We already knew the identity of the starting quarterback for the Kansas football team’s season opener against Nicholls State. Now some greater clarity exists for the rest of the Jayhawks’ lineup, too.
Five days ahead of the team’s debut, KU published its first depth chart of 2018 on Monday evening, six days after announcing senior Peyton Bender won the starting job at QB.
As one would expect, names such as Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen and Steven Sims Jr. join Bender’s on the first-team level.
The reveal of the depth chart, though, provided a first glimpse at how KU’s coaches have evaluated the level of play at several other positions — a subject both head coach David Beaty and his players addressed only in vague terms during interviews earlier this month, as the battles played out behind the closed gates of the team’s practice fields.
The offensive skill players on track to join Bender and senior receiver Sims in the starting lineup on Saturday (6 p.m. David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium) are: senior receivers Kerr Johnson Jr. and Jeremiah Booker and senior tight end Mavin Saunders.
The coaches left some flexibility, however, at other spots. At running back in particular, the competition appears to be fierce. Junior Khalil Herbert, sophomore Dom Williams and true freshman Pooka Williams all are listed as potential starters.
At KU’s fourth receiver spot, both junior Evan Fairs and sophomore Stephon Robinson remain in the mix to start.
KU’s overhauled offensive line will include at least one new starter, center Alex Fontana. Junior Hakeem Adeniji, who has started all 24 games since arriving at Kansas, is pegged as the No. 1 left tackle.
But the other three spots on the O-line remain undecided and include two options: junior Andru Tovi or redshirt sophomore Malik Clark at left guard, senior Dwayne Wallace or sophomore Chris Hughes at right guard, and junior Kevin Feder or junior Clyde McCauley III at right tackle.
Led by redshirt seniors in tackle Wise and linebacker Dineen, KU’s defense also includes returning starters in senior defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, senior linebacker Keith Loneker Jr., junior nickelback Bryce Torneden, junior cornerback Hasan Defense, junior safety Mike Lee, junior safety Tyrone Miller Jr. and senior cornerback Shak Taylor.
At defensive end, seniors KeyShaun Simmons and Brian Lipscomb enter Week 1 as the two starters on the edges of the D-line.
On special teams, sophomore Liam Jones will once again handle kickoffs. The No. 1 placekicker, senior Gabriel Rui, is back, as well.
Sophomore Kyle Thompson is the first-string punter. The No. 1 long snapper is redshirt senior John Wirtel. Sophomore Donovan Gagen will handle holds on field goals and extra points.
KU’s top punt returner will be senior playmaker extraordinaire Sims. The kickoff returners listed are Pooka Williams and senior Ryan Schadler.
Monday’s unveiling of KU’s depth chart — the team hadn’t made one public since the days leading up to its 2017 finale — also shined light, of course, on which players will be providing relief for the starters and potentially pushing them for playing time.
Second-stringers for the offense are:
• QB: sophomore Miles Kendrick or junior Carter Stanley
• WR: sophomore Quan Hampton or senior Schadler
• WR: junior Daylon Charlot or sophomore Kwamie Lassiter II
• WR: senior Zach Nachbar or redshirt freshman Takulve Williams
• WR: senior Tyler Patrick
• TE: sophomore Jack Luavasa or junior James Sosinski
• LT: junior Antione Frazier
• C: junior Api Mane
The second-team defense is listed as:
• DE: junior Darrius Moragne or junior Willie McCaleb
• DT: senior Isi Holani
• DT: junior Codey Cole or junior Jelani Brown
• DE: sophomore Kyron Johnson or junior Azur Kamara or junior Najee Stevens-McKenzie
• LB: sophomore Drew Harvey or junior Denzel Feaster
• LB: sophomore Dru Prox or senior Osaze Ogbebor
• NB: junior DeAnte Ford or sophomore Davon Ferguson
• CB: freshman Corione Harris or junior Elmore Hempstead Jr.
• S: junior Jeremiah McCullough
• S: sophomore Ricky Thomas
• CB: junior Kyle Mayberry or junior Elijah Jones
Among the specialists, Lassiter will back up Sims, Jones is the second-team place kicker, Gagen the backup punter, junior Logan Klusman the second-string long snapper and Kendrick the No. 2 holder.