KU, K-State and MU college football teams have many questions entering season

KU-MU-KSU football

AUGUST 2015 – With the college football season kicking off in September, a quick glance at the area teams brings up a lot of questions. Unfortunately for David Beaty, Bill Snyder and Gary Pinkel, there aren’t nearly as many answers.

Kansas

Beaty, the new head coach at Kansas, and Snyder and Pinkel, the veterans at K-State and Missouri, all have their hands full heading into the season. Let’s start with Beaty and Kansas.

Beaty takes over a rock bottom program, or at least Kansas fans hope it won’t go any lower. After the past six years, when the Jayhawks went 4-48 in the Big 12 Conference with a maximum win total of one in any of the six seasons, Beaty comes in with high aspirations and a realistic approach.

“We’re currently wrapped up in preparing our staff and our team to create a brand of Kansas football that is tough, fast-paced, disciplined, highly competitive, fun to watch and, man, fun to play in,” Beaty said at Big 12 Media sessions in Dallas.

Beaty chose a little more tactful way to talk about the opportunity for playing time at Kansas than his predecessor did. When asked his sales pitch to recruits heading into his second season on the job, Charlie Weis said, “Have you looked at that pile of (bleep) out there? If you don’t think you can play here, where do you think you can play?”

Beaty knows it will take a while to return to competency, since Weis didn’t do much to clean up the mess in Lawrence in his tenure.

“It’ll probably take us a couple years to get there,” Beaty said.

Beaty’s roster has 64 scholarship players, compared to the maximum of 85 most of the rest of the conference has.

The biggest question will be at quarterback. Last year’s starter, Michael Cummings had knee surgery in June after going down in the spring game, and he’s likely gone for the year. There are two freshman quarterbacks—Florida high school product Carter Stanley and Bishop Miege graduate Ryan Willis—in the mix.

“We’re just going to have to see,” Beaty said when asked if the freshmen could see playing time this fall. “They’re going to have to earn it.”

Junior dual-threat Montell Cozart is back and could beat out the talented freshmen.

Larry Mazyck, who is listed at 6-8, 343 pounds, could establish himself as one of the better left tackles in the league.

Quarterback is not the only challenge, and the Jayhawks were picked to finish last in the Big 12 once again.

 

K-State

Once again Snyder and Kansas State enter a season picked in the bottom half of the Big 12, this time seventh.

The Wildcats lost their starting quarterback, top two receivers and leading rusher. But Snyder is the ultimate Quarterback Whisperer, and anyone who has paid attention the past 25 years knows what he can do with moldable talent.

There are four quarterback candidates. Snyder loves experience, but the two that have been with the program are not likely the ones to be under center once the season starts.

Junior Joe Huebner saw some action in blowouts last year behind starter Jake Waters, but the 6-5 junior was unimpressive in the spring game. Jesse Ertz started the spring game, but he didn’t show much either. True freshman Alex Delton was the most impressive of the three, but Snyder likes redshirting players at skill positions.

After the Spring game, Snyder suggested that might change, saying Delton was definitely in the mix to start.

When asked what displeased him the most about the offense, he said, “A little bit of everything. We turned the ball over, got penalized and didn’t run it well. Obviously with the interceptions we had, we didn’t throw it well.”

The bet here is none of the three will take the reins. Look for sophomore Jonathan Banks, who might remind one of El Roberson. Banks, a dual-threat quarterback juco transfer from Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Calif., could earn the job.

At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Banks completed 140 of 235 passes last season for 1,992 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 700 yards and 11 touchdowns on 131 carries, while leading his team to nine victories. He was chosen offensive player of the year in the Northern California Football Conference. Arriving late won’t be an issue. He joined Contra Costa College the day before the season started.

The defense is quite solid and Snyder always finds/develops talent where there doesn’t appear to be any. The Wildcats usually exceed preseason expectations under Snyder.

 

Missouri

Pinkel is the only one of the three area coaches who knows who his quarterback starter will be. Maty Mauk will again orchestrate the Missouri offense.

Mauk concluded his sophomore season with seven consecutive games with a passer rating more than 100 and was better than 100 in all but three games. He threw 25 TDs on the season and ranka sixth in program history with 36 career TD passes. Most importantly, he’s won two consecutive SEC East Division titles. So what’s not to like?

He tends to force things and sometimes make some inexplicable mistakes. In the Citrus Bowl 33-17 victory over Minnesota, Mauk threw two interceptions. But in the same game, Mauk rallied the Tigers with a 12-for-19, two touchdown effort, plus 56 yards and a touchdown on the ground. His 18-yard, third-quarter touchdown was a typical Mauk play, as he ran through three defenders on his way into the end zone to cap off a 12-3 season.

“He’s pretty consistent,” Pinkel said. “He’s that way even if he gets nicked up. He always tries to never show more than one face with his teammates. He’s kind of back a little bit in terms of throwing the ball well and reading defenses better, (but) it’s nice to see him making plays like we expected him to do. Certainly people around him are also playing at a high level too, but it’s nice to see him improving.”

Pinkel’s biggest worries are on the defensive line. After having five defensive linemen drafted by the NFL the past three years – Shane Ray and Markus Golden in 2015, Kony Ealy and Michael Sam in 2014 and Sheldon Richardson in 2013 – the Tigers’ cupboard may not be bare, but the cup is not overflowing.

Things got worse in June when Harold Brantley, who was expected to play a big role, was seriously injured in a car accident in Columbia and will miss the season.

Article by David Smale

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