Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 4, QB Peyton Bender
Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.
The first Saturday of the Kansas football season is upon us, and so, too, is the highly anticipated KU debut of junior quarterback Peyton Bender.
Expected to be the kind of QB the program has lacked for years, Bender, a 6-foot-1 former Mike Leach protégé at Washington State, where he spent his first two seasons, has the familiarity with the Air Raid offense to not just hit the ground running, but hit the turf throwing.
Although the hundreds of quick reads and releases he has made at KU practices through the spring, summer seven-on-sevens and preseason have come almost exclusively behind closed gates, fans and everyone else who cares enough to follow the Jayhawks closely will finally see what Bender can do to invigorate a long-stumbling offense this weekend, versus Southeast Missouri State (6 p.m. kickoff, Memorial Stadium).
Third-year head coach David Beaty hasn’t said as much publicly, but Bender is the inevitable starter entering the season, and is poised to take off with the help of first-year KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, a deep receiving corps and what Beaty extols as a much-improved offensive line.
No one is proclaiming Bender as a program-altering talent, but Beaty, Meacham and his teammates often during the past several weeks have referenced the ball security displayed during practices and scrimmages.
“The thing that has stuck out to me is just management of a team, and management is a lot of things,” Beaty said of what encouraged him during camp about Bender and redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley. “The number one thing is taking care of the football, not putting the ball in jeopardy and seeing us really focus on an area that we were not very good at last year, which was throwing the ball to the other team.”
And while Bender so often is characterized as a smart read-and-react pocket passer, his position coach, Garrett Riley, says the aspiring Air Raid expert can do more than put the ball on the money.
“I’ll tell you what, Bender can really make some plays with his feet, as well,” Riley said of the former juco standout’s ability outside of the pocket.”
Bender won’t be asked to play like a young Peyton Manning, but he will be charged with distributing the ball expediently to a variety of targets.
Expect to see more moving chains and scoring drives out of a KU offense than you have in nearly a decade — if you’ve bothered keeping up that long.
The Peyton Bender era is here, and for a change, the Kansas offense shouldn’t be unbearable to watch.