USA TODAY Sports
Kansas senior middle linebacker Ben Heeney.
Prediction: 2-10, 0-9 (10th in Big 12)
Charlie Weis enters his third year at the helm, after another disappointing season that left Kansas with only three victories. Just how bad has it been in Lawrence? The highlight last season was earning its first conference win in three years against a less-than-subpar West Virginia team. The last time the Jayhawks had won a game in Big 12 play was in 2010, when it defeated Colorado.
At least there will be a few positives heading into the season. The offense should benefit with Weis handing the offensive coordinator job to John Reagan, while the defense will hopefully benefit from nine returning starters.
With the hiring of Reagan to take over the offense, as well as the offensive line, Kansas has the potential to at least compete offensively with a no-huddle spread offense that will hopefully lead to more scoring than the pro-style offense did.
A big problem for the offense has been the quarterback position, as Weis is already on his third starting quarterback in three years. Sophomore Montell Cozart will be the starter this season, after a good spring game. Cozart, who passed for just 227 yards a year ago, will look to use his dual-threat ability to help improve a Kansas offense that averaged a terrible 15.3 points per game last season (118th in the country).
The backfield loses 1,100-yard rusher James Sims, but it doesn’t mean there will be any trouble finding someone to fill in the starting role. Senior Brandon Bourbon (191 yards, three TDs) should get most of the carries, while Taylor Cox and junior college transfer De’Andre Mann look to get in on the action as well.
The passing game, which averaged a less-than-impressive 140.4 yards per game, should benefit from the return of senior wide receiver Tony Pierson (333 yards, one TD) and senior tight end Jimmay Mundine (229 yards, five TDs).
The receiving corps will also benefit from the addition of Miami (Ohio) transfer senior Nick Harwell, who recorded a combined 3,166 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in three seasons. The offensive line will be the main question going into the season with a majority of its starters gone from a line that struggled last year.
Even though the Jayhawks aren’t the best defensively, the offense needed to put more points on the board in a score-heavy Big 12. There will be optimism with talent returning in the linebacker and secondary units, though.
Senior middle linebacker Ben Heeney will look to improve on his 88 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss last season. Heeney, who earned All-Big 12 honors in 2013, will be joined by junior Jake Love on the weak side and sack leader Michael Reynolds at the Buck position.
The secondary will look to strong safety Isaiah Johnson to head the backfield, after recording five interceptions and being selected as the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year. Senior cornerback Dexter McDonald and senior free safety Cassius Sendish are back as well, while former junior college cornerback Kevin Short looks to prove himself.
Up front, the Jayhawks will rely on senior nose tackle Keon Stowers and junior defensive end Ben Goodman, who made the switch from outside linebacker.
Kansas starts with nonconference games against SW Missouri State, Duke and Central Michigan. With a Duke program becoming the new animal in college football, chances are the Jayhawks will be 2-1 in their first three games.
Once Big 12 play starts, their best chance to win will be at West Virginia (Oct. 4) and at home against Iowa State (Nov. 8). If Weis’ squad wants to pull an upset, it will likely be at home, seeming the program hasn’t won a road game since 2008. Look for another rough season in Lawrence.