Spring Practice Primer: Kansas Jayhawks

By Lorenzo Reyes | Staff Writer

College football never ends, and during the next few weeks teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Kansas Jayhawks and what they'll be working on this spring.

Spring practice began: March 5

Spring game: April 13

2012 record: 1-11 (0-9 Big 12)

Returning starters: 11 (five offense, six defense)

Kansas is currently on an 11-game losing streak. The first year of the Charlie Weis experiment in Lawrence was a resounding flop with the lone Jayhawk victory coming against South Dakota State in the season opener. Expectations were elevated, partly because of the hype surrounding quarterback Dayne Crist, who had been a Weis disciple at Notre Dame before transferring to Kansas. However, after Crist got benched midway through the season, 2012 quickly became a year to forget for Kansas fans. These spring practices will be essential in turning that around for the Jayhawks, and Weis has wasted no time in attempting to expedite the process. Kansas has brought in 11 early enrollees from its signing class to participate in the spring.

The Least You Should Know About Kansas This Spring

-- Weis goes all-in on JUCO transfers. Completely hitting the reset button on last year's plan, Weis undertook a risky but potentially rewarding decision, signing an influx of 18 junior college transfers in February's National Signing Day. The move has its uncertainties: If the JUCOs struggle with academics, can't learn the playbook in sufficient time and/or underperform, Kansas could be in for another woeful season. These players also haven't been entrenched in the Jayhawks program, so there isn't continuity between players and coaching staff. However, the strategy could also be the type that turns a program around. With JUCO transfers, Kansas receives more developed, experienced players. Often, these players were among the highest-rated recruits in their respective classes a couple of years ago. The talent is clearly within these players. Defensive end Chris Martin was one of the most heralded recruits in the class of 2010. Academic issues, decommitments and a failure to assimilate at Florida, Navarro College and City College of San Francisco led Martin to Kansas. His story is the perfect example of how a JUCO transfer could be the proverbial second (or third) chance for a player with a questionable past. Kansas's spring practice will be the first indicator if it all could work.

-- Weis turns to another transfer at quarterback. Crist's struggles at quarterback didn't deter Weis from bringing in another transfer quarterback with whom he had ties from recruiting at Notre Dame. This year, it's Jake Heaps's turn to attempt a Jayhawk turnaround. Heaps played two seasons at BYU -- setting program passing records for freshmen (passing yards, touchdowns and wins). Heaps was on pace to continue to lead the Cougars but ceded the starting job to Riley Nelson in 2011. In his career at BYU, Heaps had a 57.2 completion percentage, 3,768 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Heaps comes into the spring as the starting quarterback and will have a chance to become the leader of the offense. However, Kansas needs its wide receivers to step up since its leading wide out in 2012 was departing senior Kale Pick, who had 26 receptions for 390 yards but no touchdowns. In fact, not one wide receiver on Kansas's roster recorded a touchdown reception in 2012.

-- Jayhawks need to make more strides on defense in Year 2 under Dave Campo. Kansas ranked 113th in total defense (481.8 yards per game) and 109th in scoring defense (36.1 points per game) in 2012. That is hardly the measure of success. However, when the Jayhawks ranked 120th in both those categories (516.4 and 43.8, respectively) in 2011, small improvements are worth noting. If Weis wants to become competitive in the Big 12, however, Kansas's defense will have to perform at a higher level in 2013. Seven of the 11 early enrollees this spring are defensive players, and these added practice reps could prove to be beneficial in the fall. Specifically, Kansas will need help in the secondary with the departure of safety Bradley McDougald, who had 92 tackles and three interceptions in 2012. Senior Dexter Linton is the most likely to step in for McDougald after playing as a reserve in 2012 and registering 26 tackles and two pass breakups on the season.

Follow Lorenzo Reyes @LReyesCBS

 
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