Kansas Jayhawks 2016 Preview and Prediction
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#99 Kansas Jayhawks
Big 12 PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: David Beaty, 0-12 (1 year) | OFF. COORDINATOR: David Beaty | DEF. COORDINATOR: Clint Bowen, Kenny Perry
When David Beaty took the head coaching job at Kansas, he knew the road ahead would not be easy. That belief became reality last season, as the Jayhawks went 0-12, including a loss to FCS member South Dakota State. The Jayhawks return 12 starters and Beaty now has a year of experience under his belt. But make no mistake, Kansas is a long ways away from bowl contention. Right now the Jayhawks' primary goal is to get that first win for their head coach.
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Previewing Kansas’ Offense in 2016
After losing its top three quarterbacks to season-ending injuries last season, KU had more bad luck in spring practices, as incumbent Ryan Willis was a limited participant after suffering a right wrist injury in early March. He still is the favorite to win the job after starting the last eight games as a true freshman, completing 52 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Running back Ke’aun Kinner returns as one of KU’s most proven offensive players, and he hopes that his production will improve in 2016 after he played through a torn labrum and deep thigh contusion in the second half. Kinner, who was the National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, rushed for more than 110 yards in each of his first two games at KU before suffering his leg injury Oct. 3 against Iowa State, though he still played in every contest.
LaQuvionte Gonzalez should highlight KU’s receiving corps after sitting out following a transfer from Texas A&M, and he provides an element of speed and playmaking ability that was absent a season ago. Steven Sims and Jeremiah Booker also have taken steps forward after being thrust into major roles during their true freshman seasons in 2015.
KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser believes his players are better and more confident than they were a season ago, but that doesn’t change the reality that the unit is still young and needs to improve. Yenser does have some veterans upon whom he can rely, starting with senior left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith, senior guard D’Andre Banks and junior center Joe Gibson.
Previewing Kansas’ Defense in 2016
Safety Fish Smithson is the team’s top returner defensively, as he led the nation in solo tackles per game (7.9) in 2015. Brandon Stewart returns as the top corner, though he battled injuries much of 2015.
KU’s top linemen are all sophomores, led by pass-rush specialist Dorance Armstrong, who had 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups as a true freshman in 2015. Tackles Daniel Wise and D.J. Williams also are part of a young core that was able to get early experience.
KU has some stability at its starting linebacker spots, beginning with Lawrence native Joe Dineen, who finished second on the team in tackles (86) and tackles for a loss (6.5). South Carolina transfer Marcquis Roberts returns for his senior season after ranking third in tackles last year.
Previewing Kansas’ Specialists in 2016
After vowing that his team would overemphasize special teams, KU coach David Beaty saw the Jayhawks regress last season, moving from 121st in FootballOutsiders.com’s rankings to 127th (out of 128 teams). New special teams coach Joe DeForest has put an emphasis on his guys playing faster with freer minds, though he admits that this year could be a challenge based on personnel. Senior kicker Matthew Wyman returns, and though he has a strong leg, he’s been inconsistent with accuracy the last three seasons. The biggest question is with the team’s other kicker; DeForest was honest in April when saying KU didn’t have a punter yet.
Beaty is entering his second year with some added pressure from an unlikely source: himself. After going 0–12 last season, Beaty upped the stakes at the beginning of spring football when he announced that he would be taking over as the team’s play-caller while demoting offensive coordinator Rob Likens. Though it’s admirable that Beaty is putting his name on the offense, he also is putting his neck on the line for both the team’s overall performance and its scoring ability. If either is disappointing in 2016, the criticism on the coach will come quickly — and could be warranted if he appears to have taken on too much before picking up his first victory as a Division I head coach.