With the season two weeks away, Kansas offensive line coach Luke Meadows has yet to narrow his unit down to five starters. And that is by design.
During KU’s media day on Friday, head coach Les Miles admitted that he and Meadows are both comfortable with their two-deep on the offensive line at this point in the preseason camp.
While some fans might be curious to which five players will be starting in the season opener against Indiana State, the reality is that more than five players will play on the offensive line for the Jayhawks in that game and for the rest of the season.
“Anybody that is in our two-deep right now, I wouldn't have a problem putting them out there,” Meadows said. “They are going to be really good football players. I'd say right now, we got more than five we are able to put out there."
Playing multiple players in a game is a delicate balance, of course. Perhaps on the offensive line more than any other position group on the football field.
There is something to be said about an offensive line that has continuity. Five guys who have played a lot together can be on the same page when making calls in a game, and they understand tendencies. Kansas theoretically has that, as the team has a total of 93 career starts on the offensive line.
But Meadows’ approach is different, especially considering the depth at the position in his first year in Lawrence.
“I'm not going to put someone out there that can't play. But if we got guys that can play, play them,” Meadows said. “They are going to be fresh, they are going to be hungry to get out there. They are going to be tied into the game plan more, because they know that they are going to end up getting snaps. It might be 10 snaps, it might be 12 snaps. But they are going to get snaps.”
The only stipulation to this strategy for Meadows is that he won’t rotate a center in the middle of a series. He will wait until after a drive ends to sub out either redshirt junior Api Mane or senior Andru Tovi, who will both play center for the Jayhawks this fall.
Meadows believes there are multiple advantages to having this type of rotation on the offensive line. It keeps all of his players fresh and it can keep the opposing defense off balance. Most of all, though, it better prepares the offensive linemen coming back the following year.
Even senior left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, who has started all 36 games of his first three years, isn’t immune to Meadows’ rotation plan. Junior Earl Bostick Jr. could spell Adeniji this year, as he has performed well during preseason camp. That might be a good thing, too, since Adeniji has dealt with multiple injuries during his Kansas career.
“If I can take 10 reps off Hakeem per game, in a 12-game season, that alleviates a whole game of collision that he wouldn't have to end up taking,” Meadows said. “The other thing that ends up happening, is that you never get to the point where you go, 'Oh, we don't know if this guy can play because he's never been in the game.'”
As a result, Meadows believes the plan could benefit the offensive line unit immediately and for many years to come.
"It pays dividends at the end of the game," Meadows said. "It pays dividends at the end of the season and for next year because guys got reps."