Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
By several accounts, Saturday's 75-62 victory over Texas in Austin was the Jayhawks' best game of the 2014-15 season.
It's hard to argue that. So many positive things went in KU's direction, with a convincing victory over a solid team being the result. The game was on the road and against a Top 20 team. Kansas turned it over just three times all game and did not cough it up once in the second half. The scoring was balanced. Newcomers and veterans contributed equally and Bill Self's crew showed toughness, confidence and even a little swagger.
The Jayhawks made 15 of 19 free throw attempts, recorded more assists and steals than the Longhorns and limited UT to 40 percent shooting, including a 3-of-18 mark from three-point range.
I'll be honest. I thought this would be another Iowa State game, where the home crowd and talent on the opposing bench proved to be too much for the young Jayhawks to overcome. But maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe it was exactly the kind of game this team needed to allow it to believe that what happened in Ames, Iowa, one week earlier was closer to being a fluke than the norm. If that's true and these guys just turned up the belief they have in themselves, the Big 12 race might be over.
So much has been made lately about Cliff Alexander's motor and how important his play is to this team. But would anyone argue that Brannen Greene's motor — or maybe just his head — might be equally as important. The sophomore guard has been sensational in KU's past two games, both tough victories over Top 20 teams. And those efforts came less than a week after it looked as if Greene might be out of the rotation for good. I guess the lesson here is that it's dangerous to write off a guy too early when he has this kind of talent. Bill Self certainly did not do that with Greene and KU is reaping the rewards because of it. If the past two games — and the lessons that were learned leading up to them — are any indication of where this team is headed, Greene and Alexander, all of a sudden, seem to have vaulted to the top of the list — right behind Frank Mason — as KU's most important players. Oh, and while KU was doing its thing in Austin, TCU was taking West Virginia to the wire in Morgantown and Texas Tech was getting ready to knock off Iowa State in Lubbock. Just one week after a loss at Iowa State seemed to blow the Big 12 race wide open, the Jayhawks have jumped right back into the driver's seat in a big way.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Cliff Alexander held his own personal dunk party in Austin. Yes, Alexander's motor was revving high for the second game in a row. And, yes, that was by far the most important part of his game. But the fact that the big fella looked ferocious while playing again is nothing but good news for the Jayhawks. Alexander looked eager to try to dunk everything he could in this one. Maybe it was the challenge of playing against the bigger front line the Longhorns possessed. But if the KU freshman can find a way to channel that same attitude against teams that aren't as big as Texas up front, he could be in for some monster games in the very near future. Props also to Alexander's teammates for so often putting him in good positions to finish strong.
2 – Jamari Traylor's effort alone on that wild play toward the end of the first half was worth a high grade for the entire game. Yes, Traylor hustled to get a block shot on one end, crashed the boards on the other and dove out of bounds after both stretches. And, yes, Traylor's all-out dive at halfcourt was the kind of play Self will be telling young players about for years. But the most impressive part about the whole thing to me was that it started with Traylor getting his shot blocked. When that happened in the past — and even in the not-too-distant past — Traylor had a tendency to show bad body language and let the bad play momentarily take him out of the game. It looks as if Traylor is growing and maturing.
3 – So much was made about UT's length heading into this game, but how about KU's length coming through for the Jayhawks. Not only did Kansas pick up some blocks and steals because of its ability to stretch out defensively, but the Jayhawks also really benefited from their length on the offensive end, as well, whether that was Cliff Alexander flushing shot after shot or Kelly Oubre finishing at the rim. The Longhorns did finish with nine blocks, but it's a real credit to the growth and maturity of this Kansas team
*** Disclaimer: We were really forced to reach for negatives after this game.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Because the rest of the game turned out so well, people probably won't remember KU's 11-2 deficit to open the game. And why should they? As soon as Brannen Greene got going from the outside and Alexander and Perry Ellis picked things up inside, KU dominated. Slow starts like that are usually a recipe for disaster on the road, so they still fit in the category of reasons to sigh. But if KU can overcome any future slow starts the way it did in Austin, even an early double-digit deficit won't make its way onto this list.
2 – KU was out-rebounded, 36-34, and gave up 13 offensive boards to the Longhorns. Like I said, we're nit-picking here. If anything, hanging in there with the Longhorns on the glass shows just how well KU played up front. The Jayhawks matched UT on the offensive glass and had five different players record at least three rebounds.
3 – Wayne Selden's shot is still not quite right. Remember early in the season when Selden was in a big-time shooting slump that got a ton of talk? He snapped out of that one and then that was that, but, as much as things have gotten a little better since then, he's still not completely there with his shot. Selden's shooting percentage in the first six conference games of the season is just 34.6 percent (18 for 52) and that includes Saturday's 2-for-6 performance against Texas. Credit Selden for doing enough “little things” to remain an important part of this team even without clicking on offense, the most notable of which is probably his defensive toughness.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' 75-62 victory over Texas:
• Made Kansas 16-3 overall and 5-1 in Big 12 play for the 10th time under head coach Bill Self.
• Added to KU’s all-time series advantage as Kansas now leads 24-8, including a 7-6 mark in Austin (all games in the Erwin Center).
• Kept KU a perfect 2-0 on CBS this season (vs. UNLV; at Texas) and 42-16 all-time when playing on CBS.
• Marked KU’s 250th victory in Big 12 play (250-50), the most among all league foes. Texas is second at 197-103.
• Improved Self to 341-72 while at Kansas, 14-8 against Texas (13-6 at Kansas) and 548-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,142-825 all-time.
KU (16-3 overall, 5-1 in Big 12 play) will head back out on the road Wednesday night for an 8 p.m. tip-off at TCU. The game will be shown on ESPNU.
When the best of the best in the NFL hit the field for Sunday's Pro Bowl in Arizona, the rosters will include three former Jayhawks for the first time in more than 50 years.
Chris Harris (2007-10), Darrell Stuckey (2006-09) and Aqib Talib (2005-07), who shared the same KU secondary during the 12-1, 2007 season and 2008 Orange Bowl victory, will be the first trio of Jayhawks to play in the Pro Bowl since Galen Fiss (1950-52), Mike McCormack (1948-50) and Curtis McClinton (1959-61) represented their pro teams in the 1963 Pro Bowl.
It will mark the first appearance in the postseason all-star showcase for all three players. Talib was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl squad last season but did not play because of injury and Harris and Stuckey were named to the team for the first time in their careers.
Harris and Talib, both starting cornerbacks for the Denver Broncos, were two of the top defensive backs in the league during the 2014 season. Talib led the Broncos with four interceptions and finished fourth on the team with 64 tackles. He also added a sack. Harris, who was ranked as the NFL's top cornerback by Pro Football Focus — which took into account overall performance including percentage of receptions and yards given up — was right behind him with three interceptions, 53 tackles and a sack.
Stuckey, a back-up safety in his fifth season with the San Diego Chargers, again was a star on special teams, which earned him the trip to the Pro Bowl. He led the Chargers with 15 special teams tackles and made 27 more tackles in 155 defensive snaps.
Stuckey's addition to the Pro Bowl roster was made official earlier this week, as he finished as an alternate in the voting but took the place of New England's Matthew Slater, who is preparing for the Super Bowl.
This trio is largely responsible for the more favorable light that KU football has enjoyed in pro football. Not only have all three performed well enough to be respected for their stats and play on the field, but each has been part of some of the top teams in football during the past few seasons.
This weekend will mark just the second time in history that three former Jayhawks will play in the Pro Bowl together. KU has enjoyed seven different seasons with two former Jayhawks playing in the Pro Bowl at the same time and the program has had a representative in the game 29 different times, with the first coming in 1939, when Pete Mehringer, a former KU offensive lineman and 1932 Olympic wrestling gold medalist, represented the Los Angeles Bulldogs and the most recent until this season being former San Francisco 49ers stud Dana Stubblefield in 1998.
John Hadl and Mike McCormack are the Jayhawks who made the most Pro Bowl appearances, with six apiece, and KU packed its biggest punch in 1966 and 1970, when both Hadl and Gale Sayers played in the Pro Bowl.
Here's a quick look at KU's all-time Pro Bowl representatives:
• Frank Bausch — Chicago — 1940
• Larry Brown — Pittsburgh — 1983
• Nolan Cromwell — Los Angeles — 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984
• Galen Fiss — Cleveland — 1963, 1964
• John Hadl — San Diego & Los Angeles — 1965, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1973, 1974
• Chris Harris — Denver — 2014
• LeRoy Irvin — Los Angeles — 1986, 1987
• Ron Jessie — Los Angeles — 1977
• Curtis McClinton — Dallas Texans & Kansas City — 1963, 1967, 1968
• Mike McCormack — New York & Cleveland — 1952, 1957, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1963
• Peter Mehringer — Los Angeles Bulldogs — 1939
• John Riggins — New York Jets — 1976
• Gale Sayers — Chicago — 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970
• Dana Stubblefield — San Francisco — 1995, 1996, 1998
• Darrell Stuckey — San Diego — 2014
• Aqib Talib — New England & Denver — 2013, 2014
• Delvin Williams — San Francisco & Miami — 1977, 1979
• John Zook — Atlanta — 1974
President Barack Obama visited Kansas University this morning to visit with KU students and several Lawrence residents on the heels of this week's State of the Union address.
Obama, a huge and well-known college basketball fan, opened his speech at Anschutz Sports Pavilion by talking a little KU basketball.
He said he met with KU coach Bill Self and the men's basketball team just before taking the stage and added that he figured he might as well talk to some basketball players since he was in Lawrence already and everything.
Several Jayhawks instantly took to Twitter to share their thoughts about meeting the president and Obama, himself, kicked off his speech with talk about KU being back on top of the Big 12 Conference race and praised Self's streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles.
Known by many as a gifted and charismatic speaker, Obama then made a correlation between one of his streaks and KU's streak of Big 12 titles.
“Coach Self has won 10 straight, I lost two straight (in Kansas),” he said, referring to losing the state of Kansas in the general election during both of his presidential campaigns. “I might have won some sections of Lawrence. That might have happened.”
Obama's love for KU hoops came as no surprise and it made sense for him to kick off the day's festivities talking about the one thing that unites this town better than anything else.
Our own Gary Bedore talked with Self briefly after the speech and the KU coach told him that the team met with Obama in Hadl Auditorium and presented him with a personalized jersey and KU basketball.
It was one of the wildest games in Allen Fieldhouse in quite some time and featured two teams fighting from start to finish that played at an incredibly high level.
In short, it was everything we love about college basketball.
Journal-World Sports Editor Tom Keegan remarked after KU's 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday night that it was really like watching three games in one, with KU dominating the first game, OU dominating the second and the Jayhawks out-slugging the Sooners down the stretch in the third act.
Given the way Kansas played in its loss in Ames, Iowa, just two nights earlier, it was not entirely unexpected to see the Jayhawks come out with great energy and a something-to-prove attitude. And, for a while, it looked as if that energy, which led to eight straight made three-pointers during the first 20 minutes, was enough to knock out the Sooners before they ever got started.
But OU regrouped at halftime and kept coming, which led to a fantastic finish and a big moment of growth for KU's young guys and the team as a whole.
Although we're all still trying to figure out so many things about this version of Kansas basketball, I think it might be time to put one thing down in pen instead of pencil — the Jayhawks are a much different team at home than they are on the road. I know that sounds obvious and is probably true with most teams, but it's as true with this team as any I can remember. KU was great in a lot of ways against Oklahoma, but the Jayhawks were at their absolute best when the crowd was fueling them and they were fueling the crowd. Had Oklahoma, which confirmed all of the things I already liked about them (mental and physical toughness, great guard play, well coached) had been able to erase that 19-point halftime deficit and walk out of there with a victory, it would've been one of the better wins in school history. Instead, KU rose a level above and the home crowd took the Jayhawks the rest of the way to a huge conference victory that may very well have re-established KU as the team to beat in the Big 12.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Kelly Oubre was clutch down the stretch. Forget the numbers or the way the points came or how much he was on the floor. The freshman was sensational down the stretch and showed glimpses of being able to become this team's go-to guy. He might not be the first option to handle the ball on the perimeter and create a jumper for himself. But if you're looking for someone to attack the rim with poise and either finish in close or get to the free throw line, Oubre looks like your guy.
2 – KU's energy, intensity and urgency as a whole much better from the start. That did not really surprise anyone, given that they were playing at home against a ranked team two days after a loss, but it looked natural and effective. It did not seem like a group of athletes trying to play hard to please their coach. It looked like a group of athletes playing hard because it meant something to them. That could be a good sign for the second half of the season.
3 – A lot was made about KU's ability to find a way to win close games during the non-conference season, but this took it to a completely different level. I'm not sure people can understand just how tough it is to push past a collapse like the one the Jayhawks experienced on Monday night. From up 20 and rolling to down 4 out of nowhere. Lesser teams would've folded. Teams without any mental toughness would've fallen apart. But, as Perry Ellis told me after the game, “You just have to block all that out. You can't worry about what the score was, you just worry about what the score is and keep playing.” Great attitude that paid off big time.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – During the 9-0 and 27-7 runs that Oklahoma ripped off to start the second half, KU appeared to be in total retreat mode, especially when the Sooners pushed the tempo early in the second half. It wasn't quite as bad as what Iowa State did by beating the Jayhawks down the floor over the top, but it was clear that KU's transition defense needs some work. OU got several easy buckets and a couple of and-ones simply by pushing the ball and attacking the rim. A lot of coaches have talked about employing that strategy against Kansas because they don't want to try to attack KU in the halfcourt.
2 – It doesn't sound like anything major, but you never want to hear about guys being injured and Self revealed after Monday's victory that Jamari Traylor has been dealing with a hip injury for about a week. Self said the extent of Traylor's injury was not really known at the start of Monday's game but it quickly became clear that it was bothering him. KU's front-court depth is pretty thin and Traylor having even a nagging injury would not be good news for the Jayhawks.
3 – Kansas made more free throws (13) in the second half than field goals (10) and missed seven foul shots in the second half. Combine that with KU's 37 percent shooting from the floor and it's no wonder that OU stormed all the way back. Of course, when it mattered most, KU delivered, which is all that anyone will remember. As Self said, it wasn't so much a case of KU playing poorly in the second half as it was OU playing great.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' 85-78 victory over Oklahoma on Monday:
• Made Kansas 15-3 overall and 4-1 in Big 12 play.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 53-17 all-time on ESPN’s Big Monday, including 30-1 inside Allen Fieldhouse. The win was also KU’s 23rd-straight Big Monday win in Lawrence.
• Extended KU’s win streak to 14 games against Oklahoma in Allen Fieldhouse (dating back to the Big Eight Era, 1/10/94) and made the all-time series 142-65 in favor of the Jayhawks, including 72-16 in Lawrence and 45-7 in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Pushed Kansas’ win streak in Allen Fieldhouse to 18-straight games, which includes a 10-0 home record this season (9-0 in the Fieldhouse).
• Made KU 722-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 184-9 at the Jayhawks' home gym in the Bill Self era.
• Marked the first time the Jayhawks have won a game this season when trailing with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
• Improved Self to 340-72 while at Kansas, 14-4 against Oklahoma (14-2 at Kansas), 18-0 in ESPN Big Monday matchups in Lawrence and 547-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,141-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks will head back out on the road for a tough test at Texas at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The game will be shown on CBS.
With College Gameday in the building and hype around the game growing throughout the week, Iowa State answered the challenge of welcoming the Kansas men's basketball team to town in a big way and in convincing fashion.
The game, although no doubt a thrill for the home fans, did not quite live up to its billing as a clash of Top 15 teams — two of the best in the Big 12 — particularly because neither team played all that well. Iowa State was solid in the second half and had plenty of moments where it looked like a force to be reckoned with. But the Cyclones also had plenty of moments where they looked less than stellar like the Jayhawks, most notably with a few late turnovers and several missed free throws.
Iowa State and its fans waited all day and night for a chance to show the nation that it was capable of beating mighty Kansas. And then the Cyclones went out and did it.
After a back-and-forth first half that ended with ISU leading by three, the Cyclones (13-3 overall, 3-1 Big 12) jumped out to a nine-point lead early in the second half and never looked back.
Iowa State built second-half leads of 12, 14 and 12 again and watched Kansas (14-3, 3-1) scratch and claw its way back into striking distance each time. But the home team, backed by its rockin' and rowdy arena, answered every KU run right down to the wire and sent KU home with plenty of questions to answer.
Saturday's loss by Kansas makes the Big 12 Conference race interesting again and it should have come as no surprise. Iowa State was angry and is always hungry to knock off the Jayhawks no matter where they play. It wasn't so much the loss that should be a concern for KU as it was the way it came. Kansas got very little production and passion from anyone not named Perry Ellis and Frank Mason and again struggled defensively and with a lack of quality depth. It's just one loss and it came on the road in an environment that hardly any team has success in, so the key for Kansas now is to move forward and respond to Saturday's setback with an inspired effort against a tough Oklahoma team tomorrow night. If they don't, the Jayhawks could be entering a stretch — at Iowa State, OU Monday, at Texas on Saturday — that could put their quest for Big 12 title No. 11 in a row in danger.
Three reasons to smile
1 – You have to give KU credit for fighting to the end. The Jayhawks hit a couple of late three-pointers, forced a couple of turnovers inside the final minute and actually got what once was a late, 14-point ISU lead down to three in the final seconds. At no point did it seem like Iowa State had lost control of the game, but it was good to see KU not mail it in, especially given the fact that you know the Jayhawks were disappointed with how they played and the outcome.
2 – Forget what you might have read or seen on Twitter, Perry Ellis played a very solid game. He put up numbers — 19 points, 11 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range — and he played hard. About the only down part of Ellis' game was the fact that he had to sit for most of the first half after picking up two fouls seven minutes into the game. Self said the fouls weren't really Ellis' fault and Ellis said having to sit really took him out of the flow. By the time he was back on the floor, it took him a couple of minutes to get going again, but once he did, he scored and competed on just about every trip, even if the outcomes of each possession didn't always show it. In Ellis' last three games against Iowa State, dating back to last season, the KU junior is 26-of-38 from the field (68 percent), and is averaging 23 points and 8 rebounds per game. For his career, Ellis owns a 15.7-point average in seven games against Iowa State.
3 – Kansas did well on the glass — particularly the offensive boards where they grabbed 15 to 5 for the Cyclones — and kept the Cyclones from getting too many second chances, particularly on the 11 free throws ISU missed. But a big reason Iowa State did not get more offensive boards was that the home team shot 59 percent in the second half and rarely needed to crash the glass with passion because of their hot shooting and big leads. Still, give KU credit for owning a 44-33 advantage on the boards. Had the Jayhawks not, this one easily could have been another double-digit loss.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – The first and most obvious shortcoming in this one for KU was transition defense. The Cyclones often looked like a high school track team competing against track athletes from the local middle school and took full advantage of the edge that gave them. The stat sheet said ISU poured in 21 transition points but Self said the KU bench had it at 27. Most of those were easy layups or dunks right at the rim and came when KU either failed to get back on defense or simply did not have a presence at the rim when it did. The Cyclones became just the second team this season — and just the 12th team in the past 273 games — to shoot better than 50 percent (50.8) against a KU defense.
2 – KU did not shoot its first free throw until the 10:35 mark of the second half. Part of that was because of the way Iowa State played and the fact that the refs really let things flow, but given the fact that KU made 8 of 10 free throws by game's end, you can't help but wonder what would've happened if KU forced the action inside a little more and got to the line earlier. The Jayhawks went to the post on the first two possessions of the game but came up empty both times. The Jayhawks, at times, are really missing that guy like Andrew Wiggins (obviously) who could drive to the rim on just about any possession and wind up standing at the free throw line.
3 – You can't help but be concerned about what's going on with Cliff Alexander right now. All that talent, all that energy, all that potential and yet he played 14 minutes in this game while Landen Lucas labored for 19. Self said he was not pleased with Alexander's motor, particularly defensively, and, to Self's credit, he does not appear to be willing to give in to sub-par effort just to get his best players on the floor. That could wind up hurting this team, but it won't be Self's fault if it does. Nothing has changed during his time at Kansas and he's never made the recipe to playing time a secret: If you want to get on the court, play hard and play D. This is where the Jayhawks are lacking leadership from someone on the floor. Self can only send so many messages and call Alexander out so many times. At some point, it's up to the players on the roster to get the big guy to understand and buy in.
One for the road
No. 9 KU's loss to No. 11 Iowa State...
• Made the Jayhawks 14-3 overall and 3-1 in Big 12 play.
• Dropped KU's record to 2-2 in true road games this season and 6-3 in games played away from Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made Kansas’ record in the all-time series against Iowa State 175-61, including 68-38 in games played in Ames and 29-20 inside Hilton Coliseum.
• Gave Iowa State consecutive wins against the Jayhawks for the first time since ISU won five-straight from Feb. 28, 1999 to Feb. 17, 2001.
• Knocked head coach Bill Self's record to 339-72 while at Kansas, 21-5 against Iowa State (20-5 at Kansas) and 546-177 overall.
• Made KU 2,140-825 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home for yet another huge Big 12 Conference match-up when the Oklahoma Sooners come to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night for an 8 p.m. Big Monday match-up.
Today marked the third time since 2010 that I've found myself in the position of having to walk into a room full of football coaches whom I did not know and explain to them that I planned to spend the next however many years covering and caring about just about everything they think, say and do when it comes to Kansas football.
Because I've done this so often, I kind of have it down. First impressions are important, so you want to be professional and respectful. But you also want to be confident. Above everything else, though, you want to make sure you don't assume familiarity. Few things outrage me as much as that and I try very hard to make sure I'm never the one doing the assuming.
So there I was, with my hand extended, my business card ready to pass out, and my questions ready for the new members of David Beaty's KU football staff ready to go.
There were eight of them who met with the local media for the first time on Wednesday and although I didn't quite make my way around the room to say to all of them, I saw enough of them to know that what I thought was an impressive staff on paper is even more impressive in person.
It's not their resumes or track records or accomplishments that make Beaty's boys impressive. It's the type of people they are. Like their head coach, they're energetic, engaging, friendly dudes who are here to coach football and have a little fun doing it. When I say fun, I'm not talking about the kind of get-togethers you see at the country club. These guys are serious about the business and even more serious about the challenge they've agreed to take on by joining the football program at KU. But they're not so stuffy that they're going to be relentless jerks in their pursuit of that, nor are they so naïve to think that it's going to be easy.
Each one of these guys — Rob Likens (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Zach Yenser (offensive line), Calvin Thibodeaux (defensive line), Klint Kubiak (wide receivers), Gary Hyman (special teams/tight ends), Kevin Kane (linebackers), Je'Ney Jackson (director of strength and conditioning) and Gene Wier (director of high school relations) — seems well aware of the monumental rebuilding task that's ahead, and rather than being intimidated or turned off by that, these guys seem to be gearing up for a fight.
The two common themes that bounced around throughout the room were toughness and teamwork. Nearly every coach I spoke with mentioned something about playing tough and coaching tough kids. The most notable such soundbite came from Kubiak, the 27-year-old wide receivers coach who told me that he wanted KU's wide receivers to be the toughest unit on the team and added, “And if they're not, they won't play.”
Then there was offensive line coach Zach Yenser, whose position group is tougher than most by nature, who said he was not at all intimidated about jumping into the wild and wide-open Big 12 Conference after dealing with all kinds of styles of offenses in the Pac-12. Again, though, Yenser was not cocky when talking about why he thought what he, Beaty, offensive coordinator Rob Likens and the rest of the offensive staff would bring to the KU offense, more confident in his belief that, with hard work and, of course, toughness, it would work.
Speaking of Likens, he listed the three things that he wants to see from the offensive players he puts on the field and toughness was included in the trio of traits: We want them to be fast, we want them to be tough and we want them to have great character, he said. And he added that the staff was not really willing to compromise or sacrifice in any of those areas.
All the words and talk in the world won't mean a thing for the results on the field. And, by now, it's quite clear that KU fans are not interested in hearing about how things will be better or different or new. They just want to see better football.
I get the sense that this staff, like Beaty and like Clint Bowen before him, gets that and is made up of a bunch of regular guys who are much more interested in working and finding ways to fix problems and create advantages than talking about how they'll do it or what needs to happen.
Time will tell if my read on these guys is right or wrong or if it'll make a difference. But given what I learned today about the personalities and make-up of the coaches in charge of bringing change to KU football, it seems like the program is starting over in a pretty good spot — for the long haul — and is backed a bunch of coaches who understand the challenges, are willing to embrace them and should be pretty easy to like.
The Kansas University men's basketball team jumped out to 3-0 in Big 12 play with a 67-57 victory over Oklahoma State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
Despite the double-digit victory, this one was not easy. KU had to earn everything it got and did that more often than not by taking contact and heading to the free throw line.
The KU-OSU rivalry has become one of the best in the Big 12 during the past few seasons and, despite the absence of former OSU star Marcus Smart, Tuesday's clash did not disappoint as tempers flared, intensity was at a season-high and both teams needed every ounce of toughness they could muster to hang in there.
That's great news for this still-young Kansas team, which already has a gritty and gutsy road-win at Baylor and now this tough triumph over Oklahoma State under its belt in three conference games. Those kinds of early tests should better prepare the Jayhawks (14-2) for the grind of the next 15 Big 12 games and whatever lies beyond that.
Most people are going to remember Tuesday's Oklahoma State victory for the missed free throws, another big-time game from Frank Mason, another step forward for the ever-improving Kelly Oubre and the latest physical showdown between the Jayhawks and Cowboys. But, for my money, the story of the game was the Kansas defense. Oklahoma State entered the game with the top two leading scorers in the Big 12 (Phil Forte and Le'Bryan Nash) and those two exceeded their averages, yet OSU scored just 57 points. Cowboys coach Travis Ford shared his frustration after the loss by simply saying that OSU had to find a way for other guys to score. Forte and Nash combined for 39 points (4 points above their combined average) against Kansas but the other 10 guys who played scored just 18 points. KU closed out on shots, forced the action by picking up its defense well above the three-point line, rebounded extremely well (OSU got just 3 offensive boards) and held OSU to 31.4 percent shooting. You've heard it before, but you can't hear it enough: Offense will take a night or two off, but defense can always be there. And it's clear that these young Jayhawks understand that.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Frank Mason made just 3 of 8 field goals and still was the best player in the game – by far. Why or how, you ask? Mason is such a tough competitor that determining whether his contribution was positive or negative on any given night goes far beyond the stat sheet. He led everybody with nine rebounds, most of them coming by helping clean up the defensive glass, and showed the kind of toughness, leadership and determination KU needed to be able to compete in a game as physical and emotional as Tuesday's battle with OSU. When your leader does that night in and night out, others tend to follow without even realizing they're doing it.
2 – Devonte' Graham is an absolute difference maker and he has barely missed a beat since returning from a six-game stint on the bench because of injury. It's not just the numbers that Graham puts up that make his presence important. It's the way he plays. He's tough, scrappy, confident and, above all, fun. That kind of energy brings a big lift to the floor and is the perfect complement to Frank Mason and his bulldog mentality. Self touched on it after the game, but Graham's defense on OSU sharp-shooter Phil Forte played a big role in keeping one of the Big 12's top leading scorers so quiet.
3 – Cliff Alexander played just 5 minutes in the second half after pouring in 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 16 energy-packed minutes in the first half. The reason this is good news is because Bill Self said after the game that Alexander's limited minutes in the second half had nothing to do with his play. And it didn't sound like there was any kind of message being sent or discipline being dished out. It was just one of those nights where Self looked out onto the floor, liked what he saw out there and couldn't find a time or a place to plug Alexander back in. That'll happen. It'll be a problem if it happens too much, but it's big news that the pine time was not tied to Alexander's performance or a punishment.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Forget the free throw shooting, (even though KU missed 14 charity shots, it still made 32 and got to the line nearly 50 times) the bigger concern on Tuesday was KU's three-point shooting. With nearly half of their points coming from the free throw line, the Jayhawks got very little in the way of jump shots in this one. Wayne Selden hit a three-pointer early, Kelly Oubre did, too, and Mason drilled a big one after he and his teammates tracked down two extra shots on one possession. Outside of that, KU misfired on nine other tries from downtown and only took 12 total. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, the Cowboys were just as cold, finishing 3-of-16 from three-point range and shooting 31.4 percent from the floor for the game.
2 – Who would've thought, before the season, that KU could beat a Top-25 opponent with Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden combining to shoot 3-for-15 from the floor? Not me. By now, we've seen Ellis come in and out of these mini-funks or slumps and it seems, at least at this point, that it's just something the Jayhawks and KU fans may have to live with. There's something not right with Selden, too, and I'm not talking physically. His struggles around the rim are only getting worse, not better, and, despite the fact that his jumpers still look good, the guy just can't buy one at the bucket unless it's in transition. Props to the rest of the team for finding a way without these two guys, but if their offensive funks linger, it could catch up to this team at some point.
3 – Bill Self said it best when he called Cliff Alexander's technical foul against the Cowboys bad and Jamari Traylor's worse. The reason? Traylor's a veteran who has been around the program and Big 12 battles long enough to know better. Emotion is a great part of the game, and, when utilized properly, can really give a team a lift. But when the emotions spill over into taunting or technical fouls due to some kind of physical altercation, that's when the line has been crossed. It's not like either guy has made a habit of these bonehead plays, so it's not complete cause for concern. But there's no doubt that Tuesday's technicals are the last Self wants to see, especially now that these guys have had the opportunity to “learn their lesson.”
One for the road
KU's third Big 12 victory in three tries this season:
• Made the Jayhawks 14-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the seventh time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Saw Kansas go 3-0 to start Big 12 play for the ninth-straight season and the 11th time under Self.
• Increased KU’s lead in the all-time series against Oklahoma State to 110-55, including 60-11 in games played in Lawrence and 45-9 inside Allen Fieldhouse.
• Extended Kansas’ win streak inside Allen Fieldhouse to 17 games, which includes an 8-0 mark this season.
• Changed KU’s all-time record inside Allen Fieldhouse to 721-109, including 183-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 339-71 while at Kansas, 14-9 against his alma mater (13-6 at Kansas) and 546-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,140-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will head out onto the road for another tough test at 8 p.m. Saturday, when they'll take on Iowa State in Ames. It's College Gameday at Hilton Coliseum so you can bet the Cyclones fans will be more than a little fired up for this one.
Toughness can be defined in different ways and covers everything from physical strength to mental triumph.
During Wednesday's 56-55 road win at Baylor, I must have seen KU coach Bill Self scream down at his team at least half a dozen times — particularly during that intense second half — in a plea for his players to be tough.
Sure, Kansas was out-rebounded by eight — including 17-9 on the offensive glass — and, yeah, there were times when the bigger, badder Baylor bodies knocked KU players to the ground while going for loose balls or rebounds. Even still, the Jayhawks delivered.
Toughness is not letting the wheels fall off when you fall behind by six points in a game where a three-point lead felt large. Toughness is not feeling sorry for yourselves when the one guy who had been playing the best offensively fouled out. Toughness is making clutch free throws when they matter most.
The Jayhawks did all of those and more on Wednesday against a good Baylor team that had some notable advantages. And because of it, the Jayhawks jumped out to 1-0 in Big 12 play and will have a chance to make that 3-0 in the next six days.
For the fourth game in a row — and the ninth time in 14 games — sophomore point guard Frank Mason led Kansas in minutes. But unlike we've come to expect from Mason in recent weeks, not all of those minutes were stellar. Mason struggled offensively in the first half and really only had one stretch where he looked good on offense. But rather than that slightly off night from their leader spelling doom, other Jayhawks stepped up and made plays to pick up the slack. This team has talent and varying degrees of confidence. But Wednesday's effort may go down as one of the biggest they'll have all season because these guys now know they can win a tough game even when Mason does not play like a super hero.
Three reasons to smile
1 – KU's ball movement was pretty good throughout the game. A lot of times when teams struggle against a zone defense, it's because passes are scarce or guys try to play too much one-on-five basketball. That was not KU's problem against the Bears. Sure, BU's length and KU's own hesitation made things tough and limited the Jayhawks to just 18 first-half points, but it was not because the Jayhawks did not share the ball and keep it moving against the zone. That showed in the second half, when KU scored 38 points and started taking and making shots born from an attacking attitude.
2 – How about Jamari Traylor? I've been hard on the guy for most of the season, but he was sensational against Baylor. He played under control, he played with purpose and he carried the KU offense when the Jayhawks were in desperate need of someone to step up. Traylor's game still has holes, but it was good to see him find success while playing under control. That should really benefit him the rest of the season and, if he can replicate it, should make him a legitimate option in the KU offense.
3 – Forget the stats or the style points, several Jayhawks made winning plays in this game. And it's those kinds of plays that bring confidence and can draw a team together. Whether you're talking about Wayne Selden's seven straight points, all on tough shots, or Traylor taking a charge or Mason immediately answering a huge Baylor three with the only one he made all night, several different Jayhawks stepped up at just the right time to snag this victory. That's a good sign that guys are (a) becoming more understanding and accepting of their roles and (b) team chemistry is rock solid.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – The Jayhawks still have not figured out how to attack and/or score over length and a presence at the rim. No one is more guilty of this than Perry Ellis, who struggled all night and finished 2-of-8 from the floor with 4 points, 3 rebounds and 2 turnovers, but several Jayhawks saw their shot attempts in close swatted or altered, especially in that rough first half. I suspect this will be a season-long issue for Kansas, which will make three-point shooting perhaps more important than ever for the Jayhawks, both as a way to get some open looks and points and to open up things in the paint.
2 – It's time to start looking at KU's rotation and minutes. Self played nine guys in this one but Landen Lucas and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk played just four and three minutes, respectively. That means KU basically won this game with a seven-man rotation. That's doable for a little while, but it's hard to imagine it holding up for 18 games in a conference as rough and tough as the Big 12, especially when foul trouble enters the equation. Freshman point guard Devonte' Graham should be back in the next game or two, and that will help tremendously. But it'll take some time for Graham to get back into the flow of things. Self's never going to be a guy who plays nine guys on a regular basis, but it would be a big boost if he had nine guys he could play on any given night. Graham's return will help, but so would improved play and confidence from Mykhailiuk.
3 – Baylor's attendance was a little hard to believe. I know the students are still on winter break and that probably contributed to some of it, but, still, you've got the 21st ranked team in the country playing host to a blueblood program ranked No. 12 and you can't even come close to filling the place? That makes no sense. Baylor listed the attendance at 7,088, but I'm guessing it wasn't even that high. Those who were there were loud and did their best to give the Bears a home-court advantage, but it's hard to believe there wasn't a better crowd. I know a lot of places don't do that well all year and then sellout when KU comes to town.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' wild, one-point win at Baylor...
• Made Kansas 12-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the seventh time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Marked the Jayhawks’ 24th-consecutive conference-opening victory, dating back to the 1991-92 season.
• Pushed KU’s advantage to 22-4 in the all-time series against the Bears, including 10-2 inside the Ferrell Center.
• Improved KU's season record to 5-2 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse and 2-1 in true road games.
• Made Self to 337-71 while at Kansas and 544-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,138-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks return to action at 2 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, where Texas Tech will be the opponent for KU's Big 12 home opener.
The past couple of days in the Kansas University football world have brought several answers and a couple of questions regarding first-year KU coach David Beaty's staff.
Beaty on Tuesday confirmed the hiring of six assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who joins the Jayhawks after successful stints at Cal and Louisiana Tech under Sonny Dykes.
Tuesday night, a source indicated to me — and Dykes later confirmed via Rivals.com — that Cal offensive line coach Zach Yenser was following Likens to Lawrence and would become KU's offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.
Likens and Yenser are incredibly tight and have worked well together throughout the years, helping bring some of the most productive offenses in school history to both La Tech and Cal under the direction of Dykes and Cal offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
According to a couple of guys who cover the Bears out in Berkley, the two also are very personable, loved and respected by the players they coach and even have become fan and media favorites during the past couple of seasons.
The question begs, then, why would either guy leave such a solid situation at Cal to roll the dice on a rebuilding project at KU?
The chance to work with Beaty no doubt factored into the equation, but it's only part of the answer. The other elements might be the bigger pieces of the puzzle.
Clearly, both guys stand to receive promotions, with Likens jumping from receivers coach and passing game coordinator to OC and the opportunity to call plays, and Yenser from O-Line coach to O-Line coach/run-game coordinator. But the titles are just half of it. Those titles also figure to come with a couple of bigger numbers attached to their paychecks.
According to various media reports out of Cal, the Golden Bears' assistant coaches are currently and have been some of the lowest paid coaches in the profession. Add to that the extremely high cost of living in that part of the country, and you're talking about a dollar that doesn't stretch very far.
That won't be an issue for either guy in Kansas. At all. Not only will they likely get significant raises, both will also be living in a part of the country where the dollars they do make get them much more. Don't get me wrong, most coaches are focused solely on making the best moves to advance their careers from the time they get into the business to the time they hang up their whistles, but nearly doubling their salaries surely didn't hurt when they were searching their souls about whether Kansas was the right place for them to take the next step.
According to reports from 2013, when Dykes and his staff were hired at Cal, Likens made a base salary of $125,000, with bonuses that took him just over $200,000 annually. Yenser's base salary was $100,000 and his bonuses extended his compensation to $185,000.
The 30-year-old Yenser, whom Beaty confirmed as a member of his staff on Wednesday — saying, "We are thrilled to have Zach join our staff. He is full of energy, enthusiasm and passion for the game. The production of his players at both Louisiana Tech and Cal has been extraordinary. His players love and respect him and that is important to me. Much Like the rest of our staff, Zach is a man of great integrity and character and we are happy to have him leading our offensive line unit." — may not make quite as big of a salary jump as Likens, who figures to pull in at least double what he made at Cal.
College football is big business, and even at Kansas, where the football program has won just 12 games in the past five seasons, big bucks enter the equation. As I said, I'm sure the opportunity to increase their income was a big pull for these guys, but, based on what I've heard from various sources about both of them, money has nothing to do with why they coach or how they do it.
That's in line with the way Beaty and the rest of the staff operate — being able to land guys like this and pay them well is yet another advantage of setting Beaty's base salary at $800,000 — and this video from one of Cal's spring practices in 2013 shows you exactly what kind of guys KU is getting for that dough.
Given last night's news that Rob Likens was coming to Kansas to join David Beaty's staff as the Jayhawks' offensive coordinator, I decided it would be worth asking around to see what I could learn about Likens, who comes to KU on the heels of a decade working with Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who is known for running the Air Raid offense.
I first heard about Likens coming to Kansas from a source on Monday evening. A little later that night, Dykes confirmed the news to a couple of media outlets in California. So even though nothing official has been released by KU, this is a done deal.
KU fans have waited with great anticipation for the identity of Beaty's OC, and now that we know who he is, let's take a little deeper look at what he's about. It did not take long to find people, both in and out of the coaching profession, who had good things to say about Likens, both as a football coach and a person.
Energetic, genuine and a lot of fun were three of the phrases that came up most often and, a quick Google search on Likens uncovered a couple of videos on YouTube from when Likens was mic'd up during a couple of Cal spring practices last season.
Practice is certainly different than game day and coaching the Golden Bears' outside receivers carries different responsibilities than running and calling an entire offense, but these videos give you a pretty good look at what Likens is all about.
There'll be plenty more to learn about Likens in the next several days, but this is as good of a place to start as any.
As far as conference tune-ups go, you really can't ask for a much better match-up than the one the Kansas University men's basketball team faced Sunday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
In its last game before jumping into a grueling, 18-game Big 12 schedule, Kansas knocked off a tough, athletic and talented UNLV squad, 76-61, mixing equal parts of toughness, skill and momentum to turn back the Rebels.
The victory capped KU's non-conference record at 11-2, which, by all accounts, is pretty solid given the difficulty of KU's schedule. Many fans and critics will point to KU's two blowout losses (to Kentucky and Temple) as reasons to question this team — and it certainly remains a team with plenty of questions. But, given the fact that teams like Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State and UNLV were on the schedule, a case could be made that Kansas easily could have more than two losses.
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of questions about this KU hoops team. The Jayhawks are still trying to find an identity, keep juggling the starting lineup, continue to lack low-post scoring and appear to be on thin ice at point guard behind Frank Mason. With all of those aspects of this team being addressed on a daily basis, the one thing that should not need addressing is effort and intensity. It appears as if the Jayhawks understand that, too. After laying an egg in that loss to Temple, KU responded with two very good high-energy games against Kent State and UNLV. Both were at home, and that always helps, but, with Big 12 play starting, I think we've seen the end of the days where Bill Self and his coaching staff need to remind the Jayhawks to bring it night in and night out.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It looked clear from very early in the game that Perry Ellis had plans to hit the offensive glass. And hit it Ellis did. The junior forward finished with a game-high five offensive rebounds and looked aggressive in grabbing each one. Ellis has been called out on a few occasions this season for his rebounding, but a line of 16 points and 9 boards, with five on the offensive glass, would be one KU would take every night the rest of the way.
2 – KU's offensive balance was on full display. Five Jayhawks scored in double figures to hold off the Rebels, and those 72 points came in a variety of ways. From powerful dunks inside to three-point bombs from the outside, KU's balance against Vegas was exactly the kind of display Self would like to see the rest of the way for two reasons: 1 – Because it makes the KU offense tougher to defend. 2 – Because it diminishes the chances of KU delivering a dud like Temple or Kentucky.
3 - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has not mailed it in. He played just two minutes and has only cracked 20 minutes once in the past six games, but that has not kept Mykhailiuk from playing hard when he's out there. In those two minutes, Mykhailiuk recorded a steal, an assist, a rebound and a big-time save, all of which led to positive things for Kansas. Given his young age, it's great to see this young man keeping his head locked in enough to contribute no matter how much or little he plays.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU still needs to find a way to protect the paint. With no true rim protector in the game for much of the afternoon, the long, athletic UNLV front line attacked the rim with intensity in building a four-point halftime lead. Self said Monday that KU needs Cliff Alexander to be the guy that steps up in this area, but whether that will happen in time is worth wondering about. Alexander's long arms and general demeanor give him the right tools to play the part. But he's still trying to figure out so much about college basketball that adding one more thing to his to-do list seems dicey.
2 – Frank Mason's shin hurts. A bruised shin is about as good of an injury as a fan or coach could ask for from one of his team's most important players. But it's still not good. Mason is so important to this team that even losing him for a half could be detrimental. He's tough. There's no doubting that. But even tough guys can break down when they're forced to play nearly the entire game and play it the way Mason does.
3 – Sure, Cliff Alexander's 10-point night was important, but it also was the only thing KU got from its bench. That's not good. Self played just eight guys in this one — and two of them played fewer than 10 minutes — so the chances for KU's bench to do something were not great. But with the Big 12 grind starting Wednesday, KU's going to need more from its bench on a nightly basis. In short, as Self said Monday, “We need everybody.”
One for the road
KU's 15-point victory over a tough UNLV team...
• Made Kansas 11-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the eighth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept Kansas an undefeated 5-0 all-time versus UNLV.
• Improved KU’s record to 7-0 in home games this season and 6-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in his 60th season of Kansas basketball.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 15 straight games.
• Made Kansas 719-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 181-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 336-71 while at Kansas and 543-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,137-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will hit the road on Wednesday for their Big 12 Conference opener, 8 p.m. against Baylor in Waco, Texas. The game will be shown on ESPNU.
By now, having read about, followed, experienced or agonized over three coaching searches since 2009, fans of Kansas University football certainly are no strangers to the hierarchy of what's important before, during and after a coaching change is made.
The before and during are behind us. KU named former Texas A&M assistant coach David Beaty the 38th head coach in school history on Dec. 5, and, since then, Beaty has been running every which way trying to get things lined up for signing day in February and the start of spring football a month later.
Although the identity of a few of his staff members remains a mystery, sources have indicated that Beaty has nailed down most of the positions during the past couple of weeks.
Here's a quick recap of what we know:
• Clint Bowen – Holdover from former staff will be the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
• Reggie Mitchell – Another holdover from Weis' staff, it would make sense if Mitchell continued in his role as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
• Louie Matsakis – Another holdover from previous staff who finished 2014 by coaching KU's special teams will have a yet-to-be-determined role on new staff. Likely an administrative type of job.
• Kevin Kane – Former KU player who has worked at Wisconsin and Northern Illinois will coach linebackers.
• Gene Wier – Former Olathe North and Texas high school football coach will come on board in an off-the-field staff position.
• Klint Kubiak – 27-year-old son of NFL coach Gary Kubiak is the likely WRs coach.
• Calvin Thibodeaux – Former Oklahoma defensive end and Tulsa D-Line coach likely to coach KU's D-Line, as well.
• Je'Ney Jackson – Former KU assistant and Indiana basketball strength coach, will run KU football's strength and conditioning department.
• Justin Springer - Former KU linebacker, and another holdover from the previous strength staff, will stay on as a member of Jackson's crew.
As far as we know, KU essentially is still looking for four more names of full-time assistants and the following duties:
• Offensive coordinator
• Quarterbacks coach, which could very well be the OC
• Offensive line coach
• Tight ends coach
• Defensive backs coach, which could be Bowen
• Possibly a second defensive backs coach, if they split duties to safeties & corners
• Special teams coach, which could be lumped with another role, i.e. TEs/ST coach
Of the bunch that's already on board, Jackson may be the most important name we've heard thus far. Because Bowen and Mitchell were announced to be staying as soon as the Beaty hire was official, those guys are not included. Both are big additions to Beaty's staff, but neither figures to have the immediate impact that Jackson will.
I talked to former KU cornerback Chris Harris about Jackson the other day. Jackson was KU's defensive backs coach when Harris played at KU and the current Denver Bronco absolutely loves him.
Harris told me that Jackson is going to have KU's players ready for battle and added that they probably won't like him much at first because he can be a hard ass. That's a good thing, if you're a fan of the program anyway.
One other interesting thing Harris stressed about Jackson was how good of a teacher of technique he was. In Harris' experience, that obviously had to do with playing DB, but, generally speaking, most coaches who are known for the way they teach technique are pretty buttoned-up dudes and detail oriented. I'd expect that to be exactly what KU's getting from Jackson.
For those who might want to see and hear a little more about what Jackson's all about, here are a couple of YouTube videos I found from his time at Indiana. Yeah, training basketball players and football players is a little different, but Jackson inherits an incredible training facility in Lawrence and you can bet he'll bring several of the same training principles to town with him when he takes over.
There are few things that fix problems in sports like winning and, in that regard, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up a huge home victory, 78-62 over Kent State, on Tuesday night.
Still irked by their showing at Temple more than a week earlier, the Jayhawks came out with greater intensity and a sense of purpose that certainly was missing the last time they took the floor, and, really, has been absent from time to time throughout the season.
Call it youth, call it a learning curve, call it whatever you want. But it definitely is reality. So is the fact that, even though the Jayhawks held off a pretty stiff challenge from a decent Kent State squad, there were still almost as many bad moments as good. But, as you all know by now, those negatives don't show up nearly as much when a team wins, and Kansas (10-2) needed Tuesday night as much as a 9-2, Top-15-ranked team can need a victory at this point in the season.
Without question the most encouraging part about KU's 10th victory of the season was the fact that Frank Mason, who again was spectacular, looked around and got the help he needed on both ends of the floor.
Kelly Oubre was great — is anyone noticing a trend emerging here?
Perry Ellis was relentless even after a slow start.
And Cliff Alexander had enough positive moments in the second half to remind KU fans what the Alexander who showed up earlier this season then disappeared just as quickly as he arrived looked like.
All in all. The effort was better, the intensity was better and so was the result.
Offensively, Kansas has enough weapons, versatility and talent to find a way to score enough points to win games. There are going to be nights — and, really, there already have been — where this team will struggle, but breaking out of an offensive slump really can be as simple as one guy hitting a shot or making an extra pass that gets the ball rolling again. So there's really no reason to worry too much about KU's offense and Tuesday was a good illustation of this. It's defense that is a different story, and, what Self said about Cliff Alexander — how “he can play well if he's just active” — can apply to the entire team and really help KU's defense shine. In the first half, that really wasn't the case except for one or two guys. But in the second half, when Kent State shot 18 percent worse and scored just four points in the decisive first eight minutes, KU's defense dominated and won the game.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Jayhawks played faster and reaped the benefits. Throughout the eight days between games, KU coach Bill Self stressed tempo and pace to his team during practice. And it was clear that KU really tried to turn things up a notch against Kent State. Not only were they willing to — which Self actually said was easier because Kent State was not afraid to run either — but they succeeded big time. KU outscored Kent State 19-0 in fastbreak points, and even when they weren't directly scoring buckets, they found themselves dictating play or getting the to free throw line, both of which serve as reminders of more ways KU can control games in areas other than the scoreboard.
2 – The opening few minutes of the second half were crucial and KU delivered. Not only did they score the first five points of the second half to push their six-point halftime lead to 11 just like that, but the Jayhawks did it by getting to the free throw line. Even though they didn't connect on all of their trips — and were an uncharacteristic 13-of-22 from the free throw line for the night — the fact that they were able to get there helped them establish control and gave them a chance to pick up some easy points.
3 – The KU defense recorded a season-high eight blocked shots, but the total number was not nearly as impressive as the way the Jayhawks got there. Seven different players swatted a Kent State shot attempt, with freshman Cliff Alexander being the lone KU player to pick up two blocks. The total marked the largest number of players to block a shot in the same game since 2010 and served as further proof that Bill Self's boys took their shortcomings against Temple to heart.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's first-half offense was merely OK and featured way too many possessions of one-on-five basketball. On a few occasions, that was because of the shot clock winding down. And there's definitely nothing wrong with a guy trying to be aggressive by making a play and attacking the rim. But Self's offenses have always flowed so well and the Jayhawks always have looked so much better when they achieve that flow. This team's still getting there in that regard.
2 – Wayne Selden continues to be a bit of a mystery and even Bill Self has started to acknowledge that. After the game, Self said Kelly Oubre had firmly locked up the 3 spot in the starting lineup but added that he'd love to see Brannen Greene or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — or both — elevate their games to the point where they're pushing Oubre. Self then went on to say that if either guy could do that, it would probably help Selden, too, and therefore would help the team. Selden made just 1 of 7 shot attempts with one of the misses coming on a perfectly drawn up lob out of a timeout. Instead of laying it in or throwing it down, Selden, who elevated above the rim, tried for the home run and wound up firing the ball over the iron and into the Kent State bench. Selden's 29 minutes marked the fourth time in the past five games that the sophomore guard has played fewer than 30 minutes.
3 – Brannen Greene played just four minutes in the first half and did not get into the game again until the final three minutes, when the outcome had been decided. The quiet night from the sophomore was merely the latest in the odd up-and-down trend from the sharp-shooter, who, just a few games again, was in position to lock up a starting spot himself. It's hard to say exactly what's going on with Greene, but Self briefly mentioned his inconsistent nature in the postgame. I'm sure the bulk of that inconsistency is showing up in practices, but KU needs Greene to figure it out as soon as he can. With Frank Mason taxed to the max at the point guard spot and Selden still struggling to produce himself, KU's going to need all the help it can get on the perimeter to survive Big 12 play.
One for the road
KU's 16-point squeeze job of the Golden Flashes...
• Made Kansas 10-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept the Jayhawks unbeaten all-time versus Kent State (2-0) and improved them to 12-1 against current membership of the Mid-American Conference.
• Pushed the Jayhawks to a 63-8 record in games following a loss under Self.
• Made Kansas 5-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in the building's 60th season.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 14-straight games.
• Made Kansas 718-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 180-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 335-71 while at Kansas and 542-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,136-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will close out the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 schedule on Sunday with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off against UNLV. UNLV already boasts a victory over Arizona and should pose a significant challenge for the Jayhawks. After that, KU heads to Waco, Texas, on Jan. 7 for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
You all saw it, so there's no real reason to rehash the gory details of Monday nights' 77-52 KU basketball loss to Temple.
The Jayhawks were as bad in this one as they were in the loss to Kentucky in the second game of the season, and, in some areas, may even have been worse.
Clearly, very few people saw a loss like this coming, given the way the Jayhawks have played lately and shown steady growth over the course of the season. The bottom line, though, is this team is still relying on a lot of young players and many of those guys are still learning how to play at this level, how to play for Bill Self and how to fit into leadership roles.
Many believed that Wayne Selden was poised to step right into that role as the unquestioned team leader, but, even if he has shown areas of improvement in that department, he's still a work in progress there. So is Perry Ellis, who has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of complete struggle, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, all in the first 11 games.
Where Ellis and Selden go from here will be important, but clearly this team is in need of improvements in a bunch of areas and from a bunch of guys before Big 12 play gets started, which is now just two weeks away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks respond to this loss, and I'm not just talking about how they play against Kent State next Tuesday. KU was exposed in some pretty important areas in the loss to Temple and there are teams in the Big 12 that have the right mix of personnel, swagger and talent to try to replicate what the Owls did to Kansas in this one. The easy thing to say is that KU will learn from this loss, work hard over the break and keep getting better. And I'm sure all of that is true. But KU's going to have to find a way to tweak what it does on both ends of the floor to prevent nights like this from happening again. We're not talking wholesale changes or anything drastic, but they have to find easier ways to score and also need to identify the right lineup that's willing to compete defensively every possession. The guys that will do that are the guys that will get the most minutes in the coming weeks.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Plenty has been said about Frank Mason's night and the guy deserves all the credit in the world for showing up to play on a night when most of his teammates didn't. Mason scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting — including 4-of-6 from three-point range — and added three steals and two assists. The most impressive number of them all, however, might have been the minutes played. Mason was on the floor for every second of the game, which only further proves (a) how valuable he is to this team and (b) how obvious it was that he was one of the few guys who was ready to battle.
2 – His numbers did not reflect it, but I thought Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned in a second straight game where he looked much more like the Svi we saw early in the season than the Svi we saw during a recent slump. He was aggressive and willing to compete, even if his shots weren't falling either.
3 – You hate to use the old “wake-up call” line for one of the reasons to smile, but there weren't many others in this one so we'll go with it. So much has been made about KU's ability to find ways to win so far this season even on nights when it didn't play its best. That's a good trait for a team to have, but it's not a given. I think there's a chance that some of these guys — especially the younger dudes — started buying into the idea that all they had to do was show up and they'd find a way to pull out a win. That kind of belief and confidence is a good thing, so long as the team executes the first part, which is to show up. KU did not do that against Temple, and that'll be the lesson it can take away from an awful nigh heading into January.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – OK, so there were more like 30, but if we're going to narrow it down to just three, we'll begin with KU's terrible start. That first 10 minutes (and maybe even the first 3-5) really set the tone for the entire night. The Jayhawks looked disinterested, lazy, sluggish and, simply put, like they didn't want to be there. Off nights are going to happen. But with a roster this deep, talented and versatile I didn't think we'd see a night where almost every player in crimson and blue failed to bring it. Monday was one of those nights and the Jayhawks got what they deserved because of it.
2 – While that start was a tone-setter, KU's defense was what cost them most and eliminated any chance KU had to stay in the game. That was particularly true in the first half, when Temple's guards drove to the rim at will and the Owls' crisp ball movement led to open shot after open shot. Long story short — Temple got whatever it wanted on offense and KU looked powerless to stop it.
3 – Cliff Alexander continues to be a work in progress and, in some ways, may even have taken a step or two backwards these past couple of weeks. Early in the season, Alexander was getting by on energy, effort and raw ability, but, today, he seems to be over-thinking things and looks flat-out lost at times, particularly on defense. One sequence Monday night showed that better than any other. With KU still hanging around early in the second half, Alexander fired a 16-foot jumper early in the shot clock. It's not a terrible shot, and it's one he can make, but there's no need to take it when he did. On the very next possession, Temple ran a high ball screen and Alexander left his man to go double team, which allowed the guy he was guarding to slip effortlessly to the rim, where he received an easy pass and finished a bunny to add to Temple's lead. Even after starting, Alexander only played 17 minutes, took just the one shot and scored 2 points. The big freshman needs winter break to arrive as much as anybody.
One for the road
KU's beatdown at the hands of Temple on Monday:
• Snapped an eight-game winning streak, which was KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made Kansas 9-2 or better for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.
• Dropped KU’s record away from Allen Fieldhouse to 5-2 this season and 1-1 in true road games.
• Made Kansas 8-4 all-time versus Temple and 60-17 against current members of the American Athletic Conference.
• Moved Self to 334-71 while at Kansas, 541-176 overall and 4-1 all-time against Temple.
• Made KU 2,135-824 all-time.
After going their separate ways for Christmas, the Jayhawks will return to action at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when they'll take on Kent State at 7 p.m.
Information on the identity of new Kansas football coach David Beaty's coaching staff continues to be tough to come by, but sources told the Journal-World on Monday that legendary Olathe North football coach Gene Wier is expected to join Beaty's staff in the off-the-field coaching role.
That role, though not specified by the sources, likely will be something in the area of on-campus recruiting coordinator.
Such a role would seem to fit Wier perfectly. His knowledge of and connections in the high school football world in Kansas are second-to-none and the man who guided O-North to six state championships in the late 1990s and early 2000s also was a head coach for nine years in Texas before returning to the Sunflower State.
Wier's addition would bring the number of known people in Beaty's coaching staff to five — defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Clint Bowen, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell, linebackers coach Kevin Kane, former special teams coach Louie Matsakis and Wier.
Stay tuned to KUsports.com for more updates.
Following Saturday's 96-69 victory over Lafayette — a game that was actually a much tougher battle than the final score indicates — Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self explained that he no longer would divulge his starting lineups after Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene both were held out of the starting five just one day after it was announced that Alexander would join the group for the first time this season.
Greene was late to weights on Friday, Alexander had what Self called a bad day of practice that same day and Landen Lucas and Kelly Oubre slid into their spots.
I get where Self's coming from on this, but, after what we saw on Saturday it might not matter whether he announces his starters or not. It might just be that obvious. If Oubre continues to make the progress he's making and plays at all like he played on Saturday, he'll be in there. No questions asked.
After that it'll come down to the fifth spot, where Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander look like the top three options. Lucas and Traylor have had their chances. And they've been serviceable. But Alexander's the best of the three and the odds are good that he'll figure out how to handle his business away from game night sooner rather than later.
If he does, the starting five is easy to pick out — Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — and KU fans won't need to wait for it to be announced by Self or anybody else.
There were plenty of good things and a few bad things about Saturday's victory, but the fact that this team can throw so many good shooters on the floor makes them tough to handle. KU has shot the ball well from the outside through the first 10 games of the season and Self said before the season that he thought this group would be the best three-point shooting team he's had in a while. He was right. Mason, Selden, Oubre, Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all can knock down the three if given room and, with Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander doing enough inside to occupy the paint, these guys are getting a lot of open looks and that should continue. KU is shooting just under 40 percent (62-for-157) from three-point range so far this season, and six different Jayhawks are shooting 34 percent or better from downtown. The Jayhawks were 12 of 23 from the outside against Lafayette and that clip helped keep the scrappy Leopards from creeping too close in the second half.
Three reasons to smile
1 – We already mentioned Oubre's big game, but it's worth mentioning again. The guy scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, blowing out of the water his previous career-highs in both areas. But it was not just the final numbers that made his day so impressive. It was the way he got them. Oubre was aggressive, smooth, confidence and cagey. And he picked up his big line in relatively easy fashion. In fact, a single play in the first half that delivered two of Oubre's six misses might have been one of his most impressive moments. After misfiring on a wide open three-pointer from the left wing, Oubre immediately followed the miss, caught the rebound in mid-air and went right back up for what looked like it would be an easy put-back. It wasn't, as Oubre's follow had a little too much behind it and the second shot came clanging off the rim. Rather than get discouraged, Oubre dug in, kept fighting and saw that mentality pay off. He seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the game afterwards and it should be interesting to see how he responds to the breakthrough on Monday night.
2 – Welcome back, Svi. After looking out of sorts during the past few games, Mykhailiuk regained his old form and again looked sharp on Saturday. He scored 11 points, made three three-pointers, played 22 minutes and appeared to be having fun again. He also dished two assists and picked up a steal and appeared to be thinking less and playing loose a lot more. There's no doubt that seeing his outside shot fall again lifted his confidence.
3 – A lot of KU fans want to talk about this team's tendency to let big leads slip away, but I don't think that's cause for concern, or at least not too much concern. Teams are going to make runs. Opponents aren't going to quit. In fact, they're probably going to play even harder when facing a big, double-digit deficit. That's to be expected. And the mark of a quality team, at least in my mind, is when it can watch a big lead slip away and find a way to dig back in and build it back up in the minutes that follow. KU did that a couple of times against Lafayette and these Jayhawks appear to be comfortable operating that way.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU has looked pretty good defensively when the games have gone up and down this year, but the Jayhawks struggled to keep the Leopards from finding their rhythm behind the three-point line in this one. The only reason this is worth sighing about is that it should have come as no surprise that Lafayette was going to fire away from the outside. KU's latest opponent came into Allen Fieldhouse shooting 42 percent from three-point range and had nothing even close to resembling an inside presence. Still, Lafayette knocked down 12 of 26 three-pointers (46 percent) and used the long-range bomb to crawl back into the game after KU looked to have put things away by halftime. With KU's depth, length and athleticism, there should not be too many teams that get as many easy and open looks from the outside as the Leopards did on Saturday.
2 – Landen Lucas may not only have lost his starting job, but he may also have lost a good chunk of his minutes. The big man who made a late start in place of Cliff Alexander played just six minutes and went from being in the starting lineup at the beginning of the day to being on the floor in the final two minutes when Tyler Self, Evan Manning, Josh Pollard and Christian Garrett were getting their time, as well. Lucas missed the only two shots he attempted, including a bad miss of a sweet dime from Selden, and grabbed just one rebound and picked up one foul. Self has said he'd like to play five perimeter guys — Mason, Selden, Greene, Svi and Oubre — and possibly four big men, with Ellis, Alexander and Traylor being locks. That leaves that final spot to a battle between Lucas and Hunter Mickelson. And I don't think you have to look any farther than Saturday to see who might be in the lead there. Oh, and that could quickly turn into six perimeter guys and three bigs if Devonte' Graham can come back healthy.
3 – It's a minor thing but I noticed it a few times during Saturday's victory. Jamari Traylor seems to have a hard time closing the door on the trap when the Jayhawks pick up with some full-court pressure. It's not something to be too concerned about given the fact that the other team's point guard should be quicker than Traylor and able to avoid getting trapped, but it just looked like Traylor struggled to execute when he was asked to do this. He didn't use the sideline to his advantage, got caught bouncing instead of closing out and put the Jayhawks at a numbers disadvantage by doing it.
One for the road
KU's victory over the visiting Leopards on Saturday:
• Extended Kansas’ winning streak to eight games, which is KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made the Jayhawks 9-1 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Pushed KU to 1-0 all-time versus Lafayette and 9-2 against current membership of the Patriot League.
• Made Kansas 4-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Made KU 717-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 179-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 334-70 while at Kansas, 541-175 overall and 1-0 all-time against Lafayette.
• Made the Jayhawks 2,135-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks will travel to Philadelphia for their final game before Christmas on Monday against Temple at the Wells Fargo Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be shown on ESPN2. After that, KU will close out 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when the Jayhawks welcome Kent State to town for a 7 p.m. game on Jayhawk TV.
12:31 p.m. Update
It looks like everything worked out with Blinn College offensive lineman Jayson Rhodes' transcripts because KU is now announcing him as a member of today's mid-year transfer haul.
Rhodes, who got in with KU late after offensive lineman Delonte' Murray changed his mind and signed with Cincinnati, is a 6-foot-4, 310-pound guard who had offers from Grambling State, Hampton, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss and UT-San Antonio.
He'll arrive at KU in time for spring football and will have three years of eligibility remaining, which makes him a guy the KU coaching staff can bring along slowly if need be. That's not to say he'll need it, just that they'll have that flexibility.
The addition of Rhodes brings KU's total haul for the day to seven — 3 offensive linemen, 2 defensive backs, 1 defensive lineman and 1 running back.
Here's a quick look at Rhodes' film and bio.
RHODES BIO: Played one season at Blinn College under head coach Keith Thomas... Helped lead the Buccaneers to a 4-4 mark in 2014... Earned second team all-conference honors in 2014... Started the season on the defensive side of the ball, before moving to the offensive line... Sat out the 2013 season as a redshirt.
Original Post: 9:49 a.m.
It's not quite the spectacle that national signing day in February brings, but it's important nonetheless. And it's already well under way for the Kansas University football program.
Mid-year transfer signing day offers those junior-college players who were able to graduate in December the chance to sign their national letters of intent early so they can report to their new schools in time for the spring semester, which begins in late January, and, more importantly, the start of spring practices.
Here's a quick list of the new Jayhawks who made it official this morning, starting with Kilgore College cornerback M.J. Mathis, who signed his letter at 8 a.m. in his hometown of Crosby, Texas, with a few close friends and family members present.
Mathis, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner with a good mix of physical presence and legit speed, said signing his letter was an amazing feeling because it put an official end to a couple of stressful months that came with waiting for KU to change coaches and signing day to arrive.
Here's a quick look at some Mathis highlights:
Other new Jayhawks who signed this morning include:
• Will Smith, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound, three-star offensive lineman from Butler Community College, who committed to KU in early June after an official visit.
SMITH BIO: Played two seasons on the offensive line for the nationally-ranked Grizzlies... Coached by Troy Morrell at BCC... Earned a three-star rating from Rivals.com and 247Sports.com... Saw action in 11 games for the Grizzlies, helping them earn an 8-3 overall record in 2014... Picked up all-conference and all-region honors in 2014... Helped lead the Grizzlies to the 2013 conference and region titles.
• Jacky Dezir, a 6-3, 305-pound, two-star defensive lineman from College of DuPage, who also committed to KU in early June after an official visit.
DEZIR BIO: Spent two seasons at the College of DuPage playing for head coach Matt Foster... Sat out the 2014 season as a redshirt... Played in 10 games for the Chaparrals, helping them earn a 7-4 record in 2013… Recorded two sacks in the 2013 Carrier Dome Bowl against ASA College… Recorded 24 total tackles during the 2013 season, including 13 solo tackles... Also credited with 3.0 TFLs.
• Bazie "L.B." Bates IV, a 6-1, 195-pound, three-star defensive back from Trinity Valley C.C., who committed to KU in late June. Name is pronounced Baz-ee.
BATES BIO: Spent two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College suiting up for head coach Brad Smiley… A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com... Played as a cornerback on the 2014 team that was a perfect 12-0 in 2014… Helped lead the Cardinals to the SWJCFC championship, the Region XIV championship and the Heart of Texas Bowl title in 2014... Recorded 26 total tackles, including 16 solo stops, as a sophomore in 2014... Led TVCC with four interceptions... Also had four pass breakups... Spent the 2013 season as a redshirt... Collected 11 tackles and one pass breakup for TVCC as a freshman in 2012.
• D'Andre Banks, a 6-3, 325-pound, three-star offensive lineman also from Trinity Valley, C.C., who committed to Kansas after an official visit last weekend. Banks had been committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, but switched to Kansas after his visit.
BANKS BIO: Played two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College for head coach Brad Smiley… A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com... Saw action as an offensive guard on the 2014 team that went undefeated (12-0) in 2014… Helped lead the Cardinals to the SWJCFC championship, the Region XIV championship and the Heart of Texas Bowl title in both 2013 and 2014...Spent the 2012 season as a redshirt.
"Coach (David) Beaty is a great guy and has a plan for the program,” Banks said shortly after committing. “I want to be a part of it. The facilities are excellent and it feels like a tight-knit community."
• Ke'aun Kinner, a 5-10, 185-pound, three-star running back from Navarro Junior College, who committed to KU earlier this week and was named a first-team Juco All-American on Tuesday.
KINNER BIO: Suited up for two seasons at Navarro Junior College under head coach J.J. Eckert... Earned a three-star ranking from Rivals.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com... Finished his two-year career at NJC ranked third all-time in rushing yardage (1,918 yards) and ninth all-time in carries (277)… Ranked second in single-season carries and topped the single-season per game rushing average list in NJC history… Rushed for 1,696 yards and 22 touchdowns on 253 carries in 2014… Also caught 17 passes for 109 yards through the air... Earned First Team National Junior College Athletic Assocation (NJCAA) All-American honors in 2014... In his two-year career at Navarro he recorded 26 rushing touchdowns… Named the Southwest Junior College Football Conference's Most Valuable Player in 2014.
Former Kansas University cornerback Aqib Talib continues to prove he's one of the top cover corners in the NFL during his first season with the Denver Broncos.
Talib, who has battled injuries throughout this season and his career, has started 13 games for the Broncos this season — opposite his former KU running mate Chris Harris — and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions after snagging a key pick against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers last weekend in a victory which clinched the Broncos' fourth AFC West title in a row.
Talib was at his best against San Diego and was constantly highlighted for his impeccable technique and great instincts. He has 55 tackles this season — 48 of the solo variety — and already has as many passes defended this season (14) as he did all of last season with the Patriots.
Talib's lockdown ability has been one of the biggest reasons the Broncos' defense has improved by leaps and bounds over last year's group, and, as long as he's healthy, Talib continues to show why he's regarded as one of the league's best cornerbacks and, even more to the point, why he makes so much money.
Harris cashes in
Former KU cornerback Chris Harris, now in his fourth year with the Denver Broncos, agreed to a five-year contract extension worth more than $42 million.
Harris, regarded by many as one of the top all-around cornerbacks in the league, is enjoying his best season as a pro on the heels of offseason ACL surgery.
He joined Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2011 for a $2,000 signing bonus. Harris already has tied his career high with three interceptions this season and has 48 tackles, 46 of them of the solo variety.
McDougald's monster day
Former Kansas wide-receiver-turned-safety Bradley McDougald played the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday, finishing with 15 tackles — 11 solo — in Tampa Bay's 19-17 loss to Carolina.
McDougald, another undrafted free agent who is in his second year with the Bucaneers, has started three of the 13 games he has played in this year and has 37 tackles and three passes defended.
Johnson fitting in fine
Injuries have depleted the Denver Broncos' linebacking corps and that has opened the door for former Jayhawk Steven Johnson — yet another undrafted free agent — to slide into the starting lineup.
Johnson, now in his third season in the NFL, has played in 12 games for the Broncos this season and started the past five.
He finished Sunday's victory over San Diego tied for third on the team with four tackles — all solo — and now has 27 tackles on the season to go along with a half sack and a fumble recovery.
Former KU safety Darrell Stuckey was pretty quiet during the Chargers' loss to Denver last Sunday, but one week earlier, the Kansas City, Kansas, native scored the first touchdown of his NFL career on a fumble recovery and return during the Chargers' loss to New England.
Still known for his contributions on special teams, Stuckey has appeared in 14 games this season (his fifth in the NFL) and has 27 tackles and two passes defended to go along with the TD.
Opurum picked up
After spending the past couple of seasons as a part of the Houston Texans' practice squad (he was even active for a game or two) former KU running back/defensive end Toben Opurum has been picked up by the New Orleans Saints and signed to their practice squad.
Newly named Kansas University football coach David Beaty made up for lost time in the recruiting grind last weekend by not only getting 11 members of the Class of 2015 to visit campus and but also by picking up seven oral commitments since Saturday night.
The first future Jayhawk to commit came Saturday evening, four more prospects joined him on Sunday and the latest to pledge their services to Kansas delivered the good news bright and early Monday morning and again early Monday afternoon.
The news of these commitments spread like wildfire on KU message boards and Twitter and added even more shine to Beaty's reputation as a solid recruiter.
But it's not necessarily the players who Beaty picked up that made his weekend haul impressive. It was the fact that he was able to pull it all together so quickly in the first place and without much of his coaching staff on board that caught my eye.
Beaty had prior relationships with a couple of the guys who committed, but he had had no contact whatsoever with a couple of the others. The fact that those guys were not only willing to visit Kansas, but, in some cases, also visited despite already having committed elsewhere speaks to the strength of Beaty's relationships in Texas.
At least a couple of these prospects said the bond between Beaty and their high school coach carried enough weight for them to give KU a look. After that, the ball was in Beaty's court, and, Beaty, like so many coaches who came before him in his current job, has said he believed KU's chances of landing a guy increase dramatically if he can just get guys to visit campus.
That proved to be true with half a dozen guys in the past few days, and, although they might not all pan out, they seem to be the kinds of players KU needs to sign to get the rebuilding project off the ground.
Most of them are good athletes with impressive resumes, and many of them were overlooked by the “big schools” because those places fill their commitment lists with four- and five-star guys each year, not the two- and three-star guys who came to campus last weekend.
If nothing else, that idea should offer a little perspective for the furious weekend of recruiting that was. These guys all appear to be worthy prospects. And a couple of them have some impressive size, skills and stats. But they're far from a guarantee and they still need to be coached and developed and put through the grind of college football before we really have any idea what kind of players they can be — especially in the Big 12 Conference.
Beaty knows that. And he's willing to put the time in to make it happen. He's also planning to hire a coaching staff that thinks the same way.
Recruiting is a contagious business. Year after year, with program after program, fans often get caught up in the hype and promise of what a prospect looks like on paper or what his high school statistics might lead them to dream he could become in college. It's understandable. But at a place like KU, it's important to remember both sides of the coin. Given the fact that so many recent recruits have failed to pan out, that should not be too hard to remember for Jayhawk football fans.
That's not to diminish what Beaty and company accomplished this weekend, though. What they did was impressive. And it's important mostly because it shows — with actions rather than words — what Beaty is all about when it comes to recruiting. Substance over style.
See, two years ago at this time, the Kansas football program was in the middle of building what was dubbed the #DreamTeam2013. It was made up mostly of highly ranked junior-college prospects and featured some incredibly outgoing personalities, many of whom now appear to have something to fall back on in terms of a marketing and promotions career since the whole big-time football thing did not work out.
To be fair, a few of the guys in that “Dream Team” class did make a significant impact on the KU program. Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish were two-year starters in the secondary, Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg started both of their seasons on the O-Line and Trevor Pardula single-handedly fixed KU's punting woes.
But those were not the guys who were talking the most during the recruiting period. Guys like Marquel Combs, Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Chris Martin and others were the names that wowed people — as much for their excitement and enthusiasm as their rankings — but those guys never played a down for the Jayhawks. And their failure to pan out and eventual departures from the program left a hole in KU's roster that Beaty is now trying to fill.
He'll have to be creative to do it, and he'll have to work twice as hard as he would at an established program. But, again, he appears to be ready and willing to do just that and what he got done last weekend was definitely a good start.
MORE FROM THE RECRUITING TRAIL...
Say what you will about the sluggish second half, the Kansas University men's basketball team on Saturday at Sprint Center again found a way to win a grinder, 63-60 over No. 13 Utah.
The game featured one of KU's best halves of the season and also one of its worst, as the Jayhawks (8-1) raced out to a 42-21 lead behind a strong first half and then saw that lead erased when a less-than-stellar second half.
Hot free throw shooting, more solid three-point shooting and that hard-to-describe quality that allows this team to scratch out a victory in the waning minutes all benefited the Jayhawks on Saturday in a game that featured a couple of teams that played incredibly hard but at different times.
KU was lights out in the first half. After struggling to get the offense going, the Jayhawks started making shots and never let their defense slip, suffocating the Utes into 35 percent first-half shooting and 10 turnovers.
The two teams flipped roles in the second half, when KU shot just 26 percent and committed seven turnovers, which allowed the Utes to climb all the way back into it and set up the dramatic finish.
Heading into the opening game of the Orlando Classic, the Jayhawks knew that they were in for a rough stretch of games. Rather than giving in to the difficulty of the schedule or leaning on their youth and inexperience as an excuse, the Jayhawks pulled together, played tough and won six straight games in the face of just about every kind of adversity you could imagine. This team is still a work in progress and there remains a lot of room for improvement, but what they've been able to do during the past few weeks makes you believe that these guys are ready to defend their 10 consecutive Big 12 titles and go hunting for No. 11.
Three reasons to smile
1 – For the second game in a row, freshman Kelly Oubre looked comfortable and made some consistent positive contributions. Oubre scored nine points in 17 minutes and hit all five of his free throw attempts while also grabbing three rebounds. It's not the numbers that are worth noting, rather the way he looks a look more sure of himself and confident in what he's doing.
2 – One of these days, KU's free throw shooting will just be a given and won't qualify as a reason to smile. Today is not that day. The Jayhawks drained 21 of 23 free throws, including all 10 they attempted in the first half and needed just about every one of them to hold off the Utes. Brannen Greene, who stepped into the starting lineup for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk but didn't do much most of the game, knocked down four in a row in the final minute to help seal the victory. As a team, KU hit all eight of its free throw attempts in the final five minutes.
3 – Jamari Traylor came back with a purpose. Having a good game is no reason to excuse an arrest, but it was clear from the way he played that Traylor was trying to make up for his mistake. He still had a couple of inexplicable mistakes — a terrible pass here, a turnover there — but he hit 4 of 8 shots, all 5 of his free throws and finished with 13 points and 5 boards. The most impressive thing about Traylor's play to me was that he looked relaxed.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's second-half offense was awful. Not only did the Jayhawks shoot just 26 percent and make just six field goals, but there were way too many one-on-five possessions, when the ball didn't move and the Jayhawks just threw up some wild shot or turned it over. With several guys on the roster feeling comfortable and looking locked in from three-point range of late, better ball movement and less pounding could lead to open three-pointers and better possessions. In short, pretty much what you saw in the first half.
2 – Landen Lucas' time in the starting lineup is probably pretty close to ending. Lucas missed his only two shot attempts — showing once again that he lacks the strength and explosion to finish at the rim — and the only other statistic he recorded was his two turnovers. No rebounds. No assists. No blocks. No free throws. Lucas has done an admirable job during the first nine games, but he's clearly not the guy the Jayhawks need out there and it seems the coaching staff gets that, as evident by his seven minutes against Utah.
3 – Remember that shoulder issue that once plagued freshman Devonte' Graham? It never really materialized into something to worry about, but the point guard's latest injury is. Graham is expected to miss four weeks — perhaps longer — with a toe injury and the news comes at the worst time. Graham played very good basketball in his past two games and really looked to be getting comfortable out there, both with his role on the team and with the jump to college basketball as a whole. His absence will be a blow to this team.
One for the road
KU's latest win in Kansas City...
• Extended its win streak to seven-straight games, matching its longest win streak of last season.
• Was the fourth-straight win for KU by six points or fewer.
• Made the Jayhawks 8-1 for the second time in the last three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
• Improved Kansas’ lead in the all-time series to 2-0.
• Improved KU's record to 5-1 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Upped the Jayhawks’ all-time record at Sprint Center to 25-5 and 210-79 in games played in Kansas City.
• Gave Bill Self his first victory against Utah, making him 1-1 vs. the Utes, 333-70 at Kansas and 540-175 overall.
• Made KU's all-time record 2,134-823.
The Jayhawks will get a break from their rough and rugged schedule, as they'll be off all week until next Saturday's 2 p.m. home game against Lafayette.