David Beaty was hired at Kansas because the Jayhawks know they need to recruit better. From the look of the worst roster in the Big 12, Beaty has a lot of work ahead of him. And with just five starters back, his only victories this fall may come on the recruiting trail.
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Previewing Kansas’ Offense in 2015
The quarterback competition should be settled in the fall as new coach David Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens seek to find the best fit for their new Air Raid offense. The incumbent is 5'10" senior Michael Cummings, who gave KU some much-needed consistency while starting the final seven games in 2014 and shared the Jayhawks’ Offensive Player of the Year award. Cummings, however, went down with a knee injury in the spring game in late April, and his availability for the fall is in doubt. Dual-threat Montell Cozart is back, and two true freshmen also should be in the mix: late find Carter Stanley and in-state talent Ryan Willis.
The running back position should be KU’s deepest position group. Top returning rusher Corey Avery was dismissed from the team in early June, but the Jayhawks return seniors De’Andre Mann and Taylor Cox. Two newcomers — junior college transfer Ke’aun Kinner and freshman Taylor Martin — also should provide KU with additional quickness.
KU’s offensive line will be rebuilding after losing three starters. Left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith was one of the highlights of the offseason, as he added 34 pounds to get to 296 after making the full-time transition from tight end to offensive lineman.
The Jayhawks will be inexperienced at receiver, as their returners combined for just seven catches a season ago. Senior Tre’ Parmalee — son of longtime NFL running back Bernie — could provide some stability in the slot. KU also should have two reliable options at tight end in sophomore Ben Johnson and junior Kent Taylor, who was a top-ranked recruit out of high school.
Previewing Kansas’ Defense in 2015
Beaty said early in spring practices that the strength of his team was its defensive line. KU does have some talent returning, starting with Ben Goodman, who will be asked to be more of a vocal leader. Former walk-on T.J. Semke is an assignment-sound player, while Andrew Bolton also gives KU some potential at defensive tackle after an up-and-down junior season.
Linebackers coach Kevin Kane didn’t yet have the depth he was hoping for in spring practices, but he did feel confident about his top guys. However, Jake Love - one of Kansas' top contenders for All-Big 12 honors in 2015 - decided to retire in early June. Love's absence will be felt on a defense with just two returning starters. Oft-injured Schyler Miles has shown a natural awareness at middle linebacker, while Courtney Arnick has some versatility after posting 45 tackles a season ago.
The Jayhawks lost both starting cornerbacks and safeties from last season, meaning this year’s group will be a work in progress. At cornerback, KU’s most reliable player might be a newcomer, as Brandon Stewart impressed in spring practices while getting first-team reps. Juniors Fish Smithson, Bazie Bates IV and Greg Allen are the top candidates to play at safety.
Related: Athlon's 2015 College Football Rankings: No. 1 to 128
Previewing Kansas’ Specialists in 2015
The Jayhawks have major questions following the graduation of All-Big 12 punter Trevor Pardula. Two-year kicker Matthew Wyman returns, though his 9-of-15 accuracy on field goals leaves room for improvement. At punter, Eric Kahn and Andrew Yoxall will compete to start with no kicks between them.
Though Beaty hopes to start the process of rebuilding a winning football program in Lawrence, it definitely won’t be easy right away. The Jayhawks have suffered through a string of unsuccessful campaigns since an Orange Bowl victory in 2008 — KU has won a total of 12 games in its last five seasons — and this year’s roster seems as depleted as any in the last decade. Following the departure of a rash of junior college players — signed by previous coach Charlie Weis as he tried to quick-fix the program — KU’s numbers are down, and Beaty’s challenge in 2015 should be immense.