The case for Miles Kendrick as KU's starting QB
At some point between now and the season opener, Kansas football coaches will decide upon a starting quarterback.
Maybe tomorrow. Perhaps the night before the Jayhawks’ Sept. 1 debut. Or, conceivably, they already have identified the man for the job and they’re keeping it under wraps.
Whenever that verdict materializes or goes public, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if newcomer Miles Kendrick emerges as the No. 1 QB.
The three-man competition, which began in full when Kendrick joined KU as a sophomore transfer from College of San Mateo (Calif.) before the spring semester, might have been prolonged by the team’s inability to scrimmage in April, due to the lack of healthy bodies available on the offensive line.
No such issues exist anymore for Kansas, and the QB who meshes best with the first-team linemen, receivers and backs during preseason practices will win the job.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Meacham, with the help of defensive line coach Jesse Williams, found Kendrick out in California by “turning over some rocks” in a state with 70-plus junior colleges, late last year. When Meacham examines Kendrick’s development since joining KU, he finds plenty of reasons for encouragement.
“He’s real polished. He studies real hard,” Meacham began. “He loves the game. He’s always up here (at Anderson Family Football Complex). He’s always just in the film room. He’s that guy. He’s a gym rat dude.”
Some football players don’t have that type of dedication in them. They need to break up the monotony of football by going out and enjoying themselves. Kendrick, though?
“This kid,” Meacham attested, “he’s like, full-on football, 24-7.”
Kendrick’s penchant for putting in extra hours won’t only win the favor of coaches, it also makes him that much more prepared to excel during 11-on-11 situations at camp. Even if he’s not the unequivocal best passer on the roster and lacks the Big 12 experience of 2017 starters Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, Kendrick has taken the mental reps necessary to make up ground.
“When you know a guy’s like that,” Meacham said, “and they make a mistake, you know it’s not because of a lack of preparation. He just may have got fooled or made a bad throw or something like that. It’s not because he didn’t have the study or the prep. He’s a gym rat, that guy.”
Mastering the playbook alone, of course, isn’t enough to secure the starting job. At KU’s closed practices, Kendrick will have to continue showing the traits that made him an appealing addition in the first place. And while Kendrick’s numbers at San Mateo — 1,889 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and nine picks, while rushing for 417 yards and five TDs in nine starts — exhibit his potential as a dual-threat QB, Meacham didn’t put much stock in the statistics, good or bad.
“I don’t think I really look at their stats,” the second-year coordinator said of junior college prospects. “I just look at the kind of kid they are, measurables, potential and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think there’s a statistic that makes you go, ‘He rushed for a thousand yards. Let’s recruit him.’”
It was another quality of Kendrick’s that drew Meacham’s attention.
“He knows how to win,” the QB coach said. “That’s a big thing. You want to look at something? Like with your quarterback, does their team win? The teams he’s been on, they win. That’s a good sign.”
In a wing-T, rush-heavy offense at Valley Christian High, in San Jose, Calif., Kendrick was co-NorCal Quarterback of the Year as a senior. His team went 13-2 and was state runner-up. At San Mateo in 2017, the coaching staff figured Kendrick wouldn’t even play as a freshman. But the now 5-foot-10, 200-pound QB became the starter by Week 4. San Mateo finished 11-2, with one loss coming in the California Community College Athletic Association title game.
The KU offense needs a reboot. What better way to execute that than with a new QB?
It will only help Kendrick’s case if the Air Raid scheme the Jayhawks never made work in David Beaty’s first three seasons has been scrapped for a modified version focused on incorporating talented running backs Khalil Herbert, Dom Williams and Pooka Williams.
Already experienced within offenses that successfully ran the ball and gave their defenses time to recover on the sidelines, Kendrick would slide in comfortably in a revamped offense.
And KU’s coaches have extra incentives to switch up their offensive philosophy. They are quietly bullish on their upgraded offensive line, with the additions of transfers Alex Fontana (Houston), Dwayne Wallace (Cal) and Kevin Feder (Ohio State), as well as Api Mane and Adagio Lopeti (San Mateo). A bigger, older, stronger O-line should make it easier to establish a rushing attack.
Plus, they understand the need to pull off something remarkable this fall. Another 1-11 or 2-10 season likely won’t give new KU athletic director Jeff Long much incentive to keep Beaty and his staff in place.
A stylistic overhaul matched with a QB who is both meticulous and athletic would be a good starting point for a program and staff in need of a turnaround season.