Way-Too-Early 2-Deep: Offense

Spring football is over and the interminable wait until the start of fall camp has begun, meaning speculation has once again become the favorite pasttime of college football fanatics throughout the country. To that end, Phog.net takes an extremely early look at how the two-deep might shake out in September - starting with the offense.


Dayne Crist (Turner Baty)

Not exactly a secret here. Dayne Crist didn't transfer to Kansas for his final year of eligibility just to sit the bench. He's been the starter from the moment he decided to make his way to Lawrence, Kan.

Of course, he's also the most physically-talented of the quarterbacks on campus - the most experienced and most familiar with the Charlie Weis system as well. By all accounts, Crist hasn't accepted or expected handouts. Rather, from Day One he's led by example in the weight room and on the practice field, and earned the title of QB1.

The battle for the backup spot is a little more interesting, however. With fellow transfer Jake Heaps sitting out the 2012 season due to NCAA regulations, it's up to redshirt freshman Michael Cummings and junior college transfer Turner Baty to Duke it out.

Cummings is small, shorter than six-feet, but fleet of foot and possessed of an absolute monster arm - one capable of making every throw in the book. While he's still exceedingly raw, he has the physical skills.

However, our guess is Baty will win the spot, and then become a legitimate competitor with Heaps in 2013 for the starter role. The JUCO product from San Francisco was something of a coup for the Jayhawks on the recruiting trail, with Crist and Heaps already in the fold. Baty put up monster numbers in leading City College of San Francisco to a mythical national championship in 2011.

He's not as big as Crist nor as naturally gifted, but he's intelligent, makes rapid - typically correct - decisions on the fly and has more than enough arm to get the job done.

Running Back:

Tony Pierson (Brandon Bourbon OR Taylor Cox)

With James Sims sidelined for the first three games of the season due to a violation of team rules, the starting spot will be filled by the lightning-quick Pierson. The sophomore from St. Louis put on a show during the spring game with his afterburners on an 88-yard touchdown run, and is the most dynamic threat on the Kansas roster.

However, due to his slender frame he can't shoulder the entire load himself, and a number two back will receive a fair share of the carries. So the question then becomes who that number two back will be.

Even with the departure of Darrian Miller, Kansas has an extremely talented backfield. Brandon Bourbon was held out of the full-contact portions of the spring while recovering from an injury, but he showed flashes as a redshirt freshman. He's a bruiser, a workhorse - as long as he's healthy - with excellent straight line speed. And with Sims on the sideline he'll have a leg up on the other candidates in terms of his familiarity with the playbook.

JUCO transfer Taylor Cox is a wild card. An All-American at the junior college level, he is multi-skilled. Good speed, good vision, good agility - just good all-around. Much like Sims himself, which raises another question. What happens when Sims' suspension is up?

Conventional wisdom dictates that a player doesn't lose his position due to injury - and Sims has been a starter for three years - but what about a punishment he himself brought on? What if some combination of Pierson, Bourbon and Cox has a great deal of success during the first quarter of the season? Is Sims given his spot back?

Regardless, there are a multitude of talented bodies at Weis' disposal, and the run-game should be a strong suit this year.

Wide Receiver:

Kale Pick (Josh Ford)

Daymond Patterson (JaCorey Shepherd)

D.J. Beshears (Christian Matthews)

This position looks fairly easy to predict, at least on the front line. Three seniors, three starting spots. Pick's first year as a wideout was hampered by inconsistent quarterback and offensive line play, but he has the ability to become an excellent possession receiver in the Big 12.

Patterson and Beshears are undersized but explosive, and Weis has had success in the past with receivers of their type - namely former Notre Dame start Golden Tate, who bears a strong resemblance in build and skill set to Beshears in particular.

The one ingredient missing from this recipe would seem to be a big-bodied outside receiver capable of making himself a vertical threat. Justin McCay's denial of a hardship waiver by the NCAA was undoubtedly a blow in this regard. While no one on the current roster has stepped up yet to claim that role, Christian Matthews is seemingly well-suited to the task, but Josh Ford may be even more so.

A 6-foot-4, 180-pound speedster from the JUCO ranks, if he can pick up the playbook quickly he has the dynamic athleticism and size to make an impact immediately.

Tight End:

Mike Ragone (Jim May Mundine)

Probably as murky as it gets on the offensive side of the ball, there is no clear-cut and obvious choice for the first-string spot at tight end. Thus, we opted to go with the same logic that put Crist in the starter's spot at quarterback immediately.

Notre Dame fifth-year transfer Mike Ragone began his career in South Bend as one of the most highly-rated tight end prospects in the country (No. 2 by Scout.com) and an Army All-American. Though injuries have plagued him throughout his career, he's still possessed of a combination of size, athleticism and experience nobody else on the Kansas roster can claim. We also assume he didn't transfer to Kansas without feeling pretty good about his chances of playing early.

Behind him, there are a few options to consider. Redshirt sophomore Jimmay Mundine has definite playmaking ability as a receiver at the position and has spent a spring learning the system. JUCO transfer Charles Brooks is another big, athletic target, and freshman Jordan Smith has outstanding long-term potential - one of only two prospects to have committed under the previous regime and retained by Weis.

Offensive Line:

Tanner Hawkinson (Aslam Sterling)

Duane Zlatnik (Luke Luhrsen)

Trevor Marrongelli (Dylan Admire)

Riley Spencer (Damon Martin)

Aslam Sterling (Riley Spencer)

The left side? Rock solid. Former starting right guard Trevor Marrongelli slides over to center - where he may be better suited anyway - and both Duane Zlatnik and Tanner Hawkinson are potential NFL prospects at guard and tackle respectively.

The right side is a little tougher to predict, as there's both less experience and less talent on that side of the ball. Heading into spring, when asked about the status of right guard, Weis indicated the depth chart was less a prediction and more the result of the staff simply having to put someone in the slot. They clearly had a lot of evaluating to do.

Riley Spencer has played tackle in the past, and may yet still. It seems likely the right side of the line will be some combination of he and JUCO transfer Aslam Sterling, a mountain of a man at 6-foot-5 and 330 pounds.

For now, we'll predict Sterling takes the tackle slot which would slide Spencer inside to guard. No matter who mans those posts in the trenches, however, their quality play will be vital. So much about this season depends on Crist, and in order for a pure pocket passer such as he to succeed he's going to need security. Hopefully a summer spent with strength coach Scott Holsopple will create some separation among the contenders.

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