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Get To Know The Conference - Kansas

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Got to talk with David of SB Nations Kansas site, Rockchalktalk.com about the upcoming Kansas football team and what the season could look like for the Jayhawks.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Returning Players

  1. Montell Cozart (QB) Cozart has struggled, significantly for the most part, in his time on the field for the Jayhawks, but with incumbent starter Michael Cummings likely sidelined for the year following knee surgery, it's hard to imagine the job of signal caller going to anyone but Cozart. He's shown flashes of ability and the athleticism as a runner is there (even if he shies away from contact), so Kansas fans are hoping that between the new system and the new coaches, we're going to see a new Montell Cozart.
  2. Ben Goodman (DE) Goodman isn't even a household name among KU fans, but he could be the Jayhawks' best defensive player. Two years ago he split time with Michael Reynolds at the hybrid DE/LB position and found success in disrupting plays in the backfield. Last year the coaches bulked him up and slotted him in as a DE in a 3-4 formation, which just wasn't playing to his strengths. The change to a 4-3 this year should free him up to attack the backfield instead of occupying blockers, and I think his senior year could be a solid one.
  3. Matthew Boateng (CB) The coaches never even considered redshirting Boateng last year as he was used as an interior corner from day one. He had a very rough first few games, but eventually got things going and was even able to fill in at outside corner for Dexter McDonald for a game following an injury with no issues. Boateng didn't necessarily look like a star in the making, but he has talent and the secondary returns zero starters, so his success and continued development will be key to at least slowing down opponents' passing games.
  4. Larry Mazyck (LT). Larry Mazyck stands 6'8, weighing 343 pounds, and should be the anchor of an offensive line full of question marks. Mazyck was probably the most consistent blocker on a swiss cheese offensive line last year, and will hold down left tackle next to mostly newcomers this year. If those newcomers step up, Mazyck may actually have the makings of a respectable lineman.

Leaving players

  1. Ben Heeney (LB) Heeney was 1st team All-Big 12 last year and an absolute monster. He had 127 tackles last year and set records in a couple of events at the combine for the linebacker position. Kansas simply isn't in a place where they can plug someone in to fill that space, and Heeney will be sorely missed.
  2. Every single productive receiver on the team I know this is cheating, but Kansas literally has to replace every receiver and tight end who caught more than eight passes last year. The projected starters at receiver are all newcomers, and depth is a concern. Oh, and we're running the air raid now, so whoever plays here is going to see a lot of playing time.
  3. Jacorey Shepherd (CB) Really you could have chosen any of the departed starters from last year's secondary, but Shepherd's absence will likely sting the most. KU's defense has been better than you'd think the last couple of years, and Shepherd locking down his man was a big part of that. He was also a stellar kid off the field, and a leader in the locker room. He's taken his talents to the NFL after being drafted by the Eagles, and Kansas will have trouble finding a replacement.

Incoming players

  1. Ke'Aun Kinner (RB) Kinner was good enough to commit to Texas coming out of high school, but academics sent him the juco route. He tore it up in the juco circuit, and is the heir apparent to the RB1 slot after last year's starter, Corey Avery, was dismissed from the team earlier this summer. Kansas won't be a run-heavy team, but if Kinner is good enough to keep teams from selling out against the pass, it will go a long way to helping this fledgling offense.
  2. Bazie Bates IV (S) Bates was also one of few players David Beaty plucked from the juco ranks, and Bates came fairly highly regarded. He'll start immediately at safety, and will likely be counted on to hold his ground surrounded by inexperience in the secondary. He's off to a good start after leading all players in tackles in the spring game.
  3. Marcquis Roberts (LB) Roberts is still waiting for official clearance to play right away as a graduate transfer from South Carolina, but he was a big pickup for Beaty and co. in the offseason. Senior linebacker Jake Love surprised KU fans by announcing he was hanging up the cleats this summer. Love wasn't a next-level player, but he was a smart player and big hitter, and one of few experienced linebackers on the team. Roberts has started 14 total games at South Carolina, and brings valuable experience and talent to the position, provided he's eligible and can stay healthy, which was a big concern while at SC.

Questions

1) Some of us down here don't really know what happened with the Kansas coach. Can you tell us what happened to the interim coach and why the school went with David Beaty.


Clint Bowen got his chance to interview for the job with the interim tag, but the results just weren't there. No one expected him to go on an undefeated run, but aside from a win over an ailing ISU team and a near-upset over TCU, Kansas generally sputtered after Bowen took over. Humiliating blowouts to West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State were just more of the same, and given the senior-laden roster he inherited, a bit more competitiveness was expected.

As for why Beaty was selected, there are probably a few factors involved. One is the price tag. After shelling out huge money to Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, the boosters likely weren't willing to go all in on any new coach who wasn't a sure thing, and no sure thing was going to come to Kansas. But aside from being cheap, Beaty also brings a youthful energy and positivity to the position, which is going to be needed to deal with the depth and talent issues left behind by Weis. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Beaty is regarded as an ace recruiter. The guy seems to have a long relationship with every major high school football coach in the state of Texas, and every time his name is mentioned, the speaker finds a way to bring up his recruiting ability. Kansas won't win without consistently bringing in Big 12 talent, and Beaty's reputation as a recruiter was probably his most attractive asset.

2) What needs to happen for KU to improve on last season?

Simply put, Kansas won't improve on last year. Last year was a team full of seniors that still pulled off only three wins. This year Kansas doesn't even have a full complement of 85 scholarship players, and they return only five starters. This is as close to rebuilding job as you can come without literally starting a new program.

3) Are there any position battles going on right now, if so, where?

Quarterback could end up being a battle if Cozart can't improve on past results. The problem is, his competition is going to be two true freshmen, so it might take a lot for him to lose the starting job. Wide receiver is completely up in the air after losing virtually everyone from last year. Rod Coleman was probably the best and most experienced of the bunch, but he was kicked off the team this spring. Both kicker and punter appear to be at least somewhat open as well.

4) What are the strong spots for the Jayhawks this year? Weak spots?

The strongest spots (relatively speaking), are probably running back and defensive line. After Ke'Aun Kinner, Kansas has an efficient runner in De'Andre Mann and a battering ram in Taylor Cox in the backfield, so although KU won't look to run much, they'll have options at running back. The defensive line won't be overpowering, but it's probably the most experienced unit on the field. Ben Goodman can provide some pressure off the edge, and guys like Andrew Bolton and TJ Semke showed that they can at least occupy some blockers last year. There are also several players who redshirted last year ready to provide depth and possibly push for starting spots.

5) What player do you think has the best chance to be a breakout star for the Jayhawks this year?

Tight end Kent Taylor is a transfer from Florida who never really got it going in Gainesville, but has the measurables and looked very promising in the spring game. OC Rob Likens' offense is going to feature the tight ends in a role where they split out wide and get plenty of opportunities to haul in passes, and while Taylor's lack of past production makes him a question mark, I think he could become a weapon in this offensive scheme.

6) It's been since 2008 since KU has won eight games. What needs to happen for KU to win more than eight games this year or anytime near in the future? What do you think is the final record?

Eight wins simply won't happen this year. It's going to take time, patience, and very solid recruiting to get back to that point. Beaty is positive, likeable, and brings a lot of passion to the position, but none of that guarantees results. This coaching staff is going to have put in a lot of long days and strike gold a few times on the recruiting trail to get to eight wins any time soon. Right now, I think most fans would just like to sniff a bowl game in the next few years. For this year, I'm predicting a 2-10 record.

7) What's going to be the most exciting thing about KU football this year?

For outsiders, there probably won't be much excitement to be seen. For fans, it will be seeing the new air raid offense, and watching the young players develop. I'm most excited to see if some of these young players look like building blocks for future success, or if Beaty is really just starting from scratch.

8)Finally, who wins the game between OSU and KU if it were played tomorrow?

OSU. It doesn't matter when or where the game is played. Kansas is coming off five straight abysmal seasons, and this roster may be shakier than we've seen in any of those. KU is strictly in rebuilding mode right now, and while I hope they surprise a couple teams as the year goes on, I wouldn't pick them to beat another Big 12 team right now