Preview 2017: Kansas Jayhawks
Previewing and looking ahead at the Kansas season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Kansas Offense
There’s hope to get this thing going, Kansas fans.
Being brought in to try bailing out an offense that finished 106th in the nation in total yards and 120th in scoring, new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham is in after spending the last few years helping to crank up the TCU offense that went to a whole other level after his hire. Now he needs the players to make it all go.
First things first, a No. 1 quarterback has to emerge. JUCO transfer Peyton Bender is battling with late-season starter Carter Stanley, but no matter who it is, he has to settle a situation that’s been a sore spot throughout the David Beaty era.
Fortunately, the receivers are in place to make the whole Air Raid thing go, with Steven Sims one of the Big 12’s most productive targets, LaQuvionte Gonzalez a solid No. 2, and Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot expected to add more pop.
There’s hope for the running game, too, with Khalil Herbert a dangerous-looking speedster with the potential to hit the occasional home run. Now it’s up to the line to do its part after a rocky season in all phases. Hakeem Adeniji is a good tackle to start with, but the front five has to be more physical overall.
Biggest Key To The Kansas Offense
Stop … turning .. the ball … over. There’s reason to get excited about a passing game with a receiving corps this potentially good and with Meacham running the show as the OC, but none of the strides about to be taken will matter a lick if the O keeps giving the ball away.
The three quarterbacks who saw time last season combined to throw 22 picks – with at least one in every game – while everyone had fumbling issues, giving away 14. How bad were the turnovers? Kansas gave away two or more in every game. Going back to 2015, Kansas has turned the ball over twice or more in 19 of their last 20 games.
What You Need To Know About The Kansas Defense
It needs more playmakers, more takeaways, and more production overall. There might be some good pieces, but there aren’t enough of them. However, there were some bright spots to build around.
The Jayhawks were great on third downs and solid enough against the pass – obviously a plus in the Big 12 – but that was mostly because everyone spent so much time running on the squishy-soft Jayhawk defensive front.
The stars are up front, with Dorance Armstrong one of the nation’s best pass rushers. He’s a tweeter who can stop the run, but he’s at his best when he flies into the backfield. With him on the outside and Daniel Wise in the interior, the Jayhawks have two All-Big 12 talents to start with.
Mike Lee is a strong do-it-all safety, and JUCO transfer Hasan Defense is a great-looking corner. As long as Armstrong and the pass rush keep things rolling, the secondary should improve. The return of Joe Dineen from a leg injury that cost him almost all of last year helps out a linebacking corps in need of more pop.
Biggest Key To The Kansas Defense
Run D, Run D, Run D. The Jayhawks could never seem to get control of games because they couldn’t stop teams from running whenever they wanted to – except for one key late play against Texas. Texas Tech didn’t need to run the ball in the 55-19 win, and TCU stumbled and bumbled, but those were the two aberrations against FBS teams.
Kansas allowed 200 rushing yards or more in nine of the 11 games against FBS squads and in 20 of its last 22 games against them over the last two years. That’s not good.
Kansas Will Be Far Better If …
The return game provides a wee bit of help. Of course, the offense has to convert a third down. Of course, the defense has to come up with more meaningful stops against the run. Of course, there has to be more pop and explosion to the passing game, fewer turnovers, and better play overall, but the return game needs to do something to help the cause.
The Jayhawks need better field position, and that’s been a problem. They were dead last in the nation in punt returns – averaging -1.43 yards per try – and averaged under 19 yards per kickoff return.
Best Kansas Offensive Player
WR Steven Sims, Jr. – The brightest spot in the offense, the 5-10, 176-pounder caught 72 passes for 859 yards and seven scores, lighting up West Virginia and TCU for over 100 yards, and hitting the mark four times on the season. Steady, he can and will be a No. 1 target even in a deep corps with more options now. He’s not going to beat up anyone for the ball, but he makes himself open.
2. OT Hakeem Adeniji, Soph.
3. WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Sr.
4. WR Daylon Charlot, Soph.
5. RB Khali Herbert, Soph.
Best Kansas Defensive Player
DE Dorance Armstrong, Jr. – The star of the defense by far, the 6-4, 246-pound hybrid end should be among the Big 12’s best pass rushers after a breakout sophomore run. While he can be erased a bit against the run, he’s great at getting behind the line, coming up with 56 tackles with ten sacks and 20 tackles for loss, generating steady production throughout the year and showing up huge in the win over Texas. The key, now, is to get more help around him.
2. S Mike Lee, Soph.
3. DT Daniel Wise, Jr.
4. LB Joe Dineen, Jr.
5. CB Hasan Defense, Soph.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Peyton Bender, Jr. Or sophomore Carter Stanley. Kansas has to finally find one quarterback it can stick with and count on for a full season. Three quarterbacks got real work – not just mop-up duty – last season, three were part of the mix in 2015, too, and nothing was ever settled in 2014. Whether it’s Bender or Stanley, one has to take the gig by the horns.
Bender might not be all that big, but the JUCO transfer has a big arm and can push the ball down the field without a problem. He might be the big-play element for the passing game, while Stanley has three games of starting experience and can run a little bit. It doesn’t matter which one is The Guy – but one of them has to rise up and become it.
The Kansas Season Will Be A Success If …
It wins five games. Going to a bowl would be a big, big jump after winning just two games and struggling so much, but if there’s finally going to be any sort of improvement, there has to be a 3-0 start and there have to be at least two wins in Big 12 play. Do that, and all of a sudden, it’ll look like the Jayhawks are going in the right direction.
Key Game To The Kansas Season
Sept. 16 at Ohio – Kansas needs to win a few Big 12 games along the way, but for once, it has to get out to a hot start. 2009 was the last time the Jayhawks won more than three games, and it was the last time they started 3-0. They have to beat SE Missouri State, they have to beat Central Michigan at home, and they have to come up with a road win over a MAC team. Ohio might be good, but enough is enough. If you can’t win this game, Kansas, it’s uh-oh time. Again.
2016 Kansas Fun Stats
– Turnovers: Kansas 36 – Opponents 22
– Punt Return Average: Opponents 9.3 yards – Kansas -1.4 yards
– 1st Half Scoring: Opponents 264 – Kansas 103