The biggest misconception held by some surrounding college football is that it's the schmoozers who make the best recruiters.
It's those blessed with the best ability to project talent who make the best recruiters. They can study high school players, make educated guesses as to how their bodies will change and how their minds will fit playing certain positions in that school's system.
Bill Snyder's Kansas State teas consistently are better in games than in annual recruiting rankings and the same goes for Gary Patterson's TCU squads.
At the moment, Kansas stands last in line in recruiting players from the Big 12 geographic footprint and that has everything to do with the school's losing tradition, especially in recent years.
Kansas has resorted to recruiting an excessive number of players from junior colleges to try to compensate. Long-term, another avenue is available. If Kansas were to hire a coach who runs a triple-option offense, it could recruit athletes who might not draw the interest of other Big 12 schools but would fit the system. For example, smaller, faster, quicker quarterbacks who are nothing special as throwers would fit. Smaller, quicker, gritty offensive linemen with brains well-suited to quickly processing technical assignments with precision who don't have the frames to excel at pass-blocking also might thrive in a flexbone offense.
Moving almost entirely away from the pass would be a bold move and a fascinating one to watch unfold.
No. 4 — Jeff Monken, Army
Age: 51 Record at school: 24-26 Overall record: 62-42 Impressive win: vs. No. 25 Navy, 21-17, Dec. 10, 2016
Why he's on the list: Monken, cousin of Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator, Todd Monken, has spent his entire career in college football and has done what was thought to be nearly impossible. He has turned Army into a a player on the national scene.
The standings heading into 2017 of the previous 20 commander-in-chief’s trophies, awarded annually to the winner of the triangular series among the three service academies: Air Force 10, Navy 10, Army 0. Navy took a 14-game winning streak into the 2016 Army-Navy game.
Enter Jeff Monken, a former Paul Johnson assistant who did great things for four seasons as head coach at Georgia Southern.
Entering his fifth season at West Point, Monken has defeated Navy two games in a row and last season won Army’s first commander-in-chief’s trophy since 1996. Monken is 2-0 in bowl games at Army.
Such dramatic turnarounds are oh-so-rare in college football, but Monken has managed to execute it in part by getting his team to execute the triple-option to perfection.
Army averaged fewer than 2.9 victories in the 14 seasons leading up to Monken’s hiring and had just one winning season during that time. His records: 4-8, 2-10, 8-5, 10-3.
He took Georgia Southern to the FCS semifinals in each of his three seasons at the school.
The idea that it takes a downtrodden program five years to show progress simply isn’t accurate, and Monken is proof of that.
So was Paul Johnson at Navy, which had three winning seasons in 19 years upon Johnson’s arrival. Johnson went 2-10 his first season and then rattled off five winning seasons before giving way to understudy Ken Niumatalolo, who has nine winning records in 10 seasons.
Still, power-five programs are reluctant to take the leap to triple-option offenses.
Proof that the offense translates to competing against tougher competition: In Monken’s final game at Georgia Southern, the Eagles defeated Florida, 26-20, on Nov. 23, 2013.
Monken completely commits to the run, which helps the defense stay fresh, thanks to the long drives. Army led the nation last season with 4,710 rushing yards and ranked second to Florida Atlantic (52) with 50 rushing touchdowns.
The Cadets finished last in the nation in completion percentage (30.8), touchdown passes (two), pass attempts (65) and passing yards per game (27.8) during a 10-3 season.
You’ll never guess what position Monken, a native of Peoria, Ill., played at Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.: wide receiver.
The service academies have found a path to competing against schools with less stringent academic standards and far better track records for sending players to the NFL, schools with bigger, stronger athletes.
Precise, disciplined execution of the triple-option offense has become an equalizer for Air Force, Army and Navy, whose pool of recruits is limited to athletes who don’t harbor NFL dreams, don’t get scared off by a commitment to military service and don’t expect to compete for national titles.
One of the benefits of the run-heavy offense is that opponents aren’t accustomed to defending the offense used by so few schools. It’s tough preparing for a completely defense for one week.
So why don’t more schools use the offense. Maybe they don’t have confidence that they get their players to execute so precisely, with such discipline because their players aren’t as smart and aren’t as buttoned up as future soldiers. They might also not want to take the plunge because it makes recruiting top-notch athletes more difficult.
Plus, it’s viewed by some as something of a surrender, an admission that conventional methods just won’t get it done.
Skeptics wonder: Can it work in a power-five conference?
It already is working. Paul Johnson won two Division I-AA national titles with his flexbone offense in 1999 and 2000, took it to Navy, where he went 45-29, and is heading into his 11th season at Georgia Tech.
Johnson has had six winning ACC records, three .500 marks and just one losing conference season. He’s in a bit of a rut, his teams having gone 9-15 in conference play the past three seasons, compared to 37-19 the first seven, so this will be a big season for him. Branches of his coaching tree are experiencing no such rut and continue to do remarkable things. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo and Army’s Jeff Monken have engineered amazing turnarounds, and Brian Bohannon started from scratch a program at Kennesaw State in 2015. Bohannon’s overall and Big South Conference records: 6-5, 2-4; 8-3, 3-2; 12-2, 5-0.
Being different still has its value in a copy-cat sport and the best way to be different in today’s pass-happy football climate is to run the triple option.
No. 5 — Troy Calhoun, Air Force
Record at school: 82-60
Overall record: 82-60
Impressive win: vs. No. 19 Boise State, 27-20, Nov. 25, 2016
Why he's on the list: In using his Mulligan hire after Charlie Weis didn’t work out, Sheahon Zenger gave serious consideration to hiring a triple-option coach. His thinking was that by going with a coach who does things completely differently from the rest of the conference, Kansas not only would put opposing defensive coordinators through tough times one week a year, Kansas could recruit athletes that might not fit a spread offense but could excel in a triple-option, such as smaller, more mobile offensive linemen. So instead of standing in line behind nine other schools for the same recruits, Kansas could be the only Big 12 school wooing them.
It was a good thought by Zenger, but in the end he was swayed more by the potential for David Beaty to make Kansas a big-time player for Texas high school recruits than by the positive feedback he received about Calhoun, as buttoned-up a football coach as you’ll find anywhere. His offenses, which all but ignore the forward pass, consistently produce big numbers because the players are so well-drilled in running the triple option.
A native of McMinnville, Oregon, Calhoun played quarterback at Air Force (1985-88) and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater under Fisher DeBerry. Calhoun then served his military commitment and returned to Air Force to continue working as an assistant, starting as recruiting coordinator and JV offensive coordinator.
Calhoun then become OC at Ohio University, where his offense set school records for yards, and at Wake Forest, where the school led the ACC in yardage.
Calhoun went to work for the Denver Broncos and followed Gary Kubiak to the Houston Texans, where he became offensive coordinator before taking over as head coach at Air Force in 2007.
The Falcons finished fourth in the nation with 307.42 rushing yards per game, ranking behind only Army, Navy and Arizona.
Calhoun’s triple option banks more heavily on the tailback and less on the quarterback and fullback than the offenses of the other service academies. It has worked well for him. Calhoun inherited from his college coach a program coming off of three consecutive losing seasons. He has had eight winning seasons and three losing ones since taking over the program.
We’ll never know if Calhoun would have left his alma mater for the Kansas job. If he had become Weis’ successor, might Zenger still be the athletic director? Probably. Ditto for if Zenger had hired Dave Doeren, then at Northern Illinois, now at North Carolina State, instead of Weis.
It’s always a dangerous thing to shrink a pool of candidates for any job by disqualifying someone based on a trait that has nothing to do with the ability to do the job, such as: “Too old. They need a younger guy.”
Mention any football coach approaching 60 and this is a common retort. But what does it actually mean? Not much.
David Beaty, 47, could smoke septuagenarian football coaches Frank Solich and Bill Snyder in a footrace. Solich turns 74 during this coming season, Snyder 79. Beaty is 0-5 coaching against them.
Today, we look at the oldest coach on the list of 10 “Group of Five” coaches ready to hit the big-time. Why is his age relevant? It’s not. If you don’t believe me, ask his 42-year-old wife.
No. 6— Craig Bohl, Wyoming
Record at school: 22-29
Overall record: 126-61
Impressive win: vs. No. 13 Boise State, 30-28, Oct. 29, 2016
Why he’s on the list: Wyoming football had not had consecutive winning seasons since having five in a row (1995-1999). Craig Bohl was hired to fix that and fix it he has done. His four records at Wyoming, in order: 4-8, 2-10, 8-6, 8-5. He has flipped the program in just four years.
He’ll have a chance to show this year that it wasn’t just because he had a quarterback, Josh Allen, taken with the seven pick of the first round of the NFL draft. (Anyone who thinks that needs to know that Wyoming ranked ninth in the nation with 17.5 points allowed). Allen competed a year in junior college and sent information and a letter to FBS programs asking for a chance. Only Eastern Michigan and Wyoming offered.
Allen was not the first stealth superstar quarterback recruited by Bohl. Carson Wentz didn’t play quarterback until senior year of high school and didn’t receive any FBS offers until Central Michigan very late in the process. He played for Bohl at in-state North Dakota State, which Bohl coached to three consecutive FCS national championships at the end of his 11 seasons at the school.
So often, schools look to go 180 degrees from a fired coach when making a new hire. It would be difficult to find a more polar opposite to David Beaty than Bohl.
Beaty is a new-age coach, Bohl old-school. Beaty was a receiver at a small school, Lindenwood, Bohl a defensive back at a national powerhouse, Nebraska. As an assistant, Beaty was always on the offensive staff, Bohl the defensive. Beaty has had trouble finding a quarterback, but passes more than he runs. Bohl finds NFL passers, but runs more than he passes. Beaty’s teams try different uniform combinations every week. Bohl ditched that approach favored by his predecessor and his teams have two uniforms: one for home games, one for road games.
Beaty’s offense, the Air Raid, is all about stretching the field, making the defense defend as much turf as possible. Bohl demands his players win the battle in the smallest space of all, the one between his players’ facemasks and the enemies’ grills.
“We’re going to have our hand in the dirt and we’re going to knock the (expletive) out of you,” was how Bohl described his team’s style of play to USA Today.
Wyoming is Bohl’s second head-coaching job; Kansas is Beaty’s first. Bohl spent nine seasons as a defensive coordinator at three different schools, the final three seasons at Nebraska, before heading a program for the first time. Beaty spent one season as an offensive coordinator at Rice.
Bohl has won three national championships, Beaty three games. You can’t find much different a pair of head coaches than Beaty and Bohl.
This series is a list based largely on how one section of potential coaching hires — head coaches at “Group of Five” schools — shape up on paper. So it’s a nice first step for deciding which candidates to interview. Once candidates advance to the phase of face-to-face interviews, everybody starts from scratch.
Drue Jennings, lead organizer of Kansas’ search for an athletic director that led to the hiring of Jeff Long, did a nice job of articulating Wednesday that how a candidate comes across in person trumps any data gathered through other means.
“In today's world of information access, you can find out amazing things about people,” Jennings said. “It doesn't matter who they are. And frankly, anyone who wants to do that type of exploring can do that. The thing that I've always found that I feel most comfortable with after you've looked at all the measurable and the visible data about a person in their life, is to meet them.”
Jennings articulated the value of face-to-face meetings.
“There's nothing quite like looking into the eye and visiting and reading the body language of a person, and that's been true my entire life,” Jennings said. “I tend to trust my gut, trust my instincts, after all the rest of the homework is done, and you can read people, I think, pretty well. … You can read a person who is pleasant to meet, very sociable, a gentleman, a professional, but who is tougher than nails. Just in the way he communicates and the resolve with which he describes those things that make him tick. You can tell that, like the chancellor, this guy (Long) means business.”
It’s no different from hiring a coach. You don’t hire a piece of paper. You hire a person, so a list that might start with coaching prospects ranked from 1 to 10 on paper, stuffed into a pocket until which time an athletic director creates a coaching opening, could and in most cases should completely be jumbled after getting a feel for the people involved.
Kansas isn't in the market for a football coach yet, but it always pays to be prepared.
No. 7 — Neal Brown, Troy
Record at school: 25-13
Overall record: 25-13
Impressive win: at No. 25 LSU, 24-21, Sept. 30, 2017
Why he made the list: In his second season at the school, Brown led Troy to the nation’s biggest turnaround, improving from 4-8 to 10-3 and then finished the opening month of an 11-2 2017 season with a stunning victory in Baton Rouge against LSU.
A native of Danville, Kentucky, Brown played wide receiver at Kentucky for Air Raid guru Hal Mumme and at UMass. he worked as an offensive assistant coach at Mass, Sacred Heart, Delaware, Troy, Texas tech and Kentucky before being hired to head the program at Troy.
He was offensive coordinator under Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech in 2011 when the Red Raiders upset No. 3 Oklahoma, 41-38, and was OC for Mark Stoops at Kentucky before taking his first head coaching job.
Brown’s teams have impressed on both sides of the ball, but his offense is one that might not make sense for Kansas, which at least for the foreseeable future, will be the underdog most weeks. It’s known as the spread NASCAR because players sprint to the line of scrimmage, pursuing the goal of snapping the ball within eight seconds of completion of the previous play.
The more plays in a game, the more it favors the team with more talent. Kansas tried the hurry-up offense in the early weeks of Doug Meecham’s tenure as offensive coordinator and it not only didn’t work, but also accelerated the exhaustion of a depth-challenged defense that spent far too much time on the field.
A candidate for the Arizona job that went to Kevin Sumlin last season, Brown reportedly has a buyout of nearly $3 million.
Troy has a terrific football coach who would be a good fit at a lot of schools, but maybe not at Kansas.
Schools shopping for a head football coach are not unlike investors trying to decide which company’s stock to purchase.
Ideally, an investor wants as many evidence as possible about a company, but wait too long and the bargain disappears.
Similarly, a school wants to know that a coach is not just benefiting from a talented quarterback for a few years and has the whole package that leads to predictable success. But wait too long to hire that coach and a school with a better winning tradition might fly into the picture and scoop him up.
The coach is in a similar position. He might be offered a big raise, but if he believes in himself, he might want to wait another year for a better opportunity.
Not every coach who could get a significant raise to coach Kansas would be interested in taking on the challenge and KU won’t want to woo a lukewarm candidate with money.
In building this list, I tried to limit it to candidates who likely will be interested, but some might want to hold on for an offer from a school with a deeper winning tradition.
Today’s candidate would have been higher on this list if the chances of landing him were greater.
No. 8 — Bryan Harsin, Boise State
Record at school: 42-12
Overall record: 49-17
Impressive win: vs. No. 10 Arizona, 38-30, Dec. 31, 2014, Fiesta Bowl
Why he made the list: The second coach in this series who received his first break as a head coach from Arkansas State athletic director Terry Mohajir, Harsin leads the nation’s highest-profile “Group of Five” program and has done an outstanding job with the opportunity.
In four seasons at Boise State, Harsin has a 3-1 record in bowl games and has won two Mountain West titles.
Harsin, 41, played quarterback at Boise State and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant to Dan Hawkins at his alma mater. Harsin was promoted to offensive coordinator at the age of 29. Can you say prodigy?
He spent two seasons as an assistant at Texas (2011-12) and one season as head coach at Arkansas State.
One statistic related to Harsin speaks louder to Kansas football fans than all the other combined. Playing quarterback for both Charlie Weis and David Beaty, Montell Cozart threw for a combined 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In one season as a frequently used reserve, Cozart threw 10 touchdown passes and one interception.
Sure, Cozart had better protection and receivers at Boise State, but such a humongous statistical disparity reveals that Harsin and his staff knew how to put Cozart in positions to succeed, which is what coaching is all about.
For today’s installment of a 10-part series looking at “Group of Five” coaches ready for “Power Five” jobs, we look at a leader who doesn’t have any ties to the region, but is doing mighty impressive things coaching at the school for which he once played quarterback.
No. 9 — Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State
Record at school: 41-22
Overall record: 41-22
Impressive win: vs. Toledo, 34-0, Raycom Media Camellia Bowl, Dec. 23, 2017
Why he made the list: The first statistic that jumps out about Satterfield, a native of Hillsborough, N.C., is his bowl record: 3-0. All three came in games against MAC schools. Appalachian State defeated Ohio, 31-29, then Toledo in back-to-back years, 31-28 and 34-0.
Satterfield’s Mountaineers finished the 2017 season on a tear, drubbing Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana and Toledo by a combined score of 155-30. That finish improved Satterfield’s record the past three seasons to 30-9. He has spent 22 of the past 27 years on the campus in Boone, N.C., as a quarterback, assistant coach and head coach.
Satterfield, guided his alma mater to a seamless transition from the FCS to the FBS and now has another tough transition to make: Life without Tyler Lamb, a four-year starter at quarterback.
The well-coached Mountaineers last season ranked 11th in the nation in turnover margin (plus-12), 21st in scoring defense (20.2 points) and 30th in scoring offense (33.5). Satterfield isn’t someone with his head up looking for the next job. It’s obvious he means it when he says he likes the idea of his children living in Boone, but Appalachian State can’t compete with the kind of money that will be thrown his way.
Satterfield's warm, grounded personality makes him a natural for recruiting and he obviously knows how to judge talent. He's the whole package.
If an opening surfaces in Chapel Hill soon, that’s the school that might have the easiest time wooing Satterfield from his comfort zone.
One advantage of hiring an existing head coach compared to an assistant coach ready to head a program for the first time involves the assembly of the staff of assistants.
A head coach can bring most of his staff with him, which eliminates concerns over how a staff will jell. The duties are defined, and the coaches don’t have to waste time figuring out how to stay out the way of each other.
Typically, though not always, coaches get their first head coaching position from outside the power five. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney is a notable exception. Mark Mangino was able to turn around Kansas in his first job on the top of a staff.
Usually, though, coaches get their starts at schools in conferences that now are lumped into what has become known as the “Group of Five.”
The MAC seems to be the most fertile coaching ground of all.
Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler all coached at Miami of Ohio.
Nick Saban, Gary Pinkel and Matt Campbell coached at Toledo. Urban Meyer was head coach at Bowling Green for two years.
Brian Kelly was at Central Michigan, Dave Doeren and Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois.
Glen Mason came to Kansas from Kent State.
Names of “Group of Five” head coaches are on small pieces of paper stored in the pockets of athletic directors from coast to coast.
With that in mind, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what existing head coaches not at power five schools might work their way onto the lists of schools in the great plains region, should one happen to be in the market for a head coach after the 2018 season.
The next 10 Lunch Break blogs will feature coaches, listed in reverse order of how hot a prospect they project to be when the next coach-shopping season hits.
No point in listing coaches who would not be interested in taking on a monumental challenge in this region of the country.
No. 10 - Blake Anderson, Arkansas State
Record at school: 31-20
Overall record: 31-20
Impressive win: vs. UCF, 31-13, Cure Bowl, Dec. 17, 2016
Why he made the list: When Larry Fedora was hired away from Southern Miss to North Carolina, he took Anderson with him as his offensive coordinator. Carolina put up monster offensive seasons in Anderson’s two years there and Arkansas State hired him as head coach. North Carolina’s offense hasn’t been the same since Anderson left.
The Red Wolves opened last season at Nebraska and nearly pulled off the upset, losing 43-36.
Obviously, that wasn’t a very good Nebraska team, but that counts as a impressive performance for a Sun Belt school playing in front of 90,171 Cornhuskers fans amped about the start of a new season.
Anderson has coached Arkansas State into a bowl game in each of his four seasons and won Sun Belt titles in 2015 and 2016.
Winning a third title in four seasons in 2018 would help Anderson’s chances of breaking into the power-five coaching ranks.
A native of Hubbard, Texas, he played at Baylor and then Sam Houston State.
The money frittered away by college athletic departments always has blown me away. So often athletic directors grant coaches contract extensions with no urgency to do so, no suitors trying to steal the coach, and in some cases the extensions come with monster buyouts.
Kansas football coach David Beaty had a 2-22 record when he was granted an extension that came with a doubling of his salary. Good thing he wasn’t 4-20 or KU might have had to sell naming rights for Allen Fieldhouse to pay for his salary.
I never have been able to confirm the theory that Beaty leveraged a supposed offer to become Tom Herman’s offensive coordinator at Texas to get the raise. If that’s the case, that makes it even worse. A 2-22 coach has no leverage. The $3 million buyout seemed excessive, too, even though Turner Gill was paid $6 million for games he never coached, Charlie Weis $6.67 million.
But there have been far worse buyouts written into contract extensions by athletic directors for coaches with losing records.
Where was the urgency for Arkansas AD Jeff Long to extend Bret Bielema when he had a 10-15 record two years into his tenure at Arkansas? Long was fired and then Bielema was shown the door with a 29-34 overall record and 11-29 mark in SEC play. Shed no tears for Bielema. His parachute, courtesy of Long, was $11.9 million.
Oh well, you say, that’s the cost of doing business in big-time college athletics. OK, then that’s what makes me think going outside the world of college athletics for its next AD just might be the way to go for Kansas. Or at the very least, hiring someone who has a clean record for not blowing other people's money and not making football hires that blow up.
Time to fill out my ballot predicting the order of finish in the Big 12 football standings in advance of Big 12 Media Days (July 16 and 17 in Frisco, Texas):
1 - Oklahoma: Picking anyone else would require having a compelling reason to do so. The Sooners survived the retirement of coach Bob Stoops with a great 2017 season and there is no reason to believe they won’t do the same in the first season without Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Oakland A’s first-round draft choice Kyler Murray replaces Mayfield and is among the fastest players in college football.
2 - West Virginia: The Mountaineers have a lot of experience on both sides of the line of scrimmage and a superstar at the most important position. Quarterback Will Grier led West Virginia to a 7-3 record and the team went winless in the final three games without him.
3 - TCU: The Horned Frogs should be tough on defense, but they’re breaking in a new staring quarterback in Shawn Robinson, who will be protected by an offensive line that lost four starters.
4 - Kansas State: Cornerback D.J. Reed and receiver Byron Pringle left early for the NFL draft and depth took a hit with a number of transfers, but the Wildcats tend to be better on the field than on paper most years, so don’t overlook them. The offensive tackle tandem of Scott Frantz and Dalton Risner is as good as any in the nation and coach Bill Snyder will know how to make the most of the talented quarterback tandem of Skylar Thompson and Alex Delton.
5 - Texas: I suspect many are getting too excited too quickly about the Longhorns under second-year head coach Tom Herman. He’s upgrading recruiting. Rivals ranked Texas No. 3 in the Class of 2018, but in football it takes a few years for recruiting classes to make a major impact. Herman has two good quarterbacks from which to choose in junior Shane Buechele and sophomore Sam Ehlinger. But wouldn’t you rather have one great quarterback, as does West Virginia, than two good ones?
6 - Oklahoma State: Mason Rudolph and favorite target James Washington shredded Big 12 defenses for what seemed like decades. They’re both with the Pittsburgh Steelers now. Fifth-year senior Taylor Cornelius was the most impressive in the spring, but Hawaii transfer Dru Brown will push him for the starting job. The Cowboys could be vulnerable early in the season.
7 - Texas Tech: The Red Raiders return 10 of 11 starters on defense and the entire starting offensive line, so whichever of three competitors (a freshman, sophomore and junior) for the quarterback job wins it, he should be able to keep his uniform clean running Kliff Kingsbury’s version of the Air Raid.
8 - Iowa State: The surprise team of the Big 12 a year ago, the Cyclones will have to replace key talents on offense and defense and won’t have nearly as much experience on the field. They still will be a well-coached, disciplined team.
9 - Baylor: Matt Rhule had the wisdom to know that the Bears’ 2017 record (1-11) wasn’t going to determine the success of his tenure, so he played a bunch of freshman, got them valuable experience and stayed true to his plan of recruiting high school players from the state of Texas. It will be another year of slow progress, but he’s not about to rob the future simply to have a slightly better losing football team today. He has the discipline to avoid the quick-fix approach.
10 - Kansas: The defense loaded up on talented junior-college players and the secondary has a chance to be much, much better, but the gap the team had to close from being by far the worst team in the conference a year ago makes it tough to find any conference victories on the schedule. Baylor won in Lawrence, 38-9, and Texas Tech came away from its visit with a 65-19 rout. The Iowa State game is in Lawrence and the Cyclones aren't quite as talented as the team that slammed Kansas, 45-0, but that's a lot of points to make up in one year. Again, where is the conference win on the schedule? Maybe vs. Oklahoma State on Sept. 29?
More than two-thirds of the starts at offensive line during the 2017 Kansas football season were made by players expected to suit up for the Jayhawks this coming fall.
Those players should benefit from an extra year in the weight room and perhaps from their new offensive line coach, A.J. Ricker.
Several newcomers will vie for snaps as well. Plus, KU might not be done recruiting. Adding a body or two via the graduate-transfer route remains a possibility.
Four different players made starts at right tackle, a position that appears up for grabs.
David Beaty gave a shortage of bodies at offensive line as the reason for not having a spring game. With so many reinforcements on board, quantity won't be an issue, although center remains a cause for concern.
Improving the quality of the line from the past few seasons will be the main issue.
A look at 18 offensive linemen expected to be on the 2018 roster, provided they are physically and academically healthy and in the case of the potential blueshirts, provided either they or the coaching staff does not end the relationship:
Possible role: Barring a last-minute addition of a talented graduate transfer, Adeniji should start at left tackle for the third consecutive year.
Possible role: Not likely to appear on the two-deep, Bragg has made starts at center and guard during his career. After he started at center vs. Iowa State, three players were juggled to different positions vs. TCU to avoid starting Bragg at center.
EARL BOSTICK JR.
Possible role: If he doesn’t battle his way onto two-deep at one of the tackle spots, he could redshirt, which would make up for the year of eligibility he burned as a freshman, when he appeared in the Rhode Island game and didn’t play in the remaining 11 games. Lined up as second tight end multiple times and caught one pass, a touchdown. Could still be a year or two away.
Possible role: Cited by coaches for making progress during spring football, Clark is a candidate to start at left guard, but if Andru Tovi doesn’t have to move to center, Clark likely will end up on second team.
Possible role: Looks like a Big 12 tackle coming off the bus but only on-field action came vs. Rhode Island during freshman season. Might still be a year away.
Possible role: Foot injury sidelined him first two years at Ohio State and he was medically cleared for third season but didn’t play. Has two years of eligibility remaining. If healthy, could compete for starting assignment at right tackle.
Possible role: Appeared in season opener vs. Rhode Island in 2017 and didn’t get in another game. Started the three nonconference games in 2018, but appeared to be a couple of years away from being ready. Could benefit from redshirt year, if not part of competition to start at right tackle.
Possible role: Has long-range promise but probably not at center, where he played some during the spring and appeared to struggle with snaps. Lauded for hard-nosed attitude.
Possible role: Started 10 games at right guard, missing two games and time in the spring because of injury. If he stays healthy should lock down right guard spot for remainder of career.
Possible role: Has appeared at guard and tackle throughout career and strives to get stronger each year in the weight room. In event of injury to a starter, his experience makes him a candidate to stand in at multiple positions.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo played right tackle in juco and will, along with several others, be given a shot to win the position during camp.
Possible role: Big recruiting score. Remained committed to KU despite late scholarship offer from Texas and late attempt by Oklahoma State to get him to make a visit. Has potential at both guard and tackle. Might be able to get on the two-deep as a freshman. If not, would benefit from redshirt season.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo will try to earn snaps at guard. Played left guard at CSM.
CLYDE McCAULEY III
Possible role: Has chance to serve as backup at both tackle spots in event he doesn’t make a big enough improvement to win a starting job. He, Larry Hughes and Bragg (five years) are the only O-linemen who have been in program more than three seasons.
Possible role: Former walk-on appeared in two games at center last season but is not likely to crack the two-deep.
Possible role: Potential blueshirt from College of San Mateo played mostly at guard but did play a game at center and played some there in high school, so if he can prove reliable enough there to win the starting spot that would enable Tovi to stay at guard. If staff doesn’t like him at center he’ll supply depth at guard.
Possible role: Made eight starts at left guard last season and will remain there if he’s not needed at center, where he played during the spring out of necessity.
Possible role: An impressive recruiting score, Williams enrolled early and impressed with his enthusiasm during the spring. Turned down offers from Central Florida, Illinois and Minnesota to become a Jayhawk. Ideally, KU will be able to redshirt him and start him down a development path that leads to multiple years as a starter at tackle.