Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bilo's 2017 College Football Conference Previews: Big 12

Projected Order of Finish
1. Oklahoma
2. Oklahoma State
3. West Virginia
4. TCU
5. Texas
6. Kansas State
7. Iowa State
8. Baylor
9. Texas Tech
10. Kansas

Oklahoma Sooners
The bombshell retirement of Bob Stoops last week certainly has not helped public confidence in the upcoming season for the Sooners, but the immediate move to elevate OC Lincoln Riley to the position was a good, and much needed move for this football program. Riley is one of the smartest and best young minds in the college game, and at 33, will be the youngest coach in FBS football this coming season. The good news is that Riley still has a top five caliber team that can contend for a Big 12 title, and could contend for a national playoff birth at the end of the season. Let's see if he has the drive to get them there after this late upheaval.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Despite his off-season shenanigans, the Sooners will have their Heisman candidate back at QB in Baker Mayfield. With Mayfield back, all other losses seem to be mitigated just a bit. He passed for 3965 yards last season, completed over 70% of his passes, and tossed 40 TDs to just eight picks, all while averaging 305 yards passing per game. Mayfield also added six more scores running the football, and will be a major contender for the award given to the best player in the nation this season if all things hold together.
Mayfield will be playing behind one of the best lines in the nation as well, and all five starters return there. Orlando Brown, Bobby Evans, Ben Powers, Dru Samia, and Erick Wren all return, and that is the kind of line that you need to win a national title.
Mark Andrews scored seven times as a receiver last fall, and averaged over 15 yards per reception, while Jeffrey Mead will be cast into a larger role this fall after also averaging 15 yards per grab last season. There are several others in the fight for more playing time this season at receiver, including Nick Basquine, AD Miller, Mykel Jones, Dahu Green, and Jordan Smallwood, and there are three freshmen or RS freshmen joining the group as well.
FB Dmitri Flowers averaged over five yards per carry last season, and is the lone returning starter in the RB corps.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The departures of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine at RB will really take a big bite out of the offense this fall. Mixon rushed for 1274 yards and 10 scores, while Perine added 1060 yards and 12 scores. Both were major components of the passing game as well, with Mixon being the second best receiver on the team. Mixon's departure, however, may have been more of a PR boost than most players with all of the off-field baggage that he brought to the table, whether behind him or not. Still, that kind of production loss will be difficult for the Sooners to overcome, at least early on. Look for Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson to get all of the attention early in camp, but others could give them some push. Freshmen Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, and Marcellus Sutton are all highly heralded freshmen recruits in the Sooner class of 2017, and will all eventually see the field and will make an impact.
There is talent at receiver returning, but this receiver corps needs to gel early on. Losing DeDe Westbrook, again, another potential addition by subtraction due to PR issues, and the loss of Mixon and Perine, will leave a huge production gap. The Lincoln Riley offense always seems to find receivers, so this may be less of a stress than the run game, but it is something to keep an eye on.
Austin Seibert was largely hit and miss at PK last season, as he made just 11/16 FG attempts on the season as a sophomore. He could use a good push in fall camp.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Oklahoma is changing from a 3-4 to a 4-3 set this season, and that will mean some major changes across the board. There will be one less spot to fill at LB, but luckily, three starters return from last season, and the depth is solid. Emmanuel Beal is back after finishing second in tackles last fall with 81. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is also back at OLB, and led the team with 12 TFLs, and added 71 tackles, good for third on the team. Caleb Kelly will also be at the outside spot, and finished with 36 tackles as a freshman last fall. Kelly also added three TFLs. Beal could be pushed, but more on that shortly.
Three starters return in the secondary, including both CBs in Jordan Parker and Jordan Thomas. Thomas was a beast last season with 17 PBUs, while Evans led the team with four INTs. Steven Parker is the third returnee, and finished with 63 tackles at Safety, and added four PBUs and a pair of INTs.
Austin Seibert handled Punting duties as well as being the PK. He averaged over 41 yards per punt, and it would probably good if he could handle one job or the other this fall.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
With the change over to the 4-3 set, only one returning starter is back on the line, leaving three open jobs this fall. Matt Romar is back, and he played in just nine games last season due to injury, he could give the Sooners a second starting caliber lineman to go along with Neville Gallimore, who finished with four TFLs last fall. Both are playing DT this season, but Gallimore could be pushed by Du'Vonta Lampkin and Marqise Overton. DJ Ward, Kenneth Mann, and Mark Jackson, Jr. will all be vying for time at DE, and the Sooners also added four incoming freshman to the lot in their latest recruiting haul, with Isaiah Thomas looking to make the most impact of the lot this fall.
Beal is solid returning at LB, but is much too small to play as a traditional MLB at 214 lbs. He could get pushed for time and the job by Ricky DeBerry, who more traditionally fills the role at 244 lbs. Curtis Bolton and Jon-Michael Terry could also be smelling blood in the water, and will be pushing for time there as well.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 UTEP, 9/9 at Ohio State, 9/16 Tulane, 9/23 at Baylor, 10/7 Iowa State, 10/14 Texas at Dallas, 10/21 at Kansas State, 10/28 Texas Tech, 11/4 at Oklahoma State, 11/11 TCU, 11/18 at Kansas, 11/25 West Virginia
Final Overview
Oklahoma is loaded with talent, but the defense has some questions, and that may be the issue that holds the Sooners back if they do not play up to potential this season, which will be the unexpected first under Lincoln Riley. It has been rumored that Stoops was pushed out infavor of Riley, specifically because of Stoops' acceptance of PR nightmare players such as Mixon, Westbrook, Frank Shannon, and Dorrel Beckham-Green (Beckham-Green never played a down at Oklahoma after transferring from Missouri after allegedly pushing his girlfriend down a flight of stairs). Stoops' willingness to turn a blind eye to certain things may have become an albatross to the Sooners administration, specifically after what has happened at Baylor, Minnesota, and even now at Michigan State, among others. Riley was going to be a coach someday, so now is the time, and he should have gotten the job at East Carolina when Ruffin McNeil was fired. Riley now has the keys to a massive sports car that is ready to go at top speed, but will he have the acumen to drive it? Time will tell.

Oklahoma State Cowboys
Oklahoma State won ten games last season, and likely should have won 11 if not for a badly officiated ending to their loss at home against Central Michigan. The Cowboys look, on paper, like a team with enough offensive firepower to run sprint for sprint with Oklahoma in the Big 12, and quietly, at least offensively, may be one of the best teams in the nation this season. I have them as an early top ten program this fall, but will they live up to it?
What To Be Excited: Offense
The biggest reason to be pumped is that the triad returned intact this season in QB Mason Rudolph, RB Justice Hill, and WR James Washington. This may be one of the best trios in the nation at the offensive skill positions in college football.
Rudolph returns as the top trigger man after passing for 4091 yards, 28 TDs, and just four INTs last fall. He averaged 314.7 yards passing per game while attempting 34.5 passes per contest. He is a quiet Heisman contender in a crowded field in 2017.
Washington was a beast last season at WR, as he collected 71 receptions for 1380 yards and ten TDs. Washington is a big play machine, and averaged over 19 yards per catch, and averaged 106.2 yards per game. Other good news comes in the form of the return of fellow starting WR Jalen McCleskey, who finished second on the team with 73 receptions for 812 yards and seven scores. Chris Lacy, who caught 31 passes, moves up one spot on the depth chart this fall, and may start in three receiver sets. Marcell Ateman came on late last fall, and could be a viable fourth receiver option. Dillon Stoner, Terry Tillmon, and Obi Obialo, all sophomores this fall, should add depth to the unit as well.
Hill returns after a 206 carry season that saw him rack up 1142 yards rushing as a freshman. He could be a major star in this offense in 2017, but does not have to be the primary weapon, and that will help his overall game and development. He averaged 5.54 yards per carry last fall, and could hit a home run on just about any carry.
The line should also be in decent shape, as three starters return in Zach Crabtree, Brad Lundblade, and Marcus Keyes.
Ben Grogan returns as the PK, and he hit 19/25 FGs last fall, and hit 60/61 PAT tries as well.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There is not a ton that I would find concerning, except that they Cowboys will have to find two new starters on the line, and that could throw off chemistry just a bit if the new starters are not gelling with the old by the time the team breaks camp. Larry Williams has prior starting experience, but was injured last fall. If healthy, he will reclaim his old job at RG. Arlington Hambright, a JC transfer, is in a four way battle with Dylan Galloway, Teven Jenkins, and Shane Richards for the RT job.
Another area of concern is at RB, where there is very little depth behind Hill, should he become injured at any point. Hill will definitely be the primary back, and there is no other plan, but he will need some relief behind him, and the most experienced back returning other than Hill is Jeff Carr, who carried all of 12 times last season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
21 letter winners return on the Cowboy defense, seven more than the offense, but this side of the football has more questions than answers as we enter fall camp.
Both DEs return in Cole Walterscheid and Jarrell Owens. They combined for 11 TFLs last fall, and the team will also get DE Tralund Webber back as well. Webber should push for one of those starting spots after finishing with nine TFLs last fall. DeQuinton Osborne also returns at DT, and has experience. He finished with 5.5 TFLs as well. Trey Carter also returns to add some depth at DE.
Chad Whitener also returns at LB after finishing with 7.5 TFLS last fall. He totaled 71 tackles on the season and steps into a major leadership roled as the lone returning starting LB from last fall. Look for Justin Phillips, who finished with 42 tackles, to step into a major role as well.
The secondary returns just two starters from last fall in CB Ramon Richards and Safety Tre Flowers. Flowers finished with seven PBUs and two forced fumbles, while Richards finished with six PBUs, three INTs, and 64 tackles.
Zach Sinor, who averaged 42.77 yards per punt as a sophomore last fall, returns once again to handle punting duties, and will give the defense real estate to work with.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Cowboys have got to figure out what to do with the middle of their line. Depth will not be plentiful. Osborne is back to help plug the gap, but there are only two other lettermen returning at DT in Vili Levani and Darrion Daniels. Levani played in nine games last season, and Daniels appeared in all 13 games, but had very little productivity in his time on the field.
The LB unit will need some help as well. Whitener is a two time All-Big 12 selection, and Phillips looks ready to play, but the third starting job is open and up for grabs in fall camp. JC transfer Patrick Macon may get a look, with Kevin Henry and Gyasi Akem joining the fray. Kenneth Edison-McGruder is moving from Safety to compete at the STAR LB position, but is in a fight with Kirk Tucker and Calvin Bundage.
Half of the secondary is also up for grabs as we head towards fall camp. AJ Green, Madre Harper, and Rodarius Williams are all looking for the first major playing time of their careers at CB. Ramon Richards, who is listed above as a CB, and is an exciting returning player for the Cowboys, may eventually end up at Safety, leaving both CB spots open. Malik Kearse and Bryce Balous are others who may see some action at the corner as well.
Richards could come back to CB if the Cowboys feel that Jerel Morrow and Chance Cook are ready to make some bigger contributions other than special teams play.
2017 Schedule: 8/31 Tulsa, 8/8 at South Alabama, 8/16 at Pittsburgh, 9/23 TCU, 9/30 at Texas Tech, 10/14 Baylor, 10/21 at Texas, 10/28 at West Virginia, 11/4 Oklahoma, 11/11 at Iowa State, 11/18 Kansas State, 11/25 Kansas
Final Overview
Oklahoma State may be a dark horse player for a national playoff bid in 2017. They are in a chase with Oklahoma and West Virginia for the conference title, and if the Cowboys can avoid any trap games or potential bumbles, that could very well be the result. The Cowboys have a ton of talent on offense, and the defense, although under construction in certain areas, could hold together enough to get by in this defense lacking conference known as the Big 12. Don't be surprised if some major award winners come out of this football team, and the sky could be the limit overall.

West Virginia Mountaineers
Some folks were really starting to have doubts about whether or not West Virginia could succeed in the Big 12, that maybe the program was in over their heads. Last season dispelled much of that doubt, and Dana Holgorsen saved his job by winning 10 games, and finished 7-2 in conference play. There is no reason to think that a replay of last season could not be in store, and it could even get a little bit better if the right chips fall.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Will Grier transferred over from Florida to be able to start this season with the departure of Skyler Howard, and it could not have worked out more perfectly. Grier was a star in the WVU spring game, and his potential in this offense is through the roof. Any kind of negativity with Grier was left behind at Florida, and the clean break and reboot will work wonders for him, so expect big things from the passing game with Grier at the trigger.
Justin Crawford was a major find last fall as a junior, and returns for his senior season at RB after finishing with 1184 yards rushing and four scores. He could blow up even bigger this fall, as he has massive home run potential after averaging 7.26 yards per carry last season. Sophomore Kennedy McCoy also adds some big play ability after averaging 6.47 yards per carry in relief duty in 2016. Martell Pettaway also returns, and averaged well over five yards per carry as well.
Ka'Raun White gives WVU something to be excited about in the receiving corps, despite the loss of the top two receivers from last season. White still managed to catch 48 passes as the third leading receiver from the team last fall. Jovon Durante also moves up the depth chart, and caught 35 passes last fall. Gary Jennings and Marcus Simms also return. The Mountaineers added some depth via the JC routes as well at WR, with Dominique Maiden (Riverside CC) and David Sills V, (El Camino College), who has already played at WVU before.
Kyle Bosch will return at LG, while Yodny Cajuste will return at LT after losing the season in 2016 to an opening game knee injury. Marcell Lazard is in the hunt for a job at Tackle as well. Grant Lingafelter will return to start at RG, while sophomore Matt Jones and JC transfer Kelby Wickline will battle it out at center, but more on that later.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Even though there is more than enough talent coming back and entering the fray at WR, the Mountaineers still do lose some serious talent with the losses of Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts. That was a combined 106 receptions in productivity lost, and that is a ton to ask from a relatively inexperienced, but talented crop coming back.
The Mountaineers also have a couple of considerable losses on the line as well, as All-American Center Tyler Orlosky has moved on, as has OG/OT Adam Pankey, who was a massive presence on the left side at both positions. Finding immediate replacements to gel with the returning starters will be paramount to getting this offense running early in the season.
The PK game could use some help as well, as Mike Molina connected on just 15/22 FGs last fall.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The defense as a whole made major improvements last fall, and allowed just 24 points per game in a league that could be scoring happy at times. That is a huge development for the Mountaineers to be carried on into the 2017 season.
The Mountaineers best look in the front seven will be at ILB, where both Al-Rasheed Benton and David Long return. Benton finished second on the team with 80 tackles last fall, while Long returns after recording 65 tackles and 4.5 TFLs.
Dravon Askew-Henry will return after missing last season at FS. He was the starter in 2015, and was injured during the preseason last fall. Kyzir White returns at the SPUR position, and will help to lead a decimated secondary into the new season. Toyous Avery will be back at the BANDIT position after collecting four PBUs last fall. Look for early enrollee Derek Pitts to get some looks at Safety as well after being named the best safety in West Virginia High Schools last fall.
Bill Kinney returns at Punter after averaging over 41 yards per boot last fall, and they may need him now more than ever to give this mostly new defensive unit a break from time to time.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
There is a ton to be worried about on defense. There may be enough talent to go around, but there are some major holes to be filled on this side of the football.
The entire defensive line needs to be replaced, for starters. Adam Shuler II got plenty of playing time last season, and fills in at one spot, while Reese Donahue got a ton of playing time as a freshman last season. Jon Lewis figurs in at some point, while Jaleel Fields looks to have an edge on the NT job after spring ball. He sustained a knee injury before ever playing a game last fall. Xavier Pegues is figuring his way in as well after missing all of last season with an injury.
Both OLBs need to be replaced as well. Look for Xavier Preston to win the SAM job, Brendan Ferns looks to come back from injury to claim a spot on the other side. Hodari Christian and Adam Hensley are in the mix for depth as well.
Three starting spots from the end of last season were unfilled heading into spring ball, and even though some good answers were found  as we head into the Summer, there are still plenty of questions, especially at CB. Rasul Douglas led the nation in picks last fall with eight, and is gone, Elijah Battle is the only returning CB on the roster with any starting experience, and he has all of three starts under his belt.
2017 Schedule
9/3 Virginia Tech at Landover, Md, 9/9 East Carolina, 9/16 Delaware State, 9/23 at Kansas, 10/7 at TCU, 10/14 Texas Tech, 10/21 at Baylor, 10/28 Oklahoma State, 11/4 Iowa State, 11/11 at Kansas State, 11/18 Texas, 11/25 at Oklahoma
Final Overview
Even with some of the gaping holes on defense, West Virginia should have enough on hand on offense to keep the ball rolling in the right direction in 2017. They are definitely a top three team in the Big 12, and with a couple of decent ball bounces, they could have a shot to steal the conference title if they really get it together and get into a rhythm early. The addition of Grier at QB is huge, and there is enough JC talent coming in to fill some holes immediately. The schedule is easy enough early on to get a good head of steam running before hitting the meat of the schedule late. I like the Mountaineers' chances of really making some noise in this conference, especially if they find the answers they need on defense early.

TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs have taken a bit of  a step back from the elite clubs in the Big 12 as of late, and they may be just on the outside of elite status once again in 2017. Gary Patterson is too good a coach to allow the Frogs to sit out of the conference title chase for too long, and we could see the blocks to building back up emerge in certain areas this fall.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Kenny Hill returns at QB after an up and down season in 2016. Hill did manage to pass for 3208 yards and 17 TDs, but still tossed 13 INTs. We have seen Hill at his best in the past when he was still at Texas A&M, and you have to believe that some of that swagger is in there somewhere, but he has lost confidence. If he can get it back, he could be one of the better play makers in the nation. He just has to flip that switch. Hill did manage to score ten more times on his feet, and that aspect of his game cannot be ignored.
Kyle Hicks should get a bigger load to carry in 2017 to take some pressure off of Hill at QB. Hicks was very good at times last fall, as he rushed for 1042 yards and 12 TDs, while averaging 5.13 yards per carry. He needs to increase his carries from just over 15 per game to around 20 per game to become more effective in keeping the offense on the rails.
Darius Anderson had limited experience as a freshman last season, but has some serious big play ability, as he averaged 8.48 yards per carry on just 27 touches. He should start to see more time as a sophomore. Sewo Olonilua, and Trevorris Johnson both return as well to add depth.
Taj Williams,KaVaontae Turpin, Ty Slanina, and Emanuel Porter all return to start at WR from the bowl game, as does John Giarse, who finished second in receiving last fall. Williams racked up 702 yards on 39 catches, and is a big time deep threat who averaged 19 yards per catch. Hicks is a big time threat as a receiver out of the backfield as well, catching 47 balls a last fall. In total, six different Frogs caught at least 20 passes a year ago, and the top seven receivers in total all return.
The line returns four senior starters this fall as well in LT Joseph Noteboom, LG Patrick Morris, C Austin Schlotmann, and RG Matt Pryor.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
With Kenny Hill at QB, you just do not know what to expect. He has been a hot starter during his career who fades as the season wears on, and you just don't know where his confidence level is from week to week. I believe that he has the tools to succeed at the position and in this offense, but he has to believe that as well. Foster Sawyer did not impress last fall in limited backup duty, so if Hill cannot go, there is really nobody proven with any experience behind him.
The RT spot is open, and the primary candidate for the job will by far be the kid on the block. Lucas Niang, a sophomore, was the understudy last fall, and is in line for first crack at the spot.
The PK job may be a battle in camp as well. Brandon Hatfield was not exactly getting it done last fall, as he only hit 13/19 FG attempts. That opened the door for Ryan Graf, who hit 5/6 attempts. Graf may have the inside track to win the job in camp this fall as a sophomore.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
TCU normally has had the trademark of being a defensively staunch team, but this unit has suffered much like defenses across the Big 12 in recent times. TCU allowed 28 points per game last fall, which is something that needs to be shored up this season.
Improvement will have to start with the LBs in the 4-2-5 set that TCU employs. Both backers return in 2017 in Montrel Wilson at MLB, and Travin Howard at SLB. Howard led the team with a whopping 130 tackles last fall, as the defensive front got worn down and allowed plays to continue onto the second level. Howard finished with three TFLs on the year, and 72 of his tackles were solo jobs. Ty Summers, who was not listed as a starter, and likely will be when camp role around, finished second on the team with 121 tackles. Sammy Douglas will also be heard from after a 60 tackle effort last fall. Alec Dunham and Paul Whitmill, return to add depth as well.
The five member secondary returns four starters this fall, and should have one of their stronger units in some time. Niko Small is back at FS, while Nick Orr is back at WS. Orr finshed with 86 tackles last fall, good for third on the team, while Small finished with 83 tackles. They also combined for 15 PBUs on the season to go with six combined INTs. Ranthony Texada and Julius Lewis also both return at CB. Texada finished with seven PBUs, while Lewis played in just six games, collecting 16 tackles. Texada added 46 tackles as well. Five key reserves will return in the secondary as well, giving the Frogs one of the deepest defensive backfields in the nation.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The defensive line wore down plenty last fall, and that unit is an area of concern once again, as only one of four starters returns this fall. Joseph Broadnax, a DT, is the lone returning starter. He finished with just 23 tackles last season, and was not much of a force in the backfield. Tipa Galeai and Brandon Bowen are in a battle at one DE spot, while Mat Boesan and Isaiah Chanbers are battling at the other. With Aaron Curry gone at DT, look for the battle to rage in camp between Chris Bradley, Ross Blacklock, and LJ Collier to replace him.
Adam Nunez was the starting Punter as a freshman last season, but did not blow the doors off of Amon Carter Stadium with his work. He averaged just over 39 yards per punt, and will need to show more success this fall if the defense has the ability to wear down once again. They will need all of the real estate that they can get their hands on.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Jackson State, 9/9 at Arkansas, 9/16 SMU, 9/23 at Oklahoma State, 10/7 West Virginia, 10/14 at Kansas State, 10/21 Kansas, 10/28 at Iowa State, 11/4 Texas, 11/11 at Oklahoma, 11/18 at Texas Tech, 11/24 Baylor
Final Overview
TCU has enough on offense to make some noise in Big 12 play this fall, but the schedule is rather brutal. A three game stretch with Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia, with the first two being on the road, will help define what kind of team this will be, and that SMU game in the middle may be no joke as well. If TCU can get to the midpoint of the season in one piece, and not too much worse for wear, they could really be a dark horse, but giving up 28 points per game, or more, will not get it done, nor will an erratic Kenny Hill at QB. This season can either go very well, or quite poorly, depending on those two major areas of concern.

Texas Longhorns
The Charlie Strong era at Texas never fully got off the ground, nor was it ever really given the fuel to do so. Not everyone in the administration stood fully behind Strong, and it showed from day one. The new Tom Herman era begins, and the support level is a complete 180 degree turn from where it was under Strong. Everyone is all in on Herman, who was largely the hottest coaching target in the nation, which is debatable as to why he was after winning just nine games at Houston in a season in which the Cougars were largely expected to be a potential playoff buster. Herman has stormed into Austin with a ton of bluster, but he has to produce on the field now, and that may be easier said than done.
What To Be Excited About: Offense
The foundation of any good offense starts with the line, and four starters return this fall in Brandon Hodges, Zach Shackleford, Patrick Vahe, and Connor Williams. In short, the Horns could have one fo the most experienced lines in the Big 12 coming back, which could be a platform to boost them higher than fifth in the league, which is where I have them spotted at.
At QB, Shane Buechele returns after a freshman season that showed occasional flashes of brilliance. He passed for 2958 yards and 21 TDs, while he rushed for another two scores. Buechele completed 60.4% of his passes, and averaged 32.6 pass attempts per game. He finished the season with 246.5 yards passing per game, and all of his numbers were what I would call completely acceptable and uplifting for any freshman.
Buechele should be a happy guy, if he keeps the job (more on that in a moment), as 10 of his top 11 receivers return to action this fall. Armanti Foreman and Dorian Leonard were listed in Spring ball as the returning starters. They combined to post 63-817-6 on the year last season. Devin Duverney, Jake Oliver, Collin Johnson, Jerrod Heard, John Burt, and Lorenzo Joe all return as well to give the Horns one of the deepest receiving groups in the nation.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
There are only three QBs on the spring roster listed, and that could be a very big problem if Buechele gets injured, but even worse, Buechele is being pushed by new head coach Tom Herman in favor of incoming freshman Sam Ehlinger, who is out of the famed Westlake area of Texas. That battle was allowed to rage in spring ball, and may continue into the fall as Herman pushes his guy, rather than the established starter.
The run game has got to improve on some levels. D'Onta Foreman was responsible for a huge chunk of yards, but he has moved on to the NFL, and the most experienced returning back is Chris Warren, who carried 62 times as the backup last fall. Kyle Porter and Tristian Houston return as well, but combined for just 49 carries as freshmen last season.
A new PK must be found as Trent Dominique moves on after a largely up and down senior season.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
The defense could show the most improvement of any unit in the Big 12 this fall, as ten total starters return, as do 23 letter winners from last year's team.
Three starters return up front in Poona Ford, Chris Nelson, and Charles Omenihu. Ford finished with 54 tackles and 5.5 TFLs last fall. Nelson Finished with 45 tackles and six TFLs, while Omenihu finished with 26 tackles and 3.5 TFLs. D'Andre Christmas, Jordan Elliott, Malcolm Roach, and Geald Wilbon all return to give the Horns considerable on field rotational depth.
Three starters return at LB, but none of the three had a complete season in 2016. Naashon Hughes, Malik Jefferson, and Anthony Wheeler will all be back, but they combined for 23 starts, with Jefferson's nine being the group high. Wheeler led the team with 66 tackles, while Jefferson finished with 62. Roach collected 33 tackles on the year. Edwin Freeman, Breckyn Hager, Jeffrey McCulloch, and Cameron Townsend also return. Hager collected 64 tackles, while Freeman added 48.
Four starters will return in the secondary as well for the Longhorns in John Bonney (nine PBUs), Kris Boyd (51 tackles), Jason Hall (52 tackles, 4.5 for loss), and PJ Locke (33 tackles, two INTs). five other members of the secondary who lettered last fall also return.
Michael Dickson, one of the best punters in the nation last season, returns after gaining 47.37 yards per punt on the year. He averaged 256 yards per game on 5.4 punts per contest.
What To Be concerned About: Defense
On paper, there should not be much to worry about, as only one defensive line position is up for battle in camp. Where I am concerned is, despite returning so much depth, this is still a unit that allowed 31.5 points per game last season, and there were so many contributors that did not get in  full season due to injuries or other matters. There needs to be some serious consistency this season, which is something that has been lacking for some time. If this unit can get themselves together as a cohesive team, there should be major improvements coming about, and Texas could emerge as a dark horse early on in the season from this side of the football alone. I would expect a new energy out of this group, and if that happens, look out, but if they fail to gel collectively, this could turn into another train wreck.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Maryland, 9/9 San Jose State, 9/16 at USC, 9/28 at Iowa State, 10/7 Kansas State, 10/14 Oklahoma at Dallas, 10/21 Oklahoma State, 10/28 at Baylor, 11/4 at TCU, 11/11 at Kansas, 11/18 at West Virginia, 11/24 Texas Tech
Final Overview
The Longhorns are now in serious put up or shut up territory as they try to wrap up an era of complete incompetence all the way around their athletic department. Mack Brown left nothing in the cupboard when he was let go, and Charlie Strong was largely aloud to just flounder with limited support. Enter Tom Herman, who Texas largely put every effort into hiring, and now we are expecting to see real change. The thing, for me, is that I am not entirely a true believe in Herman as of yet. I saw him do some decent things at Houston, but let's face it it, the program was not that bad when he took it over, and he never stayed there long enough to put his own real stamp on anything, and he severely under performed in 2016, when everything was on the line, as he had an eye for the outside the minute that Houston was not given an invite into the Big 12. Herman has certainly flown onto the scene with a level of bluster that I have rarely seen, but that outs a larger target on his back right away. Recruiting is flying up the boards, but Texas is finally in the place where they need to get it done on the field. The schedule, after the opening two weeks, is fairly serious in conference play, and the USC game on the road should really give us a picture as to what we can expect come November. Herman has his dream job, now let's see how he runs with it. 

Kansas State Wildcats
Bill Snyder will one day star in a film where he plays a character called "Time Immortal". He has now been at Kansas State forever, with that short hiatus where some very foolish administrators actually believed Ron Prince to be a head coach. Health is starting to show some issues for the venerable old coach, and the end of his run may truly be coming, but is this a season where he could pull one last rabbit from his sleeve and lead a dark horse team into the trenches to steal some thunder?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
It can be said that Jesse Ertz was never 100% last season, and he underwent shoulder surgery immediately after the season ended. He is in full recovery, and Snyder has stated in recent days that he has never seen Ertz throw the ball as well as he is right now in rehab. Ertz should be ready to go full speed in fall camp, and if his shoulder is better, and he gets unleashed in the passing game, he could be one of the more interesting stories at QB in the nation. He passed for a limited 1755 yards last fall, and added over 1200 yards rushing. If he can pass for over 2000 yards this season and keep the rushing totals churning, he could be a dark horse Heisman guy when all is said and done.
Ertz should have a solid wall in front of him, as four starters return on the line. Abdul Beecham, Scott Frantz, Reid Najvar, and Dalton Risner will all anchor up front this fall, with one position left open. Six other lettermen all return.
Byron Pringle, the leading receiver and biggest deep threat on the team will return to lead the receiving corps. Pringle caught 39 passes for 631 yards and four scores last fall, and averaged 16.18 yards per grab. Five of the top six WRs from last season also return in Dominique Heath, Isaiah Zuber, Isaiah Harris, Corey Sutton, and Zach Reuter. Matthew McCrane wil return as a senior to anchor the kicking game after finishing with 11 FGs in 14 attempts last fall. He also managed to nail all 29 PAT attempts he tried.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Ertz has got to be healthy this season, because the Wildcats can really use a top notch passer to keep them in the track meets that Big 12 games can often turn into. The Wildcats did manage to score 32.2 points per game last fall, but one area of concern that can effect that to the negative is their run game. After Ertz, there is no true home run threat in the run game. Charles Jones has moved on, leaving a trio of backs in Justin Silmon, Alex Barnes, and Dalvin Warmack who combined for 163 carries as a group last fall. Someone needs to seriously step up and become a 150 carry back this fall, and 200 carries would be even better.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Kansas State is annually one of the only teams in Big 12 play that chooses to make a stand on defense, as the Wildcats allowed just 22.3 points per game last season.
Three starters return on the line in DTs Trey Dishon and Will Geary, and DE Reggie Walker. Walker was a leader in this unit last season despite playing as a freshman. He finished with 11.5 TFLs on the year from the edge. Geary and Dishon combined for 11 TFLs coming up the middle and through the gaps.
The secondary also returns three starters in Kendall Adams, DJ Reed, and Duke Shelley. Reed was one of the best coverage guys in the nation, as he finished with 16 PBUs last fall. He also tied for the team lead with three INTs. Adams picked off two passes and finished with 62 tackles. Shelley also finished with three INTs and four PBUs, and finished with 48 tackles.
Nick Walsh is back at Punter after averaging 42.78 yards per punt last fall. If he should falter, Mitch Lochbihler averaged 46.6 yards per punt on just five tries last season.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The entire middle of the field is a huge void right now, as every starting LB must be replaced in fall camp. One of the most productive LB corps in the nation last year loses a massive amount of production, and the answers will have to be found quickly. Chase Johnston, Jayd Kirby, Sam Sizelove, and Elijah Sullivan are the only letter winners from 2016 that are returning, and that will not be enough for finding new starters and providing decent depth. This may be one of the deepest voids that you will find anywhere in the nation this season.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Central Arkansas, 9/9 Charlotte, 9/16 at Vanderbilt, 9/30 Baylor, 10/7 at Texas, 10/14 TCU. 10/21 Oklahoma, 10/28 at Kansas, 11/4 at Texas Tech, 11/11 West Virginia, 11/18 at Oklahoma State, 11/25 Iowa State
Final Overview
Kansas State has enough on this roster on offense to make some noise in Big 12 play, but their questions, specifically on defense at LB, are too many to actually see the Wildcats being able to get close to contending for a conference title. I do see the Wildcats taking somewhat of a step back this season, but the biggest question may be at this point, after a throat cancer scare, how many of these seasons does Bill Snyder have in the tank? Kansas State likely finishes in the middle of the league, gets a bowl game, and we get to assess this question again next spring.

Iowa State Cyclones
Iowa State and Matt Campbell were so close to being a very good football team last season. They lost five games by seven points or less last fall, and had they found a way to win those games, they would end up being an 8-4 football team with a bowl bid, and would have been considered one of the best programs in the conference in 2017. They lose all five of those games in 2016, and finish with three wins overall, and now they are a team that may be on the cusp of something big. Can they turn the corner and get there this fall?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Two QBs played extensively for the Cyclones in 2016, but it sure would be nice to get just one in the starting role and ride with him. Jacob Park had the best numbers last fall, and returns as a junior in 2017. He passed for 1791 yards and 12 TDs to just five picks in ten games. He completed 58.8% of his passes, a number that certainly could be improved upon.
Senior Joel Lanning also returns this fall after passing for 1290 yards and nine TDs to just three INTs. He completed just 58.6% of his passes, but where he is different than Park is that he has a dual threat part of his game, and he managed to rush for 518 yards and a team high 11 scores. Again, if one can take the reins, it is possible that the Cyclones could fly higher.
The passing game could really have a major impact this fall, as four different receivers who had starting experience last fall will return to the fol, including Allen Lazard, the leading receiver for the Cyclones in 2016. He ended with 69 receptions for 1018 yards and seven scores, and skipped the NFL draft to return to school as a senior to try and help this program turn the corner. Joining Lazard will be Carson Epps, DeShaunte Jones, and Trevor Ryen. Jones finished by posting 37-536-6 while averaging almost 14.5 yards per reception. Epps and Ryen combined for 60 receptions last fall, and give the passing game plenty of second level options.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
The run game really needs a star to develop this fall. Mike Warren was the Big 12 freshman of the year in 2015, and was nowhere near the same back in 2016. Injuries were a big part of his disappearing act, but the Cyclones need him to get back to where he can be in a big way if this is the season that they are going to turn the corner and go to a bowl game. David Montgomery looks like he could take the reins if needed, and looked very strong at the end of last season, but he has a relatively small sample size in which to know if he can take the reins and be the main back or not. Kene Nwangwu specialized in kick returns last fall, and has not really factored in much as a RB, but getting him some reps would help with overall depth. Otherwise, this unit is fairly thin.
The offensive line is in tatters as we head into fall camp. Four starters departed, and a fifth with starting experience departs as well. Jake Campos returns with 32 career starts under his belt, and Julian Good -Jones will be back with 11 career starts, and he should slide into a starting role, but the other three spots will be encompassed by three players with zero starting experience.
The Cyclones will also have an issue at PK, as Cole Netten has departed after hitting 16/17 FGs last season. Peyton Paddock, a sophomore who tried and made one PAT last fall, will get the first chance at replacing him.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
Three players with starting experience return on the line in DE JaQuan Bailey, DE JD Waggoner, and DT Vernell Trent. Bailey collected six TFLs as a freshman last season, while Waggoner played in just five games and could be on the verge of coming into his own as a senior f he can remain injury free. Trent is more of a gap stopper rather than a play maker, and should be able to move some bodies around. It's good to have this experience back, but this group must perform to a higher level with the loss of DT Jhaustin Thomas.
Willie Harvey will be the leader at LB with 17 career starts. He finished second on the team with 7.5 TFLs last fall, and finished tied for the team lead with 78 tackles. Reggan Northrup also returns at LB after recording 50 tackles last fall. He has seven career starts and recorded 3.5 TFLs last fall.
The secondary should be decent this fall, as four starting caliber players return. Kamari Cotton-Moya and Mike Johnson both return at Safety. Cotton-Moya collected five PBUs, while Johnsonfinished with 44 tackles overall. Evrett Edwards and Brian Peavy will both be back at CB. Edwards collected 52 tackles and three PBUs last fall, while Peavy collected 62 tackles and led the team with 11 PBUs.
Colin Downing is back as the Punter after averaging over 41 yards per punt in 2016.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Part of the problem for the Cyclones last season, and it was a major part, is that this unit gave up over 31 points per game, and the offense struggled to come up just short of 28. That has to turn around if the Cyclones are to get around that proverbial corner this fall.
The defensive line, while having some experience coming back, has got to be more productive than the trio of returning starters were last fall. A new starter at DT must be found to replace a team leader in Thomas.
The LB group also has a considerable loss in Kane Seeley. This unit is solid, but they must become more effective at the point of attack, and they need to start getting some penetration up front to make mor eplays behind the line. One new starter must be found here, and all of the hard work cannot fall squarely on Willie Harvey.
The secondary was not one of a ball hawking nature for the most part, Peavy aside. The team did manage to pick off nine passes as a unit last fall, but they can do better.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Northern Iowa, 9/9 Iowa, 9/16 at Akron, 9/28 Texas, 10/7 at Oklahoma, 10/14 Kansas, 10/21 at Texas Tech, 10/28 TCU, 11/4 at West Virginia, 11/11 Oklahoma State, 11/18 at Baylor, 11/25 at Kansas State
Final Overview
The Cyclones are showing major signs of life under Matt Campbell in one year, and year two could see some turns if they can turn some of those close losses into wins. Many people, myself included, thought that Campbell was nuts to take this job, but he may be just crazy enough to make it into something, as was evident at times last season in Big 12 play. One thing that this team cannot afford to do is lose to Northern Iowa in the opener for a second straight season, as that will set a tempo that nobody wants to duplicate again. If they can avoid that issue, then they have the first hurdle cleared. You also cannot afford another blowout loss to arch rival Iowa early on. If those two things can be changed alone, it could be a better go for the Cyclones, as they should be 2-1 heading into conference play against this schedule.

Baylor Bears
After a brutal year of off-field issues and fired coaches and overall darkness, the Baylor football program is looking for a way back into the light under first year coach Matt Ruhle and a new staff that is largely in place die to their Texas High School connections. In many mindsm the damage has been done, and continues to happen as more and more allegations of sexual assault and wrongdoing by the former staff continue to bleed into the public eye, and it has killed recruiting in many ways. Can Ruhle eventually overcome this drama? Why did a guy with Northeast roots even want this job in the first place?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Zach Smith played in ten games at QB in 2016 due to injuries to Seth Russell. He played well enough to earn a lean on getting the starting nod this season, but a late development may have changed all of that, when former Arizona starter Anu Solomon transferred in. Solomon had a truly amazing freshman season,but the injury bug then set in and has largely derailed his career, as had terrible coaching from the current Arizona staff. Solomon has a chance to hit the reset button, and if he can hold the job through fall camp, and stay healthy, Baylor has a solid situation on their hands in the passing game.
Shock Linwood left early to prepare for an NFL draft that he had no shot of getting drafted in prior to the bowl game last fall, but that leaves the door wide open for Terrence Williams, who may be a breakout candidate in 2017. I saythat lightly, because he managed to rush for 1058 yards and 11 scores while largely splitting carries with Linwood last season, and he will likely be the primary back this fall, giving him all kinds of opportunities to explode onto the scene. JaMycal Hasty also carried the football over 100 times last season. and there should be opportunities for him as well after a 623 yard rushing season.
Four starters are set to return on the line, which is a good start for whatever kind of offense that Ruhle will be setting up in. LT Dom DeSouza, LG Ishmael Wilson, RG Blake Blackmar, and RT Patrick Lawrence are all set to come back, and every key reserve will return as well up front.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Zach Smith was good, but was not great last fall at QB, and nobody knows what Anu Solomon has left in the tank. If neither player can lift themselves up and really grab the starting job, the QB position can go from a traditional Baylor strength, to a complete and utter mess.
The receivers are not as deep and talented as they have been in recent seasons for the Bears. KD Cannon and Ishmael Zamora both left early for the NFL Draft, good decision or not, and that leaves Baylor thin on experience. Chris Platt is the lone returning starter from the bowl game two deep, and he caught 35 balls last fall. Blake Lynch also returns as a sophomore, and he caught 34 passes. After those two players, nobody caught more than 13 passes last season.
The kicking game needs some juice as well. Chris Callahan is back as a senior, but hit just 10/15 FG attempts last season, which may have opened the door for sophomore Connor Martin to give him a good push in camp this fall.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
If what Ruhle did at Temple is any indication, he will put an emphasis on this side of the football, which is something that Art Briles never did.
All three starters return on the line in DEs Greg Roberts and KJ Smith, and NT Tyrone Hunt. Smith led the team last season with 12 TFLs and seven sacks, and finished with 67 tackles overall. Hunt and Roberts combined for 8.5 TFLs and combined for 57 tackles. Ira Lewis is a key returnee at NT, and may push for starting time as well after finishing with 36 total tackles. Xavier Jones, Jamie Jacobs, and Bravvion Roy will also all return.
Three starters will return in the secondary for the Bears. NB Travon Blanchard, Safety Davion Hall, and CB Grayland Arnold will all be back. Blanchard finished with five PBUs and 73 tackles on the season. Hall finished with 51 tackles, three PBUs, and a pick. Arnold, a freshman last fall, broke up four passes, and finished with 20 tackles. Four key reserves return as well in Jameson Houston, Verkedric Vaughns, Chance Waz, and Jourdan Blake.
Punter Drew Galitz will also return after finishing with an average of 41.59 yards per punt.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Baylor still gave up quite a few points last season, as is indicative of a team that finished the regular season on a six game skid after winning their first six games.
One area to look at is at LB this fall, as only one starter returns in Taylor Young. Young finished second on the team last season with 93 tackles, but will be exposed on either side with inexperienced starters. Young was good for nine TFLs, and 4.5 sacks as well. Thomas Cletcher, a junior this fall, will likely start at one OLB spot, with either Raaquan Davis or Clay Johnston starting at the other.
Two starters also need to be found in the secondary, a unit that gave up just shy of 3000 yards passing last season. CB Ryan Reid, and Safety Orion Stewart are both gone. They combined for 13 PBUs last season.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Liberty, 9/9 UTSA, 9/16 at Duke, 9/23 Oklahoma, 9/30 at Kansas State, 10/14 at Oklahoma State, 10/21 West Virginia, 10/28 Texas, 11/4 at Kansas, 11/11 Texas Tech at Arlington, 11/18 Iowa State, 11/24 at TCU
Final Overview
Matt Ruhle is a very good football coach who took on a reclamation project at Temple and succeeded to certain degrees to make that program relevant. He has a huge mess to solve with all kinds of baggage after what has happened and what is still happening in the aftermath around the Baylor football program. To remotely hint at expecting immediate success would be just completely sweeping all of that under the rug. There is more going on in Waco than football around this program, and that is a big problem that will be used against this program in recruiting for years to come. Ruhle has got to dig in and cut out the bad seeds and continue to try to get on the right track with the players in this program, and that is going to take some time. This team could either win six games in 2017, or they could completely explode in a bad way.

Texas Tech Red Raiders
Patrick Mahomes was one of the most high profile QBs to ever start at the position for Texas Tech, and that was not enough for him to ever be a winner in Lubbock. One would imagine that the clock on Kliff Kingsbury has go to the running out as head coach of the Red Raiders short of a major miracle in 2017. The problem is that Mahomes is gone, and while anyone can basically run this system of offense, who will be the guy who will replace him, and can this football team ever be relevant in the Big 12 with the current staff in place?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Texas Tech rarely has a bad QB, and even with Mahomes out of the picture Nic Shimonek showed flashes in his time on the field to make me believe that the passing game will not miss much of a beat. He passed for 464 yards and six TDs to just one INT last fall, and completed 65.5% of his pass attempts in limited action. He truly seems as if he can step right in and lead the action on offense without a problem.
The line will return three starters this fall. LG Jack Reichel, RG Justin Murphy, and RT Terence Steele will all return this fall, and all three were underclassmen a year ago. Reichel and Murphy will be juniors this fall, and they will be juniors with a ton of experience.
Jonathon Giles is back at the Y receiver spot after leading the team with 69 receptions for 1158 yards and a team leading 13 TDs. Keke Coutee will also be back at the H receiver after catching 55 passes for 890 yards and seven scores. Both are big play threats who averaged over 16 yards per catch last fall. Dylan Cantrell is back as well after a 57 catch season, and Cameron Batson caught 61 passes, and is back as well. Ian Sadler and Derrick Willies will both return to add exceptional depth at the receiver position.
Clayton Hatfield made 13/14 FG attempts last season, and will return for his junior season.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Running the football is a mere suggestion for this staff, but you do not win if you cannot run the football, and the Red Raiders don't, can't, or won't run the football. Texas Tech finished 123rd in the nation in rushing last season at just 103.58 yards per game as a team. That will not get it done, and Deshaun Foster finally gave up and left as RB coach for the job at UCLA where he could actually try to accomplish something. Da'Leon Ward and Demarcus Felton both return, but is that all that big of a deal?
The line also needs two new starters. Madison Akamnonu was a freshman last seaosn, and may be the main candidate at LT, while replacing Tony Morales at Center is a wide open battle heading into fall camp.
Shimonek looks ready at QB, but the reality is that he only had four games in limited minutes last fall. If he falters, there is no other experience around to pick up the ball and throw it.
Hatfield being back at PK is solid, but he is an adventure at times on PAT tries, as he missed five last fall. That is a development worth watching as well.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
I will not insult my readers by even suggesting that Kingsbury knows the first thing about defense. This team has been a mess on that side of the ball ever since he took over as head coach. The Red Raiders allowed 43.5 points per game last fall, and may as well change their nickname to the Red Raided. In a total first, I find absolutely nothing about this unit to be excited about.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
Be concerned that this coaching staff has no clue what they are doing defensively. It's so bad that it befuddles me that Kingsbury, probably one of the ten worst coaches in FBS football currently (and it's more like in the five worst), still has a job as a head coach. He has done a terrible job in hiring defensive staff, and he should be nowhere near the table when defensive game planning is in full effect. It is obvious that he is lost there.
The Red Raiders collected, as a team, just 47 TFLs all season long on defense, while the Red Raiders offense allowed 67 TFLs against. That is a differential of 20!
The secondary picked off just five passes all season, while the offense gave up 11. That is more than double!
Texas Tch generated just 14 sacks in 12 games, while the offense allowed 30. Again, just more than double!
It is obvious that they key areas of this unit are inherently broken, and I do not believe that the current staff has a clue in hell as to how to fix any of it.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 Eastern Washington, 9/16 Arizona State, 9/23 at Houston, 9/30 Oklahoma State, 10/7 at Kansas, 10/14 at West Virginia, 10/21 Iowa State, 10/28 at Oklahoma, 11/4 Kansas State, 11/11 at Baylor, 11/18 TCU, 11/24 at Texas
Final Overview
The Red Raiders are a complete mess on defense, and now they have some questions on offense. You cannot win with an unbalanced approach to the game, and the Red Raiders all passing, no running, and no defense approach to trying to outscore every single opponent in a shoot out does not, and has never worked. This program largely wasted Mahomes and his ability at QB, and now there is legitimately not a star left on offense to carry the load that has been identified. Kingsbury should already have been fired by now, and if this team is as bad as I think it is, there is no justifiable way he should be back for a sixth season. In short, this program has become a shell of itself as it was under Mike Leach, which was still probably the dumbest firing of all time. Some messes cannot be cleaned up, they just need to get blown up and rebuilt. That is the case here.

Kansas Jayhawks
This program has largely been a train wreck for the most part of the last decade. Mark Mangino was the last coach to win with any regularity at Kansas, and he has been gone for a long while now. I was very open about the hiring of David Beaty for Kansas being the wrong move, and I still stand by that statement. If he wins just one or two games again, for the third consecutive season, will those who have stood by him finally change their tune? Will they have a choice?
What To Be Excited About: Offense
Not much. This is a unit that scored just 20.3 points per game last fall, and that was in year two under Beaty. Did I see the improvement that I would expect in year two under a new head coach? Well, maybe in some ways, but not in many. The Jayhawks did manage to score five more points per game in year two than in year one, but that was not saying much.
Montell Cozart has left the program, leaving the job at QB to Carter Stanley. Stanley, a sophomore, basically took the job away in any event, and will not have to look over his shoulder much as he tries to develop into a serviceable player. That said, I am not certain as to how impactful he can be, other than the fact that he holds the job undisputed now.
Four starters return on the line, and that is where this team has to start finding an identity on offense. Hakeem Adeniji is back at LT, Jayson Rhodes at LG, Mesa Ribordy at C, and Larry Hughes at RG.
There will be some fight from the starting WRs this fall, as Steven Sims, Jr. is back along with LaQuvionte Gonzalez to lead the pack. They combined for 134 receptions last fall, and are by far the two best parts to the offense. As they go, so will the development of Stanley.
What To Be Concerned About: Offense
Really and truly, you have to be concerned about every aspect of this offense, as the scoring average would indicate. If this offense cannot get right in 2017, Beaty will have to be shown the door for someone who can get in there and motivate this group to find themselves and be free in the game. Right now, they cannot do that. I do know how bare the cupboard was, but you simply cannot go through three years of waning production and stick around in a conference that is fed by the fires of offense.
One area that has got to be fixed is the run game. Kansas loses their best back in Ke'aun Kinner, and there was nobody even close to his level on this football team in carries, yards per carry, or total rushing yards last season. Finding a back or a couple of backs that can get the job done in camp will be of paramount importance.
The kicking game is also a mess. Matthew Wyman is gone, and he was not great after hitting just 13/19 FGs last season. The Jayhawks need every bit of scoring they can find, and finding a competent kicker will also be a huge project in fall camp.
What To Be Excited About: Defense
I am not trying to go overtly negative, but Kansas gave up over 37 points per game last fall, 17 more than they scored each week. Losing by double digits on an average is not getting it done.
Luckily, there are building blocks for Kansas up front. Dorance Armstrong, Jr. finished last fall with 20 TFLs, 10 sacks, and 56 tackles, and is one of the best edge guys in the Big 12 conference. DT Daniel Wise is also very adept at disrupting the backfield from up the middle, as he finished with 10 TFLs from his DT spot. He finshed with 38 total tackles.
Delsaac Davis will also return at NT.
Cole Moos will be back as the Punter, and averaged 41.42 yards per punt last season on 6.1 punts per game.
What To Be Concerned About: Defense
The Entire back seven is in a rebuild mode right now, as only one LB, and one member of the secondary that started the season finale will return to Lawrence this fall.Keith Loneker, Jr. is that one returning starter in the 4-2-5 set. Loneker finished with just 43 tackles last season, and he is not active behind the line of scrimmage. Denzel Feaster is likely to win the open LB spot, but there is likely to be some push for him in camp from Joe Dineen, Jr.
There is only one returning starter in the entire secondary, meaning four new starters need to be found in the defensive backfield. Mike Lee, a sophomore, is that guy. Lee finished with 77 tackles, with 70 of those coming as solo jobs. Lee should be OK in run support, he lacks skills in pass coverage, and Kansas needs more in pass defense, given that they allowed 26 TD passes last fall as a team.
2017 Schedule: 9/2 SE Missouri State, 9/9 Central Michigan, 9/16 at Ohio, 9/23 West Virginia, 10/7 Texas Tech, 10/14 at Iowa State, 10/21 at TCU, 10/28 Kansas State, 11/4 Baylor, 11/11 at Texas, 11/18 Oklahoma, 11/25 at Oklahoma State
Final Overview
Kansas has won exactly one conference games in two seasons under David Beaty, and I really do not see how much better Kansas can be in 2017 than they have been over the last two seasons. The talent level is still not nearly what it needs to be, and recruiting has not exactly taken off like a rocket under the current staff. The schedule does not look bad out of conference, but I cannot say that I would favor the Jayhawks over Central Michigan or Ohio. If Kansas cannot show a major surge forward, it's hard to say how the administration can still go on about their belief in Beaty, because the record just will not be there.

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