Kansas State Wildcats football Big 12 Kansas Lance Leipold Devin Neal Ky Thomas Jalon Daniels Chris Klieman

GET TO KNOW THE JAYHAWKS

2021 records: 2-10 (1-8)
Big 12 Standings: 10th
Best wins: Texas (5-7, FEI/SP+ No. 40), South Dakota (7-5, FCS No. 17),
Notable losses: They lost 31-28 to TCU and 34-28 to West Virginia.
Head Coach: Lance Leipold. He enters his second season at Kansas with expectations of improvement after an encouraging finish to the 2021 season that included an upset of Texas in Austin. Leipold was 37-33 in six seasons at Buffalo, which also consisted of three bowl trips and winning the MAC East Division twice. Before that, he was dominant at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater to the tune of six national championships and a 109-6 record.

Jalon Daniels (Getty)

THE NUMBERS

Kansas finished No. 123 in the final FEI/SP+ ranking, which consisted of being No. 89 on offense, No. 126 on defense and No. 100 special teams. It was the worst defense of any Power Five program and the worst for the Jayhawks in the last 12 seasons.

The offense cracked the top 90 for only the second time since 2011. The overall ranking of No. 123 was the second-worst since Mark Mangino, behind only the 2015 team. The average finish in the FEI/SP+ over the past 12 seasons had been No. 107.

The average was No. 103 on offense and No. 96 on defense.

Offensively, they had some moments, especially in Austin. They showed improvement throughout the season, yet they didn’t crack the top 70 in any category that I tracked for KSO.

Their total offense ranked No. 113 (324.2 yards per game), they finished No. 114 in success rate (37.8 percent), No. 111 in scoring offense (20.8 points per game) and No. 91 in points per drive (1.90).

The Jayhawks ran it 55.7 percent of the time, ranked No. 88 in rushing yards (139.3 yards per game) and were No. 122 in rushing success rate (36.2 percent).

For passing yards, Kansas ranked No. 106 (184.8 yards per game), finished No. 91 in passing efficiency and No. 85 in passing offense success rate.

They were also No. 95 third down conversions (35.8 percent), No. 121 in red zone conversions (72.5 percent) and No. 76 in points per drive inside their opponents’ 40 (3.79).

Luke Grimm

Luke Grimm (Getty)

Leipold and the Jayhawks were terrible in every category on the defensive side of the ball and ranked No. 125 or worse in most.

The total defense was No. 126 (486.8 yards per game), they were No. 130 in success rate allowed (54.8 percent), No. 129 in scoring defense (42.2 points per game) and No. 130 points per drive allowed (4.12).

Their rush defense was No. 129 in yards allowed (249.9 yards per game) and No. 129 in rushing success rate allowed (56.0 percent), as teams ran it against Kansas nearly 60 percent of the time.

The pass yardage allowed was No. 81 (236.8 yards per game) and they ranked No. 127 in pass efficiency defense and No. 130 in passing success rate allowed.

Kansas was no. 129 in third down conversions allowed (54.2 percent), No. 118 in red zone conversions allowed (91.4 percent) and No. 128 in points per drive allowed inside their own 40 (5.05).

They finished last (No. 130) in havoc rate (11.4 percent).

The Jayhawks had a couple of bright spots on special teams and ranked No. 15 for kickoff coverage and their punt return unit ranked No. 18. The kick return unit ranked No. 67, they finished No. 105 in FG efficiency and No. 126 in punt coverage.

Devin Neal

Devin Neal (Getty)

They were picked 10th in the Big 12 in the preseason poll.

Kansas is ranked No. 109 in the preseason SP+, which accounts for being No. 88 on offense and No. 117 on defense. They are No. 10 in returning production, which consists of being No. 38 on offense and No. 3 on defense.

Offensively, they have a good base with a young quarterback and running back returning, plus a pair of solid transfer backs. They lost their top receiver, but the next three in terms of production are back.

They also have some solid offensive linemen in Lawrence for another season.

Defensively, they return their top three tacklers but lose one of their two second team All-Big 12 defenders and have brought in a bunch of transfers to bolster what was the worst defense in the Power Five.

Leipold returns familiar faces at both coordinator spots.

Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki has worked with Leipold since 2013 in Wisconsin, serving as his offensive coordinator at all three stops. Defensive coordinator Brian Borland has been with Leipold since he started in Wisconsin in 2007 and has also been his coordinator at all three stops.

Kenny Logan

Kenny Logan (Getty)

KEY RETURNS

OFFENSE

1. QB Jalon Daniels (6-0/215): Daniels took over for transfer quarterback Jason Bean during 2021 and finished with 860 yards, while completing 69.2 percent of his throws for seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He also ran for 83 yards and three scores.

2. RB Devin Neal (5-11/210): Neal led the Jayhawks in rushing with 707 yards, averaged 4.5 per carry and scored eight touchdowns. He also caught seven balls for 57 yards.

3. WR Luke Grimm (6-0/190): Grimm averaged 15.9 yards per catch, scored three touchdowns and finished with 349 yards.

4. WR Trevor Wilson (5-11/195): Wilson was second on the team with 364 yards and caught 27 balls and scored once

5. WR Lawrence Arnold (6-3/200): Arnold also caught three scores with his 27 receptions and 316 yards.

6. OT Earl Bostuck (6-6/310): Honorable mention All-Big 12. He’s a solid tackle that will lead a Jayhawk offense hoping to improve their rushing attack.

DEFENSE

1. S Kenny Logan (6-0/210): 2021 second team All-Big 12. The Jayhawks’ best returning defender led the team with 110 tackles and broke up six passes. Logan also had four tackles for loss and an interception.

2. LB Rich Miller (6-1/225): Miller was second on the team in tackles with 79. He also had five tackles for loss and a sack.

3. CB Jacobee Bryant (6-0/170): He led Kansas with two interceptions, which included a score. Bryant finished with 22 tackles, including one for a loss.

4. LB Gavin Potter (6-2/225): Potter was third on the Jayhawks with 78 tackles and had five tackles for loss, one sack and an interception returned for a score.

SPECIAL TEAMS

1. KR Kenny Logan: He averaged 27.9 yards per return on 15 attempts.

2. P Reis Vernon: Vernon averaged 40.4 yards per punt on 49 attempts last year and seven were downed inside the 20.

Ky Thomas

Ky Thomas (Getty)

KEY ADDITIONS

OFFENSE

1. RB Ky Thomas (5-11/200): The Topeka native and Minnesota transfer gained 824 yards and averaged five yards per carry, while scoring six touchdowns a year ago. He also caught six balls for 44 yards.

2. RB Sevion Morrison (6-0/212): A Nebraska transfer, Morrison gained 116 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns.

DEFENSE

1. DE Lonnie Phelps: As a Miami (Ohio) transfer, he is expected to lift the Jayhawk pass rush. Phelps tallied 57 tackles, 19.5 of them for loss, 15.5 sacks and forced two fumbles in three seasons for the Redhawks.

2. LB Lorenzo McCaskill: McCaskill spent four seasons with Louisiana and finished with 239 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks.

3. S Marvin Grant: Grant had 76 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and three passes broken up last season at Purdue.

4. LB Eric Gilyard: The UCF transfer finished with 197 tackles, 19 for loss, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in four years.

4. S Jarrett Paul: Paul spent last year at Eastern Michigan and finished with 46 tackles, three of them for loss and broke up six passes. He also spent two seasons at Rutgers.

PREDICTIONS

FAN: Kansas State wins if…

They don’t overlook a Jayhawk team that may be slightly improved, but is still far from contending for a .500 season.

Kansas has to hope for some transfer portal magic to just have a defense that registers in the top-75, although their offense will likely give opponents some problems. The Wildcats will run the ball well and enjoy their 14th straight win in the series.

Prediction: Kansas State 40, Kansas 17

DY: Kansas State wins if…

They don’t treat them like the Kansas of old, because they are not. They don’t have nearly enough talent and they are the inferior team in almost all 12 games that they still play in a season. Don’t get me wrong.

But they are no longer incompetent or dysfunctional. They have a purpose and a plan on each side of the ball, practice the fundamentals and understand the simple concepts and principles of how the game is played.

That wasn’t the case under the last several coaches since Mark Mangino. They’re not good enough or talented enough to line up almost every Saturday and feel good about winning the game or having a chance to win the game most of the time like most every other team.

But they are good enough to make the other team win it. The Wildcats will have to win it, and they will, especially since a trip to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship could be on the line.

Prediction: Kansas State 38, Kansas 14

Leave a Comment