Kansas kicked off its spring football drills on Thursday with a lot of work to be done. The Jayhawks’ to-do list is lengthy, with finding a quarterback and offensive playmakers sitting atop of it.
Offensive returner ready to take next step: New offensive coordinator John Reagan wants to use the spring to find playmakers for his offense. Receiver Rodriguez Coleman showed signs of playmaking ability, averaging 26 yards per catch while finishing third on the team with 208 receiving yards on eight catches. He was inconsistent and never emerged as a staple in KU’s game plans, but he has talent, and this spring provides the opportunity to show Reagan he wants to be a major part of the offense.
Defensive returner ready to take the next step: Cornerback Kevin Short didn’t play in one snap in 2013, but this spring he could emerge as KU’s No. 3 cornerback and give the Jayhawks defense options and versatility alongside starters JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald. Short, who signed in February 2013 but was ruled ineligible in September, is a big cornerback (6-foot-2, 182 pounds) with athleticism and return skills.
Redshirt freshman to watch: Tight end Ben Johnson could emerge as a player who deserves playing time this spring. If that happens, he could join Jimmay Mundine to give the Jayhawks two talented pass catchers at tight end.
“I think he has a huge upside,” KU coach Charlie Weis said. “He hasn't played a down yet, so you can't anoint anyone at this point, but I think that Ben Johnson could be pressing [to play].”
Most significant position battle: Reagan needs someone to trigger the Jayhawks offense at quarterback. Jake Heaps, Michael Cummings, Montell Cozart and T.J. Millweard are the main contenders for the starting position, and Weis hopes the competition is settled this spring. It’s Heaps' last chance to prove himself as a quality college quarterback, Cummings is the forgotten man, Cozart hopes to put his freshman mistakes behind him and Millweard is looking to show he is the future at quarterback after transferring from UCLA before the 2013 season.
Key midterm enrollee: Offensive lineman Keyon Haughton could provide depth, and he adds competition along the offensive line during the spring. At 6-2 and 309 pounds, the junior brings terrific size to KU’s offensive front.
Question that could be answered: Weis hopes the quarterback competition ends before the summer. He was very candid in saying a prolonged quarterback derby wouldn’t be the ideal scenario because “it means you don’t have one.” KU has talent and options at the position, but if the Jayhawks can’t get better play from that position in 2014, their chances for a breakout season under Weis will decrease.
Question that won’t be answered until fall: Who will replace James Sims at running back? Brandon Bourbon and Darrian Miller saw spot duty behind Sims last season, but KU signed three quality running back prospects in junior college transfer De'Andre Mann and freshmen Traevohn Wrench and Corey Avery. It would be a major surprise if the starting running back spot is finalized heading into summer workouts.