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Self Scout: A look back at my preseason predictions and a look ahead to Big 12 play
With KU's second and final bye week of 2013 nearly finished and the Jayhawks on the verge of getting back to a regular work week, I figured now was as good a time as any to do a quick self scout.
After all, KU coach Charlie Weis and KU spent part of this week doing their own self scout, so why not join them?
Just a quick and easy exercise here, which looks back at two preseason articles that predicted a total of 10 players to watch in 2013 — five who needed a big fall camp to earn their spots and five who were a little under the radar.
First, a look at the five guys I said were flying under the radar and how they've done so far this season.
1. TE Charles Brooks – Even with the early struggles of Jimmay Mundine, Brooks has not been a part of the offense during the first three weeks and I'm guessing he won't be going forward. Call this a miss.
2. OL Randall Dent – He was decent against Rice and missed the LA Tech game because of injury. But with KU's O-Line still coming together, Dent, with his strength and experience, figures to still have a shot at being relevant this season.
3. WR Tre' Parmalee – An appendectomy kept him out of the Louisiana Tech game and all he had done since then was elevate himself into a starting role. Parmalee has not been targeted a ton so far this season, but his sure hands and crisp routes make him an attractive option in a struggling passing game.
4. CB JaCorey Shepherd – Shepherd has been fantastic early on and only appears to be getting better each week. Last year, after being thrown to the wolves after switching over from wide receiver, Shepherd's speed and athleticism often landed him in the right place but he rarely made a play once the ball arrived. Now that he's more sure of his coverage skills, the junior is recording enough pass break-ups to be a worthy complement to Dexter McDonald on the other side.
5. DL Jordan Tavai – Tavai has been solid in a second-string role on KU's improving defensive line. Not good enough to stand out but not bad enough to disappear, the second-year Jayhawk has recorded seven tackles (two for losses) and a quarterback hurry in three games. Solid production from a second-string guy.
And now let's move on to the five guys I said needed a strong fall camp to solidify their spots on the depth chart.
1. Buck Michael Reynolds – Reynolds is off to a great start. Not only has he put pressure on opposing quarterbacks but he also has earned more trust from the coaching staff and has been out there on more than obvious pass-rushing downs.
2. DB Victor Simmons – Simmons has been one of the more solid players on KU's defense during the first three weeks. Second on the team in tackles (22), with a sack, a pass break-up and three tackles for loss, the junior nickel back is using his physical frame and legit speed to run down ball carriers and get them on the ground.
3. WR Rodriguez Coleman – Coleman has not yet broken through but it seems like it could be just a matter of time. Confident, fast, long and improving, the juco transfer made his first start and first catch against Louisiana Tech.
4. OL Damon Martin – Like Dent, Martin has been given a chance to deliver and has performed fairly inconsistently thus far. His strength and physical nature cannot be questioned, but he has to bring it on every play and be more reliable if he wants to be a key part of KU's O-Line from here on out.
5. K Michael Mesh – The odds-on favorite to win the kicking job heading into the summer, Mesh struggled with the pressure of the preseason competition and watched Matthew Wyman flourish and win the job.
As you can see, I was decently locked in on some of those predictions and flat-out missed on a couple of them. A tip of the cap to Reynolds, Simmons and Shepherd for making me look good.
Let's push our luck a little here and commit to three players who have not done much yet but I'm expecting to step up big time for the Jayhawks during conference play, which starts Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium against Texas Tech and runs straight through Nov. 30.
1. RB Brandon Bourbon — Bourbon has looked great in a reserve role behind Tony Pierson and the KU coaching staff appears to have determined that the powerful back with great speed needs to be on the field even more. I'm betting we'll see it.
2. LB Schyler Miles — Ben Heeney can't play every down (don't tell him that) and when you play as hard as he does, you're bound to take a beating from time to time. When Heeney does, Miles has proven to be a solid replica and his presence should make it easier to give Heeney a rest from time to time.
3. DL Tedarian Johnson — The coaches really liked Johnson this spring but worried that he would not be able to get on the field because of so many bodies ahead of him. Well, Marquel Combs and Chris Martin are gone and Andrew Bolton is red-shirting. Johnson will play. And he should only get better.
Real quick, before I head off to regroup for next week and KU's return to action, here are a few non-conference awards that probably will not surprise anyone.
Offensive MVP: Tony Pierson. Easily the Jayhawks' best offensive player through three weeks and a guy who KU needs to get more involved ASAP. His performance against Louisiana Tech — eight catches for 92 yards — was a good sign and should be proof that the ideal number of touches per game for the dynamic speed back is right around 15. Honorable Mention: Matthew Wyman: KU's walk-on kicker has been far from perfect, but the mere fact that KU coach Charlie Weis now does not hesitate to call on him when KU reaches field goal range tells you how valuable he is.
Defensive MVP: Ben Heeney. Heeney is the heart and soul of the KU defense and his relentless effort on every play has been and should be contagious. Heeney leads the Jayhawks with 32 tackles and also recorded his first career interception on a classic Ben Heeney hustle play. Should be more where that came from in the next few months. Honorable Mention: Dexter McDonald. Ranks among the nation's leaders in pass break-ups and has provided KU with much-needed confidence and quality in the pass game.
Top Plays: Matthew Wyman's 52-yard game-winning field goal against Louisiana Tech; Tony Pierson's 76-yard touchdown reception against Rice; Any number of Trevor Pardula bombs in the punting game; Michael Reynolds' strip and Keon Stowers' recovery of the fumble that saved the Louisiana Tech game.
Please Forgive and Forget Me: Jimmay Mundine for his first two games in which he dropped five passes; Justin McCay for his disappearing act after the first half of the first game; Marquel Combs for failing to stick it out; KU's offensive line for struggling with consistency.
Bold Big 12 prediction: I still think KU can win two games in conference play this season (if you remember, I predicted five total wins, with all three non-con games and two in conference), with Texas Tech, Iowa State, West Virginia and even Kansas State being at the top of the list of most likely to fall.