Kansas vs. FIU: The Matchups

Typically before a game, I give you our matchups to watch for the game, the ones that will make a difference in who comes out with a win. I'm not going to boast about my game-by-game record last year, except to say that it was the same as the Jayhawks – I wound up 12-1 with the one loss to, you guessed it, Missouri.

Typically before a game, I give you our matchups to watch for the game, the ones that will make a difference in who comes out with a win. I'm not going to boast about my game-by-game record last year, except to say that it was the same as the Jayhawks – I wound up 12-1 with the one loss to, you guessed it, Missouri.

 

But there really aren't too many enticing matchups for this game, so I decided to throw a bit of a curveball. Oh, I'll still make my prediction – Kansas 45, Florida International 14 – but instead of the matchups, I'm giving you five things to watch over the course of the game.

 

All five of the following things to watch could wind up showing just what's in store for this team in 2008. So without further ado, keep an eye on:

            The pass rush

It's impossible to tell at the start of the year what a team's weaknesses will be. Heading into 2007, for instance, the biggest perceived weakness on the Jayhawk team was the secondary's ability to defend the pass. But the team improved dramatically in that area, thanks to an All-America performance by Aqib Talib and the emergence of players like Chris Harris and Darrell Stuckey. This year's biggest perceived weakness is the pass rushing ability of the defensive line. Against FIU, those linemen will be facing an offensive line that may struggle through the year, so Jayhawk fans would like to see a dominant performance out of the line. Russell Brorsen and John Larson have proven to be stout against the run, but haven't been as deadly against the pass. Brorsen needs to get back to the form he showed at the end of 2006, and in the Orange Bowl, to add a premier pass rusher to the fold. Watch for guys like Jeff Wheeler, a penciled-in starter in Larson's spot, Jake Laptad and Max Onyegbule. The situation will likely be better up the middle, with players like cat-quick Richard Johnson Jr. in the fold. Any team that has to face Oklahoma, Missouri and Texas Tech can use all the pass rush it can get.


 

            The tackles

Last season, the tackles, led by incumbent starters Anthony Collins and Cesar Rodriguez, were considered to be a strength, while the interior linemen were considered a potential weakness. But this year, the Jayhawks return guards Chet Hartley and Adrian Mayes, along with Ryan Cantrell at center. Cantrell is considered one of the best at his position in the conference. The question marks are at both tackle spots, where Kansas will employ a pair of redshirt freshmen in Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch. Spikes (6-6 314) must live up to high expectations – Kansas Coach Mark Mangino has tabbed Spikes as the most athletically talented lineman he's had at Kansas. On the right side will be Hatch (6-3 311), who may be a bit more natural on the inside. Hatch is a tireless worker with the guile and athletic ability to overcome his lack of reach. Both will likely be maulers in the run game, but they'll need to protect quarterback Todd Reesing to keep the offense humming. Backups Matt Darton and Ian Wolfe must supply depth – they might be needed at some point this year. Also watch out for Ben Lueken, a guy the coaches would like to redshirt. Lueken has had a great camp, and Mangino has said he could work his way onto the field. From George Selvie to Auston English, they'll be tested.

 
     The receivers' hands

Reesing caught quite a bit of flack for his numbers in the spring game. But seemingly lost on many was how close he came to having an outstanding game. Reesing's completion percentage was severely dented by a case of the dropsies, and those drops likely cost him a couple touchdowns and a 300-yard passing day. The biggest victim in the game might have been Dezmon Briscoe, who will be counted on as a number one receiver this year. Briscoe is the complete package – he's long, deceptively fast and a good athlete with the savvy to find holes in the defense. But none of it matters if he doesn't hold on to the ball. Briscoe has shown that he has flypaper hands, so the issue is all concentration. Briscoe, Dexton Fields, Kerry Meier and Jon Wilson have all shown the ability to get down the field. If they can catch the football, Kansas will do more than move the sticks. The Jayhawks will move the ball chunks at a time.

 

                        How the running backs are used

The coaching staff found the recipe for rushing gold last year by combining a bigger back with a smaller back. Last year, that combo led to Brandon McAnderson topping 1,000 yards, with Jake Sharp besting the 800-yard mark. Sharp returns this year, and he's listed as the starter heading into the game. But make no mistake – Jocques Crawford is not Brandon McAnderson. McAnderson had the vision to find the hole and the strength to finish off runs. But he lacked Crawford's quick feet and pure speed. So while Crawford can certainly fit the role of a power back, he also has the speed to turn the corner. That could make things interesting in terms of how Crawford and Sharp are utilized. While Crawford has more athleticism than McAnderson, it may be how he picks up the little things that McAnderson did – from blocking to catching the ball out of the backfield – that will dictate how much he plays. For now, the starter is Sharp, who brings speed and the ability to make people miss.

            The roles of the specialists

The number one specialist to pay attention to is Alonso Rojas. The punter/kicker/hot dog guy took last year off following a rocky year at Bowling Green. Now, he's not only the Jayhawk punter, but he may also be the top candidate at placekicker. Grady Fowler will help at that spot as well; he's supposed to be accurate in the short-range game. Rojas has a bigger leg, and he'll handle kickoffs. Then, there's Daymond Patterson, the quick-as-a-hiccup true freshman who will return punts. But special teams aren't the only place you can find specialists on the Jayhawk team. Other guys to watch will be Steven Foster, a pure blocking fullback; A.J. Steward, a pass-catching tight end; Max Onyegbule, a pass-rushing defensive end; and Arist Wright, a possibly devastating force at Bandit. Onyegbule and Wright could go a long way toward easing concerns about the pass rush, while the athletic Steward could add yet another element to Kansas's spread attack.

 

 

Kansas Depth Chart for Florida International

Offense

Pos.      Player                                       Ht. Wt. Yr. Exp.

LT        JEFF SPIKES                            6-6 314 Fr. RS

Ian Wolfe                                   6-5 295 So. 1L

LG        ADRIAN MAYES                       6-3 305 Sr. 1L

Sal Capra                                   6-3 292 So. SQ

OC       RYAN CANTRELL                    6-3 295 Sr. 2L

Sal Capra                                   6-3 292 So. SQ

RG       CHET HARTLEY                       6-4 314 Sr. 1L

Carl Wilson                                6-4 288 So. 1L

RT        JEREMIAH HATCH                   6-3 311 Fr. RS

Matt Darton                                6-6 310 Sr. 1L

TE        BRADLEY DEDEAUX                6-3 252 So. 1L

AJ Steward                                 6-4 228 Fr. RS

WR       DEXTON FIELDS                      6-0 208 Sr. 3L

Daymond Patterson                      5-9 175 Fr. HS

WR       JOHNATHAN WILSON               6-3 187 So. 1L

Roderick Harris, Jr.                      6-2 200 So. JC

WR       KERRY MEIER                                     6-3 220 Jr. 2L

Gary Green                                 5-9 175 Sr. 2L

WR       DEZMON BRISCOE                   6-3 200 So. 1L

Raymond Brown                                     6-3 205 Sr. 3L

QB       TODD REESING                        5-11 200 Jr. 2L

Kerry Meier                                6-3 220 Jr. 2L

TB        JAKE SHARP                            5-10 190 Jr. 2L

Jocques Crawford                        6-1 230 Jr. JC

FB        STEVEN FOSTER                      6-2 235 Fr. RS

 

Defense

Pos.      Player                                       Ht. Wt. Yr. Exp.

LE        RUSSELL BRORSEN                 6-4 240 Sr. 3L

Jake Laptad                                6-4 249 So. 1L

LDT      CALEB BLAKESLEY                 6-5 292 Jr. 2L

Jamal Greene                              6-4 301 So. SQ

RDT     RICHARD JOHNSON                 6-2 280 Fr. RS

Darius Parish                              6-4 341 Fr. HS

RE        JEFF WHEELER                                    6-7 260 So. 1L

or         JOHN LARSON                         6-3 250 Sr. 2L

SLB      JAMES HOLT                            6-3 226 Sr. 3L

Arist Wright                               6-0 220 Jr. 2L

MLB     JOE MORTENSEN                     6-1 250 Sr. 3L

Justin Springer                            6-4 242 So. 1L

WLB     MIKE RIVERA                          6-3 255 Sr. 3L

Dakota Lewis                              6-1 202 So. 1L

LC        KENDRICK HARPER                 5-9 190 Sr. 1L

Isiah Barfield                              6-0 178 Fr. RS

SS        DARRELL STUCKEY                6-1 205 Jr. 2L

Patrick Resby                             6-0 204 Sr. 1L

FS        JUSTIN THORNTON                  6-1 213 Jr. 2L

Phillip Strozier                           6-0 196 So. 1L

RC       CHRIS HARRIS                                     6-0 185 So. 1L

Corrigan Powell                          5-10 163 Fr. HS

 

Specialists

Pos.      Player                                       Ht. Wt. Yr. Exp.

P          ALONSO ROJAS                       6-3 220 So. TR

Kerry Meier                                6-3 220 Jr. 2L

PK        GRADY FOWLER                      5-9 186 So. JC

or         ALONSO ROJAS                       6-3 220 So. TR

LS        KAYL ANDERSON                    6-2 250 Jr. 2L

Jake Laptad                                6-4 249 So. 1L

H          KERRY MEIER                                     6-3 220 Jr. 2L

PR        DAYMOND PATTERSON           5-9 175 Fr. HS

DEXTON FIELDS                      6-0 208 Sr. 3L

KR       MARCUS HERFORD                 6-3 208 Sr. 3L

JAKE SHARP                            5-10 190 Jr. 2L


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