Entries from blogs tagged with “roll”

Offensive line woes make quarterback a tough place to play at Kansas

Playing quarterback for Kansas against a brutal schedule requires making the right decision when the best-laid plans break down.

For example, take a look at three screen shots taken from ESPN's telecast, all from the biggest play of KU's 43-7 loss at Memphis, defensive tackle Jonathan Wilson's interception return for a touchdown.

The first shows guard Jayson Rhodes falling to the ground after he let a defender blow past him.

The second shows quarterback Montell Cozart getting tackled by the defender Rhodes missed. In this one, Rhodes is on his back as the football sails over his head.

The the third screen grab, the best available but just a tick too late for a true representation, shows that if the block had been made, Cozart very well could have found tight end Ben Johnson for a big gain. We'll never know for sure, of course, but do know that if the Jayhawks could have scored on that possession instead of delivering a touchdown in the other direction, the game would not have been over by halftime. In reality, Memphis took a 33-7 lead into the second half.

The broken play doesn't change that Cozart made a bad decision, it just illustrates that the offense's problems start before the quarterback pulls the trigger.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Passing defense ranked No. 9 in nation

Kansas defensive tackle DeeIsaac Davis (99) sacks Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas defensive tackle DeeIsaac Davis (99) sacks Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson (4) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

Don't look now, but Kansas has the ninth-ranked passing defense in the nation, allowing just 135 passing yards per game and 4.8 yards per pass attempt.

The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.

Big 12 offenses know how to shred secondaries every year, so it’s not realistic for Kansas to maintain its current national ranking, but if the Jayhawks can pressure the quarterback on a regular basis the way the hounded Memphis’ Riley Ferguson they can slow down pass-happy offenses looking to run up the score on them.

“We fed off of each other’s energy, that’s what we do,” sophomore Dorance Armstrong said of the heat the the Jayhawks put on Ferguson.

Clearly, Memphis came into the game determined to keep defensive tackle Daniel Wise from getting into the backfield to slam ballcarriers to the turf the way he did in the first two weeks of the season.

Every move Wise made was greeted with a pair of blockers double-teaming him. He didn’t make any tackles until the second half and finished with three, none behind the line of scrimmage.

It was imperative that the rest of the D-line take advantage of all the extra attention being paid to Wise or other teams would have no qualms about doing the same. Wise’s mates up front delivered, combining for four of the team's five sacks, three for 19 yards from Armstrong and one apiece from junior DeeIsaac Davis and senior Damani Mosby.

“We can do better,” Armstrong vowed. “We came into the game with zero sacks and we just had to make sure to come out with a sack early. As a defense, to go two games in a row with no sacks, that’s not our standard.”

Actually, Kansas did have one sack coming into the Memphis game, but none from the defensive line. Linebacker Courtney Arnick had one sack for five yards coming into the game.

The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.

One week from Thursday, Kansas faces the No. 1-ranked passing offense in the nation. Patrick Mahomes leads the country with 497.7 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdown passes and two interceptions.

A more encouraging way of looking at it than focusing on the Red Raiders’ passing ranking is to consider that Mahomes is facing the nation’s ninth-ranked passing defense.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Halftime adjustments worked in ugly loss to Ohio

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

During my two-and-a-half years as co-host of a show on ESPN Radio in New York City, Mondays after a Jets loss required the least preparation. Throw out the phone number and listen to the apoplectic voices break it all down to help themselves avoid a breakdown.

When the stressed-out voices were firing the offensive or defensive coordinator, they often offered as proof the lack of adjustments made at halftime.

Kansas created plenty of fodder for griping in Saturday’s 37-21 loss to Ohio (University, not State), but accusations of a lack of halftime adjustments could not be aimed at the coaching staff.

The halftime adjustments the offensive staff made, albeit way too late, certainly worked given that the same Jayhawks offense that produced 21 total yards in the first half totaled 190 in the third quarter.

Defensive adjustments worked as well. Ohio (University, not State) amassed 359 total yards in the first half, 66 yards with a turnover in the third quarter.

The fourth quarter, most of it played without injured quarterback Montell Cozart, didn’t go as well. As was the case in the first half, Kansas couldn’t stop the run and OU (Ohio, not Oklahoma) ate 10 minutes of clock with an 18-play, 81-yard drive that ended in a field goal.

Still, give the KU defense credit for allowing just nine second-half points on three field goals. Before that game-clinching drive, here’s how Ohio’s second-half possessions went: Three plays, five yards, punt; three plays, two yards, field goal; four plays, 13 yards, punt; eight plays, 36 yards, interception by Fish Smithson; three plays, zero yards, field goal.

The halftime adjustments worked. The plan coming into the game did not.

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Meet the Playmakers

Dorance Armstrong, Jr.

Dorance Armstrong, Jr. by John Young

Even one week against one of the five least talented teams of Div. I football, FBS and FCS combined, can reveal obvious traits about a squad coming off an 0-12 season.

For Kansas, which ended a 15-game losing streak with a 55-6 thrashing of Rhode Island, two factors leaped off the replay: 1. The Jayhawks, as suspected, have far more speed than a year ago. 2. The offensive line — still too young, too at a disadvantage because of not having as many combined years in a college weight room as most college blockers — will have trouble getting much push for runs up the middle.

In contrast, Ohio has a ton of experience up front on both sides of the ball. Kansas has talent at defensive line, so matching the Bobcats’ massive O-line is a possibility. The other matchup doesn’t figure to go as well for Kansas, with Ohio’s experienced D-line having the big strength edge. So Kansas will need to turn speed and creativity into big plays Saturday in order to emerge with its first two-game winning streak since two weeks into the 2011 season.

A look at a handful of Jayhawks with the capability of making game-turning plays:

1 - LaQuvionte Gonzalez: He consistently used his speed and quickness to get open and looked like a threat to pop one nearly every time he touched it as a kick and punt returner. By reaching around the defensive back and somehow coming away with the ball for a touchdown, Gonzalez provided a highlight that figures to be shown for years, maybe forever. The defense must account for him at all times and still he finds ways to get open.

2 - Montell Cozart: Sure, it wasn’t his first big day against FCS competition, but Cozart looked so much more decisive, more accurate and even looked as if he has strengthened his arm. David Beaty’s version of the Air Raid offense just might suit Cozart ideally. An easy man for whom to root because of his thick skin and positive personality, Cozart has the potential to make Beaty look wise for resisting the temptation to turn him into a wide receiver.

3 - Taylor Martin: He and Gonzalez are the two fastest players on the team. That speed makes Martin a threat running on the edge and getting behind the defense on pass patterns. Cozart barely overthrew him on a long pass down the sideline or he might have gone ... all ... the ... way.

4 - Dorance Armstrong: I had forgotten that Armstrong changed to No. 2 for his sophomore season and on one of the first plays of the replay I watched on ESPN3, I wondered who that player flying toward the sideline was, figuring he must be a safety. He’s a defensive end and he plays with equal parts speed and intensity.

5 - Daniel Wise: Emerged as a team leader during offseason conditioning and looked like a man on a search-and-destroy-the-quarterback mission in the opener. He has the potential to deliver a strip-sack at a pivotal point in the game. The D-tackle's most important work will come in doing his job against the run.

6 - Kyle Mayberry: The true freshman cornerback from Tulsa did not have the uncertain, shaky look so common among athletes competing in a college game for the first time. He’s blurry fast, seems to love the spotlight and has the sort of confidence that could enable him to take a chance and deliver a pick six.

7 - Beaty, the offensive coordinator: Again, it helped that Rhode Island was the opponent, but Beaty certainly seemed to have a winning touch for what play to call when. The Rams’ defensive line was pushing back the Kansas blockers — not a good sign — and getting more aggressive by the play. So Beaty called a play that baited that aggressiveness and resulted in tight end Ben Johnson standing alone in the end zone for an easy touchdown reception from Cozart.

Not all football games are won and lost in the trenches. Sometimes they are won with big plays, which very likely will be what Kansas needs if it is going to defeat Ohio.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Starting season 2-0 a real possibility

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) gets loose before throwing during warmups on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart (2) gets loose before throwing during warmups on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

NOTE: Las Vegas oddsmakers set the opening line at Ohio minus-9, which means Ohio was a nine-point favorite. In slightly more than 24 hours, the legal-betting public had moved the line an amazing 12 points, making the Jayhawks a three-point favorite, which was where the line stood as of Tuesday morning.

Kansas, seeking to move two games above the break-even point for the first time since improving to 2-0 in 2011 with a victory at home against Northern Illinois in Turner Gill’s second and final season on the job, has a few factors going for it Saturday when Ohio visits Memorial Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.

First, Kansas should be able to draw more from Ohio’s Week 1 game tape than vice versa because the Bobcats were in a tight game, one they lost to Texas State, 56-54 in three overtimes, so they couldn’t hold back anything from the playbook.

In contrast, KU could afford to treat much of its 55-6 victory against Rhode Island almost like an NFL team approaches an exhibition game. The Jayhawks spread the ball around to multiple players, giving Ohio so much to prepare for and so little on any one player.

Nine different Jayhawks caught a pass and three different quarterbacks combined for six touchdown passes, Montell Cozart throwing three, Ryan Willis two and Carter Stanley one. Ohio must prepare for both Cozart and Willis. Four different running backs rushed the football anywhere from four to nine times.

The second factor involves KU’s Week 1 strength, the passing attack, matching up with Ohio’s Week 1 weakness, defending the pass. Kansas passed for 399 yards vs. Rhode Island and Ohio surrendered 440 yards and five touchdowns at home vs. Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference.

The third factor, the biggest one considering the extent to which emotion sways football performances in general and in the college game in particular, involves respect.

Oddsmakers made a loud statement that in their opinion KU’s 49-point victory said far more about the quality of its opponent than about the Jayhawks. Visiting Ohio opened as a nine-point favorite. What happened in Lawrence stayed in Lawrence in terms of national respect. Acting quickly, bettors put so much money down on KU that the Jayhawks became favorites in slightly more than 24 hours. As of Tuesday morning, Kansas was favored by three points, a remarkable swing.

If second-year head coach David Beaty can parlay the original lack of belief in his team among outsiders into an emotional outburst that fuels players to perform out of their minds, Kansas could score a victory and make believers out of Las Vegas oddsmakers who set the point spreads, and more important, out of a fan base that can be enticed back in droves at the first unqualified sign of legitimate progress.

Big game Saturday.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: QB suspense might make turnstiles spin faster

Kansas quarterbacks Carter Stanley, left, Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis.

Kansas quarterbacks Carter Stanley, left, Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis. by Nick Krug

I won’t pretend that I can say something nice about the Kansas football depth chart having three names listed as possible first-stringers with the season-opener days away. Best-case scenario would have had one of the three quarterbacks blowing away the competition by now.

Instead, I’ll reach into the issue and find something nice to say.

The size of the crowd for Saturday’s Rhode Island game has the potential to turn faces red, so I’ll use this week’s blog to examine whether head coach David Beaty’s attempt to keep his starting quarterback a secret until the 6 p.m. kickoff will increase the size of the crowd or decrease it.

Since URI, 1-10 in the Football Championship Subdivision last season, doesn’t have the talent to create scoreboard suspense, uncertainty regarding the starting QB, provided it doesn’t leak before game night, adds a little intrigue, creates a potentially powerful moment.

If Beaty really can pull it off and keep the secret, fans will explode in support of whichever quarterback sprints off the sideline. Cool moment, one that might motivate someone on the fence to buy a ticket and head to Memorial Stadium. So in that sense, it should increase attendance.

The potential for it backfiring at the gate exists. Here’s how: Fans wanting to believe the team will improve significantly from last season’s 0-12 finish might fear that Beaty keeping the secret in order to give his team an edge means the Jayhawks are weak enough to need an edge to defeat a team that went 1-10 in a lower division. Most thinking that way will get off the fence and makes plans for a Saturday night out on the town or in the den watching multiple games.

My guess is fans curious to experience suspense at Memorial Stadium, not that common a feeling in recent years, will outnumber those bummed that the coach thinks his team needs the edge against the Rams.

Humans tend toward optimism, particularly in regards to a team that has not yet lost a game.

Will it be Ryan Willis, Montell Cozart or Carter Stanley to take the first snap of the 2016 season? My guess is it will be Willis, but it’s only a guess. The only way to know for sure is to show up before Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Walk-ons from Kansas high schools contributing

Kansas football team members react to a series of weightlifting reps by teammate Ryan Schadler during an early morning workout Friday morning, June 24, 2016.

Kansas football team members react to a series of weightlifting reps by teammate Ryan Schadler during an early morning workout Friday morning, June 24, 2016. by Mike Yoder

Every time a walk-on football player makes his way onto the Kansas depth chart it becomes that much easier for a high school player considering joining the Jayhawks without the benefit of a scholarship for the start of his career.

Red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Mesa Ribordy had to pay his own way this season and last. He had enough faith in his ability to believe that he will be on scholarship his final three years in the program.

Ribordy is on track to make that happen. Players who spend two years as walk-ons and then earn scholarships only count against the overall scholarship limit of 85 per Football Bowl Subdivision school. They don’t count against the single-year limit of 25.

In order to get back to a competitive level, Kansas will need to take advantage of several players in that category, which makes Ribordy a very valuable recruit.

A 6-foot-4, 290-pound graduate of Louisburg High, Ribordy is pushing for time at both right guard and center and has a strong chance of becoming one of the eight blockers who account for the majority of snaps at the five offensive-line positions.

Other players from Kansas high schools who have joined the program as walk-ons since David Beaty became head coach and hired Gene Wier as director of high schoo relations include: sophomore transfers Keith Loneker Jr. (Baker University, Free State) and Ryan Schadler (Wichita State track, Heeston), junior transfer Deron Thompson (RB Colorado State, Wichita Northwest); sophomore Reese Randall (RB Baldwin); red-shirt freshmen Mazin Aql (DE Blue Valley), Jackson Jenkins (OL Bishop Meige), Beau Lawrence (OL Blue Valley Southwest), Nathan Miller (CB Washburn Rural), Hunter Saulsbury (OL Blue Valley Southwest); freshman Tate Vang (WR, Goddard).

Kansas State has dominated in-state, walk-on recruiting and Kansas is coming from behind, but it’s important the coaches stay committed to bringing depth to the program through this method in hopes of eventually closing the gap on the Wildcats.

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Khalil Herbert buzz growing louder by the minute

Kansas freshman running back Khalil Herbert bursts through the line and into the secondary  during practice on Aug. 8, 2016.

Kansas freshman running back Khalil Herbert bursts through the line and into the secondary during practice on Aug. 8, 2016. by John Young

Kansas head football coach David Beaty’s media policy makes freshmen off-limits for interviews, but that didn’t keep teammates and Beaty himself from talking about running back Khalil Herbert during Monday's media session.

Clearly, Herbert has made a strong first impression.

“I saw him make some really good cuts, stuff that a typical freshman can’t really do,” tight end Ben Johnson said of Herbert’s performance in a Saturday scrimmage in which the South Florida native carried the ball three times for 93 yards and a touchdown. “That kind of stood out to me and I was pretty impressed. He’s just a natural ballplayer. There are things you can coach and things you can’t coach. He’s kind of one of those guys who just has natural instincts.”

Quarterback Ryan Willis shared what it does for him to see that sort of an effort from a freshman: “It fires me up. ... The key to this offense is getting it to our playmakers. Our playmakers right now are our running backs.”

Texas A&M transfer LaQuvionte Gonzalez is the top playmaker at wide receiver and his face lit up Monday at the mention of Herbert’s name.

“I love that kid,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, he can really run the ball. I like that kid. He’s got pretty soft hands. He can catch like a receiver. He’s an all-purpose back. He can do everything.” Herbert, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound burner, comes to Kansas from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., where he played for former NFL defensive back Mike Rumph, now cornerbacks coach for University of Miami.

As did Gonzalez, Beaty gave Herbert points for more than his ability to run the football.

“He’s a dominant guy,” Beaty said. “He’s fast. He actually pass-blocks pretty good. Smart kid. Great kid. He showed some real burst on Saturday. Avoided some tackles, avoided a tackle in the backfield and took it for a long run, something I haven’t seen in a while.”

Beaty also praised the work of first-string senior back Ke’aun Kinner, sophomore sprinter Taylor Martin and the short-yardage contributions of Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Improved depth eliminates need to rush freshmen onto field

Kansas cornerback Tyrone Miller Jr. (19) celebrates a Jayhawk recovery of a Memphis fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas cornerback Tyrone Miller Jr. (19) celebrates a Jayhawk recovery of a Memphis fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

True freshmen Larry Hughes and Clyde McCauley combined to start nine games at offensive tackle for Kansas last season and classmate Tyrone Miller started the first seven games of the season at cornerback.

If the same players were true freshmen this season, they would combine to start zero games at those positions.

That demonstrates the improved depth, most of it through upgraded recruiting, that already is taking place in the major rebuilding job.

“They were not strong enough to compete in this league,” strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson said of Hughes and McCauley. “They weren’t, and it was evident when they played.”

That’s why true freshmen linemen redshirt in all but rare circumstances.

Hughes and McCauley aren’t as strong as they will be two years from now, but they are a great deal stronger than a year ago.

“I’ve put on 25 pounds since when I first got here,” McCauley said. “I’m way stronger. My clean shot up about 50 pounds. My bench shot up about 90.”

He shouldn’t have had to face future NFL defensive linemen before those gains were made, but the ranks were so thin last season, he and Hughes were pressed into duty.

In contrast, incoming freshman O-linemen Hakeem Adeniiji (6-foot4, 265 pounds, Garland, Texas) and Antoine Frazier (6-4, 260, Huffman, Texas) have the luxury of red-shirting, which doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

Jackson said they both arrived on campus stronger than some of the veterans were when Jackson rejoined the Kansas football program in Jan., 2015.

“Those kids are both 260 pounds and they’re bench-pressing over 315 pounds,” Jackson said. “Young guys who are able to do it, it’s a great foundation to be able to build on.”

There is no masking a lack of strength up front or a lack of speed in the back of the defense. Miller does not and will not ever have the speed to play cornerback in the Big 12. But the coaches didn’t know where else to turn, so they played a true freshman safety at cornerback and it showed.

Now if the Jayhawks need to call on a true freshman at cornerback, they can choose from a pair of speedy players born to play cornerback in Kyle Mayberry from Tulsa and Mike Lee from New Orleans. If they aren’t ready, it won’t be because they are playing out of position or don’t have the speed to keep up.

As for Miller, his confidence will grow instead of shrink now that he’s playing a position that suits his talents.

At linebacker, true freshman Maciah Long (6-2, 240) is more physically ready for Big 12 play than most freshman, but he played quarterback in high school and is new to the position. No need to rush him into action and burn his redshirt with experienced reserve linebackers Courtney Arnick, Kendall Duckworth, Keith Loneker Jr. and Osaze Ogbebore on hand.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Sprinters galore competing

New KU running backs Ke'aun Kinner, left, (#22) and Taylor Martin, (#24) photographed at a KU football media day event Saturday August 8, 2015.

New KU running backs Ke'aun Kinner, left, (#22) and Taylor Martin, (#24) photographed at a KU football media day event Saturday August 8, 2015. by Mike Yoder

Je’Ney Jackson’s non-stop search for how to make Kansas football players faster even takes him elsewhere in the athletic department at times. Jackson said he consults friends Stanley Redwine, KU’s head track and field coach, and sprints and hurdles coach Elisha Brewer.

“I’ll ask coach Brewer, ‘What things are you doing with your indoor sprinters?’ I pick her brain to see what I can steal.’ ... If you have an extremely slow team it’s going to be very hard to compete in this league,” Jackson said.

That’s been part of KU’s problem in recent seasons. Jackson is convinced it’s much less of a problem now and said that 42 players in the program were hand-timed at 4.59 seconds or faster at 40 yards. (He said just three returning players in the spring of 2015 met that standard.)

Asked to name the Jayhawks’ five fastest players, Jackson obliged: “Taylor Martin, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Brandon Stewart, probably Kyle Mayberry, and I’d say Bobby Hartzog.” A moment later, another image popped into Jackson’s head and he expanded the list by a name.

“And you know who I forgot is Ke’aun Kinner,” Jackson said. “He is definitely in that mix. Ke’aun Kinner. He is definitely in the top five. Here’s what’s nice: I have to think about it. It’s not, ‘OK, we only have five guys who can really run fast.’ ”

Every day during summer conditioning season, Jackson pitted fast runners against each other in races, believing the competition makes them train faster and in turn become faster. Martin had the fastest unofficial 40 time, so I thought I’d ask him for his top 5. First, I asked him to name the toughest guy to beat in a race.

“Me, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Ke’aun Kinner, (Colin) Spencer and T-Pat, Tyler Patrick,” Martin said.

Jackson and Martin mentioned eight players between them: Three cornerbacks (Stewart, Mayberry and Spencer), two running backs (Martin and Kinner) and three receivers (Gonzalez, Hartzog and Patrick).

Martin said Gonzalez is the toughest one for him to beat in a race.

Kansas definitely is getting faster.

Now it’s your turn to say something nice about Kansas football. Anybody out there?

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Video highlights of Kansas basketball recruit Marcus Garrett in marquee matchups

Dallas Skyline point guard Marcus Garrett, who on Monday made a verbal commitment to attend Kansas, wears No. 6 for the red team in the first video below.

Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound point guard who has the size to play the other two perimeter positions as well, is shown in the video below playing against Texas A&M three-star recruit T.J. Starks, a 6-foot pure point guard who led Dallas Lancaster to the state title last season. Rivals does not include Starks in its top 150 for the Class of 2017.

In the next video, Garrett is wearing No. 23 in blue and Irving MacArthur point guard Andrew Jones wears No. 10 in white. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound, five-star shooting guard, committed to Texas to play for Shaka Smart. Rivals ranks him No. 22 in the Class of 2017.

It won't take long for the Kansas coaching staff to turn Garrett into a much more intense defender. Other coaches will have a tougher time trying to figure out how to defend a long guard with a quick first step and a touch so soft the net barely moves.

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Staff well-equipped for changes in recruiting rules

Kansas football coach David Beaty holds a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 3, to discuss the Jayhawks' 2016 class of signees.

Kansas football coach David Beaty holds a news conference Wednesday, Feb. 3, to discuss the Jayhawks' 2016 class of signees. by Mike Yoder


Now that a new recruiting rule has gone into effect, a football program might as well be on the winning side of the rule change, even if it’s a minor one. David Beaty’s social media-conscious coaching staff is on the winning side of it.

As of Monday, college coaches in all sports are allowed to click “retweet” and “like” on the Twitter accounts of recruits and allowed to share recruits’ content on other social-media platforms. Coaches still can’t directly comment on the posts, but are allowed to show they are paying attention to the recruits’ via social media.

Every little bit helps and Kansas certainly needs any help it can get in trying to climb out of the Big 12 basement.

Beaty (1,809 tweets), walk-around guy Rob Likens (1,539), offensive line coach Zach Yenser (1,321) and defensive line coach Michael Slater (967) are particularly active on Twitter.

Losing five assistant coaches after his first season, only one via demotion, certainly wasn’t ideal for Beaty, but he seems to have rebounded well and put together a staff that so far seems to have good chemistry, solid recruiting contacts and a strong work ethic.

Yet again, I have said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 1 - DE Dorance Armstrong

With August right around the corner and another football season quickly coming, we've reached the top spot in our summer series of the most crucial Jayhawks for the 2016 season.

In all, the series featured 13 offensive players and 12 defensive players, lending support to the idea that the Jayhawks have work to do on both sides of the line of scrimmage if they want to become more competitive in the Big 12 and erase the memories of last year's winless season.

The No. 1 player on our list represents exactly what second-year coach David Beaty and company are going for — overlooked talent with a ton of potential and extreme dedication to getting better and elevating the program to better days.

One final reminder: This was not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team. That would have been much easier to pinpoint and, although still key, would not exactly have demonstrated the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results.

We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

In case you missed some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for a complete look at the list of 25.

1. Dorance Armstrong, Soph. Defensive End

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (46) runs through drills during practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (46) runs through drills during practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

From the moment Kansas football defensive coordinator Clint Bowen stalled during a home visit with defensive end recruit Dorance Armstrong so that the Missouri football coaches would have to wait outside, Bowen was convinced that this was a player the Jayhawks needed to land.

When Armstrong committed, Bowen was more excited about landing him than any other member of the Class of 2015.

Nothing about the way Armstrong competed as a part-time, undersized true freshman changed Bowen’s mind.

Armstrong added 17 pounds and didn’t lose a step during a committed offseason and in so doing kept the coaching staff’s excitement about his potential on an upward trend.

Armstrong, talented enough to post the first double-digit, single-season sack total since James Holt had 10 in 2008 before his four years are up, shapes up as the team’s most crucial player.

If he can harass quarterbacks on a consistent basis and can shed blockers quickly enough to keep ballcarriers from running wild on the outside, that can go a long way toward Kansas significantly improving a defense that statistically was the worst in the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2015.

Armstrong started the final five games of his true freshman season and ranked second to Ben Goodman with 3.5 sacks. Using his quickness to get around Oklahoma’s massive blockers, Armstrong totaled six tackles and two sacks against the mighty Sooners.

An active, 6-foot-4, 241-pound NFL prospect, Armstrong batted three passes against Texas.

It’s easy to see why Michigan State, Cal and several other schools from big conferences offered him a scholarship. He chose Kansas, a nice morale boost for the coaching staff. A big sophomore season from Armstrong would spread feel-good vibes throughout the program.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

No. 13 - DL D.J. Williams

No. 12 - S Fish Smithson

No. 11 - CB Brandon Stewart

No. 10 - WR Jeremiah Booker

No. 9 - QB Montell Cozart

No. 8 - OL Clyde McCauley

No. 7 - OL D'Andre Banks

No. 6 - QB Ryan Willis

No. 5 - DT Daniel Wise

No. 4 - LB Joe Dineen

No. 3 - RB Ke'aun Kinner

No. 2 - WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 3 - RB Ke’aun Kinner

Coming in at No. 3 on our list of the most crucial Jayhawks of the 2016 season is one of the best players from 2015 and one of the more pleasant surprises from a year ago.

He did not arrive on campus with much hype, but his size, speed, vision and ability quickly turned him into one of the more important options on a struggling offense that fought through injuries and youth all season long.

Thrust more into a leadership role in 2016, Kinner will be even more valuable for this program and everybody, both inside and outside the program, enters the season knowing that.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, although still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we’ll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner (22) breezes past Memphis linebacker Hayden Ferrari (30) during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas running back Ke'aun Kinner (22) breezes past Memphis linebacker Hayden Ferrari (30) during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

3. Ke'aun Kinner, Sr. Running Back

So many numbers say so much about the ineptitude of the 2015 Kansas football offense.

There aren’t many number combinations that say it better than these: Running back Ke’aun Kinner led the team with five touchdowns. Kinner did not have a single touchdown in KU’s nine games against Big 12 opponents.

Kinner, No. 3 on our list of the top 25 most crucial Jayhawks, rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns in his debut in a 41-38 loss to South Dakota State. He followed that up with 113 yards and a touchdown vs. Memphis. He scored twice against Rutgers, but averaged just 1.5 yards per game.

In his 10 games vs. schools from power five conferences, Kinner averaged 3.1 yards per carry, after averaging 6.3 yards in in the opening two weeks.

Those numbers suggest two things about Kinner: 1. When he’s fresh, he’s far better than when the hits over the course of a season result in nagging injuries; 2. When the offensive line is not completely overmatched and gives him room to run, he makes things happen.

Slowed by injuries, Kinner turned 25 carries into 49 yards during a four-game stretch (Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma). He emerged from that dry spell by combining for 30 carries and 147 yards in road games against Texas and TCU.

Kinner has break-away speed, but even after adding 11 pounds to get to 191, the 5-foot-9 back could use a lighter work load to increase his chances of staying healthy.

Anticipated Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans, Fort Hays State transfer James Sullivan and sprinters Taylor Martin, a sophomore, true freshman Khalil Herbert, and Ryan Schadler supply depth. Evans has the most power of the group. Combined, the reserves have 49 carries in Div. I football games without a single touchdown.

Clearly, a healthy season from Kinner is crucial for the Jayhawks.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

No. 13 - DL D.J. Williams

No. 12 - S Fish Smithson

No. 11 - CB Brandon Stewart

No. 10 - WR Jeremiah Booker

No. 9 - QB Montell Cozart

No. 8 - OL Clyde McCauley

No. 7 - OL D'Andre Banks

No. 6 - QB Ryan Willis

No. 5 - DT Daniel Wise

No. 4 - LB Joe Dineen

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Discipline taking root

Kansas football teammates Keegan Brewer, left, and LaQuvionte Gonzalez, visit during weightlifting exercises Friday morning, June 24, 2016.

Kansas football teammates Keegan Brewer, left, and LaQuvionte Gonzalez, visit during weightlifting exercises Friday morning, June 24, 2016. by Mike Yoder

Setting rules and then dismissing anybody who doesn't follow them is not the way to establish discipline in a football program. Anybody could do that. It's easy. The tough challenge is taking players who lack discipline and finding a way to get them to change their behaviors.

The summer conditioning program plays a big part in instilling discipline and things seem to be going well on that front.

“What showed me we’re changing is the amount of guys I've had to punish at 5 a.m.," Kansas strength and conditioning coach Je'Ney Jackson said Friday. "Like today, I didn’t have anyone. Let's say we have 100 guys. There will be eight different times per week they have to be somewhere on time for me. So that's 800 different opportunities for them to miss one of those times. I bet we've had six all summer. Six! When I first (returned to Kansas), that first spring, we might have six per week. I went 55 days in a row where I punished guys at 5 a.m. Fifty-five days in a row!"

Tardiness or absence from a class, a tutoring session and a workout are examples of transgressions that could earn a player an early alarm clock setting.

"Coaches are holding them more accountable and they don’t want to come in here and get crushed at 5 a.m.," Jackson said. "What coach (David) Beaty is doing, it’s working. It really is working."

All program reversals start with instilling discipline. It's a first step that must be followed by many, many more, such as improved recruiting, smart game-planning and in-game adjustments.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 6 - QB Ryan Willis

More than 14,000 high schools in the United States field football teams, yet only one of those schools can lay claim to having a candidate for the Kansas starting quarterback job.

Bishop Miege, located in Roeland Park, also furnished KU with an offensive line coach for two years until Tim Grunhard decided he didn’t want to miss his son’s high school years and resigned.

Montell Cozart, a 2013 Miege graduate, appeared at No. 9 on our list of most crucial Jayhawks. Ryan Willis, who graduated from Miege in 2015, checks in at No. 6 on our countdown.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete, which they failed to do during an 0-12 2015 season.

Matt Tait and and I collaborated on the list for the third consecutive season.

Track it every weekday at KUsports.com, where we’ll unveil one crucial Jayhawk at a time in reverse order. If you missed any, click the links at the bottom of each entry to get up to speed.

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) throws during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Ryan Willis (13) throws during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

6. Ryan Willis, Soph. Quarterback

Easier tasks exist than evaluating a true freshman quarterback playing behind a consistently overmatched offensive line in one of the nation’s top college football conferences.

Statistically, Willis didn’t fare particularly well. He completed 52.1 percent of his passes for just 5.46 yards per attempt and threw nine touchdown pases and 10 interceptions in 315 attempts. Cozart completed 62.9 percent with a 7.16 average, two touchdowns and one interception in 105 attempts before a season-ending injury.

Since Cozart has so much more experience, it stands to reason Willis will improve more in his second year in the program than Cozart in his fourth. Not so fast. Willis suffered a wrist injury playing pick-up basketball and couldn’t throw during spring football.

Second-year head coach David Beaty, who has taken on the responsibilities of offensive coordinator, has a tough decision on his hands. The fact that Willis and Cozart have such different strengths and weaknesses doesn’t make it any easier.

Willis’ greatest strength is in throwing accurate medium-to-long passes, which happens to be Cozart’s greatest weakness because of a tendency to overthrow receivers. Speed ranks as Cozart’s greatest strength, which happens to match up with Willis’ most glaring weakness.

Defenses facing a Cozart-led offense can crowd the field without fearing he will burn them with accurate down-field throws. Defenses facing an offense directed by Willis can worry about one fewer helmet in the running game because he is no threat with his feet. Willis can stretch a defense with the threat of the long ball.

Cozart, who as a freshman shied from contact to the point of running out of bounds one yard short of the first-down marker, has made big strides in that area. Willis took vicious hits last season and hung though throughout.

Because Cozart is such a known and Willis in theory has more untapped potential, the majority of the fan base will take it as an encouraging sign if Willis wins the job, but Beaty’s decision won’t be based on popularity, rather on which quarterback he thinks can generate more points for an offense that ranked 123rd among 128 FBS schools in 2015.

Even without much protection and a shortage of speedy targets, Willis showed he is more capable of scoring through the air than Cozart. Willis threw a touchdown once every 35 passes, not a good number. Cozart threw one every 52.5 passes, worse.

Which quarterback can more effectively get the ball in the hands of Texas A&M transfer wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez will be a factor.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

No. 13 - DL D.J. Williams

No. 12 - S Fish Smithson

No. 11 - CB Brandon Stewart

No. 10 - WR Jeremiah Booker

No. 9 - QB Montell Cozart

No. 8 - OL Clyde McCauley

No. 7 - OL D'Andre Banks

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Say something nice about Kansas football: Jayhawks’ run defense will improve

Kansas sophomore defensive tackle D.J. Williams works out with the Jayhawk football team during conditioning drills Friday, July 15, 2016.

Kansas sophomore defensive tackle D.J. Williams works out with the Jayhawk football team during conditioning drills Friday, July 15, 2016. by Mike Yoder

Frank Solich made his coaching reputation at Nebraska, where fleet running backs and powerful backs alike darted through holes blown open by corn-fed linemen.

That blueprint has worked well for Solich at Ohio University, which he has on a hot streak that includes going to bowl games in 6 of 7 years heading into this season.

Entering his 12th season at Ohio, Solich has a big, experienced offensive line, and all but two of the eight players who rushed for more than 100 yards last season back, including A.J. Ouellette, the leading rusher.

Based on the performance of last season’s Kansas defense, the Sept. 10 clash with the Bobcats in Memorial Stadium has all the earmarks of a blowout with the home team on the losing end.

A refresher on just how poorly the Jayhawks fared among 124 FBS schools against the run during an 0-12, 2015 season: 124th in rushing touchdowns (39), 123rd in yards per carry (5.67), 125th in yards per game (267.17).

Ohio’s rankings in rushing the football: 68th in rushing touchdowns (22), 76th in yards per carry (4.3), 50th in yards per game (180.85).

Solich doesn’t have an obvious choice to start at quarterback — always good news for the opposition — but all the candidates are dual-threats.

Obviously, KU stats were compiled against a brutal schedule, Ohio’s vs. a less challenging one.

Still, it’s a case of OU’s strength matching up against one of KU’s biggest weaknesses (another being pass defense), based on last season.

But last season’s defense won’t be taking the field, even though most of the names will be the same.

Other than Ben Goodman, all the starters from the defensive line were in their first year of Div. I football.

They all have grown in physique, confidence and football smarts. On paper at least, the D-line should be the most improved position group.

Sophomore Dorance Armstrong had a standout spring at defensive end. On the other side, Damani Mosby and Anthony Olobia have their junior-college transition year behind them. It’s the improvement in the middle of the D-line that creates the most hope that KU won’t get steamrolled to the extent it did a year ago.

D-tackles Daniel Wise and D.J. Williams both have been singled out as recipients of strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson’s Workout Warrior of the Week honor. (Reserve defensive end Josh Ehambe also was so honored).

Wise started seven games last season as a redshirt freshman and has added needed weight and emerged as a big leader on the defense. Williams, a prospect with impressive enough physical tools to receive scholarship offers from Oklahoma and Missouri, has completely transformed his work ethic, according to Jackson. He’s 6-foot-5, 306 pounds and agile.

Statistics don’t accurately reflect the contributions of a defensive lineman, so I thought it would be interesting to ask Williams to share his individual goals for this season.

“Every time someone comes in my hole, it’s not open. Just make sure that hole’s not open,” Williams said. “That’s my No. 1 individual goal. Another individual goal would be not getting tired, trying to keep that endurance. I really don’t like coming out of the game because I really didn’t get that many snaps (last year). I’m trying to get as many as I can before my time is up.”

Those are terrific goals, one centered on on-field performance, the other on conditioning. Still, no position requires more depth than D-tackle. Huge men who so often have to wrestle with two blockers at once need to rest. That’s where junior-college transfers Isi Holani and DeeIsaac Davis enter the equation.

Holani looked too overweight during the spring to project as a player who could help as soon as the fall. He looks as if he’s shedding pounds at a good rate.

Occupying blockers so that linebackers can come up and make the tackles is one job for D-tackles. Then it’s up to KU’s linebackers making tackles closer to the line of scrimmage than a year ago. Marcquis Roberts has healthier knees than at this point last season and brings quickness and toughness. Joe Dineen, with the first full year of his life as a linebacker behind him and added strength should make a leap forward.

So even though Ohio will be favored against Kansas in Week 2, an upset is possible if the Jayhawks’ run defense improves even more than I suspect it will.

Yet again, I said something nice about Kansas football. Step up to the plate and take your best cuts at shining optimism on a team coming off an 0-12 finish.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 11 - CB Brandon Stewart

As we approach the Top 10 of this summer's list, it's back to the defensive side of the ball, where the Jayhawks return a bunch of players with significant experience who are expected to enjoy a much more productive season in 2016 than the ones they produced in 2015.

Today's entrant might be at the top of that list, given the hope and expectation for him to deliver in Year 1 and the fact that it took him a little time to adjust and ease into things during his first season as a Jayhawk.

Stewart was by no means stellar during the 2015 season but he wasn't bad either. But because he plays one of the most visible and important positions in the Big 12, KU's going to need him to make a meaningful jump this season to improve its chances at snagging some victories.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, although still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we’ll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.

Kansas University cornerback Brandon Stewart (8) makes a play during practice on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

Kansas University cornerback Brandon Stewart (8) makes a play during practice on Thursday, March 26, 2015. by Richard Gwin

11. Brandon Stewart, Sr. Cornerback

The emergence of potential star defensive end Dorance Armstrong figures to translate to less time for opposing quarterbacks to find a receiver, which in turn translates to the Kansas secondary not getting shredded as badly as it did a year ago.

That factor and greatly increased experience combine to make the outlook of the pass defense less hopeless than a year ago. A more sound season from senior cornerback Brandon Stewart would go a long way toward making that happen.

The Kansas coaching staff was excited to get a commitment out of Stewart, a junior college cornerback especially since he was arriving at mid-semester and could participate in spring practice in 2015. A little undersized, he graded out well as a prospect in every other area. Yet, cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry was quick to point out that junior college competition does not equate to that in the pass-happy Big 12. Perry used another junior college player who struggled mightily in his first year in the Football Bowl Subdivsion and ultimately developed into a first-round draft pick. It would take time, perhaps a whole season, Perry cautioned, for Stewart to show why the staff was excited to land him.

“I call him Crazy Legs,” Perry said at the time. “His legs are all over the place.”

His body needed to become more disciplined to execute the fundamentals of playing cornerback and as his first season progressed, Stewart did show subtle improvements. He will be counted on to take a bigger leap forward now that he has a full season of game experience and two springs behind him.

“Last year was just getting a feel for D-1, getting a feel for KU,” Stewart said. “It was all just a whole bunch of new stuff thrown at you all at once. So now it’s, “I know what to do and I want to play with confidence and and play fast because you know what’s going to happen and you have the feel for stuff. That’s when a defense can really start making plays and start doing things to turn this program around. ... I know from scrimmages we’ve gotten a lot better.”

Stewart sounded more confident than ever this past spring.

“I know it’s the Big 12, but I feel like this guy across from me, I feel like I can beat him,” Stewart said. "He’s mine for the day. You just have to play with that confidence.”

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims, Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

No. 13 - DL D.J. Williams

No. 12 - S Fish Smithson

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Say something nice about Kansas Football: Jayhawks in middle of Big 12 pack for Class of 2017 recruiting

Kansas cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry shakes hands with officials at Southlake, Texas.

Kansas cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry shakes hands with officials at Southlake, Texas. by Richard Gwin

It’s too depressing to look behind to see where Kansas ranks in various Big 12 football categories. So why not look ahead? It will brighten the mood.

Rivals.com ranks Kansas fifth among 10 Big 12 teams in Class of 2017 recruiting thus far and 42nd in the nation.

Big 12 teams with national recruiting rankings for the Class of 2017: 5. Oklahoma, 24. (tie) Iowa State and Oklahoma State, 32. Texas Tech, 42. Kansas, 44. TCU, 46. Texas, 57. West Virginia, 66. Kansas State, 94. Baylor.

Aside from the encouraging ranking for Kansas, two interesting elements of the rankings jump out. First, Iowa State obviously made a great hire in wooing Matt Campbell from Toledo, where he went 35-15. Second, Baylor’s recruiting has taken a huge hit in the wake of the rape scandal and subsequent firing of head coach Art Briles.

Rivals lists a dozen verbal commitments — not counting those who then changed their minds — including one four-star recruit and seven three-star commitments.

Four-star: Michael Lee, DB, New Orleans, 5-foot-10, 162 pounds.

Three-star: Akayleb Evans, DB, McKinney, Texas, 6-2, 180; Troy James, DE, Baton Rouge, La., 6-4, 268; Travis Jordan, ATH, Marrero, La., 6-1, 185; Reggie Roberson, WR, Mesquite, Texas, 6-0, 175; Jamie Tago, DE, Garden City, 6-3, 245; Robert Topps, DB, Chicago, 6-2, 182; Dominic Williams, RB, Dallas, 5-9, 186.

Two-star: Jay Dineen, LB, Lawrence, 6-2, 225; Kyron Johnson, LB, Arlington, Texas, 6-1, 195; Takulve Williams, WR, New Orleans, 5-11, 180.

It won’t be easy for Kansas to keep all 12 recruits because it’s common for football recruits to change their minds when more established programs come knocking, but it’s an impressive list nonetheless, although an incomplete one because it’s so early.

A pair of highly rated Texas offensive linemen had committed to KU only to change their minds, so work needs to be done to recruit more high school blockers in order to break the cycle of relying on junior college O-linemen, never a sound strategy.

First-year running backs coach Tony Hull has opened up Louisiana for Kansas and his reputation already is paying off. Meanwhile, head coach David Beaty and cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry to continue to tap their Texas ties for talent.

At defensive end, Anthony Olobia and Damani Mosby both are seniors, so the need for immediate help made it necessary to land a junior college recruit. Tago, who plays at Garden City Community College, is the only junior college recruit among the 12 committed recruits.

Recruiting clearly is on the gradual uptick at Kansas. There, I said something nice about Kansas football, yet again. Your turn. Deliver.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 13 — DT D.J. Williams

From the most experienced projected starter on the defense, Marcquis Roberts, to the least experienced our series goes.

From the deepest position on the defense to one with more question marks and less obvious depth at a position that relies more than any other on rotating players in and out of the game to keep them fresh.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year’s team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, although still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we’ll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.

Kansas defensive tackle D.J. Williams (91) lays out Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard (13) and forces a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Kansas defensive tackle D.J. Williams (91) lays out Texas quarterback Jerrod Heard (13) and forces a fumble during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

13. D.J. Williams, So. Defensive Tackle

The Kansas coaching staff, then headed by Charlie Weis, understandably was excited to get a commitment from D.J. Williams out of the Lufkin, an industrial town in eastern Texas, located two hours northeast of Houston and three hours southwest of Dallas.

After all, Williams had a big frame, standing 6-foot-5 with broad shoulders and a thick body. Not only that, for what it’s worth, he was rated more favorably by recruiting services than most Kansas recruits. Rivals.com ranked him No. 38 in the nation among defensive tackles in the Class of 2014 and No. 78 among all recruits from the football-rich state of Texas. Plus, at various points during the recruiting process, Miami, Missouri and Oklahoma were wooing him.

Yet, once he arrived on campus and began the rigors of college football, from summer conditioning to fall camp to daily practices while wearing a redshirt, the buzz on Williams faded. At times, he looked a little overhelmed by the work load and breathed heavily quicker than some of his position mates during drills. At least outwardly, he didn’t exhibit a great deal of fire or drive. Some athletes need weekly games in order to break the monotony and rekindle the motor. Redshirts don’t have that luxury.

As the 2015 season progressed, so did Williams. He appeared in eight games last season, including the final seven. During a three-week stretch in the middle of the Big 12 season, he showed flashes of what made him a highly rated recruit. At Oklahoma Stte, he totaled a career-high three tackles and added two tackles the next week at home against national-title contender Okahoma. The following week, at Texas, he contributed the biggest play of his young career, a strip-sack.

Williams moves pretty well for a man who carries 300 pounds on his frame.

His potential will put him on the first team of the depth chart heading into fall camp, but he’ll need to bring consistent effort and energy in practice in order to stay there.

Sophomore Daniel Wise has one starting spot locked up and Williams will compete with juniors Jacky Dezir, in his second year at Kansas after a year of junior college, DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, a pair of juco transfers.

Should Williams emerge as the most improved player on the defense, that would settle any uneasy feelings about depth at defensive tackle. He has the tools. It’s just a matter of whether he can put them all together in this, his third season in the program.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

No. 23 - OL Joe Gibson

No. 22 - WR Steven Sims, Jr.

No. 21 - DE Anthony Olobia

No. 20 - RB Denzell Evans

No. 19 - DE Damani Mosby

No. 18 - S Tyrone Miller

No. 17 - DB Tevin Shaw

No. 16 - OL Jordan Shelley-Smith

No. 15 - TE Ben Johnson

No. 14 - LB Marcquis Roberts

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