First-year Kansas University football coach Turner Gill has revealed little about his football team during recent sessions with the media, which makes Saturday’s spring game, set to kick off at 1 p.m. in Memorial Stadium, a must-watch.
Gill has been careful to avoid saying which quarterback leads a competition headed by red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb and third-year sophomore Kale Pick. He has said even less about the rest of the positions in terms of a depth chart.
Finally, the curtain will be pulled back for a sneak preview of the 2010 Kansas football team, seemingly a little short on star power and shy of experience at the offensive skill positions.
Many eyes will focus on the defensive line to see if another end emerges to join Jake Laptad in harassing the quarterback and to see if there is a tackle who can supply serious surge, which has been lacking since James McClinton used up his eligibility.
Who is the leader of the secondary? Will talented middle linebacker Justin Springer have enough support at the outside linebacker spots?
Understandably, the Kansas football fan base feels a little shaky about how the defense projects in the wake of a season in which it allowed an average of 35.9 points in eight Big 12 games. Kansas State, a winner by a 17-10 margin, was the only Big 12 foe that didn’t score at least 31 points against Kansas.
Gill has praised the depth of the secondary, but the linebacker crew appears to be undersized and not blessed with an abundance of speed. Other than Laptad, no defensive lineman has proven himself.
All the legitimate questions about the defense have overshadowed an unsettling reality: The days of putting up huge numbers on offense, at least temporarily, appear over.
Todd Reesing, a tremendously talented quarterback suited perfectly to playing out of the shotgun at a time defenses hadn’t quite figured how to stymie spread offenses, threw 65 touchdown passes in his middle two seasons at Kansas. He’s gone, and so are his two record-breaking receivers, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe.
The entire offensive line returns, but at least when he was healthy, Reesing was a line’s best friend, forever extending plays with a rare pocket presence and ability to scramble. Plus, last season’s center, Jeremiah Hatch, doesn’t look nearly as well-conditioned as he was a year ago. He appears to have added a significant amount of weight, raising the question of what has changed.
Toben Opurum, last season’s leading rusher in terms of touchdowns and yardage, figures to make strides during his sophomore season, if he can stay healthy. He’s so strong he carries a pile and doesn’t need as many openings to keep moving the chains.
Fleet Daymond Patterson’s return to the offense gives the team a dimension it didn’t have last year, but it’s not realistic to expect anyone to perform at the level Briscoe and Meier did, though Bradley McDougald has talent.
The coaching change necessitated learning new terminology, and moving the quarterback under center brings a lot of challenges. It’s too early to draw conclusions about the offense, but not too early to wonder about it.