A year ago at this time, the days crawled. It seemed as if the opening kickoff for the final seasons of Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe, Darrell Stuckey and Jake Sharp never would arrive.
The preseason hype was justified with the record-breaking passing game returning for a grand finale. Reesing, Meier and Briscoe weren’t just proven stars. They played exciting football. They made you watch their every move.
Now? Sure, mild curiosity stirs about what sort of quarterback Kale Pick, the likely starter, will make. Daymond Patterson’s return to offense hints at exciting moments. Jake Laptad can get to the quarterback.
Yet, overall, particularly at a time when paying customers of Kansas University sporting events reel from the ticket scandal and so many say they want to take a breather from buying tickets, KU football feels like as tough a sell as it’s been in many years.
Think about it: Is there any player on KU’s offense that would inspire the average fan to rush to the bookstore to buy his jersey? Toben Opurum wears No. 35 and he rushed for 554 yards last season. Opurum’s name doesn’t even appear on coach Turner Gill’s most recent depth chart, released at the end of spring football. Will it appear on the next one? Who knows? Gill doesn’t seem very high on sharing depth charts.
Johnathan Wilson? He wears No. 81. (You might want to start memorizing the numbers of the players because, remember, their names won’t appear on the backs of the jerseys anymore.) Wilson does run crisp routes, a quality that impresses football coaches but generally doesn’t trigger a stampede for the turnstiles.
Patterson, No. 15, flies and is built so low to the ground it’s going to be tough to bring him down. It’s nice to see him back on offense. Maybe this is the best rack at which to stop for a jersey purchase.
No. 24 Bradley McDougald, as with Patterson, is back as a full-time offensive player after flirting with defense. He’s worth keeping an eye on but remains a few big games away from stirring mass excitement.
Laptad, No. 91, and redshirt freshman Kevin Young, No. 90, have a chance to slam quarterbacks to the ground. Chris Harris, No. 16, is worthy of a jersey purchase for long and meritorious service. Plus, he’s a link to the flashy former KU superstar Aqib Talib. Harris was the other starting cornerback in Talib’s final season.
Kansas didn’t always match up physically with its opponents, but with the pre-groin injury, gun-slinging Reesing going on his catch-me-if-you-can improvisations all over the field, it always felt as if KU had a chance. When they lost, they often did so in exciting fashion.
The spread offense, especially when run by such a gifted quarterback and ultra-skilled receivers, not only served as an equalizer of sorts for a team not as powerful up front as its foes, it was a blast to watch. Defenses figured out how to slow down the spread, so it’s back to more conventional play-calling.
Curious about what the team will look like when it takes the field against upset-seeking North Dakota State, sure. Counting the days, not quite.
Tough sell this year.