Kansas 2013 season preview

Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press
Bell-cow back James Sims gives Kansas a viable, big-play offensive threat.

In 2007, Kansas propelled itself to a 12-1 record and an Orange Bowl win. Cornerback Aqib Talib was a first-round pick the following April, just the school's second such selection dating back to 1982. Since then, it's been all downhill: A 6-36 record in Big 12 play, including an active 21-game losing streak, with only four players drafted. With former New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Charlie Weis now gambling on an influx of transfers -- the formula that has worked so well for rival Kansas State -- it seems unlikely either trend will change any time soon.

Kansas has produced numerous outstanding football players, take a look at the top former Jayhawks that are currently in the NFL.

Top senior prospects

RB James Sims: A highly productive volume runner, Sims averaged 24.2 carries per game and topped the century mark in six contests last season even as opposing defenses knew what was coming. He hasn't been featured much in the passing game, with 14 receptions each of the past two years. Sims was suspended for the first three games of 2012 following a DUI arrest.

OT Aslam Sterling: Sterling is a massive road grader who thrives in the run game. He arrived on campus at a reported 370 pounds and is now listed at 312 entering his senior season. Sterling has played right guard and tackle, and must show dramatic improvement in pass protection, but sheer physicality is intriguing.

Top underclassmen

DT Marquel Combs: Combs, regarded as one of the best junior college players in the nation, is expected to step in immediately as a starter. He possesses prototypical size and strength for an interior defensive lineman. Combs played only one year of high school football and two years at Los Angeles Pierce College, and must learn the nuances of the game.

RB Tony Pierson: Pierson shows plenty of big-play ability, with runs of 69 and 42 yards accounting for almost half of his career-best output against Texas Tech last season. Undersized, he likely projects as a third-down back or return specialist and will need to excel on special teams over the next two seasons.

Take a look at the top 10 players from Kansas to play in the NFL.

Three must-see games of 2013

Oct. 12 at TCU: In one year, Horned Frogs defensive end Devonte Fields earned both Big 12 Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year honors and asserted himself as a star in the making. How Aslam Sterling fares against Fields will go a long way toward determining if he has an NFL future.

Nov. 2 at Texas: James Sims gashed a talented, tackling-optional Longhorns defense for 176 yards on 28 carries last season, but the Jayhawks saw their bid for a shocking upset derailed on a touchdown pass with 12 seconds left in the game. Now Sims gets another chance to impress scouts and try to knock off Texas in the process.

Nov. 16 vs. West Virginia: With all kinds of running back talent on display -- James Sims, Taylor Cox and Tony Pierson for the Jayhawks; mighty mite Andrew Buie and versatile Houston transfer Charles Sims for the Mountaineers -- two head coaches known for their aerial assaults should have to go in the other direction.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.