Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Willis again: Freshman will get second start

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) throws during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) throws during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.


Two days after Ryan Willis made the first start of his college career, Kansas University football coach David Beaty said Monday morning that Willis, KU’s freshman quarterback, would make his second start this weekend.

Willis, who handled the snaps during Saturday’s 66-7 loss to Baylor in place of injured starters Montell Cozart and Deondre Ford, did enough good things and played with enough poise, pride and promise to earn another shot this week against Texas Tech, 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

“He’s definitely getting start No. 2 this week,” Beaty said.

After the loss and before he watched the Baylor film, Beaty said he thought Willis’ first outing as the Jayhawks’ top QB was “a great start.”

Monday, Beaty elaborated a little, armed with the extra knowledge that came from reviewing the film.

“He didn’t play great,” Beaty said. “But I tell you what, for his first start, he did some really nice things. And his team really rallied around him, and they had confidence in him. I mean, that cat had no shortage of confidence, and it was fun to see him go out and have a lot of fun.”

Willis’ numbers were modest at best. He completed 20 of 36 passes but only for 158 yards and added one touchdown and one interception while also losing a fumble.

At no point, however, did the stage look too big for him, and Beaty said that made it easy for the rest of the Jayhawks to follow and fight for him.

“They know that he’s a confident guy, and he studies and prepares well,” Beaty said. “And they also know that he’s a talented guy, and they respect that as well.”

One of Willis’ biggest talents showed up big-time in Saturday’s loss, as he used his big arm to take several deep shots down the field.

He only connected on a couple of them, including the first-quarter touchdown to Steven Sims Jr. But the fact that Willis’ skill set allowed Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens to dial up more deep balls should help the Kansas offense in the coming weeks — particularly the running game, which, after back-to-back solid showings to open the season, has averaged just 57 yards per game and 1.7 yards per carry during KU’s last three losses.

“Any time you throw the ball down the field, you’re blowing air in the defense,” Beaty said. “You’re putting distance between that second and third level. And when you do that, that’s where big plays happen in the run game.”

While the KU coaches have emphasized that establishing a strong running game is as important as anything in the Jayhawks’ Air Raid offense, Beaty admitted Monday that he would like to see his team force the ball down the field more often than it has and added that he believed Willis was the guy to do it.

“That’s what we’ve said we want to do,” Beaty said. “We’ve said it from the very beginning. We need to be taking at least a shot a quarter down the field to try to blow air in the defense. That’s something we’ll continue to work at, and I think that deep ball will do nothing but help us.”

KU-OSU to kick at 2:30 Oct. 24

KU’s next chance to end its 35-game losing streak away from Lawrence is set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff, the Big 12 announced Monday.

The start time for KU at Oklahoma State, which will take place on Oct. 24 and be televised by FOX Sports 1, will end a streak of four consecutive 11 a.m. starts for the Jayhawks, who opened the season with five of six starts before noon.


Maria Ungaro 6 years ago

The biggest strength of Mangino was moving players around and finding a spot where they can most help the team. Ex. Meir to WR, Coach David can and will do the same. SO From this point forward Willis and any other Freshman QB will be the way to go. We are not going to any bowl games this season, so we are totally focused on building our squad for 2016. Cozart will need to start practicing with either WR's or DB'S. He can use his speed to stretch the field. Recruiting , these group of coaches will need to focus on building our O-Line and D-Line. This team needs to build from inside out. Energy, keep these guys playing a full game. NO Quit and Never Give up and Keep Battling. Our Future is bright and we control our own destiny.

Joe Ross 6 years ago

A strength, yes. The "biggest" strength? Absolutely not. Sure, one can recognize as we do that Mangino played shell game to fit shaped pegs into their appropriate holes. But he did so many things that were equally if not more important. Finding talented players that no one saw much potential in, coaching no-stars into skilled position players, and so on. This does not detract from your point that Mangino was excellent in fitting players and positions together. Id just be wary of using superlatives regarding areas of his coaching skills.

Jim Stauffer 6 years ago

The pieces are already in place and taking shape on the O-Line. Need some DT's badly. Our D-Line is as porous as I can ever remember.

Brett McCabe 6 years ago

If we could get a commitment from Amani Bledsoe, it would be a huge get, and a huge momentum builder for recruiting in general. Here's hoping Amani says yes, and says it early.

Michael Maris 6 years ago

I'm constantly hoping that Amani Bledsoe and Isaiah Simmons both verbal and sign with Kansas. I'd love to see Isaiahh Loudermilk make a turn and verbal and commit to the Jayhawks as well. That would be a huge plus of signing 3 In-State (2 being local kids) that are highly rated on the recruiting boards.

In regards to the DL issue, I wonder how far behind are both Lay' Trion Jones & D.J. Williams in their progression towards getting regular rotational playing time? Both being R/S Freshman. I hope that they both are progressing towards becoming productive DL forces for the future.

When I look at the depth chart, Kansas is a very young team. And, I have to think that's a plus (vs. constantly being a team of a bunch of Juco transfers).

Michael Lorraine 6 years ago

Even though I don't expect to win a game this season I'm excited about this kid. Suddenly there is light at the end of the tunnel and it's not an oncoming train.

Suzi Marshall 6 years ago

In addition to Willis' strong arm, I was pleased to see the poise and ability to find receivers. he showed. His 20 completions went to 9 different receivers, 6 of whom had multiple catches.

I've not seen this from a Kansas QB since TR.

Chris Bailey 6 years ago

I don't wanna sound like an idiot but who the heck else is gonna start? Ford is out for the season right? And Cozart is still hurt?? So unless he's planning to waste a redshirt of CS then why is this a discussion? Seems to me that this is a no brainer.

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