Foes to Know: Kansas

RaiderPower.com is taking a closer look at Texas Tech's 12 regular season football opponents in 2014. Senior writer Joe Yeager and publisher Jarret Johnson will each spotlight a player who could pose problems for the Red Raiders. One will be on offense and the other will be from the defense. Up next is Kansas.

Texas Tech hosts Kansas on Oct. 18 at Jones AT&T Stadium. Anything less than a thorough thrashing of the Jayhawks will be considered a disappointment.

The Jayhawks are 4-12 in two seasons under head coach Charlie Weiss, though Kansas did snap a 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a 31-19 victory over West Virginia last season.

Though the Red Raiders will be heavily favored the Jayhawks do have a handful of players more than capable of providing some tough individual matchups for Texas Tech.

Offensive Player to Watch
NAMEPOSCLASSHOMETOWNHTWTSCOUT
Nick HarwellWRSRMissori City, TX6-1193Jarret Johnson


Kansas' top offensive player this season figures to be a transfer with a history of production.

Wide receiver Nick Harwell transferred to Kansas after three stellar seasons at Miami of Ohio. In fact, Harwell caught 229 passes for 3,166 yards and 23 touchdowns from 2010-12, while over the past three seasons all of the Jayhawks' receivers have totaled 229 catches for 2,759 yards and nine scores.

Weis didn't hesitate to brag on Harwell at Big 12 Media Days earlier this month in Dallas.

"Well, anytime you can plug in a No. 1 wide receiver that's already been playing, played three years already as a starter with big production, big production, it puts a whole different composition to your wide receiver position," Weis said. "Obviously wide receiver is one of the multiple positions on offense that we've struggled at in the last couple of years. I think adding a valuable senior leader like Nick with his athleticism just makes everyone around him play better."

Assuming both are still healthy at this point of the season, look for Texas Tech cornerback Justis Nelson (6-foot-2, 180) to matchup with Harwell (6-1, 193), but defensive coordinator Matt Wallerstedt may choose to double him up if Harwell is the threat everyone expects him to be.

Defensive Player to Watch
NAMEPOSCLASSHOMETOWNHTWTSCOUT
Ben HeeneyLBSRHutchinson, KS6-0230Joe Yeager


The Kansas Jayhawks football team may not have much to boast about, but they do have probably the best linebacker in the Big 12 in Ben Heeney. Despite missing two games in 2013 Heeney racked up a team-leading 88 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss to go along with a pair of sacks, three pass break-ups and three interceptions. For those efforts on behalf of a dreary and dismal team, Heeney was named second team All Big 12 by several organizations. Had he played for a program such as Oklahoma or Texas he might have garnered significant All America notice.

But word has finally leaked out about the well-kept secret in Lawrence, and Heeney is finally getting some of what’s due him. Athlon, at least, has seen fit to tab him as a preseason first team All Big 12 performer.

Heeney has several qualities that make him such an outstanding linebacker.

To begin with, he has an extremely high football IQ. Heeney recognizes plays even before they develop, and this puts him one step ahead of the offense.

Second, he is a very physical, confident and sure tackler in the open field. Heeney does not worry about missing tackles, but rather, homes in on ball-carriers like a heat-seeking missile and detonates on impact. The result is typically unpleasant for his victim.

And third, Heeney is fast. He was a very good high school running back and had a career high game of 333 yards rushing. Much of Heeney’s success as a high school back was attributable to the fact that he just outran everybody in the open field. Now he puts that speed to use chasing down Big 12 running backs.

So when the Red Raiders take on the Jayhawks in 2014, keep an eye on Ben Heeney. You’ll be watching a future NFL star.

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