Spring football has come and gone in the Big 12, and teams have started gaining more clarity as to what their 2019 squads are going to look like. As they head into summer workouts, we’ll get into some of the possible issues and potential surprises in store for them.
Kansas made the splash hire of the offseason when, after firing head coach David Beatty following a disappointing 3-9 finish, Kansas went out and hired Les Miles, the long time head football coach of the LSU Tigers.
After being absent from the college football scene for a couple of seasons, Miles has emerged in Kansas as a man on a mission to bring football in Lawrence out of the doldrums.
Miles is the fourth coach in a decade that Kansas has hired to turn things around. He’s undoubtedly had success at his previous stops at LSU and Oklahoma State, but what does his team look like heading into the upcoming season?
Here we get into some tentative impressions of this year’s Jayhawks, providing a projection of offensive and defensive starters for the 2019 season (returning starters in bold) as well as some post-spring observations about Kansas football.
|PROJECTED 2019 STARTERS|
|QB||Thomas MacVittie (Jr.)||DE||Cody Cole (Sr.)|
|RB||Khalil Herbert (Sr.)||NT||Jelani Brown (Sr.)|
|WR||Daylon Charlot (Sr.)||DE||Darrius Morgane (Sr.)|
|WR||Stephon Robinson (Jr.)||HAWK||Azur Kamara (Sr.)|
|LT||Hakeem Adeniji (Sr.)||MLB||Drew Harvey (Jr.)|
|LG||Malik Clark (Jr.)||WLB||Dru Prox (Sr.)|
|C||Andru Tovi (Sr.)||CB||Hasan Defense (Sr.)|
|RG||Chris Hughes (Jr.)||S||Bryce Torneden (Sr.)|
|RT||Kevin Feeder (Sr.)||S||Mike Lee (Sr.)|
|TE||Jack Luavasa (Jr.)||S||Davon Ferguson (Sr.)|
|WR||Kwamie Lassiter II (Jr.)||CB||Corione Harris (So.)|
Les Miles Is Good For Kansas Football
Miles stepped in at Kansas and instantly recognized the lack of excitement that’s been around the program for a while now, and he’s brought energy back to the football program. The video of Miles making a staged phone call to Rick Ross to invite him to perform after the Kansas spring game is the most obvious example of this effort to rejuvenate football in Lawrence.
Miles has also been successful thus far in bringing in recruits and building hype around the program. There’s a felt difference even in the way players are carrying themselves in interviews as we head into the 2019 season, and it’s hard to imagine someone without Miles’s charisma being able to generate the same kind of feeling.
The Quarterback Job Is All But Settled
Big 12 fans should familiarize themselves with the name Thomas MacVittie, who could be the best signal caller that Kansas has had in a while. MacVittie was recruited by Miles out of high school, and spent some time at Pitt before tearing things up at the JUCO level.
He’s got prototypical size at 6’5″ and was the number one JUCO quarterback when he signed with Kansas in the fall. As one of “Les Miles’s guys,” MacVittie’s performance next year will to some extent speak to the new head coach’s potential for success with the Jayhawks.
There’s reason to be positive. Most of those who’ve been following the Jayhawks believe MacVittie is probably the man going into the fall. He’ll have to fend off Carter Stanley, though, a senior who’s logged nine FBS starts in Lawrence.
Watch Out For The Jayhawks’ Secondary
After a year in which they led the Big 12 with 16 interceptions, the Jayhawks return four out of five starters in their secondary. The group is poised to be a good unit in the conference, and is probably the strength of this year’s Kansas team.
In that sense, Miles probably made a good move in retaining Clint Bowen from the previous staff to coach safeties. Despite Kansas’ struggles over the years, the defensive backs have been some of the highest performers, and Bowen seems to have had a lot to do with that.
The Run Defense Might Be The Biggest Concern
After giving up 180.1 yards on the ground last season, it certainly doesn’t help that Kansas loses so many players in the front six from 2018. Only one starter is back, and three of Kansas’ standout defenders from last season are headed to the pro ranks.
There are upperclassmen to fill those spots, so it may not be too big an area of concern. Until fall, however, Kansas’ ability to stop opposing run games remains a question.