Three key numbers on KU's offense during 0-3 start
With it being a bye week, now is as good of a time as any to see where the Kansas football team stands with nearly one-third of the 2020 season in the books.
To say KU’s offense has been underwhelming during the team’s 0-3 start would be a massive understatement. The Jayhawks have averaged 14.7 points per game so far this season, a number that only ranks better than three teams in all of college football.
Kansas fans certainly were expecting more from this unit, especially with all the returning weapons and offensive coordinator Brent Dearmon coming back to call plays for a full season.
But the Jayhawks haven’t had consistency at quarterback, and they have had poor offensive line play through three games.
Let’s dive into some statistics to better highlight KU’s offensive struggles to this point in the season. Using PFF’s NCAA Premium Stats, here are a few numbers that stood out to me during this 0-3 start by the Jayhawks:
Andrew Parchment’s yards after the catch
The play of receiver Andrew Parchment is the least of KU’s concerns, but his lack of yards after the catch was somewhat surprising.
Parchment has caught 11 balls on 20 targets in 2020, recording 75 yards and one score in the process. But only 22 of those yards have come after the catch for Parchment, who is averaging 2.0 yards after the catch per reception through three games.
The talented KU receiver was much more productive after the catch a season ago. Parchment produced 301 yards after the catch in 2019, averaging 4.6 yards after the catch per reception. For the season, Parchment caught 66 balls on 111 targets for 838 yards and seven touchdowns.
Parchment’s total numbers will likely take a hit at this current pace, especially given KU’s quarterback play, but his yards after the catch is concerning considering his playmaking ability. Still, I have to imagine this won’t be a trend that continues over the final seven games of the season.
KU’s pass-blocking grade is very low
One major talking point so far this season has been KU’s struggles along the offensive line. In particular, the o-line has had some major issues in pass protection for all three of the Kansas signal callers.
The Jayhawks have a pass-blocking grade of 26.0, according to PFF. Only Mississippi (23.7), South Alabama (20.3) and East Carolina (20.3) have a worse pass-blocking grade in 2020. Memphis, meanwhile, has the best mark in the country with a 92.0 pass-blocking grade.
PFF’s premium stats only go back to the 2013 season, but here is a look at how KU has performed in pass blocking in the PFF era:
2019 — 60.8 grade
2018 — 71.4 grade
2017 — 82.1 grade
2016 — 70.7 grade
2015 — 71.6 grade
2014 — 68.1 grade
Those numbers suggest that small-sample size could be playing a part in this historically poor performance by the o-line. And it is true that, perhaps more than any other position, the offensive line needs reps to learn how to play together.
But that unit has struggled in the early going, and the entire offense will keep having issues if that continues.
Just 4 runs of 10+ yards for Pooka Williams
Prior to last week’s 47-7 loss to Oklahoma State, players and Kansas coach Les Miles mentioned that the team needs more explosive plays. That obviously didn’t happen against the Cowboys.
Running back Pooka Williams, in particular, didn’t have a single run that went for 10-plus yards against Oklahoma State. He carried the rock a season-high 14 times, but only managed 32 yards for an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.
This season, only four of Williams’ 39 carries have ended up being a gain of 10 or more yards. Williams has put together a career out of making big plays, but his longest run of the season was a 21-yard carry against Baylor. It was one of two explosive plays by Williams against the Bears.
For comparison, Williams recorded 31 runs that went for 10-plus yards a season ago. He had 34 such carries as a freshman in 2019. His longest rushing attempts went for 65 yards and 72 yards, respectively, over the previous two years.
Perhaps the lack of big plays can be blamed on the o-line for not sticking with blocks. Maybe it is opposing defenses keying in on Pooka on every play. It might even be Williams himself, as he has appeared shaken up on multiple occasions this year.
Regardless, it is a big reason why KU’s offense has looked so lethargic through three games.