No. 96 Kansas
"Have you looked at that pile of crap out there?" Charlie Weis infamously said of his Kansas football program in July 2013, referencing at team that hadn't won a Big 12 game since 2010.
Though the state of KU football wasn't great at the time of his comment, it became evident that Weis set a personal goal of turning that pile of crap into a flaming, rat-infested pile of crap ASAP.
Now two years removed from the stench of Weis, David Beaty has slowly rebuilt the Kansas roster into one that features two All-American candidates, two intriguing quarterbacks and more depth than fans have seen in years.
2016 Record: 2-10 (1-8, Big 12)
For the seventh-straight season, Kansas failed to win more than three games. Since Mark Mangino was fired amidst player mistreatment allegations in 2009, the Jayhawks have gone 14-70 overall and 4-58 in the Big 12.
Head Coach: David Beaty (3rd year, 2-22)
When David Beaty first came to Lawrence as Mark Mangino's receivers coach in early 2008, the Jayhawks were days removed from a 12-win season punctuated by an Orange Bowl victory. When he arrived in Lawrence for a second time in 2011, the Jayhawks were days removed from a three-win season but had a few stars and an intriguing recruiting class. When he arrived in Lawrence for a third time in late 2014, the Jayhawks were one of the worst programs in America.
“This is much more of a difficult job than I think anybody really knows right now,” Beaty told USA Today days after going winless in his first season. “I knew the situation. I don’t think I knew all of it, but I knew it wasn’t a great situation. I knew I loved this place. I knew it was going to take that.”
Thanks to Charlie Weis, Beaty had only 64 scholarship players on his 2015 team, one that went winless. He has slowly rebuilt the roster, won two games in 2016 and enters 2017 with something that resembles an FBS team.
Key Returning Offensive Players
QB Carter Stanley, RB Taylor Martin, RB Khalil Herbert, WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez, WR Steven Sims Jr., TE Ben Johnson, OT Hakeem Adeniji, G Jayson Rhodes, C Mesa Ribordy
Carter Stanley is the latest young Kansas quarterback to play decent early. Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis — both benched after major struggles — transferred but Stanley is still not guaranteed the job after transfer Peyton Bender arrived.
Whoever wins will have a gluttony of capable playmakers, led by LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Steven Sims Jr. The pair both eclipsed 700 yards receiving — no player had topped 600 yards since 2009 — and provided a spark not seen since Dezmon Briscoe.
Sophomore tackle Hakeem Adeniji struggled occasionally but played well given the circumstances and is one of four returning starters that will block for a rushing attack that must improve (119 yards per game, 116th nationally).
Key Returning Defensive Players
DT Daniel Wise, DT DeeIsaac Davis, DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., LB Joe Dineen Jr., S Mike Lee
It's been a long time since Kansas had this good of a defensive line. It's led by Dorance Armstrong, who was compared to the first-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“Dorance is a stud," Beaty said after Armstrong's 10-sack season. "The fact that he didn’t make All-American last year was shocking to me. He got robbed. [He] is unbelievable. He’s a freak. He is Myles Garrett, and Myles is a freak. This guy’s a beast.”
Wise, a First-Team All-Big 12 selection by Pro Football Focus, and Davis are imperative to Armstrong's success, helping plug the middle to give the 6-foot-4, 246-pound defensive end plenty of space on the outside. Linebacker Joe Dineen returns from an injury-hampered season and Mike Lee, a four-star recruit who reclassified late, made a huge impact during a what-should-have-been high school senior season.
Notable Player Losses
RB Ke'aun Kinner, LB Courtney Arnick, LB Marcquis Roberts, CB Brandon Stewart, S Fish Smithson
Ke'aun Kinner, a former JUCO transfer, is the most notable offensive departure. The undersized but shifty and powerful runner departed after 1,628 total yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons.
The biggest losses will be felt on defense, particularly in the secondary where Fish Smithson and Brandon Stewart — combined for seven of their 10 interceptions — are gone. The pair played admirably through brutal seasons and were instrumental in getting the ball rolling for an improved pass defense.
Notable Player Additions
QB Peyton Bender, RB Octavius Matthews, RB Dom Williams, WR Daylon Charlot, OT Charles Baldwin, CB Hasan Defense
Like his predecessor, David Beaty has dipped into the JUCO and FBS transfer market. Unlike his predecessor, Beaty has done so selectively and only to fill glaring holes.
Former Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender is challenging incumbent Carter Stanley for the starting job and has earned praise from the coaching staff.
"He’s ultra-accurate," Beaty said after the first spring practice. He threw one ball today that I don’t know how he got it in there. But you can tell he was hanging on it, hanging on it. And I was wanting him to get off of it and get on to the next read, but he dropped it in there . . . It was a hell of a throw. You don’t see those throws very often.”
Charlot and Baldwin are both Alabama transfers who sat out 2016 and should assume big roles in 2017. Hasan Defense (yes, that's his last name) will take over for Brandon Stewart.
David Beaty has done a superb job managing expectations and slowly rebuilding a roster that Charlie Weis pulverized. Those expectations began with just winning a game and being competitive in a handful of Big 12 games. Now it's about winning a road game.
When Kansas visits Ohio on Sept. 16, it will be 2,926 days since they won a road game. Their last win came against UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009, and a victory over the Bobcats could push them to 3-0, which would tie their most wins in a season since 2009.
The Jayhawks were gifted with two sets of back-to-back Big 12 home games (and one set of back-to-back road games) and don't have a conference road game until Oct. 14 at Iowa State.
|Saturday, Sept. 2||vs. Southeast Missouri|
|Saturday, Sept. 9||vs. Central Michigan|
|Saturday, Sept. 16||at Ohio|
|Saturday, Sept. 23||vs. West Virginia|
|Saturday, Oct. 7||vs. Texas Tech|
|Saturday, Oct. 14||at Iowa State|
|Saturday, Oct. 21||at TCU|
|Saturday, Oct. 28||vs. Kansas State|
|Saturday, Nov. 4||vs. Baylor|
|Saturday, Nov. 11||at Texas|
|Saturday, Nov. 18||vs. Oklahoma|
|Saturday, Nov. 25||at Oklahoma State|