T9C Countdown: #22 Kansas Jayhawks.


Gearing up for the 2009 college football season takes a lot of work. Ranking players, critiquing coaches and drinking massive quantities of beer is tough. That’s why The Nine Commandments is creating its first T9C Top 25 Countdown. To see all of the previous ranked teams, be sure to check the links at the bottom of this post. Be sure to check back daily for the latest.

In full disclosure, I am a current student at Mizzou and hold obvious hard feelings against the Jayhawks. I hate them smelly beakers, but do recognize they have a good team this year. Take that as you will.

Meier and Reesing return for another prolific passing season in Lawrence.

Meier and Reesing return for another prolific passing season in Lawrence.

Kansas did some amazing things on the national stage in 2007, losing just one game to Missouri in the Border War before stunning Virginia Tech in their first BCS bowl in school history. 2008 looked to be another year in which the program would grab national headlines, but the Jayhawks had to play a tough Big 12 South rotation of Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, leaving the team with a mediocre record before trying to avenge their loss to Missouri at Arrowhead the previous year.

Ending the season with two wins against the Tigers and Minnesota in the Insight Bowl, the Jayhawks gained momentum going into 2009. This looks to be the last year Kansas will be able to capatilize on quarterback Todd Reesings success. With the help of one of the best wide receiver tandems in the country in Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, the Jawhawks should rank in the top ten in offensive numbers in the country.

Briscoe and Meier combined for 189 receptions in 2008, each showing their ability to shine as individuals. Their ability to get open when needed has helped Reesing become the best quarterback in school history. Their game against Missouri last year is something head coach Mark Mangino will talk about with his players to get them to play harder. This may seem like just another prolific Big 12 offense (prolific seems to be the best word to describe this type of spread offense), but the Jayhawks are a scrappy team that fights on every play. They don’t have the history to fall back on, but they will challenge any defense in the country down to the last play.

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Just as any team in the Big 12 North has shown us, defense is not the strong suit for the Jayhawks, but senior leadership should play a large role in the teams’ success. Strong Safety Darrell Stuckey returns for his final year to lead a depleted defensive unit. The depth is what scares me most about this team. The Big 12 is too fast-paced to lack depth and the already young linebacker corps does not help them one bit. All of the starting linebackers from 2008 are gone, leaving some big shoes to fill, especially when the projected back-ups have such small feet. Angus Quigley started working in the backer position late in the season after spending most of his time looking for snaps at running back. Senior Arist Wright is also an option for Mangino to throw in, but his size limits him and his inexperience may prove costly.

Phillip Strozier will help Stuckey as the lead cornerback and may be one of the breakout stars for Kansas after taking control of the starting role midway through the season. The defensive line should be strong this year, though unheralded in 2008. Jake Laptad should start on the left end while Maxwell Onyegbule will take over on the right, looking to put up good numbers in his final season. Richard Johnson and Caleb Blakesley will line up inside, looking to shut down the run while Laptad and Onyegbule work around the sides to provide constant pressure on the quarterback.
The offensive line was young last year, resulting in the drop-off in performance from 2007. This year, Jeremiah Hatch, Jeff Spikes, Sal Capra, Tanner Hawkinson and John Williams will all have playing time under their belt to prevent rushers from making their way to Reesing.

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One of the larger problems the Jayhawks face this season is something they can’t control with recruiting and good coaching. It’s the schedule. They face the same tough competition from their rotation of the Big 12 South teams, making their schedule that much tougher. I cross those games off as losses for KU and that doesn’t even count the tough games they will have to play at Colorado, home against Nebraska, and the Border War against Missouri in Kansas City. All in all, Kansas’ last seven games are all questionable wins. It’s going to be tough for this team to power through with the strength and will to compete in the competitive Big 12.

With such a tough schedule it’s hard to think Kansas will be able to come out of the regular season above the vegasinsider.com over/under of 8 games, but I’m going to take the over with 9 wins and 3 losses. I think Reesing will be the best we have seen in his final season in Lawrence with the help he has from Briscoe and Meier. The depth scares me, but they were able to manage 8 total wins last season. I think they will be able to improve on their final record from 2008, but the defensive line needs to play consistent.

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Vegasinsider.com over/under: 8

Schedule:
9/5 Northern Colorado
9/12 at UTEP
9/19 Duke
9/26 Southern Miss
10/3 OPEN DATE
10/10 Iowa State
10/17 at Colorado
10/24 Oklahoma
10/31 at Texas Tech
11/7 at Kansas State
11/14 Nebraska
11/21 at Texas
11/28 Missouri (in KC)

Key Games:
10/17 @ Colorado
10/31 @ Texas Tech
11/14 Nebraska
11/28 Missouri (in KC)
Added note: I decided not to include the Oklahoma and Texas games because I don’t think the Jayhawks will be able to compete. I do hold open the possibility of Kansas upsetting Oklahoma if they win the Red River Shootout the week before they meet in Lawrence. They should be able to capitalize on the Sooners upswing from such a pivotal game in their season.

Key Players:
QB Todd Reesing
WR Dezmon Briscoe
WR Kerry Meier
SS Darrell Stuckey
CB Phillip Strozier
RT Jeff Spikes

Returning:
Offense: 8
Defense: 7

The rest of the countdown:
#25 Pitt Panthers
#24 North Carolina Tar Heels
#23 Illinois Illini

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