Best friends, roommates vie for starting QB job at Kansas

FILE - In this April 15, 2017, file photo, University of Kansas quarterbacks Peyton Bender (7) and Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 spring football game, in Lawrence, Kan.  The two quarterbacks competing for the starting job at Kansas happen to be roommates and best of friends. But lest anybody think that could be awkward, talk for a bit with sophomore Carter Stanley and junior college transfer Peyton Bender. (Nick Krug/Lawrence Journal-World via AP, File)/The Lawrence Journal-World via AP)

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) The quarterbacks competing for the starting job at Kansas know each other about as well as anyone.

That’s because they happen to be roommates.

But don’t think for a moment that sophomore Carter Stanley and junior college transfer Peyton Bender are living in some kind of awkward, surreal bubble. The reality is they’re best friends, on the field and off, and they would rather root for each other than harbor any kind of grudge.

”It’s definitely a different feel than what I’ve had in the past,” said Stanley, who started the final three games last season and led the Jayhawks to a surprising upset of Texas.

”It’s fun to compete against Peyton,” he continued. ”He’s a great guy. We’ll give each other tips from time to time about what we’re seeing, whether it’s coverage or maybe we saw an open pattern.”

Mostly, though, they talk about anything and everything besides football.

”We have similar interests,” Bender said, ”so I think that’s how we’ve become good friends. Just when we’re away from the field, we don’t really talk about it too much. But when we’re on the field, we are going head-to-head and we know that. I think that’s how we maintain a good relationship.”

Kansas coach David Beaty has been in no hurry to appoint a starting quarterback, even with the Sept. 2 opener against Southeast Missouri State fast approaching. He’d rather give both candidates ample chance to earn the starting nod, and he hasn’t ruled out a two-quarterback system.

In truth, Stanley probably deserved to have the edge at the start of fall camp.

The Jayhawks’ quarterback situation has been a disaster for the better part of a decade, ever since Todd Reesing led them to the Orange Bowl in 2008. Inability has bred instability, and the result has been offenses that have routinely ranked in the bottom of the Big 12.

But when he checked in for the first time last season, Stanley brought to the field an unmistakable swagger. He wasn’t daunted by the challenge of leading a long-downtrodden program, even against opponents with far more talent, and his scrambling ability to make plays quickly endeared him to fans.

His comeback win over the Longhorns also helped.

”The thing that was a little bit difficult for me for Carter was that he was such a runner,” Beaty said. ”I mean, he’s an athletic guy. They ran him a bunch at Vero Beach (in high school). We just didn’t do a whole lot of that. We didn’t do a whole lot of that early. But we’re doing some of that now.”

Meanwhile, Bender arrived with a skillset more suited to Beaty’s preferred ”Air Raid” system.

He spent two years with Mike Leach at Washington State, redshirting the first and playing part of the second, before leaving the Pac-12 school. He wound up last year at Itawamba Community College, where he threw for 2,733 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions in nine games.

”His familiarity was instant when he walked in the door,” Beaty said, ”which gave us a great opportunity to truly evaluate him, because he already understood the concepts. The kid’s very talented.

”He’s got as nice of an arm as I’ve been around. Unbelievably quick release, very smart guy.”

Beaty acknowledged the differences between the more athletic Stanley and the strong-armed Bender, but he also pointed out that they have plenty in common. Both have strong grasps of the offense, natural leadership skills and the kind of moxie that it takes to win in the Big 12.

That’s just on the field, too.

”Those two guys live together. They are really, really close friends,” Beaty said, ”and it’s going to be a battle because both of them want to take that job. And the other thing that I talk to these guys all the time about is, if you just look at our league over the last two to three years, very few of us have been able to go through the entire schedule with just one guy playing the entire year.

”So for us, we feel very fortunate that we have two really capable guys right now at that place.”

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