Oh, Kansas football. What a disaster.
Just when you thought the Jayhawks might have a chance to turn the corner with David Beaty, a decent if risky hire much better than the previous two, the spring game happened. Before it even began, Beaty announced the suspensions of starting running back Corey Avery and wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman, who would have been the top returner at the position. Both have since been dismissed.
Then things only got worse when a walk-on ignored or didn't notice the red jersey of Michael Cummings, and KU's starting quarterback ended up with a torn ACL. The only positive way to spin this would be to note that with just five returning starters, Beaty will unequivocally be getting the chance to start fresh.
That's not necessarily a bad thing in the long-term for a program with one Big 12 win in the last three seasons and no more than 3 wins overall since Mark Mangino's last year in 2009. But for 2015, it means Beaty will be working with one of the worst rosters in all of FBS. It's hard to see the Jayhawks getting a win in Big 12 play, and if things go poorly against FCS No. 15 South Dakota State in the opener, 0-12 is a very real possibility.
Searching for offense
As noted above, Kansas lost its starting QB, starting running back, and top remaining receiver on one fateful day in April. The Jayhawks could have at least brought back a junior wideout who caught 30 passes for 537 yards and a touchdown, but Nigel King apparently hated Lawrence so much he decided to turn pro. After not getting drafted, he signed with Miami, got cut, then signed with San Francisco and will probably get cut again soon.
So what's left? Well, you may have fond memories of junior Montell Cozart. He ended his freshman season by going 3-of-7 for 42 yards and an interception in a 31-10 loss to Kansas State, and that's awfully close to his career completion percentage of 45 percent. However, he scored five touchdowns last season, making him one of two players (TE Trent Smiley had 1) on KU's 2015 roster who reached the endzone in 2014.
Senior De'Andre Mann figures to start at running back, and it's hard to even tell who might be backing him up. Mann's a little guy who ran for 83 yards against Texas and totaled 399 for the year, so maybe he'll find some success.
KU had better hope so, since their top returning receiver is Tre' Parmalee, who caught all of four passes last year. Virginia Tech transfer Josh Stanford could provide a boost and if Beaty's lucky, maybe freshman Jeremiah Booker will be able to contribute a bit. Beaty has coached wide receivers at Rice, Texas A&M, and Kansas, so maybe he can find and develop some hidden gems.
The offensive line will be easily the most experienced group on the offense, with senior right tackle Larry Mazcyk and sophomore center Joe Gibson both returning as starters. As you'd expect from a team in such bad shape, there's not a lot of depth, so injuries could be devastating.
Defensive deficiencies, defectors
KU's offense wasn't the only unit to unexpectedly lose players during the offseason. Starting linebacker Jake Love retired from football in January and three months later, former Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year Isaiah Johnson announced he'll be playing safety at South Carolina this fall. As a result, junior safety Fish Smithson will be the team's top returning tackler, with 49.
Defense was clearly Kansas' strength last year, and it probably will be again this season, if only because that offense looks really, really bad. The Jayhawks were a somewhat respectable 75th nationally in the S&P + ratings for defense, which was better than Iowa State and Texas Tech. So that's something.
The defensive line could have two redshirt freshman starters, Linebacker Courtney Amick figures to be a key leader at linebacker, and he'll play alongside Schyler Miles, who returns after resdshirting last year as a junior.
Sophomore Matthew Boateng is the only player on the KU roster who had an interception last year, and that came in a narrow victory against SEMO. He'll be one of the better players for a young, inexperienced secondary. Overall, the defense has to hope they've found some talent in that freshman class or transfers such as defensive end Anthony Olobia, defensive end Damani Mosby, safety Bazie Bates and cornerback Brandon Stewart, or it's going to be a long season.
Although the margin might not be as bad if Kansas State played KU earlier in the season, let's just say that if the ‘Cats somehow have only five wins at Thanksgiving, you should go ahead and make plans for a bowl game. As if the talent discrepancy's not enough, Bill Snyder teams have owned Kansas since a 1992 loss, posting an 18-1 record.* Expect another blowout at Bill Snyder Stadium East.
*Personal note: I skipped my senior homecoming dance to go to Lawrence with KU friends and sit with them in the section next to the Jayhawk band. You can imagine my horror as K-State proceeded to lose 31-28, a jarring difference from my first trip to that football field in Lawrence, when the ‘Cats won 64-0. Still, I'm comfortable I made the right decision to skip that stupid dance.