Down 49 points on the road in the third quarter this past Saturday at Baylor, Kansas football coach David Beaty got an extended look at backup quarterback Carter Stanley.
The redshirt freshman checked in for starter Ryan Willis to begin KU’s final drive of the third quarter, and though other skill players, such as true freshman running back Khalil Herbert and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. deserve even more credit, the offense did score its first — and only — touchdown of the game with Stanley at QB.
The Jayhawks (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) already had picked up two first downs on Herbert runs and moved the ball 25 yards before Stanley, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound freshman from Vero Beach, Fla., attempted his first pass.
Out of a typical KU shotgun set, with four receivers, Stanley quickly spotted Sims breaking open out of the left slot for an easy throw, roughly five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
From there, Sims, one of KU’s top play-makers, juked his man and sped away to a 34-yard gain that got Kansas inside BU’s 10-yard line for the first time all game.
Stanley missed his next attempt to big red zone target Chase Harrell, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman. Then, after Bobby Hartzog drew a pass interference penalty to give KU a first down and move the ball to Baylor’s two-yard line, Beaty called on freshman Maciah Long to come in for a snap as a wildcat QB. The Bears stopped Long for no gain and Stanley threw another incompletion (intended for Sims) before Herbert finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
On Tuesday, Willis praised Stanley for helping the Kansas offense finally break through.
“He did a good job, put us in a good opportunity. He drove the ball down the field. He did a great job. I’m proud of him,” Willis rattled off. “I’m good friends with him. We have a lot of good quarterbacks who can move this offense, and whoever’s in there is gonna do a good job.”
The remainder of Stanley’s snaps came in the fourth quarter, with fewer results. Kansas picked up just one first down on four possessions over the final 15 minutes. Stanley threw incomplete passes intended for Evan Fairs and Keegan Brewer, and had another throw intercepted by Clay Johnston after KU got the ball in good position, thanks to a Damani Mosby fumble recovery.
Stanley went 2-for-5 on fourth-quarter passes, with minimal gains: five yards for LaQuvionte Gonzalez and six yards for Harrell. He finished his longest appearance of the season 3-for-8 with one interception and 45 passing yards.
As you might expect, Beaty didn’t rave about Stanley’s performance, calling it average.
“There were still a lot of things that we saw that we need to get a lot better at. Particularly the pick. Just eyes in the right spot, understanding what coverages are doing to you, not picking a route out, that will get you in trouble,” Beaty said, sounding similar to his review of Willis’ bad outing at Baylor.
Beaty thought Stanley did some things well, referencing the QB’s decision-making on plays featuring run-pass options. But the head coach/offensive coordinator/QBs coach also said Stanley didn’t always properly prepare his receivers before snaps.
“We had a couple times when we weren't on the same page with those guys and that comes down to communication and that’s, there’s no excuse for that,” Beaty said. “Communication errors, they’re not tolerated. So we gotta get that taken care of.”
The appearance marked Stanley’s fourth this season. He didn’t play in either of KU’s home losses, to Ohio and TCU.
- vs. Rhode Island: 3-for-4, 56 yards, 1 TD
- at Memphis: 4-for-6, 26 yards, 0 TDs
- at Texas Tech: 2-for-2, 11 yards, 0 TDs
- at Baylor: 3-for-8, 45 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
- SEASON: 12-for-20, 138 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
At KU’s practice sessions, Beaty says Stanley has shown steady improvement, week by week.
“It was good to be able to get him in the game and be able to give him a quarter and a half to really see what he can do and run some offense — some real offense — other than just handing the ball off. We needed to be able to do that,” Beaty said, “and in that situation, hey, unfortunately, it was what it was. We were where we were. You'd love to be able to get young guys in the game when you're up by a bunch. But in that situation it gave me an opportunity to see what he could do and I wanted to do that and we wanted to do that. So it was good to be able to see him a little bit more. He’s got a long way to go, just like all of ’em. But he works hard at it and I appreciate that.”
Based on what we’ve seen thus far from Stanley, it’s hard to see Beaty moving him up KU’s depth chart to No. 1 any time soon — let alone for Saturday’s homecoming game against Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1). I mean, let’s not get crazy.
It seems it would take unexpected injuries or further regression from Willis for the head coach to start Stanley in the immediate future. But if Stanley really is making progress behind the scenes and keeps doing so, and if Kansas keeps getting blown out, maybe Stanley will get his first college start in November.
As has been said so many times regarding KU’s quarterback situation this season: Who knows?
The Kansas offense did something a bit unexpected Saturday in its home game against TCU.
KU football fans had grown accustomed to seeing the Jayhawks play two quarterbacks, a strategy implemented by head coach David Beaty during the first four games of the season. But no one outside of the Kansas locker room could’ve seen this coming.
On the first play of the second quarter, newly named starting QB Ryan Willis was no where to be found. In his place on the Memorial Stadium turf for a third-and-1 play at KU’s 29-yard line stood a 6-foot-2 freshman wearing a No. 6 jersey.
Much more massive than Willis or backup Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart, 245-pound true freshman Maciah Long faked a handoff to running back Taylor Martin and powered ahead for a one-yard gain, just enough for a first down.
Recruited to KU as a linebacker and listed on the roster as a tight end, Long played QB in high school at Houston’s North Shore, where he led the Mustangs to the Class 6A Division 1 state championship, picking up offensive MVP honors in the title game.
Long only came in for one snap at QB for the Jayhawks (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12), and the play did little more than extend the possession ahead of a punt. But it could be a harbinger of more to come.
Beaty said at his Tuesday press conference the offense had been working on using Long “for weeks.” KU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach added he hopes to expand Long’s role going forward.
“He's a load, and he's getting better at it, which gives you an extra gap for defenses to have to defend,” Beaty said of one of the benefits of putting Long, a running threat, in at QB.
Leading up to this week’s game at No. 11 Baylor (5-0, 2-0), Beaty mentioned the Bears are able to do the same with their full-time QB Seth Russell (5.2 rushing yards per carry, three touchdowns this season).
Whether Kansas will start turning to Long for more short-yardage or goal-line downs moving forward, Beaty didn’t care to specify.
“When the situation calls for Maciah, we'll use him as much as we can,” the coach said. “We're not going to necessarily tip our hand to how we're going to use him or how much we're going to use him, but I do know this: He's getting well, finally. He was hurt for a long time. He’s been hobbled for four weeks. That ankle has not been healthy. Having him healthy now is really helping us with wanting to use him more.”
Ranked last in the Big 12 in rushing offense (97.2 yards a game) and ninth in total offense (376.4 yards), KU needs every offensive wrinkle it can create. So more Maciah Long at quarterback doesn’t seem out of the question in the weeks to come.
In fact, perhaps everyone who follows Kansas football should’ve seen this coming. This past winter, at KU’s Class of 2016 signing day press conference, Beaty raved about Long’s versatility and size.
“We're going to use him at linebacker,” the coach said in February. “Don't be surprised if we don't put him back there and see him do some of the stuff you're going to see him do on tape here (running the ball as North Shore’s quarterback). Built-in short yardage scheme there with a guy that weighs 230 to 250 pounds. I won't give him up. I think he's somewhere between 230, 250, good-looking kid and can run for a kid that size.”
So far, Long, who chose KU over Ohio State, UCLA and other more reputable programs, has one carry for one yard. But Kansas sure could use another dynamic option on offense as Beaty and company keep building for the future. In his senior year at North Shore, Long carried the ball 200 times, racking up 984 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also passed for 1,785 yards and 16 touchdowns.
During much of Saturday’s game against TCU, the Kansas defense schemed ways to contain multi-dimensional Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior completed a season-low 53.1 percent of his passes (17 of 32) against the Jayhawks, threw three interceptions (Hill only had 5 in his first 224 throws this season) and felt the brunt of KU’s pressure in the form of four sacks.
But all anyone who watched TCU’s 24-23 victory will remember about Hill’s performance is how he produced one of the crazier plays we’re likely to see this college football season.
In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, with Kansas leading 23-14, Hill looked doomed on a third-and-12 pass play. First, KU defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. came at the QB from his right. Then Hill had to maneuver away from a diving Isi Holani. Finally, Hill found enough time to gather on the left side of the field, but that’s when Josh Ehambe charged at him and began the process of bringing the quarterback to the turf. Linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. flew in to finish that final part of the process.
Or so it seemed.
A flag came out as Loneker tackled Hill roughly 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, because Ehambe had grabbed Hill’s facemask (as captured by our photographer Nick Krug, at top). The ball also ended up on the turf thanks to Ehambe’s pressure.
The thing was, nobody seemed to notice the ball except Hill, who casually walked over to pick it up. Then he just ran before the Jayhawks knew what to do.
It took a while for anybody but Loneker to realize what was going on and Hill rushed 34 yards for a first down to extend the drive.
“I mean, that play that Kenny made — what a good play, man,” Kansas coach David Beaty said after his team fell to 1-4 on the season and 0-2 in conference play. “I mean, what a heads-up play by that kid. I don't think I've ever seen that. I'm not sure anybody in here has ever seen that, either. I asked the officials out there. I said, ‘I don't really know what to say, because I've never seen that.’ And they said, ‘Coach, we don't really, either.’ It was crazy. It was a crazy play, because we grabbed Kenny by his facemask, and the tendency there was to kind of hold up, and the ball came out and there were so many crazy things, but that was a big play in the game. He made a big run out of that.”
Of course, the Frogs (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big 12) would have picked up 15 yards and a first down due to the Ehambe facemask penalty, even if the Jayhawks had pounced on the loose ball themselves, let alone stopped Hill before he picked up any steam with his recovery and scramble.
Still, by reacting quickly the QB got TCU much closer to the end zone. Riding that momentum, two plays later Hill threw to Jaelan Austin for a 25-yard touchdown, giving the Frogs a critical quick-scoring drive (1:35) in a tight game, and cutting KU’s lead to two.
“You know, he made a lot of mistakes today that really kept us in the game at times,” Beaty said of the quarterback he successfully recruited to Texas A & M back before both the coach and player moved on, “but, man, when they needed him, he scored a touchdown (on a second-quarter run), he scrambled to go get that ball down there and get it, and they scored a touchdown off of that. That's what real players do, man. He's a real player.”
It was weird, for sure, but also as crucial a play that happened in the game. For a rebuilding program like Kansas, it’s the kind of thing fans must almost grow to expect. Even on a day when the Jayhawks performed better than almost anyone anticipated, the opponent found ways to sneak out of Lawrence with a win.
The Hill recovery and run didn’t decide the game, of course, but it was one of many examples of Kansas mistakes proving costly in what would’ve been a massive upset — and Beaty’s first victory against a Big 12 or FBS program.
Senior University of Kansas linebacker Courtney Arnick didn’t exactly need extra motivation Saturday in his second start of the season. But Arnick found some anyway before the game when his mother, Carla, joined him and KU’s other captains at the 50-yard line for the pre-game coin toss.
A survivor of breast cancer, Carla seemed the perfect choice to help represent the team on its “Jayhawks for a Cure” day, against TCU. Kansas players incorporated pink accessories into their uniforms for their first game during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Carla wore a pink hat and her T-shirt featured her son’s No. 28 in pink on the back.
“Having my mom with me at the start of the game, I’ve never experienced that before. And I know it meant a lot for her, and on top of that I just lost my godmom (Veronica Harris) to breast cancer not too long ago,” Arnick shared following KU’s 24-23 loss to TCU. “… I just tried to do what I could for ’em.”
In fact, Arnick went out and made a season-high nine total tackles and two tackles for loss as the Jayhawks (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12) nearly pulled off the upset.
“I feel like we always play hard, but I feel like it showed up this time,” Arnick replied when asked if the narrow defeat marked KU’s best defensive effort to date this season.
Starting linebackers Marcquis Roberts and Joe Dineen missed the game due to injury, yet Kansas experienced little to no drop-off in defensive intensity. A fifth-year senior from Dallas, Arnick said he, senior defensive end/linebacker Cameron Rosser and sophomore linebacker Keith Loneker Jr., who sat out last season after transferring from Baker, felt no pressure filling in.
“We’re older guys, so it’s kind of expected,” Arnick said. “Kind of just get the juices going on the team, get the energy going and just step up when we need it.”
Arnick, whose 22 total tackles this season now only trail senior safety Fish Smithson’s 24 for the team lead, was just happy to produce on a special day for his family.
“She was pumped up,” he said of his mother, Carla. “My mom is a big college fan. She keeps up with every game, from my game to every Big 12 game, whoever. If I mess up she’s on me about it worse than my coach, so she was pretty energetic about it. I messed with her a little about it, ‘Hey, you can’t mess up. You’re on TV,’ and stuff like that, joking around with her. But it was a pretty big deal for her.”
A third of the way through the season, the Kansas football team’s defense has had its share of slow starts. Though the unit tends to regroup quickly, it also eventually wears down over the course of games as a result of frequent ineffective drives by the offense.
Regardless, coordinator Clint Bowen’s crew truly has been one of the scant bright spots of a 1-3 start.
In fact, in one particular category, KU’s defense has proven just as effective as some of the more recognizable brands in college football. When it comes to tackles for loss, the Jayhawks are operating in the same neighborhood as Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Clemson and Michigan.
In three consecutive games — home versus Ohio, and on the road at Memphis and Texas Tech — Kansas has tackled opponents behind the line of scrimmage at least 10 times.
Oddly enough, the Jayhawks only came away with 5 tackles for loss in a drubbing of FCS opponent Rhode Island in the season opener. Still, their season average of 9.9 tackles for loss a game ranks the squad third in the nation.
TOP 10 TFL TEAMS IN FBS
No. 1 - Miami (FL), 12.0
No. 2 - Texas A&M, 10.0
No. 3 - Kansas, 9.8
No. 4 - Clemson, 9.6
No. 5 - Michigan, 9.4
No. 6 - Illinois, 9.3
No. 7 (tie) - Akron / Southern Miss, 9.2
No. 9 - Ball State, 9.0
No. 10 (tie) - Minnesota / Toledo / Boise State, 8.8
Now with 39 tackles for loss this season, Kansas has posted the most in any four-game stretch for the program since the glory days of 2007, when the eventual Orange Bowl championship team opened the season with 44 TFL’s in its first four games.
In total, 19 different Jayhawks have played a part in KU’s tackles for loss, with the front seven doing most of the damage.
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr. - 6
LB Marcquis Roberts - 5.5
DT Daniel Wise - 4
DE Damani Mosby - 3.5
DE Cameron Rosser - 3
LB Joe Dineen - 3
DB Tevin Shaw - 2.5
LB Courtney Arnick - 2
DT D.J. Williams - 1
DT DeeIsaac Davis - 1
DE Anthony Olobia - 1
DE Isaiah Bean - 1
S Bazie Bates IV - 1
WR Emmanuel Moore - 1 (special teams)
CB Marnez Ogletree - 1
S Tyrone Miller Jr. - 1
S Fish Smithson - 0.5
DB Chevy Graham - 0.5
LB Keith Loneker Jr. - 0.5
Bowen likes to see that type of production out of his defense, and said tackles for loss are a topic of discussion for his group. He has no interest in KU taking a passive, wait-and-see approach against the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12.
“We want to be aggressive, we want to challenge receivers on the outside, we want to move around and bring pressure and do different things on the inside,” Bowen said. “And I think tackles for loss are kind of a byproduct of our kids moving and playing with an aggressive style.”
Obviously the defense is nowhere near perfect — see: opponents average 35.2 points a game (tied for 104th in FBS with Oklahoma) and 432.5 yards of total offense (90th). But effective pressure behind the line of scrimmage is a nice place to start, defensively, while attempting to rebuild within a losing program.
After his Kansas football team lost at Texas Tech last week, head coach David Beaty claimed he had no problem maintaining a two-quarterback approach, and made it clear he’s kind of over people asking him about it.
But the Jayhawks’ second-year coach might have been closer to sticking with one quarterback this past Thursday at Lubbock, Texas, than many realize.
During the first three games of the season fourth-year junior Montell Cozart started for KU, and the Big 12 opener proved no different. However, during the non-conference portion of the schedule a rotation pattern emerged. Cozart played the first two possessions of the game, then sophomore backup (or QB No. 1B, if you prefer) Ryan Wilis entered for the third. Where the rotation went from there varied somewhat from game to game, but the opening offensive strategy remained the same.
That changed, though, in what turned out to be a 55-19 loss to the Red Raiders.
Cozart played the first two series, as usual, then returned to the field for possession Nos. 3 and 4. Willis didn’t take over the offense until the second quarter, on the fifth possession of the game.
Keep in mind this is just a theory, but it sure seemed as if Beaty was prepared to keep Cozart on the field and abandon his swapping in and out approach at Tech. A 14-0 deficit and four consecutive fruitless drives appeared to force Beaty’s hand:
- 1st drive: 3 plays, 1 yard
- 2nd drive: 7 plays, 33 yards
- 3rd drive: 6 plays, 21 yards
- 4th drive: 3 plays, 3 yards
Cozart’s first-quarter struggles — 4-for-13 passing for only 36 yards — meant Beaty would have to be crazy to stick with him at that point, especially after the Jayhawks (1-3 overall, 0-1 Big 12) had so readily used multiple quarterbacks this season.
I asked Beaty during the post-game press conference whether his plan all along was to wait until the second quarter to insert Willis.
After pausing for several seconds, the coach responded:
“I’m not really wanting to talk about our plan. We know what we’re wanting to do with our guys and obviously we have two guys we know right now are very capable to run our offense … run the whole thing. And we’re not unlike a lot of other teams. We’re trying to go off what we see when we get to the game, too. And from that point you’ve got to make the decision based on what’s best to help you move the football.”
This came after Beaty had defended the two-QB scheme, saying the decision to take that route comes from what he and his staff see at practices. This response seemed to shed more light on the process, though, as he referenced evaluating in-game performance. After a quarter full of punting, Kansas had to switch to Willis.
Later in the same session with reporters, Tom Keegan asked Beaty about the upsides and downsides of using two quarterbacks instead of picking just one. KU’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator reiterated his line of thinking that the team lacks a “crystal clear” No. 1 QB. Then Beaty said something else that makes one think he wanted to hand the job to Cozart at Tech, before a lack of production forced the coach to return to what has become the offense’s status quo.
“On our standpoint right now,” Beaty said, “if a guy would get in there and he continued to produce then you would stay with him. But if a guy doesn’t do that then you continue to work and try and continue to find the answer.”
Give the man credit for not stubbornly sticking with Cozart. Willis took over quarterbacking duties at Tech and seemingly would’ve remained behind center until the game was decided had it not been for a small injury scare in the third quarter that forced him to the sideline for part of a series. Oddly enough Cozart came in to lead a touchdown drive.
It turned out neither Kansas quarterback left the Thursday night loss with good numbers. Willis finished 14 of 26 for 142 yards and a touchdown, while Cozart went 9-for-20 for 97 yards, a TD and a late-game interception (with KU trailing by 29 points).
Personally, I don’t think Willis handled sitting the entire first quarter well. The blame for that goes on Beaty as much as the QB. Willis’ throws were off once he finally entered the game, with incompletions on three of his first four attempts. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that he finally looked comfortable. But even after connecting with freshman receiver Chase Harrell for an 18-yard score, Willis had incompletions on his next four passes.
Who knows at this point whether Willis or Cozart will start this week against TCU. But, as has been stated before, it sure seems as if Willis would benefit from starting a game and being allowed to play through it without fear of being replaced. If the sophomore doesn’t produce, you can always try something else the following week.
Ideally, though, the offense needs to discover some semblance of stability.
When the Kansas football team takes the field for the first time this season on Saturday night against Rhode Island, expect to see a new-and-improved Dorance Armstrong Jr.
When head coach David Beaty describes the sophomore defensive end as a “big rascal,” he isn’t joking. Listed at 225 pounds when he first arrived in Lawrence a little more than a year ago, the 6-foot-4 Armstrong has put on more than 20 pounds since. In Beaty’s terminology, the lineman no longer looks like a stick.
“He’s gonna be something to contend with,” Beaty predicted.
Armstrong certainly previewed his potential at times a year ago. In his first career start, against Oklahoma, he established personal freshman-season bests in tackles (six) and sacks (two). But there were plenty of games before and after that (he played in all 12) when Armstrong didn’t make as much of an impact.
“I loved it,” the Houston native said of of starting KU’s final five games of 2015. “It made me a better player. As I watch film on last year, what I did, I’m able to critique my game and focus on better things, what I can do to make myself better.”
While preparing to become more of a force as a sophomore, Armstrong realized this past offseason he needs to use his speed more against the “bigger dudes” on opposing offensive lines and stay communicating with his defensive teammates to make sure they’re all on the same page when the ball is snapped.
Armed with that knowledge and a full offseason under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson, the second-year defensive end from Houston feels much more equipped to help his team.
“I’m way stronger than I was when I first came here,” Armstrong said. “I’m able to do a lot more than what I was doing at first.”
Although a slight injury to his right leg inspired KU’s coaches and medical staff to keep him out of several early preseason practices in August, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said the coaches never worried the time off would impact the start of Armstrong’s season.
“He’s a naturally gifted kid. He’s physically fit. He’s not a get-out-of-shape-and-get-fat kind of guy,” Bowen said. “Once he was able to start getting some reps back in he picked it up pretty quick. He had all those reps in the spring time, so learning’s not an issue for him. He was able to bounce back and get going strong again.”
In fact, Armstrong said that stretch of watching practice from the sidelines didn’t hold him back in the weight room.
“I hate I wasn’t able to play with the rest of the team for a few,” he said, “but as I was out I was with Coach Jackson. He made me do a lot of extra weight-lifting. I kind of gained something from it.”
As Armstrong rushes URI starting quarterback Wesley McKoy and goes after the Rams’ running backs near the line of scrimmage, he’ll do so with a larger repertoire of moves and higher expectations for himself.
Bowen, too, strongly believes KU’s talented defensive end will stand out throughout the season. In the coach’s opinion, Armstrong is the type of lineman capable of turning into the defense’s most valuable player.
“He has a very well rounded skill set for a defensive end. He has a pass-rush ability. He’s strong. He can play the run. He’s a legitimate Big 12 defensive end,” Bowen said. “He’s not just a one-trick guy. Last year early on that’s about what he was — he could rush the QB. But he’s built his his body up and the strength up now that he hangs in three and he can play all the techniques and play them well.”
Just in time for the first game week of the season, Kansas football players on Sunday evening got to check out the team’s refurbished locker room for the first time.
Throughout preseason camp, the Jayhawks had to stay out of the space on the ground floor of Anderson Family Football Complex as the project reached completion. During that time, players instead used a renovated but old room underneath Memorial Stadium that coach David Beaty said “didn’t have a whole lot of ventilation.”
Needless to say, Beaty explained Monday morning on the Big 12 football coaches media conference call, the players were pretty excited to evacuate their temporary headquarters.
“I guess the word ripe comes to mind in terms of the way that room smelled,” Beaty said. “So I think they were looking for some relief from that, as well.”
KU’s second-year head coach thought the Jayhawks benefited from experiencing the past few weeks of practices, including some two-a-days sessions, in a less than desirable setting before introducing them to their freshly revamped, state-of-the-art locker room.
“But I think that allowed us to understand that’s not gonna make or break you. When we were able to walk into that room (Sunday night), I think the appreciation level was extremely high,” Beaty said. “You could tell just a sense of energy infused into our guys as they walked in there.”
The old locker room, built in 2008, received more than $2 million worth of upgrades, courtesy of KU football donors.
A KU spokesperson said the overhaul isn’t quite totally complete, but the improved area will feature a new layout, redesigned lockers personalized for each player, an updated sound system and an illuminated Jayhawk on the ceiling.
Adjacent to the locker room lies the modernized players lounge, complete with a pool table, shuffleboard, foosball, air hockey, pop-a-shot, arcade games, a barber shop, cushy theater-style seats and big-screen televisions connected to video game consoles.
Since Beaty took over the program, he said the players have done everything the coaches have asked of them. Rewarding them with a revamped facility, he added, helps keep the Jayhawks’ focus on the team’s “stakeholders,” as the players try to give the fans a team that will make them proud.
“It was a pleasure to be able to open those doors (Sunday) and let those guys know how much they’re appreciated,” Beaty said, “and really being able to reinforce the fact that people care about them here and there is a commitment to football.”
In a video of the players’ first steps inside their cutting-edge locker room, posted by KU Athletics, the Jayhawks show off some of their favorite parts of their new home. A placard above each stall features every player’s picture, name, number, hometown and Twitter handle. Each locker has spaces equipped to charge their phones and special filtered compartments to air out their cleats, shoes and shoulder pads.
“This is insane,” junior linebacker Joe Dineen said in the video. “This is a lot nicer than I expected it to be. A lot of room. Even like the little gadgets inside the locker are just insane.”
Dineen said the Jayhawks also got to have lunch with the donors who made the renovation possible.
Senior safety Fish Smithson said KU’s players lounge now probably ranks as one of the best in the country.
“This definitely helps out recruiting a lot,” Smithson said in the video, “’cause you know kids these days, they want to see what makes your program different.”
At the beginning of the month, when the Kansas football team reported to Lawrence for preseason camp, David Beaty invited another head coach on campus to give the Jayhawks a pep talk.
Behind closed doors, KU basketball coach Bill Self didn’t gloss over the football program’s struggles. He instead referenced the present as a place to start assembling a product that will make Kansas fans proud.
We know this now thanks to Time Warner Cable Sports Channel - Kansas City, which tweeted out a video of Self’s speech Thursday morning.
While Self hailed the importance of the football players being a part of the “Jayhawk family” he also informed them that he and the rest of the basketball program want to see them succeed.
“Get this in your head: We want you to win and win big,” Self said.
The way the 14th-year KU hoops coach explained it, the university’s storied basketball program has reached a place where their jobs as players and coaches are pretty obvious, and they’re constantly trying to match their historical predecessors.
“I’m never gonna be the best coach ever here,” Self told the KU football team. “Phog Allen coached here. And whoever we recruit is never gonna be the best player that ever played here. Hell, Wilt (Chamberlain) played here, OK.
“Our job is to maintain,” he continued. “You know what your job is? To build.”
While the first season under Beaty didn’t produce a victory, Self asked the players whether that difficult fall also served as the starting line for establishing a new culture.
“Now, deep in your core, if you’re worth your salt at all, would it mean more to you to be a builder or a maintainer? Think about it,” Self said. “Being a builder means maybe going 0-12 your first year, ’cause you don’t have as many bullets, all right? But being a builder is developing a culture. How are you gonna work? How responsible are you gonna be? How hard are you gonna study film? How good of leadership you’re gonna have. Are we gonna pick each other up? How good a teammate you’re gonna be. That’s the culture. That’s how you have a program.”
Before wishing the Jayhawks luck in the coming months, Self rattled off some of the universities where basketball and football have had great success, referencing Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Michigan State. Then the basketball coach reminded the players it wasn’t that long ago that KU football was great, too.
“That means it can be done again. You guys agree?” Self asked. “There’s been some brothers pave the way before, OK. Now you’ll get to pave the way for future teams coming.”
If the players in the football program now can lay the groundwork for another successful run like Kansas experienced with Todd Reesing, Aqib Talib, Mark Mangino and company, Self said they too will be “remembered forever” and understand what it’s like to be a part of the “Jayhawk family.”
— Watch TWC Sports Channel KC’s entire video below.
This is a strange new world for Kansas football.
Former Alabama players are transferring to play for the Jayhawks. Like THE Alabama. Not South Alabama. Not Alabama-Birmingham. The Alabama with Nick Saban and all those national championships.
Charlot already has participated in preseason practices at KU and Baldwin is expected to do so soon. While neither Alabama transfer will be able to help Kansas win games until the 2017 season, they join junior receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (Texas A&M), junior running back Denzell Evans (Arkansas) and senior linebacker Marcquis Roberts (South Carolina) as former players from the mighty SEC who have relocated to KU.
So what are we to make of this? Do we need to pay attention to every single SEC player who decides to move on?
No. But it’s at least an intriguing trend and another reminder that second-year coach David Beaty and his staff are doing the right things in recruiting.
Which brings us to the case of former LSU receiver Tyron Johnson. On Thursday, Johnson announced on Twitter he’s transferring from LSU. What does this have to do with Kansas? Funny you should ask.
Johnson, a sophomore who had nine receptions, 150 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers as a freshman, was a five-star receiver at Warren Easton High in New Orleans. If that school sounds familiar to you, it’s because first-year KU running backs coach Tony Hull used to coach there.
So a 6-foot-1 receiver ranked 11th nationally in the Class of 2015 who received scholarship offers from LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and others is available.
I wonder if Kansas would have any interest in that kind of talented player?
Obviously this doesn’t guarantee anything for KU. Johnson seems to be the type of athlete who could choose to go just about anywhere in the country at this point, even if things didn’t work out for him at LSU.
But given Johnson’s connection with Hull and the way recruits seem to believe in Beaty and his staff, it’s definitely a plot worth watching.