Kansas University’s new football coach will need to identify, recruit and develop a quarterback, a few explosive defensive lineman, at least one long, strong, fleet wideout and a linebacker or two.
If that reads like a classified ad begging for a best offer — needs a rebuilt engine, new tires and a brake job — for a jalopy, it’s not quite as bad as it sounds.
New Kansas football coaches have inherited worse, and no one has ever had better facilities to develop players, although the location of the practice fields makes spying a little too easy.
Glen Mason said he learned upon arriving at KU the facilities were, “worse than at Kent State. Our meeting room was a closet underneath the stands.”
Many would argue that the talent Mason inherited, particularly on defense, made the meeting room look by comparison like the Taj Mahal. Turner Gill didn’t leave his successor talent as slick as the facilities, but the Jayhawks will have some impressive names on the backs of the jerseys.
Up front on offense, both guards, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli, return, as does right tackle Tanner Hawkinson. Zlatnik dominated weaker opponents, and with another year of muscle on his bones will have a shot at having the edge on Big 12 defenders as well. If Marrongelli can match the improvement he showed from sophomore to junior year, he’ll have a solid final season. Hawkinson’s quick feet intrigue pro scouts, so if a new strength and conditioning staff can sculpt him the right way and he sharpens his fangs, he’ll have a shot at all-conference honors.
Darrian Miller has a chance at a 1,000-yard rushing season, and James Sims, Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon combine to make running back the deepest position on the roster.
Back from injury, Daymond Patterson will show his positive attitude and speed to a third coaching staff, and D.J. Beshears gives KU another quick receiver on the small side. It’s the big, fast targets KU lacks.
Tight end Jimmay Mundine, if he can commit to daily attendance for summer conditioning workouts better than last year, has the potential to develop into a productive target.
An offense is only as good as its quarterback, so finding the right trigger man with so little time to recruit represents the biggest challenge.
The secondary qualifies as the strength of the defense. Bradley McDougald emerged as a big-time safety late in the season. Keeston Terry, should the new coach decide to keep him there and not use him instead as a receiver, has potential as well. True freshman Victor Simmons needs to get bigger, but he showed he’s an active safety. Cornerbacks Greg Brown and Tyler Patmon won’t get to show much until Kansas develops a pass rush, but they’re talented.
Toben Opurum gained valuable experience as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, and his speed will impress the new coaching staff, which will need to determine the best way to use him. Linebackers Collin Garrett and Michael Reynolds gained experience as true freshmen.
Kansas isn’t loaded, but has more talent than a coach inheriting a team that has gone 1-23 in its last 24 Big 12 games might think.