Kansas football coach David Beaty has often said that teams are judged based on their win-loss total, so most fans won’t need to go deeper than the Jayhawks’ 1-9 record to see what kind of a year it’s been.
Still, that surface-level analysis only says so much — and also might hide the fact that certain individuals are playing well in what has become a lost season.
With that in mind, here are three tidbits about this year’s KU team based on game-charting data compiled by Pro Football Focus.
▪ KU’s defensive front has a clear strength ... and weakness
For Pro Football Focus’ numbers, 75 is considered an average grade, while a ranking between 80 and 85 is considered “very good.”
KU, interestingly, has four defensive players with “very good” grades when it comes to run stopping: Dorance Armstrong, Daniel Wise, Osaze Ogbebor and Joe Dineen.
The problem, though, has come with pass rush, where no Jayhawk has a “very good” rating.
When asked about the difference in these two areas, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen explained one reason why KU’s pass rush has dropped off from a year ago. Because of the Jayhawks’ inexperience in the secondary, Bowen has had to change responsibilities for Armstrong, the Big 12 defensive player of the year who had 10 sacks last season.
Instead of simply telling Armstrong to always run around the edge to sack the quarterback, Bowen has given him more run obligations, requiring him to always get his hands on the offensive lineman in front of him to ensure that player can’t block others on the second level.
Armstrong, through 10 games, only has one sack.
“He didn’t change. He didn’t become slow or unathletic or a bad pass-rush guy,” Bowen said. “He’s doing some things for us that I really appreciate his unselfishness and his team attitude, because he gets in there and battles.”
▪ The KU offensive line also has a glaring positive ... and negative
KU’s front five has taken a lot of criticism this season, but there is an area where the group has excelled: pass protection.
Hakeem Adeniji, Zach Hannon, Jayson Rhodes and Chris Hughes all have posted “very good” grades of 83 or higher on passing plays.
Run blocking, though, has been a struggle. Seven different offensive linemen have posted “below average” grades of 50 or worse.
“Run blocking, it’s hard to move a guy that’s just bigger and stronger than you,” KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said. “But if you can pop up, stay in front of him for 2.2 seconds, you might get a ball off, so it’s a little easier.”
Overall, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has KU’s offensive line ranked seventh in the Big 12 with an average grade of 67.1. That’s ahead of Iowa State, Baylor and Texas.
▪ KU still has had standouts
The Jayhawks have one “elite” player according to PFF: linebacker Dineen, who has an 87.4 grade. That ranks 18th nationally among linebackers.
“Joe’s found a way to do exactly what we need him to do, and then go make some tackles outside his responsibility,” Bowen said. “That’s where his numbers are jumping up.”
KU also has two players in the “very good” category: defensive lineman Daniel Wise (83.0, 34th at his position) and receiver Steven Sims (82.0, 54th). Bowen said Wise has been able to take advantage of one-on-one matchups, as it’s tough for defenses to double-team inside rushers.
“I’ve been happy with him,” Bowen said.
KU still lags behind other Big 12 teams when it comes to top players. The Jayhawks have one offensive player with an 80 grade or higher, which ranks last in the Big 12 behind Baylor and Iowa State (two each).
The defense, meanwhile, has two 80-plus-grade players, which is ninth in the league and ahead of only Baylor.