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Archive for Thursday, May 20, 2010

Football lacking stars

Kansas head coach Turner Gill gathers with the team during spring practice on Sunday, March 28, 2010.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill gathers with the team during spring practice on Sunday, March 28, 2010.

May 20, 2010

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Quick, identify the biggest star, the guy whose name you want on the marquee to help sell season tickets for the 2010 Kansas University football team.

Thinking.

Still thinking.

Haven’t come up with anybody yet.

Can I use one of my lifelines to call a friend?

No, it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

The closest thing Kansas has to such a player is a running back who does his best work running between the tackles and is not listed anywhere on new coach Turner Gill’s two-deep depth chart he released after spring football.

Sophomore Toben Opurum led Kansas in rushing yards (554) and touchdowns (nine) as a freshman, but still hasn’t fully recovered from a leg injury to the extent Gill would list him as the starter.

Sophomore Tanner Hawkinson, at this moment, projects as the player an NFL team is most likely to draft high some day. He showed good quickness, coordination and intelligence in making such a quick transition to the offensive line, but left tackles win football games more than they sell tickets.

Seniors Jake Laptad, a defensive end, and Chris Harris, a cornerback? Laptad has earned All-Big 12 honorable mention the past two seasons, which makes him worth mentioning for the marquee, but doesn’t quite qualify him. Laptad had 61⁄2 sacks last season, seven the year before that. He’s a good player, not a great one.

Harris did break up a team-high nine passes and placed third on the team with 84 tackles, but he didn’t have an interception last year and has three for his career. That’s not marquee material.

Junior tight end Tim Biere has the look of a potential all-conference player, but hasn’t caught enough passes to put on a billboard just yet. Bradley McDougald had 33 receptions as a freshman, but only 9.6 yards per catch.

The answer is nobody, which is why it’s a good year to hype a first-year coach and put his name on the marquee, his face on the poster.

A year from now, Kansas will have players to put on a poster because plays will be made and somebody has to make them.

Maybe junior Daymond Patterson, the burner back on offense after a year-and-a-half trying to play cornerback, will flash to the end zone often enough to make a big name out of his small frame. Christian Matthews, the quarterback-turned-receiver, looked so quick in the spring game. Chris Omigie, the long wideout, might use his long stride to earn star power.

Maybe Kale Pick, the sophomore quarterback from Dodge City, surrounds his growing pains with enough big passes and runs to earn star treatment.

If Opurum stays healthy, he might bull his way to enough touchdowns to carry the star label well.

Or could it be Brandon Bourbon, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound freshman running back from Potosi, Mo., who rushed for 451 yards in a game and was clocked in 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters? He originally committed to Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and changed his mind when Gill and recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell signed with Kansas.

Stars will be born this season.

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