KU football MVP Countdown: No. 12, Peyton Bender
Kansas doesn't have as much speed at receiver as most Big 12 schools so getting separation from the defense consistently is a challenge. Windows seldom open wide, so when one does crack open, it's imperative the ball is delivered quickly. Therein lies the biggest difference between Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley. Bender has a very quick release, noticeably quicker than Stanley's.
Stanley can buy time better with his feet, as can Miles Kendrick. Both reserve quarterbacks have enough running ability that they can be used for scripted runs and they both have peppier body language than Bender, all important factors, yet none of which outweigh Bender's ability to deliver passes to all areas of the field in timely fashion.
Bender needs pass protection to be effective and that is as good an explanation as any as to why his production dropped off so severely once the nonconference portion of the schedule gave way to Big 12 play. He averaged 343.3 yards passing in the first three games of 2017 and never reached 200 yards in a Big 12 game.
During those back-to-back weeks when the Kansas offense stalled into a state of inertia vs. Iowa State and TCU, a pair of shutouts, Bender threw a combined 35 passes and averaged 1.6 yards per attempt.
There certainly is reason to believe he will be protected better this season, which should lead to better production. Still, it's not as if he'll have tons of time or will have the luxury of throwing to wide-open receivers. Playing quarterback for Kansas remains a daunting challenge. All indications are that head coach David Beaty and offensive coordinator Doug Meacham are in agreement that Bender gives the offense its best chance to compete.
Facing Nicholls State, ranked No. 17 in the nation by FCS coaches, in Week 1, and a rebuilding Central Michigan squad in Week 2, gives Bender a chance to get off to a quick start. He should have quite a bit more time throw in both games than he had during the Big 12 season and might even develop strong chemistry during that time with a receiver in addition to star Steven Sims. Evan Fairs maybe?