This series of articles analyzes the situation of the Big 12 with the season approaching. For every team there will be a look at the 2016 season and at some facts, followed by a deeper discussion about 2017 perspectives.
The order will follow the 2016 standings, so the first team to be analyzed will be Kansas and the last one will be Oklahoma.
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium (1921)
SEATING CAPACITY: 50,071
2017 RECRUITMENT RANKINGS: 70th (10th in Big 12)
ALL-TIME RECORD vs. TEXAS TECH: 1–17–0
Jayhawks’ last season was terrible, as almost all the last decade. In fact, the 2-10 record was a big improvement if we consider the 0-12 of the 2015, the first year of David Beaty as the head coach.
To give Beaty what is right, the team could not count on very talented players but was also plagued by injuries with, for instance, 3 quarterbacks who had more than 115 attempts, 9 receivers who were targeted at least 10 times, and 20 defenders who recorded at least 10 tackles.
The low points were very low (in 9 games the Jayhawks allowed more than 30 points) but the high point was the highest reached in many years. The victory over Texas 24-21 in overtime recovering from an 11-points deficit was the first against the Longhorns since 1938 and probably decided the dismissal of (Texas Head Coach) Charlie Strong.
By the way, the university demonstrates that it believes in the program and recently announced investments for $ 300 million to renovate Memorial Stadium and build an indoor training facility.
The Jayhawks problem in 2016 was the offense, that never scored more than 24 points against FBS opponents. Beaty tried to address the problem and hired a new Offensive Coordinator, Doug Meachem, the former co-OC of TCU, one of the most explosive offenses in the nation.
Beaty and Meachem decided to bet on JuCo recruits and graduate transfers in order to improve the team in short terms and landed, among others, former Washington QB Peyton Bender, and Alabama transfers OL Charles Baldwin and WR Daylon Charlot. The leading wide receiver in 2016, Steven Sims Jr., returns for his junior season and placing all these pieces together it seems that Kansas can improve something on the offensive side of the ball.
The 2016 defense showed quality flashes in the front seven but was terrible in the secondary and everything leads to imagine that 2017 will follow this script.
Safeties and cornerbacks did not have an easy last year and there are few returning players that can have an impact in this season. Sophomore S Mike Lee will lead the unit but he will have at his side inexperienced players, because projected starting cornerbacks Kyle Mayberry and DeAnte Ford had only 5 total tackles. JuCo transfer Hasan Defense will be probably the short-term solution.
The front seven found two interesting prospects in junior DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, and junior DT Daniel Wise, 10 tackles for loss and 3 sacks, and they will be the leaders of the unit. Defensive Coordinator Clint Bowen built an aggressive front seven who ranked 29th in the nation for tackles for loss (90) and 54th in the nation for sacks (29). Those number might not be impressive but Kansas was used to bad defenses in recent years and if this aggressiveness will match with some secondary efficiency we could finally see some good global performances.
What if the wins were even three? SE Missouri State and Ohio are beatable but the question mark is a Central Michigan team who does lose very few players and can be hard to manage. This game can be an interesting indication of where the Jayhawks rebuilding is.
After this, it’s unlikely Kansas has a real chance to beat a Big 12 team, and a magic game like the one against Texas in 2016 cannot happen every year.