FOOTBALL 2013

Kansas football season preview

Updated: 2013-08-26T13:35:59Z

By RUSTIN DODD

The Kansas City Star

•  2012 record: 1-11 overall, 0-9 Big 12 (10th)

•  Projected 2013 record: 4-8 overall, 1-8 Big 12 (10th)

•  Key starters lost: LT Tanner Hawkinson, C Trevor Marrongelli, S Bradley McDougald, LB Toben Opurum

•  Key starters returning: RB James Sims, RB Tony Pierson, LB Ben Heeney, TE Jimmay Mundine

•  Leader in the huddle: Senior running back James Sims. While transfer quarterback Jake Heaps will get plenty of early attention, KU’s most dependable offensive weapon is Sims, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in just nine games last season. Yes, the Jayhawks will need to field a competent passing attack to make progress in the Big 12, but Sims is the kind of talent that could lead the Big 12 in rushing and climb the career rushing yards list at Kansas. (He’s currently eighth with 2,482 yards.)

•  Here’s the catch: Right now, the Jayhawks’ defense is something like an abstract idea. Last year, it improved from 120th and dead last in Division I to 113th. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo lost his entire secondary, and many holes have been filed by junior-college players. Two transfers, defensive end Marquel Combs and nickel back Cassius Sendish, are expected to play major roles, and the Jayhawks are banking on the promise of a bunch of unproven players. From a schematic standpoint, the Jayhawks will play a base defense with five defensive backs and attempt to counter the Big 12’s spread-out, tempo-driven offenses.

•  End result: Charlie Weis is hoping for a major improvement at quarterback (Heaps over Dayne Crist), another year of production from Sims, and a standout campaign from junior running back Tony Pierson, who will factor heavily in the passing game. Can KU take a major step forward and snap a 21-game conference losing streak? The Jayhawks’ first road game could be pivotal. A first road victory since 2009 could springboard KU into the Big 12 season, while a loss could leave KU fans looking at the schedule to find wins.

2013 schedule

Date Opponent Time Projection*
Sept. 7South Dakota6 p.m.W
Sept. 14at Rice6:30 p.m.W
Sept. 21Louisiana TechTBAW
Oct. 5Texas TechTBAL
Oct. 12at TCUTBAL
Oct. 19OklahomaTBAL
Oct. 26BaylorTBAL
Nov. 2at Texas2:30 p.m.L
Nov. 9at Oklahoma StateTBAL
Nov. 16West VirginiaTBAW
Nov. 23at Iowa StateTBAL
Nov. 30Kansas StateTBAL

| Rustin Dodd, rdodd@kcstar.com | Projections by The Star’s Blair Kerkhoff

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