Let’s start looking ahead to the 2017 Kansas football season. First up, the offense.
QUESTION: Will Doug Meacham ACTUALLY have full control of the offense?
This actually breeds a follow-up question, “and how aggressive will he be?” At a fan event this summer, Beaty told fans that Meacham will call “every football play” for the offense. This gives hope that it really is “RIP pointless tunnel screens, 2015-2016.”
Meacham shared OC duties with Sonny Cumbie while at TCU, but together they put together some very good offenses. The Frogs were a top-10 offense in his first two years there (2014 and 2015), but struggled in 2016 after losing five players to the NFL. However, TCU still averaged 31 points per game in 2016 and finished in the top 50 in S&P+. Other advanced metrics, such as FEI, weren’t so kind, where TCU was #82 in 2016.
What does this all mean? I dunno, ask David. I haven’t watched enough TCU football over the past three years to know how often they went downfield vs the sideline plays. Regardless, we were pretty stoked when news broke that Meacham was on his way to Lawrence. I have no doubt that Beaty will still have input, particularly during the week as they draw up gameplans. I also believe him when he says Meacham will be the lone playcaller. As to how that will affect the Jayhawk offense, we just don’t know.
PREDICTION: This one is easy - Yes, Meacham will call ALL the plays!
QUESTION: Who will step up at wide receiver?
Kansas was expected to have one of the better receiving corps in the conference, but with the dismissal of Quiv Gonzalez, that has taken a hit. Quiv was expected to be the #2 receiver opposite Steven Sims, the same role he occupied last year - in 2016, Sims caught 72 balls, Quiv 62. Can you name KU’s third leading receiver last year? Try Shakiem Barbel, with 34 receptions.
Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot is the favorite, or at least the fan favorite. Don’t be surprised if you hear names like Chase Harrell, Ryan Schadler, Jeremiah Booker, or Kerr Johnson mentioned as well. Additionally, reports of out camp have come with rave reviews of freshman Quan Hampton.
PREDICTION: Daylon Charlot at #2 WR, Chase Harrell at #3, and a full rotation of the players already mentioned at the #4 and #5 spots.
QUESTION: Who will be the primary running back?
Ke’aun Kinner is gone. Sadly, that means there will be no more “Moar Kinner” posts from yours truly. Taylor Martin is your leading returning rusher; he had 91 carries last year. Khalil Herbert also returns, coming off of an injury-plagued freshman season that saw him get just 44 carries last year. Colorado State transfer Deron Thompson is also in the mix.
Apparently, surprise recruit and top-ranked Juco player Octavius Matthews has yet to practice due to an injury, so things aren’t looking good for him. However, true freshman Dom Williams has impressed in fall camp to the point where Beaty has said, “he’s gonna play.”
PREDICTION: I’ll take the easy way out and say this will turn into a true running back by committee. However, I’d expect the number of carries to go, in order, Herbert, Martin, Thompson, Williams.
QUESTION: Who will be the quarterback?
Let’s not over-analyze this one. The coaches are adamant that it’s a true competition, and whoever wins the job will have “earned it.” However, does it make sense for KU to go out and recruit a guy like Peyton Bender if they thought they had a Big 12-caliber starter in either Carter Stanley or Tyriek Starks?
PREDICTION: Peyton Bender is your QB1, and should be given a long leash.
QUESTION: Will the offense be able to stay on the field?
In 2016, Kansas averaged a time of possession number of 27:48 per game. That’s just over four minutes of clock time that the opponent had the ball over KU. Obviously, the Air Raid offense isn’t designed to run clock; it’s designed to score points, and score them quickly. However, KU hasn’t been able to do that over the past two years, instead focusing more on 3-and-outs and turnovers. (I kid. Kinda.)
This question has a relationship to the first question about Doug Meacham. Meacham doesn’t have TCU-level talent here at KU, at least, not yet. So trying to predict what effect he will have on the offense is troublesome at best.
So what I’m saying Kansas needs to do is utilize its talent advantages at WR and QB to control the ball, get first downs, give the defense a breather, and hopefully start tacking some points on to the end of drives - and not turning the ball over as much. KU had one of the worst turnover margins in all of D1 last year. Yes, some of that can be attributed to luck (sometimes a fumble just doesn’t bounce your way), but it’s still something that can, and needs to be improved on.
I’ll pass on trying to make a prediction here, which leads us to...
QUESTION: Will the offensive line be any good?
This will determine not only how aggressive Meacham can be with his playcalling, but also whether or not the offense will be able to stay on the field and play some complementary football with the defense. KU returns 9/10 players from the O-line two-deep from 2016, with the only loss last year’s starting right tackle D’Andre Banks. This year, there are only two seniors on the two-deep, Jayson Rhodes and Joe Gibson.
Hakeem Adeniji and Mesa Ribordy both started as freshmen last year, and Kansas also adds talent in Alabama transfer Charles Baldwin, who is competing for - and hopefully winning - the right tackle spot.
With all of the experience returning, the offensive line needs to take a big step up under Yenser this year. He has a history of dramatic improvement in year 3, so obviously the hope is that repeats itself at Kansas.
PREDICTION: It damn well better be better, or it’s gonna be another long football season in Lawrence.