Each week, I’ll (hopefully) talk to a beat writer who covers Duke’s opponent. Today, we have Rustin Dodd, who covers Kansas football and basketball like a blanket for the Kansas City Star. You can check out Rustin’s work here, and he is also on Twitter here.
1. So Kansas jumps out to a 24-0 lead on FCS Southeast Missouri State—and hangs on for the 34-28 win. What's the takeaway for the Jayhawks? Happy for the win or highly concerned over the second-half collapse?
From the inside, Charlie Weis tried to highlight the positives. Victories have been rare in his two years — just 5-20 overall now — and KU's passing attack has been a wreck. So on that end, there were some encouraging signs. Sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart threw for three touchdowns — the first time a KU QB has done that under Weis. But from the outside, the concerns probably outweighed the good. For the third straight year under Weis, KU struggled to dominate an FCS team. So some of the preseason hope has been muted heading into Duke.
2. Charlie Weis seems pretty confident in his secondary's ability to go up against the Duke wide receivers. Is that the strongest unit on this team?
Probably. Senior cornerback Dexter McDonald has NFL potential; junior safety Isaiah Johnson was the Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year last season; and senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd and senior safety Cassius Sendish are both solid. Last season, the KU secondary was consistently good. But with little pass rush, they were often tired or exposed in the second half of games.
3. The Jayhawks have a new quarterback (Montell Cozart) and new offensive coordinator (John Reagan)--what are Cozart's strengths, and how did he look in his debut?
Cozart, a second-year sophomore, is a great athlete and has solid tools, but he's still a little young (just 19) and raw. He has great arm strength and he can move around the pocket with ease, but his accuracy (especially on deep balls) has been an issue. He played a little as a true freshman and completed just 36 percent of his passes. He can also pose some problems for defenses when KU runs the option -- which they did during the opener -- but it seems like Cozart is still trying to find a comfort zone as a runner.
4. Where are the weak spots on this team?
The offensive line is a patchwork of former juco transfers and serviceable guys that have been in the program for a long time. The defense line rarely puts too much pressure on the quarterback. So, yeah, KU is not going to win many battles up front — especially in the Big 12. The receiving corps has been among the nation's worst the last couple years, but things actually look a little better on that front; senior transfer Nick Harwell can make plays and senior receiver Tony Pierson is one of the fastest players in the Big 12.
5. Duke football fans are painfully familiar with the concept of a massive rebuild. How is that coming along at Kansas, and what are realistic expectations for year three of the Weis regime?
Kansas fans, for the most part, are incredibly reasonable when it comes to football. This is a place like Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky — fans are devoted to basketball 12 months a year, and they'd just like a respectable football program that can boost athletic department revenues, compete on a weekly basis and perhaps have a chance to go to a bowl game every other year or so. In other words, 6-6 is not a disaster at KU, especially right now. But the last four years have been among the worst in school history. KU has lost 24 straight road games and is 1-26 in the Big 12 over the last three years. After winning three games last season, KU fans are a little antsy for a more substantial breakthrough. So this is definitely an important year for Weis to build some momentum and show clear signs of process. A road victory at Duke, for example, would be the best win of Weis' tenure thus far.
Thanks to Rustin for his time.