Kansas returns most, least in Big 12 football
Familiar names will roam the field at Saturday's 1 p.m. Kansas football public practice, the 15th and final one of the spring. Kansas ranks among national leaders in returning production.
For example, at quarterback, 100 percent of the completions, touchdowns and yards return. At running back, 99.1 percent of the rushing yards and 100 percent of the touchdowns are back. Punter Cole Moos, who rushed for 11 yards, is the only one not back.
At first glance, those are encouraging numbers, but less so at second glance.
Kansas ranked dead last in the Big 12 with 1,231 rushing yards in 12 games and last with 102.6 yards per game.
KU finished ninth in the conference in passing yards per game (226.4), well ahead of Kansas State (173.8), but was last in touchdown passes (14). Kansas State had 16 in 13 games. Also, Kansas threw more interceptions (17) than any Big 12 squad. Baylor (14) and Texas Tech (12) were the closest to KU in that category.
Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, the only players to throw a pass for KU last season, are both back and competing with newcomer Miles Kendrick for the starting job.
KU returns 78.5 percent of its receiving yards and 71.4 percent of its touchdown receptions. Chase Harrell (three TD catches) and Ben Johnson (one TD) are the only players who caught TD passes who are not back.
Baylor, which returns 92 percent of its receiving yards and 87 percent of its TD receptions, also has four starting offensive linemen back. The Bears threw for 3,452 yards last season, compared to 2,717 for Kansas.
On defense, Kansas returns 82.1 percent of its tackles, 100 percent of its interceptions (two apiece by Mike Lee and Hasan Defense) and 79.5 percent of its sacks.
Again, it’s tough to take much encouragement from that because KU finished last in the Big 12 in scoring defense (43.4 points) and total defense (468.3 yards).
Since KU took an all-in-on-2018 recruiting approach, loading up on junior-college players, that should enable the Jayhawks to improve more this season than schools that took a long-term approach and will benefit more in future years.
Enough improvement to climb out of last place? Doubtful, but that's why they play the games. Upsets do occur.