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2020 West Virginia Opponent Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

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Will Les Miles’ second year be any better than the previous 5 coaches at Kansas?

West Virginia v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

The West Virginia Mountaineers schedule is a bit unique. They get a bye week after only three weeks but the bye week is quite helpful to the ‘Eers. The Mountaineers will be home against the Baylor Bears then get a week off then take on the Kansas Jayhawks at home. That is three straight weeks at home, not something many teams get. The less travel the Mountaineers do, the better.

The Kansas Jayhawks made a splash hire last year when they brought former national championship winning head coach Les Miles out of retirement and lured him to Kansas. In some weeks, the Jayhawks looked competent, like their 29-24 defeat at the hands of the Mountaineers, or their 50-48 loss to Texas. They even surprised Boston College Eagles when they swarmed BC 48-24, but then there are the 51-14 drubbing by TCU, 38-10 loss to in-state rival Kansas State, and 61-6 shellacking at the hands of the Baylor Bears.

Key Losses

Khalil Herbert, who once ran for nearly 300 yards against the Mountaineers in 2017, transferred to the Virginia Tech Hokies after sitting out the final 8 games of the 2019 season and using his available redshirt. Herbert only had 382 yards but given that he averaged over 8 yards per carry, I’m sure Les Miles could have used a second running back on the team with breakaway ability.

Quarterbacks Carter Stanley, who led the team with 2,661 yards is gone and so is backup Manny Miles.

On defense, a bad defense could be much worse after losing 10 seniors who played significant minutes. The defense finished last in nearly every statistical category is going to have a lot of new faces. Leading tackler Mike Lee is gone and so is linebacker Najee Stevens-McKenzie who led the team in interceptions. Sack artist Azur Kamara is also gone.

Key Returners

It starts with running back Pooka Williams, who led the team with over 1,000 yards rushing last season, despite being suspended int he season opener for a domestic violence charge. Williams has also shown the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, making him a dual threat for the Jayhawks.

Whoever wins the starting quarterback job will have a deep group of receivers to throw the ball to. Leading receiver Andrew Parchment is back after catching 872 yards last season and he will be joined by Stephon Robinson and his team-leading 8 touchdown catches. The pair combined for over 1,600 yards, and they will also have Kwame Lassiter.

The defense lost nearly ever starter from a very bad defense. Two of the Jayhawks better defenders only played four games last year. Steven Parker only played four games and chose to redshirt last year. Sixth year linebacker Dru Prox will be back after a shoulder injury ended his 2019 season. Gavin Potter, who replaced Dru Prox after his injury, finished the year with 56 tackles and will be back as well.

Prediction

Last year, the Mountaineers played a close game against the Jayhawks in Lawrence and it highlighted just how far West Virginia needed to improve to be competitive in the Big 12. This year, with Kansas’ depleted defense and an improved offense with presumed starter Jarret Doege, this game will highlight just how far Neal Brown has come in just one year.

Mountaineers 42 - Jayhawks 14