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Kansas Jayhawks Midseason Report

The Kansas Jayhawks sit at 5-2 overall, being 2-2 and sitting at 7th within the Big 12 at their bye week. So far, the Jayhawks are meeting expectations of their fanbase and insiders, as most had the Jayhawks finishing with a 7-5 or 8-4 record. There is still plenty of hope though that they can exceed these expectations, especially with what's left of their schedule. Let's have a quick rundown of what's happened so far.

vs Missouri State W 48-17
vs Illinois W 34-23
at Nevada W 31-24
Vs BYU W 38-27
at Texas L 14-40
Vs UCF W 51-22
at Oklahoma State L 32-39

The GooD

Kansas has had a ton of offensive firepower this season even without Jalon Daniels for 4 games so far. Kansas averages 35.43 points per game, which ranks 27th in the nation. Their main source of firepower? Their run game featuring Devin Neal, Daniel Hishaw, Dylan McDuffie, and Sevion Morrison. All 4 backs have had very productive years, totaling 1484 yards on 5.62 yards/rush and 212 average yards a game. They currently rank 14th in the nation there, while their pass offense is a bit more middle of the road, sitting at 71st in the nation with 231.1 yards/game. However, their passing is steadily growing, with Jason Bean letting it loose with 410 yards passing and 5 touchdowns last week versus Oklahoma State. If they can continue to build, the Jayhawks will have a more balanced offense at perhaps the most optimal time they could to save their slim Big 12 title hopes. Their offensive line has also been stout, allowing just 10 sacks and galvanizing the run game. They currently rank 32nd in NCAA Division 1.

Defensively, the Kansas secondary has been stout in both defending the pass and defending the run, with Kansas corner Cobee Bryant being ranked 2nd in run defense among all defensive backs and the unit picking off 7 passes in total.

The Kansas pass rush has also been leaps and bounds better than last year, with Austin Booker tied for the Big 12 lead in sacks. Finally, special teams has improved immensely too from last year, with Kansas punter Damon Greaves being named to the midseason Freshman-All American team and returner Trevor Wilson taking a punt to the house earlier this year versus UCF. Overall, the defense and special teams has improved a ton, but do still have a bit to go as we will see with this next section.

The Bad

For this next section, we must first address the elephant in the room, and that is Jalon Daniels's back issues. Daniels has missed 4 games due to an undisclosed back issue, an issue that has been nagging him since before the season began. While backup quarterback Jason Bean has performed quite well in Daniels's absence, you have to think that the Jayhawks miss their Preseason Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year dearly. Games such as the Oklahoma State game probably would have gone a different direction if Daniels were to play, however that is not a guarantee. Back injuries such as these are unpredictable and can affect quarterback play, which is why the Kansas coaching staff has been so conservative in playing him and keeping him on the sidelines even. This conservative nature though has left a lot of the Jayhawk faithful questioning the decision making of both Daniels and the coaching, which certainly hasn't helped anything either. Daniels is expected to play though for the upcoming game against Oklahoma, one can only hope that he will remain healthy and at peak performance given the nature of the injury and the opponent. The Jayhawks can still win with Jason Bean, yes, but having Daniels at full capacity makes for an offense that is that much stronger and more versatile. You can read more about the injury and the controversy surrounding it here.

As for the rest of the bad, Kansas still struggles defensively, mainly against stopping the run. Kansas has allowed 1128 rushing yards and 14 rushing touchdowns, which places them 93rd in the nation. An improvement from last year, yes, but still not a performance conducive to team success. The Jayhawk linebacking corps has struggled immensely keeping up with both the run and pass, with it being very telling that they're the weakest link on this defense. They're smaller and have played less disciplined than a lot of the units they've played against, which has put them at a disadvantage. Senior linebacker Craig Young has to take charge of this unit and will them to play with more tenacity, physicality, and smarts to make up for their lack of size. Finally, the offensive playcalling has been questionable at times, with Andy Kotelnicki almost getting TOO cute with certain play calls. 3rd/4th and short has not been kind to Kansas, as the Jayhawks showed last week in droves. Not only that, but Jason Bean seems to be indecisive even when showing confidence, which gives signs of confusion from a playcalling standpoint. If the Jayhawks are to win out, they must simplify and/or make better decisions with the personnel that they have. They have the ability to do so, it's just a matter of improving on what needs to be improved, which the bye week is optimal for, obviously.

The Remaining Schedule

After the bye week, Kansas will welcome Oklahoma to Lawrence for Homecoming Weekend. Oklahoma poses perhaps the biggest challenge the Jayhawks will face for the rest of the year, and not many are giving the Jayhawks a fighting chance here. While the outcome of victory seems unlikely, with Jalon Daniels coming back and the Jayhawks coming out of a bye week, this gives them the best chance to make this a game and perhaps shock the nation with a victory over the Sooners. If Jalon Daniels is at his best, the Sooners need to be on the lookout. As for the rest of the matchups this season, after Oklahoma the Jayhawks will be making the trip up to Ames to play Iowa State, who has had a roller-coaster season so far. If the Jayhawks can go into Ames with some confidence and momentum, this will make this game much easier, however this will prove to be another tough contest. Iowa State has a solid run game, which doesn't bode well for this Jayhawk defense. Then, Kansas has back to back home matchups, where they welcome Texas Tech (of whom they should handle after the disappointing season Tech has had so far and the lack of a good run game) and a Senior Day Sunflower Showdown matchup versus the Kansas State Wildcats. This matchup will be one for the ages, as the two teams are about as evenly matched as they've been in many years. Expect it to be an offensive barnburner. To cap off the season, the Jayhawks travel to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats. The Bearcats have struggled mightily in the Big 12 so far being 2-4 and still searching for their first conference win, so the Jayhawks should have no issue beating them handily. Being 5-2 and on the verge of bowl eligibility, a bowl should be almost guaranteed, but surely the Jayhawks would like to show improvement from last year's 6-7 season. Overall, it should be doable, but after the disappointing performance versus Oklahoma State, there's a lot of questions to be answered still.

Conclusion for Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks can still salvage a great season, but it starts with improving the run defense, balancing out the offense, and just having confidence in your playmakers. The bye week frankly couldn't of come at a better time, and after a bad loss no less. Lance Leipold and company have the merit, experience, and the ability to get this team right for the season's home stretch, and this team can prove still that they belong among the Big 12's best. There's a lot of pessimism surrounding this team with the losses they've suffered, but building a great program takes time. Kansas hasn't had a winning team in over a decade, people have to remember that. While the Oklahoma State loss stings because it was plenty winnable it's perhaps a wakeup call to make the improvements the Jayhawks need to make, and by next week we may be seeing a revitalized and reinvigorated Kansas squad that can compete with the best of them. Time will only tell and there's still questions to be answered, but this Kansas team has big things ahead. It's good in a way that Kansas fans can be so critical of their team, it shows that they actually have something to cheer for now. Compared to two years ago, that is a huge step for this program, you just have to keep moving forward.


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