Why Les Miles might bring stability at QB for Kansas football


Kansas head coach Les Miles talks with offensive lineman Api Mane and quarterback Thomas MacVittie on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

Kansas head coach Les Miles talks with offensive lineman Api Mane and quarterback Thomas MacVittie on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility. by Nick Krug

Only two teams will be bringing a quarterback to Big 12 Media Days next week.

Kansas obviously was not going to be one of those programs, though it is surprising to see how few signal callers will be in attendance. KU head coach Les Miles has yet to name a starter, and he does not have to commit to one player under center anytime soon.

At the conclusion of spring ball, however, Miles did admit that Thomas MacVittie has a slight lead in the battle to be KU’s starting quarterback.

"I think there is a real quality group there. I think MacVittie might have an edge. Carter Stanley is right there,” Miles said. “From that point forward, there are some good guys that can step in and play well in games. I'm not really ready to name anybody.”

A quarterback competition is nothing new with KU, especially during this decade. But understanding Miles’ historical background with signal callers might put fans at ease this time around.

Similar to what I did with the running back blog earlier this week, I went back to collect data from quarterbacks under Miles during his time at Oklahoma State and LSU. The thing that initially stood out to me was the lack of production backup quarterbacks have had under Miles.

In his last full season as a head coach, which was 2015, only one quarterback threw every single one of LSU’s 277 pass attempts. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2011 to find a backup quarterback that threw more than 45 passes in a single season with Miles at the helm.

For comparison, KU’s backup quarterback has thrown more than 45 pass attempts in each of the previous seven seasons.

What does that mean exactly? Well, it appears that Miles will commit to his signal caller when he picks a winner of the starting quarterback competition. That alone could provide some much-needed stability to a program that has been the lowest scoring offense in the Big 12 in eight of the previous nine seasons.

The only year that KU did not finish last in the league in scoring this decade was actually 2018, when the team averaged 23.8 points per game. Peyton Bender played 11 games and threw 321 pass attempts, while Stanley threw just 47 attempts in four games.

Yet that could resemble what this year’s passing numbers look like, given how Miles has typically operated in his career.

During his 15 full seasons as a head coach, Miles has only had three backup quarterbacks throw at least 75 pass attempts in one year. The Jayhawks have had six such No. 2 signal callers do that in the previous nine seasons.

Miles’ backup quarterback has thrown an average of 43.5 pass attempts in a single season. Since 2010, KU’s No. 2 signal caller has recorded an average of 95.4 pass attempts each year.

All of this could be a pointless exercise, especially during the first year with Miles at the helm. He did not recruit Stanley or Miles Kendrick, and might not be as likely to give either of them a long leash if they emerged as the starter by August. Injuries could also play a factor at any point.

Still, Miles’ track record would suggest he’s more likely to stick with one quarterback. Considering these last several years, that mindset could be a step in the right direction for this football program.


Mike Auer 11 months ago

To contrast this further, I would think that many of the pass attempts that backup QB's had at LSU during Mile's time was when they were up big which has certainly not been the case at KU of late.

Eric Eakins 11 months ago

I will be thrilled if I don't see Miles call a two yard pass on first down, bring in backup QB to run for a minus 2 to the right, bring in starter QB to throw ball 25 yards straight at the sideline for a catch and loss of 2 yards, then call a timeout to decide if we are going to punt. Sorry, my PTSD is showing.

Dirk Medema 11 months ago

Much like Fournette at RB, some of the data may be skewed by the quality of the players available. For the QB position and health there of, the quality of the OL also very much comes into play.

That being said, I get the feeling that Miles will be more of a program leader than we have had in decades. Hopefully it will be better all around.

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