introducing my quasi-bi-weekly preview of the Big XII for the 2006 Season....
There's a rumble resonating out of Lawrence, KS, and no, it's not coach Mark Mangino's stomach after his bi-weekly plundering of Red Lobster's cheddar biscuit stash. It's the sound of anticipation (as opposed to agony and anxiety) for the upcoming Jayhawk football season. For the first time in a long time, Jayhawk fans have expectations instead of meager hopes for the 2006 season...and they may end up disappointed.
"3 and Out" was often the theme for the Jayhawks last season, on both Defense AND Offense. Lead by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Reid, the KU defense's smash mouth style brought heralded running games to grinding halts. Yet, valiant goal line stands and impressive 3 and outs were followed by dismal offensive inconsistency. Thanks in part to a season-long QB battle that eventually devolved into a competition of "who could suck less", the offense seemed like more of a handicap than a td generating unit. The one pathetically positive item of note that resulted from an impotent offense: punter Kyle Tucker was named a finalist for the Ray Guy award. Despite all of that, Kansas still managed to go bowling for a 2nd year in a row, chalking up their first bowl victory in a decade, destroying the Houston cougars 42-13.
The theme for 2006 seems to be "role reversal". This year, it'll be KU's defense that will be the weak link of the team. The Jayhawks only return 3 starters on defense; DT James McClinton, CB Aqib Talib, SS Jerome Kemp. The defense will have to quickly compensate for a lack of experience if they want to retain their rank as #1 against the run in the Big XII again this year. Despite this utter lack of experience, Mangino expresses confidence in his defense's greater physical level of talent than the previous one lead by since graduated LB Nick Reid, and drafted DE Charles Keith. The difference between contending for the North title and struggling for a winning season will hinge on whether or not this unit can mature and adapt quickly.
The Jayhawks return 7* (Cornish is not listed as a returning starter..but he should be, so i'm counting him) on offense, 4 of which are offensive lineman. Lead by Outland Trophy watch list-er, Sr. David Ochoa, the line should prove to be an experienced and consistent base for Mangino to build the offense upon. Under center this season will be the 6'3" 210lb redshirt freshman, Kerry Meier. In the Spring game, Meier proved himself to be a talented passer and explosive athlete out the pocket. The combination of a consistent QB in Meier, and an experienced offensive line should prove to be a potent one forSr. RB Jon Cornish. If he can stay healthy, look for Cornish to flirt with 1,000 yds this season. The only question mark for the Jayhawk offense is the lack of experience and depth in the receiving corps. So far, the only proven go-to-guy for Meier is TE Derek Fine. If Cornish can stay healthy, and a couple of WRs would step up, then look for this unit to set some new school records this season.
KU draws a favorable schedule with the significant absence of such South powers as Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech. Yet, they will be playing a rather rough road schedule with 2005 bowler, Toledo, Nebraska, and Iowa State to name a few. My admittedly optimistic predictions...
|11/04||at Iowa State||L|
The Jayhawks will surprise a lot of people this year by winning 8 and playing in a Christmas-New Year's bowl game. Despite this, the combination of an inexperienced defense (and QB) + Iowa State AND Nebraska on the road, will prove to be fatal to KU's Big XII North title hopes.
the best cheer/chant/yell besides any of A&M's: "Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, K-U"