Jayhawks building off Big 12 win

Aug 17, 2017 - 8:27 PM It can be argued the lone Big 12 victory Kansas secured last season was mostly attributable to careless ball security by Texas.

The Longhorns committed six turnovers, including an overtime interception, in falling 24-21 as the Jayhawks claimed their first conference win under David Beaty before finishing 2-10 overall and 1-8 in the Big 12.

Because the victory against Texas, the first for Kansas since 1938, snapped a 19-game losing streak in conference play, it was celebrated by fans tearing down a set of goal posts.

Veteran players naturally responded to the outcome as a breakthrough heading into Beaty's third season as Kansas coach.

"The Texas win was motivation, proving to ourselves that we can do it," said junior linebacker Joe Dineen. "It was a hunch on our back the whole time. 'You got to get a Big 12 win, get a Big 12 win,' and it finally happened. It was great for us and there's a buzz around KU football that I haven't seen since I've been here."

The Jayhawks -- picked to finish last in the Big 12 in a preseason poll of league media -- not only return considerable experience, but also boost playmakers, particularly on defense.

Dorance Armstrong, a junior defensive end, returns after recording 20 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks. Daniel Wise, a junior defensive tackle, emerged as one of the toughest interior linemen in the Big 12. Also, Mike Lee broke in as a safety and returns for his sophomore season with the reputation as one of the conference's fiercest hitters.

However, Kansas must still improve dramatically against the rush. Each of its last six opponents rushed for 200-plus yards last season. Six individuals posted 100-yard games during that stretch.

"On one end it was like we can make plays and control things at a high level," said defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, "but then due to a lack of focus and things we can control, we'll look like clowns. Most of the mistakes we made were not physical mistakes, but lack of attention in doing things the right way."

Experience should help, with the Jayhawks returning playmakers on defense and eight starters on offense, which should also benefit from two Alabama transfers -- wide receiver Daylon Charlot and offensive tackle Charles Baldwin.

Another transfer, however, could face the most scrutiny.

Peyton Bender, who first enrolled at Washington State and then transferred to Kansas from the junior college, is battling returnee Carter Stanley for the quarterback job. They are executing a revamped spread system implemented by Doug Meacham, who left TCU to become the Jayhawks' offensive coordinator.

If Kansas can make the high-tempo attack work, it will also need additional receivers to step up after junior Steven Sims led the team with 72 receptions for 859 yards last season.

"Doug has done so many things to really focus on the individual skill sets of each player, to really utilize them correctly," Beaty said. "It's been really fun to watch, and it's been fun to really just kind of be around him and to just soak up the knowledge that he's brought to the room."

MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER: DE Dorance Armstrong -- The junior was underrated as a 212-pound recruit, but he has filled out nicely while improving his speed and technique as a dangerous edge rusher. The havoc he creates for opposing passers enables the back end to take chances. Armstrong was in on 20 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks, a year ago and was named the Big 12 Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

BREAKOUT STAR: WR Daylon Charlot -- Charlot, as an Alabama transfer last season, did just about anything possible for the Kansas scout squad, returning kicks in addition to catching passes. He proved tough to cover for the first-team defense and should step into the starting lineup, especially with the Jayhawks looking at several four-wide looks in the spread attack installed by new coordinator Doug Meacham.

NEWCOMER TO WATCH: QB Peyton Bender -- Kansas coach David Beaty may not reveal his starting quarterback until just before the Sept. 2 opener against Southeast Missouri, an FCS program. Bender is contending with Carter Stanley, who closed last season as the Jayhawks starter. If Bender shows the promise that made him a coveted recruit for Mike Leach at Washington State, he should be the QB to engineer new coordinator Doug Meacham's fast-paced attack.

--Senior WR/PR Laquvionte Gonzalez was dismissed from the program at the start of fall camp for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Gonzalez began his college career at Texas A&M when Kansas coach David Beaty coached the Aggies receivers. Gonzalez ranked second among Kansas receivers with 62 catches for 729 yards.

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