Honestly, I don’t really know what to say about this season.
Texas forfeiting the Big 12 canceling the game scheduled for today, the Jayhawks avoid becoming the first program EVER to lose 100 games in a 10-season span.
This year no doubt qualifies for a spot in any “worst seasons of KU football” list. While Kansas football has never been great historically speaking, this was just the third winless season in school history (1954, 2015). Even including the only close game they played this year, a 3-point loss to Texas Tech, KU lost by an average score of 46-16.
Well, they were young, you say. They played a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. And that’s fine, I get it. But does that by itself really justify an historically bad season that caps an historically bad decade?
Yeah, Covid messed up a bunch of stuff, and not just the schedule. For example, the Jayhawks didn’t get spring ball when some of their opponents did. But would that have mattered even against, say, Coastal Carolina?
That’s not to say there weren’t any bright spots. True freshman Karon Prunty was amazing on defense this year, and only got stronger as the season went on. Sophomore Kenny Logan was the team’s leading tackler and picked off two passes. Amauri Pesek-Hickson was a solid replacement for Pooka. Luke Grimm looks like a future star WR.
But overall, Brent Dearmon’s first full year as offensive coordinator was a complete disaster. The offensive line was a sieve, which makes it difficult to find a quarterback, and in college football, if you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have an offense. Despite having a veteran offensive line (to begin the year, at least), Jalon Daniels and Miles Kendrick were the #1 and #2 sacked quarterbacks in the Big 12, and Kansas led the country in sacks allowed with 47. (That’s over 5 per game.) The next closest was South Alabama, who has allowed 40 total - in 11 games.
Out of 127 teams in 2020, Kansas is (prior to games played on 12/12):
#126 in yards per play
#126 in yards per game
#115 in yards allowed per play
#108 in yards allowed per game
#126 in 3rd down conversion percentage (23.2%!!!)
The program’s best player, Pooka Williams, opted out of the rest of the season following the 4th game, and recently declared himself eligible for the NFL Draft. In those four games, he topped 50 rushing yards just twice.
And now, guys are beginning to enter the transfer portal, highlighted by WR Andrew Parchment. Two of those starting upperclassmen along the offensive line, Antione Frazier and Api Mane, are also in the portal, as well as DBs Davon Ferguson (KU’s leading returning tackler coming into this season), Kyle Mayberry, and Julian Chandler. And don’t forget the punter, Kyle Thompson. These aren’t backup players; all (except maybe Chandler) are on the two-deep. I would guess that more are likely to follow.
I’m almost always drinking the kool-aid, but it’s hard to have much hope for the program in its current state (even though I do it to myself every year). The upcoming recruiting class still looks decent, currently ranked by 247Sports at #56. (The early signing period this year runs from Dec 18-20.) It’s a typical Kansas football recruiting class, full of 3-star guys, five of whom are rated in the top 1,000 high school players (and no Juco transfers!). However, the recruiting class has also seen five defections - so far.
Covid has the potential to actually help the Jayhawks with their roster rebuild, as this season does not count against anyone’s eligibility. This upcoming class will technically be Miles’ third, but just his second with a full cycle considering he had to put the 2019 class together in about three weeks. So, we were always looking at 2022 at the earliest for the roster to be anywhere near Big 12 ready, and with the extra eligibility, that technically could move up the timeframe by a year.
But plenty of questions remain. How many more transfers out will we see? Can the coaching staff make the most of this spring and summer? Will any more assistant coaches be let go? (KU relieved its offensive line coach back on Nov 20.) Can Kansas make a splash somewhere in recruiting, or will the class continue to fall in the rankings?
I’m in full wait-and-see mode with this program. They got blown out in every game this year save one, and in that one, they were outgained by 200 yards and their opponent had 4 turnovers and 3 missed field goals - i.e., it should have been a lot worse. I just can’t get hyped anymore for KU football until they do something consistently good on the field.
Even if Miles isn’t the long-term answer (and he isn’t), I do think he is doing what he was brought here to do - rebuild the roster. He was not brought here to win games, although he did get our (my) hopes up after the 2019 season. The roster rebuild should be mostly completed no later than 2023, at which point the Jayhawks should at the very least be avoiding getting blown out in 90% of their matchups. But it’s a hard ask for the athletic department to sell fans on one or two more years of... this.
But then comes the really hard part, and that’s finding our Matt Campbell or Mike Gundy when Miles retires - and does anyone here trust that Jeff Long can do that?
I am sad.
That said, I’ll still see y’all next September 4 against South Dakota.