Way-too-early Big 12 preview: Kansas football fighting for respectability

Kansas football has gone through more than hard times the past few years. In fact, the Jayhawks have been one of the least-successful teams in college football since David Beaty took over in 2015.

The Jayhawks have not won a Big 12 football game since beating Texas in 2016. Kansas didn’t even get closer than 10 points against any conference opponent in 2017. Taking a step back is discouraging.

Here’s a way-too-early look at the 2018 Kansas Jayhawks:

Head coach: David Beaty, 3-33 heading into his fourth season

2017 record: 1-11, 0-9 Big 12

Key returners: LB Joe Dineen, WR Steven Sims, DL Daniel Wise

Key departures: DL Dorance Armstrong (likely), TE Ben Johnson, P Cole Moos, K Gabriel Rui

Recruiting ranking: No. 70 (14 signees, 1 commit)

2018 schedule:

Sept. 1: vs. Nicholls State

Sept. 8: at Central Michigan

Sept. 15: vs. Rutgers

Sept. 22: at Baylor

Sept. 29: vs. Oklahoma State

Oct. 6: at West Virginia

Oct. 13: Bye

Oct. 20: at Texas Tech

Oct. 27: vs. TCU

Nov. 3: vs. Iowa State

Nov. 10: at Kansas State

Nov. 17: at Oklahoma

Nov. 23: vs. Texas

Kansas has been forced to play young players the last few seasons because of roster turnovers. However, that’s going to start to pay off soon. In fact, out of the 22 players listed as starters on the depth chart in the season finale against Oklahoma State, only one was a senior.

There’s a tremendous amount of experience coming back, especially on defense. It seems likely that defensive end Dorance Armstrong will leave for the draft, but linebacker Joe Dineen is back. He was the most productive Big 12 defensive player in 2017. Having a season to grow as a roster will only help the Jayhawks improve.

To be clear, Kansas is not devoid of talent. Dineen is a legitimate All-America contender as a senior. Daniel Wise – assuming he returns – was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last season. Wide receiver Steven Sims would be a star on most other teams.

Unfortunately, the roster still just isn’t strong. Even though David Beaty has a reputation as a good recruiter, he has yet to bring in a recruiting class better than No. 70. That’s revealed itself on several occasions during his tenure, and won’t change dramatically in 2018.

Beaty thought he had his quarterback last season when Peyton Bender transferred from Washington State. However, Stanley once again got significant starting time and put up strong performances against Kansas State and Texas. Neither seems to be a Big 12-quality quarterback, which has been one of the roster’s Achilles heels. The Jayhawks have not signed a quarterback in the Class of 2018 in the wake of Clayton Tune de-committing.

Beaty is coaching for his job this season. If the Jayhawks do not show some strong improvement, then the administration will have to look in a different direction. This level of football incompetence is not a good look.

Beaty almost certainly bought himself time after beating Texas in 2016. However, that won’t get him a pass for much longer. Eventually, he has to build on it. That didn’t happen in 2017. Handing Baylor its one win of the season was an even worse look. The experience on the roster will allow Kansas to compete in Big 12 games. The time is now.

Khalil Herbert had a breakout performance against West Virginia last season, gaining 291 yards. However, Herbert was not able to keep up consistent production behind a bad offensive line. In the other games, he rushed just a combined 84 times. Kansas will get some JUCO help on the offensive line in the 2018 season, which should help open more holes. Beaty needs the running game to get going to give his quarterbacks a chance.

Kansas has too much experience coming back to not be competitive at all next season. However, it’s hard to see where exactly the wins will come on the schedule.

Obviously, playing Baylor early in the year looks like a potential opportunity. The Jayhawks are slightly more mature at this point, but still must remember the loss on their home field to the Bears last season.

Texas Tech and Kansas State could have presented opportunities to win, but both are on the road. But with all this experience returning, it’s hard to see the Jayhawks coming out winless.

The post Way-too-early Big 12 preview: Kansas football fighting for respectability appeared first on Diehards.

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