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Staff predictions for the top KU players of 2010
With the opening game of the 2010 season now a little more than two weeks away, it seems like as good a time as any to offer up some predictions for the coming year.
Although we’re still formulating opinions about how the Kansas University football team will finish during its first season under the direction of new head coach Turner Gill, those of us here at KUsports.com who cover the team have our own opinions about which players will dominate the headlines for the Jayhawks this fall.
Outside of a very vanilla spring game, which took place after just 15 practices in the spring — which were conducted without many key players — we haven’t been able to nail down a prediction for wins and losses for 2010, largely because we haven’t been given an opportunity to see this team in action much.
So the following predictions were made with a bit of a projector’s eye. Some of them were based on what we know about guys who are returning from seasons past. Others were based on what we’ve heard, seen or been told about new guys from those who have been around them.
With that in mind, here’s our best guess at some players to watch in 2010.
— MATT TAIT, KU FOOTBALL BEAT WRITER —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. Replacing Todd Reesing shouldn’t be nearly as easy as Pick will make it look. Strong, skilled and supremely confident, the gunslinger from Dodge City will be wise enough to use all of his weapons this season, keeping opposing defenses guessing and the Jayhawks rolling. Won’t put up the individual numbers we’re used to from the KU QB, but will put up points on the scoreboard.
Defensive MVP: Kevin Young. If the Jayhawks struggle on defense this season, it won’t be Young’s fault. With opponents focused on neutralizing Jake Laptad, Young will face one-on-one blocking on the other side. He’ll eat that for lunch and make a second home in opposing backfields, leading the Jayhawks in sacks, hurries and QB pressures.
Special Teams MVP: Daymond Patterson. He’ll be a big-time factor at receiver, as well, but the more reps the shifty slot receiver gets on offense the more dangerous he’ll be on special teams, where he’ll bring a take-it-to-the-house mentality every time he touches the ball.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Christian Matthews. Though the Jayhawks are deep at receiver, Gill and Co. will have a hard time keeping this guy off the field. His skill set is raw but his athleticism may be the best on the team.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Steven Johnson. Lost in the shuffle because of the presence of some pretty big names at linebacker during the past few seasons, Johnson will emerge as a monster whom Jayhawk fans will be thrilled to have back in 2011.
Freshman of the Year: Christian Matthews. Coaches and teammates have talked about his ability all offseason. My guess is, before long, we’ll know why.
Best Win of 2010: Sept. 17 at Southern Miss. This will be the game that determines if the Jayhawks go bowling. After playing Georgia Tech tough at home on Sept. 11, the Jayhawks will take that toughness to the bayou to knock off Larry Fedora’s club with nasty defense and a clock-crunching ground attack.
Worst Loss of 2010: Nov. 13 at Nebraska. Gill’s return to Lincoln, Neb., won’t be one he’ll want to remember. Distractions — both from Gill’s return and NU’s departure to the Big 10 — will make this one a circus. Nebraska’s defense will play the role of the clown while KU plays the part of Kramer from Seinfeld.
— TOM KEEGAN, SPORTS EDITOR —
Offensive MVP: Daymond Patterson. Get him the ball and he'll take care of the rest.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. Kill the quarterback, Jake.
Special Teams MVP: Jacob Branstetter. Tackling prowess overshadows kicking talent.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Tim Biere. Tight end will be used more in new offense and Biere has looked great through spring and fall camps.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Justin Springer. Recovered from knee injury, he's ready to dominate.
Freshman of the Year: Kevin Young. There is a reason Nebraska wanted him. He's got talent.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State: Home crowd might be thin for some games, but not this one.
Worst Loss of 2010: Oct. 2 at Baylor. Dual-threat QB Robert Griffin is back, which makes Baylor much better.
— JESSE NEWELL, KUSPORTS.COM ONLINE EDITOR —
Offensive MVP: Angus Quigley. No one can say I played it safe. This would be a remarkable story if true. I think the RB job is his to lose at this point.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. If he's healthy, he's the best player on the Jayhawks defense.
Special Teams MVP: Alonso Rojas. No one's really talking about it, but he'll have a shot to make an NFL roster in 2011.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Tim Biere. Turner Gill and Chuck Long love utilizing the tight end. That hasn't always been the case at KU.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Calvin Rubles. KU cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy loves Rubles' size and athleticism. Give me five INTs for the breakout senior.
Freshman of the Year: Deshaun Sands. KU desperately needs a running back that can break free for a big run. Sands will be that guy this year.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 23 vs. Texas A&M. The Aggies have star power, but their defense is still suspect. I'll say the Jayhawks pull this one out in Lawrence.
Worst Loss of 2010: Nov. 27 vs. Missouri. This might not be the worst loss, but it will be the one that hurts the most for KU fans. The Arrowhead games always seem to come down to the end, but the Jayhawks aren't at the same level talent-wise as the Tigers this year.
— ERIC SORRENTINO, CONFERENCE CHATTER BLOGGER —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. With an experienced offensive line, I expect the dual-threat quarterback to have a solid season. If the line holds up in protection, Pick will be able to find a group of receivers that could surprise some people this year.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. The defensive end had seven sacks in 2008 and 6.5 in 2009. To be an elite end in the Big 12, Laptad will likely need to crack the double-digit plateau in his senior season. I expect he'll at least flirt with the number.
Special Teams MVP: Jacob Branstetter. Led the team in scoring with 81 points last year.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Daymond Patterson. Moving from cornerback to wide receiver, his natural position, should help the junior showcase his breakaway speed. Patterson will operate from the slot and should have the chance to scamper for plenty of yards after the catch.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Kevin Young. The defensive end from Olathe should have a chance to start in his freshman season. He was listed as a starting end on the post-spring, two-deep depth chart.
Freshman of the year: Chris Omigie. Haven't seen the guy play yet, but I've heard so much about the ability of the Arlington, Texas, native to get down the field and win the jump ball. He has great size at 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds. Omigie may receive limited opportunities in 2010, but I'm ready for him to display flashes of his potential.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State. I'm not particularly sold on the Wildcats being serious North contenders this season. I could see the Jayhawks getting revenge from last year's KSU victory. The home team has won the Sunflower Showdown six of the past seven years.
Worst loss of 2010: Sept. 17 at Southern Miss. It may take a few games for the Jayhawks to get comfortable under the new scheme of first-year coach Turner Gill. An early game like this against Southern Miss — KU's third game of the season and its first on the road — could be particularly challenging. Southern Miss has played in a bowl game for the past eight years.
— ANDREW BAKER, 6 NEWS SPORTS ANCHOR —
Offensive MVP: Toben Opurum. He has the best opportunity to make the biggest impact since Turner Gill has announced that he plans to be more committed to the run than Mark Mangino. If the offensive line can hold up, Opurum should excel.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. This is an easy one and the sack leader from 2009 will continue to lead this defense in 2010.
Special Teams MVP: Daymond Patterson. His speed and ability to make defenders miss should lead to some breakout opportunities for the junior.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Bradley McDougald. The sophomore wide receiver has big play ability, and by the time the year is over his numbers will be better than Jonathan Wilson's.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Chris Harris. This could be a little bit of a stretch but Harris has the ability to cause havoc to his opposition, he just hasn't had that year when he can put it all together. He's been a regular starter for Kansas however — I think this is the season Harris finally controls one side of the field.
Freshman of the Year: Kevin Young. Learning from Jake Laptad will help this freshman disrupt play in the backfield
Best Win of 2010: Nov. 6 vs. Colorado. This KU team is obviously down from a season ago and I think wins will be few and far between.
Worst Loss of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State. A game that KU should win since it is at home — however the Sunflower Showdown debut for Turner Gill will not be a good one.
— KEVIN ROMARY, 6 NEWS SPORTS DIRECTOR —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. Let's hope there is one. I fear that the offense could struggle big time with so many new parts.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. It's gotta be Jake or Justin, right?
Special Teams MVP: Alonso Rojas. The KU offense can't be as good with the three greatest offensive players in school history gone. Zo will have to be extremely valuable.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Daymond Patterson. He dazzled for a few games as a freshman and now returns to the position he loves.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Calvin Rubles. Guy was a stud in JUCO. Now needs to prove that the hype was real.
Freshman of the Year: James Sims. Everything is bigger in Texas.
Best Win of 2010: Kansas State. KU was better last year and lost on the road. KSU may be better this year but will lose on the road.
Worst Loss of 2010: Texas A&M. By worst loss, I assume you mean margin of defeat. I fear the powerful Ags "O" could score 50 at Memorial.