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TGS 2017 COLLEGE FB PREVIEW...A LOOK AT THE BIG 12--PART II

                                           by Chuck Sippl, Senior Editor

We concude our preview of the Big 12 with Part II; teams are listed in order of predicted finish from 6-10.  Last season's straight-up, spread, and "Over/Under" records are included.

WEST VIRGINIA (SUR 10-3; PSR 5-8; O/U 5-8)...Optimism is running high in Morgantown. And not just because of the two available spots in the upcoming Big 12 title game in December. Transfer QB Will Grier (via Florida) looked so good in spring that HC Dana Holgorsen was exuding positive vibes much like back in his first season in 2011, when he inherited an experienced, potentially prolific QB in Geno Smith. Holgorsen, who came through the Texas Tech/Houston/Oklahoma State passing “schools,” has always seemed to be at his best when he has had an experienced, strong-armed QB to stretch and exploit opposing defenses.

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Spring practice showed that 6-2 jr. Grier, the former Gator starting QB under Jim McElwain as a redshirt freshman in 2015, can be a “defense-stretcher” in the Mountaineer aerial game. Grier was off to a great start in his college career in Gainesville, with 6 wins in 6 games while hitting 65.8% as a “rookie,” good for 1204 YP with 10 TDs vs. only 3 interceptions. At that time, however, Grier was handed a one-year suspension for failing a PED test (Grier contended the failed test was due to a over-the-counter supplement). In June, the NCAA formally re-instated Grier. But the QB has missed 1½ seasons.

Skyler Howard, the Mountie QB the last two years, was erratic for the first part of his starting career, hitting just 54.8% in his junior season. Howard was better in 2016 (at 61% with 26 TDs and 10 ints.), using his decent running skills to the tune of 463 YR and 10 TDs on the ground. In that senior season, WV lost only three times—at high-scoring Oklahoma State, in Morgantown vs. the Oklahoma offensive juggernaut in a light snow, and to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.

However, the Mountaineers lost a boatload of starters from LY’s team, including seven on offense and eight on defense. But with the now-mature Grier (a former national high school POY), a new offensive coordinator in Jake Spavital (at Cal LY; one-time QB coach under Holgorsen in Morgantown), improved recent recruiting at WV, and one of the top returning RB groups in the nation, the Mounties should keep things interesting in Big 12 play. With those RBs forcing defenses to stay at home, and gashing them when they overload vs. the pass, it would be no surprise if WV tops LY’s 31.2 ppg.

Leading that RB group is sr. Justin Crawford, a slashing juco who gained 1164 yards at 7.3 yards per clip in his first season with the team. He’s backed by soph Kennedy McKoy (472 YR at 6.5 ypc). Soph Martell Pettway was redshirting in 2016 until injuries forced him into action in Game 11 LY, and he then dashed for 181 yards in 30 carries at Iowa State in his first college game. Also, coming on board TY is 5-5, 158 early enrollee Tevin Bush, who is likely to be spotted at a number of positions to gain a matchup advantage.

The WR group is good enough, with 6-1 sr. Ka’Raun White (48 recs. in 11 games LY) likely to be the go-to target. Jr. Jovon Durante had 35 catches LY. 6-1 jr. Gary Jennings collected 165 yards on just 10 recs. as a backup. 6-3 jr. David Sills, a former QB, is back with the team after spending 2016 at a junior college. Promising 6-3 Reggie Roberson Jr. arrives in August.

The OL lost 3 starters, including stalwart C Tyler Orloskey. But Yodny Cajuste, the starting LT in LY’s opener, is back after suffering a season-ending knee injury in that game. Soph T Colton McKivitz got lots of playing time (10- starts) LY due to Cajuste’s injury and is now well seasoned. Both Gs are seniors, with Kyle Bosch moving from the right side to the more-important left.

Defense is more of an immediate concern in Morgantown than offense, as the starting front three in WV’s 3-3-5 base have all graduated after playing 79% of LY’s defensive snaps. However, DL coach Bruce Tall says he has 8-9 players who have shown they deserve playing time, led by hustling soph DE Adam Shuler II, who collected 33 Ts LY as a backup, and sr. NT Xavier Pegues, back from injury. Pass-rushing DE Ezekiel Rose and 6-2, 340 NT Jalen Harvey are a pair of jucos adding depth and trying to work their way into the rotation.

Two of the three starting LBs return in sr. Al-Rasheed Benton (80 Ts) and soph David Long Jr. (65 Ts, 2 sacks). The front six as a whole need to generate more sacks after only 23 LY.

Secondary play is always a concern in the wide-open Big 12, and it become even more so for WV after A-A CB Rasul Butler (8 ints. LY; now NFL Eagles) and safeties Jarrod Harper and Jeremy Taylor departed. However, sr. S Kyzir White (6-2, 218) is a returning impact player with three sacks LY. Back from injury that cost him all of LY is jr. S Dravon Askew-Henry, a starter for his first two years with the Mounties. Sr. CB Elijah Battle was a valuable backup LY. Graduate CB Corey Winfield is incoming from Syracuse. And WV scored a late recruiting coup by “flipping” speedy DB Derrek Pitts Jr., a WV native who appeared to be headed to Penn State. Barring injuries, the talent drop-off in the secondary might not be so great. There is room for improvement on a defense that LY gave up 24 ppg, 4.2 ypc, and that nabbed only 25 takeaways.

Summary...A few years ago, Holgorsen altered his recruiting emphasis somewhat. The Mountaineers represent the farthest-east outpost of the league. So instead of recruiting head-to-head vs. established Big 12 powers in the talent-rich Texas/old SWC territory, as before, West Virginia has begun placing a greater emphasis on tempting top players from the very productive Pennsylvania/WV/Ohio area who want to test their abilities vs. big-name teams in the Big 12. So far, no Big 12 titles. But if QB Grier is for real, the Mounties should be a factor this season.


BAYLOR (SUR 7-6; PSR 4-9; O/U 4-9)...
In wake of the sexual assault mess and last year’s caretaker season under Jim Grobe, Baylor is eager to turn the page and start a new chapter. Leading the way will be Matt Rhule, the somewhat surprise hire into the Big 12 from Temple. But the former Penn State LB and college/NFL assistant more than impressed the nervous “suits” in Waco after taking lowly Temple from 2-10 in 2013 to back-to-back title games in the American Athletic Conference the last two years. After that initial season in Philly, Ruhle’s rebuilt Owls went 26-13 under his leadership.

By many measures, Rhule seems to be the right guy at the right time for Baylor, even though many of the school’s backers still relish the uptempo, high-scoring, caution-to-the-wind approach of Texas born-and-bred head coach Art Briles (who, curiously, was born in Rule, TX, north of Abilene). Rhule figures to slow things down a bit in Waco, both on and off the field. And his ability to play the Phoenix rising from the ashes trick at Temple indicates he has a good chance to keep BU competitive while the investigations/lawsuits involving past behavior run their course. Among other things, the off-field turmoil caused some roster flight in Waco. And that’s where Rhule’s notable roster-building skills should pay dividends down the road.

For this season, however, Rhule would likely be pleased if the Bears can merely hold their own in the Big 12, at least being a factor in the race to the top two. The cupboard at Baylor was not bare at the end of LY. But the ranks of established players has been thinned.

Senior starting LT Dominic Desouza left the team in February. Then senior Tanner Thrift, the projected starting center and included on the early Rimington watch list, gave up football after a knee injury in spring. Three OL starters still return, including 6-5, 350 junior Blake Blakemar, so the BU front wall should still exhibit the smashmouth aspect that Ruhle intends to exploit this season. And one of Rhule’s early recruiting victories was Xavier Newman, a highly-ranked center from Colorado now virtually certain to draw early playing time. So any injuries could make the Baylor OL much younger very quickly.

There is good talent at RB and QB. Figuring to have strong seasons in Rhule’s new pro-style offense, are “thunder and lighting” RBs 6-1½, 220 jr. Terence Williams (1048 YR in 2016) and 5-8, 200 soph JaMycal Hasty I623 YR). However, already there are depth issues after true freshman early enrollee Abram Smith was lost for the season due to an ACL tear.

The starting QB spot will be revisited in August, but there are several intriguing choices, especially with former Arizona starter Anu Solomon arriving as a graduate transfer. Solomon was injured in U of A’s opener last season and was never the same after. But in two previous years, Solomon passed for 48 TDs vs. just 14 interceptions. He also has shown to be a savvy leader who can make a few plays with his legs. Meanwhile, 6-4 BU soph Zach Smith started the last four games of 2016, including a handy 31-12 upset of Boise State in the Cactus Bowl, hitting an impressive 28 of 39 for 375 yards and 3 TDs. Smith has a big arm and is bursting with NFL potential. An early-season longshot is 6-1 true freshman Charlie Brewer, a playmaker from a state high-school champ in Texas.

With the departure of the Briles’ 4-WR spread and the arrival of Rhule’s pro-style attack, receiver flight has been significant, as potential returnees 6-4 Ishamel Zamora (13 TDC LY) and KD Cannon (8 TDC) decided to try the NFL. 5-11 jr. Chris Platt (35 catches LY) and has speed. 6-3 soph Blake Lynch (34 recs.) has the size. Plus, younger holdovers will now get a chance to shine. So will true freshmen R.J. Sneed and Trestan Ebner, two of the stars of Rhule’s first recruiting class.

However, given the change of scheme this season to greater ball control, the team’s WR flight, and BU depth issues, it will be tough for Baylor to match last year’s average of 34.6 ppg, not to mention the 523 total yards per game. Rhule thus hopes a less-frenetic attack will prove helpful for a defense that gave up 29 ppg and 432 YPG.

Rhule is changing the defensive front to from LY’s three-man structure to an aggressive four-man unit, like the style he developed at Temple. One change will involve 6-1, 260 pass rusher K.J. Smith (7 sacks LY), who will focus his disruptive forces at DE rather than being moved around, like last year. Rhule turned a similar player in Haason Reddick at Temple into a first-round draft pick. 6-3, 250 sr. Brian Nance could be a factor at DE after being ineligible in 2016. Jr. Ira Lewis is reliable at DT.

The Bears also have an athletic leader at LB in senior Taylor Young (5-10, 225), who owns 265 Ts in his three seasons (93 Ts LY, including 4½ sacks). But depth could be a problem after sr. Raaquan Davis (53 Ts LY) left the team in spring. Sophs and freshmen could see early action, and you can be sure they will be tested early and often by Big 12 attacks when they do.

The even bigger concern on defense is the secondary, where CBs Orion Stewart (6) and Ryan Reid (3) have graduated, taking 9 of LY’s 12 team ints. with them.

Summary...In his first season, with investigations still on-going, the upbeat Rhule is seeking to “re-brand the football program,” “re-direct the narrative,” “change the culture,” and perform all the other P.R. duties that are required in Waco after its troubling times. But that’s why Rhule got an uncommon seven-year contract. He has a team of some very high quality players in some spots, and some serious depth/youth issues in others. School officials are apparently willing to give him a mulligan for 2017. But under-estimate Rhule at your own peril handicapping-wise, as the intense but likable head coach was 12-2 vs. the spread overall LY at Temple (including a 12-0 spread run; 5-0 as a dog).


IOWA STATE (SUR 3-9; PSR 7-5; O/U 6-5-1)...
For a team with only one winning season since 2005, it is more than ambitious for second-year head coach Matt Campbell to even be considering a spot in the reborn Big 12 title game.

Competitiveness. Development. Improvement. Those are the more realistic goals in Ames for 2017. But that doesn’t mean that the Cyclones—whose only winning season in more than a decade was 7-6 under Paul Rhoads in 2009—won’t be out to “shake up the world” in the Big 12 every weekend under the intense Campbell.

ISU’s three victories LY were against lower-echelon San Jose State (44-10), Big 12 doormat Kansas (31-24), and defenseless Texas Tech (66-10). Four Cyclone losses were sustained by 7 points or fewer. Following another year of recruiting, an encouraging spring, a few position changes, and some new additions, the demanding and always positive Campbell (35-15 in 4 years at Toledo) says he likes what he saw. “The biggest thing for us is just the culture and the ‘want-to.’ It’s a total 180 degrees from a year ago,” says the coach. “We’re young in a lot of ways, but we have some veterans who are competitors.”

Indeed, the Cyclones under Campbell’s hurry-up offense didn’t take too long to become threatening on the field. ISU produced 27.7 ppg last year overall, including 31.1 in the last nine games. Unfortunately, boosting the ISU defense was not so easy, as the Cyclones gave up 31.3. The thin, but hard-trying Iowa State defenders were bullied for 218 ypg rushing and gave up 5.0 ypc, while collecting only 19 sacks (101st in the nation) and nabbing only 13 takeaways (112th).

Some of those defensive shortcomings figure to continue at a school that must fight to merely to grab a decent share of three-star recruits while annually waving good-bye to the four and five-star athletes that head to places such as Norman and Austin in the Big 12, and to Tuscaloosa, Columbus, Ann Arbor, etc., elsewhere. While at Toledo, Campbell used a relentless offense to help protect his defenders. And that’s also the plan in Big 12 country.

The 2017 Cyclones have a chance to be even more potent this season, keeping the rabid Ames faithful plenty engaged. First of all, jr. Jacob Park now has the keys to the offense after splitting time the first seven games LY and then starting the last five. All told, the 6-4 jr. passer hit 59% last season with 12 TDs vs. 5 interceptions. Sr. Joel Lanning, who started 2016 as the No. 1 QB, has taken his physical 225 pounds to LB, where he is likely to start in the middle of the defense and from where he tallied a pick six in the spring game! Park, a former four-star signee at Georgia, is likely to be backed up by 6-3 redshirt freshman Zeb Noland.

Park will have plenty of weapons, including 6-5 sr. WR Allen Lazard (69-1018-7 LY), a literal “huge” problem for Big 12 DBs. There is also soph Deshaunte Jones, with 37 recs. and 6 TDs LY. And sr. WR/PR Trever Ryen (37 LY). And highly-regarded redshirt freshman TE Chase Allen (who turned down Michigan and others to join Campbell’s offense), who saw his career delayed by a year in 2016 after being hit by a car LY and then suffering a severe case of the mumps!

Doing the running will be 5-11, 222 soph David Montgomery (583 YR as a freshman LY) plus jr. Mike Warren, the former Cyclone star who dropped off LY after gaining 1339 LY in 2015. Warren reportedly flashed his old form in the spring.

The biggest question mark on the attack is the OL, where only soph C Julian Good-Jones started full-time LY. However, rejoining the fray is 6-8, 305 sr. Jake Campos, who has 23 career starts and was set to hold down RT last season before suffering a fractured leg in August and missing the season. On the downside, graduate transfers Khaliel Rogers (from Southern Cal) and David Dawson (from Michigan)—who for a while appeared to be heading to ISU—will not be reporting in August. But Campbell was able to cobble together a decent OL last season, and he’s likely to do so again in 2016.

However, in order to move up more than a notch or two in the league standings, ISU must cut into its 31.3 ppg allowance and at the same time increase its defensive pressure and takeaways. In addition to switching former QB Lanning to LB, Campbell has dipped into the JC ranks for help. Ray Lima, a 6-3, 310 import from the L.A. area, reported early and grabbed the NT job in the spring. It is hoped that juco DT Kamilo Tongamoa can have similar impact when he arrives in August.

The Cyclones believe they have a bona fide pair of rushers in 6-3, 260 soph “Leo” hybrid DE/LB JaQuan Bailey (3½ sacks as a freshman LY) and jr. WLB Willlie Harvey (78 Ts and 3 sacks LY).

The seasoned secondary could be a strength TY, IF the Cyclone front can get a few more early-down stops and increase pass-rush pressure, as hoped. Jr. CB Brian Peavy impressed LY in coverage with 11 passes broken up. Jr. CB D’Andre Payne also is still ascending. Sr. S Kamari Cotton-Moya (73 Ts, 2 ints.) already has a reputation as a leader and hitter, while sr. nickel Evrett Edwards (52 Ts) is very familiar with Big 12 offenses. Plus, graduate transfer DB Reggie Wilkerson arrives from Georgia to provide some experienced depth.

Summary...While a jump into the Big 12 upper echelon seems very unlikely this season, the Cyclones seem well enough equipped to push hard for their first bowl game in five years. That’s a goal set by the fiery Campbell, who wants those extra practice days in December and a little bowl spotlight to advance the ISU program. And let’s note that Campbell was 6-3 as a dog in his first season at ISU.


TEXAS TECH (SUR 5-7; PSR 8-4; O/U 6-4-2)...Few teams in the Big 12 seem to have as many questions entering 2017 as does Texas Tech. But who will be surprised if the answers this year in Lubbock to those questions turn out to be pretty much the same as last year? Not many.

Kliff Kinsgbury enters his fifth year as HC in west Texas, with 8-5 his best season, and 4-8 his worst. This year, however, he does not have dynamic playmaking QB Patrick Mahomes II at the controls to frustrate opposing defenses. Mahomes last year engineered one of the most productive seasons in history, passing for 5052 yards and 41 TDs while running for 285 yards and 12 TDs. The Red Raiders ripped for 43.7 ppg, fifth in the nation. They ranked No. 1 in passing and No. 1 in total offense.

Unfortunately, the porous TT defense gave up 43.5 ppg, which was 128th and last in the country. Seven times the Red Raiders scored 44 or more points in the game. TT lost four of those games. Eight times, Tech allowed 44 or more points. The Raiders lost 7 of the 8.

Now, there’s a “new sheriff” at the head of the TT spread. So there’s justifiable concern whether the Raiders can duplicate the Mahomes’ scoring pace. The gunslinger in the backfield is 6-3 sr. Nic Shimonek, a former Dallas-area HS QB who spent his first year at Iowa as a RS freshman walk-on. Now in his fourth year in Lubbock, Shimonek saw action in four games LY, hitting 38 of 58 with 6 TDs vs. 1 interception. Kingsbury, a four-year starter at Tech, seemed fairly impressed with the QB, who turns 23 in August. While lacking Mahomes’ escapability and ability to extend broken plays, the arm strength and decision-making of the now-mature Shimonek appeared plenty good enough to execute TT’s speed-oriented spread.

Even though Kingsbury’s program has seen a disappointing number of transfers to other schools in recent months, there seems to be little doubt that TT will be firing the pigskin around in familiar fashion, pressuring opposing defenses, and scoring plenty of points. Four starters return in the OL, which could see former four-star recruit Jack Anderson quickly earn a spot at tackle.

Top WR Jonathan Giles (69 recs. and 13 TDs LY) has decided to transfer to LSU. But three other wideouts who caught 50 or more balls LY are back, those being sr. Cameron Batson, sr. Dylan Cantrell, and jr. Keke Coutee. That trio combined for 23 TDC in 2016. Also returning is Derrick Willies, a 6-4 sr. limited to just 18 recs. LY while battling injuries.

TT’s top three RBs return, with coaches talking of a more balanced offense this season to provide more support for the new starting QB. But neither 5-10 soph Da’Leon Ward (428 YR), nor 5-7 jr. Demarcus Felton (354 YR), nor 5-10 sr. Justin Stockton was able to take the job and hold it LY. Big juco RB Desmond Nisby (about 230 pounds) arrives in August and should provide a different type of option. Tech was 123rd in rushing LY, even with Mahomes picking up 285 at QB.

Still, regardless any offensive fireworks, TT isn’t likely to contend without a substantial improvement on defense. Last year’s unit—too thin, too small in too many places, and usually on the field without much rest due to the no-huddle Raider offense—gave up the most yards in the nation (554 pg). Not to mention eight TDs in one game (a 68-55 loss at Arizona State) to one player, Sun Devil RB Kalen Ballage. Moreover, starting DT Breiden Fehoko has transferred (to LSU as well).

Last year’s group watched foes burst for 239 ypg rushing and 5.7 ypc. It collected only 14 sacks and only 5ints. (only three teams had fewer). Those are not many impact plays.

Leading the efforts to regroup will be soph LB Jordyn Brooks (6-1, 240), who hung tough to lead the defense with 86 Ts LY. He is expected to get help from LB Dakota Allen, who was the team’s No. 2 tackler in 2015, but was then kicked off the team. Allen is back in Lubbock after spending a season in the JC ranks. Jr. S Jah’Shawn Johnson was steady LY with 77 Ts and 2 picks. But that core needs lots of help in the uptempo Big 12. Juco LB Tony Jones and juco S Vaughnte Dorsey should contribute immediately. 

Junior kicker Clayton Hatfield connected on 13 of 14 FG attempts LY.

Summary...The Red Raider defense will be tested with a Game Two visit from Arizona State, a Game Three trip to Houston, and a Game Four league opener vs. Oklahoma State. New QB Shimonek—regardless of his potential—will have some erratic moments early as the starter. And the defense lacks overall speed and depth, not to mention a friendly offense to protectively gobble some clock. TT will continue to score and be a pest in any game. But even a bowl appearance TY seems out of the Raider reach without some surprises.


KANSAS (2-10; PSR 6-6; O/U 4-8)...For a team that’s gone 14-70 the last seven years (2-22 under HC David Beaty), progress has to be measured in ways that are different than for perennial contenders. Such is the case for Kansas, whose only wins in two seasons under Beaty were last year’s opener (55-6 over FCS foe Rhode Island) and a 24-21 overtime upset of Texas last Nov. 19 that put a big nail in the coffin HC Charlie Strong of the Longhorns.

The Jayhawks have only four conference wins in the last seven years. So it’s no stretch whatsoever to pick KU for last place once again. But that doesn’t mean progress isn’t being made in Lawrence. The question going into 2017 is: How much?

According to Beaty, the Jayhawks are now much better off now than they were when he took over December 6, 2014. Says the optimistic head coach, the difference in terms of talent and depth between then and now is “night and day.” Let’s review the post-spring situation unit by unit, which will reveal the talent influx to which Beaty has been referring.

At QB, competition will resume in August between 6-2 soph Carter Stanley (59.6%, 959 YP, 6 TDs, 6 ints. LY) and 6-1 juco Peyton Bender, who played in five games in 2015 as a backup at Washington State. That training under Cougar “Air Raid” coach Mike Leach could be beneficial for Bender, because the new offensive coordinator for the Jayhawks this season is Doug Meacham, a spread passing game enthusiast who spent the L3Ys at TCU.

At RB, KU has seen 2016 top rusher Ke’aun Kinner (738 YR, 5.3 ypc LY) complete his eligibility. But this year’s RB group appears improved overall. Soph Khalil Herbert (189 YR last year) and jr. Taylor Martin (324) both had good springs. But Beaty has high hopes in August for Octavius Matthews, considering by many the top juco RB recruit in the country, and true freshman Dominic Williams, a prized freshman from Texas.

At WR, top wideouts Steven Sims (72 recs., 7 TDC) and LaQuivionte Gonzalez (62 recs.) return from LY to provide a good base for the Jayhawks’ four-receiver sets, as does sr. TE Ben Johnson (10 recs.). There is also returning depth TY, plus the addition of speedy transfer Daylon Charlot, a former four-star recruit who got caught in the numbers game at Alabama, and jr. Ryan Schadler, a converted RB/KR who missed LY at KU due to injury.

OL remains a work in progress at Kansas after the team finished a lowly 116th in rushing and garnered just 3.5 ypc. However, soph Hakeem Adeniji took over at LT in 2016 as a freshman and appears to be a valuable fixture. And KU has benefited again from Alabama,, with jr. transfer Charles Baldwin likely to take over at RT. Experienced “big uglies” return at the interior OL spots. Last year’s total of 28 sacks allowed was not terrible. Thus, if someone can grab the starting QB job, the Jayhawks appear to have a good chance to improve upon LY’s 20.2 ppg (the 120th ranking in these days of wide-open offense).

And a little more help from the offense means a little less exposure for the KU defense (37.3 ppg, 236 ypg rushing, 5.2 ypc). Too often the Jayhawk defenders have been steamrolled by the league’s power teams. 2015 saw allowances of 55, 66, 58, 62, 59 and 49. 2016 witnessed yields of 55, 49, 56 and 48. A slow “improvement,” but at least in the right direction. 2017 offers the hope of further progress.

The defensive line has a chance to be a team strength this season, largely because of jr. DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., one of the best in his position TY, returning after a sophomore campaign that saw him record 10 sacks and 20 TFL. Soph DEs Josh Ehambe and Isaiah Bean showed in spring they might provide an effective rotation. And 6-3, 290 jr. DT Daniel Wise (3 sacks) is a force in the middle. Defensive stops are the first key to turning the tide.

LB depth is always a key as the season wears on, but Kansas figures to start in decent shape in its 4-2-5, as jr. Keith Loneker (43 Ts in 2016) is back. And steady jr. Joe Dineen (86 Ts in 2015) returns following a medical redshirt year after missing most of last season with a hamstring injury. Beaty’s improved recruiting has yielded true freshman LB Kyron Johnson, a speedy three-star from Texas.

And, after it yielded 26 TDP in 2016, Beaty believes his secondary will also be improved...eventually. Sr. nickel-back Derrick Neal, soph CB Kyle Mayberry and and jr. S Tyrone Miller all got their feet wet LY. Meanwhile, S Mike Lee was second on the team with 77 tackles as a freshman, with the soph giving every indication he will be an impact player in the league. Appropriately-named juco Hasan Defense was an early enrollee for spring and impressed definitively after snaring 5 ints. LY in the JC ranks.

Summary...A possible A-A at DE. Several incoming transfers from power programs. Highly-ranked incoming jucos. Promising true freshmen. Early enrollees for spring. More good athletes at more positions. Even the KU administration is helping out with a $300 million Memorial Stadium renovation, to include a valuable indoor practice space (to keep up in the “facility war,” says Beaty). Still, Kansas won’t be out of last place until the Jayhawks do it on the field. However, it should be tougher to beat the Jayhawks this season. Opening games vs. SE Missouri State, Central Michigan, and at Ohio U. give Kansas a chance to be 3-0 heading into its Big 12 opener vs. visiting West Virginia.

NEXT UP:  MAC


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