Campus Corner

KU mailbag: Concerns about freshmen? Concern about hoops?

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (cener) and teammates did drills during practice last month.
Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney (cener) and teammates did drills during practice last month. The Kansas City Star

The Kansas Jayhawks open the football season against Southeast Missouri State at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium. They have not played a game in more than nine months.

There is legitimate reason to be hopeful about a program that is 6-30 over its last three seasons — including a 1-26 record in the Big 12. There is legitimate reason to feel meh, too.

There is a difficult schedule. There were preseason injuries and roster defections. There is the natural inclination to feel that KU football is the college football embodiment of “Glass Joe” from “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!”

But this is a new season, and it’s time for the year’s first installment of the #KUmailbag. As always, send questions to @rustindodd on Twitter or rdodd@kcstar.com. Also: Listen to music. Here we go:

Here is what we know: Charlie Weis listed seven freshmen on the two-deep depth chart. The list includes true freshman kicker John Duvic, who will handle the field-goal duties, and receiver Bobby Hartzog, who is just listed on special teams.

Some of this speaks to some recent recruiting victories. True freshman running back Corey Avery, a Dallas native, had offers from some bigger programs and was seeing time with the first-offense before injuries to Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox. True freshman receiver Derrick Neal is a smallish and quick athlete who had offers to play Division I basketball — before realizing his future was more appealing on the football field. Both have the talent to play right away — and are intriguing players to watch.

Some of this, though … yes, speaks to a lack of quality depth on the roster. In general football terms, it is not a positive to rely on freshmen on the offensive line. Grandview’s Junior Visinia is currently second-team at right guard; and while linebacker Kyron Watson was a coveted recruit, it’s perhaps telling that Kansas has no better option to play behind Ben Heeney.

And some of this, I think, speaks to some recent recruiting misses. Junior-college recruiting is always going to be a volatile gambit, and Weis can claim some legitimate victories from his #DreamTeam class. (Isaiah Johnson, Cassius Sendish, Andrew Bolton and Dexter McDonald, to a name a few.) But if somebody like Kevin Short would have panned out at defensive back, the Jayhawks may not be forced to throw true freshman cornerback Matthew Boateng into the maw right away.

Charlie Weis deserves credit, I think, for his level of recruiting while Kansas has been down. But yes, it’s a little worrisome that, in Weis’ third year, the Jayhawks will be so dependent on some young players.

The hamster.

If college football games are won in the trenches, then the Jayhawks have some work to do. The offensive line is patchwork; the defensive line will need to prove itself.

Senior Keon Stowers is back at nose tackle, and Ben Goodman has moved from “Buck” linebacker to defensive end. He’s added some weight, and we have faith in anybody that spent his youth days doing rodeo stuff. Reserve nose Tedarian Johnson is not a star, but he’s a little more capable than some might realize. The bigger question mark: Andrew (“Don’t Call Me Michael”) Bolton, a junior college transfer who sat out last season while recovering from a knee injury. Bolton is a very large individual, and he could perhaps be the difference-maker that Kansas needs.

Weis has said that junior college transfer Kapil Fletcher and former walk-on T.J. Semke will also see some time. Can either emerge and provide some depth?

Hey, basketball. This question, of course, is about KU freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who is currently coming off the bench for Ukraine at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Last month, Mykhailiuk played for Ukraine in the U-18 Division B European Championships. He was perhaps the best prospect in the tournament, but his three-point shooting numbers were a little suspect. In nine games, he shot 13 of 50 from three-point line. It’s a small sample size, but still.

Mykhailiuk is an interesting prospect. Bill Self believes that Mykhailiuk is an elite shooter; not just good, Self told me once, but perhaps one of the best shooters in the world in his age group.

But yes, that age. Mykhailiuk turned 17 in June, and on Thursday he stepped on the floor against a team of NBA stars from the United States. Mykhailiuk looked incredibly outmatched, of course, but considering the circumstances, it’s still pretty amazing he was even out there. Imagine being 17 and trying to guard Klay Thompson or Steph Curry.

For the time being, it’s probably important to remember that age. By comparison, Joel Embiid was 19 when he stepped on campus. Svi won’t turn 19 until the summer of 2016! Can he contribute this year? Self isn’t ruling it out. But we shall see. The Jayhawks’ perimeter rotation is going to be incredibly crowded this season.

But to get back to the original question, we’ll say this: If Mykhailiuk is going to play as a freshman, yes, it’s safe to say he’s going to need to shoot better than 25 percent from three.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @rustindodd.

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