Texas-Kansas: First Look At The Jayhawks

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

Perusing the first edition of the Charlie Weis era Jayhawks.

Coming off a 2-10 season under Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and his decided schematic advantage have taken over in Lawrence. So far, the returns aren't overly promising, with only a victory over FCS opponent South Dakota State.

They were, however, competitive against TCU and Oklahoma State, the latter more a result of the rainy weather and the former Kansas failing to convert on four turnovers and 300 yards of passing from graduate transfer Dayne Crist.

Offense

The new starter at quarterback is Michael Cummings, a redshirt freshman from Killeen who is undersized but athletic at 5-10. He got the nod on Tuesday when Weis decided to bench former five-star prospect Dayne Crist, who left Notre Dame and enrolled at Kansas as a graduate transfer when Weis was hired. As many may recall, Crist was originally recruited to South Bend when Weis was there, but has not failed to fulfill that perceived potential out of high school at two stops.

He was also briefly viewed as some type of one-year Bandaid for the Texas quarterback position.

Cummings provides some type of perceived running threat, though he's only averaging a half yard per attempt after any sacks that he's taken, with a long run of eight yards on 16 attempts. No doubt he will break off a couple significant runs on the zone read against Texas.

Throwing the football, Cummings hasn't been particularly successful in terms of completing passes, at under 50%, he's probably not getting much help from the wide receivers either. Former quarterback Kale Pick is the leader in yards, but none of the wide receivers have caught a touchdown pass this season.

Overall, the passing game is 106th in the country in producing yardage, with S&P+ spitting out a ranking of 100 in the area.

Of course, the big concern for Texas will be the running game, and it's there that Kansas actually has some success, though it appears that a certain amount of it is sheer persistence -- averaging less than four yards per carry against every team not named South Dakota State or Rice.

Somehow, despite losing 52-7, the Jayhawks attempted 58 runs in the game, a remarkable total for a team getting blown out. Weis was apparently happy keeping the score relatively low.

Only 15 teams in the country attempt more runs per game than Kansas, making the Jayhawks about 60/40 run-to-pass.

Part of the reason is a relatively veteran offensive line that returned two starters, including the left side, which features four-year starter Tanner Hawkinson at left tackle. The bigger part though is the presence of junior James Sims, another Texas product who was the all-purpose back last season and is now receiving the carries of a load back at 25 carries a game and close to 4.5 yards per carry.

That and killing the clock because it makes sense to shorten games when you're Kansas.

Spelling Sims is sophomore Tony Pierson, more of a true all-purpose back at 5-10 and 170 pounds ,and more of a big-play threat, ostensibly, as a faster player, though he hasn't cracked off a run of more than 20 yards since Rice.

The added threat of Cummings, combined with an emphasis from the Kansas coaching staff could result in a sustained drive or two, but it would be a monumental disappointment to give up 200 or more yards against the Jayhawks, who have not reached that mark at all this season.

Defense

After fielding the worst group in the country last season, S&P+ believes that Kansas now has a slightly above-average defense. Even before the adjustments, Kansas is 84th in S&P, a fairly respectable number after the debacle 2011.

Still, the Jayhawks are giving up more than 31 points per game, right on the edge of the bottom quarter of the country, though they did hold Oklahoma State and TCU to 20 points apiece, respectively.

Orchestrating the return to sorta-respectability, because Kansas was really bad enough for what has happened this season to be termed that, has been new defensive coordinator Dave Campo, the longtime fixture on the Cowboys staff who was even the head coach for the 'Boys for three seasons. His current stint in Lawrence is his first in college since leaving his job with the Miami Hurricanes and heading to Dallas in 1989.

Three of his top four tacklers are defensive backs, which is never a good sign, with senior safety Bradley McDougald leading the way.

Along the defensive line, yet another Texas product, former running back Toben Opurum, is the best player, and likely the best on the defense, with a possible NFL future. This season, he has four tackles for loss and one sack, a bit behind his pace from 2011.

The Texas offense is improved from last season, but this unit under Campo at least seems better on paper. A not-small bit better, for whatever that's worth.

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