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TCU Football Opponent Preview: Kansas

Last year's Kansas game was a little rocky, so how worried should we be about the Jayhawks in 2016?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Let's face it, we were all pretty confident going into last year's game against Kansas.  We had home field advantage, Trevone Boykin, and a brand new Jayhawks team that hadn't won a game all season.  We had lost to Oklahoma State the week before, and Josh Docston was injured,  but we were still totally confident.  This was really just a rest game for us, right?  I was at this game with my dad--my first one with him since I was a student more than (cough) 10 years (cough) ago.  It was also the first game with my little girl, so the day was starting out great and we were feeling all the feels.  Jayhawks fans were tailgating in the parking lot, and they were nice as could be.  We talked about how adorable it was that the Jayhawks would have some diehard fans to cheer them on, and off we went to find our seats.

Then it happened.

On his second play of the game, Boykin rolled his ankle.  I remember watching him get up and limping.  My dad said, "Boykin is hurt."  I literally watched him continue limping and said, "No, he's not.  He's fine.  He's Boykin."  Total denial, I know.

And that's when the game got scary. Bram Kohlhausen went 13/19 for 112 yards, and Foster Sawyer played clean up crew to help the Frogs squeak out a win.  It was still a great game, but it wasn't nearly the easy game we all thought it would be.

Offense: Tons of Talent (If they can stay healthy)

Going into the 2015 season, none of Kansas' players had actually scored a touchdown for the team.  Touchdowns in previous seasons had all been scored by players who had either graduated, transferred, been injured, etc.  Kansas also tends to have the lowest number of touchdowns scored each season (22 in 2015).  That being said, they gained tons of experience last year, and they return this year with 6 players who rushed or received for touchdowns in 2015.

Everyone in Kansas seems to have their own opinion as to who will be the biggest star on offense this year.  Probably the most talked-about player on the roster is A&M transfer LaQuvionte Gonzalez.  The Junior Wide Receiver got some attention after the Spring Game, where he had 6 receptions for 116 yards.

Ke'aun Kinner was responsible for 5 rushing touchdowns last season.  The Senior Running Back from Little Elm, TX was a JUCO transfer and finished 2015 with 564 yards and 5 touchdowns on 133 attempts.  He had recently returned from injury when the Jayhawks came to town last year, and he managed 80 yards on 17 carries.  He finished the season 11th in the Big 12.

And of course, there are 2 returning QBs this season:

Montell Cozart has been inconsistent at best and is coming off shoulder surgery last season.  But he was in town for Media Days this month, and Head Coach David Beaty described him as "phenomenal" during the offseason.  He finished last season 66 of 105 for 752 yards and 2 touchdowns.  He also rushed 45 times for 113 yards and an additional touchdown.  But he also struggled during the Spring Game, which of obviously the recent thing we have to judge him by.  That being said, Beaty also claims his QB depth chart isn't official yet, with Ryan Willis returning this year as well.  Willis is returning from a spring wrist injury and had yet to actually take a snap prior to Big 12 Media Days.  He finished last season 164 of 315 for 1,719 yards and 9 touchdowns as a freshman.  His rushing, though, leaves much to be desired.  He had 59 rush attempts for -79 yards on the season.  Yuck. If I was a Kansas fan, I'd be Team Cozart.  Just sayin'.  (Thank the high heavens I'm not a Kansas fan)

Defense and Special Teams: The One-Man Show of Fish Smithson

Let's face it: If you want your kid to grow up knowing how to hit people, calling him Fish is a start.  Not that I'm trying to bring the guy down (his real name is Anthony, btw), but I'm sure Safety Fish Smithson has heard every fish joke possible and has no desire to see Finding Dory anytime soon.  Generally, your safety should not lead your team (or the nation, for that matter) in solo tackles for the season.  But Kansas should be thankful Smithson was there to save the day, when their inexperienced defense let the line fall apart.  He totaled 111 tackles for the season, with 87 solo and 24 assisted.  He also had 2 interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.  He actually had an interception and 22 yard return against us last year.  The Jayhawks are hoping that returning Linebackers Joe Dineen and Marcquis Roberts will be more confident this year and can take some of the burden from Smithson, but Smithson seems like the kind of guy who doesn't mind the extra work.  He makes it look pretty easy, actually.

Rematch: Putting the Pieces Together

TCU is in Kansas for this game on October 8, but we should win it.  That being said, it could easily be a battle reminiscent of 2015, if the Jayhawks can pull it all together by then.  They should have more confidence on the field this year.  They should have two healthy quarterbacks ready to fight for the right to start each game.  They should have a better, stronger defensive line.  And they should heave key talent on both sides of the ball.  Since they face us so early in the season, I don't think that they'll have all of the kinks worked out yet to be able to beat us.  They also seem to be a stronger first-half team, so I'll be curious to see if they can keep the fire going long enough to pull an upset or two this season.  But after last year, you definitely won't find me underestimating a Jayhawk.