Kansas Football: Dayne Crist & 7 Lucky Jayhawks Due for a Big Opening Day

Shawn Schaller@shawn_schallerContributor IIOctober 13, 2016

Kansas Football: Dayne Crist & 7 Lucky Jayhawks Due for a Big Opening Day

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    Charlie Weis has brought a lot of excitement to the University of Kansas. With many new coaches, summer excitement translates into momentum heading into opening day.

    Here are seven lucky Jayhawks, in order of those with the lowest to highest expectations, who should be big winners in the Jayhawks' opening competition against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012.

Honorable Mentions

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    Kale Pick (Sr., WR), Daymond Patterson (Sr., WR)

    In game one, Dayne Crist will spread the ball around evenly. Only one wideout made the list, but not for his work as a receiver.

    Mike Ragone (Sr., TE)

    Ragone will be a consistent rock within the offense. As a block-first tight end, however, nothing he does will "wow" those in attendance on opening day.

    Aslam Sterling (Jr., OT)

    Listen to Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal-World talk about how big Sterling is, and fans know he'll be hard to ignore. He just needs to practice, first.

    Toben Opurum (Sr., DE)

    Opurum will be one of the most impressive specimens on the field. His counterpart at defensive end may be due for a bigger day, though.

    Anthony McDonald (Sr., LB)

    It doesn't seem right for more than one linebacker to make the list, and this list takes it's chances on the guy more likely to get through fall practices injury-free.

    Victor Simmons (So., S), Tevin Shaw (Fr., S)

    Kansas' safeties will be the defense's deepest individual unit. If the Hawks can start to pull away from the Jackrabbits, both of these youngsters will have a great opportunity to hit the ground running.

Special Mention

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    During the first two games, look for Charlie Weis to spread carries fairly evenly among four primary running backs. Brandon Bourbon, Marquis Jackson, Taylor Cox and Tony Pierson will have seemingly pedestrian performances.

    It's not to say Weis will keep Pierson under wraps; each running back will get his chance to impress...early on. In Game 3, however, as Kansas welcomes TCU to the Big 12 in a home conference opener, Pierson will have emerged as the Jayhawks' best threat with one last chance to solidify his position before James Sims returns from suspension.

No. 7: Bradley McDougald (Sr., S)

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    Like his classmate Opurum, Bradley McDougald has appeared to be on the edge of breaking out since he stepped on campus. Position and coaching changes has halted their progress, but a defensive coordinator like Campo can help fill a lot of gaps.

    SDSU Game plan:

    Campo will turn McDougald loose in game one. The Jackrabbits present the perfect opportunity to play extremely aggressively, make a few big plays and build up a lot of confidence. If it doesn't happen against South Dakota State, maybe it never does.

No. 6: Duane Zlatnik (Sr., OG)

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    When the left side of Kansas' offensive line steamrolls the smaller Jackrabbits, some will credit experience and Tanner Hawkinson will receive his due, but everyone will admire how Duane Zlatnik dominated inferior competition.

    SDSU Game plan:

    It starts and ends with "dominate." Aslam Sterling is massive and Hawkinson is a super-veteran, but Zlatnik has a combination of the two qualities that should allow him to take care of business, in a very obvious manner, in Game 1.

No. 5: Josh Williams (Sr., DE)

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    The senior defensive end, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, has a second chance that not every player gets. He's grateful, he's hungry, and he should have a huge impact right from the get-go.

    SDSU Game plan:

    Kansas has no superstars along the defensive line. Expect standard, one-on-one blocking from the Jackrabbits. Who'll have the bigger first game is a toss-up between Opurum and Williams. Regardless, Williams has to take advantage of such a favorable situation.

No. 4: Tyler Patmon (Jr., CB)

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    No one will benefit more from the presence of a defensive mind like Dave Campo than Tyler Patmon. A guy who can find the right place at the right time but whose cover skills have been wasted, he'll make a huge personal jump in just a few weeks under Campo.

    SDSU Game plan:

    Patmon matches up nicely with K.C.-metro native Aaron Rollin, the unquestioned leader of the Jackrabbit receiver corps. On paper, it's the most interesting one-on-one competition this contest offers, and shutting Rollin down will be a nice start to Patmon's season.

No. 3: D.J. Beshears (Jr., WR)

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    Before becoming a moderately successful defensive coordinator (his most impressive work in the role coming at Kansas from 2006-2008), Lawrence native Clint Bowen was an excellent special teams coach. He'll make a couple of lucky return-men very happy.

    SDSU Game plan:

    Things change with injuries and the emergence of young players, but expect Beshears to handle a bulk of all returns early on.

    Picture this: SDSU wins the toss, defers to the second half, and Beshears takes the opening kick all the way to the house. It's not likely, but he has a great opportunity to set the tone for an entire season.

No. 2: Huldon Tharp (Jr., LB)

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    Anthony McDonald is a fifth-year transfer from Notre Dame, Tunde Bakare is a former junior college safety and Darius Willis followed Turner Gill from Buffalo. Still, after starting most of his true freshman season, then sitting out a season with injury and playing only special teams the next, home state Huldon Tharp may have the most unique story of any Kansas linebacker.

    SDSU Game plan:

    His only plan is to make up for lost time. Tharp is a respected leader within his unit, he's much bigger than the scrawny true freshman starter of two years ago, and he'll be all over the field on opening day.

No. 1: Dayne Crist (Sr., QB)

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    It's no surprise; his name's even in the title. Even a hobbling Dayne Crist is more talented than Kansas' past two seasons' worth of signal callers, and even a hobbling Crist should be successful against this ho-hum FCS defense.

    SDSU Game plan:

    The opening day game plan is balance; establish the run, connect on intermediate throws, let receivers make plays and, if the Hawks find themselves in a decent lead, don't reveal too much. Game 1 success will likely stem from a well-rounded performance by Crist.