Posts tagged with Kansas Football

Former KU teammates Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib reunited with Broncos

Kansas receiver Charles Gordon pulls in a long pass from quarterback Jason Swanson under the coverage of Colorado safety Tyrone Henderson in the first quarter of the KU-CU game Saturday in Boulder, Colo., in October, 2005.

Kansas receiver Charles Gordon pulls in a long pass from quarterback Jason Swanson under the coverage of Colorado safety Tyrone Henderson in the first quarter of the KU-CU game Saturday in Boulder, Colo., in October, 2005. by Nick Krug

Before Kansas football great Aqib Talib made the No. 3 jersey his own in Lawrence, wowing spectators in Memorial Stadium with his prowess in the secondary, Charles Gordon did the same.

Donning the very same No. 3 on his chest and back and drawing the adulation of the KU faithful as both a defensive back and receiver, Gordon was the Talib prototype for Mark Maningo’s teams in advance of people knowing about the future NFL Pro Bowler, Talib.

Gordon and Talib spent one season together at KU, on a 2005 team that went 7-5 and beat Houston in the Fort Worth Bowl. Now the two get a chance to team up under different circumstances in the NFL. The Denver Broncos have hired Gordon as a defensive quality control assistant.

The move to the pro ranks for Gordon came after the former Jayhawks standout spent four seasons on Northern Colorado’s staff at the college level, coaching defensive backs on Earnest Collins’ staff. A former KU assistant from 2003-06, Collins coached Gordon on special teams and in the secondary for Mangino’s teams.

"Anytime you run a program you want your coaches to excel and move on," Collins said in a UNC release about Gordon’s new job with Denver. "When you had a player that played for you, like Chuck did for me, and then also worked for you moving on to bigger and better things – it's like a family member moving on, or a son in a sense. I'm thankful for everything Coach Gordon did for me while he was here and I'm proud to see him moving into a new role with the Broncos."

Gordon was a two-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection (2004 and 2005) at KU, and earned Third-Team All-American AP honors in 2004. He was also a First-Team Freshman All-American in 2003, after catching 57 passes for 769 yards and 5 touchdowns.

In his three seasons at Kansas, prior to turning pro, Gordon caught 106 passes for 1,232 yards and 9 touchdowns on offense, and made nine interceptions on defense, while averaging 10.4 yards on his 99 punt returns.

The 5-foot-11 corner spent three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before suffering a career-ending leg injury in 2008. Gordon started six games in the NFL, and made 2 interceptions and 64 tackles.

KU's Charles Gordon (3) breaks up an intended pass in the first half against Louisiana Tech's Johnathan Holland (7), in September, 2005.

KU's Charles Gordon (3) breaks up an intended pass in the first half against Louisiana Tech's Johnathan Holland (7), in September, 2005. by Richard Gwin

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The other guys: A look at less heralded KU football additions for 2017

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Not every prospect who made his commitment to the Kansas football program official on National Signing Day comes to the team with the buzz of a highly-rated skill player.

But head coach David Beaty took time Wednesday to compliment every player in the 2017 class whom he could officially announce — from four-star running back Dom Williams, December signee and potential starting quarterback Peyton Bender, to in-state players who most likely will join the program as walk-ons. (Remember: Beaty and KU chose not to distinguish publicly which players signed scholarships and which will pay their own way.)

— AUDIO: Beaty breaks down KU’s 2017 recruits

In total, Kansas announced eight future Jayhawks who don’t have any stars attached to their names on recruiting websites, such as Rivals. That’s not a bad thing. Beaty and his staff need unheralded players, too. Once they get to KU and start practicing, you never know what kind of impact they might have, either at practices or in games down the line.

Below are highlights of the “other guys” from this Kansas recruiting class, accompanied by what Beaty had to say about each of them.

• K Cole Brungardt, Lawrence H.S., Kansas (6-5, 200)

  • Beaty: Has a really strong leg and can knock it out of the end zone. Could be a weapon from a touchback standpoint.

• DL Sam Burt, Abilene H.S., Kansas (6-4, 240)

  • Beaty: KU coaches think he could do things for them on offense or defensive line. Should have some flexibility.

• S Nick Caudle, Maur Hill Prep-Mount Academy, Kansas (6-0, 185)

  • Beaty: Announced after Beaty’s press conference.

• WR Hunter Kaufman, Pratt H.S., Kansas (5-11, 170)

  • Beaty: Has great vision and uses his speed to make big plays. Hard to catch and bigger than you think.

• TE/HB Moses Marshall IV, Erie C.C., New York (6-3, 230)

  • Beaty: KU needs to replace Michael Zunica at H-back and Marshall could be the player to do that. Big enough to play tight end but can line up in backfield.

• FB/HB Quinton McQuillan, Lansing H.S., Kansas (6-2, 225)

  • Beaty: Another possibility at H-back, where KU needs depth. “Hard-nosed dude.” Will run over you.

• TE/HB Sam Schroeder, Wichita Trinity Academy, Kansas (6-0, 225)

  • Beaty: Does hard-nosed, “dirty” stuff you need and another possible H-back. Can be someone to plug in on special teams.

• OL Jack Williams, Argyle H.S., Texas (6-3, 270)

  • Beaty: Strong lineman from Texas, and played in a tough 4A league. Can get out on screens and keep control of his body.

Other preps will make their way to KU, likely as walk-ons initially, too. Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant confirmed two other additions on signing day — one from Alabama, and the other from California.

• FB Kashe Boatner, Glenwood H.S., Alabama (6-1, 230)

• WR Alec Oshita, Mira Costa H.S., California (6-2, 190)


Additionally, the father of a prospect from Cleveland told me he plans to join Kansas as a walk-on.

• S Thomas Barrett, Saint Ignatius H.S., Ohio (6-1, 200)

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National Signing Day: Meet KU football’s 2017 recruiting class

February 1, 2017 — College football National Signing Day

February 1, 2017 — College football National Signing Day

Within the college football universe, few offseason dates carry the weight and excitement of National Signing Day. Even for a reconstructing program such as Kansas, the future possibilities that accompany an influx of new blood are more than enough to invigorate coaches and the most loyal members of a longsuffering fan base.

Twelve recruits were expected to sign with third-year head coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks Wednesday, but a 13th emerged. This blog served as KUsports.com’s headquarters for keeping up with all the players, as they made their football futures official.

Check back in throughout signing day for more photos and reactions as they come in, and watch the highlight videos, accompanied by Rivals rankings, from the newest class of KU football players below.

Beaty will have a press conference to discuss all the recruits publicly for the first time at 1 p.m., too. We’ll share the more interesting tidbits from that session on Twitter in real time, and a recap story will follow later in the day.

Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy National Signing Day — and click refresh every once and a while for updates.

Signing Day checklist: Who is officially on board?

Latest update: 11:36 a.m.

None by David Beaty

√ Earl Bostick (OL/DL)

— The last recruit to commit to KU was the first to make it official. Bostick signed early Wednesday morning, as confirmed by Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant.

None by David Beaty

√ Antonio Cole (CB)

— The lone junior college prospect to join KU today, Cole signed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He spent 2016 as a standout at Highland Community College.

None by David Beaty

√ Jay Dineen (LB)

— The local linebacker got to sleep in a little on Signing Day because of a late start at Free State, but Dineen sent his documentation KU’s way shortly after rolling out of bed.

Free State High linebacker Jay Dineen signs his National Letter of Intent with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

Free State High linebacker Jay Dineen signs his National Letter of Intent with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

None by Jay Dineen

√ Joey Gilbertson (OL)

— The big in-state offensive lineman made his commitment to Kansas official at a signing ceremony before school at Wichita Northwest.

Wichita Northwest offensive lineman Joey Gilbertson poses for photos after signing with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

Wichita Northwest offensive lineman Joey Gilbertson poses for photos after signing with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

√ Quan Hampton (WR)

— The athletic receiver made his commitment official just after 7 a.m., a couple hours before Hampton’s signing day ceremony at Texas High, in Texarkana.

Texarkana, Texas, receiver Quan Hampton signs with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

Texarkana, Texas, receiver Quan Hampton signs with Kansas football, on Feb. 1, 2017.

None by David Beaty

√ Liam Jones (K)

— Ranked among the top 20 senior kickers in the country by Kohl’s News, Jones had a signing ceremony Wednesday morning at Chocktaw High, in Oklahoma.

Chocktaw High (Oklahoma) senior kicker Liam Jones makes his commitment to Kansas football official on National Signing Day, Feb. 1, 2017.

Chocktaw High (Oklahoma) senior kicker Liam Jones makes his commitment to Kansas football official on National Signing Day, Feb. 1, 2017.

None by Choctaw Times

√ Travis Jordan (WR/Athlete)

— The Louisiana native recruited by KU running backs coach Tony Hull put his pen to paper at John Ehert High, in Marrero, Louisiana.

None by Leslie Spoon WWL-TV

None by TravisJordan....

√ Octavius Matthews (RB)

— An unexpected addition to the signing class, running back Octavius Matthews, from Itawamba Community College, joined the Jayhawks on National Signing Day. Matthews reportedly had offers from Auburn and Louisville, too.

The KU coaches have December signee Peyton Bender, a juco teammate of Matthews, to thank for getting the three-star rusher to Lawrence. Matthews told Kirby and Jayhawk Slant the QB pitched KU to the RB.

“Peyton told me he thought it would be the best fit for me,” Matthews told Jayhawk Slant. “We were next to each other in the backfield in junior college and he said we could do the same things at KU.”

None by octavius.M

None by David Beaty

√ Cooper Root (LB)

The Wichita Collegiate linebacker looking to help the home state program made his commitment official, according to Jayhawk Slant.

√ Kenyon Tabor (WR)

— The stud Derby receiver had his papers ready to send to KU hours before his signing day ceremony. Tabor picked the Jayhawks over rival Kansas State.

"It's very exciting," Tabor told the Journal-World. "I can't wait."

None by David Beaty

√ Robert Topps (CB)

A cornerback from Chicago with length, Topps signed his papers early and told Jayhawk Slant he had his Kansas gear ready to go for his ceremony.

None by David Beaty

√ Dominic Williams (RB)

— The biggest name in KU’s recruiting class, Williams, a 4-star running back from Texas, stuck with the Jayhawks for more than a year, despite picking up additional offers from other Power Five programs. He signed his papers before his school day began at Independence High, in Frisco, Texas.

"It feels good," Williams told the Journal-World. "No more stress."

You can tell how fired up Beaty and the staff were to land Williams, as seen in their FaceTime conversation, tweeted out this morning by Kansas football.

None by Kansas Football

None by David Beaty

√ Takulve Williams (WR)

— The New Orleans native signed his papers at St. Augustine High, with his prep coaches, around 11 a.m., making him one of the final official additions.


Earl Bostick

2-star OL/DL | 6-foot-6, 260 pounds | Barnwell, South Carolina (Barnwell High)

What to like from the highlights: Bostick, who could end up playing either offensive or defensive line at Kansas, is massive and fairly athletic. You can envision him being able to carry much more weight on his frame without losing too much mobility. He plays basketball, too, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise when you see how well he moves his feet for a 6-6 lineman. Bostick looked pretty nimble lined up as a high school tight end, as well.

Antonio Cole

3-star CB | 6-foot-1, 190 pounds | Edmond, Oklahoma (Highland Community College)

What to like from the highlights: Credit to whomever cut together Cole’s reel. It starts with a flash, with the defensive back intercepting a pass and speeding off for a long return before his opponents have time to react. The 6-1 corner not only has size in the secondary, a needed asset in the Big 12, but he also makes subtle and effective moves with the ball in his hands, as seen in his various picks and returns. His anticipation from the second level stands out, too, whether that comes by breaking on a pass route or closing in on a ball carrier.

Jay Dineen

2-star LB | 6-foot-2, 225 pounds | Lawrence, Kansas (Free State High)

What to like from the highlights: These clips are from Dineen’s junior season, so he’s actually bigger — and maybe a little faster — than his video indicates. The linebacker’s decisiveness made him a great run-stopper at the high school level, and he often finished tackles and quarterback hurries with a powerful pop. The guy loves playing football, and some who followed his prep career closely think he could become just as effective at the college level as his older brother, KU linebacker Joe Dineen.

Joey Gilbertson

2-star OL | 6-foot-4, 290 pounds | Wichita, Kansas (Wichita Northwest High)

What to like from the highlights: At Wichita Northwest, Gilbertson created big running lanes for his teammates and often overpowered the man in front of him. By working with KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser and getting even stronger in the years ahead, he could end up being an ideal veteran offensive lineman for the Jayhawks. There’s no better way to bring stability to the O-line than getting young guys and developing them.

Quan Hampton

3-star WR | 5-foot-8, 165 pounds | Texarkana, Texas (Texas High)

What to like from the highlights: It takes a special kind of athlete to make moves in the open field that fool defenders and explode out of said maneuvers at a high speed. And that’s just what Hampton does as both a returner and receiver in his Texas High clips. The 5-8 target shows off his 40-inch vertical on some deep balls, as well, another example of how he makes up for his height by just making plays others can’t. Plus, he sheds an awful lot of tackles for an undersized skill player.

Liam Jones

2-star K | 5-foot-9, 165 pounds | Chocktaw, Oklahoma (Chocktaw High)

What to like from the highlights: Are kickoff clips of a kicker entertaining? They are if you’re a special teams coach looking for someone to boom them out of the end zone for no return, which Oklahoma prep Jones does time and again. A true specialist, Jones can kick field goals (as seen from various distances, as far out as 45 yards) and punt, too.

Travis Jordan

3-star WR/Athlete | 6-foot-1, 185 pounds | Marrero, Louisiana (John Ehert High)

What to like from the highlights: In these plays form Jordan’s junior season, his ability to meet the ball high with his hands on down-field passes makes him look like a bigger target than his listed height of 6-1. Routinely, Jordan finds ways to put himself in a better position to make a play on the ball than the defenders trying to stop him. On quick passes, Jordan appears to have the strength and speed to pick up extra yardage.

Cooper Root

2-star LB | 6-foot-3, 215 pounds | Wichita, Kansas (Wichita Collegiate High)

What to like from the highlights: He might not be the flashiest defender you’ll come across, but in his clips Root seems to read the flow of plays well and react appropriately by getting to his spot for stops. A lot of his tackles come on inside rushes and he attacks them soundly.

Kenyon Tabor

3-star WR | 6-foot-4, 212 pounds | Derby, Kansas (Derby High)

What to like from the highlights: Size, speed, strength, moves, great hands. Tabor has all the attributes you hope to see from a receiver on his reel. Derby lined him up all over the place, and even though opponents knew the ball was coming his way there was little they could do to stop him. Looks especially fast when coming across in motion and turning to take off at the time of the snap.

Robert Topps

3-star CB | 6-foot-2, 182 pounds | Chicago (Marist High)

What to like from the highlights: A 6-2 cornerback who hits hard. Topps makes big plays on special teams, too, blocking an extra point and a couple punts. Looks comfortable covering a receiver out wide and coming off the edge as a blitzer.

Dominic Williams

4-star RB | 5-foot-9, 186 pounds | Frisco, Texas (Independence High)

What to like from the highlights: There’s a reason Williams comes in as the biggest name in this class, and it’s the same reason some call the running back “Flash.” This guy just flies — and spins and jukes and hurdles and bounces off defenders — in the open field. Whatever it takes to extend the play and pick up huge chunks of yardage. What’s more, Williams bursts forward when you think he’s already moving as fast as he can. Play-maker.

Takulve Williams

2-star WR | 5-foot-11, 180 pounds | New Orleans (St. Augustine High)

What to like from the highlights: Takulve Williams’ punt returns show off not only his vision, but also his ability to go from standing still to full-out sprint quicker than would-be tacklers anticipate. As a receiver, he’s the type of guy who can evade tacklers at the line of scrimmage or make a play on a deep throw.

December signings

Peyton Bender — QB | 6-1, 180 | three stars

Hasan Defense — DB | 6-0, 175 | three stars

J.J. Holmes — DT | 6-2, 310 | three stars

Kerr Johnson — WR | 5-11, 180 | three stars

Kyron Johnson — LB | 6-1, 195 | three stars

Willie McCaleb — DE | 6-3, 250 | three stars

KeyShaun Simmons — DL | 6-3, 270 | two stars

Shakial Taylor — CB | 6-1, 180 | three stars

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Kansas expecting 12 additions to Class of 2017 on National Signing Day

Kansas head coach David Beaty runs off the field with his first win after beating Rhode Island 55-6 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach David Beaty runs off the field with his first win after beating Rhode Island 55-6 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In order for the Kansas football team to continue on its measured upward trajectory in head coach David Beaty’s third season in Lawrence, the Jayhawks will have to carry on with improving their depth and talent in 2017.

On Wednesday’s National Signing Day, the Jayhawks hope to make another advancement in that direction, with 12 recruits expected to make their commitments to the program official.

The group includes additions to KU’s offensive line, secondary, linebacking unit, receiving corps, one specialist and a highly touted running back. They’ll join eight December signees, giving Kansas a 2017 class ranked 57th nationally by Rivals, and ninth in the Big 12, ahead of in-state adversary Kansas State.

Here’s a look at the 11 prep talents and one junior college prospect who plan to sign with Kansas.

Earl Bostick (OL or DL): The newest KU football recruit, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound lineman from Barnwell, South Carolina, just committed this past weekend. Bostick, rated a two-star prospect by Rivals, hopes to make an impact on the interior, either on the offensive or defensive line.

Antonio Cole (CB): The 6-1, 190-pound corner’s standout sophomore season at Highland Community College netted Cole a three-star rating and reported offers from Iowa State and Minnesota, as well. With Kansas losing three starters in the secondary, Cole’s experience could prove useful.

Jay Dineen (LB): A high school playmaker right in KU’s back yard, the two-star Free State linebacker received interest from other college programs. Dineen, though, opted to join some linebackers he knows well: his older brother, Joe, and Keith Loneker Jr. Both played at FSHS, as did two of Jay’s former prep teammates, KU’s Bryce Torneden and Sam Skwarlo.

Joey Gilbertson (OL): The 6-4, 290-pound offensive tackle from Wichita Northwest intrigued KU O-line coach Zach Yenser with the way he fires off the ball on snaps. Gilbert, a two-star prospect, committed to KU back in June of 2016, after attending the Jayhawks’ Friday Night Lights camp.

Quan Hampton (WR): His measurements read 5-8, 165 pounds, but this three-star receiver from Texarkana, Texas, can sky. With a 40-inch vertical, Hampton, a prep basketball player, as well, possesses the athleticism to make up for his relative lack of size on the football field.

None by Tye Shelton

Liam Jones (K): A two-star specialist from Chocktaw, Oklahoma, Jones could end up playing a factor in KU’s kicking game immediately, with Matthew Wyman’s days of handling kickoffs, extra points and field goals through.

Travis Jordan (WR/athlete): One of the first Class of 2017 recruits to get on board with Beaty and Kansas, the three-star prep from Marrero, Louisiana, committed nearly 10 months ago. Listed at 6-1, 185 pounds, the three-star receiver was the first prospect landed by running backs coach Tony Hull.

Cooper Root (LB): One of four Sunflower State recruits on KU’s signing day list, the two-star linebacker from Wichita Collegiate led his team with 77 total tackles as a senior. Root, like Jay Dineen, hopes to impact a linebacking unit that loses Marcquis Roberts and Courtney Arnick.

Kenyon Tabor (WR): A three-star, in-state prospect who also had an offer from K-State, the Derby receiver helped lead his team to a Class 6A state championship. At 6-4, 215 pounds, Tabor could have the physical tools to reinforce an already strong group of KU receivers.

Robert Topps (CB): The idea of playing at KU for defensive coordinator Clint Bowen and trying to replicate the success of former Bowen pupil Aqib Talib was enough to inspire the 6-2, 185-pound corner to join the Jayhawks. A three-star recruit from Chicago, Topps received offers from 15 other Division I programs.

Dominic Williams (RB): Way back in September of 2015, the Frisco, Texas, running back became the first member of this year’s class. And, according to his four-star status, the 5-9, 186-pound Williams is the man most capable of impacting KU’s on-field product soon. In the previous two recruiting classes, only safety Mike Lee earned four stars.

Takulve Williams (WR): A two-star New Orleans receiver, Takulve Williams (5-11, 180), like Jordan, decided to leave Louisiana for the midwest after hearing Hull’s recruiting pitch.

December signings

Peyton Bender — QB | 6-1, 180 | three stars

Hasan Defense — DB | 6-0, 175 | three stars

J.J. Holmes — DT | 6-2, 310 | three stars

Kerr Johnson — WR | 5-11, 180 | three stars

Kyron Johnson — LB | 6-1, 195 | three stars

Willie McCaleb — DE | 6-3, 250 | three stars

KeyShaun Simmons — DL | 6-3, 270 | two stars

Shakial Taylor — CB | 6-1, 180 | three stars

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Ryan Willis’ decision to transfer was inevitable

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) walks through the tunnel to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 24-23 heartbreaking loss to TCU on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) walks through the tunnel to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 24-23 heartbreaking loss to TCU on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In what is sure to go down as the least surprising development of the offseason for Kansas football — even beating out the departure of former offensive coordinator Rob Likens — quarterback Ryan Willis announced Wednesday he is transferring out of the program.

The only mystery surrounding the next step of Willis’ college career was when he would reveal it and where he would go next. As it turned out, the two-year Jayhawk from nearby Bishop Miege chose Virginia Tech the week before the start of the spring semester at KU.

The notion that the QB’s days in Lawrence were numbered became clear months earlier, after head coach David Beaty decided to move on from Willis as a starter.

The first four weeks of the 2016 season, Willis bounced on and off the field, trading spots with Montell Cozart behind center. After that two-quarterback experiment failed, Beaty handed the offense over to Willis ahead of a home game against TCU. The Jayhawks nearly pulled off an upset victory in a 24-23 loss during Willis’ first start as a sophomore (he also started the final eight games of 2015 as a true freshman), and he threw for 348 yards against the Horned Frogs. However, he also threw three interceptions, lost a fumble and took six sacks in a winnable game.

The following week, at Baylor, went much worse. Again, Willis tossed three picks, and he only completed 10 of 19 passes for 89 yards. The Bears sacked him four times, and the Kansas offense didn’t score until late in what turned out be a 49-7 loss. Plus, KU’s lone touchdown came with Willis watching from the bench.

Willis never threw another pass for Kansas after that Baylor loss. Beaty went back to Cozart as the starter the following week — though that didn’t work either. By the time another switch came and redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over at QB, it was easy to envision Willis, who still has two years of eligibility left, moving on. Once Beaty got junior college QB Peyton Bender, formerly of Washington State, on board and referenced him as a player who would push Stanley for the starting job, why would Willis even want to stay?

Beaty’s version of the Air Raid offense and Willis just didn’t fit. This isn’t to say Willis won’t play well at Virginia Tech if given the chance. He is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, has a strong arm, and is faster than one might anticipate when he runs. As evidenced by the sacks he took, Willis didn’t have the benefit of playing for a dominant offensive line and he probably held on to the ball too long at times, hoping for something other than a quick pass to the sideline to develop.

He needed a change and he got one at a university that, unlike Kansas, is known for football success.

Willis wasn’t going to become the quarterback who turned the KU program around, but he tried his best to do so while he was in Lawrence. Ultimately both sides can move on now, which is the most important aspect of it all.

Beaty and QB coach Garrett Riley can focus on developing Stanley, Bender and 2017 redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks for the coming season.

Realistically, four quarterbacks is too many, barring a series of unfortunate injuries. Willis knew that and left KU behind. Smart decision.

The next question is: will another similarly inspired Bishop Miege alum, Cozart, leave the quarterbacks room for another position for his senior season at Kansas? Spring football isn’t too far away and Cozart said a year ago he was open to switching spots if the staff needed him to. We shall see.

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Top 10 most important members of KU football program in 2016

Kansas head coach David Beaty runs off the field with his first win after beating Rhode Island 55-6 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head coach David Beaty runs off the field with his first win after beating Rhode Island 55-6 on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

According to the most important numbers — the ones corresponding with wins and losses — 2016 didn’t look too remarkable for the University of Kansas football program, as the Jayhawks won two games and lost 10.

Using only those digits, the season seemed similar to the six before it for KU, during which three head coaches and one interim coach led the team. In a seven-year stretch from 2010 to 2016, Kansas never won more than three games in a season, and finished with an average record of 2-10.

So it’s easy to lump the latest campaign with the rest of the ugly falls that preceded it. However, doing so doesn’t take into account the context of watching David Beaty’s second KU football team far outperform his first in terms of competence and competitiveness. The numbers 2 and 10 don’t factor in the many talented players who improved this past season, positively impacting the product on the field and giving the fan base some signs of real progress

Here is a look at the 10 Jayhawks who made the biggest impact for KU football in 2016 — a year that could end up marking a turning point for a long-struggling program.

No. 10: Running backs coach Tony Hull

Kansas running backs coach Tony Hull encourages his players as they warm up during practice on Tuesday, April 5, 2016.

Kansas running backs coach Tony Hull encourages his players as they warm up during practice on Tuesday, April 5, 2016. by Nick Krug

For all the work assistant coach Hull put in during practices and with game preparation for the team’s running backs, he also quickly established himself as an important individual in KU’s recruiting strategy during his first year with the program.

A former high school coach in New Orleans, Hull’s ties to the region already have helped Kansas bring in talents such as safety Mike Lee, who became a key defensive starter, and quarterback Tyriek Starks, who took a redshirt season. Hull also served as lead recruiter on Class of 2017 commitments Takulve Williams (two-star receiver) and Travis Jordan (three-star athlete). Plus, his presence has helped the Jayhawks earn consideration from still available touted prospects, such as Brad Stewart, a four-star defensive back.

With Hull in place, Kansas seems in position to target quality recruits in a part of the country where it otherwise might not have been able to get involved.

No. 9: Offensive tackle D’Andre Banks

D'Andre Banks

D'Andre Banks by John Young

During his senior season at Kansas, the 6-foot-3, 305-pound offensive lineman played anywhere position coach Zach Yenser needed him. Banks began the year playing left tackle, because Jordan Shelley-Smith was injured and true freshman Hakeem Adeniji wasn’t ready yet. The Killeen, Texas, native even started a game at right guard at Memphis, as KU continued to tweak its O-line combinations.

The final eight games of the year, Banks returned to his rightful spot at right tackle, and down the stretch KU’s O-line became more effective, with the help of the senior leader.

No. 8: Quarterback Carter Stanley

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) heaves a pass around Baylor linebacker Raaquan Davis (19) during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) heaves a pass around Baylor linebacker Raaquan Davis (19) during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. by Nick Krug

True, the redshirt freshman quarterback only started three games for Kansas this past season, but Stanley’s presence on the field coincided with by far the best stretch of 2016 for the Jayhawks.

Stanley, of course, controlled the offense during the team’s overtime victory over Texas — KU’s lone Big 12 victory. The 6-foot-2, 196-pound QB actually had better individual numbers in KU losses against Iowa State (26-for-38, 171 yards, TD, interception) and at Kansas State (24-for-44, 302 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions).

With Stanley at QB, KU consistently competed, and that couldn’t be said for other stretches of the season.

No. 7: Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen celebrates with linebacker Courtney Arnick after a defensive stop  during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen celebrates with linebacker Courtney Arnick after a defensive stop during the third quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2015, the Kansas defense routinely blew tackles and coverages, contributing mightily to a woeful 0-12 campaign. A year later, Bowen and his assistants turned the Jayhawks’ defense into a strength.

In Big 12 play this past year, KU ranked first in the conference in third-down conversion defense (37.4 percent), second in pass defense (248.0 yards allowed a game), third in red-zone defense (78 percent), and fifth in interceptions (eight), sacks (22) and opponent first downs (24.2 a game).

The work Bowen, linebackers coach Todd Bradford, cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry and D-line coach Michael Slater did with their players set the tone for a season highlighted by headway.

No. 6: Safety Mike Lee

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

When the true freshman safety graduated early from high school and arrived on campus ready to play a year ahead of schedule, no one expected Lee to transform so quickly into a play-maker.

The 5-foot-11, 176-pound defensive back from New Orleans came off the bench in his first three appearances for Kansas and did not play at all in Week 2. But Lee’s hard hits became one of the consistent bright spots for Kansas, beginning with the team’s Big 12 opener at Texas Tech.

From that point on, while at times learning on the fly, the first-year safety started the final eight games. Lee, whose overtime interception versus Texas will be remembered for a long time at Memorial Stadium, finished second on the team in total tackles (77), while tying KU’s leader in that category, senior safety Fish Smithson, for the most solo tackles (70).

No. 5: Wide receiver Steven Sims Jr.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) puts a juke move on Texas cornerback Kris Boyd (2) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) puts a juke move on Texas cornerback Kris Boyd (2) during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

The Kansas offense often didn’t look pretty this past year, but when it peaked Sims often played a prominent role. The 5-foot-10, 176-pound wide receiver became someone opposing defensive coordinators had to game-plan to stop.

Sims’ breakout sophomore season included four games of 100-plus yards, as he led KU in receptions (72), yardage (859) and touchdowns (seven). His confidence and maturity showed on the field and off, as he worked to become an impact player as an underclassman while operating in a system that used three different starting quarterbacks and ranked eighth in passing (231.9 yards per game) and last in scoring (17.8 points a game) in Big 12 play.

No. 4: Head coach David Beaty

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives a pat to Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (10) as the defense leaves the field following a Memphis touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives a pat to Kansas cornerback Marnez Ogletree (10) as the defense leaves the field following a Memphis touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

The head coach’s first season doubling as offensive coordinator might not have gone as well as he wanted, but ultimately the notable overall progress within the program happened under his watch, and Beaty deserves credit for the strides made by the players and in recruiting.

Beaty’s undying positivity trickles down throughout the team, and that showed during the final month of the season. Although the Jayhawks struggled much of the year, they finally began playing at a higher level in the final weeks, when players under a lesser leader could have mentally and physically checked out.

Day after day, Beaty found ways to win over players and prospects, building momentum for a 2017 with increased expectations.

No. 3: Safety Fish Smithson

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) works to make a catch as Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) works to make a catch as Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016. by Alonzo Adams/The Associated Press

Speaking of positivity, you won’t meet many more upbeat players than Smithson, a defensive captain and outgoing senior. Week after week for the past couple of seasons, the safety had to answer media questions about KU’s shortcomings, and never did he let it impact him negatively.

Smithson’s personality helped his production on the field, too. Even when he made a mistake on one snap, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety would come back the next ready to demand more of himself.

As he walks away from the program, the Jayhawks will not only miss his 93 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and seven pass breakups, but also his leadership and ability to get his teammates in the right spots.

No. 2: Defensive tackle Daniel Wise

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise (96) looks to bring down Oklahoma State running back Chris Carson (32) during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise (96) looks to bring down Oklahoma State running back Chris Carson (32) during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

When the Kansas defense needed a stop, the man breaking through with a crucial push at the point of attack tended to be Wise, the powerful, 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive tackle form Lewisville, Texas.

The talkative sophomore had the sills to back up any in-game (or pre-game) chatter he sent in the direction of the opposition, thanks to an offseason filled with work toward vastly improving his strength and technique. Playing a position where it can be difficult to accumulate much statistical proof of one’s worth, Wise finished seventh on the team in total tackles, with 38, while making 10 tackles for loss and three sacks, and even blocking two extra points.

Wise’s presence made it easier for his teammates around him to do their jobs, too, as offenses game-planned to limit how the tackle could impact the line of scrimmage.

No. 1: Defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In his sophomore season at KU, Armstrong transformed into one of the most feared defensive ends around, easily making him a consensus All-Big 12 first-teamer.

Fittingly, the 6-foot-4, 246-pound lineman from Houston’s most complete performance came in the Jayhawks’ victory over Texas — the program’s beacon of better things to come. Armstrong not only made 11 total tackles, but aded two sacks, three tackles for loss, while both forcing and recovering a fumble.

Armstrong’s 20 tackles for loss on the season made him the Big 12’s leader in that category, and he finished second in sacks (10) to Kansas State senior — and fellow all-league D-lineman — Jordan Willis (11.5).

If Kansas, under Beaty, can start climbing out of the ditch it has lived in since Mark Mangino left, Armstrong is the type of star player the coach needs to make it happen.

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KU football signs eight players from 2017 recruiting class, including QB Peyton Bender

Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender (6) drops back to pass against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender (6) drops back to pass against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Kansas football coach David Beaty and his staff solidified eight spots in the program’s 2017 recruiting class Wednesday, when a handful of future Jayhawks signed their national letters of intent on the first day of the mid-year signing period, which runs through mid-January.

Headlined by former Washington State quarterback Peyton Bender, KU’s influx of new talent mostly featured junior college transfers such as Bender, who spent his sophomore season at Itawamba Community College. But it also included one high school senior, linebacker Kyron Johnson, of Arlington Lamar High (Texas). Rated by Rivals as a three-star outside linebacker, Johnson recently told Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant he intends to enroll early at KU and go through spring football in Lawrence. The young linebacker confirmed his signing with Kirby Wednesday morning.

A prospect who didn’t commit to KU until late Tuesday evening joined the list of signees, as well. Kerr Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound wide receiver from Santa Rosa Junior College, got on board with the Jayhawks mere hours before signing.

As a sophomore this past fall, Johnson was named to the California All-State junior college team. The Santa Rosa, Calif., native caught 50 passes for 894 yards and 11 touchdowns in 10 games before signing on with Kansas.

Last month, Johnson told Kirby and Jayhawk Slant, KU offensive assistant Rob Likens traveled to the west coast to see the juco receiver play.

“I can’t wait to get there (to KU) and prove myself,” Johnson, a three-star juco wideout according to Rivals, said.

Outside of Bender and Kerr Johnson, though, Kansas added the majority of its help on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, cornerback Hasan Defense, defensive end Willie McCaleb and cornerback Shakial Taylor all earned three-star rankings from Rivals as juco additions. KeyShaun Simmons, a two-star defensive lineman, also signed on with Kansas.

MID-YEAR KU FOOTBALL SIGNEES

QB Peyton Bender

6-1, 180 | Itawamba C.C./Washington State

DB Hasan Defense

6-0, 175 | Kilgore College

DT J.J. Holmes

6-2, 310 | Hutchinson C.C.

WR Kerr Johnson

5-11, 180 | Santa Rosa J.C.

LB Kyron Johnson

6-foot-1, 195 | Arlington Lamar (Texas) H.S.

DE Willie McCaleb

6-foot-3, 250 | Northwest Mississippi C.C.

DL KeyShaun Simmons

6-foot-3, 270 | Pearl River C.C.

CB Shakial Taylor

6-foot-1, 180 | Mesa C.C./South Dakota State

KU’s 2017 recruiting class, as it stands Wednesday:

QB Peyton Bender

DB Hasan Defense

LB Jay Dineen

OL Joey Gilbertson

DT J.J. Holmes

WR Kerr Johnson

LB Kyron Johnson

K Liam Jones

WR/Ath. Travis Jordan

DE Willie McCaleb

DL KeyShaun Simmons

WR Kenyon Tabor

CB Shakial Taylor

DB Robert Topps

RB Dominic Williams

WR Takulve Williams

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Former KU football star Chris Harris: ‘Dirty’ opponent tried to end his career

Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) pushes Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) aside in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Weston Kenney)

Tennessee Titans running back DeMarco Murray (29) pushes Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) aside in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Weston Kenney)

On a full Sunday slate of NFL games, few drew as much attention as a low-scoring affair in Nashville, Tenn., between Denver and Tennessee. But as you probably know by now, the buzz generated for all the wrong reasons.

Former standout Kansas football cornerback Chris Harris Jr., now one of the league’s top defensive backs with the Broncos, took what appeared to be a malicious cheap shot from Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas in the first half.

On a rushing play for Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, Harris came nowhere near making a tackle, but Douglas dove low toward Harris’ right knee as if to make a block.

"I never had a player try to end my career before," Harris told reporters afterward. "That's not football. He tried to end my career with a hit like that. ... [The officials] didn't call it, but hopefully the league can take a look at that."

Added Harris, who avoided suffering significant damage on the play by pulling his leg backward just in time: "Whatever the biggest fine is, that's what he should get."

None by Jon Heath

The questionable play by Douglas might have been a footnote for the weekend had Harris’ pal and former KU teammate Aqib Talib not gotten involved, too. On the very next play, Denver’s other top-notch cornerback let the Titans receiver know what he thought about the low hit on Harris.

Talib went right after Douglas, inciting a small brawl on the sideline.

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Following the game, Talib wasn’t done, calling Douglas a “sorry player,” and vowing to “beat his ---" when he sees him next.

Harris, too, didn’t mind sharing his thoughts on the Tennessee receiver.

"I was nowhere near the play, but that's why he's out there, to be a dirty player," Harris said.

Douglas denied that accusation.

"I'm a tough player. I'm a gritty player," Douglas responded, through reporters. "I'm not a dirty player, no matter what anybody says."

None by Chris Harris

None by Chris Harris

Both the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos and Harris consider themselves fortunate the play didn’t cost the star corner playing time, with the end of the regular season quickly approaching. At 8-5 following a 13-10 loss at Tennessee, Denver currently holds the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, with three games left to play.

Despite Douglas’ low “block,” Denver won’t be cheated out of the use of one of its top players, which should be good news to Kansas football fans, even if they prefer another team from the AFC West.

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Examining where Jayhawks ranked among Big 12 football leaders

Now that the 2016 Big 12 football season is complete, all the numbers have been totaled and averaged and sorted nicely for consumption, and postseason honors are starting to get handed out.

So it’s a good time to review the league’s individual statistical leaders and see where Kansas football players landed among their peers.

As one might guess, the Jayhawks, who used three different starting quarterbacks, didn’t show up with this year’s passing leaders.

Perhaps head coach David Beaty will find a QB he can count on throughout 2017.

Still, KU had plenty of individuals stand out over the past few months, despite a 2-10 overall record and 1-8 mark in the Big 12.

What follows is a review of the categories in which Jayhawks ranked among the conference’s best, with a look at the numbers produced by the league-leader for context.

How did the Jayhawks stack up? Some of them finished higher than you might have guessed.

Rushing

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner (22) tries to cut around the Kansas State defense during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner (22) tries to cut around the Kansas State defense during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: D’Onta Foreman, Texas, 193.3 yards a game

- Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Ke’aun Kinner, 61.5 yards a game

The senior running back often shared rushing duties with teammates, but Kinner averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns for Kansas in 2016. He looked even stronger late in the season, when he produced a season-best 152 yards on the ground against Iowa State.

Receptions

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) tears down the field as he is trailed by the TCU defense after a catch during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) tears down the field as he is trailed by the TCU defense after a catch during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: KD Cannon, Baylor, 6.6 a game

- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Steven Sims Jr., 6.0 catches a game; 9th — LaQuvionte Gonzalez, 5.2

Sims emerged as the top target for Kansas quarterbacks this season, but Gonzalez was as solid a second option as the offense could hope for during another rebuilding season.

Sims scored seven touchdowns, with a long of 74 yards. And while a No. 4 ranking in this category is impressive, Sims fared even better within the conference. Looking only at league games, Sims led the Big 12 with 6.8 catches an outing. Even OU star Dede Westbrook only caught 6.3 a week against league foes.

On the season, Gonzalez tied for 9th with Oklahoma State’s James Washington (5.2 catches). Gonzalez reached the end zone three times as a junior, including a 95-yard score in the finale at K-State, thanks to a deep ball from redshirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley.

Receiving Yards

- Big 12 leader: Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma, 122.1 yards a game

- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Sims, 71.6 yards a game

During his breakout year, Sims, a 5-foot-10 receiver, hauled in 72 catches, averaging 11.9 yards a reception.

Total Tackles

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) is tackled by Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) is tackled by Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016. by Alonzo Adams/The Associated Press

- Big 12 leader: LB Travin Howard, TCU, 10.4 a game

- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — S Fish Smithson, 7.8; 13th — S Mike Lee, 6.9; 30th — LB Courtney Arnick, 5.5; 47th — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 4.7; 47th — S Tevin Shaw, 4.7

As he did in 2015, Smithson led Kansas in tackles. The senior safety made 93 total stops. As the season progressed, Smithson's young apprentice in the secondary, true freshman Lee, developed into a presence, as well. After graduating high school early to join Kansas this season, Lee made 69 solo tackles (76 total) in 11 appearances and eight starts.

With Kansas missing key linebackers Joe Dineen Jr. and Marcquis Roberts, senior ’backer Arnick contributed 66 total tackles for the defense.

Both Armstrong, on the D-line, and Shaw, in the secondary, made 40 solo tackles apiece and 56 total.

Sacks

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates after a tackle for a loss during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates after a tackle for a loss during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: DE Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 0.96 a game (11.5 total)

- Ranked Jayhawks: 2nd — DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., 0.83 (10.0 total); 16th — LB Cameron Rosser, 0.33 (4.0)

With 10 quarterback takedowns behind the line of scrimmage, Armstrong produced all one-man sack attacks, without an assist, during his outstanding sophomore campaign.

Rosser, a senior who played a hybrid linebacker/end position, made all four of his sacks during a two-week span in the first couple of Big 12 games. Rosser made one at Texas Tech and three versus TCU.

Tackles For Loss

- Big 12 leader: DE Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas, 1.67 a game

- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 15th — Daniel Wise, 0.82 a game

Simply put, Armstrong was the Big 12’s best at creating chaos in the backfield. With 20 solo tackles for loss as a sophomore, Armstrong beat K-State’s Willis in this category by 3.5.

Although Wise didn’t have the numbers to match Armstrong, the defensive tackle had as much to do with the Jayhawks’ success on the defensive line as anyone. Wise made 9.0 stops behind the line, all solos, when he wasn’t disrupting offenses in other ways.

Passes Defended

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) works to make a catch as Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016.

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon (25) works to make a catch as Kansas safety Fish Smithson (9) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct.29, 2016. by Alonzo Adams/The Associated Press

- Big 12 leader: D.J. Reed, Kansas State, 1.5 per game

- Ranked Jayhawks: 6th — Fish Smithson, 0.92 a game; 17th — Marnez Ogletree, 0.67

Not only did Smithson finish plays with tackles, the senior safety found his way to the ball when quarterbacks passed in his direction. While captaining the KU defense, Smithson broke up seven throws and came away with interceptions on four other occasions.

At corner, Ogletree, another senior, didn’t pick off any passes, but he broke up eight while defending the Big 12’s many talented receivers.

Interceptions

- Big 12 leader: Rasul Douglas, West Virginia, 0.67 a game (eight total)

- Ranked Jayhawks: 4th — Fish Smithson, 0.33 a game (four total); 10th — Brandon Stewart, 0.25 (three)

Averaging a pick every three games in 2016, Smithson took away four as a senior. But he actually vastly improved his average in November, with an interception apiece against Iowa State and Texas.

Stewart wasn’t far behind Smithson with three passing takeaways of his own during his senior season. Few of KU’s 10 picks on the year were as critical as Stewart’s 55-yard INT return for a touchdown during the Jayhawks’ upset victory over Texas.

Fumbles forced

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) puts Texas running back D'Onta Foreman (33) on the ground after recovering a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: Five-way tie, three

Armstrong’s three forced fumbles on the season tied him with K-State’s Willis and Reggie Walker, Baylor’s Patrick Levels and Texas Tech’s Jah’Shawn Johnson for the top spot in the category.

- Another Ranked Jayhawk: 10th — Smithson, two

The other most active defender on the KU roster, Smithson knocked the ball out of an opponent’s grasp twice this season.

Fumbles Recovered

- Big 12 leader: Patrick Levels, Baylor, four

- Ranked Jayhawks: 5th — Dorance Armstrong Jr., and Damani Mosby, two

Twice this season, Armstrong, the Jayhawks’ most disruptive defender, found his way to a loose ball to recover it for Kansas. So did the man lining up on the other edge of the D-line, senior end Mosby.

Scoring (Kickers)

Nearly all of the fans are on their feet for Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman's game-winning field goal during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Nearly all of the fans are on their feet for Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman's game-winning field goal during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 9.1 points a game

- Ranked Jayhawk: 9th — Matthew Wyman, 5.4 points a game

West Virginia’s Mike Molina and Texas kicker Trent Dominigue both missed seven field goals on the season — more than Wyman’s six — but, like most of the conference’s kickers, benefited from their teams reaching the end zone for far more extra-point opportunities than Kansas. Five of the league’s kickers, including top scorer Ben Grogan of Oklahoma State (55-for-56), got to kick at least 49 PATs. Wyman only had a crack at 26 kicks following a TD.

Kick Return Average

Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) runs back a kickoff for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) runs back a kickoff for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: Byron Pringle, Kansas State, 28.7 yards per return

- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 21.5 per return

Gonzalez proved a better kick returner than punt returner for Kansas. On 28 occasions during his junior season, the speedy receiver fielded a kickoff and decided to go and attempt to make something happen. Gonzalez totaled 601 return yards, and housed a 99-yarder against Ohio in Week 2.

All-Purpose Yardage

- Big 12 leader: Joe Mixon, Oklahoma, 195.5 yards per game

- Ranked Jayhawk: 7th — Laquvionte Gonzalez, 109.2 yards per game

With his kick return yardage added to his 729 receiving yards, Gonzalez’s numbers ranked among the Big 12’s best, even though he finished the season with negative totals in punt returns (-10) and rushing (-9).

Punting

Kansas' Cole Moos (36) punts from the Jayhawks' end zone late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas.

Kansas' Cole Moos (36) punts from the Jayhawks' end zone late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at McLane Stadium in Waco, Texas. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: Michael Dickson, Texas, 47.4 yards per punt

- Ranked Jayhawk: 4th — Cole Moos, 41.4 yards per punt

For KU junior punter Moos, 14 of his kicks traveled 50-plus yards, including the longest in the Big 12 this season, an 82-yarder at Baylor.

Field Goals

Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman (7) and holder Cole Moos (36) go wild after Wyman's game-winning field goal in overtime against Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas place kicker Matthew Wyman (7) and holder Cole Moos (36) go wild after Wyman's game-winning field goal in overtime against Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

- Big 12 leader: Ben Grogan, Oklahoma State, 1.5 field goals per game

- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 1.08 per game

Wyman tied for 6th with Texas Tech’s Clayton Hatfield in field goals per outing. The Kansas senior made a season-high three versus Texas at Memorial Stadium, including the game-winner in overtime.

Field Goal Percentage

- Big 12 leader: Cole Netten, Iowa State, 94.1%

- Ranked Jayhawk: 6th — Matthew Wyman, 68.4%

Beaty sent Wyman out for 19 field-goal tries this year, and his kicker nailed 13 of them, including a season-best 50-yarder versus TCU.

PAT Kicking Percentage

- Big 12 leaders: Mike Molina, West Virginia; and Matthew Wyman, Kansas, 100%

When Kansas reached the end zone and called upon Wyman’s services, the trusted kicker never missed. Wyman went 26-for-26 on PAT’s.

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Jayhawks in NFL share their support for #TeamCole

Cole Hayden attends a Kansas football home game in 2015, before being diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma.

Cole Hayden attends a Kansas football home game in 2015, before being diagnosed with undifferentiated sarcoma.

As young Kansas football fan Cole Hayden continues his fight against undifferentiated sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, his cheering section continues to grow.

Over the past couple of days, Cole’s mother, Shanda Hayden, shared video messages sent the youngster’s way courtesy of some of the most recognizable Jayhawks in the NFL.

Shanda, the KU football team’s academic and career advisor who has worked with the program for nearly a decade, is beloved by current and former players alike. Many around the team consider her a bit of a team mom. In turn, Cole has become a popular member of the Jayhawks’ family.

KU players and coaches have rallied around the determined boy, wearing #TeamCole bracelets and doing everything they can to support him and the Hayden family.

Now former players are letting Cole know they have his back, too. Tampa Bay safety Bradley McDougald reached out via video this weekend to the Haydens.

“I’m definitely pullin' for ya down here in Tampa,” McDougald said.

None by Shanda Hayden

Monday morning, Shanda shared another video message, this one from the top two Kansas players in the NFL, Denver Broncos cornerbacks Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib.

“Cole, man, stay strong,” Harris said. “We’re prayin’ for your family, prayin' for Miss Shanda. Just hope everything goes well.”

None by Shanda Hayden

Second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty often mentioned Cole’s fight and the Hayden’s throughout the season, dating back to KU dedicating its opener to #TeamCole.

None by Kansas Football

“Man, that dude is a tough dude,” Beaty recently said of Cole. “He's fighting, and just want to let Shanda know how thankful we and our players are for her. I don't think people know how much she does for these guys, and I know not just the guys we have here but the ones that have came before them. Man, a lot of those kids have degrees because of her. She wears so many hats for us, and not the least of which is what she does for them academically. She's like a second mom for them while she's here.”

With Cole’s battle often keeping Shanda away from the team of late, a number of Jayhawks went to visit the Haydens after their season ended to check in and help out with some holiday decorations.

None by Kansas Football

Sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. recently said the Jayhawks used FaceTime at one of their final practices to check in with Shanda, and players regularly get updates on Cole’s progress through Beaty.

“She’s a strong woman,” Sims said of Shanda Hayden, “and we’re fightin' for her, and she’s gonna keep fightin' for us.”

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