The goal, according to Kansas coach David Beaty, is not gamesmanship or crafted subterfuge. But then again, that’s sort of how it looked Tuesday when Beaty said he would not release a two-deep depth chart in advance of KU’s season opener.
The game against South Dakota State is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Across college football, it’s common for programs to release a depth chart during the preseason — or at the very least in the days leading up to the opener. Beaty has done neither, and it has created a mild vibe of mystery as the Jayhawks prepare to open the Beaty era.
Beaty, though, says the decision to not release a depth chart is not about a competitive advantage. It’s an honest attempt to promote more competition as the season begins.
“The reason we’re not going to do it, honestly, is because we really need our guys to still be in the mindset of trying to earn their spots,” Beaty said Tuesday. “We don’t want those guys to take a lazy step from this point moving forward.”
To be fair, Beaty has not hidden all aspects of the depth chart. Many preseason practices have been open to reporters for various lengths of time, and many position coaches have confirmed position battles.
One example: the offensive line. Senior Larry Mazyck and junior Jordan Shelley-Smith are set to start at the tackle positions, while senior Bryan Peters and juco transfer De’Andre Banks are running first team at guard. The center position appears to belong to senior Keyon Haughton.
Other positions are more fuzzy. Although junior Montell Cozart will start at quarterback, Beaty has declined to name a backup. It appears to be down to juco transfer Deondre Ford and true freshman Ryan Willis.
“We really have not made those final decisions across the board yet,” Beaty said. “It’s really kind of a fluid deal for us in this first year. It’s going to be fluid all year long until somebody stabilizes in a position and really kind of earns it.”
▪ Kansas will utilize two kickers on special teams, Beaty said Tuesday. Junior Matthew Wyman has a stronger leg and will be used on kickoffs and long field goals, while juco transfer Nick Bartolotta, a sophomore, is expected to handle shorter field goals. Wyman was nine of 15 on field goals last season and one of five beyond 40 yards.
“We kind of got the best of both worlds there,” Beaty said. “We’ll utilize both those guys.”
▪ South Dakota State, which is ranked 15th in the preseason Football Championship Series poll, finished 9-5 last season while advancing to the FCS playoffs. Two of those losses came against FCS champion North Dakota State, and one was a 38-18 setback at Missouri in the season opener.
The Jackrabbits lost standout running back Zach Zenner, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards three times, but they return standout receiver Jake Wieneke, who had 1,404 yards receiving last year.
“They’re used to playing in this environment,” Beaty said. “It’s not something that they’re not used to. I know they’re coming in here expecting to get after us from the word ‘go,’ so we got to be ready to go.”
▪ Expect plenty of new faces Saturday. Kansas is expected to have at least 25 players make their Division I football debuts. The Jayhawks return just four starters from last season.