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March 12, 2008
Kansas was one of the nation's biggest surprises last season, and the Jayhawks have 15 starters returning. Still, there are some issues – especially at offensive tackle – as the Jayhawks look to recapture the magic. Here's at look at KU as it prepares for spring drills.
Quarterback Todd Reesing returns to lead the Kansas offense.
Offense —6: WR Dezmon Briscoe, C Ryan Cantrell, WR Dexton Fields, G Chet Hartley, G Adrian Mayes, QB Todd Reesing. .
Defense—9: T Caleb Blakesley, E Russell Brorsen, CB Chris Harris, LB James Holt, E John Larson, LB Joe Mortensen, SS Patrick Resby, LB Mike Rivera, FS Darrell Stuckey.
POSITIONS OF STRENGTH
Reesing emerged as a bona fide All-Big 12-caliber quarterback last season while passing for 3,486 yards and 33 touchdowns in his first season as a fulltime starter. Although '07 leading receiver Marcus Henry is gone, the Jayhawks are strong at wide receiver. Fields and Briscoe combined for 106 catches and 13 TDs, and converted quarterback Kerry Meier - who had 26 catches - is back, too. The Jayhawks ranked eighth nationally in run defense and 12th nationally in total defense last season, and all three starting linebackers return.
HELP IS NEEDED
The Jayhawks must replace All-American Anthony Collins and three-year starter Cesar Rodriguez at offensive tackle. They may be looking at junior college transfers and redshirt freshmen to fill those holes. Cornerback was a position of strength with Aqib Talib on one side, but he left early for the NFL. The only tight end on the spring depth chart is sophomore Bradley Dedeaux. Last year's starter, Derek Fine, caught 46 passes but is gone this season. Fine's backup, Marc Jones, also completed his eligibility. The Jayhawks also have to replace their kicker and their punter.
KEEP AN EYE ON
CB Isiah Barfield: The redshirt freshman looked good in Orange Bowl practices and could make a strong challenge for the vacant cornerback spot.
QB Kale Pick: The three-star prospect enrolled early and could emerge as Reesing's top backup this spring.
OT Jeff Spikes: He has great size at 6 feet 7 and 320 pounds, and he made steady improvement during his redshirt season.
THE TIME IS NOW
Junior TB Angus Quigley, a former three-star prospect, desperately needs to distinguish himself this spring after rushing for just 98 yards last season. Jake Sharp, the second-leading rusher from a year ago, is back this season. Jocques Crawford, a four-star junior college transfer, arrives this summer. If Quigley doesn't impress this spring he might not get a chance to do so in the fall.
Finding adequate replacements for Collins and Talib is important, and Kansas also needs to find players who will take over their leadership roles, too. Coming off a landmark 12-1 season, the Jayhawks have to show they're still hungry and not complacent.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.