Turner Gil had a miraculous final season at Buffalo in 2009 but there were no miracles in his first year at Kansas as the Jayhawks simply couldn’t score or stop opponents from scoring. This season there is little talk about heading to a postseason appearance as Kansas really needs to concentrate on getting back to respectability. We’ll see if Gil can do just that which might be a miracle in itself after a season where little went right.
The quarterback situation was a mess in 2010 with three different players starting and only throwing for a little over 1,900 yards on 58% completion. We could see a similar situation this year with Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Brock Berglund all pushing for the starting position. The Jayhawks have some talent in the backfield even though this unit ran for only 1,615 yards and averaged a paltry 3.4 yards per tote. Much of the problem was little if any room to run but James Sims seems to have great upside after a freshman campaign that saw him rush for 742 yards and nine scores and a team high three 100 yard performances. Darrian Miller will see his share of carries after setting the Missouri state record for rushing in the state’s top division in high school. Whoever gets the starting nod behind center will be throwing to Daymond Patterson who led the Jayhawks with 60 catches for 487 yards. The rest of the receiving corps will be mix and match with a few returning players with the ultimate goal of finding reliable production behind Patterson. The KU offensive line gets three starters back but do have five players with plenty of experience but will it translate in to better performances for a group that gave up 37 sacks in 2010 and weren’t very stable in run blocking.
The KU defense was run over by just about anyone that ran or threw the football and it started with a defensive line that couldn’t contain the rush, finishing #107 nationally. This unit was lit up for 291 yards against Georgia Tech but their struggles weren’t limited to stopping the run as they were 105 th in sacks as well. With the defense running a 4-2-5 set and the guys up front unable to contain the rush the linebackers were forced to provide some backbone on the ground. Leading tackler Justin Springer is gone but Steven Johnson and his team leading 95 tackles returns. Buffalo transfer Darius Willis could be the star of this unit and instantly make it better. The secondary allowed 223 passing yards per contest but were often left to fend for themselves with no pass rush. Isiah Barfield started 12 games in 2010 after switching over from running back and will be expected to lead by example with both starting safeties gone. The key for this unit could very well be what alignment is used as the 4-2-5 didn’t seem to fit the personnel on the defense especially when it came to stopping the run.
KU loses both their place kicker Jacob Branstetter (8-14) and punter Alozo Rojas. Ron Doherty will handle both jobs for now but leg strength is a question mark. Daymond Patterson will look to improve on his 3.8 yards per punt return while DJ Beshears was a threat in kick returns at over 25yards per try.
When looking at Kansas we have to ask ourselves if the Jayhawks can drastically improve both offensively and defensively enough to be competitive. There was a big enough gap in each unit between themselves and opponents to say there has to be some improvement. What I don’t like is this team has running backs, receivers and even quarterbacks playing different positions and football is tough enough without learning on the job. Improvement? Yes, but staying out of the Big 12 cellar might takes some doing.