Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. A new low
My goodness, there's just no way to look at the roster and make anything of 2015. The quarterback position went from mediocre to bad with injury, there's almost no skill experience, a bad offensive line gets younger, and the defense that carried so much weight starts over. There are virtually no proven playmakers, attrition has wiped out depth, and most of the winnable games come early.
David Beaty's first season is probably going to be similar to those of the last half-decade. The question is whether it can provide some hope.
You knew 0-12 was on the table. The schedule was uncooperative, with three of the four worst FBS opponents hosting Kansas. The annual FCS opponent was a good one: South Dakota State finished 8-4 and 89th in the Sagarin rankings, ahead of quite a few bowl teams. And most of the weaker opponents showed up early, when Beaty's first squad hadn't had a chance to figure out many answers.
When the Jayhawks came up just short in a mad comeback against South Dakota State, it went from "on the table" to "likely." They lost to Memphis and Rutgers by a combined 82-37. They put up solid fights in losses to Texas Tech and a Trevone Boykin-less TCU, and they lost their other seven conference games by an average of 54-10.
Kansas finished winless and 127th out of 128 FBS teams in the S&P+ rankings. The Jayhawks kept falling, well short of projections, causing them to fall more. According to Sagarin, they would have ranked 41st in FCS, virtual proof of concept for promotion and relegation.
The question now is, will they ever be better? "Ever" is a long time, and Bill Snyder at Kansas State has forever proven any program can bounce back from any depths. But the depths KU has established over the last six years, and the new low the Jayhawks found last fall, have brought the program close to KSU-in-the-1980s territory. There is no quick road back.
You have to win one game, then another, then another. And the good news is that KU will almost certainly win at least one game in 2016. A season opener against Rhode Island, 1-10 at the FCS level last year, should make sure of that.
With no college head coaching experience, Beaty inherited a roster with almost no Big 12 talent. He shuffled his coaching staff and has brought in a few transfers to help replenish the two-deep, but there's only so much you're going to be able to do in one recruiting class.
|Record: 0-12 | Adj. Record: 1-11 | Final F/+ Rk: 127 | Final S&P+ Rk: 127|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|5-Sep||South Dakota State||N/A||38-41||L||20%||10%||-5.1|
|3-Oct||at Iowa State||79||13-38||L||4%||0%||+2.7||-9.0|
|24-Oct||at Oklahoma State||40||10-58||L||5%||0%||-13.8||-14.5|
|Points Per Game||15.3||123||46.1||128|
2. The wrong kind of consistent
If you're hunting for positive signs, there was evidence of resiliency.
- Against South Dakota State in the opener, the Jayhawks crumbled and found themselves down 31-7 just three minutes into the second quarter, but finished on a 31-10 run before fumbling away a shot at overtime.
- Against Texas Tech, they trailed 20-0 at halftime before going on a 20-3 run; they got the ball back with five minutes left with a chance to take the lead but threw a pick six.
- Against TCU, they fell behind 10-0 in the opening 10 minutes, then tied it at 10-10 at halftime. TCU jumped back ahead 23-10, but KU cut the lead to six, then got the ball back with three minutes left. (Once again, they threw a pick.)
Falling behind by double digits in the first quarter is suboptimal. But when you grade out as the second-worst team in FBS, you have to look for encouragement. In theory, if better talent and experience lead to early-game competitiveness, KU might have some fight later in games.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||35.6%||115||Succ. Rt. +||82.5||120|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||32.9||118||Def. FP+||32.2||112|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||3.5||119||Redzone S&P+||83.6||120|
|Q1 Rk||127||1st Down Rk||123|
|Q2 Rk||121||2nd Down Rk||128|
|Q3 Rk||113||3rd Down Rk||124|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Ryan Willis||6'4, 211||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8578||164||315||1719||9||10||52.1%||30||8.7%||4.4|
|Montell Cozart||6'2, 193||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8164||66||105||752||2||1||62.9%||7||6.3%||6.2|
|Deondre Ford||6'1, 200||Jr.||NR||NR||11||23||132||0||1||47.8%||2||8.0%||4.8|
|Keaton Perry||5'10, 194||So.||NR||NR||2||6||20||1||1||33.3%||0||0.0%||3.3|
|Carter Stanley||6'2, 196||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8059|
|Tyriek Starks||6'2, 188||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8265|
3. Kansas might have found its QB
When presumptive starter Michael Cummings got injured by a teammate during spring practice and was lost for the season, it opened up the floodgates. If you had a right arm, you probably got a chance behind center.
In all, five quarterbacks threw at least one pass, and three saw some semblance of sustained action. Montell Cozart, an on-and-off starter for parts of three years, saw the lion's share in the first four games, and Deondre Ford filled in during parts of games 2 and 3. But beginning with the Baylor game, the job belonged to true freshman Ryan Willis.
When a team is desperate, and a freshman quarterback throws a single good pass, the TV announcers dive into "the future is bright!" cliches. I'm not going to do that. Willis threw at least 16 passes in nine games and produced a passer rating above 120 just one time (and that was against Texas Tech, which barely counts). His passer rating for the season was 101, and if you take out the Tech game, it falls to 94.6.
Still, Willis came from nearby Overland Park with a solid pedigree, and he looks the part. In the offense that Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens are trying to create, having a guy who can stand tall, read defenses, and fire quick passes from sideline to sideline is the name of the game. The Jayhawks might have that in Willis.
He was saddled with a dreadful receiving corps, an iffy line, and no running game. Of course he was going to struggle. Give him some help, and he could do well.
|Ke'aun Kinner||RB||5'9, 191||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8553||134||566||5||4.2||4.9||31.3%||2||0|
|Montell Cozart||QB||6'2, 193||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8164||38||167||1||4.4||3.3||42.1%||2||1|
|Ryan Willis||QB||6'4, 211||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8578||29||131||0||4.5||5.3||37.9%||5||3|
|Ryan Schadler||RB||5'11, 191||So.||NR||NR||20||100||0||5.0||6.0||30.0%||0||0|
|Taylor Martin||RB||5'10, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8236||16||42||0||2.6||2.1||12.5%||1||0|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Steven Sims, Jr.||WR||5'10, 176||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7976||59||30||349||50.8%||13.6%||5.9||47.5%||33.9%||1.58|
|Jeremiah Booker||WR||6'2, 202||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7906||48||23||228||47.9%||11.1%||4.8||58.3%||41.7%||1.00|
|Tyler Patrick||WR||6'0, 177||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7954||46||30||255||65.2%||10.6%||5.5||56.5%||45.7%||1.13|
|Shakiem Barbel||WR||6'3, 203||Sr.||NR||NR||31||15||130||48.4%||7.2%||4.2||64.5%||32.3%||1.15|
|Darious Crawley||WR||5'11, 191||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8188||29||18||244||62.1%||6.7%||8.4||62.1%||44.8%||1.57|
|Ke'aun Kinner||RB||5'9, 191||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8553||25||17||175||68.0%||5.8%||7.0||52.0%||44.0%||1.34|
|Bobby Hartzog, Jr.||WR||5'11, 195||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8241||24||10||139||41.7%||5.5%||5.8||33.3%||37.5%||1.56|
|Ben Johnson||TE||6'5, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8257||19||13||115||68.4%||4.4%||6.1||47.4%||26.3%||1.88|
|Emmanuel Moore||WR||6'0, 190||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8226||4||3||13||75.0%||0.9%||3.3||75.0%||50.0%||0.48|
|Austin Moses||WR||6'1, 192||Sr.||NR||NR||3||1||11||33.3%||0.7%||3.7||100.0%||33.3%||0.84|
|WR||5'10, 176||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9295|
|Jace Sternberger||TE||6'4, 236||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8112|
|Chase Harrell||WR||6'4, 213||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8073|
|Evan Fairs||WR||6'3, 182||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8167|
4. Experience in the right places
As tends to happen after awful seasons, Beaty had turnover on the coaching staff. He ended up bringing on five new assistants -- two on offense and three on defense. Position coaches are frequently brought aboard because of their recruiting. But if new running backs coach Tony Hull (formerly a coach of New Orleans' Warren Easton High) and receivers coach Jason Phillips (June Jones' former co-coordinator at SMU) have some coaching chops, it would be welcome, as KU had some of the least effective skill position talent in the country last year.
Of course, it was also young talent, and as we are learning, a young receiving corps is doomed from the start. While leading receiver Tre' Parmalee was a senior (and an underrated one at that), freshmen Steven Sims Jr., Jeremiah Booker, and Tyler Patrick served as the No. 2-4 targets; only one managed even a decent success rate (Patrick), and only one averaged even 10 yards per catch (Sims). Combined, they averaged just 5.4 yards per target.
Still, they are no longer freshmen, and among the 10 players targeted at least 19 times last year, only two are gone. If nothing else, continuity could be Willis' friend.
So could LaQuvionte Gonzalez. The former four-star Texas A&M receiver is eligible this year; in two seasons in College Station, he caught 26 passes for 317 yards, and he is regarded as a solid return man. If nothing else, he could give Willis a nice target for quick passing on the perimeter, someone who could occasionally take a short pass a long way.
KU is starting over in the running game. Senior Ke'aun Kinner returns, but Taylor Cox and De'Andre Mann do not, meaning sophomores Taylor Martin and Ryan Schadler could get some carries. Kinner hinted at decent explosiveness, but open-field opportunities were few and far between.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jordan Shelley-Smith||LT||6'5, 302||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR||9||10|
|Joe Gibson||C||6'3, 310||Jr.||NR||NR||3||10|
|D'Andre Banks||RT||6'3, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7583||9||9|
|Larry Hughes||RT||6'7, 309||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8000||9||9|
|Jacob Bragg||LG||6'4, 291||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544||5||5|
|Clyde McCauley III||LT||6'5, 307||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8035||3||3|
|Will Smith||OL||6'3, 307||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8033||0||0|
|Jayson Rhodes||RG||6'4, 311||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7956||0||0|
|Kyle Pullia||OL||6'4, 279||Jr.||NR||NR||0||0|
|Aaron Garza||OL||6'3, 311||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8485|
|Mesa Ribordy||OL||6'4, 290||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Chris Hughes||OL||6'5, 260||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8506|
|Hunter Harris||OL||6'2, 260||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8223|
5. Potential up front?
The bar is pretty low, but KU's line stats were better than their other offensive stats. That suggests that the front five was at least not the Jayhawks' biggest problem. KU kept defenders out of the backfield reasonably well -- 75th in stuff rate, 98th in Adj. Sack Rate -- though that's only so much of a benefit when you're getting no push in short-yardage situations (118th in power success rate) and creating no open-field chances (128th in opportunity rate).
Nine players started at least three games up front (including three freshmen), and six return. Continuity could be a plus, at least, and size won't be an issue: The six key returnees average 6'5, 305. Now we just have to find out about actual talent.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||52.3%||128||Succ. Rt. +||88.1||107|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||26.2||127||Off. FP+||27.0||112|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.6||87||Redzone S&P+||93.3||95|
|Q1 Rk||103||1st Down Rk||118|
|Q2 Rk||108||2nd Down Rk||114|
|Q3 Rk||119||3rd Down Rk||110|
6. Desperately seeking disruption
Clint Bowen has proven he can do pretty well as KU's defensive coordinator. The Jayhawks ranked 60th and 62nd in Def. S&P+ in 2008-09 under his guidance, then 69th in his return to the role in 2014. He was effective enough as interim head coach in 2014 that I thought he deserved a look at the role full-time. But when Beaty was hired, he stuck around.
Unfortunately, the talent didn't. Bowen had to replace his top two tacklers, four of five linebackers, and four of six defensive backs, and combined with a new boss and new underlings, Bowen was as ineffective as the players he put on the field. KU plummeted to 123rd in Def. S&P+ -- the Jayhawks were worse on defense than offense, which I very much did not expect -- holding only three opponents below 38 points and allowing 55 or more five times.
The biggest issue came in the havoc department. The Jayhawks were able to make some aggressive plays in 2014, but most came from senior linebackers and defensive backs. In 2015, linebacker tackles for loss fell from 46.5 to 14, and defensive back passes defensed fell from 50 to 25. The line, meanwhile, was led in part by two freshmen. This was a recipe for disaster.
Continuity should once again be more friendly to KU this year. Six of the top nine linemen are back (including three sophomores), as are the top three linebackers and 10 of 11 DBs.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Ben Goodman, Jr.||DE||12||42.5||5.5%||9.5||5.5||0||0||0||0|
|Daniel Wise||DT||6'3, 290||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8417||12||21.5||2.8%||5.5||3.5||0||1||0||0|
|Dorance Armstrong, Jr.||DE||6'4, 241||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8454||12||19.5||2.5%||5.0||3.5||0||4||0||0|
|Anthony Olobia||DE||6'5, 247||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8609||12||17.0||2.2%||4.0||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|Damani Mosby||DE||6'3, 258||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8175||10||11.5||1.5%||2.5||1.5||0||0||0||0|
|D.J. Williams||NT||6'5, 302||So.||3 stars (5.6)||NR||8||8.0||1.0%||1.5||1.5||0||0||1||0|
|Jacky Dezir||DT||6'1, 286||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7945||9||5.5||0.7%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Devon Williams||DT||6'4, 311||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7901|
|Kellen Ash||DE||6'3, 271||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8277|
|Josh Ehambe||DE||6'3, 247||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8060|
|Isi Holani||DT||6'3, 325||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8140|
|Deelsaac Davis||DT||6'3, 300||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8120|
|Isaiah Bean||DE||6'5, 210||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8125|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Joe Dineen, Jr.||LB||6'2, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8147||12||76.0||9.9%||6.5||3.0||0||1||0||0|
|Marcquis Roberts||LB||6'1, 223||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8615||12||61.5||8.0%||3.5||1.0||1||1||0||2|
|Courtney Arnick||LB||6'2, 215||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8041||11||24.5||3.2%||1.0||0.0||1||0||1||0|
|Cameron Rosser||LB||6'1, 232||Sr.||NR||NR||12||6.5||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Osaze Ogbebor||LB||6'1, 220||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7794||12||4.0||0.5%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Kendall Duckworth||LB||6'1, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||7||2.0||0.3%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Maciah Long||LB||6'2, 245||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8610|
7. Linebacker is the least of concerns
It shouldn't get worse in the front seven, and not only because that's almost literally impossible. Linebackers Joe Dineen Jr. and Marcquis Roberts return; while they weren't as disruptive as their predecessors, they weren't awful. They'll be joined by senior Courtney Arnick and freshman Maciah Long, one of the jewels of the 2016 recruiting class.
Meanwhile, though Beaty admirably chose the long road and elected not to load up on JUCOs -- former KU head coach Charlie Weis made that gamble and lost big -- he did bring in two JUCO tackles: Isi Holani and Deelsaac Davis. With these two, along with continued development from sophomores Daniel Wise and D.J. Williams and junior Jacky Dezir, tackle could go from a morbid weakness to at least an area of competence. Wise struggled quite a bit, but he did still make 5.5 tackles for loss.
The pass rush, a relative strength last year, takes a hit with the loss of end Ben Goodman. But the top five returnees up front each had at least 1.5 sacks, and Dineen had three. And even if the pass rush regresses a little, improvement in run defense would at least result in more pass rush opportunities.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Fish Smithson||S||5'11, 201||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8411||11||99.0||12.8%||2||0||2||3||1||1|
|Tevin Shaw||NB||5'11, 206||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||NR||12||56.0||7.3%||1||1||0||3||0||0|
|Tyrone Miller, Jr.||CB||6'0, 182||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8348||12||49.0||6.4%||2||0||0||2||2||0|
|Brandon Stewart||CB||6'0, 178||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7883||10||32.0||4.2%||0.5||0||0||0||1||0|
|Marnez Ogletree||CB||5'10, 190||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8115||9||29.5||3.8%||0||0||0||5||0||0|
|Chevy Graham||NB||5'9, 200||Sr.||NR||NR||11||25.0||3.2%||2.5||2||0||0||0||0|
|Bazie Bates IV||S||6'1, 197||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8332||11||23.0||3.0%||1||0||1||1||0||0|
|Derrick Neal||CB||5'10, 170||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8472||11||13.0||1.7%||0||0||1||2||1||0|
|Greg Allen||S||5'11, 204||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8191||5||11.0||1.4%||0||0||2||0||0||0|
|Colin Spencer||CB||5'10, 183||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7994||12||7.5||1.0%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shaquille Richmond||S||6'0, 197||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8181|
|Stephan Robinson||CB||5'11, 173||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8019|
|Ian Peterson||CB||5'11, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8300|
|Kyle Mayberry||CB||5'11, 175||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8174|
|Shola Ayinde||CB||6'0, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7948|
8. Experience in the right places, part 2
It appears continuity is more valuable at quarterback, receiver, and defensive back than in any other units. Check, check, and check.
Almost everybody returns from a unit that was constantly shuffled (11 DBs made at least 7.5 tackles, but only three played in all 12 games) and burned in 2015. Again, there's plenty of reason to worry about talent, as well; you don't allow a 157.7 passer rating simply because of inexperience. But there was late-season improvement -- in the last three games, TCU, WVU, and KSU managed only a 105.5 rating -- and the reasons for that improvement return. Safety Fish Smithson is a keeper, Tevin Shaw is a physical presence at nickel back, and corner Tyrone Miller Jr. survived despite being a freshman No. 1 going against a steady stream of awesome Big 12 receivers.
The pass defense was in no way good last year, but it's the lesser of worries for Bowen this fall. I would be surprised if KU's Passing S&P+ rating didn't at least rise back into the 70s or 80s. And if a new set of tackles improves the run defense, then decent defense is possible. Staff turnover in the form of a new line coach and linebackers coach could either hurt or help.
|Matthew Wyman||6'1, 225||Sr.||53||41.5||1||5||7||22.6%|
|Matthew Wyman||6'1, 225||Sr.||43||60.9||20||3||46.5%|
|Nick Bartolotta||5'6, 189||Jr.||17-18||3-5||60.0%||1-2||50.0%|
|Matthew Wyman||6'1, 225||Sr.||4-5||0-1||0.0%||2-3||66.7%|
|Ryan Schadler||KR||5'11, 191||So.||33||22.7||1|
|Derrick Neal||KR||5'10, 170||Jr.||9||15.2||0|
|Derrick Neal||PR||5'10, 170||Jr.||2||-1.0||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||122|
|Field Goal Efficiency||120|
|Punt Return Success Rate||116|
|Kick Return Success Rate||87|
|Punt Success Rate||92|
|Kickoff Success Rate||41|
9. Coverage was a relative strength
Overall, KU's special teams unit was as bad as its offense or defense, but at the very least, Matthew Wyman's kickoffs, and the coverage that followed, was a strength. Coverage was usually pretty good in the punting game, too: KU allowed a decent 7.9 yards per return, 62nd in the country. Unfortunately, those are the only nice things you can say. Ryan Schadler had a couple of decent moments in kick returns (including one touchdown), but all in all, KU ranked above 87th in only one category: kickoffs. That everybody returns isn't necessarily a wonderful thing.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|29-Sep||at Texas Tech||43||-22.5||10%|
|5-Nov||at West Virginia||33||-25.2||7%|
|26-Nov||at Kansas State||67||-18.0||15%|
|Projected wins: 2.6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-32.4% (117)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||77 / 71|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-7 / -13.4|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+2.6|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||83% (81%, 85%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||0.7 (-0.7)|
10. Kansas probably won't go 0-12 again
All of last year's freshmen involved in the passing game are sophomores now. The defensive backfield features infinitely more continuity. The defensive line has more experience and depth. There's almost no way Kansas doesn't improve in 2016.
The bad news is that the Jayhawks are in an incredible hole. Since beating Iowa State to start conference play in 2009, Mark Mangino's last season, they have gone 3-57 against Big 12 foes. They fell apart down the stretch, fired Mangino, collapsed further under Turner Gill, somehow decided to pay Charlie Weis millions of dollars, and then managed to hit their lowest level yet in 2015.
This has been a sustained, almost unfathomable seven-year decline. And while improvement is likely this fall, it's up to Beaty and his new staff to prove that the coming rebound is not a function of "it cannot possibly get any worse."