Long-suffering Kansas football fans didn’t need Las Vegas’ input to know the Jayhawks aren’t expected to win the Big 12 this fall, in new head coach Lance Leipold’s first season.
While various sports books and websites have continued this summer to roll out some exceedingly long odds for KU football, some new over/under bets posted this week by SportsBettingDime.com figure to be more compelling for those who follow the Jayhawks.
First of all, SBD, which posted regular season statistical over/unders for every Power Five program, landed on 1.0 wins for KU football’s over/under total in 2021. Basically, the Jayhawks are expected to open the Leipold era with a victory over South Dakota on Sept. 3, but play the familiar role of underdog in every other game on the schedule.
Do you think KU can pull off an upset on the road at Coastal Carolina or Duke early in the season? Or beat — just one of — any of the other nine Big 12 programs? If you do, well, you may consider this over/under a source of some easy money.
The most eye-grabbing portion of SBD’s over/under offerings, though, had to do with KU’s personnel. The site is essentially predicting that former North Texas starter Jason Bean will emerge as the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback for 2021.
The online sports book placed the over/under for Bean’s passing yards during his first season in a KU uniform at 1,415.5, and gave the incoming transfer QB an over/under passing touchdowns total of 12.5.
And if you really want to go crazy, SBD has odds for Bean winning the Heisman Trophy at +200,000.
In 2020, Bean was involved in a QB competition with the Mean Green throughout much of the season. Bean threw for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight appearances. He went 79-for-145 through the air, with five interceptions and finished with a 54.5% completion percentage.
All of that being said, there’s also a chance Bean could end up as a backup QB for KU. Remember: the Jayhawks haven’t even practiced under Leipold yet, and the QB race truly will be determined during preseason camp, when Leipold and his staff finally get to evaluate all of the QBs live and in person.
The betting experts at SBD also have over/unders for KU’s potential leading rusher and receiver. The sports book zeroed in on No. 0, Velton Gardner, as the likely top runner. Gardner’s over/under for total rushing yards this fall was set at 650.5.
Headed into his third season with the Jayhawks, Gardner is coming off an injury-shortened sophomore campaign, during which the 5-foot-9, 195-pound back from Dallas played in six games but still led the team in rushing. Gardner ran for 325 yards and two TDs in 2020, when he averaged 4.5 yards per carry.
The running back room, though, appears to be crowded this year, with Daniel Hishaw Jr. and Amauri Pesek-Hickson returning and standout Lawrence High product Devin Neal joining the group.
Who will be the Jayhawks’ top passing target? If SBD’s projections are right, it will be the same man who led the receiving unit last year, Kwamie Lassiter II. A super-senior with more college game experience than the other wideouts in the group, Lassiter was given an over/under of 687.5 total receiving yards.
That number would be a new career high for Lassiter, who in eight starts and one appearance as a reserve in 2020 led KU with 458 receiving yards and 43 receptions.
Other potential leading receivers for the Jayhawks this season include former Buffalo receiver Trevor Wilson, sophomore Luke Grimm, redshirt freshman Lawrence Arnold and sophomore Steven McBride.
Oh, yeah. Back to those Big 12 odds. SBD has the Jayhawks at +25,000 just to make the conference title game. Of course, winning the Big 12 is even more of a long shot, at +75,000.
2021 KU football schedule
Sept. 3 — South Dakota, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Sept. 10 — at Coastal Carolina, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 18 — Baylor, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN+)
Sept. 25 — at Duke
Oct. 2 — at Iowa State
Oct. 9 — Bye week
Oct. 16 — Texas Tech
Oct. 23 — Oklahoma
Oct. 30 — at Oklahoma State
Nov. 6 — Kansas State
Nov. 13 — at Texas
Nov. 20 — at TCU
Nov. 27 — West Virginia
No, Miles Kendrick didn’t win the starting quarterback job for the Kansas football team during preseason camp.
But his head coach foresees the sophomore dual threat QB who joined the program as a transfer in the spring factoring into the Jayhawks’ offensive game plan immediately.
It is clear David Beaty, who a week ago named Peyton Bender KU’s No. 1 QB for the season opener, and offensive coordinator Doug Meacham didn’t think Kendrick possessed the right combination of attributes at this stage of his career to supplant Bender, a senior who started eight games in 2017. That doesn’t mean they have completely discounted Kendrick, either.
While discussing the team’s three quarterbacks Monday night on the first installment of his weekly Hawk Talk radio show, Beaty didn’t only speak highly of Kendrick, listed alongside junior Carter Stanley as a potential No. 2 QB on the team’s first published depth chart. KU’s fourth-year head coach actually went out of his way to tell anyone who was listening that the 5-foot-10, 200-pound QB from College of San Mateo will get on the field this Saturday against Nicholls State (6 p.m., Kansas David Booth Memorial Stadium) and beyond.
“He’s gonna play for us. He’s gonna play for us in that first game. He’s gonna play for us in every game,” Beaty added.
While the coach didn’t get into the specifics of those statements — he should be able to elaborate Tuesday at his weekly press conference — it seems most likely KU will have some packages or plays specifically designed for Kendrick.
This doesn’t mean he and Bender will swap roles every other possession or anything of that nature, the way Beaty did a couple years back with Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis.
There just may be some calls or situations in which the Jayhawks can throw a modified attack at a defense with the mobile Kendrick taking the snaps.
“He’s got some things about him that really bring a new type of, a new twist to our offense,” Beaty said, “which I think is gonna be really good. We really like the kid. One of the hardest workers I’ve ever had.”
KU’s coaches liked Kendrick’s potential enough that they gave him every chance during preseason camp to win the starting job before Bender prevailed.
“He got a bunch of reps for us early on,” Beaty said of the initial August practice plan for Kendrick. “We had to find out. We had to know, right? So he took a lot of reps with the first team early on.”
Apparently Meacham and Beaty saw enough out of Kendrick through those reps to start figuring out ways that he could help the offense every Saturday.
“And what we found out was that we got us a good one there,” Beaty said. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Beaty explained the sophomore “needs a little bit more time” to become a complete QB. It just so happens Kendrick will get in-game opportunities as he continues working toward that goal.
At some point between now and the season opener, Kansas football coaches will decide upon a starting quarterback.
Maybe tomorrow. Perhaps the night before the Jayhawks’ Sept. 1 debut. Or, conceivably, they already have identified the man for the job and they’re keeping it under wraps.
Whenever that verdict materializes or goes public, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if newcomer Miles Kendrick emerges as the No. 1 QB.
The three-man competition, which began in full when Kendrick joined KU as a sophomore transfer from College of San Mateo (Calif.) before the spring semester, might have been prolonged by the team’s inability to scrimmage in April, due to the lack of healthy bodies available on the offensive line.
No such issues exist anymore for Kansas, and the QB who meshes best with the first-team linemen, receivers and backs during preseason practices will win the job.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Doug Meacham, with the help of defensive line coach Jesse Williams, found Kendrick out in California by “turning over some rocks” in a state with 70-plus junior colleges, late last year. When Meacham examines Kendrick’s development since joining KU, he finds plenty of reasons for encouragement.
“He’s real polished. He studies real hard,” Meacham began. “He loves the game. He’s always up here (at Anderson Family Football Complex). He’s always just in the film room. He’s that guy. He’s a gym rat dude.”
Some football players don’t have that type of dedication in them. They need to break up the monotony of football by going out and enjoying themselves. Kendrick, though?
“This kid,” Meacham attested, “he’s like, full-on football, 24-7.”
Kendrick’s penchant for putting in extra hours won’t only win the favor of coaches, it also makes him that much more prepared to excel during 11-on-11 situations at camp. Even if he’s not the unequivocal best passer on the roster and lacks the Big 12 experience of 2017 starters Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, Kendrick has taken the mental reps necessary to make up ground.
“When you know a guy’s like that,” Meacham said, “and they make a mistake, you know it’s not because of a lack of preparation. He just may have got fooled or made a bad throw or something like that. It’s not because he didn’t have the study or the prep. He’s a gym rat, that guy.”
Mastering the playbook alone, of course, isn’t enough to secure the starting job. At KU’s closed practices, Kendrick will have to continue showing the traits that made him an appealing addition in the first place. And while Kendrick’s numbers at San Mateo — 1,889 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and nine picks, while rushing for 417 yards and five TDs in nine starts — exhibit his potential as a dual-threat QB, Meacham didn’t put much stock in the statistics, good or bad.
“I don’t think I really look at their stats,” the second-year coordinator said of junior college prospects. “I just look at the kind of kid they are, measurables, potential and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think there’s a statistic that makes you go, ‘He rushed for a thousand yards. Let’s recruit him.’”
It was another quality of Kendrick’s that drew Meacham’s attention.
“He knows how to win,” the QB coach said. “That’s a big thing. You want to look at something? Like with your quarterback, does their team win? The teams he’s been on, they win. That’s a good sign.”
In a wing-T, rush-heavy offense at Valley Christian High, in San Jose, Calif., Kendrick was co-NorCal Quarterback of the Year as a senior. His team went 13-2 and was state runner-up. At San Mateo in 2017, the coaching staff figured Kendrick wouldn’t even play as a freshman. But the now 5-foot-10, 200-pound QB became the starter by Week 4. San Mateo finished 11-2, with one loss coming in the California Community College Athletic Association title game.
The KU offense needs a reboot. What better way to execute that than with a new QB?
It will only help Kendrick’s case if the Air Raid scheme the Jayhawks never made work in David Beaty’s first three seasons has been scrapped for a modified version focused on incorporating talented running backs Khalil Herbert, Dom Williams and Pooka Williams.
Already experienced within offenses that successfully ran the ball and gave their defenses time to recover on the sidelines, Kendrick would slide in comfortably in a revamped offense.
And KU’s coaches have extra incentives to switch up their offensive philosophy. They are quietly bullish on their upgraded offensive line, with the additions of transfers Alex Fontana (Houston), Dwayne Wallace (Cal) and Kevin Feder (Ohio State), as well as Api Mane and Adagio Lopeti (San Mateo). A bigger, older, stronger O-line should make it easier to establish a rushing attack.
Plus, they understand the need to pull off something remarkable this fall. Another 1-11 or 2-10 season likely won’t give new KU athletic director Jeff Long much incentive to keep Beaty and his staff in place.
A stylistic overhaul matched with a QB who is both meticulous and athletic would be a good starting point for a program and staff in need of a turnaround season.
Frisco, Texas — Through three seasons as head football coach at the University of Kansas, David Beaty has not yet been able to pull off the grueling task of turning around the long-struggling program.
Addressing reporters Monday, at Big 12 Football Media Days, for the first time since the conclusion of the Jayhawks’ spring football schedule, Beaty, now 3-33 at KU, didn’t want to give many specifics about his expectations for Year 4.
Asked what win total would need to be achieved in order to display the growth and success that has been lacking at Kansas, Beaty opted not to put a number, or even a ballpark figure, on it.
“The name of the game in college sports is production, and we feel like we understand that is no different for us than it is for anyone else, that production is the name of the game,” Beaty began. “When it comes to our preparation, that’s not going to change. We’re going to start with Game 1 and the goal is go 1-0, to win that game and then put just as much focus on that next game to be able to do the same and repeat that.”
Beyond KU’s Sept. 1 opener against Nicholls State, and the obvious objective of leaving that game victorious, Beaty had no interest in projecting desired outcomes.
“When it comes to a win total, I don’t have that answer. I don’t know that many people do,” Beaty said. “But I do know this: I bet around Christmas time, we’ll know.”
State of QB competition
It appears Beaty doesn’t want this season’s quarterback competition to end up as prolonged as last year’s, when KU didn’t name Peyton Bender its starter until the day of the opener.
Beaty said Monday during his morning press conference at Ford Center at The Star, “it is still a competition” entering preseason camp in August, between Bender, Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick.
However, the coach indicated he and offensive coordinator and QBs coach Doug Meacham would like to determine a winner sooner rather than at the last minute.
“We’re going to narrow that down to two pretty quick. And I know our guys understand that. They know that there’s urgency to get yourself in that top two,” Beaty said.
Due to the “rough-and-tumble” nature of the Big 12, KU’s head coach added that all three QBs will be prepared and ready.
“But we would like to get it down to ‘the guy’ pretty quickly,” Beaty said. “Not going to give a timeline on it, but I would say we want to get it done pretty quickly.”
No longer playing for KU
The KU offense lost two skill players this summer, when running back Taylor Martin and tight end Kenyon Tabor had to leave the team.
Beaty said Martin wanted to be “closer to home,” in Fort Worth, Texas, while Tabor will remain at KU and involved with the program in a nonplaying role.
After receiving what the coach described as “extensive” evaluations for his ailing back, Tabor had to give up football.
“We feel really good about him getting back to a normal, healthy lifestyle," Beaty said. And, although Tabor will no longer be playing with the team for medical reasons, "he is still a huge part of our program."
The coach originally had anticipated that Tabor, a 6-foot-4 tight end from Derby, would become a big part of the program, calling him “probably the best player” in the Sunflower State in the Class of 2017.
“That’s hard to deal with, not having him. We were counting on that. But we’re counting on him having a great life, and that’s the most important thing,” Beaty said.
Tabor never played a game for Kansas, but Martin spent three seasons as a regular in the backfield.
“Taylor did a lot for us while he was here,” Beaty said of the 5-10 rusher, who gained 286 yards and ran for three touchdowns in 2017.
Beaty said Martin encountered “some issues” that led him to want to leave KU, adding Martin “certainly didn’t get kicked off the team.”
“Sometimes, you do what you’ve got to do for family. His situation, my prayer for him is it doesn’t end his football career. That he’s able to handle that,” Beaty said.
Offensive lineman Jacob Bragg (medical) and fullback Quinton McQuillan also left the program.