Kansas football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Jayhawks, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Kansas Offense
It’s sort of a problem if you can’t score in a Big 12 full of some of the nation’s best offenses. Kansas failed to crank out more than 20 points in any of the last ten games and averaged just 332 yards per game. But it’s a work in progress.
Ryan Willis got his feet wet as a freshman and showed promise that he’s the quarterback to build around, but he needs help and needs more talent around him. There are other options, but Willis looks the part.
The receiving corps should be a positive with a little more time, needing to come up with a few gamebreakers and a true No. 1 target to rely on every week. There’s a good tight end in Ben Johnson to work around, and a few newcomers should add some pizzazz, but as a group they need to help out the quarterback and the rest of the offense – they have to help the O keep up the pace, because the ground attack won’t.
Ke’aun Kinner is a decent runner who could produce with a little room to move, but he’s not the type who can carry an offense all by himself behind a line that’s going to need the rest of the offseason to figure it all out. This was a young, ragged group of blockers last season that couldn’t generate much of a push, but it’s a deeper overall line now, even if the starting five isn’t totally settled.
Biggest Key To The Kansas Offense
The running game can’t be miserable. It needs to come up with one thing it can do well. The problem on a weekly basis was that nothing worked. There wasn’t a ground game, there wasn’t a high-powered passing attack, there wasn’t anything to rely on. Part of it depends on who’s at quarterback. Ryan Willis isn’t a runner, but Montell Cozart could see time here and there to add something different. Last year, the Jayhawks ran for seven touchdowns and 543 yards in the first three games, and then Big 12 play started and the O ran for just three touchdowns and 812 yards in the last nine games.
What You Need To Know About The Kansas Defense
It was the worst in college football, allowing 561 yards and 46 points per game giving up 40 points or more eight times. It’s still a work in progress, but there’s nowhere to go but up, starting on the line that got shoved around way too easily and didn’t generate enough of a pass rush to make a difference. There’s a little bit of depth now to come up with a little more production by keeping everyone fresh. But this isn’t going to be the Alabama defensive interior overnight.
The disaster of a secondary should be a little better with a stronger pass rush. Fish Smithson is an excellent safety with the hitting ability to be the leader to start with, but the corners have to make more big plays. On the plus side, this is the most experienced overall area on D, and it should be a positive if the front seven – or six – can do its job.
The 1-2 linebacking combination of Marcquis Roberts and Joe Dineen makes this the strongest part of the defense, but they’re not superstars – they’re productive, but not next-level difference makers. There’s enough depth to play around with the alignment and help out a bit more against the better ground games.
Biggest Key To The Kansas Defense
Stop the run on the early downs to give the secondary a chance on third downs. Opponents were able to convert 45% of their third down chances, and 69% of the fourth down tries, and why? The Kansas defense wasn’t any good, but also, there were too many manageable chances. The run defense got gouged, giving up 200 yards or more to everyone but South Dakota State, and was hit for three rushing scores or more eight times. Kansas gave up almost 700 more rushing yards than it did in 2014 – that can’t happen again.
Kansas Will Be Far Better If …
It could come up with a few first downs. The defense that couldn’t stop anyone gave up first down after first down, allowing 342 on the year with 20 or more in every game. By comparison, West Virginia led the Big 12 allowing 19.8 first downs per game. Texas was worse at coming up with first downs with just 202 on the season, but Kansas wasn’t much better averaging just 17.7 per game, and it just couldn’t get things moving after the first two games. How bad did things get? Kansas generated 52 first downs in the first two games, and just 160 over the final ten.
Best Kansas Offensive Player
QB Ryan Willis, Soph. – At least this is the hope. RB Ke’aun Kinner should be the one who helps carry the load, and there are just enough rising talents at receiver to hope one of them can become a true Big 12 start, but Willis has to be it. If the Kansas offense is ever going to start working, the quarterback play has to be stellar at times. Willis will still have to beat out Montell Cozart, but that’s not expected to be a problem. He has the size, and he has just enough experience to hope for a bigger sophomore season. Again, though, this is based on hope.
Best Kansas Defensive Player
S Fish Smithson, Sr. – The Big 12’s top tackler had to make way too many plays. It wasn’t a positive that the front six was so porous that the secondary had to do just about everything against the decent running teams, but Smithson did his part making 111 tackles and seemingly getting in on everything. The linebacking combination of Marcquis Roberts and Joe Dineen will be in the hunt for the honor or being the team’s top defensive player, but it’ll be Smithson who’ll be the sure All-Big 12 performer.
Key Player To A Successful Season
DT Daniel Wise, Soph. – Obviously, any improvement in the run defense starts up front with the front four needing to be able to do something. Anything. Since Wise if the best player on the line, he’s got to be the main man who grows into more of an anchor. Dorance Armstrong is a promising end, and Jacky Dezir is a veteran interior presence, but it’s Wise who has star potential. The bar isn’t set that high – don’t allow 267 yards per game again. Wise is just one good puzzle piece, but he’s a start.
The Kansas Season Will Be A Success If …
It’s a four-win season. 2009 was the last time the Jayhawks won more than three games, and it’s been 15 games since they’ve enjoyed a victory, so just coming up with a few wins will be a step forward. Playing Rhode Island in the opener should stop the losing streak, but if there’s a decent improvement in the David Beaty era, there needs to be a home win over Ohio, a win in Lawrence against Iowa State, and another upset somewhere along the way. Four wins might seem like a lofty goal considering how bad things got last season, but there’s enough experience to come close.
Sept. 29 at Texas Tech – Kansas came up with one of its better performances last year in the 30-20 loss to the Red Raiders. The offense isn’t there to keep up any sort of pace against an improved Texas Tech, but the secondary might be able to hold its own for a little while. It’s the Big 12 opener and a measuring stick after a relatively manageable non-conference schedule. The Jayhawks will need to come up with something special to get the win, but this is where they’ll see just how close they are to being okay – and then comes TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma to make things ugly again.
2015 Kansas Fun Stats
– First Quarter Scoring: Opponents 182 – Kansas 41
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 9-of-13 (69%) – Kansas 7-of-26 (27%)
– Total Offense: Opponents 6,730 yards – Kansas 3,978 yards
2016 Kansas Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Kansas this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …