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Kansas QB Carter Stanley uncharacteristically off in latest start

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) loses the ball as he is hit during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) loses the ball as he is hit during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

For the first time this season, Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley didn’t turn the ball over once.

Still, the fifth start of Stanley’s senior year proved even more arduous than his touchdown-less Week 2 showing against Coastal Carolina, as the Jayhawks’ offense bottomed out at TCU this past Saturday.

KU suffered, by far, its largest margin of defeat under head coach Les Miles, 51-14, with a season-low 159 yards of total offense.

Stanley threw for just 84 yards on 29 pass attempts, completing only 12 of them. His completion percentage of 41.4% marked the worst in a start for Stanley in his college career. He only dipped below 50% in one other of his 14 starts at KU: Stanley went 23-for-48 in 2017, in his first start of that season, against Kansas State.

Against TCU, Stanley never found a rhythm, as the Horned Frogs were credited with five pass breakups and four QB hurries to go with two sacks. Stanley missed on three consecutive passes during two stretches in the loss and had five straight incompletions later on, in the second half. At no point in the game did Stanley complete more than two passes in a row.

All of that from a QB in his fifth year at KU who entered the game completing 72% of his passes this season.

What Stanley learned from the taxing outing isn’t public knowledge at this point. Typically, Stanley speaks with media members each week, a couple days after KU’s game, and fields questions about a number of topics, including what he saw — positive or negative — out of KU’s passing game after watching the game footage on video.

However, Stanley was not at the Jayhawks’ interview session Tuesday night after being requested. A KU spokesperson said Stanley had an academic commitment that conflicted with the timing of the media availability.

Immediately after the loss at TCU, in Fort Worth, Texas, Stanley told a small group of reporters that the Frogs’ athleticism on defense and coach Gary Patterson’s game plan led to the issues with the passing game.

“As players, we didn’t execute and make adjustments,” Stanley said. “It was a tough one.”

Six of his 17 incompletions came on 3rd down and 6 to go or longer. Stanley was 3-for-10 overall on 3rd downs, with one 1st down gained on a completion —late in the fourth quarter, when Stanley found freshman tight end Mason Fairchild for 23 yards.

Along with those 3rd down spots, another troubling development proved to be KU’s inability to get leading receiver Andrew Parchment involved at TCU. Stanley threw Parchment’s way 10 times. However, Parchment finished with only four catches and 10 receiving yards.

Head coach Les Miles spoke vaguely on his “Hawk Talk” radio show this week about how the Jayhawks (2-3 overall, 0-2 Big 12) could get Parchment more involved this coming Saturday, with No. 6 Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0) visiting Lawrence.

“Parchment is in the plan every week. And he will have an opportunity at balls and we will target him routinely,” Miles said. “But sometimes they can take you away. Sometimes they play two over one and that gives — and it should give — the opportunity to another player. We like our, really top three or four receivers. So I’d like to give it to Parchment, but we have players that catch it and run and can help us win.”

Parchment and Daylon Charlot (two receptions, minus-one yard) were the only KU receivers with a catch at TCU. Two of Stanley’s 12 completions went to tight ends and his four others went to running backs.

Carter Stanley Career Starts
PassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Rk Year Date School Opponent Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rate
720162016-11-12KansasIowa StateL263868.417111109.6
820162016-11-19KansasTexasW214250.02200189.2
920162016-11-26Kansas@Kansas StateL244454.530222118.1
PassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Rk Year Date School Opponent Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rate
1420172017-10-28KansasKansas StateL234847.941811123.8
1520172017-11-04KansasBaylorL173351.51550184.9
1620172017-11-11Kansas@TexasL274362.826833124.2
1720172017-11-18KansasOklahomaL193357.61230182.8
PassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Rk Year Date School Opponent Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rate
2020182018-09-29KansasOklahoma StateL243275.024730170.8
2120182018-10-06Kansas@West VirginiaL5862.5150153.3
PassPassPassPassPassPassPass
Rk Year Date School Opponent Cmp Att Pct Yds TD Int Rate
2220192019-08-31KansasIndiana StateW202969.024120161.5
2320192019-09-07KansasCoastal CarolinaL131968.41070294.7
2420192019-09-13Kansas@Boston CollegeW202774.123831177.4
2520192019-09-21KansasWest VirginiaL192576.027531200.0
2620192019-09-28Kansas@Texas ChristianL122941.4841077.1
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 10/1/2019.

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5 stats that popped from KU football’s loss at Baylor

Baylor cornerback Harrison Hand (31) breaks the pass intended for Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas. (Ernesto Garcia/Waco Tribune Herald)

Baylor cornerback Harrison Hand (31) breaks the pass intended for Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas. (Ernesto Garcia/Waco Tribune Herald)

In a turnover-free Big 12 opener at Baylor on Saturday, the Kansas football team put together too few highlights on either side of the ball to keep up with the Bears in a 26-7 defeat.

One 90-yard scoring drive was the exception rather than the rule for KU’s offense, and the Jayhawks (2-2 overall, 0-1 conference) didn’t come close to crawling out of a 23-point first-half hole.

And though redshirt senior linebacker Joe Dineen delivered 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, the defense as a whole too often suffered breakdowns, and surrendered 447 yards, a season-high for a KU opponent.

Here are five statistics that kept Kansas from truly competing with Baylor.

Not enough support from passing game

The Bears (3-1, 1-0) knew the Jayhawks would like nothing more than to feature freshman running back Pooka Williams as much as possible, and the Bears game-planned accordingly.

But KU never forced BU to adjust its run-stopping defense with an effective passing attack.

Senior quarterback Peyton Bender completed 10 of his 17 throws, but a whopping seven of his completions picked up seven yards or fewer. Another completion — a touchdown pass to Jeremiah Booker — went for 10 yards.

So, between seven incompletions and eight completions of 10 or fewer yards, 15 of KU’s passing plays with Bender in the game netted a combined 40 yards.

Keep in mind: not all of that goes on Bender. The offensive line has to provide better pass protection and receivers have to find more opportunities to get open and bring in catchable passes in order for this offense to reach its ceiling.

Finding balance in the backfield

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) has his head turned on a penalty against a Baylor defender during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas.

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. (1) has his head turned on a penalty against a Baylor defender during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas.

The Bears reminded the Jayhawks that even Pooka Williams can’t do everything.

While the talented freshman from Louisiana was able to bust a 72-yard rush that set up KU’s lone TD, eight of his 14 carries went for three yards or fewer.

Some of that is to be expected, especially with a freshman playing his first Big 12 game and a still jelling O-line taking on the best front it has seen so far this season.

More surprising, though, was how little KU used its other two running backs. Junior Khalil Herbert carried the ball just twice for six yards. And sophomore Dom Williams also finished with only two runs, picking up two yards.

For the benefit of the running game and offense overall, KU likely needs to find ways to incorporate Herbert and Dom Williams more, while also relying heavily on Pooka Williams. It’s difficult to pull off such balance, particularly if a defense is keying on your run game and presenting matchups that lead you to pass more. But it’s something KU’s coaches will have to figure out.

On 55 plays at Baylor, one of KU’s top three running backs carried the ball on 18 snaps (33 percent).

3rd down struggles

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) is tackled by Baylor defensive end Greg Roberts (52) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender (7) is tackled by Baylor defensive end Greg Roberts (52) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Waco, Texas.

Outside of a touchdown pass from Bender to Booker in the third quarter, the Jayhawks mostly struggled to convert on third downs.

Overall, just four of KU’s 13 third-down plays went for a first down. On average, the visitors had 8.8 yards to go on their third downs, adding to their plight. They only averaged 3.4 yards gained on third downs.

On third-and-short (one to four yards), KU was fine, picking up two of three — Pooka Williams ran for one in the second quarter and backup QB Miles Kendrick converted on a carry in the third.

However, on third-and-longs (nine-plus yards), KU went two for six. Although the Jayhawks converted six of eight passes on third downs, they averaged just 1.3 yards per attempt and were also sacked three times.

Conversely, the Baylor offense’s 7-for-14 third-down success was fueled by gaining, on average, 9.4 yards on third down.

Long fields ahead

KU started every possession at least 75 yards from the end zone.

On average, thanks to Baylor’s kickoff and punt teams, the Jayhawks’ average starting field position was their own 17-yard line.

On KU’s 11 drives, one concluded with a score and seven possessions traveled fewer than 20 yards. Only four series ventured into Baylor territory.

The Jayhawks went three-and-out on four possessions and punted seven times.

Baylor’s offense, on 11 drives, had no three-and-outs.

Carter Stanley’s late-game reps

Given the context of the game essentially being over and Baylor not having incentive to play all of its first-stringers, it’s difficult to know how Carter Stanley would have performed if he played earlier in the game.

Still, the redshirt junior at times looked both comfortable and effective, once he took the field with less than six minutes remaining at McLane Stadium.

A shoulder injury kept Kendrick from handling KU’s final two possessions. In his place Stanley completed four of his six passes for 37 yards and rushed three times for 27 yards (second-best total on the team).

On his first series, Stanley made two short completions to Kerr Johnson, but suffered a second-down sack. KU went three-and-out.

The final possession began in the last minute of the fourth quarter, and Stanley hit Evan Fairs for 20 yards and Booker for 10 yards through the air. He also took off for rushes of 18 and 15 yards. KU went 63 yards in six plays before time ran out.

There’s no word yet on the extent of Kendrick’s injury. But if he happens to miss some time, KU knows it has another QB it can use in Stanley.

And, let’s face it, even though Bender has started all four games it’s not as if anyone would consider his status a lock going forward. Should Stanley see more playing time in upcoming weeks and give the offense a spark, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him move up the depth chart.

Reply 8 comments from Stephen Johnson Titus Canby Jeff Coffman Marcus  Balzer Rockchalk1990 Sam Allen

Prepare to see more of Carter Stanley, David Beaty contends

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) look to cut around the Ohio defense during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) look to cut around the Ohio defense during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. by Nick Krug

No, Carter Stanley is not about to supplant Peyton Bender as the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback. But head coach David Beaty said the redshirt sophomore backup will play a factor in KU’s Big 12 opener versus West Virginia.

The Jayhawks used Stanley in a limited capacity at Ohio. Late in the second quarter, on a touchdown drive, the former KU starter made his season debut in a short-yardage scenario.

Stanley, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound QB with more rushing ability and mobility than Bender, was credited with two rushes for just two yards. Still, one short carry came on fourth-and-1, before Bender re-entered and threw a touchdown pass to Chase Harrell.

“I thought what he did do when he went in there was very positive,” Beaty said of Stanley, who started the final three games of 2016 for Kansas. “He did a nice of job really straining to get that first down on that fourth down. No hesitation to him, seeing him going in there and doing that.”

The coach claimed the Jayhawks would like to sub in Stanley in other scenarios moving forward, not just when the first-down marker is a few yards away.

“We actually like him everywhere,” Beaty said. “We’ve got an even bigger package for him this week.”

Ohio’s 18-0 lead, Beaty asserted, kept KU (1-2) from playing Stanley even more in the nonconference finale. While such a declaration could be pure posturing, an attempt to float toward WVU (2-1) another wrinkle for which to prepare, the third-year head coach avowed the Jayhawks’ No. 2 QB will get on the field more often Saturday at Memorial Stadium (11 a.m. kickoff, ESPNU).

“We would have loved to have seen him a little bit more the other day, because of what we have in him, the plan for him, is going to be very helpful for us,” Beaty added.

Whatever Stanley’s role may be this weekend and beyond, his head coach said the QB has been “unbelievable” in his new, less prominent post.

“This guy was the starter here last year. He beat Texas,” Beaty stated. “He came in with a lot of accolades and hopes about coming in and being the starter, and for him to handle himself the way he has, I mean, I cannot be more impressed with him. And he's not satisfied. He wants to play. But he also wants to win. So, very, very impressed with Carter Stanley. He's going to get on the field a lot more for us, no doubt about it.”

Stanley was requested for an interview Tuesday, but according to a KU official, had a class conflict. His teammates, though, say he manages his duties well.

“I feel like he’s handling it really good,” fellow redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell said. “You don’t ever see Carter down or in a bad mood. Carter’s a really good guy for that and he’s always trying to improve, watching film and stuff. You can tell he wants that No. 1 spot. He’s on his way up.”

PODCAST: KU football’s offense is not the problem

Reply 12 comments from Larry Jackson Stephen Johnson Ashwingrao Dirk Medema Layne Pierce Jmfitz85 Cmdradama Dillon Davis

Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 8, QB Carter Stanley

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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.

It’s unclear at this juncture just how much Carter Stanley will be called upon this coming season within new coordinator Doug Meacham’s offense. But we know he’s going to play — either as a backup to Peyton Bender or a starter.

The great news for David Beaty is that Stanley, even if he ends up No. 2 on the depth chart, qualifies as a better option than anyone the head coach put on the field at QB in Week 1 of 2015 or 2016.

Stanley began his redshirt freshman season as a third-stringer, but progressed enough behind the scenes to develop into a starter for KU’s final three games, and in those contests the Jayhawks beat Texas in overtime and looked far more competent and competitive than they had most of the season.

In his three starts, Stanley completed 71 of 124 passes (57.3 percent) for 693 yards, with three touchdowns and four interceptions, but he showed toughness and leadership, as well as flashes of his ability to extend plays with his feet.

That characteristic, more than anything else, tends to be the first thing referenced in KU’s QB debate when it comes to differences between Stanley and Bender.

A 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore from Vero Beach, Fla., Stanley said the longer he’s been at KU the more comfortable he has become in making plays on the move.

via GIPHY

“I think that’s something I’ve always had as part of my game. In high school I think I was able to stay in the pocket a little bit more,” Stanley said. “I think I’ve been able to add skills to my game when I roll out since I’ve been here at KU. The coaches do a great job. We do a scramble drill at least once a week in practice. So the receivers know where to go when the quarterbacks do roll out of the pocket. I definitely think under these coaches I’ve been able to grow in that aspect.”

So is Stanley better throwing on the run, or just tucking the ball and taking off for a first down and/or a chunk-yardage play?

“I think both are there just because the coaches, they teach us about making calculating decisions and making the right decision,” Stanley said. “We’ll watch that on film sometimes and just make sure you make the right decision.”

As Beaty will tell you, most teams need to have two quarterbacks, because staying healthy for all 12 games is no guarantee. So even if Stanley doesn’t end up entering the season as a starter, he will likely still have a significant impact.

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

16 - Derrick Neal

15 - Khalil Herbert

14 - Charles Baldwin

13 - Shakial Taylor

12 - Chase Harrell

11 - Joe Dineen

10 - Hasan Defense

9 - Mesa Ribordy

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Jayhawks reveal biggest players and plays after Friday scrimmage

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley gives a flying bump to running back Kendall Morris, obscured, as the Jayhawks gear up for practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley gives a flying bump to running back Kendall Morris, obscured, as the Jayhawks gear up for practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

When David Beaty leaves a preseason practice, it’s difficult for the upbeat Kansas football coach to limit the best plays he saw to one or two.

So when asked Friday morning following the Jayhawks’ scrimmage what stood out on both sides of the Ball, Beaty proceeded to identify more than a dozen players who pleased him with their contributions.

Beaty said KU emphasized a lot of situational work during the morning session, and highlighted the following athletes as standouts from his perspective.

Travis Jordan, fr. WR: “Stuck out to me a lot. He had several targets that came at him and he had some health issues early in camp, and he’s coming back off that and he made several plays today, which were really nice plays — required strong hands and powerful attempts at the ball with guys hanging all over him. That was impressive.”

J.J. Holmes, jr. DT: “Made a couple really nice plays in there today.”

KU’s defense as a whole: “We were down on the goal line a few times today, and watching Joe Dineen, Mike Lee, Osaze Ogbebor, (Keith) Loneker … Daniel Wise made a couple great plays today. Those guys up front, it seems like the tighter we got down the better they played.”

Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor watches from the sidelines during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor watches from the sidelines during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

KU’s secondary: “Defensively, we’ve got to get more turnovers. But Shak Taylor still continues to show out to me, and Tyrone Miller was running around knocking people out today. Enjoyed watching him play.”

Taylor Martin, jr. RB: “Has played really well over the last week-and-a-half. He’s been explosive. He had a couple of unbelievable runs today. Another one in that stable of backs that really is doing a good job for us.”

KU quarterbacks: “I thought all three quarterbacks played pretty good today, made good decisions. We’ve had one interception in the last three scrimmages, and it was by a brand-new guy. It wasn’t by Peyton (Bender) or Carter (Stanley). So they’re taking care of the ball, which is something (offensive coordinator Doug Meacham) has done a great job of stressing.”

Kansas receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. pulls in a catch during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. pulls in a catch during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Kerr Johnson Jr., jr. WR: “Everything gets quiet and the next thing you know he’s making a play.”

Quan Hampton, fr. WR: “Just the little Mighty Mouse. Number six, Quan Hampton. That dude is fast,” Beaty said, mid-chuckle, “as all get-out. He is quick and he is strong. I saw him stiff-arm somebody — I’m not going to mention him, because they’ll wear him out over it. But that little dude is strong. He is really fun to watch, man. I’m excited to see what Coach Meacham does with that guy.”

Steven Sims Jr., jr. WR: “Another one. Really good, talented guy.”

Dom Williams, fr. RB: “Man, he had a couple of really good runs today. He’s hard to tackle now. … It was early in the scrimmage and I basically put a big challenge in front of our defense about, ‘Are you gonna be able to get this guy down? Really. I mean, he’s a freshman. Can you get him down?’ And they hit him later,” Beaty said, with a laugh. “They got him one good time, knocked the breath out of him. But that dude, he can run.”

Players’ scrimmage perspective

After Beaty spoke, a few KU players offered their thoughts on the most memorable plays from the morning’s scrimmage.

Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr. DE

“The big stops in the red zone,” the Big 12’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year said. “The offense was at the five-yard line or closer and then we would come out with two or three stops like that. I think that was the most impressive thing.”

As Beaty alluded to, Armstrong thinks the defense has a tendency to respond when the players’ backs are against the wall.

“I think that’s how we’ve been for a while,” Armstrong added. “We need it to be like that every down — not just in the red zone. I like how we’ve come together. We’re like a brick wall, nothing gets through us.”

Peyton Bender, jr. QB

“There was a third down in the red zone where we just had four verticals called,” Bender shared, “and we converted that. That kind of stood out to me that everyone was dialed in, and it was good converting on third.”

On the vertical, Bender hit redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell, listed at 6-foot-4.

“It was Cover-2 and he got a good release,” Bender said. “Hit him at about the three-yard line and he just kind of reached out his arm and got it in.”

According to the junior transfer QB, Meacham called more rushing plays than usual Friday morning, to involve running backs.

“Taylor (Martin) had a really nice run on an inside zone that he took for probably 45 or 50 yards,” Bender revealed. “So I’d say out of all the plays those two kind of stood out to me.”

Carter Stanley, soph. QB

“I haven’t watched the film yet so I can’t think of one in particular, but we had some great situations,” Stanley began. “We had our first four-minute situation of camp today, which is when the offense is up and you’re just trying to run out the clock at that point and win the game.”

In that period, Stanley said he was encouraged by the consistency of the offensive linemen in front of him.

“I don’t think we had any busts up front,” the QB explained. “We ran the ball and we converted on third down, which is nice. Got the ball out to Bobby Hartzog for some first downs, so that extended the drive.”

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Seven-plus months of competition hasn’t worn on Kansas QBs Bender and Stanley

Kansas redshirt sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley (center) throws during the Jayhawks' Aug. 1 preseason practice. Redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks (left) follows through on a throw next to Stanley, as junior Peyton Bender watches.

Kansas redshirt sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley (center) throws during the Jayhawks' Aug. 1 preseason practice. Redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks (left) follows through on a throw next to Stanley, as junior Peyton Bender watches. by Mike Yoder

Now in the eighth month of their competition to become the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley and junior transfer Peyton Bender haven’t allowed the stress or length of the process get to them.

One of these days (or weeks) one of them will be named the team’s starter and the other will become a backup. Still, both say their similar personalities have allowed them to push and challenge each other on the field while also coexisting peaceably — under the same roof, no less.

Both Stanley and Bender were prep quarterbacks in Florida, and similar interests helped strengthen their bond over the past several months. Bender said they’re both into water sports and KU linebacker Joe Dineen took them and other teammates out on his boat this summer.

It’s not that the two KU quarterbacks disparage competition. Even video game sessions at their house can turn fierce. They simply both know when to turn it on and when to tone it down.

“I think when it comes to football time, as far as practice and seven-on-seven and those sort of things, we’re all-out competing,” Bender said. “We’re going head-to-head. But off the field we have similar interests and like similar things. I think that just created a friendship. And we know on the field we’re competing, but off the field we can still be friends.”

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. by Mike Yoder

That friendship, Stanley added, allows them to work well together on and off the field as they pursue the same end goal.

“We definitely work hard together and encourage each other to improve, because we know whoever it is — who knows, shoot, it might be both of us — but just for the betterment of the team we have to be at our best so this team can be at its best,” Stanley said.

Kansas quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley doesn’t know that their sound working relationship impacts the competition positively or negatively, but he sees them out at preseason practices constantly challenging each other. Plus, their position coach is pleased to see them taking on a team-first mentality above all.

“You would think maybe it’s unnatural for them to be as close as they are. But I think we talked about it a bunch in our room and job number one is to make everybody else around you better,” Riley said. “Job number two is being a great teammate. That’s in our position room and that’s with the rest of the team, and I think they’ve really embraced that and kind of bonded off the field socially.”

The quarterbacks, of course, feel their battle intensifying of late.

Said Stanley: “I think it’s amplified a little bit, just being fall camp, just knowing you’re that much closer to the season and the potential of a decision being made.”

According to Bender their competition has been escalating since the team returned from a brief July 4 holiday.

“There’s no more breaks. We’re here until the season’s over,” Bender said, explaining that’s it hit him last month that the Sept. 2 opener versus Southeast Missouri State is right around the corner. “It’s really time to start getting serious and really get down to business.”

Their head coach has noticed at August practices both quarterbacks doing all they can to reach the top of the depth chart. David Beaty said during live segments of camp both handled game-like situations well.

“Watching those guys have to play out there by themselves with blitzes coming, and understanding, recognizing coverages, different fronts that were getting thrown at them, I thought they did a really nice job of getting into the correct checks when they needed to,” Beaty said, “getting us into the right calls, and just quite honestly taking what the defense was giving you.”

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Key questions for KU football’s position groups as preseason camp begins

Kansas head coach David Beaty smiles as he walks across the field during the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach David Beaty smiles as he walks across the field during the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

As David Beaty embarks on his third preseason camp as head coach of the Kansas football program, some areas of the roster are far more solid than others.

While Beaty should be able to operate with much greater optimism in 2017 than he did entering his first fall in Lawrence, thanks to the gradual improvements to personnel and culture brought about by he and his staff, some questions remain entering Tuesday’s first practice.

Everyone knows how impactful veteran talents such as Dorance Armstrong Jr., Daniel Wise and Steven Sims Jr. can be in the months ahead.

But, as is the case with any rebuilding program, the abilities of just a handful of players won’t allow KU to make further progress in Year 3 for Beaty.

Before the practices begin, here is one key question for every position group.

Some answers could be revealed during preseason camp. Others might take months — and wins and losses — to resolve.

Who is KU’s starting QB?

Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

This is the biggest and most obvious question entering camp. Will incumbent redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley, who helped Kansas beat Texas late last season, beat out former Washington State QB Peyton Bender? Or will, Bender’s Air Raid background and quick release send him to the top of the depth chart?

The battle figures to be decided during the hot August practices ahead.

“Both of them are very talented,” Beaty said recently. “A little bit more similar than you’d think. Both of them move really well.

“I think that both of them are play-makers in a sense,” the coach continued, “which is something that you like to see. Neither one of them are robotic, which is something I’m really excited about.”

Who knows how many hundreds of throws Bender and Stanley will make in preseason camp. But every one will be charted and examined by Beaty, new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley, because KU needs a far more effective offense this fall.

Will Kansas have a No. 1 RB or use a committee?

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

You could make an argument that any of the following running backs would lead the team in rushing this season, and I’d at least listen.

The candidates are sophomore Khalil Herbert, junior Taylor Martin, true freshman Dom Williams and junior transfer Octavius Matthews.

Herbert and Martin have an edge in the experience department and both, unlike Williams and Matthews, were able to spend spring taking reps within Meacham’s offense. Both looked more powerful and polished as ball-carriers during March and April, too.

On the other hand, Williams is a versatile back whose 28 total touchdowns and 1,922 rushing yards as a senior at Class 5A Independence High (Frisco, Texas) earned him a four-star recruiting ranking from Rivals. He has enough talent and moves that he might be difficult to keep off the field.

Matthew is the wild card. At 6-foot-1, he’s the biggest back of the group. Plus, he spent 2016 in the same backfield as Bender, at Itawamba Community College (Miss.), so getting acclimated to the Air Raid won’t be an issue.

Which receivers will help Sims and Charlot open up the passing attack?

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It’s been clear for some time now third-year wideout Steven Sims Jr. and sophomore transfer Daylon Charlot (formerly of Alabama) are the two best receivers on the roster. The race for No. 3 became wide open with the dismissal of would-be senior LaQuvionte Gonzalez.

Some of KU’s other receivers will have to convince opposing secondaries not to send double coverage toward Sims and/or Charlot on every throwing down.

There’s a chance junior Ryan Schadler, a former running back, could do that from the slot. And 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell gives KU quarterbacks a long, agile target.

Still, with the help of their new position coach, Meacham, any number of other receivers could emerge. It’s impossible at this point to count out senior Bobby Hartzog, junior Jeremiah Booker, or junior transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. What’s more, true freshmen Quan Hampton, Kenyon Tabor, Takulve Williams and Travis Jordan will try to prove they’re worthy of the 2-deep.

And while senior Ben Johnson ins’t technically a receiver, you have to think Meacham will find ways to get the 6-foot-5 tight end way more involved than a year ago, when Johnson only caught 10 passes.

Is Charles Baldwin who Kansas thought he was?

Kansas newcomer, Charles Baldwin, 72, a transfer from Alabama, gets stretched out with the offensive line during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas newcomer, Charles Baldwin, 72, a transfer from Alabama, gets stretched out with the offensive line during practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Just like Charlot, former Alabama offensive lineman Charles Baldwin’s debut has been anticipated for almost a year now. We’ll soon find out if the projected starting right tackle, listed at 6-5 and 305 pounds, can turn KU’s offensive line into a Big 12-level unit.

Both left tackle Hakeem Adeniji and center Mesa Ribordy learned and grew as blockers while starting as freshmen (Ribordy red-shirted in 2015) a year ago.

If Baldwin lives up to the hype of his one-time five-star juco ranking at ASA College (N.Y), the offense will have an easier time staying on the field and putting together scoring drives.

Adeniji and Ribordy are the O-line’s leaders. They need Baldwin following their example and work ethic, because according to evaluators he should have the talent and size to be the best blocker in coach Zach Yenser’s group.

Which D-line co-stars will step into the spotlight?

Kansas defensive lineman KeyShaun Simmons gets down in preparation to hit a sled during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas defensive lineman KeyShaun Simmons gets down in preparation to hit a sled during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

We know preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dorance Armstrong Jr. will find ways to dominate as a defensive end and junior tackle Daniel Wise’s combination of power and speed make him a problem wherever he lines up. But the opportunity exists for a lesser-known role player to shine, too.

Armstrong and Wise will be the focal points of every scouting report. Any number of defensive linemen — if they dedicated themselves thoroughly this offseason — could surface by making some big tackles for loss of their own this fall.

At end, junior Josh Ehambe, sophomores Isaiah Bean and Maciah Long and junior transfer Willie McCaleb are among the candidates to break out.

At tackle, seniors Isi Holani and DeeIsaac Davis have experience to build upon, while junior college transfers J.J. Holmes and KeyShaun Simmons aim to contribute, as well.

Can a true freshman become an effective Big 12 linebacker?

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson sweeps aside an obstacle during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas linebacker Kyron Johnson sweeps aside an obstacle during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Junior linebackers Joe Dineen, Keith Loneker Jr., Denzel Feaster and Osaze Ogbebor likely enter preseason camp occupying the four available spots on the 2-deep. But it’s possible a true freshman could knock one of them from their slots before the season concludes.

When the name Kyron Johnson comes up in conversations with players and coaches, only positive evaluations follow.

The 6-foot-1, 210-pound first-year linebacker might be undersized at this point (and we should discover soon if he’s put more weight on his frame this summer) but his speed and instincts could get him on the field ahead of schedule.

Johnson graduated from Arlington Lamar High (Texas) early in order to enroll at KU in the spring, so he’s more experienced than most freshmen already. We’ll see if he can fast-forward his development enough in practices to leapfrog his way to substantial playing time.

Other than Mike Lee, who are these defensive backs?

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Actually, we know their names. We just don’t yet know what to expect out of their games.

KU’s secondary is the least-experienced group on the roster. And those are words no football coach or fan ever wants to read or hear.

Hard-hitting sophomore safety Mike Lee is the only sure talent among the defensive backs. The rest of the backfield has everything to prove.

Both starting cornerback jobs are up for grabs. Transfers Hasan Defense (sophomore) and Shakial Taylor (junior) have a chance to win them, as do sophomores Kyle Mayberry and Julian Chandler. The names of redshirt freshman Shola Ayinde and sophomore Julian Chandler also came up in corner discussions this past spring.

Lee will play more than anyone in the secondary, but it’s unclear at this point who, other than senior Derrick Neal, is most likely to earn the Saturday snaps to play back there with him at the other safety spot and/or as a nickelback. Juniors Tyrone Miller Jr. and Emmanuel Moore, sophomores Bryce Torneden and Shaq Richmond, and junior transfer Antonio Cole all seem to have a shot.

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Say What? Smith discusses KU football’s 2017 potential on Rock Chalk Sports Talk

KUsports.com football beat writer Benton Smith joined KLWN's Nick Schwerdt on Rock Chalk Sports Talk Tuesday to discuss the Jayhawks' potential for the upcoming season.

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Signs of life: QB Carter Stanley exhibits dual-threat ability within Air Raid

Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws to a receiver during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws to a receiver during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.

Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

One of two Kansas football players will be in position this fall to establish himself as the program’s first functional, Big 12-level quarterback since Todd Reesing took his final snap in 2009.

It could be Peyton Bender. Or it could be Carter Stanley. The incumbent starter, thanks to a late-2016 shakeup at QB by head coach David Beaty, Stanley helped orchestrate the program’s first Big 12 victory in two years and showed flashes of promise with his arm, toughness and leadership.

In the offseason months since the conclusion of his redshirt freshman season, the sophomore QB from Vero Beach, Fla., has continued on the upward trajectory that earned Stanley his first three college starts.

This spring, while competing with Bender, a junior transfer who studied the Air Raid under guru Mike Leach at Washington State, Stanley drew praise from coaches and teammates for his performances at practices. During the spring game at Memorial Stadium, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound QB showed — with his arm and his legs — why the competition has been too close for Beaty and new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham to decide upon a starter.

Stanley got to play a part in a little trickeration early on during the open scrimmage. After handing the ball off to running back Taylor Martin, who headed right and gave it up to receiver Kerr Johnson Jr., coming on a reverse, a flick back to Stanley set the quarterback up for a throw down the right side to an open Ben Johnson, who finished off the 27-yard gain.

Entering his third year with the program, Stanley looked poised then and at other times during the exhibition. He displayed no panic whatsoever when a snap out of the shotgun was off the mark and bounced off his left hand, landing on the turf in front of him. Stanley just picked up the ball and completed a quick pass over the middle to an open Kerr Johnson Jr.

The unrelated targets with the same last name, Ben and Kerr Johnson proved to be two of Stanley’s favorites throughout the intrasquad practice, as the QB didn’t have the luxury to throwing to frontline receivers Daylon Charlot, Steven Sims Jr. and LaQuvionte Gonzalez. Senior tight end Ben Johnson, who should get more opportunities this fall than he did as a junior, lined up in the slot on the right side within a four-receiver formation. After the snap, Ben Johsnon split defenders Derrick Neal and Keith Loneker Jr. to get open behind them and Stanley put the ball on the money, allowing Johnson to turn up field for a gain of 20 yards.

Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) escapes Team Jayhawk defensive end Kellen Ash (97) during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) escapes Team Jayhawk defensive end Kellen Ash (97) during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Beaty and Meacham will tell you Stanley and Bender are different types of quarterbacks, and examples to back that up their statements popped up during the scrimmage, when Stanley showed his ability to make plays with his feet.

On a few occasions he looked very comfortable utilizing option reads. Once, out of the pistol formation, Stanley put the ball out for Martin for a potential hand-off, then kept it when he could see defensive linemen collapsing toward the middle of the play, leaving an open lane on the right side for the quarterback. He took off for a 6-yard gain and the play was blown dead (you know, the whole “Let’s not maim our QB” aspect of the spring game), but Stanley ran and shifted so smoothly in the open field it looked as if it would have been a much larger gain in a live game situation.

Later, Stanley made another good read out of a three-WR set, with Martin behind him. The QB put the ball on Martin’s waist, saw Josh Ehambe make a break for the running back and took off right for an 8-yard pick-up.

The lengthiest Stanley rush came via smart improvisation. He dropped back to survey the field as four receivers ran their routes. No one got open enough for the QB to convert a 3rd-and-9, so he made a quick decision to run straight ahead, through a gap that had formed in the middle of the O-line. Stanley out-ran defensive linemen Kellen Ash and Ehambe to get to the second level of the defense. Again, it looked like more yardage would’ve been attainable in a live situation, but the run was blown dead after 11 yards.

via GIPHY

Stanley’s passing totals in the scrimmage — 13-for-24, 114 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions — weren’t as good as Bender’s. But Stanley gained 25 yards via rushes and could have matched his counterpart’s throwing production if he had been working with the same skill players.

The redshirt sophomore won’t win the starting job just because he’s an effective runner, but that wrinkle does make him a different overall weapon as a quarterback than Bender, and Stanley’s coaches certainly won’t hold that against him while deciding on the team’s QB1.

Now that Stanley has a little Big 12 experience and growing confidence to go with increasing competence in the Air Raid system, he is on track to give Kansas a legitimate QB in 2017, should he win the job.

The best news for Beaty and the Jayhawks is both Bender and Stanley look capable of breathing life into a long dormant offense.

More signs of life:

- Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

- Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised

- Peyton Bender proving why David Beaty had so much confidence in him

- Tom Keegan: KU offense projects as best since 2009

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Say What? Smith talks KU spring game, QB competition on 810 WHB’s Between the Lines

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