For Kansas, racking up yards and lighting up the scoreboard hasn’t really been its nature throughout the last decade.
The Jayhawks were ninth in total passing yards and receiving yards per game, last in rushing yards per game and last in total offense by nearly 1000 yards a year ago in Big 12 conference play. On top of that, they averaged just 18.7 points per game last season.
To make matters worse, the Jayhawks surpassed 30 total points only one time during conference play. That came against West Virginia, who finished with only the sixth-best defense in the league.
The handful of talent and an offense that generates a great deal of speed and blazing style of play in the “Air Raid” offense makes it a head-scratcher as to why Kansas can't consistently put up more than 20 points a game.
With offensive coordinator Doug Meacham in his second year with the squad, he will likely get his best shot at creating a more productive offense this season. Returning over 90 percent of the starters from a year ago, along with an influx of transfers beefing up the depleted offensive line, the last piece of the puzzle Kansas needs is the most important player: quarterback.
Starting with the targets in the passing game, the 2018 season has a shot at assembling the quickest, biggest and strongest core of receiving talent the Jayhawks have seen in years.
With senior standout Steven Sims Jr. likely to break records offensively in his final year, he will certainly be slotted as the number one receiver for whoever is taking snaps for Kansas come Sept. 1.
He will be joined by two 6-foot-3-inch, 210-pound targets in senior Jeremiah Booker and sophomore Evan Fairs to take some of the pressure off Sims in coverage. Booker finished the 2017 season missing the final two games due to injury, while Fairs emerged onto the scene as one of the top weapons on the offense.
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Moving over to the rushing attack, with Taylor Martin leaving the program, the Jayhawks will likely start the season with junior Khalil Herbert taking the ball out of the backfield. Incoming freshman and former four-star recruit out of Louisiana, Anthony "Pooka" Williams Jr. will be a possible second option. Sophomore Dom Williams adds even more depth to the backfield after playing the majority of the games a season ago, racking up 176 rushing yards and three touchdowns in nine games as a true freshman.
At tight end, the player replacing 2018 graduate Ben Johnson, will be a new face to the program, but not to high-level competition at the collegiate level. Marvin Lewis, a graduate transfer from powerhouse Florida State, decided to use his last year of eligibility in Lawrence. Lewis, the No. 3 tight end in his recruiting class coming out of high school, didn’t see any action in 2017 with the Seminoles, but tallied 10 catches for 182 yards in 2016.
Alabama transfer junior Daylon Charlot, return specialist Ryan Schadler and a reliable target in Tyler Patrick all give Doug Meacham extra options to explore at wide receiver in trying to create a respectable and at times quick-hitting offense too.
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The biggest question marks still remain on the offensive line and the man calling the shots under center. With Larry Hughes leaving the program in the off-season — and the recent transfers strolling in and becoming immediately eligible — alters the whole outlook for the Jayhawks' offense this fall.
For a team that canceled its spring game due to multiple injuries to an already scarce front line, Kansas has added four new linemen, including graduate transfer Alex Fontana from Houston and 6-foot-9 Kevin Feder from Ohio State.
Dwayne Wallace (6’4, 325 lbs.), Reuben Lewis (6’4, 330 lbs.), Api Mane (6’3, 327 lbs.) and Adagio Lopeti (6’3, 320 lbs.) all look to bulk up an offensive line that didn’t start one lineman over 320 pounds in 2017.
However, with the mix of experienced returning players and transfers from across the country, the quarterback for the Jayhawks has yet to be named for the upcoming season.
Senior Peyton Bender and junior Carter Stanley, who both saw time at starter in 2017, look to be the two frontrunners to snag the starting job. Sophomore transfer Miles Kendrick, who comes from San Mateo College and played with Mane and Lopeti, brings another name into the conversation to give Stanley and Bender a run for their money.
As the college football kickoff on Sept. 1 approaches, five Jayhawks have claimed their positions on preseason watch lists for their contributions both on and off the field.
But who will Beaty trust enough to manage the offense? Both Bender and Stanley’s abilities have been put on display before in tough situations and against the best teams in the country. So unless Kendrick completely outperforms the other two in the next three weeks, he will likely remain as the third string.
Stanley has the most talent, but his inconsistency makes you hesitate before giving him the full time role as a starter.
Bender, even he though struggled for more than half of the time he was in, still has the most experience and showed the most promise last year in throwing for nearly 500 yards in the home opener against Southeast Missouri State.
It could be a revolving door at quarterback for the Jayhawks as they march into Big 12 play, but expect Bender to at least get the first crack with the offense in the opener against Nicholls State.
There should be excitement mixed with reasonable expectations among the fan base heading into September.
If one thing is for sure, the offense will have speed, speed and more speed. It just has to be utilized for the offense to click. Kansas won’t come close to an Oklahoma, Texas Tech, or a West Virginia-like offense, but the talent is certainly there for the Jayhawks. You definitely won’t know after game one, you may get a feel at the conclusion of week two, but by game three, it will be very well apparent if Kansas will sink or swim in conference play this year.