Examining where Jayhawks ranked among Big 12 football leaders
Now that the 2016 Big 12 football season is complete, all the numbers have been totaled and averaged and sorted nicely for consumption, and postseason honors are starting to get handed out.
So it’s a good time to review the league’s individual statistical leaders and see where Kansas football players landed among their peers.
As one might guess, the Jayhawks, who used three different starting quarterbacks, didn’t show up with this year’s passing leaders.
Perhaps head coach David Beaty will find a QB he can count on throughout 2017.
Still, KU had plenty of individuals stand out over the past few months, despite a 2-10 overall record and 1-8 mark in the Big 12.
What follows is a review of the categories in which Jayhawks ranked among the conference’s best, with a look at the numbers produced by the league-leader for context.
How did the Jayhawks stack up? Some of them finished higher than you might have guessed.
- Big 12 leader: D’Onta Foreman, Texas, 193.3 yards a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Ke’aun Kinner, 61.5 yards a game
The senior running back often shared rushing duties with teammates, but Kinner averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns for Kansas in 2016. He looked even stronger late in the season, when he produced a season-best 152 yards on the ground against Iowa State.
- Big 12 leader: KD Cannon, Baylor, 6.6 a game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Steven Sims Jr., 6.0 catches a game; 9th — LaQuvionte Gonzalez, 5.2
Sims emerged as the top target for Kansas quarterbacks this season, but Gonzalez was as solid a second option as the offense could hope for during another rebuilding season.
Sims scored seven touchdowns, with a long of 74 yards. And while a No. 4 ranking in this category is impressive, Sims fared even better within the conference. Looking only at league games, Sims led the Big 12 with 6.8 catches an outing. Even OU star Dede Westbrook only caught 6.3 a week against league foes.
On the season, Gonzalez tied for 9th with Oklahoma State’s James Washington (5.2 catches). Gonzalez reached the end zone three times as a junior, including a 95-yard score in the finale at K-State, thanks to a deep ball from redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley.
- Big 12 leader: Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, 122.1 yards a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Sims, 71.6 yards a game
During his breakout year, Sims, a 5-foot-10 receiver, hauled in 72 catches, averaging 11.9 yards a reception.
- Big 12 leader: LB Travin Howard, TCU, 10.4 a game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — S Fish Smithson, 7.8; 13th — S Mike Lee, 6.9; 30th — LB Courtney Arnick, 5.5; 47th — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 4.7; 47th — S Tevin Shaw, 4.7
As he did in 2015, Smithson led Kansas in tackles. The senior safety made 93 total stops. As the season progressed, Smithson's young apprentice in the secondary, true freshman Lee, developed into a presence, as well. After graduating high school early to join Kansas this season, Lee made 69 solo tackles (76 total) in 11 appearances and eight starts.
With Kansas missing key linebackers Joe Dineen Jr. and Marcquis Roberts, senior ’backer Arnick contributed 66 total tackles for the defense.
Both Armstrong, on the D-line, and Shaw, in the secondary, made 40 solo tackles apiece and 56 total.
- Big 12 leader: DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 0.96 a game (11.5 total)
- Ranked Jayhawks: 2nd — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 0.83 (10.0 total); 16th — LB Cameron Rosser, 0.33 (4.0)
With 10 quarterback takedowns behind the line of scrimmage, Armstrong produced all one-man sack attacks, without an assist, during his outstanding sophomore campaign.
Rosser, a senior who played a hybrid linebacker/end position, made all four of his sacks during a two-week span in the first couple of Big 12 games. Rosser made one at Texas Tech and three versus TCU.
Tackles For Loss
- Big 12 leader: DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas, 1.67 a game
- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 15th — Daniel Wise, 0.82 a game
Simply put, Armstrong was the Big 12’s best at creating chaos in the backfield. With 20 solo tackles for loss as a sophomore, Armstrong beat K-State’s Willis in this category by 3.5.
Although Wise didn’t have the numbers to match Armstrong, the defensive tackle had as much to do with the Jayhawks’ success on the defensive line as anyone. Wise made 9.0 stops behind the line, all solos, when he wasn’t disrupting offenses in other ways.
- Big 12 leader: D.J. Reed, Kansas State, 1.5 per game
- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — Fish Smithson, 0.92 a game; 17th — Marnez Ogletree, 0.67
Not only did Smithson finish plays with tackles, the senior safety found his way to the ball when quarterbacks passed in his direction. While captaining the KU defense, Smithson broke up seven throws and came away with interceptions on four other occasions.
At corner, Ogletree, another senior, didn’t pick off any passes, but he broke up eight while defending the Big 12’s many talented receivers.
- Big 12 leader: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia, 0.67 a game (eight total)
- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Fish Smithson, 0.33 a game (four total); 10th — Brandon Stewart, 0.25 (three)
Averaging a pick every three games in 2016, Smithson took away four as a senior. But he actually vastly improved his average in November, with an interception apiece against Iowa State and Texas.
Stewart wasn’t far behind Smithson with three passing takeaways of his own during his senior season. Few of KU’s 10 picks on the year were as critical as Stewart’s 55-yard INT return for a touchdown during the Jayhawks’ upset victory over Texas.
- Big 12 leader: Five-way tie, three
Armstrong’s three forced fumbles on the season tied him with K-State’s Willis and Reggie Walker, Baylor’s Patrick Levels and Texas Tech’s Jah’Shawn Johnson for the top spot in the category.
- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Smithson, two
The other most active defender on the KU roster, Smithson knocked the ball out of an opponent’s grasp twice this season.
- Big 12 leader: Patrick Levels, Baylor, four
- Ranked Jayhawks: 5th — Dorance Armstrong Jr., and Damani Mosby, two
Twice this season, Armstrong, the Jayhawks’ most disruptive defender, found his way to a loose ball to recover it for Kansas. So did the man lining up on the other edge of the D-line, senior end Mosby.
- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 9.1 points a game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Matthew Wyman, 5.4 points a game
West Virginia’s Mike Molina and Texas kicker Trent Dominigue both missed seven field goals on the season — more than Wyman’s six — but, like most of the conference’s kickers, benefited from their teams reaching the end zone for far more extra-point opportunities than Kansas. Five of the league’s kickers, including top scorer Ben Grogan of Oklahoma State (55-for-56), got to kick at least 49 PATs. Wyman only had a crack at 26 kicks following a TD.
Kick Return Average
- Big 12 leader: Byron Pringle, Kansas State, 28.7 yards per return
- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 21.5 per return
Gonzalez proved a better kick returner than punt returner for Kansas. On 28 occasions during his junior season, the speedy receiver fielded a kickoff and decided to go and attempt to make something happen. Gonzalez totaled 601 return yards, and housed a 99-yarder against Ohio in Week 2.
- Big 12 leader: Joe Mixon, Oklahoma, 195.5 yards per game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 109.2 yards per game
With his kick return yardage added to his 729 receiving yards, Gonzalez’s numbers ranked among the Big 12’s best, even though he finished the season with negative totals in punt returns (-10) and rushing (-9).
- Big 12 leader: Michael Dickson, Texas, 47.4 yards per punt
- Ranked Jayhawk: 4th — Cole Moos, 41.4 yards per punt
For KU junior punter Moos, 14 of his kicks traveled 50-plus yards, including the longest in the Big 12 this season, an 82-yarder at Baylor.
- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 1.5 field goals per game
- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 1.08 per game
Wyman tied for 6th with Texas Tech’s Clayton Hatfield in field goals per outing. The Kansas senior made a season-high three versus Texas at Memorial Stadium, including the game-winner in overtime.
Field Goal Percentage
- Big 12 leader: Cole Netten, Iowa State, 94.1%
- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 68.4%
Beaty sent Wyman out for 19 field-goal tries this year, and his kicker nailed 13 of them, including a season-best 50-yarder versus TCU.
PAT Kicking Percentage
- Big 12 leaders: Mike Molina, West Virginia; and Matthew Wyman, Kansas, 100%
When Kansas reached the end zone and called upon Wyman’s services, the trusted kicker never missed. Wyman went 26-for-26 on PAT’s.