The Early Edition: Kansas Jayhawks

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

With this preview, we start looking at the back half of the Texas Tech 2014 schedule.

Difference Makers

Montell Cozart. Cozart, just a sophomore, was named the starting QB for the Jayhawks coming out of spring practice. Apparently, he had quite the spring for himself and was clearly the best option for the Kansas offense. In 2013, he played in the final 7 games and saw his responsibilities grow. He was abhorrent throwing the ball, though, completing just 37 percent of his passes for 227 yards, no touchdowns and two interception. He is a threat on the ground, however. He finished the season with about as many rushing yards as passing and had pretty good games on the ground against Oklahoma State and West Virginia in consecutive weeks.

Nick Harwell. Harwell should be the number one receiver this fall after sitting out last season due to transfer rules (transferred in from Miami Ohio). He played in nine games in 2012 and still managed nearly 900 yards. With a full season in 2011, he had nearly 1500 yards. Harwell's Jayhawk debut should open up the Jayhawk offense some more through the air. He has averaged between 13 and 15 yards per reception when playing for Miami (OH).

Ben Heeney. Heeney looks to be the leader at linebacker for the improving Jayhawk defense. Playing in 10 games in 2013, Heeney amassed a respectable 87 tackles and three interceptions, including one against the Red Raiders. He is probably one of the more underrated defenders in the conference merely because of the name on the front of his jersey.

What do we know about the Jayhawk offense?

We know the offense has been turrible lately in Lawrence. If you're into the F/+ rankings, they finished the 2013 season ranked 119 in the F/+ offense category. The Jayhawks have had some offensive talent in the past and more recently, some great running backs, but just not enough talent to return to their double-digit win seasons of the late 2000s.

From all that I can see, the Jayhawks appear to want to be a balanced, but run-leaning offense. They're not going to throw it 70 times a game Tech style, but they're going to throw it more than 7 times (Purple Kansas style). They hired former Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan, and I would expect to see the same spread-to-run offense that Rice utilized last season.

But there are questions here. Can they replace James Sims at running back? Brandon Bourbon looks to be the one to take over, but can any of the talented signees play a role this season? Can Cozart lead the offense and be more than just a running QB? Can he put the ball in the air and be effective doing it? Can Harwell step back into his game after being on the sidelines for a year? What about Rodriguez Coleman? Where does Tony Pierson figure in? Will the offense finish near the bottom of all FBS schools in season total rankings?

What do we know about the Jayhawk defense?

We know the defense was much better than their offense. Their weakness last season was their defensive line. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the entire line is being reworked. The back end of their defense will continue to get better, but until they can stop people on the ground up front, their secondary won't matter too much. But given that, their defense was still decent enough that it could/should have kept them in more games. They gave up 31 points or fewer in 6 games, but their offense only scored 31 points (exactly) twice. Defense isn't what's holding the Jayhawks back, although they can certainly improve. In the 10 games the offense didn't score 31 points, it averaged just 12. The defense is going to have to be abso-freakin-lutely stellar to win games when the offense isn't averaging more than 12 points.

How will the Jayhawks affect Texas Tech?

Texas Tech catches the Jayhawks in game number seven of the season. Likely, Tech could be anywhere between 2-4 (DISASTER; THE SKY IS FALLING)  and 6-0 (much more likely than 2-4) at this point. The game will be a second consecutive home game after hosting the West Virginia Mountaineers, who will pose a much of an offensive threat, and before a road trip to Jones AT&T Stadium East (Fort Worth), where the Red Raiders will face a much more potent defense. The Jayhawks played the Red Raiders close the last time they made the journey south, culminating in a 2 OT game on a warm November afternoon.

This season, I would expect the Jayhawk offense to be improved and probably score more than the 16 points they did in the last meeting. Will it be enough to keep up with what should be a potent and in-stride Red Raider offense? Most likely not.

Much like the Mountaineers, I don't want to overlook this game. The Jayhawks are bound to be an improved squad (they can't be worse, can they?) and looking ahead to the next week's game could be dangerous. Point is, you can't overlook anybody in this conference because they could all take you down.

Where will the Jayhawks finish?

This team could be improved and not show it on the schedule (where have we heard that before). I could see them finishing anywhere between 1 and 5 wins depending on the progression of their offense and possibly catching a few upsets. I think a bowl appearance could be happen if all things fell the Jayhawks' way, but it is as likely as Texas Tech going 0-12 this season.

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