Notebook: Daniel Wise recognized for stellar performance

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise (96) wraps up Ohio running back Dorian Brown (28) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. At left is Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2).

According to Pro Football Focus, Kansas sophomore tackle Daniel Wise played better than almost every interior defensive lineman in the nation last week during the Jayhawks’ loss to Ohio.

The PFF website, which evaluates players from every program playing in a Power 5 conference, placed Wise on its “team of the week,” giving the 6-foot-3, 285-pound lineman a grade of 83.7. Only Cal’s James Looney graded higher, at 84.2.

“Wise has been the best player on Kansas through two games,” the report read, “this week posting four hurries, batting a pass and picking up six run stops to lead all interior defensive linemen.”

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said Wise’s ascension began late last season, and he kept improving and maturing through the offseason, while taking pride in his craft.

“And he’s athletic enough and explosive enough that he can make some plays. For a defensive lineman to have four tackles for loss, that’s a big game,” Bowen said. “Obviously we named him player of the game for that. So he’s being active in getting a pass rush, getting a push and stopping the run, so I’m happy with the way Daniel’s playing right now. And what’s crazy is that he still fundamentally can improve a ton more, which when he gets all that figured out he could be a real impressive player.”

Both Wise (four tackles for loss versus Ohio) and senior safety Tevin Shaw (two TFL) posted single-game career highs in stops behind the line of scrimmage last week. KU’s 14 tackles for loss as a team marked the program’s most since 2007.

Shaw, a 5-11 senior from Piscataway, N.J., made the PFF Big 12 “team of the week,” with a grade of 89.3.

Senior safety Fish Smithson — five total tackles, interception, two pass break-ups — also appeared on the list, with a grade of 84.2.

The Jayhawks (1-1) currently average 9.5 tackles for loss a game — tied for 12th in FBS, and tied for first in the Big 12, with Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Sims extending plays for KU

While sophomore wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. didn’t grade out quite high enough to crack the PFF team of the week, the site noted statistical evidence of Sims’ big-play potential.

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) celebrates with teammate Ke'aun Kinner (22) after his second touchdown of the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

According to PFF, the 5-10 sophomore from Houston is averaging 14.6 yards after catch, which ranks him second in the nation. Only Alabama’s ArDarius Stewart (15.5) has done more after securing the ball on a reception (minimum five catches).

Through two games, Sims leads Kansas with four receiving touchdowns — two apiece against Rhode Island and Ohio. The last KU receiver to grab two TD’s in back-to-back games was Kerry Meier, in 2009.

Sims enters the weekend tied with three others — Hawaii’s Marcus Kemp (three games), Washington’s John Ross (two games) and SMU’s Courtland Sutton (two games) — for the FBS lead in touchdown receptions.

Streaking in wrong direction

Currently in his fourth season in the program, redshirt junior quarterback Montell Cozart is more than aware of the Kansas football team’s recent history of losing on the road.

photo by: Nick Krug

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart takes off on a run against Oklahoma State during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Cozart has answered questions on the matter of the Jayhawks’ skid — currently at 35 in true road games and 38 away from home — since playing as a true freshman in 2013. So the team captain had no problem with addressing the topic with teammates this week, leading up to KU’s 2016 road debut at Memphis (11 a.m. kickoff, ESPNU).

According to the starting quarterback, such conversations usually center around putting an end to the infamous run and building toward the future.

“You kind of talk about it with the team and getting over that hump of the road win and having a losing streak on the road,” Cozart said. “We have a chip on our shoulders about it and every time it comes up we try to come over it.”

Likewise, junior linebacker Joe Dineen grew up in Lawrence watching Kansas games and doesn’t have to be reminded of the fact the Jayhawks haven’t won away from Memorial Stadium since 2009.

When speaking with media earlier in the week, Dineen said players hadn’t talked about it much as of Tuesday. But he expected that to change leading up to kickoff at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, home of the Tigers (1-0).

“And we think if we have a good game plan going in and stuff, and we really execute,” Dineen said, “then this is a winnable game for us. And we’re really excited about it.”

KU’s last road victory came just over seven years ago — Sept. 12, 2009, when the Jayhawks won, 34-7, at UTEP.

Throwback day

Memphis football has branded the game against KU as “Memphis State Day,” honoring the program’s history.

The Tigers will wear special Memphis State logos on their helmets, reminiscent of when the school used to operate under that name, from 1957 to 1993, before officially changing to University of Memphis.

KU played in MSU’s Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium twice, but never against the Tigers. KU lost to Tennessee at the Memphis venue in an October, 1973, neutral-site matchup. The Jayhawks returned to Memphis in December that same year, losing to North Carolina State in the Liberty Bowl.

Last season’s 55-23 Memphis victory in Lawrence marked the first meeting between the two programs.