Kansas has scored just one non-binding football commitment from the Class of 2019, but it's an exciting one, which in turn makes it one that will be difficult to secure through the December signing day.
Four-star quarterback Lance Legendre's Feb. 26 verbal commitment to Kansas triggered much skepticism in the way the early commitments of receiver Devonta Jason and cornerback Corione Harris did from the Class of 2018.
Jason ultimately signed with Mississippi State, but Harris honored his verbal commitment to Kansas, enrolled at the semester and impressed the coaching staff with his attitude during 15 spring practices.
Jason and Harris both attended Landry-Walker High in New Orleans and were recruited by former Warren Easton High (New Orleans) head coach Tony Hull, KU's running backs coach. If Legendre signs with Kansas in December, he'll become the second quarterback from Warren Easton to do so in recent years. Tyriek Starks, a three-star prospect in high school from the Class of 2016, spent two years in the program before transferring to Southwest Mississippi Community College.
Legendre is a four-star prospect per Rivals and already has received scholarship offers from Alabama and Tennessee.
As impressive as his crazy arm strength is in the dropped pass shown in the video below, it's not my favorite moment capture in the video. When pressured before throwing the bomb, Legendre changed directions so sharply that the pursuing defender fell to the ground, not something you see every day in a football game.
The fact that Hull landed Harris and highly regarded running back Pooka Williams, also out of Louisiana, gives more credence to the possibility that Legendre will honor his commitment to Kansas. The more Louisiana players Hull adds to the roster, the more likely other recruits from The Boot will become comfortable heading to the Big 12 school that last had a winning season in 2008.
Rivals ranks Legendre as the eight-best dual-threat quarterback prospect in the Class of 2019 and the 15th-best recruit in Louisiana.
He didn’t post loud statistics during his freshman season and suffered an injury that took him off the field for half the season, so it’s easy to overlook Quan Hampton when listing potential playmakers for a Kansas football offense that has been stuck in neutral for several years.
Yet, something about the way he moved when healthy indicated he had potential to develop into an exciting playmaker. Hampton showed speed, quickness and agility on his way to 21 catches for 145 yards (just a 6.9-yard average) as a true freshman last season.
In the second game of his college career, Hampton had six receptions for 67 yards, one rush for 13 yards and 22-yard kick return in a 45-27 loss to Central Michigan.
His favorite play came that week.
“It came on a corner route,” Hampton said. “I showed people I could jump.”
Listed at 5-foot-8, 170 pounds, Hampton acknowledged he’s closer to 5-7, but the former high school basketball player added that his height doesn’t prevent him from dunking. He is the one throwing it down with back to the basket during warmups here:
“I was a junior in high school the last time I had my vertical measured,” Hampton said. “It was 40 inches.”
Hampton started in the slot the first six games of last season and will compete again for one of the starting inside receiver positions. He also is in the mix as a return man for punts and kickoffs.
“I got injured halfway through the season, so I wasn’t able to keep on playing but I feel like the experience that I got when I did play I learned a lot from and it will carry over to this season,” Hampton said.
An extra year in the weight room will enable him to get more of the 50-50 balls that he was able to gain possession of a year ago.
You see men crawling all over Las Vegas who are different versions of the same person. Greasy hair. Bulging bags under their eyes. Brown double-knit pants decorated by weeks-old donut stains.
They have one thing in common. They couldn’t convince themselves that when odds look too good to be true, turn around and run away from the smoke and cacophony of bells and into the sunlight.
It simply does not pay to gamble. The house always wins and in turn you might lose your house. So often, the odds that look to good to be true have the sharpest fangs.
That brings us to BetDSI setting its over/under win totals for Big 12 schools:
So in order to lose a wager that looks to good to be true, betting on Kansas to have fewer than three victories, the Jayhawks would have to win four or more games. Three would be a push.
Kansas opens with Nicholls State, which has made steady progress under fourth-year head coach Tim Rebowe, who inherited an 0-12 program. The Colonels have gone 3-8, 5-6 and 8-4 under Rebowe and have most of the players returning from last year's squad. They're no pushovers, but are ranked no better than 25th in the Stats FCS preseason poll. Kansas should win that game.
The Jayhawks then travel to Mount Pleasant, Mich., where they will try to snap a 46-game road losing streak against Central Michigan. The Chippewas handled Kansas in Lawrence pretty easily last season, 45-27. Shane Morris, who started his career at Michigan, threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception. He graduated and Kansas has upgraded its secondary, so it's not unreasonable to think the road slide could end and the Jayhawks could bring a 2-0 record back home for a Week 3 clash with Rutgers, picked for last in the East division of the 14-team Big 10.
Kansas ranked 120th in the nation with 18.7 points per game last season. Rutgers averaged 18 points a game and ranked 121st. They have very little experience back at quarterback. Strange as it sounds, the Jayhawks have a realistic shot at opening the season 3-0. A 2-1 or 1-2 start is more likely, but 3-0 is not an absurd thought. But even if they do start 3-0, the search for a fourth victory is contained to the Big 12.
Baylor returns most of its key players from a team that smoked KU, 38-9, in Lawrence. This year's game is in Waco. The rest of the road games are against West Virginia, Texas Tech, Kansas State and Oklahoma. Not feeling an upset at any of those places, not even with two weeks to prepare for the trip to Lubbock.
Kansas was outscored 88-0 in consecutive road games vs. Iowa State and TCU last season. TCU visits David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in Week 8, the Cyclones in Week 9. A change in venue isn't enough to compensate for 88 points. Quarterback Kenny Hill no longer is with the Horned Frogs, but he had nothing to do with Kansas managing just 21 total yards in Fort Worth last season.
Then it's off to Manhattan to play Bill Snyder's experienced Kansas State Wildcats. Kansas has hung tough against K-State the past two seasons, losing in Manhattan, 34-19, in 2016 and losing at home last season, 30-20. K-State will be sky high for this one.
A trip to Norman is next, so the search continues in the season-finale at home vs. Texas. The Longhorns won't look past KU. The memory of an overtime loss to the Jayhawks in 2016 is too fresh.
I purposely skipped over one game because I consider it KU's best shot at a Big 12 victory. Oklahoma State visits Lawrence on Sept. 29, the second game of the Big 12 schedule.
Mason Rudolph, who threw for 494 yards in KU's season finale, and receiver James Washington, are with the Pittsburgh Steelers now.
If the Cowboys were confident they had Rudolph's replacement in house they would not have welcomed Hawaii graduate transfer Dru Brown, who will join the program in the summer. Oklahoma State will be bigger and faster than Kansas, but if the quarterback spot isn't settled by the last week of September, it's conceivable the Jayhawks could score a monster upset. Conceivable is a long, long way from probable. There's a chance, but it's a small one.
So many things would have to go right for Kansas to win four games, what would be the most since 2009, that it seems as if the under is just too good to be true.
Athlon Sports updates throughout the year its rankings of the 130 FBS football programs. Athlon ranked Kansas 107th in its most recent update, nine spots ahead of Central Michigan, which KU faces in a road game Sept. 8. Michigan transfer Shane Morris threw for 467 yards and five touchdowns without throwing an interception in last season's 45-27 victory vs. Kansas in Memorial Stadium, since renamed David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
Morris is gone and this season's game will be played in Kelly/Shorts Stadium, which could spell the end of KU's 46-game road losing streak. The record doesn't count three losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium, a neutral site.
A look at the Athlon rankings of the 11 FBS schools on KU's 2018 schedule:
result vs. KU
|21||West Virginia||L, 56-34|
|24||Kansas State||L, 30-20|
|33||Iowa State||L, 45-0|
|39||Oklahoma St.||L, 58-17|
|49||Texas Tech||L, 65-19|
|85||Rutgers||L, 27-14 (2015)|
|116||Central Michigan||L, 45-27|
Kansas stopped paying Charlie Weis at the end of 2016. Now it’s time to stop blaming him.
No doubt, David Beaty inherited a skeletal scholarship situation from Weis, but the former Texas A&M assistant coach is heading into his fourth season. He had plenty of time to get up to full speed and isn’t in part because he lost so many transfers.
As it is, Beaty will have an estimated 75 players who spent every season at KU on scholarship, 10 short of the maximum allowed and about four short of what most schools carry at any given time. Injuries and last-minute transfers keep teams below the maximum.
Any coaching change comes with inevitable transfers, so on that front you can’t put the blame on Beaty for losing Weis recruits such as Montell Cozart, Darious Crawley, Aaron Garza, Colton Goeas, Kyron Watson and D.J. Williams.
Beaty also lost 14 of his own recruits: Shola Ayinde, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Chase Harrell, Travis Jordan, Maciah Long, Quincy Perdue, Ian Peterson, Stephan Robinson, Joshua Stanford, Tyriek Starks, Jace Sternberger, Justin Williams and Ryan Willis.
The reasons for the departures range from behavior issues to playing time to lacking the talent to play at the FBS level.
The house Beaty inherited had a cracked foundation. Nobody disputes that. He’s had time to repair it, and a daunting 2018 schedule awaits. Nobody is buying the blame-Charlie approach any longer. It has evolved from legitimate explanation to an excuse. Time to move on.
Before you decide for or against donating to the Kansas Athletics capital campaign designed at raising $350 million, all but about $50 million for football stadium renovations, give a listen to this podcast, starting at about the 33-minute mark.
Matt Baty, senior associate athletics director in charge of fundraising for Kansas Athletics, is working very hard to make it happen, so at least show him the courtesy of listening to what he has to say on Episode 1 of the “KU Sport Management,” podcast, recorded shortly after the conclusion of the 1-11 2017 football season.
Baty points out to the host that Kansas has had 15 football coaches in the past 65 years and just two had winning records.
Some highlights of Baty’s candid interview:
“Average tenure was four years. Four years!” Baty said. “At what point do we put our stake in the ground as a fan base, as a donor base, as an administration, as campus administrators, do we put our foot in the ground and say no more?”
The athletic department’s answer is at the point that their football coach has the worst record (3-33) in program history.
“We have conference realignment coming up,” Baty cautioned. “We have to show that we care about football. We have to show that we have the resources. We have to show that we have the winning product on the field.”
The need to show they have the resources led to the capital campaign. The solution to showing they have a winning record on the field? Retaining a football coach with a 3-33 record because evidently, longevity is the key component that determines a football coach’s success. No wonder Eddie Robinson and Bud Wilkinson, Bear Bryant and Bob Stoops, were such good football coaches. Their schools allowed them to keep their jobs for so long. And all this time I thought it was because they were great judges of talent, superior motivators of men, smart tacticians.
Great professors aren’t great because they know how to communicate their knowledge in compelling fashion, inspiring their students to find out more about the subject. Nope. It’s because they have tenure.
Baty was just getting warmed up.
“This may step on some people’s toes, but I’m dealing in reality, right? This administration sucked at football. The last administration sucked at football. For 65 years, every administration sucked at football,” Baty said.
Well, not really. For one thing, Al Bohl hired Mark Mangino. But close enough.
“But this is the administration to change it. I truly believe that. We’re here to change that,” he said.
Baty explains how: “We hired David Beaty and we knew this was going to be a five-year process, a five-year plan. We beat Texas last year and that kind of sped up a lot of people’s minds. And I get it, it’s all about wins and losses and again it’s not about effort, it’s about performance. And I get that. But we knew going in with our scholarship situation where we're at it’s going to be a five-year plan. We’re getting a lot of heat: ‘Fire David Beaty. Fire David Beaty. Why are we keeping him? He’s lost.’ Well, if we wanted to be status quo — my status quo is the 65 years — yeah, we would fire David Beaty. But we’re putting a stake in the ground and we’re not doing what we’ve done and constantly done year after year after year. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve fired coaches. Average tenure’s four years. We’ve done that. We’ve been there.”
This logic, of course, presupposes that the problem isn’t hiring the wrong coach, it’s just firing coaches too quickly.
“Now let’s compare that to men’s basketball,” Baty said. “Men’s basketball, how many coaches have we had, do you know? Eight. Eight coaches in the history of Kansas basketball. There is something to be said about consistency and stability and that’s where we’re at right now.”
So if Bob Valesente had been allowed to keep his job longer he would have turned into Knute Rockne in no time.
Then Baty slipped into if-you’re-not-with-us-you’re-against-us mode, always a dangerous path to take, especially so when the football team is 5-61 vs. FBS competition the past six years.
“When we’re out talking to donors my mission is very simple: ‘Do you want to be part of the problem or do you want to be part of the solution?’ If you want to be part of the problem in the last 65 years, then we fire David Beaty," Baty said. "If you want to be part of the problem, don’t come to the games. If you want to be a part of the problem, don’t give to Raise The Chant, the capital campaign. Don’t support this. Talk negatively about them. But if you want to be part of the solution, buy season tickets. As challenging as that is right now, buy season tickets. Go buy a single-game ticket. Bring your kids out to the hill and have a birthday party, if you want to be a part of the solution. If you want to be a part of the solution, donate to the stadium because we together can change this.”
And if you decide not to subject yourself or your loved ones to watching a team that has lost more than 90 percent of its games the past three seasons you’re part of the problem.
Don’t feel bad. So am I. Maybe we should issue a joint apology.
“You know the naysayers that are in the local papers and the national papers and things, all they are is part of the problem,” Baty said. “They’re not part of the solution. You know, we’re getting beat up in our local paper. Our local paper’s beating us up and they’re wondering why we can’t recruit and do these things. Well, we are recruiting, we’re proving that. Well, are they being part of the problem or part of the solution? To me they’re being part of the problem.”
Enough writing for now. I have something more important on my plate: I must find the North Korean “journalist” who wrote the story about the late dictator’s first round of golf, the one in which he shot a 34 and had five aces, to see if he would be interested in covering KU football for us. He could become part of the solution.
The Kansas football team has improved its depth through personnel additions and experience at running back, quarterback, the secondary, linebacker and on the defensive line. But the offensive line remains the shallowest, least talented unit on the roster.
New offensive line coach A.J. Ricker has a steep challenge on his hands.
Center Mesa Ribordy's retirement, forced by concussions, set back the team, but Ricker likes what he sees so far from Andru Tovi, who started at left guard last season.
"I think he’s where he needs to be center-wise," Ricker said. "Obviously with his length, he’s got some natural leverage to him. He’s got some grit. Right now we don’t have enough of that. It’s something we’re trying to instill in guys. We’re really concentrating on things that take no talent, like your mindset, your demeanor. But I think he’s at the true position he needs to be for us to be successful.”
Malik Clark worked with the first team at left guard during the spring.
“He’s made some huge strides, still has a long way to go and he knows it," Ricker said. "He’s shown flashes of what Malik can be. It’s just we’re looking for consistency.”
Hakeem Adeniji returns at left tackle but was limited during the spring because he was coming off of shoulder surgeries.
“Hakeem is so athletic," Ricker said. "Is he a prototypical tackle? Probably not, but at the end of the day if he’s our best lineman, that’s where we need him.”
Chris Hughes, injured for much of the spring, returns at right guard, and no obvious candidate has emerged at right tackle. Tackle prospect Cam Durley also battled injuries throughout the spring.
"We haven't seen enough of Cam Durley, but from what I've seen in little flashes, I think he has a shot," Ricker said. "Antione Frazier is what (tackles) are supposed to look like and continued to get better, day by day."
It's rare for incoming freshmen to start at O-line, but Jacobi Lott, a 6-foot-5, 308-pound native of Amarillo, Texas, might have a shot to battle his way onto the depth chart with strong summer and fall camps.
Plus, Ricker said he has not finished recruiting.
In recent years, Kansas has recruited players late, counting them toward the next recruiting class. The commitment of such players is non-binding, so they are able to change their minds right up until the first day of school.
Guard Eddie Tatola, one of Miles Kendrick's blockers last season at College of San Mateo, has told friends he plans to attend Kansas to play football. He passes the grit test.
Every decision-maker in the NFL thinks he scored a steal with every single pick of the NFL draft or he would have taken someone else.
Even so, in the case of Dorance Armstrong, who went in the fourth round with the 116th overall selection, the Dallas Cowboys had two reasons to believe they stole the defensive end who left Kansas a year early.
Why? The Cowboys contemplated trading back into the third round, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave the credit for not trading up to get Armstrong to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
"The governor ordered it by his governorship to stay put," Jones said. "Do not trade the fourth with the three and go up. So, he called after we made this pick, and we both agreed that he exercised his right of eminent domain, or whatever he does."
The Cowboys' draft headquarters was at their practice facility, The Star. The building is not new to Armstrong, who as conference preseason defensive player of the year drew big crowds at The Star during Big 12 Media Day.
Armstrong became the fifth Kansas football player drafted by America's team:
|Marv Cothier||1963||7th (90)||G|
|Bert Olison||1968||10th (266)||WR|
|Johnny Holloway||1986||7th (185)||WR|
|Dorance Armstrong||2018||4th (116)||DE|
The transition from high school football can take a few years. First there is the issue of identifying the correct position for an athlete making the switch, which can be a fluid process before the right spot becomes obvious. Then there is the challenge of adding weight without losing speed, and, of course, staying healthy enough to continue to refine technique in practice. Redshirt junior Denzel Feaster has had his challenges along the way, but everything seems to be falling into place for the linebacker out of Austin.
On signing day in Feb. of 2015, head coach David Beaty praised then receivers coach Klint Kubiak for finding Feaster, a quarterback who according to Beaty had played just five games on defense. He was recruited as a safety, was switched to linebacker after his redshirt season, and gained as much ground as anyone during the just-completed spring.
For the moment at least, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Feaster has leapfrogged returning starter Keith Loneker and second-teamer Osaze Ogbebor to become a first-team linebacker.
Feaster missed a lot of time with injuries in summer camp leading into the 2017 season, but stayed healthy this spring and put into action the words Beaty said about him on signing day in 2015, when he lauded Feaster’s instincts.
“He will come downhill and he will knock the fire out of you,” Beaty said. “He puts his head on the ball. He doesn’t even know what he’s doing there yet.”
Feaster still “knocks the fire out of you,” but now knows what he’s doing.
He showed as much on the one live kickoff play that was part of the spring showcase when he knocked the fire out of Quan Hampton.
“The thing that I saw in that is I saw Denzel do exactly what we wanted him to do, cross space, near foot compression, hit across the ball, knock the crap out of the guy, which is exactly what he's supposed to do, right, and I saw Quan play at full speed so he didn't get hurt,” Beaty said. “When you start slowing down, you get hurt sometimes. He did a good job there. I know the NCAA and the NFL, they're trying to eliminate that play, and I get it, it's dangerous, but until they eliminate it, we've got to learn how to play it.”
Familiar names will roam the field at Saturday's 1 p.m. Kansas football public practice, the 15th and final one of the spring. Kansas ranks among national leaders in returning production.
For example, at quarterback, 100 percent of the completions, touchdowns and yards return. At running back, 99.1 percent of the rushing yards and 100 percent of the touchdowns are back. Punter Cole Moos, who rushed for 11 yards, is the only one not back.
At first glance, those are encouraging numbers, but less so at second glance.
Kansas ranked dead last in the Big 12 with 1,231 rushing yards in 12 games and last with 102.6 yards per game.
KU finished ninth in the conference in passing yards per game (226.4), well ahead of Kansas State (173.8), but was last in touchdown passes (14). Kansas State had 16 in 13 games. Also, Kansas threw more interceptions (17) than any Big 12 squad. Baylor (14) and Texas Tech (12) were the closest to KU in that category.
Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, the only players to throw a pass for KU last season, are both back and competing with newcomer Miles Kendrick for the starting job.
KU returns 78.5 percent of its receiving yards and 71.4 percent of its touchdown receptions. Chase Harrell (three TD catches) and Ben Johnson (one TD) are the only players who caught TD passes who are not back.
Baylor, which returns 92 percent of its receiving yards and 87 percent of its TD receptions, also has four starting offensive linemen back. The Bears threw for 3,452 yards last season, compared to 2,717 for Kansas.
On defense, Kansas returns 82.1 percent of its tackles, 100 percent of its interceptions (two apiece by Mike Lee and Hasan Defense) and 79.5 percent of its sacks.
Again, it’s tough to take much encouragement from that because KU finished last in the Big 12 in scoring defense (43.4 points) and total defense (468.3 yards).
Since KU took an all-in-on-2018 recruiting approach, loading up on junior-college players, that should enable the Jayhawks to improve more this season than schools that took a long-term approach and will benefit more in future years.
Enough improvement to climb out of last place? Doubtful, but that's why they play the games. Upsets do occur.