A quarter of the way through his second season in charge of the dormant University of Kansas football program, head coach David Beaty makes sure to appreciate signs of growth anywhere he can find them.
So even though his Jayhawks open Big 12 play 1-2, coming off back-to-back disappointing losses to programs outside the vaunted Power 5 conferences, Beaty will tell you about how well Ohio and Memphis have played since KU faced them, bring up how much the Kansas defense has improved statistically since a year ago at this time and things of that nature.
While maintaining his trademark optimism, though, Beaty also understands how far away he is from taking the team where he thinks it’s capable of going.
As his Jayhawks enter Jones AT&T; Stadium in Lubbock, Texas, Thursday night to take on Texas Tech (2-1), Beaty thinks one drastic change should continue to help his players in an uphill climb toward national relevance. Since his arrival, he and his staff have implemented a culture change, and Beaty said the players trust in what they’re attempting to build at KU.
“And then the next thing was not ever quitting. That was a big, big deal for us here, and for all of us in this world,” the coach said last week at his press conference. “I think all of us have a point where it's just not worth it, and you give up. And you've got to develop that resolve in you, and we have to develop in our players where those words never enter their mind, so they’re never giving up.”
Kansas coaches, Beaty added, do much to track players’ in-game effort. During the team’s bye week, he shared with his players examples of how their effort actually improved in the second half of their loss at Memphis, a game in which KU trailed 33-7 at the break before holding the Tigers to 10 second-half points.
Each positive nugget Beaty unearths keeps him going, and his goal remains to explore every avenue that might lead his program out of the Big 12 basement.
“Yeah, you've got to innovate or you're going to evaporate in college football… We are always going to be developing,” Beaty said. “You're going to hear me say that from now until we win a conference championship, which we will do. I'm not sure when, but we will get to it, and we will always be developing.”
TV spotlight as recruiting tool
While Beaty prefers playing on Saturdays, he described earlier this week why he is grateful KU gets a chance for some national exposure at Texas Tech (7:30 p.m. kickoff, FOX Sports 1).
“And from a recruiting standpoint it gives you a chance to showcase really what you’re doing, offensively, defensively, special teams and as a program,” Beaty said. “So that’s a great recruiting opportunity. It’s great for both sides (KU and Tech). Really, you get out of it what you put into it and what you produce from it. I think the team that produces the most stands to gain the most.”
Regardless of the score or outcome, though, Beaty doesn’t think the national stage should drastically impact KU positively or negatively.
“But recruiting’s not a one-night show,” he said. “You don’t win and lose recruiting on one night. You’ve gotta do that all year round.”
Sims’ impact in passing game
Limited to two receptions for 15 yards in KU’s loss at Memphis, receiver Steven Sims Jr. didn’t produce the kind of numbers the offense would like to get out of him on a weekly basis. Still, the 5-foot-10 sophomore from Houston is among the nation’s leaders in yards per catch (23.0).
Only six players from Power 5 conferences rank ahead of Sims in that category (minimum two receptions per game). Kentucky’s Jeff Badet leads the nation with 30.6 yards a reception. Sandwiched between Badet and Sims are East Carolina’s Jimmy Williams (26.8), Nebraska’s Alonzo Moore (25.8), Louisville’s Jaylen Smith (25.3), North Carolina State’s Stephen Louis (25.1), Texas Tech’s Derrick Willies (24.0) and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews (23.4).
Playing last season as a true freshman, Sims finished with 30 catches for 349 yards. With nine games to play as a sophomore, the big-play threat has 11 receptions, 253 yards and four touchdowns (sixth-most in the nation).