If you ever listen to our podcast, you know how much we stress the need to look for the little bits of light in all of the proverbial darkness that is Kansas football. We saw lots of really embarrassing things happen this year, but there’s no doubt there are many positives to take away.
I think that we definitely have seen year over year improvement, even if the record doesn’t necessarily reflect that. Going from 2-10 to 1-11 seems like it was a regression, but here’s why you should continue to be patient:
Steven Sims caught 59 passes for 839 yards in his junior year, while reeling in six touchdown grabs. He ended up being the only real offensive weapon, despite battling injury for a lot of the season, but another year of being healthy, with an improved offensive line, more talented receivers to compliment himself, and more experienced quarterbacks (or a new freshman quarterback) to get him the ball all point to another great year for Sims in 2018.
The best unit of the entire team was undoubtedly the defensive front. The combination of J.J. Holmes, Daniel Wise, and Dorance Armstrong will all most likely be returning in 2018, plus the addition of Isi Holani who got injured at the beginning of the year. If you think back to the beginning of the year, the defense was getting blown out. This was largely due to a lack of talent at safety and cornerback. As the year went on, the piece that continued to glue the defense together was the line. We saw great performances throughout the year like the 4 sack game against K-State, and 3 sack games against Iowa State and Texas. Yet another year of experience for the studs up front is only going to help the Jayhawks compete in 2018.
First in the nation in tackles and third in tackles for a loss. I just want that to sink in with you for a second. A player, on the 1-11 Kansas Jayhawks, led the entire world in tackles. That is quite aan accomplishment from the junior linebacker. Joe Dineen had a year that would be a highlight of any teams season, which makes him without question the biggest bright spot of the 2017 season. Experiencing individual greatness will only help the rest of the defense improve for next year. The talent and leadership points to an even brighter defense in 2018.
The most important piece of this whole year is to realize that it’s just one more year of the rebuild. I understand that many who read this call for the head coach, the offensive and defensive coordinators, and the athletic director to be fired. Whatever your view is on that controversy, they’re not going anywhere. Head coach David Beaty will be heading into year four of his now seven-year-long contract. The moral of that story is that the athletic department understands just how bad the football program was when coach Beaty got here.
This is the first year of getting even close to normal division-one scholarship numbers. As players continue to grow in the system they are only going to get better. Along with scholarship numbers, the other major indicator that things are going to get better are the number of returning players the Jayhawks will have in 2018.
Things to Look Forward to
It is fairly simple why I think the Jayhawks will be better next year. The biggest reason that I can’t stress enough is simply getting guys in the system for another year. That’s the biggest reason Coach Beaty said that rebuilding this program is a long process and I believe him. The next big thing is the talented recruiting class coming in, especially relative to what we have had. The last piece is hopefully an easier schedule which I will get into a little later.
I’m going to give you a way too early prediction for next year, but first I wanna talk about how I come to my prediction. Coming into this year being the optimist that I am, I had predicted the Jayhawks would finish 4-8. Now, we didn’t come close to that for a variety of reasons that I admittedly didn’t take into account. Three main factors kept that from happening: the offensive line, very young players, and a weaker secondary.
What helps most about next year is the fact that many of our young freshman and sophomores will have another year of experience under their belts. The offensive line is a year older, and so are the wide receivers, quarterbacks, and the secondary. There is no doubt that this young team needed the experience of playing really tough teams to help them learn.
Now, when you look at some of the better seasons in recent memory, they have occurred during even years. Home field advantage means everything in college football and next year the conference schedule should ease up some. With two early home games against Nicholls State and Rutgers, there is no reason for the Jayhawks to finish week 3 next year without playing a competitive game.
With a better team and another relatively easy non-conference schedule, 2018 will be much more competitive than any of Beaty’s previous years. So based on all we know about the 2018 season here is my prediction:
If you are looking for improvement, 4-8 would make it very clear that it is happening. I hope I am not too optimistic, but instead realistic. Based on the experience the returning players will have and the talent that the Jayhawks will have coming into next year, four wins is a realistic goal. That should be an exciting step towards being competitive in the Big 12. I’m excited and optimistic for next year, and you should be too.