Kansas football has dealt with major scholarship issues in recent years. The roster hasn’t reached the 85-man scholarship limit in half a decade.
However, Kansas coach David Beaty — slowly but surely — is building the roster back to respectability.
“We finally enter the season with 70 players on scholarship,” Beaty said. “That directly affects every position on the roster, including the quarterback.”
When Beaty first arrived on campus in 2015, former coaches Charlie Weis and Turner Gill had decimated the roster. Fewer than 60 scholarship players participated in most of the games because of attrition and injuries. The Jayhawks’ on-the-field performance has cratered in the years since.
Kansas has not won more than three games since 2009. Beaty is just 3-33 as a coach in Lawrence. His three-year tenure has almost exclusively been focused on trying to return the roster to FBS level. Heck, even FCS teams are entitled to 65 scholarships.
“If you take away the same amount of scholarship from Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, Baylor, any of those schools, it would be interesting to see where they turn out,” Beaty said. “When you go into a season with that kind of deficit, it affects you.”
Specifically, Beaty pointed to the inconsistent experience on the offensive line. The Jayhawks have rarely maintained a two-deep of scholarship offensive linemen.
It’s showed in the line’s performance on the field. Kansas has ranked 126th , 113th and 126th nationally in yards per carry during Beaty’s three-season tenure. The Jayhawks have been 112th, 116th and 125th in Beaty’s three seasons in average rushing yards per game.
But there has been a modicum of improvement. After allowing 40 sacks to rank 117th nationally in 2015, the Jayhawks have improved to 27 in 2016 (tied for 68th) and 29 last season (tied for 75th.)
It’s been a struggle. Beaty specifically pointed to the line issues as one of the greatest challenges that has faced the Jayhawks in recent seasons.
Luckily, Kansas ranks No. 2 nationally in overall returning production. Ninety-one percent of the roster’s production is back overall and 92 percent on the defensive side of the ball.
“We finally are going to have a healthy, mature developed roster,” Beaty said.
The roster does seem to be changing. Defensive linemen Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise both earned first-team All-Big 12 in recent years. Linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. was the most productive in the conference. The biggest issue remains depth.
To try and help, Kansas signed 11 junior college players. Several could start, and others will play immediately. That, combined with boosts from 4-star running back Anthony Williams and cornerback Corione Harris, will make for a more talented roster than in Beaty’s first three seasons.
Dineen and Wise are also back to lead the defense. The talent is there — the team shouldn’t just be a pushover.
“If we don’t lose any guys to medical — which is not realistic — we’re going to be at 70 true scholarship players,” Beaty said. “We’re excited to be 15 short, which is unbelievable.”
Beaty estimates that it could take about three years to get back to 85 legitimate scholarship players.
Chances are he won’t be around to see it. But regardless, Beaty’s work should pay off later, whether he’s present to enjoy those fruits of his labors, or not.