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Steele honors 6 Jayhawks at season's midway point
There is no official all-Big 12 half season squad, so it's left up to college football's analysts to track which players have stood out the most through the first half of each season.
Well-known college football guru Phil Steele is one such guy and earlier this week he released his all-Big 12 teams at the midway point of 2013.
Two Jayhawks made the first team and six total made Steele's list.
Here's a quick look at who Steele thinks stood out so far:
1st Team LB: Ben Heeney — Heeney, a junior, leads KU and ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 43 tackles. He also has a team-best 7.0 tackles-for-loss, which ranks fourth in the conference, including 2.0 sacks. Additionally, Heeney has intercepted two passes and tallied three pass breakups through five games.
1st Team P: Trevor Pardula — Pardula, a junior, tops the Big 12 and ranks second nationally in punting, averaging 47.1 yards per punt. He set a Kansas record for punting average in a game after averaging 57.6 yards on five punts in KU's win over Louisiana Tech. He recorded a career-long 78-yard punt in the third quarter versus the Bulldogs, which tied for eighth-longest in school history. Pardula has dropped eight punts inside the 20 and recorded 13 punts of 50 yards or more through five games.
2nd Team TE: Jimmay Mundine — Mundine ranks fourth on the Kansas roster with 10 receptions, including three touchdown grabs. He is averaging 13.6 yards per reception on the season.
3rd Team RB: James Sims — Sims, a senior, tops KU with 390 yards rushing on 87 carries. He has rushed for two scores, while also hauling in 12 catches for 82 yards. Sims currently ranks seventh in the Big 12 with 78.0 yards per game on the ground.
3rd Team WR: Tony Pierson — Pierson is the top Kansas pass catcher with 21 receptions for 327 yards and one touchdown in 2013. A junior from East St. Louis, Pierson's 77-yard receiving TD is KU's longest play from scrimmage this year.
3rd Team PR: Connor Embree — Embree, a junior, is averaging 14.1 yards per punt return through the first five games of the year. Embree's top game as a returner came in KU's win over South Dakota as he tallied four punt returns for 92 yards. He returned a punt for 42 yards in the fourth quarter, the longest punt return by a Jayhawk since 2009.
For the most part, these seem fair. KU certainly has not gotten off to a stellar start, but both Heeney and Pardula have been fantastic.
I think Pierson may have been placed a little low, but, as long as he bounces back from his injury, he'll have plenty of time to prove that he belongs on the 1st or 2nd team.
Mundine's inclusion shows that he responded nicely to a rough start that saw him struggle with drops during the first two games of the season. I thought Mundine had first-team all-Big 12 potential at the start of the season, and, if the offense can get going, he should be able to hold onto this spot.
If there's one thing that surprises me it's that cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald were both left off the list. Both are at the top of the list of Big 12 leaders in pass break-ups and both have been a huge part of the resurgence of the KU defense. I'd put them both on there somewhere, but at least one of them should have made it.
With seven games to play, there's still a ton of time for moving and shaking here, so we'll see what happens the rest of the way.