Not many good things can be said about head coach David Beaty’s first season with Kansas, outside of close losses to Texas Tech and TCU. The Jayhawks enter the year on a 15-Game losing streak, but could break that early on with an easy non-Conference Schedule. Even if they win one of those Games, will the Jayhawks be able to get a win in the Big 12 this year?
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Ryan Willis looks entrenched as the starter with Montell Cozart still hoping to impress the coaches before the fall. Willis was serviceable last year (52.1% completion, 9 TDs, 10 INTs) and that’s about it. His receivers should be a step up with Texas A&M transfer LAQuvionte Gonzalez in the fold. It wouldn’t be surprising if he drew double teams at some point this season, which means Steven Sims (349 yards, 2 TDs) and Jeremiah Booker (228 yards) will need to step up.
Senior Ke’aun Kinner (566 yards, 5 TDs) has a hold on the running back position with speedy Taylor Martin expected to be the backup. This group averaged 3.0 yards per carry as a team last year, although a lot of that was due to sacks. Kinner averaged 4.2 yards per carry. The offensive line is still working itself out, but at least they’ll have depth. Granted, that doesn’t mean it’s good depth, but it’s there.
The defense has to take the bigger jump if Kansas wants to win a Conference Game because even if the offense improves, they won’t be scoring 40 points per Game. The Jayhawks were statistically the worst defense in the country last year.
The line should be a bit better with most of its talent back, including sophomore end Dorance Armstrong, who could turn into KU’s best defender. Their linebackers are deep as well with Joe Dineen and South Carolina transfer Marcquis Roberts filling the top spots. The secondary is the most experienced position on the defense with mostly seniors starting with safety Fish Smithson who led the Conference in tackles a year ago. These guys are a year older, so there’s hope that they can improve.
The Jayhawks open the season with Rhode Island and Ohio and both could be wins, but getting another win from their Schedule will be tough. It’s hard to see them stealing a Conference win until November. They haven’t won a road Game since 2009 and beating Texas Tech or West Virginia doesn’t seem like a possibility. It’ll probably come down to a November Game with Iowa State for that Big 12 win, or winning at rival Kansas State in the finale. None of those can be chalked up as wins, though, unless something changes with this team.
Willis will need to become a viable quarterback and the defense can’t be the worst in the Conference again. Those are big tasks for a team that didn’t win a Game last season.
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2016 Kansas Jayhawks Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Rhode Island
Sept. 10 vs. Ohio
Sept. 17 at Memphis
Oct. 1 at Texas Tech
Oct. 8 vs. TCU
Oct. 15 at Baylor
Oct. 22 vs. Oklahoma State
Oct. 29 at Oklahoma
Nov. 5 at West Virginia
Nov. 12 vs. Iowa State
Nov. 19 vs. Texas
Nov. 26 at Kansas State