Mailbag: Kansas edition

Time to answer some Jayhawks questions. Here's the team-themed mailbags we've already gotten around to:

Austin in Houston asks: Unlike last year, Kansas is lacking in the star power this season. With the departures of Reesing, Meier, Briscoe and Stuckey, who has the potential to be a household name by the end of the season?

DU: Keep an eye out for cornerback Chris Harris or tight end Tim Biere. The talent level at the tight end position across the Big 12 is pretty weak, but Biere is going to get a lot of looks with a young quarteback. If he takes advantage of them, he could become one of the league's best by season's end.

Marcus in Topeka, Kan., asks: Since you are not so high on the Jayhawks this year, but Mangino left a good foundation, how long will it take for Coach Gill to have the Hawks competitive in conference?

DU: It's tough to say one certain year, but it's all going to depend on recruiting and development. We have no idea how good Gill will be at those things just yet. This isn't basketball, where one transcendent player can carry you to the Sweet 16 for a year. They've got some nice building blocks in Toben Opurum and offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson. Huldon Tharp looked like another before the injury that will cost him the 2010 season. But starting next season, it's going to depend on who they surround them with.

Kansas has 15 commitments for its 2011 class, which is a nice number, but none of those guys look like game changers. They're going to need at least a few to be a major threat in the Big 12 by 2012 or 2013.

Gill did a great job rebuilding the Buffalo program, so he's faced steeper odds than he faces now, bringing up a program that won the Orange Bowl after the 2007 season. But it's not going to be easy, especially with a tougher, nine-game round-robin schedule that's probably going to kick in before the 2011 season.

Shawn in Muskogee, Okla., asks: What do you think of the Jayhawks running game, and do you think Rell Lewis will get an chance to produce this season?

DU: It sounds like a mess. When your top runner is a sixth-year senior who played linebacker last year, that's not a good sign. Not to discount Angus Quigley, but they've got to figure out who they can count on during camp. Surely, Lewis will get his chances, but so will last year's leading rusher, Opurum, and incoming freshman Brandon Bourbon. The same goes for redshirt freshman DeShaun Sands. Kansas has some guys -- the ones I just listed -- who look like they might have some talent, but one or more of them has to produce for me to really feel good about the Jayhawks moving into conference play.

Brennan in GC, Kan., asks: Now with Huldon Tharp injured and out for the season who do you see stepping in and filling his role?

DU: Good question, and I'm not sure it has an answer just yet. Freshman Josh Richardson was listed behind Tharp on the depth chart, but it's probably more likely that Drew Dudley retakes his spot in the middle, and the Jayhawks move senior Justin Springer to the weak side, opposite junior Steven Johnson. That's really just a hunch, and practice will decide exactly what they do, but they've got too much depth at the other linebacking spots not to move guys around.

Buddha in OP, Kan., asks: Would the Jayhawks look better in the Big East if things deteriorate with the B12?

DU: Well, it'd be easier for them. That obviously won't happen for awhile, but the Big East was discussing bringing in the four North teams that would have been left behind had a 16-team Pac-10 become a reality. There would definitely be an upside to replacing Texas and Oklahoma with Pitt and Cincinnati. The biggest beneficiary would probably be Turner Gill's career record. But for now, they're in the soon-to-be-10-team Big 12, so they better figure out a way to beat Texas, OU and all the other teams they've got to go up against every year.