Today at No. 126: KANSAS
Coach: David Beaty (0-0, entering first season, 0-0 overall)
2014 record: 3-9, 1-8 in the Big 12 Conference, ninth place
Look back: Kansas opened the season by winning two of its first three games, but things quickly took a turn for the worse. Following a 23-0 loss to Texas in the fourth game of the season, athletic director Sheahon Zenger fired Charlie Weis. Clint Bowen took over as the interim coach, leading the Jayhawks to a 1-7 finish to the season. During the offseason, Zenger hired former KU assistant David Beaty to be the program’s new coach.
Offensive starters returning: 4
Offensive starters lost: 7
Defensive starters returning: 4
Defensive starters lost: 7
Key losses: WR Justin McCay, WR Nick Harwell, WR Nigel King, LT Pat Lewandowski, LG Ngalu Fusimalohi, RG Mike Smithburg, TE Jimmay Mundine, RB Tony Pierson, DL Dexter McDonald, DL Tedarian Johnson, DL Keon Stowers, LB Mike Reynolds, LB Ben Heeney, S Cassius Sendish
Top returnees: QB Michael Cummings, RB Corey Avery, OL Joe Gibson, OL Keyon Haughton, DL Ben Goodman, DL Tevin Shaw, DL T.J. Semke, LB Jake Love, LB Courtney Arnick
Strengths: It’s an open competition at the quarterback position this spring, with senior Michael Cummings and junior Montell Cozart battling for the opportunity to start the season under center. Cozart (701 yards, 5 TDs, 7 INTs) started the first five games last season before being replaced by the upperclassman for the final seven games. Cummings stepped in, passing for 1,715 yards with nine touchdowns and six interceptions. Senior Ben Goodman (21 tackles in 2014, 24 career starts) anchors a defensive line that will be leaned upon early in the season. He’ll be joined by T.J. Semke (21 tackles) and Andrew Bolton (16 tackles, 1.5 sacks).
Weaknesses: The biggest test for Kansas this season is replacing close to 83 percent of its production at the wide receiver spot after the departures of Jimmay Mundine (584 yards, 3 TDs), Nick Harwell (470 yards, 5 TDs) and Nigel King (537 yards, TD). Guards Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg, along with tackle Pat Lewandowski, are gone, leaving the offensive line with some big gaps to fill heading into 2015.
The defense took a major hit with the exits of linebackers Ben Heeney (127 tackles, 1.5 sacks) and Mike Reynolds (45 tackles, 7.0 sacks). The secondary, meanwhile, also lost a ton of talent after Isaiah Johnson (75 tackles, INT), Cassius Sendish (69 tackles, INT) and Dexter McDonald (35 tackles, 2 INTs) left the program in the offseason.
Outlook: Beaty said this spring Kansas will switch to a spread offense similar to the one run by his former employer, Texas A&M. Finding enough talented players to fit into the scheme may be another challenge, making this season likely to be marked by growing pains. The Jayhawks’ schedule, which ranks among the toughest in the nation, won’t help the team.
Sept. 5 vs. South Dakota State
Sept. 12 vs. Memphis
Sept. 26 at Rutgers
Oct. 3 at Iowa State
Oct. 10 vs. Baylor
Oct. 17 vs. Texas Tech
Oct. 24 at Oklahoma State
Oct. 31 vs. Oklahoma
Nov. 7 at Texas
Nov. 14 at TCU
Nov. 21 vs. West Virginia
Nov. 28 vs. Kansas State
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