Spring practices are beginning to wind down across the Big 12 and teams are sending their squads into summer workouts. As they move forward, we’ll provide some thoughts and observations on things we’ve learned after the past few weeks.
Kansas began spring practices in late March and wrapped them up with an open practice on April 28th. Head coach David Beaty’s squad is coming off a disappointing year in which they went 1-11 and failed to win a conference game for the second season in three under Beaty.
When Beaty hired former TCU offensive coordinator Dough Meacham away from Gary Patterson’s staff, there was thought that the Jayhawks would get a boost in their offensive production in 2017. Instead, the offense struggled throughout last season and the defense was only marginally better.
Kansas was shut out twice in 2017 and didn’t not come within more than ten points of any team they played in their eleven losses. Suffice it to say, Beaty probably has the hottest seat in the conference at this point headed into next season.
What are his chances of improving this team enough to justify him remaining the head coach at Kansas? Below are some thoughts on Kansas football.
1. THE QUARTERBACK RACE LIKELY CONTINUES INTO THE FALL
There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about transfer Mile Kendrick, so right now the quarterback competition in Lawrence looks like one between Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender. Both are fourth year players, meaning the time for them to step up is now.
Stanley and Bender each reportedly had a good day in the open practice that Beaty chose in lieu of a spring game. As much as its difficult to tell from a spring game, though, it’s usually even more difficult to glean much from a spring practice.
At any rate, there hasn’t been any word that a quarterback candidate secured the job through fifteen workouts, so the Jayhawks could very well have a rotation once again in 2018. That certainly gives them some depth, but they’d probably like to have a steady starter.
2. WILL YEAR TWO OF DOUGH MEACHAM YIELD BETTER RESULTS?
Will the Air Raid function any smoother after another year under offensive coordinator Doug Meacham? In a media availability, Beaty announced that Meacham will be taking over as quarterbacks coach this season, something that might be helpful for signal callers learning the system.
Carter Stanley echoed the same sentiment. He noted that Meacham being the position coach has more clearly allowed the quarterbacks to “see how the plays are supposed to work,” which could pay off in the fall for the Jayhawks.
Beaty also mentioned that Kansas will try to commit more to the run game this fall, a move that could be beneficial for a team that was last in the conference in rushing offense last season.
Having more experience along the offensive line should be helpful in that regard. Although projected starting center Mesa Ribordy retired this spring, there are still four starting lineman coming back along the offensive line.
3. THIS TEAM MIGHT BE BEATY’S MOST EXPERIENCED
Going into David Beaty’s fourth year at Kansas, there is plenty of experience across the first team. Eleven projected starters will be juniors next season and eight will be seniors. This might be the most veteran team that Beaty has had at Kansas.
How much will that pay off in 2018? Beaty was known as a great recruiter when Kansas hired him away from Texas A&M, but he’s only fielded a few top end talents in his tenure in Lawrence.
Whatever the case may be, the proof of his recruiting and development acumen will be in the production on the field next season. The team that he takes onto the field in September will pretty much all be Beaty recruits.
4. THERE ARE SOME PIECES ON DEFENSE
Even though there is potential on the offensive side of the ball, the defense probably has the chance to take the biggest step next season.
The run defense was by far the best part of all the defensive units for the Jayhawks last season. If Kansas is able to progress in 2018, it very well could be because of their ability to prevent other teams from moving the ball on the ground.
In their front seven, Kansas has two All-Big 12 talents in linebacker Joe Dineen and lineman Daniel Wise. If some of the defensive JUCO players Beaty brought on can help with the depth and stopping the run, it might be something that the Jayhawks can hang their hat on in the fall.
It’s safe to say that Kansas will likely be better in 2018 with so much veteran experience coming back, but how much will that returning production matter?
That’s a tough question to answer at this point, but it seems unlikely that the Jayhawks will get to bowl eligibility or even get close to that, given the tough Big 12 slate. Even if Kansas manages to come out of the gate 3-0 in their non-conference schedule, which is not a given, do they have a realistic shot at winning more than one Big 12 game?
Right now, Vegas is putting the Jayhawks at about three wins for next season, something that’s difficult to disagree with coming out of spring. There is talent on hand that can make this team competitive, but right now it feels like there are giant strides that Kansas needs to make between now and September.
Could they get there? Stranger things have happened, but the Jayhawks can’t waste a single minute of summer workouts if they want to achieve that goal.
Kansas opens next season at home on September 1st against Nicholls State.