The Kansas Jayhawks have been college football’s version of the Cleveland Browns throughout this decade. After a 50-48 coaching record from 2003-2009, Mark Mangino was forced to resign his head coaching duties following a slew of allegations that had occurred during his tenure at Kansas. Ever since his departure, the Jayhawks have witnessed utter despair, going 14-70 with a conference record of 4-58 the past seven seasons. This stretch has also included an incredible (sarcasm) 0-12 record under first year coach David Beaty in 2015, who was hired to clean up the mess that pervious coach Turner Gill and Charlie Weis had created.
Kansas showed significant improvement last season, despite finishing 2-10. The Jayhawks flashed signs of what the future “might” hold as they ended Charlie Strong’s Texas tenure with a resounding 24-21 overtime victory over the Longhorns. With a lot of talent coming back, the Jayhawks look to make a huge jump in becoming a formidable force in the Big 12 for years to come.
Last season, Beaty won his first game as a head coach with a 55-6 win over Rhode Island, however, they would lose nine straight afterwards. Two out of the nine losses were by less than 10 points, one, a home contest against TCU by one, and the other was Iowa State by a touchdown. Since Beaty has taken over, Kansas’ pass defense has improved drastically, vaulting up the Def. Passing S&P+ ranks from 96th in the FBS to 35th in a span of two seasons. In addition, Kansas ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 last season in 3rd down defense, allowing opposing offenses to convert a first down on just 35.6 percent of all 3rd down attempts.
The impact stars Kansas returns in 2017 is noteworthy. At quarterback there’s Carter Stanley, who ended his red-shirt freshman season on a high note last year, passing for 320 yards in the season finale against K-State, offers more promise as a sophomore. There are pieces aligned on defense, too. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who was voted as Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player Of The Year, has received high praise from his head coach, saying that he is the next Myles Garrett. Beaty expanded his thoughts on what he thinks Armstrong’s potential could be to ESPN Staff Writer Mitch Sherman.
“Dorance is a stud. The fact that he didn’t make All-American last year was shocking to me,” said Beaty. “He got robbed. [He] is unbelievable. He is a freak. He is Myles Garrett, and Myles is a freak. This guy is a beast.”
Besides Armstrong, the Jayhawks return Mike Lee, who graduated high school early to play as a young freshman for the Jayhawks in 2016 put up All-American numbers, finishing with 77 tackles – second most individually on the team last season.
The biggest question through all of this of course is how good the Jayhawks can be in 2017? Honestly, there’s enough talent for Kansas to reach bowl eligibility this season. There are three games “winnable” games on the Jayhawks’ schedule: Southeast Missouri State (season opener), Central Michigan, and their first road game to Ohio. Also, home conference games against Texas Tech and Baylor – teams that finished with losing records a season ago – as well as a trip to Ames to face Iowa State appear as games where Kansas can cash in. Considering where Beaty has started from, a program at the bottom of the FBS barrel three years ago, an improvement of two, three wins would be seen as a massive step in the right direction.