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Friday, December 30, 2016

QB Peyton Bender’s Air Raid experience makes him instant starting candidate

Beaty expects former WSU QB to push Carter Stanley

FILE — Washington State head coach Mike Leach, left, talks with quarterback Peyton Bender during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. Bender transferred from WSU after his redshirt freshman season, and after spending a year with Itawamba Community College, signed with Kansas football. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

FILE — Washington State head coach Mike Leach, left, talks with quarterback Peyton Bender during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. Bender transferred from WSU after his redshirt freshman season, and after spending a year with Itawamba Community College, signed with Kansas football. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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Peyton Bender hasn’t even practiced with the Kansas football team yet, but from the moment he steps foot on campus in January, the junior quarterback will be required to take on a prominent role.

That directive comes straight from the man running the program, head coach David Beaty, who thinks Bender’s talent and time learning the Air Raid offense at Washington State, under guru Mike Leach, makes him the type of quarterback capable of immediately challenging for the starting spot at KU.

“He could pretty much step in right now and run our offense without hesitation,” Beaty said of Bender, who redshirted for Leach and the Cougars in 2014 and then played in five games in 2015, before transferring to Itawamba Community College, “because he understands it, terminology and everything.”

Bender, while appearing in five games for WSU as a redshirt freshman, only started one in a fill-in capacity. The QB from Cardinal Gibbons High, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, completed 36 of 58 passes for 288 yards and a touchdown, with two interceptions, in a 2015 loss at Washington.

Though Bender joined the Cougars as Rivals.com’s No. 25 QB in the nation, in the Class of 2014, the right-handed signal-caller couldn’t beat out Luke Falk for Washington State’s starting spot. Arguably, though, few quarterbacks could. In each of the past two seasons, the 6-foot-4 Falk has topped 4,400 passing yards and thrown for 38 touchdowns, while combining to complete 890 of his 1,277 throws (69.7 percent).

“Just in talking to the guys at Washington State,” Beaty said of his vetting of Bender, “… that competition, from what I understand, was very, very tight. Very, very tight. And they were happy to have both guys.”

In his one season of Pac-12 competition, Bender, who arrives at KU as a 6-1, 180-pound junior, completed 53 of 91 passes (58.2 percent) for 498 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. Expectedly, his numbers improved greatly as a sophomore at Itawamba CC, where he dissected juco defenses and connected on 211 of 324 throws (65.1 percent) for 2,733 yards, with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions in his nine-game season.

By the time spring football starts, Beaty expects Bender to push KU’s incumbent No. 1, Carter Stanley, for the starting job — even though the Jayhawks had their best three-game stretch of the season during Stanley’s time behind center, which included an overtime victory over Texas.

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Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

As a redshirt freshman, Stanley played sparingly as a reserve in six games before winning the starting job for the final three weeks. On the year, the 6-foot-2 QB from Vero Beach, Fla., completed 93 of 156 passes (59.6 percent) for 959 yards, with six touchdowns and six interceptions.

As far as Beaty, who also serves as KU’s offensive coordinator, is concerned, the two quarterbacks should bring the best out of each other in the months ahead.

“They are not afraid to compete,” he said of Stanley and Bender. “Peyton is a terrific player and he's very talented and he already knows this position. The way you get better is if you have competition, so you gotta have competition comin’ in… Carter left that field as our starter goin’ into the spring. But you're only as good as your next. I've been sayin’ that from the very beginning and we're not going to come off of that.”

This past fall, in his second season as Kansas head coach, Beaty didn’t name a No. 1 quarterback before the season opener, and tried using both Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis as starters before turning to Stanley. The coach hopes the Jayhawks’ QB competition won’t last nearly as long in 2017, and already has his eyes on two top candidates.

“Don't know if that's gonna happen. But we hope so,” Beaty said of either Bender or Stanley playing his way to the top of the depth chart prior to the season opener. “You know, the snaps for guys will be, they’ll be pared down. We don't have a lot of time right now. It's not gonna be a — it's not a wide-open race, I’ll tell you that. It's narrowed down to just a couple.”

Comments

Gerry Butler 2 months, 4 weeks ago

So the only thing I have to ask is - - what happened to our red shirt QB that a lot thought would really challenge for the starting spot ? - - Starks? - - Talking with people and they all agree - -certainly hope this is not another where we get all juiced up just like the Heaps - - Crist scenario, almost sounds like Coach is already anointing Bender as THE starting QB. Don't get me wrong sure hope he fills the void, Love Coach Beaty, think he for sure has us headed in the right direction, just curious what happened to our other option, everything we heard was a huge dual threat QB

Brett McCabe 2 months, 4 weeks ago

A good question re: Starks.

In football, as in life, it's best to heed the old truism, "Watch what I do and not what I say". Beaty didn't bring in a JUCO QB who is well-versed in his offense because the coach believes Stanley is the one to lead this offense, or because he thinks that Starks is ready.

Frankly, if Bender can't earn the starting spot almost immediately, then it was a waste of a scholarship.

Greg Ledom 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Totally agree Brett. And rest assured, if Stanley or Starks are good enough, they'll play, and indeed, Bender will be a bust.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Coach brought in Bender because relying on a RSF with no D1 experience is not a good career move. At least it was better planned than bringing in Ford first year, not that there was much chance of better at the time. There are plenty of wasted scholarships at the QB position (3? 4?) because until you find 1 true Big12 QB, you gotta keep looking. It is a total game changer when you find one, or lose one.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The coaches at Washington State may have said that the competition between Bender and a guy that has P5 success was very, very tight, but 53 of 91 passes (58.2 percent) for 498 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions isn't incredibly encouraging to me. It would be great if he was an instant upgrade, but I'm not holding my breath. His numbers were better against JC competition, but there's a little difference playing in the Big12. Maybe even better than when he put up his Pac12 #'s. It should help to have the best WR corp we've had in quite a while.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 4 weeks ago

The numbers are Heaps-esque. So were Stanley's, though. To your point, the O-line should be improved and the WR corps should be a true strength.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Pulling out "Heaps-esque" makes me feel like bottled sunshine.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Random football thoughts....

The Air Raid failed again as WSU can barely score in their bowl game......I'd be happy, I suppose, if this offense could get us to some bowl games, but it won't ever win a conference championship because it never has....

KSU, meanwhile, takes the offensive approach that I felt we should have adopted, and manhandles an SEC team with more 4-star recruits sitting on the bench than KSU has had in the history of the program. Snyder zigs when everyone else zags, it's one of the reasons he wins with less....

Surprised that we haven't heard a transfer announcement from Willis. Because of the NCAA's ridiculously unfair sit-out rule, perhaps Willis wants to compete one more time for the job this spring before heading out.....

The coaching staff seems stable, or am I jumping the gun? It seems like that we would have heard by now if there are going to be significant staff changes...

The Group of Five schools are about to get right what the P5 gets wrong - they are planning an 8-team playoff, which will be fun to watch and which will put a major dent in the archaic bowl season. I'll watch those playoff games, but I can hardly find a bowl game that I can stomach....

Dirk Medema 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Never? At this point, I'm guessing that anyone connected with KU FB would trade never winning the conference for never being in the cellar. There's plenty of green (grass?) and sunshine in the middle of the conference.

Coach Snyder is an aberration. To try mimicking what he does without being him is inviting failure. We'll see that again in a few years when he retires or whatever.

A little surprised, but maybe he's had people looking and not finding anyone that is willing to give a scholarship to a KU reject. There are some players that are just willing to ride out a free education by filling a spot on the sideline.

A few coaching changes could happen early, but I'm guessing very few would happen before the bowl season is over, and only slightly more before signing day. I think most come in that February/March time frame. I wonder if there are any statistics on when (Head, assistant) coaching changes happen?

$0.02

Michael Bennett 2 months, 4 weeks ago

Let's be real here. As I've mentioned before, we hear this same story every year. Just plug in a different name. This same article was written with Crist, Heaps, Cozart, Willis,.... The most popular player on any bad team is the back-up QB UNTIL HE PLAYS. I don't care about Bender's stats at WSU as a first year, injury fill in freshman. Frankly, QB wasn't the biggest problem last year and won't be this year. I've still not seen any real help for the O-line, except maybe the guy kicked out of Alabama, and playing behind KU's O-line will hurt any QB.

Jim Stauffer 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I disagree with the same old story lines. As you upgrade your roster it looks the same because the story is essentially the same until you reach a higher level each step of the way. No doubt our QB picture is better. While I don't think the Air Raid is Willis' cup of tea, it should suit Bender, Stanley and Starks very well. They all possess sufficient skills specific to it to succeed. Will Bender or any of our QB's throw for 4400+ yards next year? I seriously doubt it. Does that mean they are failures or busts as some suggest? No! Falk did not look like a world beater in the bowl game because they depended solely upon him to pass them to victory. I believe our QB's will be crucial to managing our game plans next year and making sufficient plays, but I also believe our running game, our special teams and our defense will all improve as well. We are taking a step up each year. Patience grasshopper.

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