28 yards, one touchdown in the Spring Game) and Isiah Barfield (four catches, 49 yards).

Tight end

Tim Biere returns as the likely starter after catching six passes for 65 yards as a true freshman, and he’ll get help from Bradley Dedeaux, who caught two passes in nine games last season as the Jayhawks worked mostly out of a four-receiver set.

Offensive line

The Jayhawks lose their three interior linemen to graduation — including All-Big 12 honorable mention selections Adrian Mayes and Ryan Cantrell — but return Jeremiah Hatch and Jeff Spikes, players who both earned freshman All-American recognition as tackles in ’08.

Despite some occasional struggles, the two improved considerably throughout the course of the season, and with Cantrell gone, Hatch will start the season at center, the position he manned in high school.

Tight end Tanner Hawkinson, meanwhile, has moved to left tackle to help fill the void left by Hatch, and he joins a slew of players with at least some experience on the offensive line, including guards Sal Capra, Carl Wilson and Ian Wolfe. Red-shirt freshmen guards John Williams and Trevor Marrongelli also figure to compete for playing time.

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