Last year Stanley started the final three games of the season and helped the Jayhawks to a win over Texas. Bender enrolled in January and went through spring football after starting his career at Washington State for Mike Leach before heading to Itawamba Community College.
Even though they are going head-to-head every day in summer workouts trying to eat each other out, they have also bonded on and off the field.
“We have had a great relationship ever since he showed up,” Stanley said. “We have been living together in the same house this summer and next year we’re going to live in the same house together. I think we hit it off when we met each other and it has been great competing against him.”
Bender didn’t know what to expect. He took an official visit to Kansas as a recruit for the Texas game. That’s the night Stanley led the Jayhawks to a win over the Longhorns that gained national attention.
“I never met him on my official visit and didn’t know him until I got here,” Bender said of Stanley. “He is a great guy and I feel like we clicked from the first day we met. He is a genuine person who wants the best for the team. Whether it is him or me playing we both want to win. I feel like we have had good chemistry with the fact we’re in a competition.”
They are competing with different styles. Bender is described by offensive coordinator Doug Meacham as more of a “gunslinger.”
“I think he is very poised,” Stanley said of Bender. “He is under control and accurate with a quick release. He has a great football IQ.”
In his three starts Stanley rushed for close to 100 yards and at times kept plays alive eluding pressure.
“I see a little bit of grit, and kind of a gamer-like player,” Bender said about Stanley. “He plays extremely hard and can make a play out of nothing when he has to.”
Now the two are just three weeks away from starting fall camp when the competition will really heat up. That’s when one of them will win the starting job and the other will be the back-up.
“We got last week off during Fourth of July,” Bender said. “I went home and when I got back (to KU) I realized we are here now until the end of the season. We’re gearing up and ready to get rolling.”