I see all you kool-aid drinkers out there. I hear you. Yeah, it’s cool Les Miles is in Lawrence. KU is the only Big 12 school with a coach who has won a BCS National Championship. But you know what? I’m here today to pour some salt in your sugary beverages, and here’s why.
No, I don’t mean interceptions or fumbles. Yes, it’s true that KU returns almost the entire secondary and will benefit from the senior leadership of Mike Lee. But the Jayhawks will likely be turning to either freshmen or Juco transfers along the defensive line, and I have no idea who the starting linebackers are going to be. And with an upcoming switch to a 3-4 scheme, that’s not exactly a good thing.
This time, I mean interceptions and fumbles. Last season, Kansas finished tied for 8th in all of D1 for total number of turnovers forced with 11 fumbles and 16 interceptions (27 TO total). Even more impressively, the Jayhawks finished #2 in turnover margin. This was bolstered by the Rutgers and Central Michigan games, which were pretty clearly outliers where Kansas combined to collect 11 of its 27 turnovers on the season.
Turnovers, especially fumble recoveries, are completely random and mostly luck. Also according to the numbers, a good amount of interception percentage is luck as well, although coaching and other factors can increase interception rates. Let’s just say that it would appear to be a pretty safe bet that regression back toward the mean is likely for 2019.
I noted this last year, and the same is true again this year. After what
should be better be two wins to start the season, Kansas hits the road to Boston College (7-5 last year) before taking on the Big 12. The conference slate isn’t particularly front-loaded or back-loaded, but the Jayhawks do have to take on Oklahoma and Texas back-to-back in October.
How bad will the Kansas offense miss Steven Sims? Despite the worst four-year stretch in Kansas history (offensively, and record-wise), Sims finished his career at #2 in receiving yards AND receiving touchdowns in the school record book. The Jayhawks will be looking for Daylon Charlot to finally break out and/or get surprising production from Juco transfers.
Les Miles has been pretty adamant that he has real, D1 talent on this roster. I don’t necessarily disagree with him, either. The primary issue will once again be overall lack of bodies, primarily due to the scholarship situation left behind by the Charlie Weis and David Beaty scorched-earth policies regarding recruiting.
Kansas has always had at least a couple of good players on the roster, even during the last 10 years. KU has seen multiple guys, particularly defensive players, drafted into the NFL. But relying on preferred walk-ons to fill out a roster that will take multiple seasons to recover from the mismanagement by previous regimes is not a position you want to be in late in the fourth quarter of close games.
What other reasons might you have to be optimistic about the 2019 season?