Now that we’ve taken a look at the defense, it’s time to switch to the offensive side of the ball. We’ll start up front, with the O-linemen.
Kansas isn’t exactly known for its stellar offensive line play, although the Jayhawks have occasionally put a few guys into the NFL at these positions. In fact, before Hakeem Adeniji went in the 6th round this past April, you have to go all the way back to Tanner Hawkinson in 2013 to find a Kansas offensive lineman in the NFL draft.
But, I don’t think Brent Dearmon’s offense requires a bunch of All-Americans along the line. Plus, scheming has got to be a bit easier when you have guys like Pooka Williams lining up behind you. Let’s take a look at see what we might be able to expect from the guys paving the way for Pooka and Co. this year.
Cause for Concern
Kansas loses just two starters from 2019, but both of those starters came at the bookend tackle positions. The offensive line has never been great at Kansas - even Todd Reesing was frequently running for his life - but breaking in new starters to go up against the Big 12’s best edge rushers is not an ideal situation.
Case for Optimism
Much like we saw with the secondary, while Kansas may not have a lot of starting experience, it’s not like the Jayhawks will be throwing a bunch of true freshmen or sophomores out there. It’s not a reach to think the Jayhawks will start four seniors and a redshirt junior, while rotating in a trio of talented sophomores from Les Miles’ first recruiting class.
I think I have a handle on the interior spots; it’s the tackles that I truly have no idea. That said, Kansas experimented a bit with different starters along the line the last several weeks of 2019, so who really knows at this point. Here’s my best guess:
LT - RS-JR Earl Bostick / SO Nick Williams
LG - SR Malik Clark / SO Jacobi Lott
C - SR Api Mane / JR Joseph Gilbertson
RG - SR Chris Hughes / SR Adagio Lopeti
RT - RS-SR Antione Frazier / SO Jalan Robinson
Jacobi Lott started the finale against Baylor last year, while Adagio Lopeti started the final three games of 2019. Malik Clark started 11 games last year, Api Mane 2, and Chris Hughes 8.
Kansas brought in five offensive linemen in the 2020 class, but with the depth in the upperclassmen, I would expect all five to redshirt and compete for a spot on the 2-deep in 2021.
Luke Meadows returns for his second go-around in Lawrence under Les Miles, and his second year in charge of the offensive line. Meadows came to Kansas from Eastern Michigan (Go Eagles). Prior to being a part of the turnaround at EMU, he was also part of the staff that transformed the Southern Miss offense from 2014-15, and has been an offensive coordinator at the FCS level (South Dakota State, 2006-11).
Again, another unit where we just don’t really know what to expect. The Jayhawks have upperclassmen, but don’t have a ton of game experience. Williams, Lott, and Robinson are all interesting prospects with excellent size, and should definitely make an impact in 2021 and 2022, but will any of them step up in 2020?
Hand me that kool-aid. Much like what we saw at some of the defensive positions, 2020 may just be a year where you have the seniors start while the underclassmen rotate in and develop behind them. And who knows? We may be pleasantly surprised by the results.