Not every addition to a college football program can be a prospect with stars next to his name on recruiting websites.
While proclaiming the merits of his program’s 2018 signing class this week, Kansas football coach David Beaty didn’t gloss over the presence of seven less heralded in-state and local prep players who will be joining the Jayhawks.
Just as he did for four-star Louisiana standouts Corione Harris and Anthony “Pooka” Williams and the rest of the scholarship players coming in, Beaty took time to give his thoughts on some new KU walk-ons.
“We're extremely proud of our homegrown talent we're about to add to our roster today,” the fourth-year KU coach said. “The kids right here from this great state and the Kansas City (Missouri) area. Some terrific players that have great production.”
Here is a look at the five Sunflower State players and two from Kansas City, Mo., whom Beaty included in his National Signing Day festivities.
Ath. - Nick Channel | 6-0, 205 | Kapaun Mt. Carmel High
A safety and running back as a prep standout in Wichita, Channel is listed as an athlete by KU because the coaches don’t yet know what position they’ll ask him to play. He was an all-state rusher as a senior, going for 1,305 yards in nine games.
“Nick can play both sides of the ball,” Beaty said. “You can snap it to him. He can run it. He can play safety and he'll knock you out. He's one of those hard-nosed, blue-collared Kansans. He just likes hitting people.”
TE - Dylan Freberg | 6-4, 210 | Blue Valley North High
A productive target for Class 6A champion Blue Valley North in 2017, Freberg made 76 receptions for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“This guy gets in the end zone a lot,” Beaty said. “He runs more like a wide receiver, but he's a big kid. Those big dudes are hard to cover in the middle of the field. You're starting to notice more and more people use that. We think Dylan fits that for us.”
QB - Billy Maples | 6-2, 220 | Park Hill High (Mo.)
An all-state Class 6 quarterback from Kansas City, Mo., Maples threw for 3,130 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior.
“This kid can do it now. He can spin it,” Beaty said. “He's a guy that it's hard to not notice that production. He had some real interest here late and he hung with us. So excited about Billy and adding him.”
Ath. - Cody McNerney | 6-1, 200 | Wichita Collegiate High
A safety and quarterback at the prep level, McNerney is another player KU’s staff will wait to assess in person before assigning him a position. McNerney accounted for a ton of chunk plays at Wichita Collegiate as a rusher.
In one of the more bizarre moments of the signing day press conference, Beaty, after predicting McNerney could be a “beast” for KU’s special teams, went even bolder with his next forecast.
“I would not doubt that this guy will wind up in the NFL, because it's just the type of guy he is. He's a guy that nobody's going to think about and then he's going to be the guy making all the money playing in the NFL,” Beaty said. “Because that league is full of guys like that, and he does everything right. He works hard.”
OL - Jack Murphy | 6-9, 291 | Rockhurst High (Mo.)
“This kid's a giant,” Beaty said. “He's 6-9, he's a big, big dude. He's going to be a large human, no doubt about that. Another one we tried to keep down low, and being able to get him to come and be a Jayhawk was a coup for us.”
TE - Jack Parks | 6-5, 230 | Olathe Northwest High
His father, Mark Parks, is a former KU football player.
“Another long, 6-5 guy that can run down the field and catch the ball well,” Beaty said. “This guy can go in line, which is something you have to have as well. He's a guy that could get really big if he's not careful.”
OL - Spencer Roe | 6-4, 270 | Free State High
Beaty and company went back to the Free State well again this year to add all-state lineman Roe, making him the fifth Jayhawk on the roster from the in-town high school.
“He's a versatile guy that can play both sides of the ball,” Beaty said. “He can play on the offensive line, he can play the defensive line. He had a lot of production there at Free State.”
National Signing Day has arrived for the Class of 2018, but Kansas football coach David Beaty and his staff don’t have to worry much about in terms of which of their recruiting targets will follow through and sign letters of intent.
The time for heightened anxiousness came and went in December’s three-day early signing period, when Louisiana standouts Corione Harris and Anthony “Pooka” Williams joined three other preps and nine junior college prospects in making their commitments official.
Throw in Florida State graduate transfer Mavin Saunders and juco quarterback Miles Kendrick, who joined the program for the spring semester, and the KU staff entered the traditional February signing day with most of its business behind them.
Only four players who had previously announced their commitments to Kansas came into Wednesday unsigned: Blue Valley North defensive end Miles Emery, Louisiana linebacker Ryan Malbrough, Texas prep quarterback Torry Locklin and Coffeyville Community College offensive tackle Reuben Lewis.
That group gained a welcome addition Wednesday morning, though, when Kenny Bastida, an uncommitted three-star linebacker from Deerfield Beach, Fla., decided he would sign with Kansas.
According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, Bastida visited KU this past weekend after being recruited by new linebackers coach Bill Miller. Prior to his senior season, Bastida reportedly had offers from Penn State, LSU, Michigan State, Wisconsin, North Carolina State and several other programs. He told Kirby in the past month he visited with coaches from Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado and “a lot of other schools.”
A 6-foot-4, 330-pound tackle originally from Apopka, Fla., Lewis was the first of the group to sign Wednesday morning.
The letter for Malbrough, a 6-1, 180-pound linebacker from Cecilia, La., came through next.
Bastida signed Wednesday morning, as well.
In total, KU’s 2018 class projects to include just nine high school players, 11 from the junior college ranks and one graduate transfer.
Class of 2018 signees
• Reuben Lewis | 6-4, 330 | OL | Coffeyville C.C.
• Ryan Malbrough | 6-1, 180 | LB | Cecilia High (La.)
• Kenny Bastida | 6-1, 230 | OLB | Deerfield Beach High (Fla.)
Below is the list of recruits who KU already had in place heading into February.
• Mavin Saunders | 6-5, 256 | TE | Florida State
• Jeremiah McCullough | 6-0, 205 | S | Hartnell College
• Davon Ferguson | 5-10, 190 | DB | Hartnell College
• Elijah Jones | 6-1, 175 | CB | Ellsworth Community College
• Najee Stevens-McKenzie | 6-3, 225 | DE | ASA College
• Azur Kamara | 6-4, 225 | DE | Arizona Western College
• Jacobi Lott | 6-4, 309 | OL | Tascosa High (Texas)
• Charles Cole | 6-3, 280 | DT | Butler Community College
• Foster Dixson | 6-4, 250 | DE | West Los Angeles Community College
• Stephon Robinson | 5-10, 170 | WR | El Camino Community College
• Mac Copeland | 6-4, 245 | OL | Wichita Collegiate High
• Nick Williams | 6-8, 265 | OL | Ritenour High (Mo.)
• Corione Harris | 6-1, 170 | CB | Landry-Walker High (La.)
• Elmore Hempstead Jr. | 5-11, 175 | CB | Fort Scott C.C.
• Anthony “Pooka” Williams Jr. | 5-10, 170 | RB | Hahnville High (La.)
• Miles Kendrick | 5-10, 200 | QB | College of San Mateo
As David Beaty heads into his fourth season in charge of the University of Kansas football program, the Jayhawks remain a long way from proving they can compete with the rest of the Big 12 or FBS teams in general.
The NCAA’s official website tracks team statistics for 47 categories. In 2017, Beaty’s third year at KU, the Jayhawks ranked 100th or worse among 129 FBS programs on more than half of the lists — 26 altogether.
Over the next several off-season months Beaty and his staff will have no shortage of areas to address as they attempt to put a more competitive product on the field in 2018.
The list of KU’s faults is long. But there were a few things the Jayhawks actually did well while finishing 1-11 overall and 0-9 in the Big 12. One of the most stunning developments this past season was the red zone success of the Kansas offense. Coordinator Doug Meacham’s group ranked 9th nationally in red zone scoring percentage, with a 93.8% success rate. Kansas made 32 trips to the red zone and came away with eight rushing touchdowns, 10 passing TDs and 12 field goals.
The problem, of course, was how seldom the Jayhawks put themselves in position to score. Their 32 visits to an opponent’s 20-yard line tied for 10th-fewest among FBS teams, because the offense rarely whipped up enough successful plays to constitute a meaningful drive.
Defensively, KU stood out with its ability to make stops behind the line of scrimmage. Coordinator Clint Bowen’s bunch ranked 15th nationally, with 7.4 tackles for loss per game (89 total). Obviously that success wasn’t nearly enough to offset the Jayhawks’ numerous defensive inefficiencies.
Ultimately, KU’s countless issues all over the field meant the Big 12’s worst team ranked tied for 124th in the most important category of them all, winning percentage (.083). Kansas was one of five teams to finish 1-11, along with Baylor, Rice, Charlotte and Oregon State. Only UTEP went winless this past fall.
Below is a recap of where Kansas ranked in every team stat tracked on the NCAA’s website for the 2017 season.
Passing offense: 68th, 226.4 yards per game
Rushing offense: 124th, 102.6 yards per game
Total offense: 117th, 329 yards per game
Scoring offense: 119th, 18.7 points per game
3rd down conversions: 124th, 28.9%
4th down conversions: Tied-60th, 54.2% (13 of 24)
Completion percentage: 108th, 54.1% (249 of 460)
1st downs: 123rd, 194 (66 rushing, 113 passing, 15 via penalty)
Fumbles lost: Tied-76th, 9
Passes had intercepted: Tied-120th, 17 (Peyton Bender, 10; Carter Stanley, 7)
Passing yards per completion: 118th, 10.91 yards (Stanley, 10.97; Bender, 10.87)
Red zone offense: 9th, 93.8% scoring percentage (32 red zone trips, 8 rushing TDs, 10 passing TDs, 12 FGs)
Sacks allowed: Tied-90th, 2.42 opponent sacks per game
Tackles for loss allowed: 123rd, 7.67 opponent TFLs per game (lost 31.75 yards per game)
Passing efficiency: 118th, 106.4 passing efficiency (Bender 108.48; Stanley 104.47)
Turnovers lost: Tied-115th, 26 (9 fumbles lost, 17 passes intercepted)
Passing yards allowed: 125th, 296.8 yards per game
Rushing yards allowed: 72nd, 171.6 yards per game
Total defense: 117th, 468.3 yards allowed per game
Scoring defense: 128th, 43.4 points per game
Opponent 3rd down conversions: Tied-78th, 40.1%
Opponent 4th down conversions: 104th, 61.9% (13 of 21)
Defensive touchdowns: N/A (one of 50 programs to not score a defensive TD)
Opponent 1st downs: Tied-75th, 265 (106 rushing, 141 passing, 18 via penalty)
Fumbles recovered: Tied-108th, 5
Passes intercepted: Tied-124th, 4 (382 opponent pass attempts)
Red zone defense: 117th, 89.8% opponent scoring percentage (59 red zone trips, 27 rushing TDs, 16 passing TDs, 10 FGs)
Opponent passing efficiency: 128th, 172.36
Sacks: Tied-89th, 1.83 per game (22 total)
Tackles for loss: 15th, 7.4 per game (89 total)
Turnovers gained: Tied-126th, 9 (5 fumble recoveries, 4 interceptions)
Blocked kicks: Tied-67th, 1
Blocked kicks allowed: Tied-1st with 25 other teams, 0
Blocked punts: Tied-19th with 39 other teams, 1
Blocked punts allowed: Tied-1st with 69 other teams, 0 (most 87 punts)
Kickoff return defense: 109th, 23.72 yards per opponent return (29 returns, 688 yards, 1 TD, 17 touchbacks)
Kickoff returns: 79th, 20.49 yards per return (51 returns, 1,045 yards, 0 TDs)
Net punting: 121st, 34.57 net yards per punt (87 punts, 3,434 yards, 366 return yards, 3 touchbacks)
Punt return defense: 129th, 18.3 yards per return (20 returns, 366 yards, 2 TDs)
Punt returns: 84th, 6.23 yards per return (13 returns, 81 yards, 0 TDs)
Fewest penalties: Tied-33rd, 66
Fewest penalties per game: 47th, 5.5 per game
Fewest penalty yards: 31st, 553
Fewest penalty yards per game: 40th, 46.08
Time of possession: 113th, 27:31
Turnover margin: 127th, -1.42 per game (-17 on the season — 9 gained, 26 lost)
Winning percentage: Tied-124th, .083
A two-sport high school star in Arizona whose career path as a college athlete began with the UMass football program, James Sosinski’s past two years have included stints as a redshirt quarterback, a junior college basketball player and a first-time tight end. Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse, he added Kansas basketball big man to his résumé.
With only 3:40 left in the Jayhawks’ rout of vanquished Omaha, KU coach Bill Self had no problem emptying his still shorthanded bench and putting the Kansas football reserve on the floor for mop-up duty.
“I asked him, ‘Hey, can you do this?’” Self related of a back-and-forth with the 6-foot-7 forward from Chandler, Ariz., before Sosinski checked in. “And he said, ‘I don’t know any of it.’ I said, ‘Well, just ball-screen and run to the rim.’ And he did, and ended up getting a couple of baskets.”
Sosinski’s first action wearing his No. 55 Kansas basketball uniform — as opposed to his No. 89 KU football jersey — turned out to be a foul. But a defensive rebound of a missed free throw soon followed. And, as Self referenced, the final minutes of KU’s 109-64 drubbing of the Mavericks included Sosinski banking in a shot from the paint and tipping in a missed attempt by Marcus Garrett.
“Points per minute he led the team in scoring,” Self joked after Sosinski contributed 2-for-2 shooting, four points and two rebounds in four minutes. “But I thought he did good for a guy who doesn’t know what he’s doing at all.”
Following KU’s late November victory over Toledo, Self initially revealed he was looking into adding Sosinski to the basketball roster by having the backup tight end practice with his team. The 250-pound redshirt sophomore convinced Self through his efforts in those auditions he was worth a flier, and first suited up for Kansas against Washington, on Dec. 6. He just never found himself actually in position to play until Monday night.
“I knew that if I got the opportunity,” Sosinski said following his hardwood kickoff, “I would try to make the most of it and just work my hardest.”
The two-sport Jayhawk, of course, never figured when he arrived on campus this past August he would premiere as a basketball player instead of a football player.
“That’s crazy to think,” Sosinski said. “But it’s sure nice to get in.”
KU football coach David Beaty first introduced the idea of dabbling in basketball to him after the Jayhawks’ 1-11 season concluded, Sosinski said. Self had reached out to Beaty to inquire about the possibility, due to his team’s uncharacteristically shallow rotation.
Self didn’t guarantee Sosinski anything the first time they spoke, in late November.
“So I just went out there and hustled as hard as I could and tried to do my best,” the new Kansas basketball bench supporter said.
Such an improbable scenario never would have been possible had KU linebackers coach Todd Bradford not watched Sosinski at a football camp this past summer. The former UMass quarterback who broke his foot in 2015, and didn’t play that sport anywhere in 2016 eventually earned an offer to come to Kansas as a tight end, a position he had never played.
“Having a year off from football was hard,” Sosinski said, when asked about his role with KU football the past several months, when he didn’t appear in a game. “I didn’t take it for granted. I didn’t pout. I just tried to work hard every day and tried to get better, and I’m looking forward for the season next year and hopefully we can get back on track.”
Self isn’t in such dire straits, and made it clear from the time Sosinski joined the basketball program his role would be the same as one of the roster’s walk-ons. But the 15th-year KU coach thinks having Sosinski around has benefited the team — even if it’s as simple as being able to take him on the road and practice, as was the case this past weekend at Nebraska.
“But we really haven’t needed him as much as you would think,” Self added, because 6-10 freshman Billy Preston hasn’t been cleared to play yet, so he and 6-9 transfer Dedric Lawson have been practicing with KU’s red team. “So we’ve got some bigs there. But James is our best low-post defender on (starting center Udoka Azubuike). There’s no question. He can put a body on him and foul him and get him off his spot better than anybody, which I think is good for Dok to play against.”
The whole transition remains a work in progress for Sosinski, who admitted he probably still isn’t in basketball shape. But he feels grateful for his unlikely role, same as any minutes he might scrape together as an end-of-the-bench fill-in.
“They needed help in basketball,” Sosinski said, “and I just love going out there and helping the big guys get work in practice and helping everyone out.”
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
No one expected Peyton Bender’s Kansas football debut to be a flawless one. Aside from perfectionist Peyton Bender. For all the positive plays the program’s new starting quarterback made during his introductory performance, as he prepares for his second game Bender is most concerned with his shortcomings — and fixing them.
By the end of a four-touchdown, 364-yard outing against Southeast Missouri State, the former Washington State and Itawamba Community College (Miss.) QB had thrown 14 incompletions and two interceptions — one in each half.
Those are the plays he’ll study and learn from most frequently in KU’s quarterbacks room this week; not the TD passes to Steven Sims Jr., Chase Harrell and Ben Johnson.
On Bender’s first turnover, in the second quarter, with the Jayhawks aiming to improve upon a 14-7 lead, he looked for junior receiver Jeremiah Booker, who had lined up wide right, and began breaking toward the middle of the field roughly 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. The ball went behind Booker, and into the hands of SEMO corner Shabari Davis.
[Check out Scott Chasen’s video breakdown of Bender’s debut at the conclusion of the blog.]
“On the first one,” Bender said Tuesday of his first major mistake with the Jayhawks, “I tried to throw it a little bit too early and didn’t let Booker get into his route long enough.”
Not that he was perfect for the ensuing two quarters, but Bender’s next costly blunder came on a throw in the fourth quarter, with the Jayhawks in position to officially put SEMO out of reach.
The QB looked deep down the left sideline for long, agile wideout Chase Harrell. Bender should have put the ball out farther in front of his target, because Harrell had no one in front of him and the speed to beat his man in a foot race to the end zone on a longer throw. Instead, Bender left it short, Harrell tried to slow down and make a play, but lost a tug-of-war for the ball to SEMO’s Al Young.
“Then on the second one I just under-threw Chase,” Bender admitted. “Those are fixable. My eyes are in the right spot on both of them. I just didn’t make the best throw.”
KU’s head coach was more forgiving of his quarterback in his assessment. David Beaty thought Bender “did a really nice job” throughout the KU win, the two interceptions notwithstanding.
“As we go back and look at the first pick that he throws, I think we were a little deep on that route, which that will affect the timing sometimes,” Beaty said. “It's just got a chance to keep you off of being on the same page when you're not at the right depth. So we've got to be better there.”
Among Bender’s 14 incompletions, Beaty admitted some balls looked under- or over-thrown as he watched from the sideline. But the coach said when he reviewed the game footage on video, missed assignments often were to blame.
“The guy just misread what was going on with the safety, and (Bender) put it right where it was supposed to be,” the coach said of his general takeaway on perceived off-the-mark passes. “If he'd have been there (a receiver read a route option correctly), it would have been a big play.”
Outside of his two give-aways, which Bender and his coaches vow to learn from, Bender felt encouraged by the offense’s 437-yard night in the first game for both the quarterback and offensive coordinator Doug Meacham.
“I thought we converted on all of our third-and-mediums, but we put ourselves in bad position on third-and-long, so we have to do a better job on first and second downs. So that’s an emphasis going into this week,” Bender said ahead of Saturday’s non-conference matchup with Central Michigan. “We just want to clean up what we can do on first and second down and make it easier for us on those third downs.”
The lack of consistency stood out to the quarterback when he went back and reviewed the video, a sign he’s striving for perfection, even after putting up the best numbers from a KU quarterback since the days of Todd Reesing.
“I think we did a lot of things well as an offense, but we also have a ton to improve on, which is a good thing,” Bender said. “I think overall we just saw glimpses of how good and explosive we can be.”
— Bender breakdown video from Scott Chasen:
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.”
• 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.”
• 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.”
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.”
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.”
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.