Gameday: Saturday, October 6, 2018
Location: Mountaineer Field at Milan-Puskar Stadium
Opponent: Kansas Jayhawks
Predicted Season: 3-9, Offense - 116th ; Defense - 69th
Streak: West Virginia has won the last five
If you were just hired as the head coach of the Kansas Jayhawks, would you sacrifice short-term gains for longer-term success? Would you focus on freshman, claim to not care about the record and suffer through the down years hoping to get back to just mediocrity? When you saw just how bad that system would work, would you then panic and immediately recruit all the junior college players hoping to make a big change?
That has been the philosophy of the Kansas Jayhawks for the past decade. Coach comes in, wants his guys and is willing to suffer through the bad years. Goes 0-12 or 1-11 and then immediately gets scared of losing his job because he can’t win and decides he needs junior college players. It is a vicious cycle that different coaches keep falling into.
Kansas is the doormat of the Big 12 and one of the worst Power 5 football teams in the country. I don’t say this to be mean to the Jayhawks but they’ve sold their soul to own the Big 12 in Men’s Basketball, and the price is the worst football team on the field every. single. week.
Most Mountaineer fans should be familiar with Kansas running back Khalil Herbert, if you weren’t, then you couldn’t have forgotten the 291 yards he put up on the ground last year. Herbert proved he has the ability to be a workhorse for Kansas, averaging over 5.5 yards per carry last season.
Unfortunately, Herbert right now looks to be the only workhorse in the Kansas offense. Running backs are subject to their offensive line and their quarterback play. The old adage of if you have two quarterbacks, you have non doubly applies to Kansas as both Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley were entrenched in a positional battle all season last year and neither has taken the job over completely.
Offensive coordinator Doug Meachum may be better off turning to Miles Kendrick and hoping that the same passing threat coupled with more mobility will turn the offense around.
The Jayhawks will have Steven Sims Jr. back after he caught 59 passes for 839 yards and 6 touchdowns. If any of the other receivers can take a step forward, like Evan Fairs improving on his 24 catches at 14 yards per pop average, then Kansas may be able to stay in games a bit longer and grind out a win or two that they haven’t in the past.
In the spring game, the offensive line was ravaged by injuries and was barely able to field a starting unit, which feels too much like an epitome of Kansas football. The staff is hoping that Hakeem Adeniji is able to help bookend the left tackle spot while Ohio State transfer Kevin Feder is able to solidify the interior.
Defensively Kansas was not a pushover last year. The Jayhawks were in the backfield of just about everyone they played thanks to DT Daniel Wise. With Wise manning the interior of the defense, the Jayhawks were 14th in run stuffs. Wise had 16 TFL and 7 sacks making him one of the Big 12’s best defensive linemen.
Behind Wise is the nation’s #2 tackler, Joe Dineen Jr. Dineen registered 115 tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. The Jayhawks will team him up with Kyron Johnson who has sideline to sideline speed. With an even better defensive line, the Jayhawks may have one of the scariest front six in the conference.
On the backend will be Hasan Defense. Easily the Jayhawks best cornerback, Hasan finished last season with 9 pass breakups. The problem at corner is if your best cornerback is being targeted often that he has 9 pass breakups, is he that good? Beaty and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will need to find playmakers on the back end and could look to someone like freshman Corione Harris.
Placekicker Gabriel Rui returns and was solid last year making all of his point after tries and 11 of his 13 field goals from inside 40 yards. Steven Sims is back to handle return duties on both punts and kickoffs and has enough speed to be dangerous if the blocking is there. There will be a new punter this year with Kyle Thompson.
David Beaty’s group returns some solid playmakers on both the offensive and defensive side but this is still the Jayhawks. The game is in Morgantown, WV where the scores have not been close. In three games at home, the Mountaineers have outscored Kansas 92-7 in the first half.