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Archive for Monday, September 30, 2013

Opinion: Kansas wideout situation mystifying

September 30, 2013

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A remarkably unproductive group of wide receivers continues as a major factor in the Kansas University football team having a flat offense for the second year in a row.

Charlie Weis’ decision to move running backs Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon to hybrid receiver/running back positions has masked just how invisible the players on the roster listed as wide receivers have been three weeks into the season.

Pierson leads Kansas in receptions (15) and receiving yards (209), Bourbon ranks second with 10 catches and tight end Jimmay Mundine second in receiving yards (76).

Nine scholarship players on the roster are listed as wide receivers, including six recruited by Weis. Junior Mark Thomas and freshman Ishmael Hyman are red-shirting, which leaves seven. Three games into the season, care to take a stab at how many catches the leading receiver among the seven has? Senior Josh Ford and sophomore Tre’ Parmalee are tied with three. Juniors Rodriguez Coleman and Justin McCay and senior Christian Matthews have two catches apiece. Juniors Ricki Herod and Andrew Turzilli haven’t caught a pass this season.

It’s strange that a school that has done such a terrific job of recruiting and developing running backs in recent seasons can’t do the same with wide receivers. Even if they misevaluate in recruiting or simply get rejected, there should be signs of progress from the instruction they receive, but where are those signs?

The chemistry we heard so much about between Jake Heaps and McCay on the scout team a year ago was on display in the spring game, but is nowhere to be found now. McCay had eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. He threw a number of punishing blocks. He has 12 receiving yards three games into the season. Could it be McCay performs better when running routes he learns on the spot than he is at learning where he fits into an offensive system? Or did the holding penalty tagged on him in the season-opener against South Dakota make him too gun-shy to play the physical style that helps him get open and makes him a valuable extra blocker on the field?

The coaching staff hopes that Coleman’s speed can turn him into a valuable target for Heaps. Still, the receiver with the most untapped potential remains McCay. The spring game certainly didn’t look like a fluke. But the reality that Oklahoma had no problem clearing him to go to another Big 12 school indicates the Sooners’ coaching staff didn’t think he could help Kansas.

Help is on the way in the form of Miami of Ohio transfer Nick Harwell, who put up big numbers three seasons in a row before his off-the-field behavior resulted in a suspension from school. Harwell can’t help Heaps now, so the coaching staff is going to have to find a way to make McCay more effective.

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