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Grading the Jayhawks
Now that a few days have gone by and the 2010 season is behind us, it’s time to look back at the season that was for Kansas football.
This season wasn’t memorable enough to merit weeks upon weeks of these sort of retrospective pieces, but the job would not be complete without them.
So read it if you like, skim it if you’d rather or sound off below with your own grades in any or all of the categories.
Once we get past this stuff, we’ll start looking ahead to 2011, which has to be better than 2010.
Quarterback — D — This team never truly had a starter as three different guys held down the job during the course of the season. None of them separated from the rest and that made life hard for the offense all season long. Kale Pick never got a real chance to show what he could do. Jordan Webb had his moments but they were too few and far between and Quinn Mecham, the best of the bunch in my opinion, was too often asked to manage games instead of winning them.
Running Back — B — Freshman running back James Sims was one of the true bright spots for the Jayhawks this fall. He ran for 742 yards and nine TDs and often was the team’s best player on offense. He alone is responsible for the running back position getting the best grade on the team this season.
Wide Receivers — C — There’s a lot of talent here but because of KU’s struggles at quarterback (and in protecting the quarterback) the receivers were never given the chance to shine. Daymond Patterson was the most consistent of the bunch, Johnathan Wilson made a couple of plays and Erick McGriff and Chris Omigie came on late. But none of them did enough to earn higher than a C.
Offensive Line — C- — Injuries hurt this unit was much as any and that made for a tough season in the trenches. So, too, did the switch from a spread offense, which put these guys in pass-block situations most of the time, to a running offense, which wanted to grind it out. Duane Zlatnik was a pleasant surprise, Jeremiah Hatch has to be commended for playing hurt and Tanner Hawkinson, Brad Thorson and Sal Capra each gave it his all throughout the season. It just never consistently clicked up front.
Tight End — C+ — Tim Biere was poised for a breakout year and, with a more stable situation at quarterback, he may have had it. Still, the junior led the team in touchdown receptions, with four, and often ran good enough routes to get open, whether he was rewarded or not.
Defensive Line — C- — Halfway through the season, this probably would’ve been an F. But that was before Toben Opurum was moved to defensive end and Jake Laptad came on strong. Both defensive ends finished with fire and Opurum looks like a real player at the DE spot. With their improved play came more consistent play from defensive tackles Patrick Dorsey and Richard Johnson Jr. This was still one of the weakest defensive lines in the conference but their improvement and persistence earned them a passing grade.
Linebacker — B- — Steven Johnson, Justin Springer and Drew Dudley. When the season began the big question was whether these guys could stay healthy all year. They did and, because of it, they played nearly every snap at linebacker for the Jayhawks in 2010. That alone earns them a B. The fact that all three made plays and poured their heart and soul into every game only solidifies their strong grade.
Cornerback — C- — Tyler Patmon’s a star in the making. Greg Brown was starting to become a player in the final few weeks of the season. And Isiah Barfield showed improvement and strong tackling late in the season. Beyond that, KU didn’t have much to brag about at cornerback, especially once Chris Harris moved over to safety. Calvin Rubles and Anthony Davis both had a couple of good moments, but nothing consistent nor worth noting.
Safety — C — Olaitan Oguntodu was solid against the run. Keeston Terry was a stud when he was in there. And Chris Harris finally looked as if he had found a home again. Add to that the impressive play of Bradley McDougald late and you’d have to say that this unit was at least average in 2010. They have to get better against the pass but they were good against the run and they should get some help in the offseason when Gill’s first full recruiting class arrives on campus.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D
Punt Unit — D- — The Jayhawks had three punts blocked and too often went to that rugby style of punting, turning all-conference weapon Alonso Rojas into a player without much confidence.
Kickoff Unit — B — Both Ron Doherty and Jacob Branstetter did a pretty good job of getting the ball deep this season and the coverage unit rarely was burned for a big return.
Field Goal Unit — C- — Branstetter was 8-of-14 this season, including a 6-for-6 mark inside of 40 yards. The total included two blocked field goals and one miss from 52 yards. The senior wasn’t as good this season as he had been in the past but he also didn’t get as many opportunities. In addition, during a four-game stretch in the middle of the season, Branstetter hit 6 of 7 field goals and, at times, was KU’s best offensive weapon.
Kickoff Return — B- — Sophomore D.J. Beshears always seemed to be just a step or two away from taking it the distance. That kind of explosiveness was a big boost for an offense that struggled to consistently move the ball. Beshears set a school record for kickoff return yars (922 yards on 36 returns) and also took one kick to the house, a 96-yarder against New Mexico State in Week 4.
Punt Return — F — There had to be one F and this easily was it. For the season, KU finished with just 57 punt return yards, that’s less than five yards per game. And that’s not good. What’s more, most of the time it didn’t even seem as if the Jayhawks had a chance to gain more yards than that. Of course, their opponents didn’t really punt all that much either (just 48 times all year, compared to 67 punts for KU).