Any half-decent KU football fan knows exactly who our starting skill-players will be. The Hawks may not get tons of national attention, but at this point it's hard to watch college football and not at least know the names.
There are some other names on offense, however, that aren't as popular...yet. In fact, if you don't know these guys' names already, take a minute to learn them.
Here are a few guys I expect to have really special seasons...
Toben Opurum, Running Back/Fullback
Toben will have one sole purpose every time he lines up behind or next to Todd Reesing: to hurt someone. Jake Sharp is a quality, gritty back, but he's not going to run over anyone in the secondary or wear out a d-line like this 6'2", 230-pound head-hunting monster.
The best part about Opurum is that he'll throw some nasty blocks around too. Did I mention he has pretty good hands?
Bradley McDougald, Wide Receiver
This shifting frenzy may not start, but he's way too talented to keep off of the field.
McDougald doesn't fit the big-and-strong KU mould, but gives KU a type of talent they've rarely had before. Despite not being exceptionally fast, sources say he has moves that will make Daymond Patterson and Jake Sharp blush with shame.
Like Opurum, you've probably already heard plenty about McDougald, and while I don't want to build up too many expectations, I do believe that he will be a very popular guy around campus.
Tim Biere, Tight End
Derek Fine had a pretty good sophomore season, and I think Biere has far more potential. Biere unfortunately won't get as many balls thrown his way as did Fine, but I anticipate this opportunistic youngster will continue to make the most of every throw that comes near him.
The most important thing about Biere is that he is a good and still-improving blocker first, but is an excellent pass-catching tight end as well. His numbers won't be huge, but he is as important as anyone to this offense.
Jonathan Wilson, Wide Receiver
This is the easiest call to make, and I'm sure has already been made by many. Wilson has been there consistently for Todd Reesing whenever he is needed and always produced when given the opportunity. He is tall, athletic, has soft hands, and plenty of experience.
How easy is it to say that Wilson will be the biggest "surprise" of 2009? With Briscoe and Meier looming near either sideline, if I were a defensive coordinator I'd leave Wilson in single coverage too (no offense, Jon).
The only thing that prevents me from predicting that Jonathan will have 70 catches and six touchdowns to complement Meier and Briscoe's huge numbers is that I'm sure McDougald, Opurum, Biere, and Jake Sharp wouldn't mind touching the ball either.
Some other names you should watch out for are Rell Lewis, Isaiah Barfield, Kale Pick, and Erick McGriff. Lewis and Barfield may not be quite as talented as some of our freshmen, but they performed well in the Spring game and sources say they haven't looked bad in camp either. They will at least get a chance.
This year could be a perfect opportunity to find out if Kale Pick is our quarterback of the future. He should get decent mop-up minutes, but will have to capitalize on them to stay any bit ahead of talented freshmen Jordan Webb and Christian Matthews. 2010 verbal commit Jacoby Walker won't step down easily next season either.
Erick McGriff is the least known of the select few true newbies who should avoid the red-shirt-happy Mangino's dreaded crimson jersey and practice squad duty this season. McGriff is built like Briscoe and has plenty of potential to help ease the loss of Dez next year.
Erick should step in as the fifth receiver this year, and here's to hoping that he makes the most of his chance. It's likely that he will be sorely needed in 2010.