After a 0-12 debut season, Head Coach David Beaty (3-33 record) showed promise in year two winning two games including an upset over Texas. Last year, however, the Jayhawks were woefully bad on both sides of the ball losing conference games by an average score of 46-14 en route to a 1-11 season that has Beaty on the hot seat. Adding more pressure is the man that hired him, Sheahon Zenger, is no longer in charge.
Offensive Coordinator Doug Meachum’s decision to leave TCU was a head-scratcher, to say the least especially after being linked to the North Texas head coaching job late in the season. The offense he put on the field really cemented that feeling. The Jayhawks offensive stats read like this:
- Points: 18.7 points per game: 120th in the country.
- Rushing: 102.6 yards per game: 125th in the country.
- Passing- 226.4 yards per game: 68th in the country.
- Total- 329 yards per game: 118th in the country.
A far cry from the numbers his offenses put up at TCU. The Jayhawks have finished last in the conference in scoring the last eight seasons averaging less than 23 ppg. Even the “strength” of the offense the passing attack produced 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Coaches hope that junior college transfer Miles Kendrick is the answer after last years junior college transfer, Payton Bender, flopped.
Khalil Herbert’s 291 yard game, third highest single-game rushing total in the country last season, give the Jayhawks hope that he can improve the run game. He has to stay healthy to do so. However, there is talent behind him in a pair of former four stars. Like Herbert, sophomore Dom Williams was also hampered by injuries limiting him to just 51 carries. Incoming freshman Pooka Williams, the 272nd player in the country, turned down home state LSU to sign with the Jayhawks. He should also see carries as well.
Along with Herbert, Steven Sims Jr. was the other bright spot for the offense. The senior receiver hauled in 59 receptions for 839 yards and six touchdowns, the most of any non-quarterback. He needs help as the second-leading receiver, tight-end Ben Johnson and his 363 yards and one touchdown depart. Look for Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot to start along with senior Jeremiah Booker who is coming off an injury-plagued season.
It won’t matter who is out wide or in the backfield if the line doesn’t improve. Center Mesa Ribordy retired from football due to injuries must be replaced. The offense failed to score a single point in the two games he missed. Two part-time starters also depart leaving tackle Hakeem Adeniji, one of the better linemen in the conference, as the strength of the line. The line has to improve quickly if the Jayhawks plan to fix their offensive woes.
Clint Bowen is a solid defensive coordinator even if the stats don’t prove it. Due to an inept offense the Jayhawks, short on depth, size, and overall talent, were on the field entirely too much leading to numbers like these:
- Scoring: 43.4 points per game: 129th in the country.
- Rushing: 171.6 yards per game: 73rd in the country.
- Passing: 296.8 yards per game: 126th in the country.
- Total: 468.3 yards per game: 118th in the country.
However, it was the defense that kept them in games early before getting worn down. Bowen’s first order of business is replacing defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. who is now a Dallas Cowboy. The line is focused around senior Daniel Wise who decided to come back for his senior season. He earned first-team all-conference after notching seven sacks despite facing double teams. He might face triple teams if he doesn’t receive some help. Junior college transfers Najee Stevens-McKenzie and Foster Dixson are penciled in at ends. Coaches are counting on another junior college transfer, Codey Cole, to help Wise on the inside with 330-pounders J.J. Holmes and Isa Holani providing depth.
Senior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. is the heart and should of the defense. He earned some All-American recognition after leading the nation in solo tackles a game with 7.6. He led in with 137 total tackles including 25 for loss, a school record. True freshman Kenney Bastida, a top-100 inside linebacker, battles Osaze Ogbebor for the other linebacker spot. Dineen’s brother Jay and senior Keith Lookner Jr. provide depth.
Junior college transfers are expected to lend immediate help in a secondary that allowed a 69.4 percent completion rate, second-most in the country. Jeremiah McCullough and Davon Ferguson are fighting for a starting safety spot opposite junior Mike Lee, a freshman All-American coming off a rough season. He finished second in tackles with 70 but got beat too often in coverage. Shakial Taylor has to fight off freshman Corione Harris, a four-star prospect and the highest rated recruit in school history, for the starting corner opposite the aptly named Hasan Defense. Bryce Torneden is likely to reclaim his spot at nickel.
Sixth-year senior kicker Gabriel Rui returns after hitting 17-of-20 field goals last year. Kyle Thompson takes over at punter.
The key for the Jayhawks this season is to gain early momentum. They have a chance to do so as they open up against Nicholls State followed by a road trip to Central Michigan that will decide a lot about this team. Having lost to both Central Michigan and Ohio last year it is crucial they win this game against a MAC team. It would also end an FBS record 46 game road losing streak dating back to 2009 when they beat UTEP. A loss might cause a slide that may cost Beaty his job.