Q: So coach, what’s up with quarterback?
A: All indications from the coaching staff are that Adam Barmann has put considerable distance between himself and all the competitors with a strong summer and sharp opening to fall practice. Barmann was considered neck-and-neck with Jason Swanson after Swanson performed well in a spring scrimmage, but an injury has forced Swanson further behind, while Barmann has seized the opportunity through accurate throws and good reads downfield. Brian Luke will likely be the main backup, at least until Swanson heals, with Kerry Meier staring a probable redshirt in the face. Meier has all of the tools, but is still learning the intricacies of the Kansas offense.
Barmann was successful with a freshman because he just came out and threw the ball without worrying too much about reads. He also struggled at times with his decision-making, and came into his sophomore year with the goal of making better decisions. He did make better choices, but he often over-thought, taking sacks and aiming the ball to receivers. If he can put the two together, make a sound decision and letting the ball rip without hesitation, Barmann could be in for a big season with the athletes in the receiving corps. The backups are battle-tested and should provide a nice safety blanket.
Q: How will the loss of John Randle affect the running back corps?
A: Kansas has some nice options at running back, but no proven breakaway threat. Clark Green is a consistent option who could get the ball quite a bit behind a much-improved offensive line. He’s lost considerable weight since last year, and looks much quicker than he did, even against Missouri. He’s also extremely versatile, an excellent receiver out of the backfield and a strong blocker. Gary Green II gives a nice change-of-pace back who has the quickness and acceleration to break into the open and decent speed after the move.
John Cornish has a decent size speed combination and runs hard, but he’ll face tough competition from Tang Bacheyie, an athlete with a strong stiff arm and 4.48 speed, and Angus Quigley who is arguably the best breakaway threat on the roster. A redshirt for Quigley, who is more of a speed back than a power back, would be nice. If the team needs him, he has the body, at 6’2” 210 pounds and the speed and quickness to play this year.
It all depends on Clark Green. If he can put the Jayhawks in favorable situations with his running and receiving out of the backfield, the depth will really become a non issue.
Q: Will the offense be any better?
A: With any semblance of a running game, it should be. Kansas has dynamite athletes at the wide receiver spots, and great height with Brian Murph, Marcus Herford and Marcus Henry all standing taller than six feet. The other guy, Mark Simmons, is within striking distance of every KU career receiving record out there, including catches, yards and touchdowns. The offensive line should also be much improved. Cesar Rodriguez looks comfortable at the left tackle spot, while Todd Haselhorst improved at center through the spring. The talent level is up to the point where there are some linemen beyond the two-deep, Marcus Anderson and Matt Mann, who could make an impact before all is said and done. Anthony Collins is a budding star that will struggle to crack the starting lineup. The best part? The line, while it returns four starters from last season, is young, with only Matt Thompson as a senior out of the starting lineup.
So, referring to the above questions, whoever comes out of the running back and quarterback competitions, likely Barmann and Green, will play behind an athletic line that is starting to gel and will have a nice group of receivers to spread the ball to.
Q: Coach, just how good is this defense going to be?
A: Very, very good. Coming out of the spring, Mangino said that both Jermial Ashley and Charlton Keith had All-Big 12 potential. But both will be fighting for jobs with Rodney Allen coming to town, and Paul Como is no scrub either. James McClinton has his weight in check and showed the lightning quick first step that made him one of the stars of his recruiting class. Tim Allen is steady at the other defensive tackle and is quick enough to take advantage of one-on-one blocking. Wayne Wilder likely would have started on last year’s defense, and he’ll contend this year. Ashley and McClinton were two of the stars of spring practice.
Then there’s the linebacking corps. Nick Reid, Kevin Kane and Banks Floodman all provide senior leadership and all have starting experience. Behind them are Mike Rivera and Joe Mortensen, two giant physically imposing linebackers. Rivera also runs well and Eric Washington may be the group’s most athletic. Behind them, Darren Rus is a special teams dynamo and Brandon Perkins is the best pass-rushing linebacker. Youngsters Brandon Duncan, Arist Wright and Jake Schermer will compete next year. This group is deep and gives defensive coordinator Bill Young a lot of options in terms of size and speed packages.
The defensive backs are also talented, led by preseason All-American cornerback Charles Gordon. Gifted cover man Theo Baines will show fans just how good he is when healthy, while Aqib Talib and Rodney Fowler are strong ball-hawking safeties. Ronnie Amadi likely will serve as a nickel back, while Justin Thornton and Darrell Stuckey are versatile athlete types. Depth could be an issue here, with the departure of Rodney Harris and the non-arrival of Clavens Charles.
Top to bottom, this is the most speed and talent that Kansas has had on defense in a long time, and with improvement in the offense, it could make this team a scary matchup this season.