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Offensive line disappoints in loss to Central Michigan

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Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes while under pressure from the CMU defense during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) passes while under pressure from the CMU defense during the Jayhawks game against Central Michigan Saturday, Sept. 9 at Memorial Stadium. by Mike Yoder

The most obvious difference in performance when comparing units from Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference and Kansas from the Big 12 came at offensive line.

The Chippewas' O-line held KU’s talented front four in check and didn’t allow a sack. KU linebacker Joe Dineen was the only one credited with a quarterback hurry.

Kansas did a decent job against the run (3.5 yards per carry), but thanks in part to sound pass protection and his mobility, lefty quarterback Shane Morris shredded KU’s overmatched, green secondary for 467 passing yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception.

In contrast, Peyton Bender was under fire all day, largely because of breakdowns on the right side of the line, where tackle Antione Frazier showed his inexperience.

How can a MAC O-line be so much better than one from the Big 12?

The biggest factor is experience. To what degree making the right decisions in recruiting also is a factor will play out in coming seasons as we learn how KU’s young blockers develop.

Central Michigan started four fifth-year seniors who were all high school recruits who were part of the Class of 2013 and redshirted in 2013. A third-year sophomore started at left guard.

Conversely, Kansas started a true sophomore at left tackle, a third-year senior at left guard, a third-year sophomore at center, a true sophomore at right guard and a second-year freshman at right tackle.

Head coach David Beaty and offensive line coach Zach Yenser expressed confidence throughout camp that the line had made big strides from a year ago. It didn’t show Saturday, at least not in the area of pass protection.

It will be interesting to see if any shakeup is in store, heading into Saturday’s game at Ohio.

Charles Baldwin, dismissed from Alabama’s program after spending one spring with the Crimson Tide, has not earned playing time yet at right tackle. If he hasn’t earned it and Yenser determines Frazier needs more seasoning, no obvious place to turn is available.

Backup junior right guard Larry Hughes played right tackle as a freshman, so that’s an option.

A more drastic step would involve putting fourth-year senior Jacob Bragg at center and moving Mesa Ribordy to right tackle, where he never has played. That alignment at least would have KU’s most talented, smartest blockers at the tackle spot with Hakeem Adeniji at left tackle.

Shifting backup left tackle Clyde McCauley to starting right tackle also could be tried. Or, Yenser could decide to keep the line in tact and hope that all Frazier needs to hold his own are game reps.

Heading into the season, I thought the O-line was a year away, but based on Saturday’s performance, that projection seems a little optimistic. There is no rushing the development of offensive linemen.

Comments

John Fitzgerald 2 months, 1 week ago

Hey Keegs, I saw you out and about on Saturday and wanted to pick your brain about what you thought about the game. And then I realized no one wants to talk about work when they're not working especially when it's about a piss poor performance by a football team expected to crawl out of the cellar this year. I'm sure you, Benton, Tait, and Bobby are near sick of writing the same articles year after year. Anyways I was so frustrated and disappointed that I'm sure it would have been more pissing then actual conversation. But nonetheless I appreciate you and Benton not making excuses for any of the players or coaches and calling it like it is. I want nothing more than for Beaty to be successful but this game really hit hard.

Tom Keegan 2 months, 1 week ago

John,

Always say hello. Louise's West, I assume?

This one was the most disappointing loss in years because of how badly team was exposed in two biggest areas of concern, the secondary and offensive line. Figured line would be better because it's a year older and it doesn't look as if that's the case, at least in protecting the passer. Say hello next time. Thanks.

John Fitzgerald 2 months, 1 week ago

Yes sir, that was the place. I'll definitely say hello next time and we can talk about how impressive the dance squad was since the football team obviously won't be.

Marc Frey 2 months, 1 week ago

This article points out what has been and will be the issue for 2 more years: Talent and youth. For many of the front line, that is huge. Our guys were up against players with 5 years of college ball and weight rooms behind them. Until we can start redshirting all of our linemen, we will have these issues. Rock Chalk!

Mike Bennett 2 months, 1 week ago

I wrote on my FB page Saturday at half-time that the RT can't play, at least right now, at a Big XII level. He was awful. When you run a 5 man line with no tight end and the RB goes out for a pass every play, then the RT and LT stand out in pass coverage. He was absolutely abused. They better give him some help or Bender won't make to Big XII play.

Michael Sillman 2 months, 1 week ago

If the O-line is not ready, then it might force a change at quarterback as well. Stanley appears to be a lot more nimble and creative with his feet than Bender.

Tom Keegan 2 months, 1 week ago

But Stanley's hand is injured. When will it heal? Don't know the answer to that. Too soon to give up on Bender, I think.

Jay Hawkinson 2 months, 1 week ago

Bender just needs to be more consistent when he's under pressure. He's willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit, and had a few nice throws. But he also blindly chucked it down the middle of the field a few times.

Brett McCabe 2 months, 1 week ago

There are also other variations of protection and alignment to help protect the QB. If the WR position is our strength, pick the most talented to put on the field and add a fullback or tight end for protection. Or, just keep doing what you are going.

While Tom's overview may be right, there are two real problems with the analysis. Simply having older guys doesn't make you better. CMU is picked to finish near the bottom of their conference and barely beat URI at home, with the same group of players.

Iowa State fired Paul Rhodes after giving him years to fill the roster and develop the players. Terry Allen got five years here. It's not as simple as getting older.

The second problem is this: we aren't any better. Beaty himself project solid improvement from Week One to Week Two. Every KU fan expected some improvement from year two to year three. None of it has materialized.

Beaty pursued this job, so he is responsible for it. As is Zenger. We all know how thin the roster was, so no one was expecting more than 2-1 in the non-con and maybe a sneak-up win vs. Baylor or TTU during conference. That seems kind of far-fetched right now, though the Baylor game might still be in play.

Had there not been so much tumult in the program last year. Or had Beaty come in with a more substantial resume, then I'd be willing to sit back and give him his 5 years. But there isn't anything to look at right now that says: yeah, believe in it.

The good news is this. The roster is filling up. The worst should be over. If we recruit a proven winner to take over the program, we should see a substantial uptick next year.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

If in saying "If we recruit a proven winner to take over the program" you are saying we should replace another coach after 3 years or less, then we should in no way expect anything but a step back uptick next year, as we have in the past.

Even worse than the step back to be expected from a coaching change, is the regression in coaching options following the pattern of firing coaches, and especially before Beaty even has a chance to get a full roster.

At this point, we haven't even recovered to a full roster, much less a roster of experienced players. "Simply having older guys doesn't make you better" than your opponent, but it most certainly should make you better than you were as an underclassmen.

I wonder if the challenges in the passing game could have had anything to do with essentially losing your top receiver? We definitely don't have the depth, even at our "deepest" position to lose our best player without there being a significant impact.

Mike Bennett 2 months, 1 week ago

My comments on the O-line are above, but let's be honest, as bad as the O-line was the entire defense was worse. It gave up over 500 yards to those bozos. We knew the offense was weak. The D was supposed to be the strong point of this team. The line can't pressure and the D-backs can't cover. It appears Bowen is in full retreat with his players back pedaling as fast as they can on every play regardless of down and distance. I said this summer, and got blasted for it, when I said if Bryce Torneden was starting opening day, his sophomore year, with his physical limitations then the D-backs weren't going to be very good. I'm not bad mouthing Bryce. He's a good kid. The catastrophe was much bigger than him. He's just a symptom. Might make a decent back-up. I'm only saying that we're not talking about a 6'2", 200 pound 4.5 guy here that is so good you have to find a spot for him. Heads need to roll on defense.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 1 week ago

The D front 6 was supposed to be a relative strength, but the DB's were a massive crater heading into this season. I wouldn't make an analysis based on a young player much less blast anyone about it (Was the blasting based on you identifying Bryce in particular?), but anyone that thought we would just seamlessly incorporate a bunch of JCs and young players into this D isn't thinking much.

Mike Bennett 2 months, 1 week ago

I wasn't trying to blast anyone. I mentioned him because we knew his physical limitations having seen him for years. I hadn't seen Shakal Taylor or Hassan Defense so I couldn't comment on their limitations. I thought I was quite complimentary to Torneden by saying he'd make a decent back-up. It is not a shot at him to say that physically he's just not big enough or fast enough to play corner/safety. He's still a good athlete, but Big XII receivers are freak athletes, not good.

Clarence Haynes 2 months, 1 week ago

I wonder if some of these guys aren't "earning it" at practice but are "gamers" ?

Jim Stauffer 2 months, 1 week ago

I continue to be amazed at the discussion over the performance of the O-Line here. Tom seems obsessed with finding the solution to some guy named Baldwin who has never played a down here instead of finding out what is wrong with our supposed AA DE who still does not have a sack and probably did not even get a hurry in that game.

Had our DL played up to par it would have been a competitive game. Everyone speaks of the weak secondary. Any secondary that has to cover for over 4 seconds is going to be weak. And when it is play after play it gets worse as the game goes on.

Yes, the O-Line is weaker than most we will play. As this article points out they are RS sophs mostly. It is not Beaty's fault they are not RS juniors or seniors. Give them time. But remember our DL is supposed to be the strength of this team and I still ask, where are they?

Bob Bailey 2 months, 1 week ago

Stauffer, you are way too optimistic. Our players have more talent than they are allowed to show! We. haven't had good coaching since Mangino left! Yes, that's pessimistic. Gave the team a chance several years ago, gave up by the 4th game. There is no immediate hope. Zenger and Beaty screwed the new chancellor. And we've had two football incompetent in a row!

How in the world can the rich graduates continue to finance athletics -- except for basketball. Even that may be doomed as time goes by!

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