Zero. That is how many touchdowns were caught by wide receivers in 2012 for the Kansas Jayhawks football team.
Eighty-three. That is how many total passes were caught by all of the wide receivers combined in 2012 for the Kansas Jayhawks football team.
One needs to look no farther than the utter lack of production from the wide receivers to have an idea why the Kansas Jayhawks only won a single game in the 2012 season.
Of course, not all of the blame should fall on the shoulders on the receivers. Starting quarterback, Dayne Crist, struggled from the very beginning of the season, failing to deliver passes in an accurate manner. Back-up quarterback, Michael Cummings, who eventually became the starter, was more of a running quarterback who did not impress as a freshman with his passing skills.
Head Coach Charlie Weis has new weapons this season. Jake Heaps, who was a record setting passer as a freshman at BYU, will take over as quarterback. Highly recruited transfer wide out, Justin McCay should provide Heaps with a talented and reliable target, but the search is on for other receiving options.
According to Matt Tait of the Lawrence Journal World, Weis has singled out junior college transfer Rodriguez Coleman as a receiver who has stood out thus far:
“…if we’re rating players on the team and people talk about wide receivers, everyone would bring up Coleman.”
Maybe Coleman can be the guy to team up with McCay to work the sidelines and down field. The Jayhawks return wide outs from a year ago who have had time to improve their game, including Tre’ Parmalee and Andrew Turzilli. Seniors Josh Ford and former quarterback Christian Matthews both appear on Weis’ first depth chart, as does junior Mark Thomas and freshman Ishmael Hyman. This group of players has to produce more in catches and in touchdowns.
Look for Weis to integrate some of his running back depth into the passing game. Athletic, speedy runners like juniors Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon figure to get plenty of touches in the passing game as well as running the ball. Again, according to Matt Tait, Weis had high praise for Bourbon’s progress:
“If we asked everyone to rate the best five players in camp, he’d be on everyone’s list,” Weis of the 6-foot-1, 225-pound “F” back, who opened camp with the second team behind junior Tony Pierson. “Offensive coaches and defensive coaches would all put him on the list. So that’s good for us because he runs, he catches, he runs routes. It’s really given us another guy that we thought would be a back-up guy but now you’re trying to find more ways to get him involved and get him on the field.”
By increasing the presence of Pierson and Bourbon in the aerial attack, it will allow the Jayhawks to have more play makers on the field at the same time. The options for mixing and matching these two in both the running game and the passing game, in combination to star running back James Sims, are endless. The more opportunities the Jayhawks have to get Pierson and Bourbon in the open field, the more potent and unpredictable the offense will be for Kansas.
The player Kansas needs to really step forward and be a star is Kansas City, Missouri native Justin McCay. The Jayhawks desperately need a presence on the outside to free up the middle of the field. At 6’2, 210, McCay has the size to be a threat in the red zone, and could surpass last year’s wide receiver touchdown production in the first game.
McCay, who was a 5-star recruit out of Bishop Meige High School, according to Scout.com, committed to Oklahoma originally. He obviously has the skills to excel for Kansas and they will need him to an integral part of the passing attack in 2013.
If players like McCay, Pierson, and Bourbon are spreading out the field, the tight ends may be able to find openings in the defense underneath the coverage or in the middle of the field. Junior Jimmay Mundine caught 14 passes in 2012, including 2 for touchdowns. He tops the initial depth chart at the tight end position. He will be backed up by junior Trent Smiley and a pair of freshmen, Jordan Shelley-Smith and Ben Johnson. This isn’t the most experienced unit on the team but there should be opportunity for playing time behind Mundine.
The bar for wide receiver play was set very low in 2012 and it won’t take much for the 2013 Jayhawk receiving corps to put up significantly better numbers, even if Kansas has a run heavy offense. There are more play makers available and Weis will surely find more ways to get those play makers the ball.
Kansas will surely win more than one game in 2013 and an improved aerial attack will certainly be a key reason for improvement. It will be interesting to see who, if anyone, will step forward in the passing game to compliment McCay, Pierson, and Bourbon.