Does the losing record show hope for the Jayhawks?
By Dylan Gehlbach
The Kansas football team is improving.
This is what the Kansas football public relations representatives will have you believe, at least. But I agree with them. Sure, our record is worse than what it was last year, but there have been many more bright spots as of late this season than there were last season. If you don’t believe me, fine. But there are some things that the Jayhawks have done this year that have exhibited growth for this team.
This is basically a team that is operating without a functioning quarterback. A week ago, Kansas set a record for fewest pass attempts in a college football; and almost won against a Top 25 Texas team. That has to show the strength of our running game on offense. James Sims is a beast, and he will be back next year. This is a man that will probably end up in the NFL in a couple of years. Then there’s Tony Pierson who is nearly always the fastest player on the field. Pierson is not completely healthy, but he can still contribute. If he starts next season healthy and Charlie Weis uses him effectively, he and Sims will wreak havoc on other Big 12 teams.
Then there is the Kansas defense. Last year, they were easily the worst defensive unit in the Big 12; almost the worst in all of the FBS They had given up the most third down conversions in the Big 12, and most Big 12 teams did not face third down very often against the Jayhawks. This year, their overall defense is ranked 97th. Not fantastic, but better than Texas, West Virginia, and Baylor (who is dead last in total defense in the FBS). Dave Campo has done a great job with this defense, that has held Top 25 teams like Oklahoma State and Texas to 20 and 21 points in a game, respectively. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that this defense will not improve more in the next year under Dave Campo.
The special teams for Kansas has been dreadful at times. Kansas does not have a kicker that can make a field goal outside of 35 yards. Their kicker cannot reach the endzone for a touchback. Kansas allowed Oklahoma to run back a kick off AND a punt in the same game. With that said, this has challenged the rest of the special teams players. They have been put in difficult situations and have been able to make do. If Kansas can recruit a solid kicker next year, the special teams squad will have an easier job to do. Not only that, Kansas will be able to kick more field goals without having to put so much pressure on an exclusively four-down offense within 50 yards.
The quarterback and wide receiver situation is not good. That’s being generous. No receiver has scored a touchdown this season. Not one. There have been four touchdowns through the air, all caught by tight ends. Four. But there is a light at the end of this dark and dreary tunnel. Jake Heaps could take this program to the next level. I know that Kansas fans are wary to think like this, and rightfully so after Dayne Crist’s dismal season. But Heaps has already had some success at the college level. In his freshman year at BYU, Heaps shattered previous quarterback records. Though he went through a sophomore slump and was benched, he may be an average or better quarterback, which would be a HUGE improvement. The Jayhawks will also have a proven receiver in Justin McKay next season. With such a strong running game, all Kansas really needs is a quarterback to make a completion on third and eight, and a receiver that will occasionally… I don’t know… CATCH a touchdown pass.
I’m not going to tell you that Kansas will have a better record than they did last season. They won’t. But all of the pieces are in place to put together a MUCH improved team for next year. You may doubt it, and that’s fair. But let’s hope, for the pride of the school, that Kansas and Charlie Weis can finally change the momentum of this football program at the University of Kansas.