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Ranking Kansas football position units: No. 6, quarterbacks

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Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Kansas has had a few big victories in the post-Mark Mangino/Todd Reesing years. Then again, too few to mention. But we’ll mention them anyway and just for fun look at who the starting quarterback and head coach were for each game. Playing for Turner Gill, Quinn Mecham led KU from way behind to a 52-45 victory against Colorado. Coach Charlie Weis gave the starting assignment to true freshman Montell Cozart threw just 12 times on a day Kansas had 54 rushing attempts in a 31-19 Kansas victory against West Virginia. Playing for interim head coach Clint Bowen, Michael Cummings led KU to a 34-14 thrashing of Iowa State.

But the quarterback was Carter Stanley, the head coach David Beaty, the opponent Texas when Kansas executed its biggest victory in the post-Mangino/Reesing years, the first triumph vs. Texas since 1938.

Stanley, the 10th quarterback to start a game in the years since Reesing rewrote the Kansas passing record book, was the most impressive of the lot. Even so, chances are good that he will open the season second on the depth chart behind junior-college transfer Peyton Bender, who ran an Air Raid offense in high school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and in the three years since, the first as a redshirt at Washington State, the second as a backup at WSU.

Stanley performed pretty well at the spring game and Bender was even more impressive. Stanley is the better runner and his quick decision making instantly put more pep into an offense that didn’t run quite as well when his predecessors Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis were the trigger men. But Bender has the quicker release and the stronger arm. Bender grew up in Georgia before moving to Florida for his high school years after his father’s career necessitated the move. The family since has moved back to Georgia, so it would have been convenient for Bender’s parents had he chosen a school closer to home. But even after Georgia made a late run at him and offered a scholarship, Bender stayed committed to Kansas, explaining that he felt more secure about his chances of winning the job.

At Itawamaba Community College in Mississippi, Bender threw 21 touchdown passes and was intercepted four times and sacked just once. In conference play, he averaged 354.5 yards passing per game and completed 65.6 percent of his passes.

A year ago at this time, the competition for the starting spot was between Cozart and Ryan Willis, a pair of quarterbacks recruited by Weis to run his offense. Neither was a perfect fit for Beaty’s Air Raid and both have transferred, Cozart to Boise State, where he will be eligible to play this coming season as a graduate transfer, Willis to Virginia Tech, for which he can play in games in 2018. As soon as he was given the opportunity to start, thus becoming the team’s third starting quarterback in 2017, Stanley showed he should have been the starter all season. If Bender has as much going for him as many believe, he’ll show that Stanley, the best QB Kansas has had in eight years, should be the backup. Clearly, the position has been upgraded.

Tyriek Starks has the strongest arm on the roster and has the most potential as a runner, but needs more seasoning at reading defenses and commanding the offense to be game-ready.

Comments

Brett McCabe 2 weeks, 4 days ago

I don't often disagree with Tom, but the myth making around Carter Stanley really needs to stop. It puts me in the unenviable position of sounding as if I don't respect the young man, but my goodness folks - he won one game, at home, against a coach that was about to be fired, vs. a really bad team, in a game that we collected 5 or 6 interceptions against the most overrated quarterback since Todd Marinovich - and we barely won.

Other than that single, barely shining moment, there was nothing about Stanley's performance that separated him from our best quarterback - Ryan Willis - who got rah-rah'd by the head coach, punt return coach, quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. Willis never stood a chance with so many guys on the staff against him.

Last year's QB race should be like the guy from Harry Potter - never to be mentioned. It was a complete clown-show that absolutely has nothing to do with competence at the position.

Now, back to the sobering reality of Tom's ratings. Two of the sub-par groups are offensive line and QB. This concerns me. I'm in full on RCJHK mode and I am not particularly fond of reality ruining a good party. If your o-line is sub-par and your QB is sub-par, then you've got trouble, right here in River City.

Let's hope that Tom has too many Milwaukee brats floating through his bloodstream and clouding his judgement.

Dirk Medema 2 weeks, 3 days ago

What was Willis' TD/INT rate during his starts when he never had a chance to show himself as the best QB?

And if it's like the guy from Harry whatshisname, why are you beating the dead horse?

Brad Sherp 2 weeks, 3 days ago

Brett, I don't see any myth making here. Tom is saying that Bender is the better QB.

It is a fact that Stanley has the highest win percentage of any KU QB since Reesing, and that Stanley was the QB for the biggest win since the Reesing days as well. Furthermore, as long as Beaty/Meachum continue to say how neck and neck the QB battle is, you cannot say that justifying Stanley's place in the conversation is unjust. Stanley is the best QB KU has had in a long time...but that isn't saying much.

You could probably argue that at this point Cummings was the best QB we have had since Ressing, instead of Stanley, but Cummings never had a big win like Stanley had against Texas. You could also probably argue that Stanley wouldn't have the win if the KU defense didn't get 6 turnovers in the Texas game... but Stanley also didn't create turnovers, keeping KU in that game.

I think Stanley and Bender are both capable QBs, and I am comfortable with either behind center. I feel better about them than I felt about Willis, Cozart, Heaps, or any other recent KU QB not named Cummings.

I am comfortable with ranking QBs the 6th best position group just because so much about this team is unpredictable right now. Will the OL be competitive, and make the QB's life easy, or will the QB be trying to make throws from his back? There are so many unknowns. You could argue that on potential and experience with the Air Raid offense, the group should be ranked higher. You could also argue that neither have done anything at KU to rank them this high.

Dirk Medema 2 weeks, 3 days ago

The worst luck of all has been Cummings' knee injury.

Jim Stauffer 2 weeks, 3 days ago

We need to stay away from extreme conclusions. Conclusions such as Bender or Stanley are going to be great at QB or that the O-Line is going to be middle of the road in the conference. But at the same time these are both unknowns. The clear picture is that our two competing QB's are the best we have seen at KU since Cummings. The O-Line is in the best shape to compete it has been since Beaty has been here. That much is not up for speculation. Now we wait to see. Many of us have cheered for guys who for one reason or another are no longer here. I was a big big Willis fan. For one reason or another it did not work out. I am now a fan of Bender and Stanley because I am a Jayhawk fan, pure and simple.

Pius Waldman 2 weeks, 1 day ago

I feel certain that both will get an opportunity to be the quarterback that wins games. I sorta question whether Air Raid is the answer although you have to have a plan.

Bob Bailey 2 weeks ago

The 'PLAN' should include Defense. Defense wins games, not Offense. Only slight improvement over the years in Defense.

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