2014 is a make-or-break season for KU coach Charlie Weiss. He’s won all but one Big 12 game in 18 attempts and decided after the 2012 season to take on an enormous load of transfers and JUCO’s in an attempt to get the needed talent to win games.
Some of the best JUCO’s and transfers from the 2013 class either were unable to come in until 2014 (WR Nick Harwell), were delayed a year by the NCAA (Kevin Short), or were redshirted (DE Andrew Bolton, NB Marcus Jenkins-Moore).
Before getting into the actual 2014 class it’s worth noting the real sum of talent influx will be for the Jayhawks in 2014.Harwell is a phenomenal talent comparable to Mike Davis who devastated Ohio St while playing at Miami (Ohio) to the tune of 120 yards.Short is an elite athlete in the defensive backfield who played safety in the JUCO ranks but is likely a Corner at Kansas. At 6-2 with his fluid speed he could be one of the better field corners in the conference.Andrew Bolton is a big DE who’s probably grown into a 3-tech at 280 pounds. For that position he has a lot of power and quickness.Marcus Jenkins-Moore has a good chance to be the best nickelback in the conference in 2014. At 6-3, 215 he has the size and power on the edge to force the run and blitz while also the quickness and length to play the pass on the wide side of the field. He reminds me of evil Roy.So before getting into the 2014 Kansas class keep in mind that there will be a major infusion of legitimate talent into the Jayhawk depth chart. Weiss needs a big home win and a bowl game appearance from this group but he may have the talent to get there, particularly on D. Remember also that the Jayhawk D will likely have the B12’s best linebacker: Ben Heeney.Alright, 2014:QB:Needs of the KU system: Weiss prefers to run a collegiate system built around a Power running game and a vertical passing game. He’s often settled for a mobile option QB just to be able to run the ball.Takes: NoneGrade: FRB:Needs of the KU system: The KU run game is mostly about Power and Outside Zone, which thrive with a big back capable of making a cut and blasting through arm tackles. They also like to employ an RB/WR hybrid for pitch option and screens. The goal with KU is to attack every part of the line of scrimmage with the run game, it’s the easiest way for them to manufacture offense.Takes:De’Andre Mann: 5-10, 205. Salinas, CA (Hartnell C.C.)Traevohn Wrench: 6-0, 180. Gardner, KS (Gardner Edgerton)Corey Avery: Dallas, TX. (Carter)Wrench was the bellcow as one of Kansas’ best regarded in-state products. He’s great in the open field but will need to add strength and explosiveness in his cuts to really have the expected impact.De’Andre Mann is a great Zone back prospect who can make the cuts and already has good size.
Avery is the RB/WR hybrid who has the acceleration needed to hurt you on screens and pitches.Grade: B-WR:Needs of the KU system: Weiss’ preferences for vertical routes and pro-style passing concepts requires some serious power/speed/route running skills from his WR’s.Takes:Derrick Neal: 5-10, 155. Dallas, TX (Lincoln)Bobby Hartzog: 5-11, 182. Houston, TX (Westside)Tyler Patrick: 5-11, 171. The Woodlands, TX (Woodlands)For the most part Weiss settled for athleticism in lieu of NFL size.Neal is a slot and possibly another candidate for RB/WR. He’s impossibly quick in the open field and a potential single play scoring threat on screens.
Hartzog plays bigger than his size and is both physical and fearless with the ball in his hands and going over the middle. Very raw as a route runner though and catches the ball into his body a lot.Patrick has great start-stop and acceleration ability that allow him to be a menace on vertical routes or with the ball in his hands in space. In my book he’s the most likely to be a contributor outside.Grade: C-OL:Needs of the KU system: Mobility to reach block and seal the edge is key in the Kansas Outside Zone scheme that has been critical to Sims’ success. The guards also need to pull in the Power, Power-Read plays that utilize their hybrid backs.Takes:Apa Visinia: 6-5, 380. Grandview, MO (Grandview)Devon Williams (JUCO): 6-5, 330. Milledgeville, GA (Georgia Military College)Keyon Haughton: 6-2, 295. Milledgeville, GA (Georgia Military College)Jacob Bragg: 6-4, 308. Nacogdoches, TX (Nacogdoches)Haughton has some quickness to get out and pull or reach a defender but he’s going to be abused by the league’s better DT’s, few as they are.
Williams has a nice kickstep and some nice quickness but he’ll probably need to get closer to 300 to be athletic enough to play OT in the B12.
Apa Visinia is the jewel of the class and is exceptionally light on his feet at 380. If he has the motivation to play at 340 he could end up shocking people as a great OT in a few years.I’m the only person I know of that doesn’t like the potential of Bragg. He’s very powerful and is said to have a very powerful brain. His HS tape (playing Center) seems to be example after example of him lunging at nose tackles and controlling them with his upper body strength without showing the quick feet needed to do the same against collegiate nose tackles. We’ll see.Visinia is the only player I’d bet on making an All-Big 12 list.Grade: C+TE:Needs of the KU system: Since running the ball, often with unbalanced sets, is a key strategy for Weiss, what really matters at this position is blocking with competence catching the ball if left open.Takes: NoneGrade: FDL:Needs of the KU system: The two “DE’s” and nose play pretty standard 4-3 DL techniques with an emphasis on playing through blockers and controlling the line. The “Buck” position is set up as a pass-rusher with outside angles or various stunts. They need a real player there.Takes:Damani Mosby (JUCO): 6-3, 235. Mesa, AZ (Mesa C.C.)DJ Williams: 6-3, 270. Lufkin, TX (Lufkin)Daniel Wise: 6-2, 242. Lewisville, TX (Hebron)Anthony Olobia (JUCO): 6-5, 230. Yuma, AZ (Arizona Western C.C.)Lay’Trion Jones: 6-3, 285. Garland, TX (Garland)Kapil Fletcher (JUCO): 6-4, 255. Salinas, CA (Hartnell C.C.)I firmly believe that all schools should load up on DL prospects, you just never know. They’ve taken multiple guys with the hopes of adding a pass-rush.
Mosby has the explosiveness you need at the Buck position and is really skilled with his hands, much like our own Jackson Jeffcoat. He might prove more worthy of the featured role than what they have on campus.
Williams is a well-liked Texas prospect who plays with great pad level. I think he might grow into a really solid nose tackle for them.Fletcher has solid strength and the hips to close in the pass rush. He might play for them as a 5-tech but he’ll need more strength. As a Buck he’s not likely to be worth featuring as a pass-rusher. If he grows into a strongside end he could have real value.Olobia is the same story: good explosiveness on his inside rush moves. If he can grow into a strongside end I think he has great potential. As a Buck I’m not sold.
James is another good DT take who’s great when asked to attack gaps in stunts (which DC Campo utilizes) and needs to add better fundamentals and technique in basic run D in order to see the field.
Overall they’ve taken a lot of athletic bodies with length, which gives them a chance at having a better than average B12 DL.Grade: B-LB:Needs of the KU system: Due to the heavy technique employed by the DL, KU is looking for mobile athletes at LB who can blitz, run sideline to sideline, and 2-gap when the safeties are in 2-deep coverage.Takes:Kyron Watson: 6-0, 226. East St. Louis, IL (East St. Louis)Josh Ehambe: 6-3, 230. Arlington, TX (Prime Prep Academy)Ehambe might actually end up as a Buck and played some DT in high school where he was a great pass-rusher. No tape at LB to indicate his open space athleticism or abilities.
Watson might not actually be 6 foot but he is fearless, a big hitter, and plays with great instincts. He might be tapped out as a player, though.Grade: C-S:Needs of the KU system: Kansas likes to play it safe and keep their safeties at good depth, which requires instincts, speed playing downhill, and good tackling above all else.Takes:Anthony Smithson (JUCO): 6-2, 180. Salinas, CA (Hartnell)Matthew Boateng: 6-0, 180. Bradenton, FL (IMG Academy)Joe Dineen: 6-2, 197. Lawrence, KS (Free State)Dineen has great size for a DB and is lightning in a straight line but not so much if turned around. He might be a fit at NB.Boateng played more CB in high school but I think his solid tackling, good size, and iffy backpedal make him a better fit at safety for Kansas.Smithson is a Cover-2 JUCO safety who offers a player with average athleticism and solid instincts. Those are always valuable for depth.Grade: CCB:Needs of the KU system: The boundary corner has to be able to play the quick throws and stay over the top of the WR as well, a challenging task. Field corner needs to be good in space.Takes:Ronnie Davis (JUCO): 6-1, 170. Miami, OK. (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M J.C.)The only knock on Davis is that he somehow didn’t get a Mike Stoops offer despite being a big, athletic DB of the sort Stoops craves and growing up as an OU fan. Davis can turn and run with receivers, high point the ball, and play the edge agains the run. Great boundary corner prospect.The lack of other takes is curious.Grade: B-BreakdownJUCO: 5HS: 18KS: 2TX: 10AZ: 2CA: 3FL: 1GA: 2OK: 1IL: 1MO: 1Bill Snyder has a lot of the local and California JUCO talent feeding directly into his program so Weiss has tapped other junior college options while primarily relying on Texas talent to build the future of his program.He’ll sink or swim by whether he can find a QB, score points on offense, and maximize on what might secretly be one of the league’s better defenses in 2014.
There are a few nice long-term pieces here but if Weiss is gone, his replacement will have the opportunity to re-stock the roster in a terrible hurry.