The University of Kansas football program generated an explosion of unexpected buzz this past February by adding intriguing prospects to its 2018 recruiting class.
But 10 months later, with the NCAA’s new early-signing period for college football beginning Dec. 20, the vibe surrounding KU’s potential signees could shift drastically in the opposite direction.
Over the weekend, the biggest name tied to the Jayhawks, four-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason, decommitted from David Beaty’s program. Meanwhile, the only quarterback in KU’s class, Texas prep Clayton Tune, visited Ole Miss and currently describes Kansas as “still in the picture” for the quickly approaching signing day.
KU fans now have to hope Beaty and his staff can hold on to the high school commitments they have, with the biggest concerns being four-star cornerback Corione Harris — Jason’s prep teammate at Landry-Walker (La.) — and the group’s other remaining “Louisianimal,” running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams.
Harris announced recently he will chose between KU and Mississippi State. Williams, though, appears to have a number of programs to consider.
Sam Spiegelman, a recruiting reporter for SEC Country, spoke with Williams after his Hahnville High team lost in Louisiana’s Class 5A state title game on Saturday. The 5-foot-10, three-star running back explained how his recruitment has picked up during his remarkable senior season, capped by rushing for 1,403 yards and 14 touchdowns in five playoff games.
The speedy all-purpose back told SEC Country he not only has an offer from LSU but also Miami. Plus, Williams related, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama and Auburn have shown interest in him, as well.
“A lot of schools have come here,” Williams told SEC Country. “When you do big things, big schools come in. Nebraska, Auburn, LSU, Alabama, Miami. … I can keep naming schools.”
Williams had stated previously he planned to sign with Kansas on Dec. 20, but Spiegelman reported the Louisiana standout is considering delaying signing until February.
If the increasingly popular running back had to make a choice now, he told SEC Country he would pick the Jayhawks, to whom he committed in February after hitting it off with running backs coach Tony Hull, a Louisiana native.
“It’s still Kansas, because I’m committed to them and I gave them my word,” Williams said. “It would be hard for me to flip my word on them. It’s about loyalty and it’s like a family, so if I go somewhere, I have to feel comfortable and it’s where I can play. We’ll see who can build a family [relationship] with me and we’ll take it from there.”
A former LSU quarterback with both a high school state title and an NJCAA national championship on his résumé is examining the University of Kansas as his next potential stop.
Earlier this week, Lindsey Scott Jr., helped East Mississippi Community College — the program made famous the previous couple of years by the Netflix documentary “Last Chance U” — finish the season No. 1 in the nation. Scott completed 15 of 28 passes for 170 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, as well as 40 rushing yards, in a 31-28 victory over Arizona Western at the Mississippi Bowl, the NJCAA’s Football Championship Game.
According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham watched Scott in person on Sunday, in Perkinston, Miss., and the Jayhawks offered the QB a scholarship on Monday.
In high school, Scott led Zachary (La.) to a Class 5A state championship in 2015, and was considered by Rivals to be a three-star, dual-threat QB in the recruiting Class of 2016.
Scott signed with LSU after picking up offers from a number of programs, including Power Five schools Maryland, Rutgers, Wake Forest and Syracuse, as well as Air Force, Army, Navy, Tulane and Harvard.
A 5-foot-11, 210-pound passing and running threat, Scott transferred out of LSU this past August after spending one season in the program as a redshirt QB. According to The Advocate, he was in a battle to become LSU’s No. 2 quarterback during preseason camp.
However, Scott decided to transfer to the junior college level and play immediately. At Eastern Mississippi, within a spread offensive attack, he completed 65 percent of his 398 passes, while throwing for 3,481 yards, with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He also averaged 60.8 rushing yards a game and ran for six scores.
Now that his one fall of juco football is over, Scott has three years of eligibility remaining. The QB said during a Wednesday interview with Matt Moscona, on 104.5 FM ESPN Baton Rouge, he will visit Kansas this weekend, and follow the trip up by checking out Western Michigan.
Scott identified KU, WMU, Tulane and Texas-San Antonio as the four teams he is considering right now. In another interview, with the Biloxi Sun Herald, he said Tulane has recruited him hard since he left LSU.
Asked during his radio Q & A whether he will reach a decision this month and make it official during the new NCAA early signing period, Scott admitted he wasn’t certain. He could potentially wait until February.
“With juco recruiting things can change quickly,” Scott told ESPN Baton Rouge. “So I guess the extra time would just be beneficial to me.”
As Scott weighs his choices, he will have different styles of offenses to consider. Although Tulane runs a zone-option, he told the Sun Herald he could see himself fitting in there. But that seems to be his mentality for any system, as Scott declined to pigeonhole himself.
“I can see myself in different types of offenses,” he told ESPN Baton Rouge. “I think I’m very malleable.”
Ultimately, Scott might decide he fits best at KU if his experience during his visit to Lawrence convinces him he would be contented as a part of the rebuilding program.
“I just want somewhere that feels like home with a coaching staff that has the best interest for me,” Scott said, “and where the offense suits my skill set.”
Back before he became the No. 2 overall pick in the 2002 NFL Draft, defensive end Julius Peppers spent his football offseasons in Chapel Hill, N.C., helping the University of North Carolina’s vaunted basketball program win ACC and postseason games.
So when the Kansas basketball team this season ran into such depth issues that head coach Bill Self only played six Jayhawks 20 or more minutes in each of the first three games it stood to reason some multi-skilled athlete from the KU football team with a basketball past might become useful inside Allen Fieldhouse.
I was convinced Kansas junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. was the perfect man for the job. The 6-foot-4, 246-pound Armstrong might not be quite as imposing at the 6-7, 290-pound Peppers was, but it’s the same idea: put a freakishly athletic, muscle-bound pass-rusher on the court, let him intimidate opponents and/or wreak havoc on the rim. In other words: Grab your popcorn, sit back and enjoy.
That was basically my pitch to Armstrong recently during one of his weekly interview sessions. So had the former big man at Houston’s North Shore High, where he played on a 5A state championship team in 2014, ever entertained the idea of going back to his hoops roots at Kansas?
“Nuh-uh,” Armstrong replied, while shaking his head and grinning. “No.”
Armstrong has to be one of the most hulking individual’s on KU’s campus. And you have to admit, it seems like the basketball roster could use another big body.
“I don’t know. I don’t really get into it. My focus is all here. I feel like they’ve got everything taken care of over there,” Armstrong assessed. “So I’ll keep my focus over here and try and get this thing flipped.”
But what about Peppers? That’s proof it could work, right? The defensive end/power forward averaged 7.1 points and and 4.0 rebounds in his second (and final) basketball season at UNC (2000-01).
“No, my basketball days are over with,” Armstrong said with a laugh. “I haven’t been on the court in a minute. Can’t even run up and down that thing no more.”
Armstrong actually scored in double figures several times during his final prep season at North Shore. But as it turns out, an even more skilled basketball player existed on the KU football roster: backup sophomore tight end James Sosinski.
Longtime Self assistant Norm Roberts told his boss about Sosinski, who played previously at South Mountain Community College, in Phoenix, Ariz., after Roberts ran into the tight end’s father at a KU football game. Then Self called KU football coach David Beaty to inquire further.
“Of course David’s great, and he was totally open to him coming out,” Self added.
Armstrong never was going to be the KU basketball equivalent of Peppers at UNC, and Sosinski won’t be either. Self is giving the 6-7 former club teammate of Mitch Lightfoot a look at practices to see how the tight end might fit in and be of use in KU’s shallow front court. If it ever reaches a point where Sosinski is checking into a game for Self’s Jayhawks, the coach predicts it wouldn’t be more than “maybe a minute or two here or there,” no different than when he goes to walk-ons Clay Young and Chris Teahan.
Self revealed this won’t be the first time he borrowed some talent from a football program.
“We did it at Illinois,” Self said. “Illinois had a wide receiver who actually played in the NFL, a kid named Walter Young, and he was a good high school player. For whatever reason we were short on depth — in practice, not in games.”
Young played sparingly for Self’s Illini in the 2001-02 season, averaging 1.0 points and 2.5 minutes per game before becoming a seventh-round NFL Draft pick in 2003.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with that he played football,” Self added. “I think it was just that that was the best possibility on campus.”
Sosinski falls into the same category now for Kansas. Even though it would’ve been fascinating to see a second-team All-Big 12 defensive lineman like Armstrong out in transition for a break-away jam. We’ll just have to settle for a backup tight end.
Pretty much since the day New Orleans prep teammates Devonta Jason and Corione Harris shocked the college football recruiting world by committing to Kansas, people have openly wondered about the chances the Jayhawks have of actually signing two such highly-coveted recruits.
Much more successful programs remain in the hunt for Jason, rated a five-star receiver by Rivals, and Harris, a four-star cornerback. But, like their former high school teammate at Landry-Walker, Mike Lee, these Class of 2018 prospects have been sold on KU as a a legitimate landing spot thanks to the efforts of Louisiana native Tony Hull, the associate head coach on David Beaty’s staff.
The Kansas staff, as well as the program’s supporters, have followed Jason and Harris closely, and now that the new NCAA early signing period is in effect, we could know just what their futures hold by Dec. 20.
In order to get a different perspective on KU’s recruitment of the so-called “Louisianimals” and perhaps a better feel for whether Jason and Harris will end up playing for the Jayhawks in 2018, I reached out to Sam Spiegelman, who covers LSU and the Louisiana recruiting scene for SECCountry.com.
What did you and others who follow LSU recruiting make of Devonta Jason not making an official visit this past weekend to LSU as planned?
“This was a complicated situation,” Spiegelman said. “Jason has a tight window to get three official visits in and had only four weekends to do it. He had planned on making his way to LSU for Nov. 25, Kansas on Dec. 2 and Mississippi State on Dec. 9. That left Dec. 15 open, but he has plans with his family on the weekend right before the early signing period.”
According to Spiegelman, Jason told him and other reporters the plan all along was to make an official visit to LSU for this past weekend’s Texas A&M game. However, some miscommunication with the LSU staff led to it falling through, as the Tigers were hosting a couple of other receiving prospects, five-star Terrace Marshall Jr. and four-star Justin Watkins. The coaches didn’t want Jason to have a subpar visit because they couldn’t spend as much time with each recruit as they hoped with so many big names there at once.
“LSU’s New Orleans area recruiter Mickey Joseph spent Monday morning at Jason’s high school to try and mend fences,” Spiegelman said. “He will go in-home with the wideout on Thursday, too. Between then, expect Joseph to try and find a time for Jason to officially visit LSU, whether it replaces another visit or is a mid-week official.”
How important is this official visit Jason is making to KU this coming weekend?
“The one edge Kansas has is the level of comfort between Jason and coach Tony Hull, and that Jason’s former teammate, Mike Lee, is having so much success in Lawrence. Beyond that, Jason is very cognizant of the state of the team and the lack of on-the-field success,” Spiegelman replied.
“Jason has made his way from New Orleans to Kansas several times over the past few months, so I’m not so sure if an official visit is really going to sway him in one direction or another,” he added. “This will be about talking to the coaches, getting an idea for the direction of the program and having a chance to re-connect with Lee for a weekend.”
Other potential advantages for Beaty, Hull and KU, Spiegelman suggested, are not only the recent visit mishap with LSU, but also the coaching change at Mississippi State, where Dan Mullen left to become the head coach at Florida, and Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead took over.
“If LSU can’t lure Jason back on campus, Kansas is all of a sudden emerging as a bigger threat than even a month ago,” Spiegelman said.
Who among Jason’s other finalists — Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, West Virginia and Miami — are the biggest threat to beat out LSU and Kansas?
“Easily Mississippi State. I was close to picking State as Jason’s most likely destination after the LSU official visit went awry, but with Dan Mullen now embedded as Florida’s head coach, we need to see which members of his coaching staff will leave Starkville, Miss., and head to Gainesville, Fla.,” Spiegelman said.
“Like Kansas, State holds an edge with some of Jason’s former high school teammates on the roster. Most notably, Keytaon Thompson, Jason’s former quarterback who he won a Class 5A state championship with a year ago,” he explained. “If specific members of the coaching staff stay put on the new-look Mississippi State staff, they may emerge as the favorite leading into a Dec. 20 decision date.”
Is Jason still expected to graduate from Landry-Walker in December and enroll somewhere for the spring semester?
“Yes. He has worked very hard for more than a year to get ahead of schedule in order to graduate in December and be on campus somewhere in January,” Spiegelman responded.
What was the initial reaction in Louisiana when Jason and Harris committed to KU in February, and how, if at all, has that changed in the months since it happened?
“Initially, it was shock. Maybe even a little bit of awe,” Spiegelman revealed. “Jason, a former LSU commit, is one of the top-five prospects within the state of Louisiana. Hull made an even bigger splash landing the tandem of Jason and Corione Harris, along with Pooka Williams, Ja’Marr Chase and Aaron Brule’ in one junior day function. Later, he added Nelson Jenkins, who is now committed to LSU, and Josh Smith, another teammate of Jason’s at Landry-Walker High School, in New Orleans.”
Williams, a three-star running back per Rivals, remains part of KU’s class, as does Smith, a three-star defensive end. Chase, Brule’ and Jenkins backed out of their verbal commitments.
“It led to some early frustration among the LSU fan base, for sure,” Spiegelman related of KU’s recruiting haul. “LSU fans were calling for Hull to replace Joseph as the team’s New Orleans area recruiter and made fans envious of the Jayhawks. Jason has long been a fan favorite for his spectacular, highlight-reel catches. Chase and Williams are also big-time performers that LSU fans are craving to find their way into the Tigers’ 2018 recruiting class.”
The rabid LSU fan base, he added, probably has toned it down since, and wouldn’t lose too much sleep if both Harris and Smith end up playing at Kansas.
“Jason and Williams — not so much,” Spiegelman made clear. “I fully anticipate Williams will wind up at Kansas, assuming he qualifies academically. I can’t say the same for Jason, but if he did, the LSU fan base would not be pleased.”
Do you think it’s likely Harris and Jason are a package deal — wherever they end up?
“If they are, the I’d circle Kansas and Mississippi State as the only schools in the mix for the two,” Spiegelman said. “Jason has been a priority for the LSU coaching staff, whereas Harris — another former commit — has certainly fallen down the board a bit over the past year following his de-commitment in July, 2016.”
Jason and Harris are not just close, he added, but best friends.
“Over the past few months, it seems as if they would be comfortable going their separate ways in order to find their own best fits at a college program. However, LSU is the only school where both wouldn’t be takes,” he said. “At Kansas or State, both could be a part of the plan.”
Is Harris more likely than Jason to end up at KU?
“Absolutely. It’s probably a coin flip between Kansas and Mississippi State,” Spiegelman began. “I know he officially visited Texas and had eyed a visit to Florida, which may be in the mix now that Mullen has landed in Gainesville, Fla. But I’d say Harris has been rather loyal to the Jayhawks and is weighing a future at Kansas versus State for the most part.”
How easy is it for other coaching staffs to use KU’s record the past several seasons as an argument to get Jason and Harris to back out — and do you think that will ultimately be the result?
“That definitely is on the table, but more so other coaching staffs are going to push the proximity from New Orleans or Louisiana,” Spiegelman suggested. “Kansas is a plane ride away. You can’t drive an hour up I-10 West to Baton Rouge or three hours through Mississippi to get there. The distance from home and their families cannot be overstated, especially when schools like LSU can preach playing for your home state and for your hometown school.”
According to the Louisiana-based recruiting reporter, both Jason and Harris seem unbothered when KU’s lack of success gets brought up.
“They are very bright kids and are well aware of the records at Kansas. They have also been reprised of the fact that they could play as true freshman in the Big 12 and perhaps spearhead a turnaround for the Jayhawks,” he said. “Coach Hull has done a terrific job prioritizing both Jason and Harris and keeping them on board for this long. Whether that sticks is out of his control and more will be a product of LSU’s and Mississippi State’s continued push.”
If Jason and/or Harris ultimately flip, Spiegelman thinks it would have less to do with KU’s record over the past several seasons and more to do with the overall stability of a more prominent program.
“There are more constants at, say, an LSU or a Mississippi State or a Florida, because of the program’s football history,” he offered. “Both prospects are going to go where they are wanted the most and they have done a great job entertaining all of their options, Kansas included, leading into Dec. 20.”
The “Where’s Daylon Charlot?” game — a popular pastime these past several months for those who follow Kansas football — took an interesting turn this past weekend when the former Alabama wide receiver wore a No. 7 KU football uniform against Kansas State, instead of his former No. 2 jersey.
Most observers entered the 2017 season expecting Charlot, a four-star high school recruit out of Patterson, La., talented enough to sign with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, to become a playmaker within KU’s Air Raid offense in his first year of eligibility with the Big 12 program. Or at least have a chance to make a positive impact.
However, Charlot only caught one pass (for no yardage) in the first Kansas loss of the season, to Central Michigan. In the weeks that followed, he fell even deeper down the depth chart and never made his way onto the field unless he was back deep for a kickoff return (the 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore has three returns on the season and averages 18.7 yards per special teams touch).
But wearing a completely different number, one shared by KU quarterback Peyton Bender, signaled another twist in the Charlot saga. A receiver can’t have the same number on his jersey as a quarterback, so either the newly-benched Bender had moved to defense or the seldom-used Charlot had a new position.
The latter, of course, was true. Although Charlot is too new to the defensive backfield to be trusted with game reps, he is now playing safety for the Jayhawks (1-7 overall, 0-5 Big 12).
Why didn’t it work out for Charlot at receiver, where everyone from expected top target Steven Sims Jr., to true freshman Quan Hampton, to junior college transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. made much more of a difference for the offense? That’s a topic offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham didn’t want to fully dive into.
“I don’t know. I think we just really needed some safeties. And he’s not really playing much for us, so … that’s probably all I can say on that one,” Meacham responded Thursday during his weekly session with media. “He kind of wanted to, also. I think it was like ‘I’m not really getting a whole lot over here. I know there’s a need for safety.’”
Indeed, KU defensive coordinator and safeties coach Clint Bowen said Charlot sought out the switch, initiating that discussion with head coach David Beaty.
“It’s just a situation where he wasn’t getting reps over there,” Bowen said, “so you just take a look to see if he has a skill set to play on our side of the ball.”
It’s too early to tell, Bowen added, just what kind of defensive back Charlot could become for Kansas.
“Yeah, that takes time. It does, unfortunately, at safety in this league,” Bowen said. “It takes reps and time and a feel. There’s just a lot of things that you have to see over and over and over to create your reactions the way they need to be, because you can get fooled in this league.”
So don’t expect to see Charlot on the field for Bowen’s defense anytime soon, unless KU is in the late stages of a blowout or a rash of injuries severely attacks the team’s safety depth.
Perhaps we will learn more down the road about why Charlot didn’t fit as a receiver. For the time being, give credit to the young player for taking himself out of his comfort zone and trying something different.
“These kids, they want to play,” Bowen said. “They came here to play in games and succeed. My take on the kid is he just wants to get on the field and do what he can to help the team. He seems to be that type of guy, that he just wants to get on the field and play.”
Football coaches and coordinators have no incentive to divulge their game plans publicly, and that’s the primary reason Kansas head coach David Beaty elected this week to not announce a starting quarterback for Saturday’s game at Iowa State.
If you listen to offensive coordinator Doug Meacham’s perspective on the matter, though, the decision may have been an easy one.
Speaking with reporters Thursday, Meacham discussed how the staff came to a conclusion early in the week on whether Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley would hold the No. 1 QB spot at ISU (11 a.m. kickoff, FOX Sports Net), instead of letting it play out at practices.
“The team knows the plan. We’ve got a plan. We kind of like to keep it a little bit more internal to have that element of (Iowa State) not knowing,” Meacham began, regarding Beaty’s strategy.
So did either Bender or Stanley show the coaches something early in the week to end the QB debate ahead of schedule?
“It’s just a body of work over the course of time, you know. You still reflect back on that,” the first-year KU coordinator said. “I think Peyton was just going through a little bad spell there (in the loss to Texas Tech). I don’t think he’s necessarily just crummy for life.”
In theory, it’s possible Meacham could be floating the idea of Bender starting — without actually saying the junior transfer is still the starter — as a ploy to throw off the Cyclones (3-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12). But the more he spoke at his weekly media session, the more it seemed he’s not ready to move on from Bender.
A 6-foot-1 junior with past Air Raid experience at both Washington State and Itawamba Community College (Miss.), Bender at numerous times through five games has dumbfounded his coaches with mistakes. For example, Bender misfired on goal-line throws to both tight end Earl Bostick and receiver Jeremiah Booker just before halftime against the Red Raiders. KU’s coaches decided shortly after to play Stanley at QB the rest of the blowout loss.
“When he overthrew a 6-7 tight end (freshman Bostick, listed at 6-6) on the goal line I was a little nervous about throwing verticals,” Meacham said, with a wry chuckle. “Six-seven and he overthrows him. How do you do that?”
Bender’s two quarters worth of stats read: 12-for-24 passing, 146 yards, one touchdown, one interception, no sacks.
“He just had a bad day,” Meacham said. “You know, it’s like you shoot layups and all the sudden you miss five out of 10. Hard to answer why. You just keep shooting them.”
It was Bender’s fluctuating success that led to Stanley (11-for-19, 110 yards, no touchdowns, one interception, one sack, one lost fumble) finishing the fourth straight loss for Kansas (1-4, 0-2) instead of just entering for certain packages designed around his strengths as a mobile QB.
But the highs and lows of Bender’s play were nothing new.
“He’s just had moments of inconsistency that kind of come out of nowhere,” Meacham said. “We’ve just got to deal with it. There’s a lot of things that factor into it that kind of take the blame and kind of spread it around a little bit.”
While fans might see Bender throw the ball and have it picked off — through four and a half games of action he has completed 56.4 percent of his 202 passes while suffering eight interceptions — Meacham said a missed protection or bad route have led to some of the costly turnovers.
“Or a tipped ball,” Meacham continued. “Tipped ball, and then maybe a tipped ball. I see tipped balls all the time, from the line of scrimmage or wherever. It just seems like all the time somebody grazes the ball — I almost want to tell our guys, ‘If you don’t think you can catch it just put your hands down.’ Because we touch one, they pick it and then they score.”
A not-so-supercut of Bender’s interceptions, Meacham suggested, would leave a viewer scratching one’s head.
“That’s just like, how does that happen consistently?” Meacham said of tipped passes becoming takeaways for KU opponents. “Just freakish stuff.”
A deflection, of course, had nothing to do with a second-quarter Bender throw over the middle against Texas Tech, which Dakota Allen snagged out of the air, setting up a quick Red Raiders TD drive.
“He under-threw it. Ben (Johnson) was wide open,” Meacham said. “(Bender) just kind of panicked a little bit. If you watch the tape from the end zone the linebacker’s feet were like (more than 3 feet) off the ground, made the greatest interception of his entire life. He’ll never do that again. He jumps up in the air and just … unbelievable.”
While inaccuracy obviously has played a factor in Bender’s struggles, Meacham said he doesn’t necessarily judge the starter of KU’s first five games as an eight-interception QB.
“No, if he had (eight) picks legit and was on the wrong guy, made a horrific throw over a guy’s head and the safety picked it or he under-threw a ball or he threw it right to them (eight) times he wouldn’t be playing at all,” the man in charge of KU’s Air Raid said. “It’s just, he’s had about three of them that weren’t very good, and the rest of them are just … it’s unbelievable some of the stuff.”
Bender hasn’t produced at the level Meacham and the rest of KU’s offensive coaches hoped. That doesn’t mean they’re ready to move on from him and hand the offense over to Stanley.
“I keep thinking about the sweet’s not as sweet without a little sour,” Meacham offered, regarding how he handles the inconsistencies and turnovers. “Can’t always be good.”
Believe it or not, there may be a Saturday in the future when Kansas football fans don’t feel inspired to file a missing persons report for receiver Daylon Charlot.
A much-hyped sophomore who transferred to KU from Alabama, Charlot expected to put up gaudy numbers and star alongside Steven Sims Jr. in the Jayhawks’ Air Raid offense this season.
However, as a borderline second- or third-string wideout during KU’s 1-3 start, Charlot has experienced few in-game reps. A third of the way through the season, the 6-foot, 195-pound, former four-star recruit has made just one catch for zero yards — a reception that didn’t amount to anything versus Central Michigan. The names of 13 Jayhawks (four of them running backs) appear before Charlot’s on a list of the team’s most productive receivers.
So why should we expect anything to change on the “Where’s Charlot?” front? It’s possible he could be on the path to a breakout game in the near future.
Look to Khalil Herbert’s head-scratching rush totals from earlier this season — one carry for 4 yards vs. Southeast Missouri State; two rushes for 6 yards against Central Michigan. The numbers puzzled at the time but look even more outrageous now, following outings of 137 and 291 yards for the sophomore running back.
Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said Thursday Herbert was “not really” healthy the first couple of weeks and didn’t practice well, either.
Asked whether similar circumstances have kept Charlot off the field, KU’s Air Raid expert and receivers coach said practice habits and some injury-related physical limitations held back the Patterson, La., native.
“Yeah, Daylon’s kind of a combination. He’s been nicked up as well. He’s doing so much better now out at practice. He had a really good day yesterday, I thought,” Meacham said. “As a coach, that’s what our job is, to assess what you see, and put a guy in based on what he’s doing. You’re going to get what you see.”
There was a time just a few weeks ago when Herbert hadn’t given coaches enough reasons at practices to use him more during games.
“I know a lot of people are like, ‘Yeah, you’re really smart. The guy rushed for 300 yards and he was on the bench.’ But the thing that fans, I urge them to kind of take a look at, is that they’re not at any of our practices,” Meacham explained. “They don’t see any of our kids day-to-day. They have no idea why. You can only assume, which is fine. Because if we didn’t have fans, we wouldn’t have a job, so I appreciate every dadgum one of them. But we’re making decisions based on practice. And I hadn’t seen (Herbert) play in a game yet, but I’d seen him in practice a lot, and he just didn’t look very good.”
Meacham said KU’s coaches have since learned Herbert is a “gamer,” and now they’re seeing him practice “a lot better,” as well, because his confidence is growing.
The man in charge of KU’s offense didn’t claim Charlot will be able to reproduce Herbert’s trajectory to a starring role, but there’s no denying the former Alabama receiver and other Jayhawks now have an easy example to follow if they want to burst out of the depth chart’s lowest rungs.
No, Carter Stanley is not about to supplant Peyton Bender as the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback. But head coach David Beaty said the redshirt sophomore backup will play a factor in KU’s Big 12 opener versus West Virginia.
The Jayhawks used Stanley in a limited capacity at Ohio. Late in the second quarter, on a touchdown drive, the former KU starter made his season debut in a short-yardage scenario.
Stanley, the 6-foot-2, 196-pound QB with more rushing ability and mobility than Bender, was credited with two rushes for just two yards. Still, one short carry came on fourth-and-1, before Bender re-entered and threw a touchdown pass to Chase Harrell.
“I thought what he did do when he went in there was very positive,” Beaty said of Stanley, who started the final three games of 2016 for Kansas. “He did a nice of job really straining to get that first down on that fourth down. No hesitation to him, seeing him going in there and doing that.”
The coach claimed the Jayhawks would like to sub in Stanley in other scenarios moving forward, not just when the first-down marker is a few yards away.
“We actually like him everywhere,” Beaty said. “We’ve got an even bigger package for him this week.”
Ohio’s 18-0 lead, Beaty asserted, kept KU (1-2) from playing Stanley even more in the nonconference finale. While such a declaration could be pure posturing, an attempt to float toward WVU (2-1) another wrinkle for which to prepare, the third-year head coach avowed the Jayhawks’ No. 2 QB will get on the field more often Saturday at Memorial Stadium (11 a.m. kickoff, ESPNU).
“We would have loved to have seen him a little bit more the other day, because of what we have in him, the plan for him, is going to be very helpful for us,” Beaty added.
Whatever Stanley’s role may be this weekend and beyond, his head coach said the QB has been “unbelievable” in his new, less prominent post.
“This guy was the starter here last year. He beat Texas,” Beaty stated. “He came in with a lot of accolades and hopes about coming in and being the starter, and for him to handle himself the way he has, I mean, I cannot be more impressed with him. And he's not satisfied. He wants to play. But he also wants to win. So, very, very impressed with Carter Stanley. He's going to get on the field a lot more for us, no doubt about it.”
Stanley was requested for an interview Tuesday, but according to a KU official, had a class conflict. His teammates, though, say he manages his duties well.
“I feel like he’s handling it really good,” fellow redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell said. “You don’t ever see Carter down or in a bad mood. Carter’s a really good guy for that and he’s always trying to improve, watching film and stuff. You can tell he wants that No. 1 spot. He’s on his way up.”
— PODCAST: KU football’s offense is not the problem
This week’s Q&A is with sophomore left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, from Garland, Texas, who has started all 14 games of his college career heading into the Kansas football team’s road opener at Ohio.
Q: Obviously Saturday night’s loss against Central Michigan was disappointing, but then you come back Sunday and get right back to work. How intense are those meetings with offensive line coach Zach Yenser as he breaks things down for you?
A: Coach, he’s not really an ‘I’m gonna yell at you and chew you out type of guy.’ Because he knows what we’re about and that we know what we want to get done. So we just kind of go over things and go over our mistakes and what we need to focus on in practice in the upcoming week.
Q: So it’s more of a learning environment in that setting. Is Yenser more fired up on the sidelines?
A: During practice coach gets pretty fired up, but he does a good job of keeping his cool for the most part.
Q: What proved to be the biggest issues against Central Michigan when you reviewed the video? What areas of concern kept popping up for the O-line?
A: It’s a lot of mental stuff, I feel like. We’ve got some younger guys on the line and we’ve got to do a better job of encouraging them and keeping your composure, because we’ve got some talented guys there. It’s going to take a little bit of time, because experience is probably the most important thing in playing. I feel like as they continue to get more reps and more snaps then I think their game will just elevate.
Q: That right side of the line is less experienced, with right guard Chris Hughes and right tackle Antione Frazier each having started just two games. As a leader, how do you try to help those guys along?
A: When I’m watching film I like to give them a little breakdown here or there if I see something, if I see certain tips. When we’re out practicing, especially Antione, I’ll try and tell hims something he can tweak, whether it’s in his stance or technique-wise that he can do to make himself better.
Q: Right now are you all finding more success in pass-blocking or run-blocking? Is it close?
A: It’s hard to really say. I feel like we’ve had ups and downs in both of them. But I feel like we’re continuing to improve.
Q: What are the biggest challenges going to be for the offensive linemen this week at Ohio? How much have you all got into their defensive front and the kind of things they might try to do?
A: We played them, obviously, last year (a 37-21 home loss), and it’s the same front pretty much. And I’m probably going to get in touch with Coach (Jesse Williams, KU’s defensive line coach who left Ohio to join David Beaty’s staff), since he recruited pretty much all of those guys. I feel like that could be a really huge advantage for us. But they’re a really good D-line from what we’ve watched, and we’re just going to have to come ready, for sure.
Q: How much have you all discussed being the team that finally ends the program’s road losing streak — 41 consecutive in opponents’ stadiums, 44 overall away from Lawrence?
A: We really don’t discuss it at all. But it definitely would be really good to do that. To go out there in another environment and win would be great, especially for the plane ride home. At the end of the day it’s about winning and coming back with that win. Regardless of if it’s at home or on the road, it’s something we need to do.
Two weeks into the season, the Kansas football team’s offense has not yet achieved the type of results coordinator Doug Mecham’s Air Raid scheme is designed to produce.
But fans combing through the debris of a 45-27 home loss to Central Michigan in search of some signs of encouragement could choose to cling to this: the Jayhawks appear to have a plan for fourth downs.
The days of indecision and calling timeouts to determine whether to punt, kick a field goal or go for it just might be behind KU, now that Meacham is calling the plays.
“We have a lot of data that gives us a read on when to and when not to,” KU’s first-year coordinator and receivers coach explained this past week.
Meacham said as a drive progresses, members of the staff will let him know what a chart of percentages says about a given situation on the field.
“There’s a lot of math involved, a lot of data involved in when and when not to. It’s kind of like when you go to Vegas, you know the blackjack card, when to take a hit. We kind of have that for fourth downs,” he said. “They let me know. And it helps me because on third down I can maybe do something that is a little abstract, because I know I’ve got another one.”
So far this year it has worked to KU’s favor. The Jayhawks are 5-for-6 on fourth downs, an 83.3-percent success rate, which ranks 28th nationally among FBS teams. Only Miami (Ohio), Pittsburgh, UMass, Syracuse, Idaho, East Carolina, Virginia, San Jose State and Hawaii have attempted more fourth-down conversions, with eight being the most.
“We’re just gonna go,” Meacham said. “We have speed-ball plays in line for fourth, we’ve got normals and we’ve got a fourth-down plan. We’ll probably go for it on fourth more than the average team will.”
Against Central Michigan, those words proved factual, as Kansas found prosperity on four of its five fourth-down tries.
The first came in the second quarter. On fourth-and-four at the CMU 31-yard line, junior quarterback Peyton Bender found senior tight end Ben Johnson for a seven-yard gain — a play which Meacham didn’t hesitate to signal in.
Later, in the third quarter, with KU trailing 31-20, Meacham called upon freshman running back Dom Williams to convert on fourth-and-one at Central Michigan’s 45, which Williams did, with a four-yard rush.
The other three attempts came in the final quarter. Just one yard across midfield, on fourth-and-10 and trailing 38-20, Bender connected with junior receiver Ryan Schadler on a 15-yard pass.
Next, with the CMU lead up to 45-27, Kansas went for it on its own 42, and Bender threw to redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell for nine yards on fourh-and-six.
KU’s run of fourth-down success didn’t end until the final minutes, in desperation mode from its own 32. On fourth-and-11, Bender’s pass to Schadler only picked up nine yards.
According to Meacham, he prefers assertive tactics on fourth downs.
“It’s probably a little bit more aggressive than your norm. Than what the norm is, I guess,” he said. “It’s just like if I coached baseball I’d probably steal a lot more than a lot of these guys do. I mean, make them make a play. You go for it on fourth down. Make them make a play. You punt or try a 48-yard field goal, that’s just kind of a buzzkill to me. Let’s just go.”
KU also converted on fourth down against Southeast Missouri State, in Week 1. At the SEMO 25-yard line, on fourth-and-one, Bender hit Harrell for a nine-yard gain.
Any time head coach David Beaty asks Meacham what the Jayhawks should do, he knows what his response will be.
“I’m going to say ‘go,’ every time,” Meacham said. “You cross that 50, let’s go.”
Beaty pointed to KU’s fourth-down triumphs after the CMU loss as one of the few silver linings.
“I’d just like us to do it on third down so we don’t get to fourth,” the third-year KU head coach added. “But the analytics that we use is something that’s paying off for us.”
— Below is a list of fourth-down positions in which Kansas punted or kicked a field goal during the first two games.
SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE
- Own 24, fourth-and-six: punt
Own 49, fourth-and-11: punt
SEMO 49, fourth-and-13: punt
Own 5, fourth-and-15: punt
Own 37, fourth-and-14: punt
Own 47, fourth-and-seven: punt
CMU 6, fourth-and-goal: Gabriel Rui 23-yard field goal good
Own 25, fourth-and-10: punt
Own 13, fourth-and-11: punt
CMU 16, fourth-and-13: Rui 33-yard field goal good
- CMU 41, fourth-and-10: punt (down 31-20, late in quarter)
- CMU 19, fourth-and-10: Rui 37-yard field goal missed wide right