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Mid-Season Review: The Kansas Jayhawks Are A Wild Rollercoaster

Looking at the Jayhawks at the halfway point of the season and what expectations are for the rest of the slate.

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A view of Kansas Jayhawks helmets during a Big 12 football game - Getty Images - Icon Sportswire
Getty Images - Icon Sportswire

Les Miles arrived on campus towards the end of last season and started the long process of trying to build the infrastructure for a successful football program. There were (and still are) lots of questions about if he will be able to turn the program around. If you ask him, he would tell you it is just a matter of when it will happen.

The season looked to be pretty rocky before it even got started. Pooka Williams was suspended for a game for a domestic violence incident. The quarterback competition went much longer than anyone thought it would. It ended with Carter Stanley being named the surprise starter.

When the games actually started, the results were not great. They barely held on against Indiana State. They lost to Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers destroyed a Jayhawk pinata in the locker room after the game. It looked like the Jayhawks were on their way to a tough 1-11 season with a lot of big blowouts.

Then the team traveled to Boston College. In a dazzling display, the Jayhawks embraced the RPO and flat out demolished a shellshocked Eagles squad. They were 20 point underdogs. They won by 24.

They carried that momentum into their next game against West Virginia, but took too long to get going. Stanley made too many mistakes, and the offense didn’t have enough to finish the furious comeback in the 4th quarter.

Disaster struck against TCU. Dru Prox, their leading tackler, was injured against West Virginia and didn’t play. Khalil Herbert decided to redshirt and transfer, but the players didn’t find out until the day of the game.  They got absolutely destroyed by TCU.

But things started looking up against the Sooners. The defense stifled much of what the Sooners wanted to do for the majority of the first half. The offense had a couple of big drives, scoring on one and missing a 4th down conversion on another. There was a definite improvement in all facets of the game, except for the number of penalties.

The team recently fired offensive coordinator Les Koenning, replacing him with former offensive analyst and RPO guru Brent Dearmon. The offense seems to have new life. But there are three big questions to answer in the next 6 games.

What Will The Offense Look Like?

The most recent episode of “Miles To Go” focused on Brent Dearmon and what he hopes to bring to the offense. They will  more fully embrace the RPO for sure, but how that will work, or what they will do in games where it isn’t as successful, is still up in the air.

Dearmon led the most prolific offense in all of college football last year at Bethel, so there are high hopes. But the real question is how long it will take for everyone to get on the same page.

Can The Defense Continue To Improve?

The defense has looked better for sure. Oklahoma is the most prolific offense they will face all year long. Having adjusted to the loss of Dru Prox, they were able to get some success before they were overwhelmed by the superior Sooner depth and talent.

The return of Prox will help the team improve, but an offense to help them out and the development of some key players should allow them to continue to improve as the season goes on. How much improvement we see will determine how optimistic fans can be after the season.

How Much Momentum Can They Build For Next Season?

This season was always about setting up a foundation for the program. It was going to be a lot of work with no expectation of immediate dividends.

But there were no actual expectations for a specific record coming into the season. Everyone close to Kansas, either as a fan or a part of the program, expected there to be growing pains. Any success they can get this year will be nice, but the main goal is going to be developing underclassmen to get a head start on next season.

This team is building for the future, and recruiting and building the fan base is going to be crucial. The ESPN+ series “Miles To Go” has helped with that goal. Recruits get a sneak peek into the program, and it can be sold as an opportunity to give them additional exposure. And it’s helped with the fan base, helping to get fans excited about what is coming in the next weekend. It’s a natural hype machine, and can allow the administration to handle difficult topics in a more friendly way.

There is still a long way to go for this team. But there are plenty of reasons for fans to hang on and continue on the rest of this roller coaster of a season.

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