There’s no doubt this Kansas football roster has some major talent. If I’m Les Miles, I’m excited to work with it and even optimistic some good things could happen.
Having said that, there are five players I think could really have some big time breakout years and potentially lead this team to the best record they’ve had in nearly a decade.
- Daylon Charlot – This Kansas team lost their top three WR’s in Steven Sims Jr., Kerr Johnson Jr. and Jeremiah Booker. Each player amassed at least 30 catches and over 300 yards. It doesn’t sound like a lot but for a Kansas team that struggled on offense it was solid. One piece missing from that receiving core was Daylon Charlot, who once played for powerhouse Alabama. He transferred after his freshman year and came in with the highest of expectations. He’s fast and has some incredible hands. But if Charlot wants to have a breakout year he’ll need to perfect his route running. I think he’ll do just that and take advantage of being the number one guy this year. He’s in a great position to do it with a new coaching staff, tons of experience and a chip on his shoulder to prove his worth. The QB play will be the only thing that could hold him back, but even then I see him being the number one guy. My prediction is he ends up with over 50 catches, 600 yards receiving and at least five touchdowns.
- Kyron Johnson – The linebacker core will most certainly look different this year for Kansas. They lost their two top performers in Joe Dineen (142 total tackles) and Keith Loneker Jr. (68 total tackles). This won’t be easy to makeup as these guys were top three in tackles on the team. But if anyone is going to pick up that slack I can easily see it being Kyron Johnson. He was just a sophomore last year and ended with 18 total tackles, four of those for loss, and added two sacks and two forced fumbles. He didn’t quite play LB last year as he mostly lined up at the hybrid HAWK position, meaning he was in more on blitz packages and almost played as a DE. But this year he’s moved to inside linebacker and has added some major bulk to better suit it. I’m confident Johnson will lead the team in tackles and be the top and most efficient ILB on the roster. My prediction is he ends up with at least 80 tackles and doubles his sack total from two to four.
- Cody Cole – Who would have guessed it? A player from another position group who lost most of its production. The Kansas defensive line took some major blows as they lost Daniel Wise, KeyShaun Simmons, Isi Holani and J.J. Holmes. But they also return some solid talent that will have a chance to step up and fill that void. One of those guys is Cody Cole, a JUCO transfer and senior this year. Last year he ended up with eight total tackles, half of those for loss, and added a sack. That’s not bad considering the depth at that position. But this year will be a different story. Cole will have the chance to not only start but be the premiere guy on a completely restructured defensive line. He has the size, speed, tenacity and football IQ to make it happen. My prediction is he ends up with at least 30 tackles and 5 sacks.
- Kwamie Lassiter II – Being that Kansas lost nearly all its production at WR, I had to add another player from that group. And this player could end up having the biggest breakout of all of them. Kwamie Lassiter II is son of former Kansas football DB star, Kwamie Lassiter. Unfortunately the star DB passed away in January this year. I’ve been lucky enough to still have both of my parents at the age of 34, so I can’t even imagine how that feels, but Lassiter II seems focused and prepared for the season ahead of him. He brings incredible speed and talent to the table and will be playing with a new found energy. With Kansas having a new coaching staff and the loss of his father, there’s no reason why he won’t step up and have the best year of his career at Kansas. The coaches also continue to rave about him and I’m confident that will reflect onto the field. My prediction is Lassiter II will have at least 30 catches, 300 yards receiving and five touchdowns. I also believe he’ll play an integral part to the special teams and have at least one touchdown return.
- Kyle Mayberry – The second best position core on this Kansas team is the defensive backs. They return some big time contributors and a lot of experience. And most of those starting positions are in place. But one guy who I think can really show out this year and have a breakout season is redshirt Junior, Kyle Mayberry. This guy has the talent and football IQ to be a big time cornerback for this defense. It just hasn’t quite clicked yet and he’s also battled some injuries. If he can stay healthy and take full advantage of his time on the field, I believe he can make a huge difference and have a big time year. I predict Mayberry will have at least 15 total tackles, a few pass deflections and even an interception.
There you have it, five guys that can really have a breakout season this year. I’m not saying all of them will have breakout years, but I think at least a few will come through.
Either way, I look forward to this first year under Les Miles. I believe it’s the turning point in Kansas football and if all of these guys can have breakout years, watch out. Big things could happen!