Les freakin’ Miles is coaching the Kansas Jayhawks. I could honestly stop writing right now and that is all that really needs to be said. Les freakin’ Miles. The Kansas Jayhawks are currently on year 11 of their 3-year rebuild. In 2007, the Jayhawks went 12-1 in Mark Mangino’s sixth year. Since then, the Jayhawks won 8 games in 2008 and have been under .500 ever since. In fact, they won 5 games in 2009 and haven’t sniffed more than 3 wins since, despite beating Texas Longhorns on the football field. That is amazing.
GET TO KNOW THE ENEMY
Where are they from?: Lawrence, KS
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Famous Alumni: Ant-Man, Bob Dole and Don Johnson
Conference: Big 12
THE HEAD COACH
Les Miles, the Mad-Hatter himself. Miles actually has coached in the Big 12 before. When Miles took over at Oklahoma State in 2001, the Cowboys had gone 326-359-22 since 1933. They had some winning seasons here and there but had been to one bowl from 1988 - 2001. Miles and offensive coordinator Mike Gundy went 28-21 and went to three straight bowl games. Miles then took the job at LSU where he won a national title and had the LSU Tigers in title contention nearly every year.
SCOUTIN’ THE JAYHAWKS
In 2009, following allegations of player abuse, coach Mark Mangino was let go after a 5-7 season. In 2010 the Jayhawks began a 9-years streak of winning 3 games or less. In 2018, David Beatty struggled to find consistency. He began his tenure at Kansas the way every coach seems to - wanting to get back to recruiting 4-year players. After a 0-12 season, Beatty trashed that idea and went the JUCO route. That led to wins but not enough. Kansas lost to FCS Nicholls State in their season opener before beating both Central Michigan and Rutgers. They then started Big 12 play with 4-straight losses before the defense forced a fumble in the final minute against TCU Horned Frogs to earn their only conference win of 2018. The Jayhawks would finish 3-9.
Who did they lose?
I’m not sure it really qualifies as a loss since the previous coaching staff couldn’t decide on a starter, but senior Peyton Bender, who led the team in passing with 1,184 yards last season is gone. The receiving corp has the most losses, losing Steven Sims and his 53 catches and 4 touchdowns.
Defensively, in 2018, Kansas featured a D-Line that arguably made people think in the preseason that games could be tougher than usual. The top tacklers on the team are gone, including Daniel Wise.
Who do they return?
The star of the Jayhawks offense is running back Pooka Williams. He rushed for 1,125 yards at 7 yards per carry and caught another 33 passes for 289 yards. Williams will miss the first game of the season following a domestic violence charge.
Kansas does have a couple of other running backs (Khalil Herbert who ran for 300 yards against WVU is still on the roster) but they don’t really have much else. Peyton Bender is gone so Miles will have to rely on a bunch of unproven players, possibly even his own son!
The wide receiver position isn’t much better since three of the top receiving targets in 2018 are gone. Former Alabama Crimson Tide Daylon Charlot is the best of the returning bunch and did catch balls at a 14.8 YPC clip, but he had 12 receptions last year.
Last year, the Jayhawks had a defensive line that at least made you pause. Those players are gone. Daniel Wise was a solid player but he’s gone. Pass rusher Azur Kamara is back and so is Kyron Johnson but neither much to write home about.
Miles does have four star linebacker Steven Parker, so maybe? The one place that Kansas does have some experience is its secondary. Bryce Torneden and Corione Harris along with Hasan Defense all return and provide a servicable back 5 in the pass-happy Big 12.
Why should West Virginia be worried?
The lowest point in the Big 12 came in 2013 when Dana Holgorsen struggled to find a quarterback and realized without star power, West Virginia didn’t have the depth to compete. The Mountaineers would go on to lose to Kansas that year. Miles is a competent coach and KU is still a Power 5 program so if the team is still transitioning, this could be a game where they get caught.
Why should West Virginia not be worried?
It is still Kansas. The game plan should be to stop Pooka Williams and make the quarterback and receivers beat you. Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning seems to be more adept at bringing different looks to confuse an offense and the defensive line of the Mountaineers is viewed as a strength.