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Monday, November 28, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Four victories best bet for KU football in 2017

Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender (6) drops back to pass against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender (6) drops back to pass against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

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Finally, legitimate signs of progress showed up in the final fourth of the 2016 season for a Kansas football program running in place, last place to be precise, for so long.

Improving the record from 0-12 to 2-10 doesn’t supply the best evidence that Kansas has reached the bottom and is on the way up, however slowly.

A better indication: Kansas went 1-2 against its final foes, Iowa State, Texas and Kansas State, with an average score of Opponents 29, Kansas 22. A year ago, against the same three schools, the numbers were Opponents 47, Kansas 16.

Even the decline of the Longhorns and playing one more of those games in Lawrence can’t explain KU losing by an average of 31 points a year ago and seven points this season.

That’s bona fide progress.

Now, what must Kansas do to take an even bigger step next season? Glad you asked.

Step 1: Make sure the defensive staff stays in place. If that means giving a significant raise to linebackers coach Todd Bradford, then give him one. Back in coaching after a four-year hiatus, Bradford instantly clicked with defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and did a remarkable job of coaching up platoons of linebackers after starters Joe Dineen and Marcquis Roberts were lost for the season to injuries.

Cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry’s Texas recruiting contacts make him a coach other staffs might want to poach as well.

Michael Slater, KU’s third defensive line coach in three seasons, developed a good rapport with the program’s two best players, end Dorance Armstrong Jr. and tackle Daniel Wise, and must be retained.

Even with the offense turning it over more than a year ago, KU allowed 104.6 fewer yards and 8.8 fewer points per game than in 2015.

Reader poll

What should David Beaty do with KU's offensive coordinator position?

  • Remain offensive coordinator 5% 48 votes
  • Return the position to Rob Likens 18% 149 votes
  • Turn it over to WR coach Jason Phillips 4% 34 votes
  • Hire someone from outside the program 71% 576 votes

807 total votes.

Step 2: Hire an offensive coordinator, either from within Beaty’s current staff or from the outside. Whispers suggest the most likely scenario involves Beaty gaining approval to hire an Air Raid OC from outside the program to run an offense that junior-college transfer Peyton Bender, who plans to enroll at the semester break, is expected to run, backed up by Carter Stanley. Injuries dictate that every program needs two capable quarterbacks and it looks as if KU will have that for the first time in several years.

The OC hire is a key one and will free up Beaty to juggle the rest of his duties more efficiently.

Step 3: Fill key vacancies created by departure of seniors.

Kansas loses three offensive starters (right tackle D’Andre Banks, receiver Shakiem Barbel, running back Ke'aun Kinner) and six from the defense (linebacker Roberts, cornerbacks Marnez Ogletree and Brandon Stewart, safety Fish Smithson, nickelback Tevin Shaw and one defensive end position shared by seniors Damani Mosby, Anthony Olobia and Cameron Rosser).

Running backs suffer injuries at such a high rate that the staff might want to use one of its remaining scholarships to shore up this position.

Freshman Khalil Herbert showed the most promise, rushing for 189 yards and three touchdowns with an average of 4.3 yards per carry. He missed time with a toe injury. Taylor Martin averaged 3.6 yards, gained 324 yards and rushed for four touchdowns.

Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans rushed just 16 times and averaged 1.8 yards per carry.

Deron Thompson totaled 30 carries in two seasons at Colorado State and averaged 4.5 yards per rush. He sat out this past season, as is required of transfers who have not yet graduated.

Dominic Williams, a three-star high school recruit from Dallas, could be ready to play right away.

An extra year in the weight room should lead to improvement from an offensive line that played better in the final weeks of the season.

Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot brightens the outlook at wide receiver.

Defensively, the secondary needs the most help. It’s possible receiver Emmanuel Moore could switch to safety, where returning starter Mike Lee had a terrific freshman season and classmate Bryce Torneden showed promise. A bounce-back junior season from Tyrone Miller Jr. would help. Shaquille Richmond can play his way into the mix, as well.

Cornerback is an even bigger area of concern. Brandon Stewart had a strong senior season and will be difficult to replace.

Three players who spent their first seasons as redshirts (Shola Ayinde, Julian Chandler and Ian Peterson) will compete for spots. Ayinde underwent ACL surgery before the season and “looked amazing,” in his recovery in October, according to Beaty. Even so, it's the toughest of all positions for athletes recovering from ACL surgeries. Peterson has the speed to play the position, but didn’t appear to be as polished as Chandler in practice.

Perry landed Hasan Defense from Texas juco powerhouse Kilgore and he projects as a starter.

Converted receiver Derrick Neal has one year of eligibility remaining and high school recruit Robert Topps from Chicago will have a chance to compete for snaps in the defensive backfield. Still, cornerback remains the No. 1 priority for this recruiting class.

Kyle Mayberry’s playing time as a freshman was limited, but he projects as the lead candidate to win the nickelback job.

KU opens the 2017 season with a pair of home games vs. Southeast Missouri State (Sept. 2) and Central Michigan (Sept. 9). The Jayhawks then will visit Ohio University.

Given projected improvements at quarterback and offensive coordinator, anything less than a doubling of the victory total to four would come as a disappointment.

Comments

John Fitzgerald 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I agree. Year three is where the most visible improvements should be made. If we can't win 4-5 games next year, I'll be very disappointed. On the other side of the spectrum though, if we could make a bowl game, I'd be highly impressed.

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Let's keep the phrase "bowl game" out our mouth until at least 2020.

Dirk Medema 8 months, 4 weeks ago

It will be tough replacing the 5 DBs and CBs in particular. It could determine the fate of the defense and team. All the injuries at LB in particular gives hope that group is developing a healthy longevity.

You mentioned Daylon but not the other Bama transfer. The OLineman could fill in nicely for Banks and with another year for an otherwise really young group it could result in significant improvements. It would be great if Deron could do the same in replacing Kinner with the other young RBs continuing to develop.

Guessing the OC basically has his bags packed already so definitely agree that will be a huge hire. It will be interesting to see what kind of competition Starks provides at QB.

That being said I'm not seeing 4 Ws being a given even if we do continue to improve. CMU and Ohio will be tough and there aren't any gimmes in conference - unless BU finishes imploding and doesn't have enough players to field a team.

Chuck Woodling 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Texas win either gave KU a boost in recruiting or was fool's good. Time will tell, but losing 25 seniors from a team still lacking in numbers isn't a good sign. KU desperately needs a new freshman class with size and skills. If that doesn't happen, broom time will loom.

Earle Brown 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Chuck, I know you're too young to remember the 1968 KU team that finished 9-2, including the heart-breaking 12th man loss to Penn State in the Orange Bowl. However, why do you think the 1969 team finished 1-9? I thought KU would reap the recruiting benefits of the '68 season.

Steve Corder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Pepper Rodgers won in '68 with Jack Mitchell's recruits. The '69 1-9 team was because Rodgers was a terrible recruiter and left nothing in the pipe-line. You take that '68 record away and Rodgers' w% would be .354.

I do not subscribe to a season's W-L record as the driving force in a quality program staying "on-top". It helps, but it is the grind of never-ending recruiting that hauls in the talent.

The UT win alone means little in the over-all picture. Probably helps the beaten-down psyche of the coaching staff more than anything else.

Suzi Marshall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I suspect and hope the new Chancellor will more aggressively try to turn around the football program. One or no Big 12 conference wins should bring out the brooms, perhaps even is we get 5 wins.

Daniel Kennamore 8 months, 4 weeks ago

For those wondering, next year's Non-con and their records this year:

SE Missouri (3-8) - FCS

Central Michigan (6-6)

@ Ohio (8-4)

Very good chance at starting the season 2-1.

Home Big 12 games next year:

Texas Tech

Baylor

Oklahoma

West Virginia

Kansas State

No easy wins there.

Getting to even 4 wins is going to be a tall order, imo.

Micky Baker 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I can see the Texas Tech and K-State games as wins next year if our offensive production improves significantly. TTU, we were in that game until Mahomes went out then it seemed a completely different playbook was opened up when his backup came in. Without the 2 turnovers on Saturday, and another 10 points, we could have pulled off that upset. It would also help to have 50,000 loud fans in the stadium for those games... hint to the students. Get out there!

I can see us winning all 3 non-cons because we aren't going to be caught off guard with Ohio this time. Their big running backs pose a problem, but it's not like we have small guys on defense either. We're going to have more speed across more positions in 2017 as well.

Lucas Town 8 months, 3 weeks ago

It depends on what Ohio brings back, if we could win a road game and get to 3-0 then I think 4-5 wins is doable. I agree Texas Tech is a 50/50 if we can string together a solid secondary. We won't beat K-State if Snyder is still their coach. Their entire offense is comprised of sophomores and if it weren't for Ertz going down in the 2nd half they would have won by an even larger margin. They aren't losing as many players as you think and will be really good for the next two seasons. Iowa State on the road is definitely going to be a much tougher game as they appear to be ahead of schedule with their development.

Lloyd Kinnison 8 months, 4 weeks ago

KU must have an OC who is in touch with the game! No long delays from the OC to the men on the field. Head Coach is the head coach--- he is NOT an OC! The OC must insure that plays are executed quickly. Watch the BU game, the BU defense sat waiting for KU OC to make the call!!! The people in the stands almost went to sleep! The Offense must deliver---which did not happen this year. In my opinion the Offensive was ineffective due to the OC.

David A. Smith 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Honestly, I think the Ohio game could be the game that we break out of the away game jinx. I also think ISU and UT can be beat on their turf. A winning season or breaking even is not outside the realm of possibility.

Olympia Wilson 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I thought the Big 12 made you schedule a team from one of the power 5. How did we avoid this?

Brett McCabe 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I believe that it may have been grandfathered in, before that rule (is it a rule?) went into place. We can all thank Art Briles for that idiocy. No league should be telling its members what to do outside of the league.

Jack Hoff 8 months, 4 weeks ago

KU has clearly made strides in the latter part of the season. This is the first time in a while that I am excited about the upcoming season and some of the potential pieces will have. Beaty has done a nice job handling the team he inherited and they are certainly trending upwards. Best case scenario they win out their non con schedule start 3-0 beat TTU and KSU at home and knock off ISU on the road. Boom Bowl eligible. Its a tall order but certainly not out of the realm of possibility. 4 winsis probably a more realistic bet however.

Chris DeWeese 8 months, 4 weeks ago

A seasoned OC could make all the difference in the world. That and a more mature OL should improve production. Beaty seems to be taking the team in the right direction, but he needs to stick with the big picture and let his assistants do their jobs. He showed he is not any better at OC than Likens, so hopefully he won't be stubborn about this (Zenger shouldn't allow it anyway). He also needs to be open to making player changes more quickly. I appreciate his willingness to stick by his players (he believes in them), but it's not all about warm fuzzies. It's about production and results. Beaty is definitely a player's coach, but setting some firm expectations and holding the players accountable (ala Snyder) should reap more rewards.

Brett McCabe 8 months, 4 weeks ago

I wonder if Kale Pick is on the interview list?

Micky Baker 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Pick just got the HC job at Butler CCC.

Brett McCabe 8 months, 4 weeks ago

Actually FSCC, but he'd drop that in a minute to go to work at KU.

Michael Maris 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'd have to think that if Kale Pick was given a shot at the O/C, then his QB would be following him to Lawrence as well. And, I've seen nothing of the nature to suggest that's the case (especially since Peyton Bender's announced his intentions to sign with Kansas in December). But, things can most certainly change in the coming weeks.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm glad everyone is excited about next year. However, any hopes for a bowl game should be put out of everyone's minds. Its almost inconceivable to me to go from one quality win to a six win season. I'd be satisfied with a three win season if we don't have any blow outs and a couple close losses. Keep improving some each year and retain the staff who bring in the bodies.

Andy Tweedy 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I sure hope the current QBs don't read all these Keegan articles with pictures and gushing over a transfer QB that most have never even seen on tape taking over! Then again, maybe it will motivate them.

Edward Daub 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder if Cozart can play Free Safety? Willis needs to play in a Pro Style Offense, he might consider a transfer.

Rob Likens has one year left on his contract and lets remember that Zach Yenser came to KU along with Rob. I wish Rob would get a second chance at O.C.

4 Wins next year is a Must to show progress and the #1 Key is for Coach Beaty to stop Micro Managing. Surround yourself with good coaches and let them do their jobs!

Paul Christiansen 8 months, 3 weeks ago

KU has to be able to score 40 points a game in the Big 12. Otherwise, we are going nowhere. Definitely, Beaty has to realize that.

Randy Bombardier 8 months, 3 weeks ago

It's all on the offense. If we had had the offense we had at the end of the season from the beginning our defense would not have been so overwhelmed and we would have won 3 more games. An effective offense will make a huge difference although I'm not real sold on air raid. I like old school possession ball. We're going to run. Stop us if you can. Meanwhile the opposing offense gets cold.

K-state is the new Nebraska in this conference. They're the only ones going against the trend it seems. Look at the prolific T TECH offense and how many wins did that give them?

Jim Stauffer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We are all joyful over the performance in the last three games. Yet we never scored 30 pts in any of those games. If this isn't enough evidence to convince Beaty he is not the answer at OC nothing will. You have to score 30+ against good teams and 40+ against weaker teams in our league if you wish to win the games you should.

Layne Pierce 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Randy

I agree with you about possession football. A high scoring offense can't get on the field, if we have the ball, and you can wear out the other teams defense. I for one, believe that Carter can get the job done, and I do not think that an upgrade is mandatory. If Bender beats him out, then so be it, but think about the confidence the team has developed with Carter at the helm.

4 wins would be fantastic. Let's not forget how hard that will be. Look at our two deep and you will see a lot of freshmen and sophomores. There's a lot of potential, but potential means "they ain't done it yet."

One thing I feel is that Beatty is slowly but surely changing the atmosphere. And that alone is some improvement. As far as the students go, I have to say that I went to every game when I was a student, and I sat through some absolute humiliations, but how about the students form a student football booster association, agree to go to all the games, but demand improvement? Just seeing those seats filled up would do wonders for the program.

Randy Bombardier 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Layne,

Thanks. Darn good idea on the student booster association. Has that ever been done? Great out of the box thinking. And yes, that could have a huge impact. A student association that welcomes all new athletes, encourages attendance (female volleyball players have great legs...well, it's true. Went out with one myself back in the day.) Creates peer support groups. I like it. Fantastic idea.

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