(Editor’s note: This story is part of The Star’s annual football preview, which will appear in three special sections in the Sunday, Aug. 28 print edition and also on KansasCity.com and The Star’s Red Zone Extra app.)
2015 record: 0-12, 0-9 Big 12 (last)
Projected 2016 record: 2-10, 0-9 Big 12
Key starters lost: QB Michael Cummings, RB DeAndre Mann, WR Tre’ Parmalee, OL Larry Mazyck, DE Ben Goodman.
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Key starters returning: RB Ke’aun Kinner, TE Ben Johnson, LB Joe Dineen, LB Marcquis Roberts, S Fish Smithson
Leading the charge
KU’s best playmaker offensively is likely to be newcomer LaQuvionte Gonzalez. The Texas A&M transfer — his nickname is “Speedy” — impressed coaches in spring and fall practices and is likely to break through as KU’s first 600-yard receiver since 2009. Defensively, Dineen and Roberts form a solid duo at linebacker, while Smithson returns at safety after leading the nation in solo tackles per game.
The offensive line was an issue a year ago, and while strength numbers have improved, KU’s coaches have discussed starting true freshman Hakeem Adeniji at right tackle. A move like that would either signify Adeniji is a super talent or the Jayhawks’ depth still isn’t where it needs to be. No KU starting quarterback has ranked in the top eight in the Big 12 in ESPN’s Total QBR measure since Todd Reesing in 2009. That position faces questions again this year, with Ryan Willis and Montell Cozart competing for the job into late August. KU also needs better play from its defensive line, with coach David Beaty admitting after the 2015 season that the unit had not lived up to his expectations.
The good news for KU football fans? They shouldn’t have to suffer through another winless season. Rhode Island comes to Memorial Stadium on Sept. 3 as one of the worst teams in FCS, meaning the Jayhawks won’t have to do much to get Beaty’s first victory in a game in which they should be three-touchdown-or-so favorites. KU also should have a chance in home games against Ohio and Iowa State, making two or three wins a possibility. The Jayhawks still appear to be well behind talent-wise in the Big 12, though, meaning they’re probably a year or two away from having the development needed to compete for a bowl game.
Blair Kerkhoff’s projection
at Texas Tech
at West Virginia
at Kansas State