Kansas football is coming and here is your guide to get ready to watch our Jayhawks this season.
With last year's presumed starter Michael Cummings going out in spring ball and not pursuing a sixth year of eligibility, the reigns will likely come down to Ryan Willis who finished last season in relief for Montell Cozart. Those two will likely battle it out for the starting QB job in fall camp. All in all Willis is the favorite as he showed adversity in what was a very up and down season for him including throwing nine touchdowns for a team that had a hard time finding the end zone. Quarterbacks Deondre Ford and Cozart were granted hardship waivers and will be redshirt juniors for the incoming campaign.
Others to watch out for are dual threat freshman Tyriek Starks, sophomore Keaton Perry, freshman Dagan Haehn and redshirt freshman Carter Stanley. Out of those names Stanley could pose the biggest threat for snaps. With a team coming off an 0-12 season, no starter is 'safe' on this roster.
Last season's leading rusher Ke'aun Kinner without a doubt (and barring injury) will start opening day for the Kansas Jayhawks. He provides shiftiness and home run speed to show off the ability to break any run for a big gain. His issue? He doesn't have a passing attack to compliment his running so yards are often tough to come by for the senior.
Kansas should have plenty of backs (six) to use to try and improve upon the running game. Those include senior J.J. Jolaoso, junior James Sullivan, and sophomores Ryan Schadler, Reese Randall and Taylor Martin. Look for the the guys that contributed last year, Schadler and Martin, to have a bigger role and even Khalil Herbert, the brand new freshman, to possibly get in on the action.
Transfers Deron Thompson (Colorado State) and Denzell Evans (Arkansas) won't be eligible until 2017; those two presumably came to KU looking for playing time and will get their opportunity to earn starting job after sitting out this fall per NCAA transfer rules.
Obviously with the tally of 12 wide receivers on the roster now, there is no way they all will see playing time come September. However there are some to watch out for especially someone who I believe could be a game-breaking player this year junior transfer from Texas A&M - LaQuvionte Gonzalez.
If Gonzalez can get the defenses attention early on in the season it could open up opportunities for guys like sophomore wide outs, big bodied 6-foot-2 Jeremiah Booker and Steven Sims Jr., who is full of potential. Gonzalez is a very talented football player who went to a big football school but never got the playing time he wanted. At Kansas, Gonzalez could have all the playing time in the world and most importantly break out in a big way for the Jayhawks.
Other players to look out for are some of last year's contributors, including sophomore Tyler Patrick and junior Bobby Hartzog Jr. Sophomore Emmanuel Moore should see much more playing time this year as well. All in all its a talented group of some very raw receivers. You can clearly see head coach David Beaty's influence on the recruiting by bringing in Gonzalez to take over as the main guy to replace last year's leading wide receiver Tre' Parmalee, as well as freshman Evan Fairs who looks to really make an impact in the high octane passing attack that Beaty wants to implement.
This group is led by a junior who is on the John Mackey watch list, Ben Johnson. He is the presumptive starter for Kansas heading into the season but could even make it to the next level. Johnson will have a big role this season. If Willis does win the starting QB job, he should be able to gel with Johnson quickly. Kansas also has another tight end to look out for in the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman Jace Sternberger. Those are mainly the two to know before the season but again on a team that finished horribly last season things can change.
There are tons of offensive lineman on this roster. The one I am most excited to see has to be the senior D'Andre Banks who is moving from guard to tackle. Those position swaps are always fun to watch. Jacob Bragg was one of the biggest prospects Kansas signed in the last few seasons, appearing on ESPN's top 300 as a four-star recruit. It will be interesting to see how far he has developed under this coaching staff.
The other three of my projected starters include sophomore Clyde McCauley III, junior Jayson Rhode,s and the man in the middle of the line, junior Joe Gibson. The Jayhawks also have plenty other guys including a bunch of freshman and of course the senior who could very well end up starting in Jordan Shelley-Smith.
Projected Offensive 2-Deep Depth Chart:
QB: Ryan Willis (SO), Montell Cozart (SR)
RB: Ke'aun Kinner (SR), Taylor Martin (SO)
WR: LaQuvionte Gonzalez (JR), Tyler Patrick (SO)
WR: Jeremiah Booker (SO), Emmanuel Moore (SO)
SLOT: Steven Sims Jr. (SO), Bobby Hartzog Jr. (JR)
TE: Ben Johnson (JR), Jace Sternberger (R-FR)
LT: Clyde McCauley III (SO), Jordan Shelley-Smith (SR)
LG: Jayson Rhodes (JR), Kyle Pullia (JR)
C: Joe Gibson (JR), Aaron Garza (R-FR)
RG: Jacob Bragg (SO), Hunter Saulsbury (R-FR)
RT: D'Andre Banks (SR), Larry Hughes (SO)