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.
Cliff Churchill and Dean Mathews hit the road for Austin, Texas, later this week and will take turns driving the Kansas football team’s equipment truck, same as always.
And unless Kansas pulls off an upset in a game in which oddsmakers made the Jayhawks 31.5-point underdogs, Churchill and Mathews must find something other than a victory by their favorite football team to fill conversation on the 698.2-mile trip from Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium to Memorial Stadium in Lawrence. Same as always.
Based on the quickest routes provided by mapquest.com, Churchill and Mathews have logged 22,765 miles in search of a victory since Kansas last won a game outside of Lawrence, in the West Texas town of El Paso, 34-7 vs. UTEP, Sept. 12, 2009.
The NCAA does not include KU’s three neutral-site losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium, so the official road losing streak is 33 games. In reality, KU has lost its past 36 games played outside Lawrence.
Three of the losses during the endless slide, by an average score of 43-11, came in Austin under three different KU head coaches.
Texas didn’t score a point vs. Iowa State in Ames last week, but still is more than a four-touchdown favorite vs. a Kansas team that started five true freshmen and a red-shirt freshman on offense in last week’s 62-7 home loss to Oklahoma.
With a 12-56 record (nine more losses than the next-closest school, Purdue, from a so-called power-five conference) since quarterback Todd Ressing exhausted his eligilbity, has more losses than any Football Bowl Subdivision school except New Mexico State (12-57).
Updated lists on KU’s 36-game road losing streak, which has spanned 13 states, five head coaches and nine starting quarterbacks:
By coach (average score):
Mark Mangino...........................0-5 (Home Team 37, Kansas 24)
Turner Gill..................................0-11 (Home Team 41, Kansas 12)
Charlie Weis...............................0-12 (Home Team 40, Kansas 13)
(Interim) Clint Bowen..................0-5 (Home Team 44, Kansas 14)
David Beaty................................0-3 (Home Team 48.5, Kansas 11.5)
By starting quarterback:
Todd Reesing ................0-5
A paint-by-numbers look at Baylor football, a study in offensive efficiency via blending a fast, powerful running game with a passing game that features fleet receivers and a terrific passer who also happens to be big and athletic and is protected by massive, experienced offensive linemen:
3 — Ranking in the Associated Press poll, tied for highest in school history.
4 — Players with at least five rushes per game and average 7.2 yards per carry or better, led by Shock Linwood (9.42 yards per carry, 146 yards per game.)
5 — Receivers who average 19.5 yards per catch or better.
11 - National-best touchdown receptions by Corey Coleman, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior from Richardson, Texas, who has as many touchdowns as KU’s entire roster.
15 — School-record tying career sacks from Shawn Oakman, 6-9, 275-pound defensive end.
19 — Touchdown passes for Seth Russell, who originally committed to current KU head coach David Beaty when Beaty was working for Turner Gill. TCU’s Trevone Boykin, who has played five games compared to four for Russell, is tied with Russell for the national lead.
32.5 — National-best first downs per game.
36 — National-best touchdowns, compiled in just four games.
63.8 — National-best points per game. Other schools left on KU’s schedule: TCU (second, 50.8), Texas Tech (third, 50), Oklahoma (ninth, 42).
218.75 — Russell’s national-best QB rating. Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty ranks second with 184.72, Memphis’ Paxton Lynch third with 181.47.
316 — Average weight in pounds of five starting offensive linemen, compared to an average of 257.4 for KU’s five heaviest defensive starters. That's 1.4 pounds shy of a 50-pound advantage per man.
376.75 — Rushing yards per game, second only to Georgia Southern.
410 — Pounds first-string tight end LaQuan McGowan carries on his 6-7 frame.
“There are couple plays in there that look like at the end of the movie when the team has to score a touchdown and one guy knocks 11 people over and they run behind him and score,” Kansas defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said. “There are couple clips that resemeble that, where he knocks a guy down, knocks another guy down and keeps running. He’s a big fella. ... He’s in there to be a lead blocker. He’s a big human who gets a lot of movement. We have to make sure that we don’t take him on real high.”
745.3 — National-best total yards per game, eclipsing the nation’s second-leading total offense (TCU) by 115.3 yards.
Seated in a comfortable chair in the chancellor’s lounge of the Anderson Family Football Complex, Ben Heeney flipped open the iPhone wallet case in his hand and reviewed his call history Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s only 12:57,” Heeney started. “I’ve gotten a text from the Saints, a call from the Jaguars, a call from the Seahawks. Who else have I gotten a call from? The Browns. I’ve gotten like five calls and one text just today from teams verifying information.”
He wasn’t complaining. Quite the contrary. He’s enjoying the inside look at how NFL teams peel back the layers of the onion that is a draft prospect.
“I mean, that’s just today,” Heeney said. “I’ve probably, in the past week, I’ve probably been in contact with close to every, if not every, team.”
At this point, what more do they want to know about Heeney, former star running back at Hutchinson High and two-time All-Big 12 player, second-team as a junior, first-team as a senior?
Heeney rattled off the typical questions: “Is this the best number to reach you on draft day? Can you give us a secondary number? Is your agent still the same? Any injuries since your pro day? Have you been in any trouble since the last time we saw you?”
Heeney said he interviewed with every NFL team either at the East-West Shrine Game, the NFL combine or pro day on campus. Two teams, the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, came to KU to work him out and the Buccaneers flew him to Tampa for a visit.
He said most of those interviews followed a similar pattern: “Have you ever been in trouble? What’s your family life like? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have any kids? Are your parents still together? How many siblings do you have? Then all the football questions.”
Heeney said he answered all the questions honestly, including volunteering that he was charged with DUI and racing on a highway in the summer leading up to his freshman season and was granted a diversion.
“That’s not on my record anymore,” he said. “But this day and age everybody is going to know everything about you, so why lie about anything? I’m just straight-up with everybody. I learned from my mistakes and here we are.”
Heeney’s performance for Kansas, plus lobbying from former KU coach Charlie Weis, landed the 6-foot, 232-pound middle linebacker an invitation to the NFL combine. His test results there helped his case. Heeney’s 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash ranked fourth among 35 linebackers. His 11.06-second mark in the 60-yard shuttle was No. 1 and he also had the best times in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
Anybody who remembers watching Heeney as a gunner on special teams as a freshman for Kansas was not surprised that his speed stood out at the combine. Somewhere rests a stack of T-shirts that could have gone to teammates. Heeney remembered Aaron Stamn, tight ends and special teams coach at Kansas under Turner Gill, speaking after a game, offering a free T-shirt to anyone who could beat Heeney down the field on a coverage team when he was a freshman restricted to special teams.
“It never happened,” said Heeney, a three-year starter for Kansas. “No one ever beat me down on kickoff the whole year.”
That’s because he’s really fast. That’s listed as one of his strengths on the endless thumbnail sketches of NFL draft prospects from various media outlets. Heeney reads as many as he can get his hands on and disputes some of the listed weaknesses.
“There are people who really like me and there are people who think I’m just a terrible player,” Heeney said. “The one that I think is the least accurate is that I’m undersized to play in the NFL.”
He shared an anecdote from his visit to the Buccaneers complex to demonstrate that he’s not the only one who views it that way.
“When I went down to Tampa Bay and I visited with Lovie Smith, who is the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first thing he asked me when I walked in his office was, ‘Now ,do you think you need to gain or lose weight?’ I said, ‘I think I’m good where I’m at. I don’t need to gain or lose.’ He said that’s a perfect answer,” Heeney said. “They think that anything from 225 to 230 is perfect for their system.”
Heeney cited and disputed one more criticism he has read.
“Another one I think is a bogus stat is that I’m the leader in missed tackles in college football,” Heeney said. “I mean, they don’t have Joe Johnson going through every single game of every single team of every single player counting every single player’s missed tackles. So I think it’s a BS stat to me.”
“That’s a good question. I think someone just stated it one time and it caught on like wildfire,” he said. “It’s not even a stat that’s kepty by anyone. The Big 12 doesn’t keep that as a stat. The NCAA doesn’t keep that as a stat. There is no way to determine what a missed tackle is.”
Heeney shared his view of what a missed tackle is not.
“There were numerous times on the field where there was no way I was going to be even close to getting a tackle and I would just lay out and dive and kind of sweep at someobdy’s feet and try to grab them by their shoestrings and don’t even touch them,” he said. “I would just lay out and sacrifice my body. Does that count as a missed tackle?”
Heeney said he has “no idea,” what team or at what stage in the draft he would be selected. He guessed he would hear his name somewhere in the “third to fifth or sixth range.”
The first round of the NFL draft, carried by ESPN and the NFL Network, starts at 7 p.m. today. Rounds 2 and 3 are at 6 p.m. Friday. Rounds 4 through 7 start Saturday at 11 a.m.
Heeney will watch coverage at his parents Overland Park home with friends and family.
“Hopefully, I can get drafted so it’s not a waste of a party,” he said.
It would be a shocker if seven rounds passed without Heeney’s name being called, but getting drafted is just a step toward an NFL career and guarantees nothing.
“There’s a lot of money to be made in the sport of football,” Heeney said. “Hopefully, I can get a little slice of the cake.”
Staying healthy and making a team’s roster would be the next steps to earning a living playing football, so Heeney hasn’t shopped for luxury automobiles and bling just yet.
“I’m going to try to invest my money, man, just keep stacking it and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be a lot more wealthy than I am right now,” Heeney said. “Only time will tell. Who knows?”
At this point, nobody knows. The NFL draft is cloaked in secrecy, one of many qualities that make it so compelling.
Guessing which junior-college signees will contribute the most to the program is too inexact to call it a science, but searching for little clues along the way can help make guesses more accurate than putting the names in a hat and drawing them randomly.
A guess at ranking the value of the eight mid-season, junior-college signees who will join the Kansas University football program for the second semester and participate in new head coach Dave Beaty's first spring footballcamp:
1 - M.J. Mathis, 6-2, 205: A former Kentucky commitment, Mathis was recruited by Dave Campo and re-recruited by David Beaty and staff. He has strong coverage skills, hits like a linebacker and is built like an NFL defensive back.
2 - Brandon Stewart, 5-11, 175: The fact he committed to California and then changed his mind bodes well for his chances at KU in two areas. First, he must be a pretty good football player if Cal wanted him. Second, he must have his academic house in order or Cal wouldn’t have looked twice at him.
3 - Ke’aun Kinner, 5-9, 185: What can I say, I’m a sucker for running back highlight videos set to music. As a senior in high school at Little Elm, a 4A school just north of Dallas, he had single-game rushing yardage totals of 432, 345, 343, 339 and 332.
4 - Bazie Bates IV, 6-1, 195: Hard-hitting cornerback/safety looks on video like a guy who really enjoys playing football, which can’t be a bad thing.
5 - Will Smith, 6-4, 315, OL: Fromer Shawnee Mission Northwest behemoth looks to have a shot at winning a starting job with a strong spring.
6 - Jacky Dezir, 6-3, 305: His highlights show a player who never quits on a play and is rewarded by making plays on the opposite side of the field. Then again, that’s why they’re called highlights.
7 - De’Andre Banks, 6-3, 325: One of three players from Trinity Valley CC in Athens, Texas, to enroll at mid-year, joining Stewart and Bates.
8 - Jayson Rhodes, 6-4, 310: A last-minute addition when another lineman backed out of his commitment, Rhodes received just one other offer, from UT-San Antonio.
Understandably, the college football playoff selection committee didn't have the guts to omit undefeated Florida State from its four-team playoff and because of that, no Big 12 team will have a shot at the national title.
TCU dropped from third to sixth after a 55-3 victory against Iowa State. Baylor moved from sixth to fifth, after defeating Kansas State.
"They were really 3 a,b,c and d," selection committee chairman Jeff Long told ESPN. "They were really that close."
It was not difficult to predict correctly in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep the order the committee would seed the teams: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, 4. Ohio State.
But that's not how I would have voted. I would have had Baylor in there instead of Florida State.
Some will call for the Big 12 to apply for an exception that would allow a 10-team conference to have a playoff game or for the conference to expand to 12 teams. Instead, encouraging conference members to beef up their non-conference schedules is the way to go.
Florida State beat every team it played and nobody else can say that.
Under normal circumstances, that ought to be enough to keep playing for a national title. But with a six-team logjam with only four national-playoff spots available, it’s time for the selection committee members to toss out all conventional thinking and vote based on one parameter.
Each member needs to ask herself or himself: Which four teams are the best in the nation?
Based on that, here’s how I would vote:
1. Ohio State: Nobody had a more impressive victory this season than the Buckeyes’ 59-0 domination of a good Wisconsin team that features the nation’s best running back, Melvin Gordon. And the Buckeyes did it with their third-string quarterback.
Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller lost his entire season to injury. J.T. Barrett played his way into Heisman contention before going down with an injury. Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to the Saturday night romp of the Badgers.
2. Oregon: Leading Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota (38 touchdown passes, two interceptions) passed for 300-plus yards for the seventh time in Friday’s 51-13 blasting of No. 7 Arizona. Nobody has more speed than the Ducks.
3. Alabama: The Crimson Tide defense is second to none.
4. Baylor: The Bears defeated TCU, always the best tie-breaker.
Florida State didn’t lose a game but probably would have lost a couple if it played in the SEC or Big 12.
Those are my four best teams in the nation and that’s how I would vote. That’s not how I think the committee will vote. The six teams are so close, so let the screaming about the need to expand the field to eight begin.
Best guess on how the committee will seed the first playoff: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. Florida State, 4. Ohio State. Nick Saban and Urban Meyer coaching in one semifinal, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston going against Mariota, this season’s Heisman favorite in the other semi.
No matter what the committee decides, two schools will be furious and will have plenty to back up their feelings. If this were an eight-team playoff, two schools would feel fortunate to join the six college football teams that stand at the front of the class. This season's outrage will make the eight-team format arrive sooner even than no doubt secretly planned, which is why I'm happy two schools' fan bases will be furious starting today and ending maybe never.