Strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson and the rest of his staff put in multiple 15-hour days a week this time of year, but somehow the days don’t seem as long to them as they did last summer.
“I love coming in here every day and grinding every day because they’re giving everything they’ve got,” Jackson said.
The most encouraging aspect of summer conditioning so far, Jackson said, is that the players are doing some of his work for him.
“The thing that is so different in this team is truly how hard they are straining,” Jackson said. “We train four days a week. They’re out there in the heat for a long time and guys are pushing so hard, but the best part about it is they are holding their teammates to the right standard, so if it’s not done the right way, I don’t have to jump them and tell them to go over and do it again. By the time that guy gets done with his rep, he’s got four or five guys telling him, ‘That wasn’t good enough. Go back and do it again.’ And we haven’t had that. Before that what we had was, ‘What do you mean that’s not good enough?’ We haven’t had any of that. A guy tells him it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. And they do it until it’s good enough. That has been a huge difference in this team.”
Establishing a culture of accountability won’t change the raw talent level, but will increase a program’s ability to compete deeper into games against more talented teams as the bond among players grows stronger. Even if just small strides can be made every year in terms of raw talent among recruits, the culture of accountability will enable the better athletes to improve at a faster rate.
How did the change from a year ago happen?
“I think the biggest thing is your best players decide they’re sick of falling below the standard,” Jackson said. “And they’re sick of working as hard as they work and then seeing other people not do it. So now it’s come to a point of, ‘Hey, if I’m going to work this hard, I’m holding you to that same standard.’ And us as coaches say: ‘Hey, if your teammate calls you out in a constructive way, then I’m going to have a problem with you going back at that guy.’ That’s what we’ve had to instill in them: ‘Hey, if you’re not being a man and you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do to help your teammates and to be a great teammate, then someone’s got to tell you you’re not at that standard.’ ”
Kansas picks last or close to it on the Big 12 recruiting trail, so it must do an excellent job of developing talent to close the gap. That was a huge key to the rise of the program when Mark Mangino was head coach and Chris Dawson was strength and conditioning coach, a role he now fills for Kansas State. That can’t happen without the culture of accountability about which Jackson genuinely is excited.
There you have it, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.
Just one Big 12 school has failed to reach 30 offensive touchdowns in each of the the past four seasons. It was the same school every time.
Kansas scored 27 offensive touchdowns in 2012, 22 in 2013, 25 in 2014 and 22 in 2015. Texas posted the next lowest single-season total during that span with 34 offensive touchdowns in 2014.
Although those KU numbers are ugly, that does not violate the title of this blog. Those numbers are facts and facts are indisputable and can’t be categorized as either mean or nice. They are kindness-neutral.
Given the horrific nature of the numbers, saying something nice about the Kansas offense presents quite the challenge.
Heading into the 2015 season, Kansas did not have a single player on the roster who had scored a single offensive touchdown in 2014. All the players who had accounted for the 25 six-pointers were unavailable for action, whether it be from exhausting their eligibility, suffering an injury or in the case of Corey Avery, doing something to earn a dismissal: Avery (six), Nick Harwell (five), Michael Cummings (four), Jimmay Mundine (three), Tony Pierson (three), Justin McCay (two), Nigel King and Trent Smiley (one).
Heading into this coming season, 6 of the 10 rushing touchdowns return (Ke’aun Kinner five, Montell Cozart one), as do half of the 12 receiving touchdowns (Steven Sims and Tyler Patrick two, Shakiem Barbel and Bobby Hartzog one.)
Departed players who reached the end zone via rush or pass reception: Tre’ Parmalee four, Taylor Cox and Darious Crawley two, De’Andre Mann and Kent Taylor one).
So 12 touchdowns return and 10 are gone. That’s not a good number, but it’s far better than not having a single player who creased the end zone the previous season returning to the offense, as was the case heading into 2015.
So even though Kansas still is the safe bet to have the least productive offense in the Big 12, it should be better than last year’s anemic attack, in part because the offensive line will bring a little bit more experience.
Enough better to reach the 30-TD milestone for the first time since
producing 35 in 2011 when Turner Gill was head coach, Chuck Long was offensive coordinator and the roster was filled with recruits from Mark Mangino and Gill? Possibly.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football.
Kansas head football coach David Beaty's desire to increase his team's tempo seems to be taking root. Spring practices picked up the pace, and after I spent 45 minutes watching the Jayhawks work with weights Friday, the thing that stood out most was how swiftly it all happened with no standing around and waiting.
"You have to match what you're trying to do on the field," KU's strength and conditioning coach Je'Ney Jackson said. "You have to match the head coach's philosophy with the way you train. So now they don't know any other way but to do anything at a high rate. No one should ever be idle. Once you get done with one exercise, usually you're going to another exercise. So we're constantly moving, constantly moving."
Red-shirt sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Wise, the team's reigning Workout Warrior of the Week, makes sure all the new faces know there is only one speed during workouts and that speed is pedal to the metal.
“We have to change the momentum around on the team, pick up the pace,” Wise said. “Some new guys coming in may not know what to expect and you have to let them know from Day 1.”
As team speed increases through recruiting, the fast-pace at which Beaty wants to play will result in more big plays. For now, fast or slow, the players' job is to do everything as fast as they can.
“Yes, sir, that’s how it is," Wise said. "That’s how it’s going to be on the field too in the Big 12. Tempo, tempo, tempo. So we have to practice tempo, tempo, tempo. As soon as coach Jackson came in he instilled that tempo. As soon as coach Beaty came in he instilled that tempo. Tempo walking around in the meeting room. Tempo in the weight room. Tempo on the field. Tempo all the time.”
The pace is picking up.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.
For years, I have been guilty of looking for the slightest reason to believe that help is on the way for Kansas’ too-often invisible pass rush.
I look at the schools who recruited the player. Or I see the quick first step or the long arms and convince myself that this is an athlete built to harass quarterbacks. Usually it’s a junior-college or graduate transfer, sometimes one straight out of high school, who fools me. I hype him because I believe he will change things. And nothing changes.
Naturally, the proof will come on 12 autumn Saturdays, but it looks as if the Jayhawks actually do have a legitimate Big 12 pass-rusher with the potential to become the secondary’s best friend for the next three seasons.
I can’t recall a KU coaching staff being as excited about a defensive end as this staff is about sophomore Dorance Armstrong since transfer Charlton Keith, whose final year of eligibility came in 2005. Based on his size -- they both stand 6-foot-4, and the thicker Armstrong already weighs more than Keith as a senior — Armstrong has an even higher upside.
The staff considered Armstrong the top signee of the Class of 2015 and nothing about his serious approach and coachability, promise shown as a true freshman (3.5 sacks as a part-time player), and ability to take on pounds without losing speed has changed anyone’s mind.
Armstrong already has packed on 16 pounds of muscle in the past year, has shown an ability to develop pass-rush moves, plays with fire and has speed that will impress NFL scouts a couple of years down the road.
If Armstrong does develop into an NFL prospect, he will get paid to play a year earlier than he would have if he had gone to a powerhouse program that would have put a redshirt on him as a freshman. Maybe the staff can use that to entice another talented recruit.
Armstrong said no to Illinois, Michigan State, Texas Tech and several other programs to come to Kansas. That’s impressive recruiting by KU and sound coaching to get him to the point he appears to have reached already.
There, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn.
Linebacker Joe Dineen not only had a productive season as a sophomore at a brand-new position for him, he showed during the spring that it pays to work hard during the offseason.
Dineen improved his speed noticeably, which will put him in position to make more plays on runs and perform better in coverage.
A rising junior out of Lawrence Free State High, Dineen played quarterback and safety in high school and depth issues during his freshman season forced a temporary move to running back. He found a home in the middle of Kansas' defense and has emerged as a leader for the defense.
Dineen put on weight during his first two seasons, which kept him from getting faster. He has grown accustomed to carrying the weight and has trained so hard that his latest stop-watch time and spring playing speed has coaches excited about his prospects for the coming season.
Dineen's personality and quarterback background make him a perfect mentor for Maciah Long, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound incoming freshman who played QB at Houston North Shore High. KU recruited him to play linebacker, where new linebackers coach Todd Bradford, a highly regarded football mind, will teach him the position and Dineen will be there to encourage him to fight through growing pains.
KU plays with two linebackers and seniors Marcquis Roberts and Courtney Arnick bring an abundance of experience, so if Long needs time to learn the position without burning a year of eligibility, KU can afford to go that route.
There, for the fourth consecutive Monday, I said something nice about Kansas football.
SportsDayHS.com ranked the top 100 high school football recruits in North Texas and three of them already have committed to Kansas. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, one of them is a running back.
Kansas will need to have a little luck to make it through the season with enough healthy backs and the best of the lot, Ke’aun Kinner, has just one year of eligibility remaining.
All of that makes the recruitment of Dominic Williams from Parish Episcopal in Dallas a huge one.
A 5-foot-9, 186-pound shifty back with breakaway speed, Williams has transferred to Independence High in Frisco, Texas, for his senior season. He rushed for more than 2,400 yards and 30 touchdowns in each of his past two seasons.
Dominic Williams is ranked nationally by Rivals as the 31st-best running back in the Class of 2017. To put that in perspective, consider that the No. 29 running back is headed to Michigan State and the No. 30 is bound for LSU.
Kansas was the first school to offer Williams a scholarship, which gave the Jayhawks the edge on schools that offered later, including Arizona State, Illinois, Purdue and SMU.
Kansas also has received commitments from top 100 North Texas recruits
Jared Hocker, a 6-5, 295-pound offensive lineman, and Reggie Roberson, a 6-0, 180 wide receiver.
Recruiting appears to be ahead of last year’s schedule, as evidenced by 4 of the 6 verbal commitments receiving three-star rankings from Rivals.
There, for the third consecutive Monday, I said something nice about Kansas football. Your turn. Are you up to the task?
Welcome to the first “Say something nice about Kansas football,” blog, which will appear here every Monday.
Here’s how it works: I’ll say something nice about the KU football program and challenge you to do the same.
Sure, it’s not necessarily easy given that the Jayhawks have gone 4-57 in the Big 12 in the past sevens seasons and have lost their last 38 games played outside of Lawrence. Going 0-12 in 2015 and losing their conference games by an average of 35.7 points doesn’t make it easy. Who said life is supposed to be easy all the time?
To ease the challenge, nice comments unrelated to on-field performance count. For example, you might like a certain uniform combination, a particular food or drink from your friend’s tailgate, a specific chant from the students, etc.
All nice words, provided they aren’t linked in any way to basketball, are welcome. This is a football blog. Jokes about basketball season starting early are so stale and weren’t particularly funny in the first place. No basketball comments of any kind allowed in the “Say something nice about Kansas football” blog.
Sarcasm, although not encouraged, is not discouraged. For example, if someone were to write, “I like the bathrooms in Memorial Stadium because I can’t see the scoreboard from them,” that might not be within the spirit of the blog, but certainly is within the letter of the law.
One more rule: If you disagree with someone who says something nice, that’s fine, but you must then say two nice things about Kansas football to make your contribution a net positive, twice the challenge. Here’s your chance to prove you can say something nice about KU football.
Here goes: Coach David Beaty has parted from recent reliance on recruiting offensive linemen from junior colleges. More than any position, O-linemen must be recruited out of high school and grown in the weight room. That takes five years, the first as a redshirt, in most cases the first few as a backup building strength and polishing technique.
Beaty’s recruiting class of 2016 included four offensive linemen (Cam Durley, Antione Frazier, Hunter Harris, Chris Hughes), all from Texas high schools.
Kansas already has received a verbal commitment from a Texas high school O-lineman, Jared Hocker, in the Class of 2017. Grant Polley, another prep O-lineman, withdrew his commitment.
Beaty gets that it’s impossible to rebuild a football program without building the foundation with high school blockers. I like that.
Your turn. Say something nice about Kansas football.
Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comes from the tree of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, so Stoops knows how to keep a secret.
That makes it difficult to gauge what Stoops will do to hire a defensive line coach for the third time in less than 13 months.
The last thing Kansas coach David Beaty needs is for Stoops to raid his staff and hire former Sooner Calvin Thibodeaux, one of two candidates who seem to make the sense. The other is Thibodeaux’s former teammate C.J. Ah You. Thibodeaux and Ah You roomed together when they were Oklahoma’s starting defensive ends.
Stoops likes to hire his former players, and in Thibodeaux and Ah You he has a pair of impressive candidates from which to choose.
Ah You knows what it's like to play and coach for Stoops, who lost Diron Reynolds on Feb. 10, the one-year anniversary of losing Reynolds' predecessor, Jerry Montgomery. Reynolds returned to Stanford to reunite with his family, which never made the move with him to Oklahoma. Montgomery left OU to work for the Green Bay Packers. Ah You spent the past two seasons on Stoops’ staff as quality control coach for defense and special teams.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason hired Ah You as his defensive line coach a few weeks before Reynolds left OU. Reynolds, who had worked with Mason as a defensive assistant with the Minnesota Vikings, recommended Ah You to Mason. So did Stoops, whose powerful backing of his former player is quoted in Ah You’s official bio on vucommodores.com.
“First and foremost,” Stoops said, “Vanderbilt is getting a great person in C.J. All of his former teammates and all of our current staff love and respect him. He was a great player for us and a valuable member of our staff.”
Stoops went on to say that Ah You “has tremendous knowledge of the game and relates so well with players. He’s got a bright future in the coaching world and I’m very happy for him.”
Ah You shapes up as KU’s best chance to avoid another hit to Beaty’s coaching staff.
Linebackers coach Kevin Kane left for a promotion to defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. Recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Reggie Mitchell bolted over the weekend for Arkansas. Wide receivers coach Klint Kubiak left Tuesday for a job with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Losing Kane, a KU alum with rich Kansas City recruiting ties, a great work ethic and a strong presence, hurt. Beaty hired former Southern Miss and Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford, out of the game since 2012, to replace him. Finding someone with Mitchell’s natural recruiting instincts won’t be easy.
Beaty won’t need to hire a wide receivers coach because well before Kubiak left, Beaty already had recruited Jason Phillips to join Kubiak in coaching wide receivers. Phillips had worked at SMU (2012-14) under June Jones and for three different stints totaling eight seasons at Houston, including three years under Kevin Sumlin. A former NFL receiver, Phillips has experience as a recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and receivers coach. Beaty made room for Phillips on the staff by reassigning special teams coach Gary Hyman.
Beaty has flexibility in how to fill his two full-time coaching vacancies. For example, he could hire a running backs coach and a special teams coach and make one of them the recruiting coordinator or he could hire a second receivers coach and add recruiting coordinator to the duties of Phillips.
Kansas University head football coach David Beaty has chosen Todd Bradford, former defensive coordinator at University of Maryland, to replace Kevin Kane as the Jayhawks’ linebackers coach.
Kane left for the defensive coordinator job at Northern Illinois, where he had worked before coming to Kansas.
Bradford, 52, last worked in college football as DC at Maryland in 2011. After one season with the Terps, Bradford was bought out of the remaining two years of his contract for $300,000.
Bradford had put his career on hold to focus on caring for his mother, Sandra Hampshire, who died Jan. 3, in St. George, Utah, after suffering for seven years from multiple myeloma.
Bradford has worked 25 years in college football, including three as defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-10). Working under current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, Bradford guided the 2010 Southern Miss defense to a 31-16 victory against Kansas and a No. 13 national ranking (113 yards allowed per game).
At Maryland, his defense was ranked last in the ACC.
Bradford last worked in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State (2005-07) when he coached linebackers.
He also worked at his almater mater, Southern Utah, as well as New Hampshirie, Lehigh, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State and BYU (his only job on the offensive side).
Sometimes the best moments at sporting events take place before the main attractions start.
The worst moment of the Kansas spring football game happened when Michael Cummings suffered a career-ending knee injury. The best came on the last play of the annual alumni football game. World War II veteran Bryan Sperry, 89, found the holes and sprinted to glory for a touchdown captured by the KU athletic department's talented video team. Sperry and brother Kenneth Sperry played Kansas football from 1946-48.
The presence of UC Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye made Tuesday night more interesting than the average nonconference basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. But even he couldn't steal the show because the show had been stolen before the opening tip by Kurtis Townsend's daughter, Myka, shown above in a photo snapped by the Journal-World's Nick Krug.
Myka didn't miss a note and to the amazement of the customary crowd of 16,300 belted out a really strong version of the Star Spangled Banner. I kept waiting for her dad to break into tears, but all he broke into was a huge smile as his daughter triggered a huge ovation from the crowd and Fred Quartlebaum, director of student-athlete development for the basketball program, pinned a bear hug on the proud father.
"She told me she wasn't nervous, so I wasn't nervous," Townsend said. "She did great."
That she did. Kurtis bears a facial resemblance to one of music's most talented stars, peerless guitarist Carlos Santana. Myka is a talented star in the making. Advantage Myka on the music front.