The offseason arrived a few days early for the Kansas football program this week, once the Jayhawks’ rescheduled finale versus Texas got scrapped.
So by Thursday afternoon head coach Les Miles and his staff turned their attention away from the Longhorns and toward what’s next for their roster, in part by considering what to do with the 2020 senior class.
As KU coaches continue forging ahead with their rebuilding project, coming off an 0-9 season, the next circled date on their calendars has to be this coming Wednesday, the first day that Class of 2021 recruits can sign and officially join the program. But even sooner, there also was another matter at hand that will affect KU’s personnel for next year.
Some Jayhawks who just finished the season as seniors could be brought back for one extra year, thanks to a blanket waiver from the NCAA providing a free year of eligibility to all fall athletes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first steps of the offseason for Miles and his staff will include finalizing which of the 2020 seniors they want to return — and which players are ready to move on.
They already knew punter Kyle Thompson and center Api Mane planned to transfer. And on Friday receiver Andrew Parchment and cornerback Kyle Mayberry announced they, too, are looking to conclude their careers as graduate transfers elsewhere.
The only KU senior who told reporters during the season of his intentions to return was outside linebacker Kyron Johnson.
That leaves Miles and his staff with some decisions to make — if they haven’t already made them.
“I think any senior that we get to stay is certainly an advantage,” Miles said on Monday, before the Texas game got canceled. “Because I think you’ll find that they’ll be more knowledgeable than the youth.”
Excluding the grad transfers and Johnson, here are the seniors from KU’s roster who have played some type of key role for the program in recent weeks or in the past:
• Ricky Thomas, S
• Elijah Jones, CB
• Stephon Robinson Jr., WR
• Thomas MacVittie, QB
• Kwamie Lassiter II, WR
• Ezra Naylor II, WR
• Denzel Feaster, LB
• Nate Betts, S
• Liam Jones, K
• Malik Clark, LG
• Adagio Lopeti, OL
• Chris Hughes, OL
• James Sosinski, TE
• Jack Luavasa, TE
• Sam Burt, NT
Based on what Miles shared with reporters during his weekly press conference on Monday, KU would likely bring just a handful of those players back for 2021.
“Anywhere from five to eight is a good number,” Miles said. “Certainly it’s got to be one where our players want to be considered and want to come back. That’s the key piece. And then you could see some of those guys we would like to get back.”
Miles previously stated publicly he hoped KU could convince Parchment and Robinson to return, but kept plans for other players far more vague.
The NCAA determined back in August, before fall sports began, that all Division I athletes would receive an extra year of eligibility, due to the complications surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes who are able to take advantage of this unusual extra year of eligibility won’t count against their team’s scholarship limits until the 2022-23 academic year begins.
However, no senior who wants to take advantage of that and have a bonus year is guaranteed financial aid or a scholarship. Such decisions are up to each athletic department.
So Miles and his staff only have to welcome back the seniors they think will impact the program in a positive way.
“I think the offseason’s got to bring the culture of KU back into focus,” Miles said. “And I think we do those things, and then we’re going to make it a competitive spring ball, a competitive offseason set of dates. And we’re looking forward to improving.”