Scouting Report: Kansas Jayhawks

For the second week in a row the Oklahoma State Cowboys face a team in Big 12 play that is also trying to recover from a setback. Kansas head coach Mark Mangino has done a good job and said earlier this week that a strong resiliency has been built into the players in his program to bounce back from tough losses.

At Kansas they know they can't change history so they don't bother with looking in the rearview mirror except to learn from painful losses like the overtime loss at Toledo, the overtime loss at Nebraska, or the loss to Texas A&M last Saturday that saw the Aggies score with 34 seconds left on the clock to win 21-18.

It was announced on Wednesday afternoon following practice that redshirt freshman quarterback Kerry Meier, who started the first three Kansas games -- wins over Northwestern State and Louisiana-Monroe and the loss to Toledo -- will be back as the starter for the game with the Cowboys. Meier gives the Jayhawks a more athletic presence at quarterback and increases the viability of running various options in their playbook (speed option, lead option and mid-line option).

Before his injury Meier was averaging 48.7 yards rushing a game with four touchdowns. He was passing for 179.3 yards per game completing 47 of 86 passes with seven interceptions and six touchdowns. He is more mistake prone than senior Adam Barmann, but he is also more explosive as a playmaker.

That said, the main cog in the KU offense is running back Jon Cornish, who is averaging 118.3 yards per game, 5.2 yards per carry, and has three touchdowns. He is an effort guy that has good physical ability, good speed, and the strength to break a significant number of tackles. They are mainly a stretch, zone, and trap team in the running game except for the option they run with Meier at quarterback. He is generally not a big-play guy, but can make a big run if the defense is sloppy. He also has good hands catching passes out of the backfield, but the Jayhawks don't use him in this chore often enough.

The theme of any defense playing KU has to be to stop the run first. The offensive line is experienced and solid, but doesn't have a lot of All-Big 12 candidates. Brian Murph and Dexton Fields are the leading receivers with a combined 50 receptions and five touchdowns this season. Murph and Fields both have excellent speed and can turn a short pass into a long gain.

I like tight end and Sallisaw, Okla., product Derek Fine as much as any player on the KU offense. He is a very good blocker and catches the ball in clutch situations in the short passing game.

The Jayhawks are young but they make up in athleticism and speed what they don't have in experience and it has worked. They have not allowed a back to rush for more than 100 yards on them in the last 19 games. They average giving up just 98.1 yards per game on the ground. Seniors Rodney Allen at end, Wayne Wilder at tackle, and Paul Como at end are the leaders up front.

Linebackers Joe Mortenson and Mike Rivera have been very good for sophomores. They are the top two tacklers with Rivera at 47 and Mortenson at 40 stops.

The secondary is very young with two freshmen and a sophomore starting. This has been the team's Achilles heel so far as opponents have averaged 260.2 yards through the air but only have eight passing touchdowns.

Special Teams
The special teams are solid, but not spectacular. Punter Kyle Tucker is averaging only 38.8 yards a kick. He is nifty on the fake as the Jayhawks used a nice concept with a shovel pass for a big gain to set up a score against A&M. Kicker Scott Webb is 7-of-9 on field goals with a long of 42 yards. That is about as far as his range goes.

A&M became the first team to beat Kansas in 10 home games. The home field advantage is not huge as basketball season starts in Lawrence on Friday with the only preseason madness event. The 3-3 record has also caused KU fans to consider other options on Saturday afternoons.

Both teams have their backs somewhat against the wall, so expect everybody to come out fighting.

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