Spring Showcase Can’t Answer Important Questions For Kansas Jayhawks

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Kansas Jayhawks
LAWRENCE, KS - NOVEMBER 18: Kansas Jayhawks safety Shaquille Richmond (4) celebrates after defending a pass in the third quarter of a Big 12 game between the Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas Jayhawks on November 18, 2017 at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, KS. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Kansas Jayhawks are entering Year 4 of the David Beaty era, and little has changed since he arrived in Dec. 2014. The team’s win total is negligible. Quarterback consistency is non-existent. The roster still isn’t even close to the 85 allotted scholarships for FBS teams.

The old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same” continues to ring true in Lawrence.

Kansas has more holes than arguably any other FBS program. And, unfortunately for the Jayhawks, it will be hard for them to fix many, or any, of their issues with their spring program this year.

Hope “springs” eternal

What will be different this year for Kansas is the spring game. Rather, the “spring showcase,” a byproduct of the team’s lack of depth. Instead of a full scrimmage game, or the various modified scrimmages Beaty has tried during his tenure, this year’s event will be an open practice.

The reason behind this decision is Kansas’ complete lack of depth. Namely, the combination of a relatively small roster and numerous offensive line injuries made a regular scrimmage a non-starter.

The most notable health-related issue for Kansas won’t only hurt the team all year, but can’t be a good omen for Beaty. Center Mesa Ribordy left the program due to an undisclosed medical issue.

Without Ribordy last season, the Jayhawks were shutout in consecutive weeks by Iowa State and TCU, and had 127 yards of offense combined in those games.

The injuries and adapted spring game are just two more roadblocks in a tenure filled with them for Beaty. He survived intense scrutiny from fans after Kansas’ one-win 2017 season just to make it to his fourth year. After three wins total in three years, he will need a marked win-total improvement if he wants to stay in his job again next season.

Needed improvements

Consistency is a dire need for the Jayhawks this year. That’s not a new concept for Kansas, just a continuing trend. It’s easy to identify that problem for KU, but the difficulty is finding where to start fixing it.

Offensively, it starts at quarterback. There have been multiple starters in every season under Beaty, with each making multiple starts. This year will likely continue the trend, with Peyton Bender, Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick all jockeying for playing time.

Bender, a transfer from Washington State, was last season’s opening-day starter. He completed 54.2 percent of his passes last year for 1,609 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was often maligned by costly overthrows and an inability to sustain drives.

Stanley notably made a splash in 2016 when he led Kansas to a win over Texas. He showed flashes of impressive play last year too, including a 400-yard passing performance against Kansas State, but his year was mired in inconsistency.

Kendrick is a new, interesting case. At the very least, the most interesting aspect may be that he’s new blood in the quarterback room. He’s a three-star JUCO recruit who adds a more mobile option for Beaty, which could provide a new playmaking ability for the offense.

The biggest downside for Kansas of not having a spring game is not putting the three passers in a game situation. Spring games can’t answer every question, but they can help give coaches an idea of some answers.

Beyond the quarterbacks

Obviously, the quarterback battle will be the biggest storyline to watch in the off-season. The team’s issues stretch far beyond it, though. Just on the offensive side of the ball, the aforementioned offensive line struggles will make things difficult for whoever wins the quarterback competition.

Additionally, the team is simply lacks playmakers. This is an issue both offensively and defensively. Whoever starts at quarterback is going to have limited known quantities at the skill positions. Wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. and running back Khalil Herbert will be back, but the cupboard, at least in terms of established players, is effectively empty beyond them.

It’s the same story defensively for the Jayhawks. With standout edge rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr. gone for the NFL draft, the talent pool is even smaller this season for a much-maligned defensive unit. Defensive tackle Daniel Wise, linebacker Joe Dinnen Jr. and safety Mike Lee are the only major contributors on the defense returning in 2018.

One boon for the Jayhawks defense, however, is incoming cornerback Corione Harris. A four-star recruit from Louisiana, Harris is the biggest recruit of the Beaty era so far. He instantly becomes the best coverage option for Kansas, something the team has been lacking for years.

Again, though, not having a game keeps the new and competing players from getting simulated game experience.

The value of that simulated experience is certainly debatable. However, any new deterrent for Kansas is one that slows the program’s progress even more.

Barring a miracle, it’s likely going to be another long season for Beaty and the Jayhawks. It doesn’t bode well for the least successful Power 5 team of the last decade that even their spring game is a failure to launch, even if it hasn’t always been a successful event in the past, anyway.

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