It's amazing what seven wins in a row will do for a football program and its coach -- just ask Kansas coach Glen Mason. According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, Mason will have his pick of jobs after this football season at such places as Georgia, Arizona State and Cal-Berkeley.
Where were all these offers two years ago when Kansas finished an injury-riddled 5-7 season? This isn't some Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing. It's the same man with the same philosophies and the same coaching abilities.
So what's the difference between last season's 6-5 record and this year's No. 6 national ranking? Don't look at the top shelf, check the next level down. Oh, there it is, right next to the good china hidden for special occasions: defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Look one more shelf lower next to the good silver, and I see another: secondary coach David Gibbs.
In Kansas' two biggest victories this year against Colorado and Oklahoma, it has been the defense which has propelled the Jayhawks. Mason should be congratulated for hiring the right people and leading the pilgrimage from Colorado where both coaches came from after last season.
Against Colorado when freshman Freddie Hammonds picked off a pass to help seal the upset, Mason knew exactly who to shower the accolades to -- Hankwitz.
And the major turnaround in the secondary from last year to now is a major accomplishment. Last season's Kansas State game was the last straw for me. It was then that I realized how terrible the secondary was, and one play defined it.
It was a third and long pass late in the game for K-State. Quarterback Chad May looked to a receiver standing for what seemed like eternity on the right sideline with cornerback Dorian Brew right next to him in position to make the play. Instead of knocking the pass away, Brew waited for the receiver to make the catch, then pushed him out of bounds.
First down K-State, and as you may know, the rest is a sad 21-13 memory of defeat for Kansas fans.
Now Brew is touted as one of the best cornermen in the Big Eight Conference. Brew had three interceptions heading into this season. In seven games, he already has four picks. His interception return for a touchdown against the Sooners last Saturday helped ice the 38-17 victory.
Look at the players Kansas has had in the defensive backfield. Tony Blevins, now a redshirt junior, was Big Eight freshman defensive player of the year two years ago. Doug Terry is a solid NFL defensive back with the Kansas City Chiefs and Kwamie Lassiter has found success this season as a professional with Arizona, even though he suffered a season-ending injury.
The Jayhawks always have had the athletes in the secondary, now they have the coach to match. The defense has caused 10 interceptions thus far, compared to eight the entire season last year.
Mason should get the big pat on the back for these hirings, which is the main job for a head coach. I hope for Kansas' sake that he doesn't entertain offers after this season, and I guarantee there will be plenty. Success in the Big Eight is dependent on stability at head coach, and Mason is second to only Nebraska's Tom Osborne in that department with eight years of service.
But maybe Kansas fans should be just as concerned about the offers Hankwitz is bound to get. After all, he deserves much of the credit for this team's success.
- Gerry Fey is an Omaha, Neb., senior majoring in journalism at the University of Kansas.