In 24 hours the Jayhawks will kick off the 2012 season against South Dakota State. We give you a few nuggets on things to watch for in the season opener.
What to watch: The defensive line
Last year the Jayhawks had the worst defense in the country. There isn't a way to sugar-coat that or make it sound better. One of the reasons for the collapse last season was key injuries to defensive linemen. The team didn't have the depth to overcome that.
But this year is a different story. The front four will feature a solid rotation that can go two deep all over the board. The depth chart was released this week but that could change throughout the course of the year with all of the depth.
Last year Keon Stowers was the back-up at Georgia Military to Daniel McCullers. This season McCullers is listed as the starter at nose guard for Tennessee. Stowers is currently listed behind Keba Agostinho.
"You always want to compete with the guy in front of him and try to win the job," Stowers said. "There is going to be competition throughout the whole season. You are one play away from playing if someone gets injured. You always are paying attention and know your assignments when your number gets called."
The players on the defensive line believe they can make a difference up front. They hope to get more pressure on the quarterback than last season.
"If you get pressure on the quarterback that helps out the entire team. Somebody has to get to the quarterback. I think we have guys that can do it with me and Toben rushing from our side. Then you have Keba and Tavai inside. They can generate pressure inside and we can do it outside."
Who to watch: Josh Williams
During the off-season Charlie Weis scored big with a host of transfers listed as starters. One name that didn't generate much in the media was Josh Williams. He started two games last year in a strong rotation at Nebraska and played in their last 26 contests.
When Williams decided to transfer a lot of schools tried to get on him. Once Kansas came in the mix he said it was an easy decision to land in Lawrence. Williams, who said his goal is to play in the NFL, liked the resume of Dave Campo and Weis.
"That was big just looking at their history and the things they have done with the game of football and where they have been," Williams said of Weis and Campo. "Between the two of them they have a lot of experience in the NFL. More than the connections they have I think their knowledge is really big what they can help me with."
Tanner Hawkinson said going up against Williams in practice has made him a better player. Sources we spoke with said Williams has a chance to play at the next level.
The media attention was centered around Dayne Crist, but Williams might be just as big of recruit for the defensive line.
More news and notes heading into the game:
--Since this match-up features Kansas against an FCS school the odds-makers don't list a spread. However the Sagarin Rankings have a formula that predicts the what spread should be.
Kansas is listed with a total score of 66.29 and South Dakota State at 58.27. The home team is supposed to get an additional three points for the home-field advantage. By the Sagarin formula the Jayhawks would work out to a 12-point favorite.
--One group that likes a deep and solid defensive front is the secondary. Last year they had their work cut out for them. This year they have confidence in the front four.
"Ever since the new defensive lineman walked in my heart just warmed every time," said starting safety Bradley McDougald. "No matter who you have in the secondary if you don't have a front rush nobody will look good. You have to cover for six seconds and not many can do that. Just knowing in the back of our minds we won't have to cover for so long gives guys more confidence to jump balls we couldn't in the past."
-- Former Jayhawks and current coaches Clint Bowen and Rod Jones have introduced an old locker room dance.
"You only do it after the win," McDougald said. "The guys just circle around and sway in the locker room doing the rock chalk chant. It's more of another way for the team to come closer together after a win."
--Slant TV: Toben Opurum- Opurum talks about their goals heading into the South Dakota State game.
-- According to Terry Vandrovec starting quarterback Austin Sumner is doing everything he can to play. Sumner has been listed as doubtful. Late in the week he tried throwing with gloves on to see if his hand felt any better. Last year Sumner was the Freshman Offensive Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference.