2020 Schedule Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

John. E. Hoover

Every Wednesday going into Big 12 Media Days on July 20-21, SI Sooners will break down Oklahoma’s 2020 schedule. Today: Kansas.

Les Miles intro
Les Miles and the JayhawksJay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Is this the year that Les Miles’ coaching and Pooka Williams’ formidable skills come together at Kansas?

Williams ran for 1,125 yards and seven touchdowns as a true freshman, then last year under Miles, Williams had 1,061 yards and three TDs. His per-carry average dropped from 7.0 in 2018 to 5.2 in 2019.

Miles’ reputation as a coach who prefers a thudding run game, prefers to beat teams at the line of scrimmage instead of downfield, seems to be something that would benefit the 5-10, 170-pound Williams.

Pooka Williams
Pooka WilliamsReese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Now going into his third season, Williams remains the Jayhawks’ most dynamic player. He’ll probably needs well north of 200 carries (he had 203 last season) if KU is going to finish anywhere but last in the Big 12 standings for the 11th time in 12 years.

But the fact is, Williams will need lots of help, too.

“I think we’re capable,” Les Miles told SI Sooners in March.

Kansas is looking to improve on a 3-9 finishing Miles’ first year (1-8 in Big 12 play). The Jayhawks haven’t had a winning record since 2008. That was also the last time they won more than one Big 12 Conference game.

Miles’ decision to fire Les Koenning during the season last year seemed a shock at first, but after Miles promoted Brent Dearmon, the KU offense improved immediately.

But senior Carter Stanley was the KU quarterback last season and needs to be replaced. Thomas MacVittie likely gets the first look, although Miles isn’t averse to turning things over to true freshman Jalen Daniels.

Andrew Parchment
Andrew ParchmentRob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

KU’s receiver corps is its strength on offense, with All-Big 12 contender Andrew Parchment (831 yards, 7 TDs), Stephon Robinson (727 yards, 8 TDs) and Kwamie Lassiter (352 yards, 1 TD) all back.

Two starters return on the offensive line, and Miles feels there have been gains made there both in recruiting and in strength.

On defense, five starters are back: DE Caleb Sampson, LB Kyron Johnson, linebacker Gavin Potter, cornerback Kyle Mayberry and safety Davon Ferguson.

That’s something to build on — especially for a defense that ranked last in the Big 12 in numerous categories.

2020 Oklahoma Sooners schedule

Miles has 145 career wins and is 66 years old, but he indicated in recruiting that he may be in for the long haul. Miles showed a restraint his predecessors never did by eschewing a junior college influx and instead signing 26 high school seniors.

Jalen Hurts - Gavin Potter
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

“In terms of filling in holes in recruiting, I think that I think we got better,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any question that we’ll have more speed under kicks and I think our special teams will be more talented. And, I think, a capable group of runners that we ought to be able to get some yards on the ground.

“I felt like our receiving corps and our quarterback were extremely talented and really, we just had to get on step with them. I felt like the offensive line is certainly a group that I spent a little bit of time with and I felt like they got better as the season went on.”

Can KU finally get out of last place? They fell one game short last season, but that required a walk-off field goal by Texas or Kansas would have been tied with Texas Tech. Maybe the best way to answer that question: who would the Jayhawks climb over in the standings? It’s early and purely circumstantial, but Texas Tech, TCU and West Virginia all seem to be trending up.

KU’s last time on the field was a 61-6 loss to Baylor.

“There is an opportunity to improve your win-loss record,” Miles said, “if you just to play like you’re capable.”

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