Football vs Texas

Senior defensive tackle Daniel Wise hugs senior linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. after a play against Texas. The Jayhawks fell to Texas 24-17 on Friday, Nov. 23.

With the addition of coach Les Miles, Kansas football seems to be on the rise, but years of disappointment still linger in the back of fans' minds. There is optimism around the program, but questions still remain that could hold the program back from a potential bowl game appearance at the end of this upcoming season.

First and foremost, the biggest question on the team is not the quarterback situation, but instead involves star sophomore running back Pooka Williams.

Williams quickly made a name for himself by rushing for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his collegiate debut against Central Michigan. He then ran for 163 yards the next week against Rutgers, becoming the first Kansas freshman to open their career with back-to-back 100-plus-yard games.

Shortly after breaking multiple freshman records and earning the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year award, though, Williams was arrested on suspicion of domestic battery. In January, Williams was granted diversion, but as of June 13, he is still suspended from team activities.

No word has been released on what will happen to Williams. But one thing is certain: without his presence, the Jayhawks are not the same team without him.

The next question regarding the squad does revolve around the quarterback scenario. Many argue in favor of senior Carter Stanley while others would like to see a new face lead the program, such as junior JUCO transfer Thomas MacVittie.

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Junior quarterback Thomas MacVittie runs with the ball. Kansas scrimmaged during Late Night Under the Lights on Saturday, April 13.

During Kansas’ Late Night Under the Lights, neither quarterback especially stood out. However, MacVittie did take the majority of the second half snaps, indicating Miles could be leaning in MacVittie’s favor.

And as far as offensive weapons go, the Jayhawks lost two key targets to the NFL in wide receivers Steven Sims and Jeremiah Booker. Both players were important playmakers and important pieces to the offense, being the two leading receivers for Kansas.

Wide receivers such as senior Daylon Charlot and junior Stephon Robinson, Jr. will need to take the next step and become the top receivers on the team. Charlot, who transferred from Alabama before the 2016 season, was expected to be a major piece, but seemed to never find chemistry with former quarterback Peyton Bender.

Another player who could make a major impact is redshirt sophomore wide receiver Quan Hampton. In only four games last season, Hampton caught five passes for 59 yards, the eighth-highest on the team.

The biggest bright side for the Jayhawks is the return of the defense. Last season, Kansas had the second-highest turnover margin in the country at plus-16, forcing 27 turnovers.

The defensive unit returns names such as senior defensive backs Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden. Overall, the defensive backs should be even stronger than they were last season with another year of experience and the help of a national champion coach like Miles.

The biggest problem on the defensive side is the departures of linebacker Joe Dineen and defensive tackle Daniel Wise. Both players were captains and played in the biggest roles on the defensive side of the ball.

Without suitable replacements, both the defensive line and linebacker core could take significant steps backwards.

Overall, with another season of experience, units such as the offensive line and defensive backs should look even better in the upcoming season. But with so many questions still surrounding the program, it would not be surprising if Kansas were to miss a bowl game.

With Miles running the show, there is optimism for the future. But rebuilds take time, so do not be surprised if Miles can only muster four or five wins in his first season at the helm.