How far away is QB Carter Stanley from moving up KU's depth chart?
Down 49 points on the road in the third quarter this past Saturday at Baylor, Kansas football coach David Beaty got an extended look at backup quarterback Carter Stanley.
The redshirt freshman checked in for starter Ryan Willis to begin KU’s final drive of the third quarter, and though other skill players, such as true freshman running back Khalil Herbert and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. deserve even more credit, the offense did score its first — and only — touchdown of the game with Stanley at QB.
The Jayhawks (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) already had picked up two first downs on Herbert runs and moved the ball 25 yards before Stanley, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound freshman from Vero Beach, Fla., attempted his first pass.
Out of a typical KU shotgun set, with four receivers, Stanley quickly spotted Sims breaking open out of the left slot for an easy throw, roughly five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
From there, Sims, one of KU’s top play-makers, juked his man and sped away to a 34-yard gain that got Kansas inside BU’s 10-yard line for the first time all game.
Stanley missed his next attempt to big red zone target Chase Harrell, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman. Then, after Bobby Hartzog drew a pass interference penalty to give KU a first down and move the ball to Baylor’s two-yard line, Beaty called on freshman Maciah Long to come in for a snap as a wildcat QB. The Bears stopped Long for no gain and Stanley threw another incompletion (intended for Sims) before Herbert finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
On Tuesday, Willis praised Stanley for helping the Kansas offense finally break through.
“He did a good job, put us in a good opportunity. He drove the ball down the field. He did a great job. I’m proud of him,” Willis rattled off. “I’m good friends with him. We have a lot of good quarterbacks who can move this offense, and whoever’s in there is gonna do a good job.”
The remainder of Stanley’s snaps came in the fourth quarter, with fewer results. Kansas picked up just one first down on four possessions over the final 15 minutes. Stanley threw incomplete passes intended for Evan Fairs and Keegan Brewer, and had another throw intercepted by Clay Johnston after KU got the ball in good position, thanks to a Damani Mosby fumble recovery.
Stanley went 2-for-5 on fourth-quarter passes, with minimal gains: five yards for LaQuvionte Gonzalez and six yards for Harrell. He finished his longest appearance of the season 3-for-8 with one interception and 45 passing yards.
As you might expect, Beaty didn’t rave about Stanley’s performance, calling it average.
“There were still a lot of things that we saw that we need to get a lot better at. Particularly the pick. Just eyes in the right spot, understanding what coverages are doing to you, not picking a route out, that will get you in trouble,” Beaty said, sounding similar to his review of Willis’ bad outing at Baylor.
Beaty thought Stanley did some things well, referencing the QB’s decision-making on plays featuring run-pass options. But the head coach/offensive coordinator/QBs coach also said Stanley didn’t always properly prepare his receivers before snaps.
“We had a couple times when we weren't on the same page with those guys and that comes down to communication and that’s, there’s no excuse for that,” Beaty said. “Communication errors, they’re not tolerated. So we gotta get that taken care of.”
The appearance marked Stanley’s fourth this season. He didn’t play in either of KU’s home losses, to Ohio and TCU.
- vs. Rhode Island: 3-for-4, 56 yards, 1 TD
- at Memphis: 4-for-6, 26 yards, 0 TDs
- at Texas Tech: 2-for-2, 11 yards, 0 TDs
- at Baylor: 3-for-8, 45 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
- SEASON: 12-for-20, 138 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
At KU’s practice sessions, Beaty says Stanley has shown steady improvement, week by week.
“It was good to be able to get him in the game and be able to give him a quarter and a half to really see what he can do and run some offense — some real offense — other than just handing the ball off. We needed to be able to do that,” Beaty said, “and in that situation, hey, unfortunately, it was what it was. We were where we were. You'd love to be able to get young guys in the game when you're up by a bunch. But in that situation it gave me an opportunity to see what he could do and I wanted to do that and we wanted to do that. So it was good to be able to see him a little bit more. He’s got a long way to go, just like all of ’em. But he works hard at it and I appreciate that.”
Based on what we’ve seen thus far from Stanley, it’s hard to see Beaty moving him up KU’s depth chart to No. 1 any time soon — let alone for Saturday’s homecoming game against Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1). I mean, let’s not get crazy.
It seems it would take unexpected injuries or further regression from Willis for the head coach to start Stanley in the immediate future. But if Stanley really is making progress behind the scenes and keeps doing so, and if Kansas keeps getting blown out, maybe Stanley will get his first college start in November.
As has been said so many times regarding KU’s quarterback situation this season: Who knows?