1) How much worse off will the Jayhawks be after losing 21 seniors?
There is a lot of talent leaving Lawrence now that the season is over. Ben Heeney, JaCorey Shepherd, Tony Pierson, Nick Harwell, the list goes on. It's hard to overcome losing so many talented players, but you have to wonder if a younger roster will really set this KU team back very far. There is a lot of talent leaving the team, but it isn't like the team has been very good lately anyway. It may seem like a strange question, but with a new coach at the helm (we'll get to that later), who knows how the roster will perform next season. All that can be assumed is that there will be many more question marks at the starting positions headed into the offseason.
2) Who are some candidates for breakout players entering next season?
With all of that talent on the way out, new guys are going to have to step up and make an impact. One candidate for a role like this is Kyron Watson, a linebacker from East St. Louis, IL (he attended the same high school as Tony Pierson). Watson has good physical tools and may be looked to as a replacement for Heeney next season, when he will likely see a great deal more action than he did in the 2014 campaign. Offensively, it would seem to be pretty obvious that Nigel King will be the top target on the outside for Kansas, but tight end Ben Johnson will see a much larger role with the departure of Jimmay Mundine. If Johnson can become a solid threat over the middle like Mundine was, he could be a huge asset to the offense going forward (Johnson is also a larger target than Mundine).
3) Will we see a quarterback controversy?
Michael Cummings played well, all things considered, after taking over the starting QB job from Montell Cozart partway through the season (he finished with a 126.1 passer efficiency rating in games which he started). It's likely that he will be the starter headed into next season, but you never really know. Will Cozart improve at all over the offseason (and will he even stay with the team?)? How will TJ Millweard look during offseason workouts and practice? Might incoming freshman Ryan Willis make some noise? These will all become more clear with time, but it will be interesting to see where things stand when next season starts.
4) Is the defense going to be improved upon?
There were some moments this season when the KU defense looked really, really good. There were also some moments where they looked lost and just flat out bad (giving up 427 rushing yards in a single game to one player doesn't scream "solid defense"). The defensive unit needs more consistency, preferably consistency with good play. It will be difficult without many of the best players from the squad returning next season, but coaching adjustments and new personnel may bring that positive consistency. If Clint Bowen sticks around, he'll be relinquishing either the head coaching job or the defensive coordinator job, so potentially we could see some better overall play with a coordinator who only has one responsibility. Then again, the defense hasn't been too stout in recent years even when that was the case. Speaking of Clint Bowen...
5) Who will be Kansas' head coach?
I like Bowen, I really do. I like his attitude and devotion to the program. That being said, there is a lot more to coaching than that, and it may not be enough to get him the job. For the record, I am not saying that's necessarily a bad thing. We don't know how good of a recruiter he would be, and the team seemingly played better (or at least more motivated) under him, but all that he has to show for it is a win over a bad Iowa State team and a close call against TCU. I like him but he really hasn't done enough to prove he deserves the job. There are too many rumors to count at this point, but several names have stuck out among the rest, and everyone has an opinion on every name. Ed Warinner's name has come up many times, as have names like Tim Beck and David Beaty. Please note, I'm not necessarily endorsing any of these names as candidates, they are just names that have come up during this search. I have no real answer for this, I'm just excited (and frankly pretty damn nervous) to find out who the next head coach for the Kansas Jayhawks will be.