For Jake Heaps, the long wait and absence of game competition is nearly over. But the schedule says that instead of kicking off the season at his new school this weekend, Heaps must be patient for another week.
Kansas opens the 2013 season against South Dakota on Sept. 7 and the hope is that Heaps will help the Jayhawks improve on last season's 1-11 record. He sat out last season after transferring from BYU.
"I've got the countdown clock on my phone," said Heaps, who will have two seasons of eligibility with KU. "I can't wait to run on the field with my teammates, get out there on the field. It's been a long time coming."
Second-year coach Charlie Weis hopes that Heaps will give Kansas a fully functional playbook. The Jayhawks averaged 212 yards per game rushing, which was 22nd in the nation. But KU was last in passing in the Big 12 and the one-dimensional attack was a big factor in the 11-game losing streak that ended the season.
"Although we had a pretty solid running game, we couldn't pass the ball, and we couldn't score points, and I think that that's what I'm counting on this year for us to be a more balanced team on offense," Weis said. "If you looked at our stable of running backs, you'll find a tough time in this league trying to find a group of running backs that's any better than the ones we have.
"By the end of the year, there wasn't one player on the team who thought we couldn't run the ball. "If I'm going to game-plan us right now, my first thought is 'Let's make sure we stop the run.' Guess what? In stopping the run, that makes it easier to throw the ball."
The lack of a balanced offense limited Kansas to an average of 18.2 points per game – last in the Big 12. It put pressure on the running game to always produce and also left the defense understanding that limiting the Big 12's explosive attacks was paramount.
"It was so predictable,'' junior Brandon Bourbon running back said. "Defenses didn't have to do anything but line up and attack the run. "We might score 14, 21, 30-something points, but we weren't going to score the points these Big 12 offenses rack up. You've gotta score to win in this league.''
Heaps started 10 games his freshman year at BYU but decided to transfer when he lost the starting job during his sophomore season.
"Last year was really hard on me, because I felt I could go out there and play and help my teammates," Heaps said. "I'm a big-time competitor and I love to be out with my teammates. That's the first time I've sat out. Ever. To have the game taken away from me, I learned a lot and stepped back and got to assess how I can get better as a quarterback."
Coach: Charlie Weis, 1-11 in one season.
2012: 1-11 overall, 0-9 in Big 12, 10th.
Returning starters: 5 on offense, 4 on defense.
Key players: Junior QB Jake Heaps, senior RB James Sims, junior RB/WRTony Pierson, junior LB Ben Heeney, LB Jake Love, senior WR Christian Matthews, junior tight end Jimmay Mundine, junior DB Cassius Sendish, junior DL Marquel Combs, sophomore LB Jake Love, junior DB Dexter McDonald, junior RB/WR Brandon Bourbon.
Three Key Questions
1. Will a new quarterback spark the offense?
Jake Heaps had last season to learn the offense and he proved at BYU as a freshman that he was a capable quarterback. In the Big 12, productive QB play is the key to success. If Heaps plays as advertised, he should make the offense more potent and take the pressure off a defense that is trying to cope with stopping high-octane Big 12 attacks.
2. Will the newcomers contribute?
The coaching staff brought in 21 junior-college transfers. Their ability to make an impact as starters or backups will be crucial. A year ago coach Charlie Weis said he wasn't sure if his team had a two-deep roster but now he believes the roster has three-deep talent and most positions. Defensive back Cassius Sendish is expected to be a versatile cog in the secondary while defensive lineman Marquel Comes and wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman are among the JUCO transfers being counted on.
3. What's up with the kicking game?
Matthew Wyman, a sophomore walk on, will probably handle KU's kicking duties this season. In 2012 the Jayhawks made the fewest field goals (10) in the Big 12 and also finished ranked eighth in punting. Junior-college transfer Trevor Pardula is expected to take over the punting duties from senior Ron Doherty.
Justin McKay, a Kansas City native who sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma, is expected to make an impact at wide receiver. "I think Justin McCay has an opportunity to be a top-flight receiver," Weis said. … Darrian Miller, considered one of the top high school running backs in 2010, gained 559 yards for KU as a freshman in 2011. He was dismissed by Weis before the 2012 season but has been reinstated. … Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell, a wide receiver, hoped to be eligible to play this season but will sit out as a redshirt. … Linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a junior-college transfer, will have to sit out this season after undergoing knee surgery in August.
Numbers To Note
Junior quarterback Jake Heaps threw for 2,316 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman at BYU in 2010. … Junior linebacker Ben Heeney had 112 tackles (third in the Conference) in 2012 in his first season as a starter. … None of KU's seven touchdown passes last season was caught by a wide receiver. … Kansas has won only four games against FBS competition since Oct. 11, 2009: Georgia Tech, New Mexico State and Colorado in 2010 and Northern Illinois in 2011.
|Sept. 7||South Dakota|
|Sept. 14||at Rice|
|Sept. 21||Louisiana Tech|
|Oct. 5||Texas Tech*|
|Oct. 12||at TCU*|
|Nov. 2||at Texas*|
|Nov. 9||at Oklahoma State*|
|Nov. 16||West Virginia*|
|Nov. 23||at Iowa State*|
|Nov. 30||Kansas State*|