<
>

Season report card: Kansas Jayhawks

It was a year full of despair and disappointment at Kansas.

The Jayhawks fired their coach before October, were on the bad end of a record-breaking performance and finished 3-9 with one Big 12 win. Yet it wasn't all bad. Interim coach Clint Bowen brought enthusiasm and passion to the program during his eight games in charge and newly hired David Beaty will be looking to build the Jayhawks into an impact program in the Big 12, starting in 2015.

Offense: F

The Jayhawks finished in the bottom three in almost every category including last in points per drive (1.21), yards per play (4.62) and total yards per game (324.1). Things got a little better after Charlie Weis’ dismissal at the end of September but the Jayhawks offense never really gave KU fans any reason for hope. There were some bright spots like true freshman running back Corey Avery (631 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per carry) and tight end Jimmay Mundine (45 receptions, 584 yards) but as a whole it was a unit lacking in playmakers. Beaty has his work cut out for him.

Defense: D

KU’s defense had good times and bad times, but mostly bad times. The unit will be remembered for giving up an FBS-record 427 rushing yards to Samaje Perine as the Oklahoma freshman running back looked like a man among boys against the Jayhawks defense. KU finished ninth in yards per play allowed (6.29) and eighth in opponent points per drive (2.33) as Clint Bowen’s squad finished in the bottom third in most defensive categories. Linebacker Ben Heeney and cornerback JaCorey Shepherd were the bright spots as they were among the Big 12’s best at their positions but they weren’t enough to keep offenses from overwhelming the Jayhawks defense.

Special Teams: C-

Easily the best of the three units, KU’s special teams were among the Big 12’s best in multiple categories. Behind punter Trevor Pardula, KU led the conference in punt average (43.98), blocked field goals (3) and ranked second in punt return average (12.43). But the Jayhawks coverage units left plenty to be desired allowing 8.16 yards per punt return and 26.9 yards per kickoff return. Kicker Matthew Wyman (9 of 15 field goals, 60 percent) ranked last among Big 12 kickers.

Coaching: F/C-

The Jayhawks coaching gets two different grades with Charlie Weis (F) and Clint Bowen (C-) each serving as head coach at some point in 2014. Charlie Weis was dismissed in late September after the Jayhawks combined to score three points in losses to Duke and Texas. When Clint Bowen took over as interim coach the difference was obvious as the Jayhawks become more competitive, more committed and appeared to be having more fun under Bowen. Yet the Jayhawks went 1-7 in their final eight games. The tangible success was hard to come by but Bowen started changing the culture during his eight games as top dog and in turn began to lay a foundation for Beaty to build upon.

Overall: D

The Jayhawks can thank Bowen for escaping an F. KU went from a program with little hope to a program moving in a much better direction under Bowen. After Weis' departure it became clear the players considered Bowen an upgrade over Weis while becoming more entrenched and involved in the program. If Beaty comes in and builds on foundation laid during October and November, we could look back upon the end of 2014 as KU’s first steps toward a return to relevance.