As college football continues to try and ramp up athletic activity for the upcoming season, we turn to looking more closely at what to expect from each Big 12 team. Throughout summer and continuing into the fall, we’re previewing the entire conference, providing an overview of the offense, defense, and special teams. Included as well is a projected depth chart, with returning starters in bold.
Les Miles undoubtedly brought a new energy to Kansas football last year. After a close loss to Coastal Carolina to start the season, the Jayhawks beat Boston College on the road 48-24 to end a 48-game losing streak on the road against Power 5 opponents. They won only one more contest to finish 3-9 on the year, but Kansas was much more competitive throughout the season under a new staff.
Now, Miles continues the project of improving Kansas football with questions aplenty. Last year’s starting quarterback Carter Stanley exhausted his eligibility, and graduation left not a few holes in the two deep. How the staff deals with those losses should be an indicator about how well the long term rebuild of this team is going.
Projected 2020 Kansas Depth Chart
|LT||Earl Bostick Jr. (Sr.)||DE||Caleb Sampson (Jr.)|
|LG||Malik Clark (Sr.)||NT||DaJon Terry (Sr.)|
|C||Api Mane (Sr.)||DE||Sam Burt (Sr.)|
|RG||Chris Hughes (Sr.)||JACK||Steven Parker (RFr.)|
|RT||Antoine Frasier (Sr.)||SLB||Gavin Potter (So.)|
|TE||Jack Luavasa (Sr.)||MLB||Kyron Johnson (Sr.)|
|QB||Thomas MacVittie (Sr.)||HAWK||Nate Betts (Sr.)|
|RB||Pooka Williams (Jr.)||CB||Elijah Jones (Sr.)|
|WR||Stephon Robinson (Sr.)||FS||Ricky Thomas (Sr.)|
|WR||Kameron McQueen (Sr.)||BS||Davon Ferguson (Jr.)|
|WR||Andrew Parchment (Sr.)||CB||Kyle Mayberry (Sr.)|
Kansas Offensive Outlook
Under new offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon, the Jayhawks improved from 5.2 to 5.9 yards per play in 2019, and they’ll hope to make more progress with an offense laden with upperclassmen. That starts up front, where, despite losing some game experience from last year, the Jayhawks will likely rely on five seniors to start along the offensive line. Malik Clark, a senior who has 22 career starts for Kansas, will be a seasoned leader there at left guard.
The starting quarterback job is up for grabs, and the competition could continue well into the season. Senior Thomas MacVitttie, a JUCO signee who threw for over 1,000 yards in six games at Mesa Community College, is one candidate there. Miles Kendrick, who played in four games in 2018, could also take that starting spot. Dual threat quarterback Jalon Daniels, a three star recruit out of California, could eventually also take over the starting spot as a freshman.
Kansas has a particular strength in the other skill positions, including All-Big 12 running back Pooka Williams, who returns for his junior season after posting 1,061 yards last year. One wide receiver spot will need a starter, but wideouts Stephon Robinson and Andrew Parchment are back after having breakout seasons in 2019 in Dearmon’s offense.
Kansas Defensive Outlook
Defensively, the Jayhawks will have to meet the challenge of having some inexperience on that side of the ball. One starter returns at every level of the defense, but some new starters will have to be identified across the depth chart. Up front, Sam Burt returns at defensive end, and whoever fills in at the other two defensive line positions will have to step up for Kansas to improve on a rush defense that gave up 225 yards per game in 2019.
Gavin Potter and Kyron Johnson return at linebacker after being the fourth and fifth leading tacklers – respectively – for the Jayhawks last season. Expect to see redshirt freshman Steven Parker lining up at “Jack” linebacker there as well. The defensive backfield will need to identify new starters, as only senior Kyle Mayberry is the lone returner there. Having Davon Ferguson back at safety will help there, as Ferguson tallied 57 total tackles and made plenty of plays in game action last year.
Kansas Special Teams Outlook
Special Teams will by far be the most seasoned unit for the Jayhawks, as only one player from the entire two deep is gone. Hopefully that will pay off for Kansas in their field goal kicking, where they made just a hair under 58 percent of their attempts last season. Punting was probably the strength of the Jayhawks here last season, and if they continue to improve in that area with punter Kyle Thompson, it could give Kansas a definite advantage in close games in 2020.
Long term, Kansas looks like a program headed in a positive direction. When Miles took over, there was no denying the difficulty of the task before him, but a sense of optimism was pervasive in Lawrence in 2019. Last year’s on-the-field success might be more difficult this season, however, despite the Jayhawks having recognizable talent on offense. There might be more questions than answers in 2020, and identifying those players that will lead this program in the future will no doubt be key. Improvement in the win/loss column could very well be coming in the future, but Kansas fans may have to look beyond this season when anticipating that success to materialize.
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