As Kansas football camp begins, nearly every position is still up for grabs on the young Jayhawks squad led by head coach David Beaty.
For the beginning of the 2015 football season, the Kansas Jayhawks enter fall camp with far more questions than answers. With a new staff and a roster that is nearly unrecognizable from last season,the Jayhawks will start to see favorites emerge throughout these early practices.
As head coach David Beaty brings the new Air Raid offense to the team, the most important position in football is uncertain. With incumbent starting quarterback Michael Cummings’s season-ending knee injury, three quarterbacks are vying for the starting job. The odds-on favorite is junior Montell Cozart. Cozart started four games last season, all under former head coach Charlie Weis. Cozart lost the job after throwing four interceptions in a 23-0 loss against Texas. However, Beaty has said Cozart is “everything you want” as a quarterback for his offense. Freshmen Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley are also competing for the starting job, though it will be a surprise if one of the young trigger men were to win the job. Junior college transfer Deondre Ford is a dark horse candidate to garner significant playing time.
Another question facing the Jayhawks lies in the cornerstone of a good football program – between the trenches. On defense, the Jayhawks only return four out of nine members of last year’s defensive line depth. Only one out of four positions appear to be set, as senior Ben Goodman has one end spot on lockdown. Others, including Kapil Fletcher, Daniel Wise, and Tyler Holmes will fight for interior tackle positions. T.J. Semke and Anthony Olobia are names to watch for playing time at defensive end. On the offensive line, Jordan Shelley-Smith appears to have the left tackle position and Larry Mazyck is entrenched on the right side. Many newcomers, including junior college transfer D’Andre Banks, Jacob Bragg and Joe Gibson will fight for interior starting spots.
The other positions on the field are equally uncertain. The competition at wide receiver is as wide open as any in the country, with some true freshmen, including Chase Harrell, competing to catch passes in the Air Raid. Harrell, Tre’ Parmalee, Derrick Neal and Darious Crawley are all candidates for playing time. Defensive back is a question as well, as Kansas loses all four starters in the defensive backfield. With the switch to a 4-2-5 scheme, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and defensive backs coach Kenny Perry have to identify athletic defensive backs to shadow the elite receiver corps in the Big 12. Keep an eye on Ronnie Davis and Matthew Boateng at corner, and Tevin Shaw, Bazie Bates, Anthony Smithson and Greg Allen will all compete for the three starting safety positions.
With the abject failure of Charlie Weis’s junior college-heavy recruiting strategy, the Jayhawks come into 2015 severely lacking in scholarship players. As Beaty said at his introductory press conference, a strong walk-on program would help the Jayhawks make up for some of the departures. It will be very interesting to watch how some of the almost 30 walk-ons impact the program. From a purely depth perspective, it will benefit the program to have healthy bodies for practice. The real test will be to see how many can actually make a positive impact on the game field.
With the opening of fall practice comes excitement and optimism. Nobody seems more excited for the 2015 Kansas Jayhawks than David Beaty. How the position battles and playing time will be divided appears quite unsettled, as does the outcome of the season. We get our first look at the Jayhawks on Saturday, September 5 at 11 A.M. A great performance there could go a long way in making 2015 a success for Kansas football.