Six-foot senior Dexton Fields is the top returning wideout for Kansas. Fields had 63 catches for 824 yards last year, but caught only one pass against FIU. Fields saw limited action in the FIU game and will be used more the rest of the season. He led Kansas in reception in 2006 and 2007. Six-foot-three receivers Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe each had nine catches against FIU. Briscoe, who hauled in three touchdown receptions against FIU, had nearly 500 yards last season and was a Sporting News Freshman All-American.
Meier is the team's backup quarterback, but also plays wide receiver. Meier started eight games at quarterback in 2006, and then caught 26 passes as a wideout in 2007. Another 6'3" player for the Jayhawks is Jonathan Wilson. He caught five passes, including a 24-yard pass that was Reesing's longest of the day.
Kansas has two inexperienced tight ends, but the athletic Meier can also use his 220-pound frame to give Reesing a target at that position.
Kansas Head Coach Mark Mangino will take Meier's production any way he can get it. "If we knew that he would have nine receptions per game we will take it right now. End of story. There will be days when he is open and people are doing some things in their coverages that allow us to get him open. There will be other nights when teams will try and jump all over him, but we have a host of other receivers that can catch the football. He is a good compliment to have out there with the rest of their guys."
The Kansas running game looked sluggish in week one, but Mangino said it was because Florida International loaded up against the run. "Last week, that team (FIU) didn't want us to run the football. When you take chances at trying to stop the run game there is a possibility that you will give up yardage in the other areas. Their philosophy was to come in and stop the run and force us to throw the ball, which is probably something that you shouldn't do with us. We will throw the ball effectively under pressure and against zone coverages. That is the approach that they took so we aren't going to beat our heads against the wall."
Jocques Crawford looked sharp early, with runs of 5, 15, and 7 yards. The 7 yard run was a touchdown that put Kansas up 7-0 in the first quarter. Crawford suffered an ankle injury and was not the same after that. He finished with 32 yards on 11 carries while Jake Sharp had 29 yards on 9 carries.
Kansas could be without one of the top receivers in Fields and one of their top rushers in Crawford. Fields was held out of practice early this week, while Crawford seems to be ready to go. Crawford, who ran for over 1900 yards in junior college last year, said last week that he wanted to go for 2,000 yards this year.
On offensive line, Kansas relied on two big tackles last year. This year, Kansas will use two freshmen. Jeremiah Hatch and Jeff Spikes are a couple of 310-pound redshirt freshmen who will look to take over for Anthony Collins and Cesar Rodriguez. Senior Matt Darton and sophomore Ian Wolfe will push for playing time.
The interior line was somewhat inexperienced last year, but now it's the strength of the team. Center Ryan Cantrell is one of the best in the country and senior guards Adrian Mayes and Chet Hartley did nice jobs as first time starters in 2007. The offensive line for Kansas is not a huge line, but they are plenty big and very aggressive. Look for Louisiana Tech to go after the young tackles as they did against Mississippi State's young tackles.
Cantrell says that they need to improve in the running game. "Every team is going to try and key in on our run game. If you look at the stats from last year, you will see that the team went as our running game went. We have to run the ball, and I think that will be a major emphasis this week as we go and get prepared."
The defensive line is a solid unit, but isn't as physical as Mississippi State. Caleb Blakesley didn't show up much in the box score last year, with just 13 tackles and a sack. Fellow junior Richard Johnson will look to clog the middle against the run. Seniors John Larson and Russell Brorsen return at defensive end. Both showed potential last season and will be counted on to provide a better pass rush in 2008. Sophomore Jeff Wheeler, 6'7" and 260, could start ahead of Larson.
Blakesly admits Louisiana Tech will not be a pushover. "I think Louisiana Tech is going to provide some challenges overall. So far what we have seen on them they look like a pretty good team. They beat Mississippi State. They started the season out strong. They come in with a lot of confidence and some momentum. They have some real good skilled guys. They look good as a team, but it is going to be the same as every other game. We prepare and get ready for them like everyone else."
The three leading tacklers for Kansas all return and they are the three starting linebackers. Joe Mortenson and Mike Rivera are a couple of 250-pound middle linebackers. Rivera has great quickness and starts at weak side allowing Mortensen to dominate inside. James Holt starts at strong side and is no small guy at 6'3" and 226 pounds. Holt had 99 tackles last year along with two sacks. This may be the best group of linebackers in the country.
Mortensen has big plans for this weeks game. "We want go get more turnovers. We are trying to lead the nation in turnovers. We got three last week, so four or five would be nice this week. We also want to get some big hits."
Kendrick Harper and Chris Harris split time last year, but will both start now that Aqib Talib graduated. Justin Thornton and Darrell Stuckey both started games as sophomores last year and will be back at safety again in 2008. Stuckey was good, with 72 tackles and two interceptions. Thornton started four games and could be pushed by Phillip Strozier, who had two interceptions against FIU.
Kansas will have new a new kicker and new punter this year, and it looks like Alonso Rojas will be doing both. Rojas kicked off for Kansas, hit two field goals, and averaged 48 yards per punt. Rojas had a 58-yard punt and a 47-yard field goal to show off his big leg.
Marcus Hedford is a top kick return man and returns in 2008. Kansas had a bad punt return team last year, but true freshman Daymond Patterson took a punt 75 yards to the house against FIU.
Kansas beat up on some bad teams last year, blowing out teams like Central Michigan, FIU, Southeastern Louisiana, Toledo, Iowa State, and Baylor. The Jayhawks also ran up the stat sheet against Nebraska in a blowout victory. While those games did make Kansas's numbers look a lot better than the team really is, Kansas did win all but one game last year. The Jayhawks beat Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State on the road and took out Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Kansas only lost to Missouri, but did not play against Texas or Oklahoma.
Louisiana Tech showed they can win against good teams. Mississippi State won eight games last year, and had won four of its last five games. Kansas won more games last year (12) and has won 16 of its last 18 games overall. Kansas has won 15 straight home games against non-conference opponents.
Tech will look to run the ball against Kansas, something that they weren't able to do consistently against Mississippi State. Tech should also be able to stop Kansas from running too much, but will have a hard time against the pass. If Tech can get to Reesing, taking advantage of the young offensive tackles from Kansas, the team can hopefully force turnovers like it did against Mississippi State.
Kansas will be a heavy favorite and will be playing at home. Tech's team can win this game, but will have to play better than it did against State. Taylor Bennett will have to be more accurate, the offensive line will have to give him more time, and the running backs have to play better.
Kansas Coach mark Mangino was impressed with the Tech defense. "I think they are pretty sound fundamentally and assignment-wise. Their kids get where they need to be. Rarely on tape could you see them have an alignment bust on defense. They have corners that are good players that allow them to do things with their safeties and linebackers. They just play good fundamental football; the kind of football that coaches like to see."
While Tech had three interceptions on defense, it did give up a lot of long passes against State. The pass defense will really have to step up to keep the Bulldogs in contention. Look for Tech to make a great effort this weekend. If the Bulldogs can force turnovers like they did in week one, they will have a chance to win.