We’re two days from the start of the 2018 Kansas football season, and we have a pretty good idea where this team stands, even if we don’t know how it will translate on the field. Practices have been dissected, opponents have been analyzed, and a starting quarterback has been named.
You’ve already read nearly 100 days of analysis on this team, and will get plenty more throughout the season. So instead, let’s take this opportunity to look into the crystal ball and see where Kansas football will be not in two days, but in two years at the start of the 2020 season. (Why write something that will be proven completely wrong in a matter of days when you can wait two years to be way off?)
Note: This is as accurate as can be proven at the time of writing, which is to say not at all because no one really knows.
At the Helm
The 2020 season is year two of a new regime. Even though David Beaty picked up another Big 12 win in 2018 (no, it wasn’t Texas, but just because it wasn’t you this time doesn’t mean we’ll forget 2016, Longhorns), it wasn’t enough to keep his job and Jeff Long goes with his own guy. Long lives up to his reputation and brings in a proven coach who has experience rebuilding a program. The new coach (let’s call him Jeff) exceeds tempered expectations by winning five games in his first season at Kansas. Now heading into year two, reaching a bowl game for the first time since the 2008 season is the bar set by the fan base.
The 5-7 season the year before has brought in more three- and four-star prospects to fill out key positions, offering a level of depth and talent that, while still not to the status of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or Texas, is far ahead of where KU had been. The majority of the hype is around a new defensive end; a top-125 player who is expected to be a game-changer from the first snap.
The new head coach brings in his own heralded quarterback in 2019—and while I wish it was a guy with an all-time quarterback name like General Booty, it’s a kid with a name like Dustin—though as a true freshman he only takes about 100 snaps as the No. 2 behind senior Miles Kendrick. Once Kendrick gone, it will be the new QB’s team. Behind him is Pooka Williams, who stayed through the transition and as a junior has emerged as one of the top three backs in the conference.
KU, the former laughing stock of the Big 12, finished ahead of last place in 2019 for the first time in years. As a result, Kansas is predicted to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason rankings ahead of Iowa State, Texas Tech and Baylor after Matt Campbell leaves the Cyclones for a bigger job, while Tech battles offseason injuries and Baylor continues its rebuild.
Promise around the program is as high as it has been since Mangino roamed the sidelines. The newfound success has led to a new marketing campaign, Fly High, and season ticket numbers jump as a dormant fan base begins to believe in success again. While Wagner is the first game on the schedule, fans are looking ahead to week two—when Boston College comes to down—as a proof point of the resurgence of the program. Will the torch have been passed from a guy named Todd to one named Dustin?