Daylon Charlot didn’t transfer from Alabama to Kansas to play safety.
So this spring, and a return to his old position, wide receiver, invigorated one of the most intriguing talents on the Jayhawks’ roster.
Late this past fall, Charlot’s first as an active member of KU’s roster, a void at safety, as well as the apparent inability of the one-time four-star prep prospect form Patterson, La., to crack the offense’s two-deep, inspired coaches to move Charlot into the secondary.
Too raw and inexperienced at his new position to get onto the field in any of the Jayhawks’ final five games, Charlot tried to make the best of his predicament at practices. In that setting, he often let the receivers he had spent more than a year working alongside know he looked forward to squaring off with them.
“Daylon always tried to hit us,” KU receiver Steven Sims Jr. said, grinning. “That’s all he talked about, ‘He’s gonna catch us slipping,’ and stuff like that. It’s good to have him back.”
The extent to which Charlot feels revitalized, for now, is known only by the the 6-foot, 209-pound receiver and those with which he has shared that notion directly. Though requested for interviews throughout the spring, a KU communications staff member said Charlot had a schedule conflict on each of the three days in April when players were made available. Interview requests were not taken following the spring’s final, open-to-the-public practice.
Sims, who has spent plenty of downtime and prep time around Charlot since the Class of 2015 Alabama signee arrived in Lawrence as a ballyhooed transfer in 2016, shared his assessment of Charlot’s mindset this spring.
“I know he’s happy to be back. He feels a little rusty, but I know he’s happy to be back on offense,” Sims said. “Nobody wants to play defense. He got abused by us every day in practice.”
The KU offense needs Charlot to start resembling the type of receiver many envisioned when he was a consensus four-star prospect in Louisiana, as a high schooler. The kind of player renowned Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban didn’t want leaving his program.
Redshirt junior Carter Stanley said he and KU’s other quarterbacks noticed the short-lived safety responding positively this spring upon returning to the offense.
“I think it’s his natural spot. I really like Daylon as a receiver. He’s put in great work already,” Stanley said. “I think he’s there to stay.”
According to fourth-year Kansas coach David Beaty, the need for some depth at safety forced what proved to be a temporary relocation project for Charlot.
“You know, we always knew that if we were able to go and get what we needed in recruiting, we wanted to bring him back over (to offense),” Beaty remarked. “So he's back in the position that he started at. I know he's excited about that.”
Charlot added 14 pounds to his frame from a year ago this offseason, but Sims related his fellow receiver might cut some of that weight in the weeks ahead in hopes of maximizing his speed.
“I do think moving him back refocused him,” Sims observed. “I feel like Daylon’s ready to take on his role now at wide receiver and I feel like he’s focused. He’s learning it over again, because he kind of forgot the stuff a little bit,” Sims noted early in the spring. “He’s getting his confidence back. It’s good to see that.”
Among the 15 Jayhawks who caught a pass in 2017, Charlot ranked last in productivity. His one reception, in a Week 2 loss to Central Michigan, registered no gain — a zero-yard catch. Kansas has to get substantially more out of the receiver in his upcoming junior season.
Kansas loses two of its top three receivers from a year ago, with Ben Johnson graduating and Chase Harrell transferring. While Sims, Evan Fairs, Jeremiah Booker, Ryan Schadler and Quan Hampton give the receiving corps capable options with varying degrees of experience, Charlot finally living up to his potential and performing like one of the Big 12’s top-flight receivers should stimulate the offense.
Remember: KU only averaged 14.3 points and 237.8 yards per game in Big 12 play in 2017. The Jayhawks will take an uplift anywhere they can find one, and Charlot holds the pedigree and potential to do his part in putting a more effective offense on the field, if focused and eager.
During the first couple of weeks of spring football, Kansas coach David Beaty hesitated to heap too much praise on individual players for their performances.
Though measured again in his tenor, the fourth-year KU coach found himself more willing to identify spring standouts earlier this week, having observed nine of the team’s 15 practice sessions.
When solicited to disclose which offensive players have delivered behind the closed gates of the practice fields, Beaty said several Jayhawks “have really stuck out” and “deserve to be mentioned.”
The first skill position player’s name to leave Beaty’s mouth belonged to the program’s newest quarterback, sophomore Miles Kendrick.
“His work ethic,” Beaty began, regarding the 5-foot-10 QB who transferred to KU from College of San Mateo (Calif.). “He's thrown 127 passes in the spring through team and seven-on-seven, and he's had two balls intercepted. That's not bad. That's good ball security. That means a guy's prepared and he knows what he's seeing.”
Next, Beaty lauded a pair of upperclassman receivers, both of whom are expected to feature prominently within the team’s passing game this coming fall.
“Steven Sims sticks out to me again, just athletically,” Beaty said of the 5-10 senior from Houston. “But just understanding how to become even more of a savvy route-runner, he's doing a nice job.”
The coach then pointed to 6-3 junior Evan Fairs, who began to stand out in November of 2017, with a seven-catch game at Texas and six receptions versus Oklahoma.
“I think he can be a really good player,” Beaty said of Fairs. “I really think he can. We have high hopes for him.”
Subsequently, the coach shifted his focus to what’s left of the team’s offensive line — numerous injuries at the position led KU to cancel a traditional spring game and replace it with a practice. Beaty began at left guard, with redshirt sophomore Malik Clark.
“He's kind of been forced to take more reps than probably he would like. But I think back to him coming in … he was 350-something pounds, and he's down to 325 or so (listed at 320), and he looks good,” Beaty said of Clark, a New Orleans native. “He's getting a lot of reps, and you're starting to see him improve.”
KU’s head coach also mentioned banged-up junior O-lineman Antione Frazier before extolling the development of redshirt junior Clyde McCauley, “another guy that nobody talks about very much,” Beaty said of the 6-5, 305-pound tackle, McCauley. “But he may be one of the more improved guys that we've had up front, which is good. He's going into year four for him, so you're starting to see guys' experience pay off a little bit.”
Beaty then circled back to the quarterback position and the improvement of senior Peyton Bender, calling him a “very, very talented guy,” who, like Kendrick, is completing more than 70% of his passes at practices, during team periods and seven-on-sevens.
“Some of the things that we're doing with understanding what we're seeing,” Beaty said in reference to Bender reading defenses, “I think it's really helping him.”
The coach closed his spiel by mentioning tight ends James Sosinski and Mavin Saunders, too, but actually led into his whole rundown of high-quality offensive performers by hailing the efforts of two special-teamers.
“Maybe one of the guys that is most well-respected on this team is Gabe Rui,” Beaty declared of the redshirt senior kicker who made 17 of 20 field goals and went 23-for-23 on extra points in 2017. “Now I know he is not an offensive football player, but he puts up a lot of numbers for us. He has had a terrific spring. He's really done well. His confidence is pretty impressive for a kicker.”
At an often overlooked position, long snapper, Beaty commended redshirt senior John Wirtel for reshaping his body.
“He's almost 255, 260 pounds now,” the coach said of the specialist who missed most of both the 2016 and 2017 seasons with injuries. “He's got NFL caliber. He's a talented guy. Having him back healthy has been good.”
San Antonio — Tight end James Sosinski was a no-show for the Kansas football team’s first two spring practices this week. And for a good reason.
Sosinski, a walk-on with KU basketball since December, boarded a plane on Wednesday and flew south for the Final Four as his football teammates gathered their helmets and gear for a pads-free start to their March-and-April practice regimen.
On Friday, dozens of the football players Sosinski will spend the next several months with were back on the secluded turf for more. On the same afternoon KU’s tight-end-turned-reserve-post-player ran onto the basketball court at The Alamodome for an open practice in front of thousands of spectators.
Football can wait for the 6-foot-7, 250-pound two-sport athlete from Chandler, Ariz. Sosinski has been so immersed in KU’s run through the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament that he hasn’t had a lot of communication with his football teammates and coaches the past month or so.
But Kansas coach David Beaty texted the backup tight end following the Jayhawks’ Elite Eight victory over Duke to congratulate him.
“So they’re real supportive and real understanding,” Sosinski said of football coaches and players.
Whether the Kansas basketball season ends Saturday night at the Final Four or Monday in the national title game, Sosinski won’t spend any time resting at its conclusion.
“Right back into it,” Sosinski said of joining spring football, once the Jayhawks are back in Lawrence. “Even though I’m happy I’m missing this time right now, I don’t want to miss too many practices.”
Sosinski, who will be a junior tight end this coming fall, had almost no time for football activities since the 2017 season ended in late November.
On an occasional off day for basketball during the past four months he would find his way to the football practice fields for the best tune-ups he could manage.
“Running routes, catching the ball, just trying to get my feet under me a little bit,” Sosinski shared. “But we really haven’t had too much time with our busy schedule, so it hasn’t been that much.”
When he had chances to do so, Sosinski talked with KU quarterback Carter Stanley, as well, and reviewed some of the offensive playbook “so my brain stays fresh.”
While playing basketball every day has easily kept Sosinski’s conditioning at an optimal level, he expects to have “a little bit” of football rust once he re-joins those Jayhawks.
“I just need to get my legs under me, running routes again. Just gain the coordination for running routes, catching the ball, blocking and stuff,” Sosinski said. “I think I’ll be good running-wise and shape-wise. It’s just gonna be different movements and getting my coordination back.”
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.”