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Most Crucial Jayhawks: No. 2 - WR Tony Pierson

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Here's the second-to-last installment of our series that examines the Jayhawks who stand to have the biggest impact for KU football this fall:

Kansas receiver Tony Pierson leaps into the endzone as he leaves Texas linebacker Steve Edmond on the turf during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Tony Pierson leaps into the endzone as he leaves Texas linebacker Steve Edmond on the turf during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

No. 2: Tony Pierson, Senior WR

We know what Pierson is all about and we know how good he can be. The same was true for some of the defensive backs who landed on this list yet they ranked much lower.

The reason is simple: Because of the head injury that plagued him throughout 2013, we have firsthand knowledge of what this team looks like with Pierson and what it looks like without him. The team with No. 3 in uniform has a chance. The team without him, at least in the past, looked lost.

Although KU's struggling offense upgraded in half a dozen different ways during the offseason — new coordinator, more dynamic quarterback, new top receiving option, new-look offensive line, etc. — many of the new pieces in place remain unknowns.

Pierson is not.

We've seen the impact he can have on a game, even when he's been considered one of the few weapons in the KU huddle. We've seen the respect that opposing defensive coordinators have for him and, in turn, to what lengths they've gone to take him out of the game. And we've seen what a game-changing weapon Pierson's straight-line speed can be for the Jayhawks.

The key for Pierson this season will be to stay healthy and to utilize all of that. If he can, he makes everyone else on the field more dangerous and gives the KU offense a chance to not only get creative and crafty but also to succeed.

Whether he's catching balls down the field, over the middle, in the slot or out of the backfield, Pierson could become one heck of a security blanket for sophomore QB Montell Cozart, who will be asked to make a few plays on his own, but, more importantly, will be charged with getting the ball to KU's playmakers as quickly as possible.

Weis said recently that Pierson, like No. 3 choice on this list Nick Harwell, would be a guy that KU's offensive coaches build their gameplan around each week. That's good news for KU and KU fans and all the more reason Pierson staying healthy remains one of the bigger keys to this season.

If there's any justice, Pierson will stay healthy and will have the kind of season he's been building toward since he arrived. There haven't been many Jayhawks, past or present, who have the kind of skill set Pierson possesses. It would be a shame if he were here for four seasons and never got to unleash his full potential.

Perhaps this is the season.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks for 2014:

No. 25 - LB Jake Love

No. 24 - DB Greg Allen

No. 23 - DB Cassius Sendish

No. 22 - OL Zach Fondal

No. 21 - WR Justin McCay

No. 20 - DL Ben Goodman

No. 19 - K John Duvic

No. 18 - DB JaCorey Shepherd

No. 17 - DB Isaiah Johnson

No. 16 - TE Jimmay Mundine

No. 15 - DB Dexter McDonald

No. 14 - RB Brandon Bourbon

No. 13 - OL Keyon Haughton

No. 12 - OL Damon Martin

No. 11 - DL Keon Stowers

No. 10 - RB De'Andre Mann

No. 9 - WR Rodriguez Coleman

No. 8 - DL Andrew Bolton

No. 7 - DB Kevin Short

No. 6 - OL Larry Mazyck

No. 5 - Ben Heeney

No. 4 - Michael Reynolds

No. 3 - Nick Harwell

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