While it’s not one that ended with trophies, awards, or even very many wins, the 2016 Kansas football season was definitely… something to behold. Whether it was the various fumbles that cost the team big time, quarterback controversy that lasted well over half of the season, or even flat-out getting steamrolled by Big 12 opponents, this season was a step in the right direction in the David Beaty coaching era.
If you’re thinking, “The Jayhawks were garbage. What are you talking about?” Then, rest assured: You’re also correct.
If not for Carter Stanley, this would’ve been a failed offense for sure. In fact, all three quarterbacks couldn’t even crack the top 20 in passing efficiency in the Big 12, as all three averaged less than seven yards per attempt. The Kansas offense ranked 118 out of 128 FBS teams in scoring, with kicker Matthew Wyman being their top scorer, followed by Steven Sims Jr. Ke’aun Kinner was one of the lone bright spots, rushing for 738 yards, good for 8th in the Big 12 and seventh among running backs. Sims also led all Big 12 receivers with 72 catches. He turned them into 859 yards and seven touchdowns, and he should be even better next year.
In all, Stanley completed just under 60% of his passes for 959 yards, six touchdowns, and six interceptions. On the ground, he added 124 yards on 32 carries. As a true freshman, he was easily the most impressive quarterback of the three to log playing time this year. He telegraphs throws at times and his arm strength isn’t elite, but he should be a serviceable quarterback for the Jayhawks next year.
With a quarterback established, the offense should be much improved next year. In Carter Stanley’s three starts, he had an average QBR of 105.6, and he even had a 300+ yard performance against K-State. With Stanley only a freshman this season, there is time for him to develop into a viable option for KU in the next couple of seasons.
Defensively… and offensively… and in general, the Jayhawks left something to be desired. They didn’t really have a standout defensive player aside from Mike Lee, a freshman safety. They constantly allowed 30+ points to their Big 12 opponents. They were really, really average.
After the season finale against KSU on Saturday, Fish Smithson said to KUSports.com, “It’s definitely on the uprise after last season with no wins, and then now we have two wins, so I definitely believe it’s going up. I just believe all the players got to trust in the process and just believe in Coach Beaty.”
If even the players are believing that things are getting better, then maybe they are. For this year, they were a subpar defense to go along with an atrocious offense. But you are your worst critic, and nobody knows what’s going on with a team better than the players themselves. Maybe there’s hope for the future after all.
Special Teams: B-
What does it say about a team when their kicker is the highest scoring player on the field? Either that kicker is really, really good, or the offense is really, really bad. In 2016, Matthew Wyman converted almost 69% of his field goals and 100% of his PATs. Cole Moos was also above average, punting for over 3,000 yards this season (probably because he was on the field almost every drive).
What brings special teams down is kick and punt return. During the first half of the season, LaQuvionte Gonzalez was the deep man for KU, and had loads of trouble holding onto the ball. Eventually, holding onto the ball wasn’t as big of an issue, but they had their fair share of troubles.
Yes, David Beaty is going to get another shot at leading the team past one FBS win. Yes, it takes more than two season to get anywhere with a football program that was scraping the bottom of the barrel. However, some of the calls that Beaty made were so conservative that they would make Andy Reid cry. Bubble screens, short dump passes, and oddly-timed punts seemed to be the specialty of Beaty and offensive coordinator Rob Likens this year. He is now 2-22 at KU, and he is under contract until 2020. However, his players clearly like playing for him, so maybe KU will take a big step forward on the field next year.
Am I supposed to grade easily on a team who only won two games this season? KU has one of the worst teams in the NCAA. Because there is so much opportunity for growth, and they did show it at the end of the season, 2016 wasn’t a total bust. But if they want a chance at competing next season for ANYTHING, of course, changes will have to be made.