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A look at KU's personnel usage vs. Baylor in Big 12 opener

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Kansas wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. pulls down a pass over Baylor safety Jalen Pitre, left, in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP)

Kansas wide receiver Stephon Robinson Jr. pulls down a pass over Baylor safety Jalen Pitre, left, in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 25, 2020, in Waco, Texas. (Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune Herald, via AP) by Rod Aydelotte

Kansas might have had a true freshman quarterback in the Big 12 opener, but the offense was still much of the same — at least personnel wise — in a 47-14 loss to Baylor this past weekend.

The Jayhawks utilized five different personnel groupings for the second game in a row, making sure the opposing defense saw a variety of different formations in the process. Like the season opener, most of KU’s success came in a one-back, one tight end grouping.

Kansas also used a two-back package on 30% of its offensive plays against Baylor, which will be something to monitor given the tweak that look featured this past weekend. But we will get into all that in a bit.

First, let’s take a look at how the Jayhawks performed in each personnel grouping at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. Please note that this does count plays that were nullified due to penalty.

Personnel groupings vs. Baylor

10 personnel (one back, no tight end) — 20 total plays for 24 total yards or an average of 1.2 yards per play.

11 personnel (one back, one tight end) — 26 plays, 151 yards, 5.81 yards per play.

12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) — 5 plays, 40 yards, 8.0 yards per play.

20 personnel (two backs, no tight end) — 8 plays, 58 yards, 7.25 yards per play

21 personnel (two backs, one tight end) — 15 plays, 33 yards, 2.2 yards per play

Wildcat — 2 plays, 14 yards, 7.0 yards per play.

Total — 76 plays, 320 yards, 4.21 YPP

Kansas has success in 11 personnel again

My first takeaway after charting this information for the second game in a row was KU’s success in 11 personnel.

In Week 1, the Jayhawks only had 11 plays in this grouping and turned that into 140 total yards. That level of production probably played a part in KU using that look more often this past weekend, even if it wasn’t as efficient against a Big 12 defense.

What is interesting is that the Jayhawks only had one negative play in 11 personnel, despite it being their most-used formation against the Bears.

The biggest play of the night — a 23-yard connection between Jalon Daniels and Stephon Robinson — came in this grouping. Kansas had four other double-digit yardage plays in 11 personnel, matching the number of explosive plays earned in the rest of the formations combined.

More creative two-back sets

KU ran more two-back sets against Coastal, but this week’s grouping featured more plays where sensational running back Pooka Williams Jr. lined up at receiver.

Williams lined up as receiver on eight plays in the first half alone, including the first play of the game. But this look didn't really lead to much production, like I originally thought it might after KU used it a few times against Coastal.

Kansas picked up 34 total yards on the nine plays that Williams was at receiver. Velton Gardner’s 18-yard drive on the fifth possession of the game was the best play of the night in this particular look.

My guess was that defenses would have to shift their attention with Williams at receiver, and it would open up running lanes, but the results against Baylor don’t indicate that was the case. It’s only one game, so perhaps it will have more success down the road.

Wildcat shows up for the first time this season

It didn’t take long for Kansas to show us a different formation on offense.

KU ran the wildcat with Velton Gardner as the player receiving the snap on the second play of the game. Gardner proceeded to pick up 10 yards and a first down on 2nd-and-8, on what was the first wildcat snap of the year for Kansas.

Gardner only picked up four yards on 2nd-and-10, when the Jayhawks tried to go wildcat again in the third quarter.

It is curious because there was some offseason chatter about how former quarterback Torry Locklin could be in line for some of those wildcat snaps. Again, it is just one game, so we shall see if Locklin has more of a role in those situations moving forward.

Final snap counts for KU’s offensive players (Information via NCAA Premium Stats at Pro Football Focus):

LT Malik Clark — 78 total snaps

C Api Mane — 78 total snaps

RT Earl Bostick Jr. — 78 total snaps

QB Jalon Daniels — 76 total snaps

WR Andrew Parchment — 66 total snaps

WR Kwamie Lassiter II — 66 total snaps

LG Jacobi Lott — 64 total snaps

HB Pooka Williams Jr. — 61 total snaps

WR Takulve Williams — 52 total snaps

RG Chris Hughes — 51 total snaps

RG Adagio Lopeti — 41 total snaps

TE Mason Fairchild — 30 total snaps

HB Velton Gardner — 30 total snaps

TE Jack Luavasa — 25 total snaps

WR Stephon Robinson — 14 total snaps

FB Ben Miles — 12 total snaps

WR Hunter Kaufman — 10 total snaps

WR Lawrence Arnold — 7 total snaps

TE James Sosinski — 7 total snaps

WR Steven McBride — 5 total snaps

WR Tristan Golightly — 4 total snaps

WR Jordan Brown — 2 total snaps

HB Daniel Hishaw Jr. — 1 total snap

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