Jayhawk Receivers Aiming High

Throughout the offseason and all of fall camp, quarterback Jake Heaps, arguably the best backfield in the Big 12 and potential of lightning quick Tony Pierson has been the focal points for talk surrounding the Kansas offense, but if the Jayhawks are to put up points consistently in 2013, it'll all come down to the production of the men who will catching Heaps passes.

Throughout the offseason and all of fall camp, quarterback Jake Heaps, arguably the best backfield in the Big 12 and potential of lightning quick Tony Pierson has been the focal points for talk surrounding the Kansas offense, but if the Jayhawks are to put up points consistently in 2013, it'll all come down to the production of the men who will catching Heaps passes.

One aspect to look forward to this year is the potential for a breakout year for junior tight end Jimmay Mundine. A solid contributor since his freshman year, Mundine has rapidly progressed, as he's gotten comfortable in head coach Charlie Weis' offense.

Some have even tabbed Mundine as a potential breakout player in the Big 12, not just on this Kansas team. If he produces, that will aid Heaps and the offense, as the running game will be enhanced and the wide receivers will have the opportunity to produce bigger numbers than a year ago.

Speaking of the receivers, of any group on the team, they may be the ones with the most question marks, yet the talent is there to take great steps forward this year.

It will start with Oklahoma transfer Justin McCay, a player Weis singles out throughout last season and again during the spring and summer, for the work he and Heaps put in together, running the show team.

McCay has been chomping at the bit to finally get out on the field and do what he loves doing best. When he was denied eligibility by the NCAA last year, it meant he'd have to sit, but Weis will argue that the chemistry the year off helped him form with his quarterback is priceless and it could pay off big immediately when the Jayhawks take the field Saturday night against South Dakota.

"Justin is a big, strong, physical kid," wide receivers coach Rob Ianello said. "He has good hands, tough to press, worked very hard at being a good route runner and he's making excellent progress."

Much has been made about the fact that the Jayhawks receivers failed to score a touchdown in 2012, but as the coaches would say, that wasn't all on them, it was a team effort then, as it will be a team effort this year, when things turn for the better.

For the Kansas receivers, catching touchdown is a very small part of what their goal is in helping to lead the Jayhawks back in 2013.

"As an offense, in order to help the offense, we have to do our part to help throwing the ball," Ianello said. "That goes with the precision of the route running, the ability to release against tough coverage, the ability to finish plays, make plays, make the tough catch, but make the routine catch. That all goes in with helping our team have a better passing game."

Aside from McCay, another receiver that has drawn tremendous praise from the coaches has been Christian Matthews.

Once primarily just a quarterback that just took snaps in the "Jayhawk" formation, Matthews has flourished under Weis and Ianello and heading into Saturday's opener, he'll get the ultimate sign of approval, he'll be a starter on the field.

"Christian is very cerebral, he understands he can play different positions at receiver, he's not just locked into one spot," Ianello said. "He's proven to have strong hands, understands route running and he's got very good leadership skills. I'm very pleased with his progress."

After that, there are many players that could step up and provide big things for the passing game.

Tre' Parmalee, Andrew Turzili and Josh Ford are guys that had opportunities a year ago and will be in the mix.

Newcomers like JUCO transfers Mark Thomas and Rodriguez Coleman along with true freshman Ishmael Hyman will have their chances and don't let the word newcomer confuse you, as Weis made it very clear that all players new to the program were to come in expecting to compete for significant playing time.

In fact, it may be the competition aspect that may enable the receiving corps to make the strides that the coaches are hoping for this season. One thing is certain, that first touchdown can't come fast enough, but once that is behind, the real work will begin.


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