NORMAN — Oklahoma breezed past Kansas last season in Norman, besting the Jayhawks 52-7 in Charlie Weis’ first game against the Sooners.
OU travels this season to face KU in Lawrence, Kan., on Oct. 19, just a week after the Red River Rivalry.
Continuing my blog series with a beat writer from each of OU’s 2013 opponents, Matt Tait from the Lawrence Journal-World was kind enough to answer a few questions about Kansas.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mctait.
1. What are the expectations for Kansas entering Charlie Weis’ second year?
Because Weis inherited such a mess, people were generally OK with the way last season went because the team did show improvement and Weis brought things like discipline, accountability and competitiveness back to KU. I think people are willing to let the process play out over the course of a couple of years but they definitely are expecting more wins in 2013. With nearly 30 newcomers brought in to bolster the roster, the expectation is that the Jayhawks will make significant improvement on both sides of the ball.
2. How much of an impact do you expect former OU receiver Justin McCay to have for the Jayhawks this season?
McCay has a chance to be KU’s top receiver this season and there are two reasons for that. 1. He has the physical tools — size, good hands, strength — to be a threat anywhere on the field, particularly in the red zone; and 2. He developed a great rapport with KU QB Jake Heaps while the two sat out in 2012 and dominated on the scout team. McCay probably won’t be an all-Big 12 kind of guy any time soon, but he could be KU’s best receiver because of his versatility.
3. Jake Heaps was listed as the starting quarterback on KU’s spring depth chart. Do you thing he’ll hold onto that spot throughout fall camp?
No question. Heaps essentially became the starting QB the day after KU’s final game in 2012 and he’s functioned every day since then as just that. He’s taken on a huge leadership role, is supremely confident in his abilities and those of his teammates and, as a former five-star guy who Weis wanted at Notre Dame, he has the skills to be the best thing KU has seen at QB since Todd Reesing left town.
4. James Sims has obviously been one bright spot for Kansas. What are reasonable expectations for his senior season?
Sims wants to be a Top 5 back in the country this season and I don’t think that’s all that unrealistic. He worked just as hard this offseason as he did last and is now in even better physical shape than before. He continues to improve his speed and elusiveness and had been a consistent pile-mover for years. KU has great depth and talent throughout the RB position so some expect Sims to get fewer touches this season. But even if he does, the expected improvement of KU’s passing game could make Sims a more effective back even if he doesn’t carry as much of the load.
5. Where do you think Kansas’ greatest strengths are as a team, and where do you see potential weaknesses?
Obviously, with Sims and Tony Pierson and the return of Darrian Miller, running back is a strength. I also think this team has an underrated group of linebackers, led by Ben Heeney who finished third in the Big 12 in tackles in 2012. Heaps, in my opinion, is poised for a big year and could wind up somewhere on the all-Big 12 teams by the end of the season. As for weaknesses, a lack of experience, particularly on defense, could cause KU some problems, and the revamped offensive line, which has to replace more than 100 career starts by guys who graduated, will be a major question mark until it goes out and proves itself both in clearing the way for Sims and company and in keeping Heaps on his feet.