JayhawkSlant - Opposing View: Southeast Missouri
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Opposing View: Southeast Missouri

To get a closer look at Southeast Missouri State, the Jayhawks first opponent, we caught up with Trent Singer from the Southeast Missourian.

Who are the key players returning on offense and what is the early feel how good they will be?

The offense returns only four starters from last season, but two of them are extremely crucial — senior quarterback Jesse Hosket and sophomore wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson. Hosket was everything the coaching staff asked for last season after winning the starting job two weeks before the season opener. He was third in the Ohio Valley Conference in passing yardage, but the offense in general lacked the big plays needed to win games.

The Redhawks finished dead last in the conference in scoring offense. Wilkerson symbolizes the big-play threat that Southeast so desperately needs this season after hauling in more than 700 yards a year ago. Both players appear poised to take the next step in their second season as starters. Hosket seems to have taken on more of a leadership role in his senior year, while Wilkerson has stood out during the early fall practices. They'll return along with both starting tackles from a year ago.

Matukewicz will have a starting quarterback return for the first time in six years
Matukewicz will have a starting quarterback return for the first time in six years

What do you expect from the defense and who are the main players to watch?

The defense will be anchored by a pair of very good outside linebackers in Chad Meredith and Kendall Donnerson. Meredith was a Preseason All-OVC selection, while Donnerson isn't far off. In fact, Donnerson appears to have added a lot in the weight room during the offseason. He's looking rather strong.

The linebacking corps will be tested by a pair of newcomers in the inside (Zach Hall and Rider Garrett), but both got some valuable minutes in the latter half of last season. Inside, Josh Wilson poses a threat at the line of scrimmage, while cornerback Mike Ford is the key returner in the secondary. Ford received some interest from pro scouts last year before suffering a broken arm that shortened his season.

What have been some of interesting story lines through camp i.e. position battles, unexpected losses, etc?

My first big takeaway is the fact that this is the first time in six years that Southeast returns its starting quarterback. In coach Tom Matukewicz's previous three years at the helm, the Redhawks have had a different quarterback at the start of each season. While the running back situation is settled for the most part, fans are interested to see what newcomer Marquis Terry brings to the table in the backfield.

Terry comes to Southeast from Highland Community College in Kansas after leading the National Junior College Athletic Association with 1,319 yards and 16 TDs a year ago. At 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, Terry might face some growing pains at the Division-I level, but his previous success bodes well for an offense that requires balance with the running game. It should also be interesting to see who emerges behind Wilkerson at wide receiver. Some early names to keep an eye on are Tyler McLemore and Trevon Billington.

Overall what the strengths of the team expected to be and what are the weaknesses?

Meredith and Donnerson should make the pass rush a defensive strength, while the challenge of getting better in the secondary might be the biggest weakness. On offense, Hosket's development in Year 2 will be a strength, but will the offensive line's vulnerability be too much to overcome?

Regardless, Matukewicz has been pleased with this year's team during the off-season and has raved about their conditioning and commitment to the weight room. It's a big year for him, as he's yet to produce a winning season at Southeast heading into Year 4. This is basically his team now, and it'll be interesting to see how the Redhawks perform.

It is still a couple weeks away but how do you see the match-up on the road at Kansas?

Southeast will obviously be facing a daunting challenge against a Power-five school in Kansas. The battle will likely be won up front, which gives KU the edge on both sides of the ball. Matukewicz wants to see his team put together a four-quarter game, something Southeast struggled to do a lot last season. If the Redhawks can keep it competitive late in the game, anything can happen. But that remains to be a big "if."