Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Kansas
By ESPN.com staff
Record: 2-10 (0-9)
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Kansas could have gone 2-10 or even 3-9 and Turner Gill still would have had a good chance to keep his job. The problem: Those losses couldn't be anywhere near as lopsided as they were. Kansas fielded one of the worst defenses in college football history, giving up over 516 yards and almost 44 points a game. Both numbers were last in the FBS.
With an offense that was average at best, Kansas didn't have much of a chance. Frustrating losses piled up early in the season. Georgia Tech and OSU beat the Jayhawks by 42, and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State beat them by 30 and 48, respectively. Kansas nearly rebounded to beat Iowa State and Baylor after a 43-0 loss to Texas, but a week later, it followed up with a 61-7 loss to Texas A&M. That's just not good enough. Kansas was more talented and had much better skill position players this year, but the defense was simply too bad. Gill's firing after two seasons wasn't ideal, but it was a necessary move.
Offensive MVP: James Sims, running back. Sims wasn't amazing this year, but he was a reliable runner. His only two 100-yard rushing games of the year were in the wins over McNeese State and Northern Illinois, but he finished with 727 yards and nine touchdowns.
Defensive MVP: Steven Johnson, linebacker. Johnson was outstanding all year. He brought effort every week even as the losses piled up, and quietly put together one of the best years of any linebacker in the Big 12. He led the Big 12 with 119 tackles and had six tackles for loss with two forced fumbles.
Turning point: The loss to Georgia Tech. This was the first sign that the defense may have serious, serious problems. Dramatic losses to Baylor and Iowa State were brief bright spots, but the Yellow Jackets were one of four teams to score 59 points against KU. They ran for an absurd 604 yards and scored 42 points in 25 minutes in the second half.
What’s next: The new coach will inherit some good pieces of talent and an experienced quarterback in Jordan Webb, though Kansas is lacking a bit in receiver talent. They're loaded at running back with Darrian Miller, Brandon Bourbon and Tony Pierson, so expect a grounded approach for whoever replaces Gill. Kansas is still a long way from being a Big 12 contender, but they could conceivably be in contention for a bowl if the right coach comes in next year.