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5-star KU football commit Devonta Jason: ‘I’m just going to be me’

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

The first five-star prospect to ever commit to the University of Kansas football program, New Orleans prep receiver Devonta Jason has heard the murmurs and seen the skepticism floating around the recruiting world in response to the non-binding pledge he made back in February.

That much was clear in Jason’s comments to Bleacher Report, for a feature titled: Do You Believe 5-star WR Devonta Jason is Kansas-bound? LSU and Alabama don’t.

"People were asking me if they gave me something," Jason told Bleacher Report’s Adam Kramer. "Everybody was going crazy. They wanted to know what I was thinking. I'm just going to be me."

A 6-foot-3 rising senior at New Orleans’ Landry-Walker High, Jason, of course, is the marquee prospect in third-year KU head coach David Beaty’s Louisiana-heavy 2018 recruiting class. Rivals ranks Jason as the 22nd-best player in the country, and considering KU’s current seven-year streak of winning three games or fewer, many outsiders scratch their heads or scoff at the idea of Jason officially signing with the Jayhawks months from now.

According to Jason, a coach from another program texted him “really?” upon hearing of his verbal commitment to Beaty, associate head coach and Louisiana native Tony Hull and Kansas.

"It really didn't get to me," Jason told Bleacher Report. "I know they went 2-10 and 0-12 the year before. It's really not about what school you go to or being a big fish in a big pond. It's about your future and making an impact on your life. It's about being known and recognized."

Given that most prospects of Jason’s caliber typically sign with the likes of Alabama, Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State or some other renowned program, Rivals’ national recruiting director Mike Farrell characterized Jason as a “unicorn.”

Farrell explained: “I’ve never seen one in person, and I don't know if they exist. If this sticks, it will prove that they do."

Hull, who also helped lure commitments from Jason’s current Landry-Walker teammates, four-star cornerback Corione Harris and three-star defensive end Josh Smith, as well as former L-W standout Mike Lee, gets credit for making this unique recruiting situation possible. Jason said he connected with Hull when he visited Lawrence.

“Being as far away as I was,” he told Bleacher Report, “it still felt like home.”

As Jason had stated previously, he intends to graduate from Landry-Walker early and enroll in college for the spring semester of 2018, ahead of his freshman year of college football.

Read the full feature on Devonta Jason at Bleacher Report

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Recruiting upgrade: KU commit Devonta Jason now considered a 5-star WR

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

David Beaty’s already hyped 2018 recruiting class for Kansas football now has a five-star prospect in its midst.

The Jayhawks haven’t snagged another commitment from a coveted rising high school senior. The boost, instead, comes courtesy of one of the young men who ignited the so-called “Louisianimal” frenzy in the first place. A four-star wide receiver when he first announced in February his intentions to sign with KU, New Orleans’ Devonta Jason has since impressed enough within the recruiting world for Rivals to bump him up to five-star status.

The latest Rivals 100 rankings for 2018, unveiled Tuesday, list Jason, a 6-foot-3 wideout from Landry-Walker High, as the No. 22 senior in the country, with an extra star next to his name. Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant said this makes Jason the first five-star prospect ever to commit to KU.

When Jason visited Kansas nearly four months ago and — along with prep teammate Corione Harris, a four-star cornerback — committed to Beaty, Louisiana native Tony Hull and the Jayhawks, Rivals rated the talented receiver as the 35th-best player in the country.

So what has changed since then, considering Jason’s senior year at Landry-Walker is still months away?

“The Kansas commit spent the spring making highlight reel catches at camps and 7-on-7 tournaments across the country, proving that he belongs in the five-star class,” Rivals’ Woody Wommack explained. “Jason has everything from measurables to on-field and camp production on his résumé, and his size and catch radius makes him one of the nation's best. Kansas has never signed a five-star prospect in the Rivals.com era, but now has a chance to do so.”

Only three Class of 2018 receivers in the country are currently ranked ahead of Jason in the Rivals 100.

“His ability at his size to go up and get the ball and really outplay defenders has been really impressive,” Wommack detailed in a Rivals video highlight package of Jason. “You know, he’s not the quickest wide receiver in the world, and that’s what some people are concerned about, but we feel like he can get enough separation, especially when he needs to be. And he’s a guy that may not light it up on the clock, but when the lights come on in a game situation, he’s super-productive. We’ve seen it on film, we’ve seen it in person and now we’ve seen it at several elite camps.”

Jason and many of the country’s other top high school seniors will soon converge to compete and prove themselves at the Rivals 100 Five-Star Challenge, June 9 and 10, in Indianapolis.

KU’s 2018 recruiting class, highlighted by Jason and Harris, currently ranks 21st nationally, according to Rivals.

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Handful of 3-star recruits include Kansas football on their shortlists

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Early on in head coach David Beaty’s third season at the University of Kansas, the football program continues to make strides on the all-important recruiting front.

Over the course of the past several days, Beaty and his staff learned four different prep prospects and one junior college talent included KU in their shortlists of schools up for consideration.

The first came from Mississippi prep defensive end Deuntra Hyman, rated a 3-star prospect in the Class of 2018 by Rivals. While the 6-foot-5, 235-pound lineman from Meridian, Miss., made it clear in his tweet he was still open to other offers, he announced he would be “taking a closer look” at Ole Miss, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Louisville, Purdue and KU.

Another high school defensive end evaluating the Jayhawks at this juncture is Blue Springs (Mo.) lineman Daniel Parker Jr. Rivals’ 10th-best rising senior in the state of Missouri also has three stars next to his name. Parker announced via Twitter his top 10 finalists (in no specific order): Nebraska, Missouri, Memphis, Arizona State, Iowa State, Minnesota, Central Florida, Kentucky, Iowa and Kansas.

The defensive line trend on KU’s recruiting front included a junior college defensive tackle at Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Miss.), Jonathan Lolohea. Rated a three-star juco prospect by Rivals, Lolohea posted on Twitter that his recruitment remains open but he currently has a top four of KU, Kansas State, Washington State and TCU.

Add two more potential “Louisianimals” to the list of players contemplating KU in associate head coach Tony Hull’s home state of Louisiana.

Marreo safety Lance Robinson on Tuesday tweeted he, too, is open to further recruitment but listed a current top eight of K-State, KU, SMU, Tulane, Washington State, South Carolina, Arizona and Memphis. Currently un-rated by Rivals, Robinson, a rising senior at De La Salle High, is rated a three-star prospect by Scout and 247 Sports.

Late Wednesday morning, another KU recruiting target from The Pelican State, New Orleans defensive end Josh Smith, posted on Twitter he is focusing on a top six of Houston, Tulane, Arkansas State, Ball State, Colorado State and KU — and is still open to hearing from other programs. Smith, listed at 6-foot-4 and 247 pounds, is a three-star strong-side end according to Rivals. He also happens to be the Landry-Walker High classmate of the Jayhawks’ two most talented commits in the Class of 2018, receiver Devonta Jason and cornerback Corione Harris.

KU currently has secured nine commitments for its 2018 class, which Rivals ranks No. 23 in the nation.

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No cap and gown for KU’s Fish Smithson this weekend — Washington rookie camp calls

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) is tackled by Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) is tackled by Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016. by Alonzo Adams/The Associated Press

Over the past several months, as he trained for a future he hopes will include numerous seasons in the NFL, Fish Smithson looked forward to May 14. Like thousands of his University of Kansas classmates, Smithson couldn’t wait to finally walk down the hill at KU’s commencement ceremony and celebrate graduating on the same Memorial Stadium turf where he played the past three seasons.

KU’s former safety, though, is foregoing one dream this weekend to chase another. While his fellow graduates back in Lawrence commemorate their accomplishments as students on Sunday, Smithson will be in Virginia, at the Washington Redskins’ training facility, grinding away, attempting to attain his longterm goal.

He packed up his gear and left Kansas on Thursday to fly out to Washington D.C. Smithson, who called missing KU’s commencement “tough,” at least finds himself in the midst of a great alternative: participating in the Redskins’ three-day rookie mini-camp, which begins Friday.

The 5-foot-10, 201-pound defensive back, who signed with Washington as an un-drafted free agent, is headed back near his hometown of Baltimore, but admitted he didn’t care much for the Redskins growing up.

“Not at all,” Smithson said, laughing about how things turned out.

His father, Tony, always turned Baltimore games on in the Smithson residence, because he loved watching the Ravens’ star linebacker, Ray Lewis.

“When the games came on, he kicked us all out the living room and we couldn’t talk. We couldn’t do anything while the Ravens game was on,” Smithson said, explaining how he and his siblings, too, always preferred Baltimore’s NFL team to D.C.’s.

He would’ve been thrilled to try and make the roster with any organization, but Smithson admitted he’s excited about getting a chance to play close to home. Coincidentally, a few weeks before the draft, Fish’s sister, Tamicka, moved to D.C., and she lives basically across the street from FedExField.

“It’s crazy how that all worked out,” Smithson said. “She’s already talking about converting.”

Of course, for an un-drafted prospect such as Smithson, this weekend’s rookie camp is just the first stretch of what will be a formidable road to Washington’s 53-man, regular-season roster. The team currently lists seven other safeties on its active roster — not including un-signed late-round draft picks Montae Nicholson, from Michigan State, and Josh Harvey-Clemons, who played safety at Louisville but is listed as a linebacker. Smithson, whom the organization likes at free safety, plays the same position as veterans DJ Swearinger, DeAngelo Hall, Will Blackmon and Deshazor Everett.

Like many incoming rookies, Smithson doesn’t have to look far or hard to find inspirational fuel for this stage of his football career. Actually, one source can be found within his Twitter handle. Smithson didn’t have an account until April, but when he set it up he wanted it to remind him of his upbringing. As he explained it, @fannishthem both combines his name, Fish, with that of his grandmother, Ann, and incorporates a personalized acronym: family always need new income so help.

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“Just my motivation that my grandmother is there with me,” Smithson said. “She gave me the name and my family always needs help, so help them.”

The three-year Kansas safety just might get that chance with the support of his NFL earnings one day. Chris Burke at SI.com recently identified Smithson as a sleeper for Washington.

“He brings the prerequisite versatility needed at safety,” Burke wrote for SI, “especially in coverage — he can play high or match up man-on-man in the slot. He may be a practice-squad guy as a rookie, or latch on elsewhere, but there’s NFL-caliber ability in his game.”

Although Smithson wishes he could don a cap and gown on Sunday in Lawrence, he’ll be right at home in a helmet and pads at Washington’s rookie camp.

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KU football targeting LSU commit; Jayhawks make DT’s top seven

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Though the program must first survive several more months in the good favor of some of the country’s most talented high school prospects for it to become official, at this still-fluid stage the Kansas football team’s 2018 recruiting class has to be considered a massive success.

And thanks to the tireless efforts of head coach David Beaty and his staff, there’s potential for KU to add even more coveted recruits to their list of commitments.

Predictably, the biggest potential target resides in the home state of the Jayhawks’ associate head coach, Tony Hull. The Louisiana native already has inspired two of Rivals’ top 100 rising seniors in the nation — New Orleans’ Devonta Jason (No. 25) and Corione Harris (No. 70) — to verbally commit to Kansas. Now Hull and the staff aim to add a third.

Though he currently stands as an LSU commit, four-star cornerback Kelvin Joseph tweeted on Monday his intentions to visit three other programs: Alabama, Florida State and Kansas.

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A 6-foot, 185-pound corner from Baton Rouge, La., Joseph is ranked 39th in the Class of 2018 by Rivals.

KU received more good news on the recruiting front this week when Josh Walker, a three-star defensive tackle at IMG Academy, in Bradenton, Fla., announced through his Twitter account his top seven college destinations: Arizona, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, Rutgers and Wake Forest.

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According to Rivals, Walker also had offers from Michigan State, Cal, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, UCLA and many other Power Five programs.

Obviously, the interest in Kansas from Joseph and Walker doesn’t guarantee anything. But it does indicate the growing approval rating for Beaty, Hull and KU as a program in the cutthroat world of college football recruiting.

Headlined by four-star commits Jason, a 6-3 receiver, and Harris, a 6-1 corner, the Jayhawks’ 2018 recruiting class currently stands at eight players, and ranks 20th in the nation according to Rivals.

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Savage reminder: Mike Lee a hard-hitting competitor in KU’s secondary

Team Jayhawk running back Ryan Schadler (33) is hit after the catch by Team KU safety Mike Lee (11) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawk running back Ryan Schadler (33) is hit after the catch by Team KU safety Mike Lee (11) during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It’s hard to imagine a moment from a spring football game enduring in the collective memory of those who follow a team for more than a few days — a week at most. Yet, for those who watched Kansas football’s mid-April scrimmage or caught up with it after the fact via social media, it will be difficult to forget the ferocious manner in which Mike Lee played in the secondary.

Lee, a 5-foot-11 safety who made his presence in the program felt as a true freshman in 2016, with a number of savage hits, appeared even more heartless a tackler than imagined during KU’s scrimmage. It was on that stage that he twice leveled teammate Ryan Schadler to break up pass attempts to the receiver.

The Jayhawks began expecting such crunching hits from Lee versus Big 12 foes, but to do that to someone from your own locker room?

Shortly after the exhibition, the faux hard-hitting question had to be asked: Have you apologized to Ryan Schadler?

The truly powerful, up-and-coming sophomore defensive back had an even better answer.

“I apologized to his mother,” Lee revealed. “His mother came after the game, came by me. She was like, ‘Why did you have to hit my son that hard?’ I was like, ‘I wasn’t trying, but Peyton (Bender, KU quarterback) was just setting him up. … I’ve just got to make a play. That’s all I was doing.”

You have to admit, the man is dedicated to his craft. The jolts Lee delivered in an inconsequential scrimmage qualified as long-lasting reminders of his impact as a defensive play-maker and just how serious he is about creeping into the minds of potential receivers — who will know the consequences of their actions, should they try and bring in a pass when Lee lurks nearby.

via GIPHY

Schadler’s mother, Donna, just hadn’t considered all of those factors at the time.

“She was like, ‘I’m happy his ribs are OK,’” Lee added.

It was at that point in Lee’s interview that Schadler had his chance to exact revenge. The junior receiver, done with his media obligations, sneaked up behind the defensive back and grabbed his attacker — but in a display of Schadler’s admiration for Lee’s talents and his respect for a fellow competitor, rather than an angry ambush.

Though still young, Lee is widely respected by his teammates because of his approach to all things football. His commitment made him a starting Big 12 safety when he should have been a senior in high school. And his vicious plays on the ball and/or a quarterback’s intended target turned Lee into an instant fan favorite.

There will be countless more cases of clobbering in Lee’s future. But the blows he administered this spring will live on, because you wouldn’t expect an underclassman who already had made a name for himself to play — or strike — so hard in a glorified practice.

That’s just Mike Lee. He will wallop anyone on a football field wearing a uniform that doesn’t match his own. Because that’s what is asked of him.

“Really, I just run to the ball. If I know I can hit somebody hard, I do it,” Lee said, before grinning to making an addendum. “If I know I can’t, I’ll still do it.”

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Signs of life: WR Chase Harrell emerging as weapon in KU’s passing attack

Kansas wide receiver Chase Harrell (3) is tackled by cornerback Kyle Mayberry (16) after a catch during the spring game on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Chase Harrell (3) is tackled by cornerback Kyle Mayberry (16) after a catch during the spring game on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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

Over the past several days at KUsports.com, we have highlighted some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

The days of the Kansas offense lacking productive receivers are through. They went away in 2016, actually, as Steven Sims Jr. (72 receptions) and LaQuvionte Gonzalez (62 catches) became the first Jayhawks duo to haul in at least 60 passes apiece since Kerry Meier (102) and Dezmon Briscoe (84), in 2009 — also known as the end of The Todd Reesing Era.

This coming fall at Memorial Stadium, either Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley will enjoy throwing to far more potential play-makers than their post-Reesing KU quarterback predecessors. Sims and Gonzalez are back, of course, but the Jayhawks also welcome Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot to the field. Those three alone would make KU’s receiving corps more formidable than the units of the past seven seasons. But when you consider the quality of the overall depth of the unit, there is even more reason to be optimistic.

During the Jayhawks’ spring game, eight different players — none of whom were running backs — caught at least two passes. Other than KU’s obvious top two receivers, Sims and Charlot, no one stood out as much as redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell.

Now embarking on his third season in the program, Harrell is beginning to fill out what was a wiry 6-foot-4 frame when he arrived in Lawrence in 2015. KU’s coaches were wise to utilize a redshirt season when they did. Not only was Harrell obviously not ready as a true freshmen, but sitting out also set him up to maximize his impact as a college receiver.

Harrell first provided hints of his potential this past season, when he began mixing into KU’s rotation of receivers. Harrell only caught five passes, but two were touchdowns (third-best total on the team). The Huffman, Texas, native showed up most often in red-zone situations, signaling KU’s coaches’ belief that he could make plays as a big target in the end zone.

Expect to see much more of Harrell in 2017, as a stronger receiver working with improved technique and growing confidence. In the spring game, Harrell caught three passes for 51 yards. The best came on 3rd & 18 in the second quarter, and keyed a touchdown drive.

With redshirt freshman quarterback Tyriek Starks in for a series, Harrell lined up wide on the left side of a four-receiver set. Starks looked for Harrell deep, down the left sideline, and found a window to hit his long target. Harrell came back a step to make a play on the throw and hauled it in for a 31-yard completion.

Although cornerback Kyle Mayberry was right there attempting to break up the play, Harrell achieved a spectacular snag, raising his right hand up to pull in the ball, while making certain to get his left foot down in bounds before his momentum took him out of play.

via GIPHY

Harrell doesn’t possess the speed of Sims or Gonzalez or the overall play-making ability of Charlot quite yet, but his height makes him the second-tallest target in the offense, with 6-5 Ben Johnson holding a slight edge. Harrell looks to be on the verge of a breakout season, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think he could end up KU’s third-leading pass-catcher this coming fall, behind Sims and Charlot.

That highlight reception from the scrimmage encapsulated the variety of skills Harrell now brings to the field and signaled just how essential a weapon he could become in KU’s Air Raid offense.

In many recent seasons having one receiver as talented as Harrell would have been a boon for the Kansas offense. Now the Jayhawks have a 6-4 wideout with Harrell’s talents to pair with Sims, Charlot, Gonzalez, Ryan Schadler, Ben Johnson and others.

The 2017 season should feature the most productive passing attack, by far, that KU has put together since the days of Reesing throwing to Meier and Briscoe, and Harrell’s emergence will be key in the offense taking a major step forward.

More signs of life:

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

- Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised

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

- Carter Stanley exhibits dual-threat ability within Air Raid

- Tom Keegan: KU offense projects as best since 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More signs of life:

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

- Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised

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

- Tom Keegan: KU offense projects as best since 2009

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Signs of life: Peyton Bender showing why David Beaty had so much confidence in him

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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

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

Since Todd Reesing’s college eligibility ran out at the conclusion of the 2009 season, various Kansas football coaches have hoped the quarterback they put on the field could breathe some life into the offense and the program. In the seven seasons since Reesing’s final snap at KU, the Jayhawks have averaged just two victories a year.

Finally, in 2017, it appears Kansas should have a Big 12-level QB lining up behind center, giving the beleaguered program an offense capable of — at the very least — arousing the interest of the fan base and making David Beaty’s Jayhawks more consistently competitive.

We don’t know yet if the title of QB1 will go next to the name Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley, but whomever wins the job in August has a chance to be remembered as the first functional Kansas quarterback in close to a decade.

For the purposes of this entry, we’ll focus on Bender (and take a look at Stanley in a blog to come).

It’s out of character for Beaty to set aside his “earn it” mentality and label someone as a potential starter before that player has even arrived on campus. But that’s what the third-year coach did with Bender, saying the day the former Washington State QB signed with the Jayhawks he expected Bender to come in and compete with Stanley for the most visible job on the team.

A 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior who spent 2016 averaging 304 passing yards a game for Itawamba Community College (Miss.), Bender made his first Memorial Stadium appearance as KU’s quarterback at the spring game and orchestrated two of the three scoring drives during the open scrimmage.

His first TD pass in Lawrence not thrown behind the closed gates of a practice session came in the second quarter of the exhibition on a simple play. With KU’s top receiver, Steven Sims Jr., lined up on the left side 11 yards away from the end zone, Bender spotted soft coverage and took a couple steps back upon receiving the snap, while watching for slot receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez to position himself as a soon-to-be blocker.

Perfectly in rhythm, Sims caught Bender’s pass and Gonzalez set him up for some yards after catch by blocking cornerback DeAnte Ford. Sims swiftly cut back to the right to make safety Mike Lee miss and KU had its first Bender-to-Sims touchdown.

Quick reads and timing, staples of the Air Raid, played a part in Bender’s success on other occasions, too. And a later Sims reception during the scrimmage played out in similar fashion, with Bender getting the ball in his receiver’s hands just in time for Gonzalez to block, setting up an eight-yard gain.

One of Bender’s longest completions during his 11-for-15 outing (143 yards, two touchdowns) came in the fourth quarter with the scrimmage tied. Lined up at the 30-yard line on a second-and-two, the QB gave a little play-fake in the backfield before beginning to survey the field, with his eyes focused on the left side. Bender then turned his head to the middle of the field, where he saw receiver Ryan Schadler breaking open between the 20- and 15-yard-lines.

It might have been a little bit easier than in a game-day situation to stand in the pocket and make the throw with a defensive lineman closing in, knowing the spring game rules revolve around not getting a QB injured, but Bender put the ball on target. He threw it over the reaching arms of linebacker Osaze Ogbebor and into Schadler’s bread basket for a 25-yard completion before Lee had a chance at breaking up the play in the secondary.

Two plays later, out of the pistol, Bender went with another play-fake before making a scrimmage-winning TD throw to Daylon Charlot on a slant. The QB wasted no time on the connection, and got Charlot the ball coming toward the middle of the field before Lee could get into the throwing lane or make a play at knocking the pass to the turf.

via GIPHY

KU spent most of the 2016 season without a quarterback suited to run the offense successfully. Now that Bender is on campus and Stanley has important game experience to go with his two seasons in the offense and growing confidence, the Jayhawks should head into the fall with a QB who can extend drives and direct the offense into the end zone.

Kansas only averaged 359.5 yards a game (last in the Big 12) a year ago and scored just 27 touchdowns on offense during a 2-10 season. Whether it’s Bender or Stanley taking the snaps, the Jayhawks should easily beat those woeful bottom-of-the-league numbers in 2017, leading to at least a couple more victories and far more Saturdays of competitive football.

More signs of life:

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Signs of life: Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised for KU

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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

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

If you watched the Kansas football spring game, you could see it. Sure, KU’s coaches had downplayed his standing within the offense, citing new receiver Daylon Charlot’s lack of repetitions in an Air Raid offense or describing his ability as raw because the former Alabama skill player has yet to prove anything on Saturdays in the fall.

But even in a scrimmage designed to spread the ball around and only showcase the blandest play calls, Charlot’s ability was undeniable.

The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore who sat out as a transfer this past fall at KU looked the part of an impact receiver — even if his coaches rightfully will hold off on showering him with their praises, because it’s their job to keep complacency out of their players’ systems.

During the T.V. broadcast of the spring game, Charlot drew comparisons to former South Carolina and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. While Jeffery has four inches on Charlot, the idea that KU’s newest passing-game weapon could go up and make plays in the air like a larger target proved true.

A four-star prospect out of Patterson, La., who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and others in 2015, Charlot made his unofficial debut as a Jayhawk at the spring game and announced his presence in spectacular fashion.

Early in the second quarter, with the offense approaching midfield, KU football fans at Memorial Stadium experienced their first “wow” play from the receiver. Of course, Charlot couldn’t have made it happen without the help of his teammates. Offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Malik Clark, Hunter Saulsbury, Larry Hughes and Charles Baldwin provided great protection for another touted newcomer, junior quarterback Peyton Bender, who had roughly five seconds to survey the field before pressure came and he looked down the right sideline for the deep threat wearing a No. 2 jersey.

Charlot parked near the 29-yard line as corner Julian Chandler broke toward him and the approaching throw. Then the athletic receiver exploded up, met the ball high with two hands and got his right foot down in bounds as Chandler shoved him out of play. Charlot's strength showed up on the play, too, as he maintained possession through a backward summersault on the turf, finishing a 28-yard completion.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Two snaps later, Charlot was back at it, picking up 12 more yards and another first down. This time, Bender had to backpedal away from the pressure of junior defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, leading to a hurried throw. No problem for Charlot. He reached low and to his right to bring in the pass and extended his arms outward for extra yardage before being tackled.

The third and final reception for KU’s newest play-maker won the spring game for his team, with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-goal at the 5-yard line, with the ball placed on the left hash, Charlot flanked out to the right side. With running back Khalil Herbert lined up behind Bender in a pistol formation, a play-fake up the middle set up a one-on-one for Charlot as he made a break toward the goal line, getting inside position on Chandler.

When Bender’s pass met Charlot’s hands, the sophomore receiver out-muscled his defender to come away with the score on a slant.

via GIPHY

A year ago, Kansas finished ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense (240 yards a game) in large part because of its quarterback troubles. But having only Steven Sims Jr. (72 receptions, 859 yards) and LaQuvionte Gonzalez (62 catches, 729 yards) as consistent targets played a role, too. Sims’ overall talent and Gonzalez’s speed in space only could do so much when defenses keyed on them as the obvious top choices within the passing attack.

This fall, opposing defensive backs won’t be able to load up on Sims, Gonzalez or Charlot without leaving one of them or some other capable KU receiver in a favorable situation.

Spring games are only games in name. Had offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and company actually been out there at the glorified practice with the full offense at their disposal and playing in an actual game with a regular-season victory on the line, we would have seen even more of Charlot.

Instead, we will have to wait until September to get a true sense of just how substantial an impact the former Alabama receiver will make. At least we also know, thanks to spring ball, we can anticipate Charlot living up to his hype and his own expectations.

More signs of life

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

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