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
The past 12 months — September through November in particular — undeniably featured more failures than triumphs for the forlorn University of Kansas football program.
With a new year imminent, evoking reflection on all that transpired during 2017, constructing a best-of recap for KU football would qualify as disingenuous.
Instead, because not everyone can be as “super-positive” as Jayhawks head coach David Beaty, here are the 17 lowest moments the team endured throughout 2017, a year filled with matters most associated with the program would prefer to forget.
No FBS wins/11-game losing streak
The high point of Beaty’s third season leading the Jayhawks came and went on the first Saturday of September, when KU beat overmatched Southeast Missouri State, 38-16.
Following that victory against an FCS opponent, Kansas tailspun into an 11-game losing streak.
By the time the schedule wrapped up with KU losing eight of its nine Big 12 games by 22 or more points, Beaty’s record with the Jayhawks dropped to 3-33 overall and 1-32 against FBS competition.
Oklahoma handshake debacle
The rest of the college football universe would have gone on ignoring the Jayhawks’ on-field miseries had the team’s captains not decided to snub eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Baker Mayfield during a pre-game handshake in KU’s home finale.
Alternatively, Beaty and captains Daniel Wise, Dorance Armstrong Jr., Joe Dineen and Jeremiah Booker spent the following days apologizing to Mayfield, the Oklahoma program, KU fans, the Big 12 and college football, in general, after losing the game 41-3.
KU offense collapses at TCU
The Jayhawks’ branded Air Raid offense crashed and burned often this past season, but never looked more clumsy than in a prime time road loss at TCU, on Oct. 21.
Forget scoring 21 points in a game — a feat KU accomplished twice during Big 12 play — the offense mustered just 21 total yards, the fewest by an FBS team in at least 20 seasons, against the Horned Frogs.
KU’s longest play from scrimmage went 13 yards and the offense netted minus-25 yards rushing in a dumbfounding performance.
Record-breaking road skid
For the eighth consecutive season, KU failed to win a road game.
The Jayhawks took on the unenviable distinction of owning the longest road losing streak in major college football history with their 45th straight defeat in an opponent’s stadium, Nov. 11 at Texas.
The skid extended to 46 with KU’s season-ending, 58-17 loss at Oklahoma State. What’s more, the loss marked the program’s 49th consecutive defeat outside of Lawrence, when neutral site games are included. Plus, KU has dropped 41 conference road contests in a row.
‘Fire Zenger’ banner flies
In the hours before KU’s Oct. 28 rivalry game with Kansas State, a plane flew above Memorial Stadium with a banner in tow which read: “Fire Zenger.”
The airborne suggestion referenced KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the football program’s ongoing struggles, which have rendered increasing numbers of the fan base dissatisfied over the past couple of years.
After KU lost, 30-20, Beaty described the idea of displaying such a message in the air space above campus as “asinine.”
Jason, most of ‘Louisianimals’ back out
On one wild weekend this past February, KU football fans didn’t quite know what to make of the program soaring up recruiting rankings by landing verbal commitments from several touted prospects, six of which hailed from Louisiana and were recruited by Kansas assistant Tony Hull.
In announcing the Pelican State pledges from recruits Anthony “Pooka” Williams, Devonta Jason, Corione Harris, Ja’Marr Chase, Aaron Brule and Nelson Jenkins, Beaty included the nickname: Louisianimals.
While both Williams and Harris eventually became early signees with KU, the other four de-committed, including the most promising talent in the group, four-star receiver Jason, who signed with Mississippi State.
Inept at Iowa State
In retrospect, it was a harbinger of what awaited KU at TCU. In the moment, it seemed as though the Jayhawks’ offense bottomed out in a 45-0 defeat at Iowa State.
Kansas amassed just 106 total yards and five first downs in Ames, Iowa.
In unimaginable fashion, the Cyclones completed three series on offense before KU got a chance to run its second offensive play, thanks to a muffed punt return and an interception in the game’s opening minutes.
From the day KU signed quarterback Peyton Bender, the former Mike Leach pupil at Washington State was identified by Beaty as a challenger for KU’s most visible starting job.
Bender debuted as the No. 1 QB in the season opener and maintained that status through four games, before the staff benched the junior at halftime of a drubbing at the hands of Texas Tech.
Although Bender would start the next two weeks, his passing numbers proved less than tame in back-to-back shutouts at ISU and TCU.
Demoting Bender to backup duties and giving Carter Stanley the job for the following four weeks was the right move at the time, but served as a reminder of the team’s inability to find and/or identify an impactful QB.
Program a punching bag during broadcasts
Opponents overwhelmed KU so often in 2017, the broadcasters paid to describe and analyze the Jayhawks’ play on television sometimes were brutally honest or at a loss for words.
At one point during the road loss at Ohio, a broadcaster for ESPNU assessed “Kansas is not a good football team.”
More infamously, during halftime of the face-plant at TCU, FOX studio analyst and former Hesiman winner Matt Leinart face-palmed when asked to describe KU’s play, and couldn’t fight off the desire to laugh.
Charlot fails to make an impact
A much-hyped receiver who transferred to Kansas from national powerhouse Alabama in 2016, Daylon Charlot barely produced anything in his debut season.
Once a four-star prep receiver considered talented enough to play for Nick Saban, Charlot returned five kickoffs for 82 yards on KU’s special teams and made one reception for zero yards on offense.
Before the season even neared its conclusion, the staff decided to move the receiver to defense, where he became an end-of-the-bench safety.
Home loss to Central Michigan
For those KU football fans hoping 2017 would be a season of progress, the Week 2 home loss to Central Michigan signaled a path in the opposite direction.
The Chippewas, who went on to finish third in the MAC’s West division, took the lead for good in the second quarter and won, 45-27.
Any promise of Kansas winning more than three games for the first time since Mark Mangino was forced out disappeared prior to Week 3.
Days ahead of preseason camp, Beaty kicked LaQuvionte Gonzalez off the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. Though disciplining a talented player is commendable, the removal of Gonzalez served as another lowlight.
Beaty hand-picked the speedy receiver, whom he recruited to and coached previously at Texas A & M, hoping Gonzalez could aid a massive rebuild at Kansas.
The receiver the KU coach had previously called his “son” blew a chance to help Beaty look good, and instead disobeyed guidelines established by the man in charge.
Blown out after bye week
The goal coming off an in-season idle Saturday is to return to the field feeling fresh and looking improved. Extra time off for KU in late September did nothing of the sort.
Following the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener, a 56-34 home loss to West Virginia, the staff and players had more recovery and preparation time than usual and responded by laying an egg at Memorial Stadium versus a Texas Tech team that would go on to finish eighth in the Big 12.
The Red Raiders clobbered KU, 65-19, in front of a season-worst announced home crowd of 21,050.
KU always needs help on its offensive line, and from the day Charles Baldwin, a former five-star junior college prospect, arrived in Lawrence, it was assumed the 6-foot-5, 305-pound tackle could provide just that.
Baldwin proved as effective for KU this past fall as he did in his short-lived spring stint with Alabama in 2016. By early September, the right tackle disappeared from the depth chart. Shortly after, his No. 58 uniform was nowhere to be seen on Saturday — not even during warm-ups or on the sidelines during home games, where even seldom-used backups typically participate and spectate.
Armstrong falls short of preseason honor
Back in July, at the apex of the offseason optimism surrounding Kansas, media members who cover the Big 12 voted defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. the league’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Following that unprecedented distinction for a Jayhawk, though, the junior from Houston couldn’t duplicate the statistical success of his breakout sophomore season.
While KU’s defensive schemes and altering of Armstrong’s responsibilities played a factor in the drop-offs, the 6-4 D-end’s production went from 20.0 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 2016, to 9.0 TFLs and 1.5 sacks in 2017.
The only unanimous selection to the media’s preseason all-league defensive team, Armstrong finished the year as a second-team selection of the Associated Press.
Tune spurns Kansas — twice
Most who follow college football recruiting realize a prospect backing off a verbal commitment always is a possibility. But for a potential signee to do so twice — to the same program — is bizarre.
That’s how quarterback Clayton Tune’s recruitment played out with KU. The Texas prep first pledged to the Jayhawks in February, then de-committed in October, when he checked out Baylor and Kansas got embarrassed at TCU on the same Saturday.
Somehow, the day after KU’s season ended, Tune re-committed as members of the coaching staff visited his home. The reconsideration proved fleeting, though, as Tune began exploring other options in December and reneged yet again.
Sternberger leaves KU
When tight end Jace Sternberger cut his time with Kansas short this past spring, opting to transfer out of the program ahead of what would have been his redshirt sophomore season, it didn’t seem especially devastating at the time.
However, the 6-foot-4 target needed just one fall at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M to remind everyone of his potential.
While Sternberger could’ve become a natural replacement for Ben Johnson at KU in 2018, he instead became the first prospect to commit to new Texas A & M coach Jimbo Fisher. Sternberger signed with the Aggies in December.
The NCAA’s new December early signing period for college football began Wednesday morning, and once the prospects could make their commitments official, the letters of intent from transfers began rolling in for Kansas.
After five junior college players and one graduate transfer became the first six to send in their documents, KU added its first high school signee when Texas prep offensive lineman Jacobi Lott did the same.
The biggest moment of the morning by far, though, came when New Orleans prep cornerback Corione Harris, a four-star prospect attached with this KU class for more than 10 months, announced he will sign with the Jayhawks instead of Mississippi State — where his prep teammate and former KU commit Devonta Jason decided to go.
High school and juco prospects have until Friday to sign, but they don’t have to do so. Players can just as easily wait until February 7 for National Signing Day if they so choose.
Putting it off until then would allow many undecided players to further weigh their options and visit more programs before making a final decision.
Below is a rundown — which will continue to be updated through the day — of which players can officially be called members of KU’s 2018 recruiting class.
• 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.
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.”
The University of Kansas football program generated an explosion of unexpected buzz this past February by adding intriguing prospects to its 2018 recruiting class.
But 10 months later, with the NCAA’s new early-signing period for college football beginning Dec. 20, the vibe surrounding KU’s potential signees could shift drastically in the opposite direction.
Over the weekend, the biggest name tied to the Jayhawks, four-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason, decommitted from David Beaty’s program. Meanwhile, the only quarterback in KU’s class, Texas prep Clayton Tune, visited Ole Miss and currently describes Kansas as “still in the picture” for the quickly approaching signing day.
KU fans now have to hope Beaty and his staff can hold on to the high school commitments they have, with the biggest concerns being four-star cornerback Corione Harris — Jason’s prep teammate at Landry-Walker (La.) — and the group’s other remaining “Louisianimal,” running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.
Harris announced recently he will chose between KU and Mississippi State. Williams, though, appears to have a number of programs to consider.
Sam Spiegelman, a recruiting reporter for SEC Country, spoke with Williams after his Hahnville High team lost in Louisiana’s Class 5A state title game on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, three-star running back explained how his recruitment has picked up during his remarkable senior season, capped by rushing for 1,403 yards and 14 touchdowns in five playoff games.
The speedy all-purpose back told SEC Country he not only has an offer from LSU but also Miami. Plus, Williams related, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Auburn have shown interest in him, as well.
“A lot of schools have come here,” Williams told SEC Country. “When you do big things, big schools come in. Nebraska, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Miami. … I can keep naming schools.”
Williams had stated previously he planned to sign with Kansas on Dec. 20, but Spiegelman reported the Louisiana standout is considering delaying signing until February.
If the increasingly popular running back had to make a choice now, he told SEC Country he would pick the Jayhawks, to whom he committed in February after hitting it off with running backs coach Tony Hull, a Louisiana native.
“It’s still Kansas, because I’m committed to them and I gave them my word,” Williams said. “It would be hard for me to flip my word on them. It’s about loyalty and it’s like a family, so if I go somewhere, I have to feel comfortable and it’s where I can play. We’ll see who can build a family [relationship] with me and we’ll take it from there.”
A former LSU quarterback with both a high school state title and an NJCAA national championship on his résumé is examining the University of Kansas as his next potential stop.
Earlier this week, Lindsey Scott Jr., helped East Mississippi Community College — the program made famous the previous couple of years by the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U” — finish the season No. 1 in the nation. Scott completed 15 of 28 passes for 170 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, as well as 40 rushing yards, in a 31-28 victory over Arizona Western at the Mississippi Bowl, the NJCAA’s Football Championship Game.
According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham watched Scott in person on Sunday, in Perkinston, Miss., and the Jayhawks offered the QB a scholarship on Monday.
In high school, Scott led Zachary (La.) to a Class 5A state championship in 2015, and was considered by Rivals to be a three-star, dual-threat QB in the recruiting Class of 2016.
Scott signed with LSU after picking up offers from a number of programs, including Power Five schools Maryland, Rutgers, Wake Forest and Syracuse, as well as Air Force, Army, Navy, Tulane and Harvard.
A 5-foot-11, 210-pound passing and running threat, Scott transferred out of LSU this past August after spending one season in the program as a redshirt QB. According to The Advocate, he was in a battle to become LSU’s No. 2 quarterback during preseason camp.
However, Scott decided to transfer to the junior college level and play immediately. At Eastern Mississippi, within a spread offensive attack, he completed 65 percent of his 398 passes, while throwing for 3,481 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also averaged 60.8 rushing yards a game and ran for six scores.
Now that his one fall of juco football is over, Scott has three years of eligibility remaining. The QB said during a Wednesday interview with Matt Moscona, on 104.5 FM ESPN Baton Rouge, he will visit Kansas this weekend, and follow the trip up by checking out Western Michigan.
Scott identified KU, WMU, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio as the four teams he is considering right now. In another interview, with the Biloxi Sun Herald, he said Tulane has recruited him hard since he left LSU.
Asked during his radio Q & A whether he will reach a decision this month and make it official during the new NCAA early signing period, Scott admitted he wasn’t certain. He could potentially wait until February.
“With juco recruiting things can change quickly,” Scott told ESPN Baton Rouge. “So I guess the extra time would just be beneficial to me.”
As Scott weighs his choices, he will have different styles of offenses to consider. Although Tulane runs a zone-option, he told the Sun Herald he could see himself fitting in there. But that seems to be his mentality for any system, as Scott declined to pigeonhole himself.
“I can see myself in different types of offenses,” he told ESPN Baton Rouge. “I think I’m very malleable.”
Ultimately, Scott might decide he fits best at KU if his experience during his visit to Lawrence convinces him he would be contented as a part of the rebuilding program.
“I just want somewhere that feels like home with a coaching staff that has the best interest for me,” Scott said, “and where the offense suits my skill set.”
Back before he became the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, defensive end Julius Peppers spent his football offseasons in Chapel Hill, N.C., helping the University of North Carolina’s vaunted basketball program win ACC and postseason games.
So when the Kansas basketball team this season ran into such depth issues that head coach Bill Self only played six Jayhawks 20 or more minutes in each of the first three games it stood to reason some multi-skilled athlete from the KU football team with a basketball past might become useful inside Allen Fieldhouse.
I was convinced Kansas junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. was the perfect man for the job. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Armstrong might not be quite as imposing at the 6-7, 290-pound Peppers was, but it’s the same idea: put a freakishly athletic, muscle-bound pass-rusher on the court, let him intimidate opponents and/or wreak havoc on the rim. In other words: Grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy.
That was basically my pitch to Armstrong recently during one of his weekly interview sessions. So had the former big man at Houston’s North Shore High, where he played on a 5A state championship team in 2014, ever entertained the idea of going back to his hoops roots at Kansas?
“Nuh-uh,” Armstrong replied, while shaking his head and grinning. “No.”
Armstrong has to be one of the most hulking individual’s on KU’s campus. And you have to admit, it seems like the basketball roster could use another big body.
“I don’t know. I don’t really get into it. My focus is all here. I feel like they’ve got everything taken care of over there,” Armstrong assessed. “So I’ll keep my focus over here and try and get this thing flipped.”
But what about Peppers? That’s proof it could work, right? The defensive end/power forward averaged 7.1 points and and 4.0 rebounds in his second (and final) basketball season at UNC (2000-01).
“No, my basketball days are over with,” Armstrong said with a laugh. “I haven’t been on the court in a minute. Can’t even run up and down that thing no more.”
Armstrong actually scored in double figures several times during his final prep season at North Shore. But as it turns out, an even more skilled basketball player existed on the KU football roster: backup sophomore tight end James Sosinski.
Longtime Self assistant Norm Roberts told his boss about Sosinski, who played previously at South Mountain Community College, in Phoenix, Ariz., after Roberts ran into the tight end’s father at a KU football game. Then Self called KU football coach David Beaty to inquire further.
“Of course David’s great, and he was totally open to him coming out,” Self added.
Armstrong never was going to be the KU basketball equivalent of Peppers at UNC, and Sosinski won’t be either. Self is giving the 6-7 former club teammate of Mitch Lightfoot a look at practices to see how the tight end might fit in and be of use in KU’s shallow front court. If it ever reaches a point where Sosinski is checking into a game for Self’s Jayhawks, the coach predicts it wouldn’t be more than “maybe a minute or two here or there,” no different than when he goes to walk-ons Clay Young and Chris Teahan.
Self revealed this won’t be the first time he borrowed some talent from a football program.
“We did it at Illinois,” Self said. “Illinois had a wide receiver who actually played in the NFL, a kid named Walter Young, and he was a good high school player. For whatever reason we were short on depth — in practice, not in games.”
Young played sparingly for Self’s Illini in the 2001-02 season, averaging 1.0 points and 2.5 minutes per game before becoming a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 2003.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with that he played football,” Self added. “I think it was just that that was the best possibility on campus.”
Sosinski falls into the same category now for Kansas. Even though it would’ve been fascinating to see a second-team All-Big 12 defensive lineman like Armstrong out in transition for a break-away jam. We’ll just have to settle for a backup tight end.
Pretty much since the day New Orleans prep teammates Devonta Jason and Corione Harris shocked the college football recruiting world by committing to Kansas, people have openly wondered about the chances the Jayhawks have of actually signing two such highly-coveted recruits.
Much more successful programs remain in the hunt for Jason, rated a five-star receiver by Rivals, and Harris, a four-star cornerback. But, like their former high school teammate at Landry-Walker, Mike Lee, these Class of 2018 prospects have been sold on KU as a a legitimate landing spot thanks to the efforts of Louisiana native Tony Hull, the associate head coach on David Beaty’s staff.
The Kansas staff, as well as the program’s supporters, have followed Jason and Harris closely, and now that the new NCAA early signing period is in effect, we could know just what their futures hold by Dec. 20.
In order to get a different perspective on KU’s recruitment of the so-called “Louisianimals” and perhaps a better feel for whether Jason and Harris will end up playing for the Jayhawks in 2018, I reached out to Sam Spiegelman, who covers LSU and the Louisiana recruiting scene for SECCountry.com.
What did you and others who follow LSU recruiting make of Devonta Jason not making an official visit this past weekend to LSU as planned?
“This was a complicated situation,” Spiegelman said. “Jason has a tight window to get three official visits in and had only four weekends to do it. He had planned on making his way to LSU for Nov. 25, Kansas on Dec. 2 and Mississippi State on Dec. 9. That left Dec. 15 open, but he has plans with his family on the weekend right before the early signing period.”
According to Spiegelman, Jason told him and other reporters the plan all along was to make an official visit to LSU for this past weekend’s Texas A&M game. However, some miscommunication with the LSU staff led to it falling through, as the Tigers were hosting a couple of other receiving prospects, five-star Terrace Marshall Jr. and four-star Justin Watkins. The coaches didn’t want Jason to have a subpar visit because they couldn’t spend as much time with each recruit as they hoped with so many big names there at once.
“LSU’s New Orleans area recruiter Mickey Joseph spent Monday morning at Jason’s high school to try and mend fences,” Spiegelman said. “He will go in-home with the wideout on Thursday, too. Between then, expect Joseph to try and find a time for Jason to officially visit LSU, whether it replaces another visit or is a mid-week official.”
How important is this official visit Jason is making to KU this coming weekend?
“The one edge Kansas has is the level of comfort between Jason and coach Tony Hull, and that Jason’s former teammate, Mike Lee, is having so much success in Lawrence. Beyond that, Jason is very cognizant of the state of the team and the lack of on-the-field success,” Spiegelman replied.
“Jason has made his way from New Orleans to Kansas several times over the past few months, so I’m not so sure if an official visit is really going to sway him in one direction or another,” he added. “This will be about talking to the coaches, getting an idea for the direction of the program and having a chance to re-connect with Lee for a weekend.”
Other potential advantages for Beaty, Hull and KU, Spiegelman suggested, are not only the recent visit mishap with LSU, but also the coaching change at Mississippi State, where Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Florida, and Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead took over.
“If LSU can’t lure Jason back on campus, Kansas is all of a sudden emerging as a bigger threat than even a month ago,” Spiegelman said.
Who among Jason’s other finalists — Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, West Virginia and Miami — are the biggest threat to beat out LSU and Kansas?
“Easily Mississippi State. I was close to picking State as Jason’s most likely destination after the LSU official visit went awry, but with Dan Mullen now embedded as Florida’s head coach, we need to see which members of his coaching staff will leave Starkville, Miss., and head to Gainesville, Fla.,” Spiegelman said.
“Like Kansas, State holds an edge with some of Jason’s former high school teammates on the roster. Most notably, Keytaon Thompson, Jason’s former quarterback who he won a Class 5A state championship with a year ago,” he explained. “If specific members of the coaching staff stay put on the new-look Mississippi State staff, they may emerge as the favorite leading into a Dec. 20 decision date.”
Is Jason still expected to graduate from Landry-Walker in December and enroll somewhere for the spring semester?
“Yes. He has worked very hard for more than a year to get ahead of schedule in order to graduate in December and be on campus somewhere in January,” Spiegelman responded.
What was the initial reaction in Louisiana when Jason and Harris committed to KU in February, and how, if at all, has that changed in the months since it happened?
“Initially, it was shock. Maybe even a little bit of awe,” Spiegelman revealed. “Jason, a former LSU commit, is one of the top-five prospects within the state of Louisiana. Hull made an even bigger splash landing the tandem of Jason and Corione Harris, along with Pooka Williams, Ja’Marr Chase and Aaron Brule’ in one junior day function. Later, he added Nelson Jenkins, who is now committed to LSU, and Josh Smith, another teammate of Jason’s at Landry-Walker High School, in New Orleans.”
Williams, a three-star running back per Rivals, remains part of KU’s class, as does Smith, a three-star defensive end. Chase, Brule’ and Jenkins backed out of their verbal commitments.
“It led to some early frustration among the LSU fan base, for sure,” Spiegelman related of KU’s recruiting haul. “LSU fans were calling for Hull to replace Joseph as the team’s New Orleans area recruiter and made fans envious of the Jayhawks. Jason has long been a fan favorite for his spectacular, highlight-reel catches. Chase and Williams are also big-time performers that LSU fans are craving to find their way into the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class.”
The rabid LSU fan base, he added, probably has toned it down since, and wouldn’t lose too much sleep if both Harris and Smith end up playing at Kansas.
“Jason and Williams — not so much,” Spiegelman made clear. “I fully anticipate Williams will wind up at Kansas, assuming he qualifies academically. I can’t say the same for Jason, but if he did, the LSU fan base would not be pleased.”
Do you think it’s likely Harris and Jason are a package deal — wherever they end up?
“If they are, the I’d circle Kansas and Mississippi State as the only schools in the mix for the two,” Spiegelman said. “Jason has been a priority for the LSU coaching staff, whereas Harris — another former commit — has certainly fallen down the board a bit over the past year following his de-commitment in July, 2016.”
Jason and Harris are not just close, he added, but best friends.
“Over the past few months, it seems as if they would be comfortable going their separate ways in order to find their own best fits at a college program. However, LSU is the only school where both wouldn’t be takes,” he said. “At Kansas or State, both could be a part of the plan.”
Is Harris more likely than Jason to end up at KU?
“Absolutely. It’s probably a coin flip between Kansas and Mississippi State,” Spiegelman began. “I know he officially visited Texas and had eyed a visit to Florida, which may be in the mix now that Mullen has landed in Gainesville, Fla. But I’d say Harris has been rather loyal to the Jayhawks and is weighing a future at Kansas versus State for the most part.”
How easy is it for other coaching staffs to use KU’s record the past several seasons as an argument to get Jason and Harris to back out — and do you think that will ultimately be the result?
“That definitely is on the table, but more so other coaching staffs are going to push the proximity from New Orleans or Louisiana,” Spiegelman suggested. “Kansas is a plane ride away. You can’t drive an hour up I-10 West to Baton Rouge or three hours through Mississippi to get there. The distance from home and their families cannot be overstated, especially when schools like LSU can preach playing for your home state and for your hometown school.”
According to the Louisiana-based recruiting reporter, both Jason and Harris seem unbothered when KU’s lack of success gets brought up.
“They are very bright kids and are well aware of the records at Kansas. They have also been reprised of the fact that they could play as true freshman in the Big 12 and perhaps spearhead a turnaround for the Jayhawks,” he said. “Coach Hull has done a terrific job prioritizing both Jason and Harris and keeping them on board for this long. Whether that sticks is out of his control and more will be a product of LSU’s and Mississippi State’s continued push.”
If Jason and/or Harris ultimately flip, Spiegelman thinks it would have less to do with KU’s record over the past several seasons and more to do with the overall stability of a more prominent program.
“There are more constants at, say, an LSU or a Mississippi State or a Florida, because of the program’s football history,” he offered. “Both prospects are going to go where they are wanted the most and they have done a great job entertaining all of their options, Kansas included, leading into Dec. 20.”
The “Where’s Daylon Charlot?” game — a popular pastime these past several months for those who follow Kansas football — took an interesting turn this past weekend when the former Alabama wide receiver wore a No. 7 KU football uniform against Kansas State, instead of his former No. 2 jersey.
Most observers entered the 2017 season expecting Charlot, a four-star high school recruit out of Patterson, La., talented enough to sign with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, to become a playmaker within KU’s Air Raid offense in his first year of eligibility with the Big 12 program. Or at least have a chance to make a positive impact.
However, Charlot only caught one pass (for no yardage) in the first Kansas loss of the season, to Central Michigan. In the weeks that followed, he fell even deeper down the depth chart and never made his way onto the field unless he was back deep for a kickoff return (the 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore has three returns on the season and averages 18.7 yards per special teams touch).
But wearing a completely different number, one shared by KU quarterback Peyton Bender, signaled another twist in the Charlot saga. A receiver can’t have the same number on his jersey as a quarterback, so either the newly-benched Bender had moved to defense or the seldom-used Charlot had a new position.
The latter, of course, was true. Although Charlot is too new to the defensive backfield to be trusted with game reps, he is now playing safety for the Jayhawks (1-7 overall, 0-5 Big 12).
Why didn’t it work out for Charlot at receiver, where everyone from expected top target Steven Sims Jr., to true freshman Quan Hampton, to junior college transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. made much more of a difference for the offense? That’s a topic offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham didn’t want to fully dive into.
“I don’t know. I think we just really needed some safeties. And he’s not really playing much for us, so … that’s probably all I can say on that one,” Meacham responded Thursday during his weekly session with media. “He kind of wanted to, also. I think it was like ‘I’m not really getting a whole lot over here. I know there’s a need for safety.’”
Indeed, KU defensive coordinator and safeties coach Clint Bowen said Charlot sought out the switch, initiating that discussion with head coach David Beaty.
“It’s just a situation where he wasn’t getting reps over there,” Bowen said, “so you just take a look to see if he has a skill set to play on our side of the ball.”
It’s too early to tell, Bowen added, just what kind of defensive back Charlot could become for Kansas.
“Yeah, that takes time. It does, unfortunately, at safety in this league,” Bowen said. “It takes reps and time and a feel. There’s just a lot of things that you have to see over and over and over to create your reactions the way they need to be, because you can get fooled in this league.”
So don’t expect to see Charlot on the field for Bowen’s defense anytime soon, unless KU is in the late stages of a blowout or a rash of injuries severely attacks the team’s safety depth.
Perhaps we will learn more down the road about why Charlot didn’t fit as a receiver. For the time being, give credit to the young player for taking himself out of his comfort zone and trying something different.
“These kids, they want to play,” Bowen said. “They came here to play in games and succeed. My take on the kid is he just wants to get on the field and do what he can to help the team. He seems to be that type of guy, that he just wants to get on the field and play.”
Football coaches and coordinators have no incentive to divulge their game plans publicly, and that’s the primary reason Kansas head coach David Beaty elected this week to not announce a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game at Iowa State.
If you listen to offensive coordinator Doug Meacham’s perspective on the matter, though, the decision may have been an easy one.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, Meacham discussed how the staff came to a conclusion early in the week on whether Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley would hold the No. 1 QB spot at ISU (11 a.m. kickoff, FOX Sports Net), instead of letting it play out at practices.
“The team knows the plan. We’ve got a plan. We kind of like to keep it a little bit more internal to have that element of (Iowa State) not knowing,” Meacham began, regarding Beaty’s strategy.
So did either Bender or Stanley show the coaches something early in the week to end the QB debate ahead of schedule?
“It’s just a body of work over the course of time, you know. You still reflect back on that,” the first-year KU coordinator said. “I think Peyton was just going through a little bad spell there (in the loss to Texas Tech). I don’t think he’s necessarily just crummy for life.”
In theory, it’s possible Meacham could be floating the idea of Bender starting — without actually saying the junior transfer is still the starter — as a ploy to throw off the Cyclones (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12). But the more he spoke at his weekly media session, the more it seemed he’s not ready to move on from Bender.
A 6-foot-1 junior with past Air Raid experience at both Washington State and Itawamba Community College (Miss.), Bender at numerous times through five games has dumbfounded his coaches with mistakes. For example, Bender misfired on goal-line throws to both tight end Earl Bostick and receiver Jeremiah Booker just before halftime against the Red Raiders. KU’s coaches decided shortly after to play Stanley at QB the rest of the blowout loss.
“When he overthrew a 6-7 tight end (freshman Bostick, listed at 6-6) on the goal line I was a little nervous about throwing verticals,” Meacham said, with a wry chuckle. “Six-seven and he overthrows him. How do you do that?”
Bender’s two quarters worth of stats read: 12-for-24 passing, 146 yards, one touchdown, one interception, no sacks.
“He just had a bad day,” Meacham said. “You know, it’s like you shoot layups and all the sudden you miss five out of 10. Hard to answer why. You just keep shooting them.”
It was Bender’s fluctuating success that led to Stanley (11-for-19, 110 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, one sack, one lost fumble) finishing the fourth straight loss for Kansas (1-4, 0-2) instead of just entering for certain packages designed around his strengths as a mobile QB.
But the highs and lows of Bender’s play were nothing new.
“He’s just had moments of inconsistency that kind of come out of nowhere,” Meacham said. “We’ve just got to deal with it. There’s a lot of things that factor into it that kind of take the blame and kind of spread it around a little bit.”
While fans might see Bender throw the ball and have it picked off — through four and a half games of action he has completed 56.4 percent of his 202 passes while suffering eight interceptions — Meacham said a missed protection or bad route have led to some of the costly turnovers.
“Or a tipped ball,” Meacham continued. “Tipped ball, and then maybe a tipped ball. I see tipped balls all the time, from the line of scrimmage or wherever. It just seems like all the time somebody grazes the ball — I almost want to tell our guys, ‘If you don’t think you can catch it just put your hands down.’ Because we touch one, they pick it and then they score.”
A not-so-supercut of Bender’s interceptions, Meacham suggested, would leave a viewer scratching one’s head.
“That’s just like, how does that happen consistently?” Meacham said of tipped passes becoming takeaways for KU opponents. “Just freakish stuff.”
A deflection, of course, had nothing to do with a second-quarter Bender throw over the middle against Texas Tech, which Dakota Allen snagged out of the air, setting up a quick Red Raiders TD drive.
“He under-threw it. Ben (Johnson) was wide open,” Meacham said. “(Bender) just kind of panicked a little bit. If you watch the tape from the end zone the linebacker’s feet were like (more than 3 feet) off the ground, made the greatest interception of his entire life. He’ll never do that again. He jumps up in the air and just … unbelievable.”
While inaccuracy obviously has played a factor in Bender’s struggles, Meacham said he doesn’t necessarily judge the starter of KU’s first five games as an eight-interception QB.
“No, if he had (eight) picks legit and was on the wrong guy, made a horrific throw over a guy’s head and the safety picked it or he under-threw a ball or he threw it right to them (eight) times he wouldn’t be playing at all,” the man in charge of KU’s Air Raid said. “It’s just, he’s had about three of them that weren’t very good, and the rest of them are just … it’s unbelievable some of the stuff.”
Bender hasn’t produced at the level Meacham and the rest of KU’s offensive coaches hoped. That doesn’t mean they’re ready to move on from him and hand the offense over to Stanley.
“I keep thinking about the sweet’s not as sweet without a little sour,” Meacham offered, regarding how he handles the inconsistencies and turnovers. “Can’t always be good.”