Preseason Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

1. At a Glance:

  • Team: Kansas Jayhawks
  • Game Number: 5th Game on October 7th
  • 2016 Record: 2-10 (1-8)
  • Head Coach: David Beatty (2)
  • Offensive Coordinator: Doug Meacham (1)
  • Defensive Coordinator: Clint Bowen (3)
  • Starters Returning: 12 (7 on offense; 5 on defense)
  • S&P+ Offense Rank: 108th
  • S&P+ Defense Rank: 82nd

2. The 2016 Season:

The 2016 season can be maybe looked at progress for the Jayhawks in some fashion. Kansas won their first game of the year against Rhode Island, in dominating fashion, 55-6, and then proceded to lose their next 9 games in a row. The closest games in that 9 game stretch was TCU of all things, where they lost at home 23-24 and also a loss to Iowa State by 7 points, both games at home. They were blown out in most games, including losing to Texas Tech 19-55, Okahoma 3-56 and Baylor 7-49. And then, something magical happened, Kansas beat Texas in football, 24-21 and this probably propelled Texas to fire Charlie Strong and hire Tom Herman. That game though propelled Kansas to have internet bragging rights for forever. Kansas had not won a conference game since beating Iowa State 34-14 in 2014. That was 21 straight Big 12 losses.

3. Key Players:

Player: Dorance Armstrong
Ht/Wt: 6-4/246
Position: Defensive End

Armstrong is a one-man wrecking show, gathering 56 tackles which includes 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last year. And to think about how Armstrong doesn’t really have a ton of help. When Armstrong chose Kansas coming out of high school, he was choosing between Kansas and Texas Tech and I can’t even imagine this type of pass rushing defensive end on the team right now. He is slippery and he gets past most tackles because he’s just so danged fast. A terrific player for the Jayhawks.

Player: Steven Sims, Jr.
Ht/Wt: 5-10/176
Position: Wide Receiver

Sims caught 72 passes for 859 yards and 7 touchdowns, averaging nearly 12 yards per catch and 6 catches a game. Very consistent and that’s such a huge component of being great. Sims only had 2 games where he didn’t have at least 4 catches, Memphis and Baylor, other than that, Sims caught at least 4 passes ever game and had 9 catches in 4 games. That’s what you want from what is likely your best offensive player.

Player: Daniel Wise
Ht/Wt: 6-3/290
Position: Defensive Tackle

From the defensive tackle position, Wise is very good and is helping Kansas get that 82nd ranked defense via S&P+, which I’d take in a heartbeat. Wise had 38 tackles, including 10 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks from the line and that’s one more stat line that I’m enviable. The combination of Wise and Armstrong really does force teams to make a decision because they can both dominate the line of scrimmage. And they were both just sophomores last year, so they have most likely 2 years remaining.

4. Reasons for Optimism and Despair:

The thing that I’m not sure how it will work out for Kansas is the quarterback spot, but it appears that the Jayhawks are choosing between Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender, a JUCO transfer from Itawamba CC. Stanley came on late in the year at quarterback, playing in 9 games last year, completing 60% of his passes for 959 yards, 6 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Stanley only had a rating of 106, which was the worst on the team, but he was the quarterback that led the Jayhawks to that big win against UT. Bender was originally with Washington State and ended up transferring to Itawamba where he completed 65% of his passes for 2,733 yards, throwing for 21 touchdowns and 4 picks. With Meacham on board, Meacham gets to be “the guy” and I’d expect the offense to improve slightly. That really was a good hire and Meachum is probably looking to gain that up and coming assistant tag that he had when he was at TCU, but lost after a year of Kenny Hill at the helm. In addition to Sims, LaQuivionte Gonzalezz also returns and he caught 62 passes for 729 yards.

I think the biggest thing the Jayhawks have to figure out on offense is who plays running back, maybe choosing between Khalil Herbert or Taylor Martin or maybe even JUCO transfer Octavius Matthews, also from Itawamba CC.

The biggest reason for upside is the defense, which really is terrific and they did lose quite a bit in the defensive backfield (both cornerbacks and safety) as well as two of three linebackers, the core is returning Armstrong, Wise and DeeIsaac Davis on the line. You can do a lot when you have good line play. Still though, replacing 6 starters will be tough, especially when guys like Fish Smithson, Tevin Armstrong and Courtney Arnick are gone, who were big parts of the defense.

5. Thoughts on 2017 Game:

When Texas Tech plays in Lawrence, it’s way too close for comfort. Texas Tech blows out Kansas at home last year, but in 2015, Texas Tech wins 30-20. That’s only a two-year stretch and that doesn’t at all make any sort of trend, but Kansas is tougher at home and plays teams much closer if they don’t have a real-deal quarterback, see Texas, TCU and Iowa State. Texas Tech probably doesn’t know what we’ll have with Shimonek, but with Armstrong breathing down his neck from the left and Wise coming up the middle, that might be tough for whoever is calling the shots. I still think Texas Tech is better here, but the daysof taking things for granted are nearly all but done.

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