<
>

Kansas Jayhawks preview

David Beaty takes over at Kansas. Monty Davis/Getty Images

It’s yet another reboot for the Jayhawks, their fourth in five years. David Beaty, an assistant during Mark Mangino’s heyday, inherits a program that has lost 48 games in five years, so he knows it won’t be hitting .500 this season. Improving on a minus-185 point margin (118th in the FBS) would be a start.

Offense

How the Jayhawks beat you: There’s nowhere to go but up for a team that ranked in the bottom 15 in the FBS in points, TDs and yards last year. Beaty and OC Rob Likens learned from two of the game’s best minds, Kevin Sumlin and Sonny Dykes, and they’ll employ Air Raid tactics with a focus on clean football. Step one? More radical playcalling. KU had the least explosive offense in the Big 12: Only 16 percent of plays gained 10-plus yards. Next up, reducing penalties and avoiding turnovers: KU lost just 5 of 23 fumbles last season, an unsustainable total. “We have to minimize our self-destruction and make teams beat us,” Beaty says.

How you beat the Jayhawks: Kansas failed to pick up a first down on more than 40 percent of its drives last season and went three-and-out on nearly a third of them. So this team, which returns … almost no one, will struggle to keep up with the Big 12’s high-speed offenses. QB Michael Cummings was injured this spring, and potential replacement Montell Cozart is still a project. The Jayhawks’ four most used receivers are gone, and failures in O-line recruiting leave KU weak up front. Beaty demands “ultimate, daily, minute-by-minute competition,” but expecting this inexperienced group—without much depth—to live on a two-a-minute tempo will be tricky.

Defense

How the Jayhawks beat you: Beaty will use two defensive coordinators. He retained last year’s interim coach, Clint Bowen, and brought in Kenny Perry, who’ll offer elements of the 4-2-5 defense he learned during two years at TCU. Throughout his stint as interim coach, Bowen did keep KU in the top half of the Big 12 in pass defense, allowing 256 ypg. “I think he’s one of the finest defensive minds in the country,” Beaty says. Beaty is also excited about juco DBs Brandon Stewart and Bazie Bates IV, and there’s reason for optimism with senior Ben Goodman Jr. and the depth at defensive end. But with only two senior starters returning, the rest is pretty unknown.

How you beat the Jayhawks: Unfortunately for the Jayhawks’ defense, teams don’t just pass: Last year just under half—46 percent—of their yards allowed came on run plays, fourth most in the Big 12. And the rush defense is awful—this is the group that gave up Samaje Perine’s NCAA-record 427 rushing yards and finished 114th nationally in yards per rush. Now without Ben Heeney, its do-everything madman up the middle, KU will be even easier to attack. With four new starters in the secondary, even the Jayhawks’ limited success against the pass will be vulnerable this year, but opponents will still exploit the center of the field.