The Jayhawks rank No. 89 in Athlon’s Top 130 for 2017
Kansas has won a total of two games over the last two seasons but are things starting to look up for the Jayhawks under head coach David Beaty? His bosses seem to think so based on the contract extension he received and Kansas did snap its 19-game Big 12 losing streak with a overtime victory over Texas at home last November. Beaty has definitely improved the roster as the Jayhawks have some talent on both sides of the ball, but they still lag behind the rest of the conference. Bowl eligibility is probably not realistic but KU should take another step forward this fall.
Previewing Kansas Football’s Offense for 2017
Like the previous two seasons under coach David Beaty, Kansas will head into fall practices with the quarterback position unsettled. Incumbent Carter Stanley, a sophomore, started KU’s final three games in 2016, showing poise and quick decision-making. Junior college transfer Peyton Bender, meanwhile, has drawn positive reviews from Beaty for his quick release and strong arm.
Though the Jayhawks lost dependable running back Ke’aun Kinner to graduation, they still have some high-upside players with speed. That includes Khalil Herbert, who had his true freshman season sidetracked by a foot injury. Sophomore Taylor Martin, known for his straight-line quickness, also returns after ranking second on the team with 91 carries. Two newcomers also could see early playing time: Rivals’ top-ranked junior college running back Octavius Matthews and three-star high-school recruit Dom Williams.
KU had a receiver resurgence in 2016, as two players eclipsed the 600-yard mark after no Jayhawk had done that in the previous six seasons. Both return for 2017. Steven Sims Jr. (859 yards) had the biggest breakout, leading the Jayhawks in receiving while also pulling down a team-best seven touchdowns. Texas A&M transfer LaQuvionte Gonzalez (729 yards) also put up solid numbers, though some of his production was marred by a season-long issue with fumbles.
Four linemen who started at least six games return. The group is led by left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, who was named All-Big 12 honorable mention by the coaches after playing undersized as a true freshman last season.
Previewing Kansas Football’s Defense for 2017
Beaty expects much of the defensive leadership to come from his front four, and it’s not difficult to see why. Junior Dorance Armstrong Jr. returns following a 10-sack season, as does Daniel Wise, who was a first-team All-Big 12 selection by Pro Football Focus.
KU will get an immediate boost at linebacker with the return of Joe Dineen Jr., a Lawrence native and team captain whose season was cut short in 2016 because of a hamstring injury. Beaty has previously referred to Dineen as the “heart of the defense.”
Beaty’s biggest concern is the secondary, as the team lost four starters to graduation with few players returning who have Big 12 experience. Mike Lee is the exception, as the hard-hitting safety earned Freshman All-America honors after notching 77 tackles. Junior college transfer Hasan Defense should step into one starting cornerback spot, while sophomores Kyle Mayberry (cornerback) and Bryce Torneden (safety) are likely to have expanded roles.
Previewing Kansas Football’s Specialists for 2017
KU received an unexpected lift last season from Cole Moos, who averaged 41 yards per punt. He’ll return for his senior season, while Beaty gave a scholarship to incoming freshman Liam Jones with hopes that he could start at kicker the next four seasons. The Jayhawks desperately need improvement on punt returns, finishing last season with negative-10 return yards and four fumbles lost.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger understands that his offseason contract extension and raise for Beaty — 2–22 in his first two seasons — will look questionable to some. Beaty’s pay raise — he went from $800,000 annually to $1.6 million in 2017, with a $100,000 bump each season — is further proof, however, that Zenger sees progress outside the team’s wins and losses. Beaty has improved the team’s roster numbers after a scholarship crunch his first season and also built up some positive recruiting vibes. In 2016, bowl eligibility is unlikely given that the rebuild is still in its early stages, but improving on a two-win season should be an expectation, especially after Zenger gave Beaty the offseason vote of confidence.