Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
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.
Newly hired Kansas University football coach David Beaty has not spent his first week on the job rearranging the office furniture or hanging up his favorite photos by his desk. There will be time for that later.
The past week has been spent tracking talent, visiting coaches and lining up an impressive list of visitors for this weekend, the final big recruiting weekend before the next dead period. With 12 players in the Class of 2015 already committed, KU has room for about 12 more. Many of the visitors who will be in town this weekend are high school prospects, which is in line with what Beaty said would be the foundation upon which the KU program was built during his time in town.
Two of this weekend's visitors — WR Kevin Thomas and QB Ryan Willis — already have committed to Kansas, so, even if KU were to land all of the guys it brings in this weekend, it would leave the new coaching staff room to add at least a couple more players.
This weekend's visit list is heavy on offensive linemen and wide receivers — two areas of great need for the Jayhawks — but it's not just the names of the players or their place in the rankings that is impressive about this group. The more impressive part is that Beaty was able, in such short time, to get so many guys to committ to campus visits so quickly. The state of Kansas is also well represented, with three of the 11 guys coming from Kansas high schools, an area Beaty said would be a top priority moving forward.
Jon Kirby of JayhawkSlant.com reported earlier this week that several Texas high school coaches had reached out to Beaty about some of their players who may have been a little overlooked thus far in the recruiting process, and it's that kind of pedigree that had many on the search committee excited about the idea of hiring Beaty in the first place. The fact that it has started to pay off in his first week on the job is merely a bonus.
Of course, just getting them here is only half of the battle. Beaty and company still have to get these guys to commit and, even if they do, the players themselves still have to show up and pan out. There's time for that, though.
Here's a quick look at the guys coming in for a visit this weekend, according to Rivals.com's visit tracker:
• Kyle Ball, 6-2, 231 D-End, Shawnee Mission East
The two-start prospect picked up an offer from KU during Clint Bowen's interim term and helped lead the Lancers to a state title in the process. Big, physical and athletic all over the field, Ball has offers from Air Force and South Dakota State and also recently made an unofficial visit to Kansas State.
• D'Andre Banks — 6-3, 325, OL, Trinity Valley (Texas) Community College
Three-star offensive guard currently has offers from Louisiana-Lafayette, Utah State and Kansas. Also received early interest from Florida State and Illinois.
• Colton Beebe – 6-2, 252, LB, Piper High
Another local kid, Beebe has been closed in the sub-4.8 range in the 40-yard dash and also bench presses 315 pounds and owns a 4.13 grade-point average. The two-star prospect has offers from Air Force, Minnesota and Kansas. He's been looking forward to visiting KU since receiving an offer in September and said throughout the season that he was impressed by what Clint Bowen had done with the team.
• Xavier Castille – 5-11, 195, WR, Rockwall (Texas) High
Two-star receiver with a good build and excellent speed has all kinds of offers from mid-major type programs including Uconn, Illinois State, Memphis, Nevada, Texas State, Tulsa and UTEP along with KU and Washington. Under-the-radar wideout is known for good hands and crisp routes.
• Arico Evans – 6-2, 190, Athlete, Hillcrest High, Dallas
Two-star prospect has offers from KU, Indiana, New Mexico, New Mexico State, TCU, Texas Tech and Troy. This week's contact was the first Evans had received from Kansas, but he said he was very interested because of his high school coach's close bond with Beaty.
• Brandon Martin – 6-3, 185, WR, Prime Prep Academy, Dallas
Another prospect from the Deion Sanders school, this three-star receiver is ranked as the 98th best wideout in the nation and the 100th best player in Texas. He has received offers from Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Temple, Arkansas State and KU and has been named to the Under-Armour All-American roster.
• Emmanuel Moore – 6-0, 190, WR, Northwest High, Justin, Texas
Two-star receiver committed to North Texas back in September, but is visiting KU this weekend, according to Rivals.com. KU and UNT are his only offers as of now but he also has received interest from Minnesota and SMU.
• Tyler Moore – 6-4, 300, OL, North Shore High, Galena Park, Texas
Three-star center has multiple offers from some big time programs including BYU, Minnesota, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana Tech and Oregon State. Moore plans to graduate in December and would be free to report to his new school in time for spring practices.
• Jace Sternberger – 6-4, 225, D-End, Kingfisher (Oklahoma) High
Two-star prospect has offers from KU, New Mexico, Sam Houston State and South Dakota and also received interest from Kansas State, Memphis, Oklahoma State and Tulsa. Known as a good all-around athlete. Also plays tight end.
• Kevin Thomas – 6-2, 180, WR, DeSoto (Texas) High
Three-star wide receiver committed to KU in July after receiving a dozen offers from schools including Clemson, Nebraska, Wake Forest and Wisconsin. Big, physical wideout remained committed throughout the coaching change and is regarded by some as one of KU's top targets in the current class.
• Ryan Willis – 6-4, 201, QB, Bishop Miege
Three-star pro-style QB committed to Kansas in May and stayed strong throughout another rough season and a change in leadership. After throwing for 3,000 yards and 30 TDs as a junior, Willis followed that up with another 3,000-yard season and 35 TDs in leading the Stags to a state title this season. He completed 64 percent of his passes. Willis met with Beaty earlier this week and came away impressed by the new coach's energy and passion for KU.
Wednesday night's 75-70 victory over Georgetown in Washington D.C., sure seemed like the most entertaining KU game of the year so far.
It featured two teams that each threw five guys onto the floor at pretty much all times who competed their butts off on every possession, for points, rebounds, loose balls and floor burns.
I'm sure for fans of both teams, there were plenty of moments when you wanted to pull your hair out or pound the table, but if you're just a college basketball fan and you flipped the TV to Fox Sports 1 last night, I'm guessing you were wildly entertained from start to finish.
For the Jayhawks, the game featured a little bit of everything – tough play, solid defense, three-point shooting and easy buckets at the rim. It also included a couple of tough moments in which the Jayhawks (7-1) were forced to withstand a couple of storms from the Hoyas and the home crowd.
I know KU fans expect the Jayhawks to win every time they hit the floor, but it's time to take a moment to appreciate what this team has done during the past couple of weeks. Victories over Rhode Island, Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown would make a pretty good tournament resume come March. The fact that KU won these games consecutively and so early in the season shows you just how talented this group could be by the end of the season.
For me, Wednesday's victory was not just about Brannen Greene going bananas from downtown to lead the Jayhawks to victory. It was about the Jayhawks' ability to respond. It seemed like every time Georgetown threw a punch, the Jayhawks threw one back and regained control of the game. After watching their 13-point first-half lead disappear, KU responded with a strong finish to the half when Frank Mason drove hard to the rim in the waning seconds and hit a tough layup to put Kansas up two at the break. Later, after Georgetown tied the game at 58 with a three-pointer, Mason immediately answered on the other end with a three-pointer to put KU ahead again. And, of course, there was the stretch early in the second half when the Hoyas built a three-point lead and looked to be on the brink of taking control only to see KU respond with a Greene three-pointer, a tough defensive stand and another Greene trey in the next three trips. Those were just a few examples of how KU showed its resolve all night. And that could have been, by far, the most important thing this young team gained from its latest victory.
Three reasons to smile
1 – How about KU's three-point shooting? Led by Greene's 5-of-5 showing, the Jayhawks finished 10 of 17 from downtown, with five different players knocking down at least one shot from behind the arc. Consistent and quality three-point shooting has been missing for Kansas during the past couple of seasons, and, at least lately, this team has shown it has the ability to light it up from the outside in its arsenal.
2 – Overall, I thought KU's defense was pretty good. Frank Mason played one of his best defensive games of the season — all on a bum ankle — and the Jayhawks held Georgetown to 40 percent shooting, 39 percent in the second half. Georgetown's starting back court shot just 4-of-17 from the floor and the Hoyas coughed it up 16 times while Kansas out-rebounded the physically imposing home team by two. KU also swiped nine steals by five different players and many of those led to transition opportunities, which should be a huge part of the winning recipe for a team this deep, athletic and talented.
3 – Perry Ellis did not lead the Jayhawks in scoring, but he sure was fantastic. He finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards in 39 minutes and shot just 4-of-15 from the floor, but was aggressive all night and just missed on so many shots that would've turned that pointed total into 25 in a hurry. What's more impressive is that played all those minutes and grabbed all those boards while fouling just once. Ellis also added three steals and two blocks to his stat line and his minutes, boards and smaller stats more than made up for the missed shots.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Whether it's been a six-point lead, a 10-point lead or the 13-point lead we saw in the first half against Georgetown, the Jayhawks have shown an ability to get complacent at times and watch control of the game slip away. Clearly, KU was able to grind this one out, but there's no way that a 28-15 lead in the first half should have been 34-32 at the break. Turnovers, missed shots and Georgetown waking up all contributed to the slip, but this team still needs to learn how to turn that 13-point advantage into a 20-point lead while going for the knockout blow instead of allowing the opponent to crawl back into it. A lot of that comes from leadership and experience, both of which are works in progress on this roster.
2 – The Jayhawks made just eight field goals in the second half and shot 33 percent for the half and 38 percent for the game. A big reason for that was Ellis' 11 misses and a big reason it didn't kill them was the red-hot three-point shooting and 32 trips to the free throw line. Five of KU's eight second-half field goals were three pointers and the Jayhawks made 20 of 24 free throws in the second half. Even though they survived, though, the poor shooting in the second half is worth noting because it — along with those three-point tries — points to KU still struggling a little to get good shots in its halfcourt offense.
3 – Brannen Greene was celebrated from coast to coast for the way he shot the ball and he definitely should've been, but imagine what the guy could do if he played just a little better defense and didn't foul quite so easily. There's still time for improvement in both of those areas, and, if it comes, Greene's 18 minutes against Georgetown could easily have turned into 25 or more and there's no telling what kind of point total that would've led to the way he was shooting the ball.
One for the road
KU's hard-fought road win in the nation's capital...
• Extended its win streak to six-straight games.
• Made the Jayhawks 7-1 for the second time in the last three seasons and the seventh time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
• Improved Kansas’ lead in the all-time series with Georgetown to 3-1.
• Kept Self unbeaten against Georgetown (3-0) and made him 332-70 at Kansas and 539-175 overall.
• Improved KU's all-time record 2,133-823.
The Jayhawks return to the area this weekend and will take on No. 13 Utah at 2:15 p.m. at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Utes (6-1) are off to one of the best starts in school history and figure to be yet another solid challenge in a stretch of tough games for Kansas.
New KU football coach David Beaty on Monday made it clear that he understood the challenges he was stepping into by taking the job to lead the Jayhawks in 2015 and beyond.
Although the list is long and includes everything from production on the field to mending fences off of it, it seems one of the best places to get a clear look at Beaty's biggest challenge is by scanning the potential depth chart heading into the 2015 season.
Gone are 21 seniors, many of whom played key roles — especially on defense — on this year's team and during the past few seasons, as well. In some areas, there are obvious options to replace them. In others, the question of "Who's next?" is a little tougher to answer.
Several weeks ago, Tom Keegan looked at KU's Top 10 returning players but did so from a 1-through-10 perspective. All of those guys will be on the list you're about to read, as well, but instead of a Top 10, I'll give you a Top 22, as in an incredibly early look at a starting 11 on both sides of the ball for the 2015 season.
There's no doubt this will change between now and September. Heck, it'll probably change between now and February and again by the start of spring practice sometime in March. But it never hurts to look ahead and, in doing so, I think you'll see that Beaty is inheriting a team with some significant returning talent but an alarming lack of depth.
Most of this is based on the guys who have experience, which, for now, is as important a factor as anything. We'll get into the guys who could knock them off — think defensive lineman D.J. Williams, incoming cornerback Michael Mathis and a couple of other guys like that — in future blogs.
Also for the sake of this blog, we'll assume the Jayhawks are going to go with the same base defense they used this year.
Here we go...
QB – Michael Cummings – Freshman-to-be Ryan Willis will be an intriguing option here, but Cummings earned the right to be the man to beat with his play this season.
RB – Corey Avery – De'Andre Mann is also back and both should be better than they were this season.
LT – Larry Mazyck – With another offseason to work on his skills and his body, the big man could be a nice option here.
LG – Joe Gibson – Filled in well at Center this season, but should be able to transition to guard with no problem.
C – Jacob Bragg – He doesn't have any experience, but guys kept mentioning his name.
RG – Junior Visinia – Picked up some incredibly valuable experience down the stretch and should only get better.
RT – Jordan Shelley-Smith – I really think this guy is going to be solid for a couple of years.
TE – Ben Johnson – Filled in nicely for Mundine from time to time and brings similar athleticism and good hands.
WR – Nigel King – The unquestioned No. 1 option on this team. His chemistry with Cummings should be a big advantage.
WR – Tre' Parmalee – It's possible one of the young guys beats Parmalee out, but he's a solid route runner and a reliable option who's been out there plenty.
WR – Kent Taylor – I always heard the transfer from Florida was best out wide and I don't think it's a stretch for him to transition to WR with Johnson holding down the TE spot.
BUCK – Ben Goodman – The move to the interior was not one that should stick. Time to put him back at his natural position.
NT – Andrew Bolton – After a slow start, he had some very good moments during the second half of the season.
DT – T.J. Semke – This is a prime spot where you could see an upgrade, but I guarantee you Semke's not going to give up the job easily.
SE – Kapil Fletcher - Damani Mosby and Anthony Olobia also could factor in here, but Fletcher was the only one of the trio who actually played in 2014.
WLB – Courtney Arnick – He quietly had a solid season and fits the mold of the modern-day Big 12 linebacker.
MLB – Jake Love – Filled in for Heeney whenever he needed to and, at times, was just as effective. Don't forget about Kyron Watson or Joe Dineen in these spots.
CB – Matthew Boateng – Thrown to the wolves as a true freshman, Boateng showed some good things early and should be ready for a bigger role.
CB – Michael Mathis – Ronnie Davis, Colin Spencer and a couple other guys could be options here, as well, but I've heard nothing but good things about Mathis and his spring semester arrival should make him ready to go by September.
FS – Isaiah Johnson – Back for a third season, he will be counted on to be more like the 2013 Johnson than the 2014 Johnson.
SS – Fish Smithson – Solid, physical player should step right in for Cassius Sendish.
NB – Tevin Shaw – Shared time here with Greg Allen (a possible candidate to move to cornerback) and showed good toughness and improved coverage skills.
It can be tough to condense 45 minutes of emotion, one-liners, laughs and handshakes into a few words, but newly named KU football coach David Beaty made it easy.
Before we go on, let me remind you that there is no way of knowing how Beaty's time at Kansas will turn out. Will he be the guy who turns the program around? Perhaps. Does he have the skills to make the leap from college assist to head coach? We'll soon find out. Can he attract the right people — both coaches and players — to bring change to a program in desperate need of a new direction? We will not know the answer to that until we see what happens on Saturdays next fall.
But what we do know — and this we learned in a mere four days since hearing that Beaty would be KU's next coach — is that the new KU coach is an honest man who prefers hard work above all else and would rather show you and prove to you that things are different than stand up in front of you and talk about it.
That much was obvious from his introductory news conference Monday morning, as Beaty talked about all of the things that led him to this point — both in football and in life — and emphasized all of the places he wants this program to go in the future.
He made no promises about results or wins or statistics or milestones. Instead, he focused only on the things he could control — work ethic, operating the right way, recruiting quality athletes, bringing in hungry coaches.
It was enough to impress just about anyone at any school, but, so often, that's what these press conferences are about. We've seen it plenty of times before around here, but rarely with the sincerity behind what Beaty showed on Monday.
What you saw on Monday morning was the real David Beaty, warts and all. He said Texas a couple of times when he meant to say Kansas. (And later cringed over it when his wife, Raynee, pointed it out). He offered his “condolences” to the search committee for having selected him — something that could have been taken as an intentional, dead-panned joke or an accidental slip — and he repeated words a few times throughout his news conference. In short, he delivered a genuine look at who he is and how he operates. And, at least from where I sat, I found the mishaps and hiccups refreshing.
You've heard the phrase “winning the press conference” uttered time and time again. And, although there is some skill involved in doing that, it really isn't that tough to do. Prepare a well-thought-out speech. Deliver it with confidence. Appeal to all of the aspects of your new school that get the fans fired up. Repeat as needed.
Winning what comes after the press conference — quarters, halves, games and championships — is what Beaty seems more interested in, and yet he made no promises in that area either.
Instead, he said he would do everything in his power to send next year's senior class out with a special season. He did not say anything about a bowl victory. He did not talk about winning the Big 12. He only said he would commit all he had to that group of seniors and inspire the rest of the team to follow his lead. Whatever that brings, it brings.
That's the best part about KU's new head football coach. He does not appear to be a guy who is interested in trying to be somebody or something he's not. After the press conference, I asked Beaty to recall the toughest question thrown his way during the interview process. His answer only emphasized the kind of guy we're dealing with and the kind of person he seems to be.
“One of the toughest questions for me, because I don't look at it this way and this is where I have a hard time; my vision is so focused on the positive that I just don't look at negatives. I won't allow myself. The hardest question was, 'What do you see as the challenges?' And, the thing is, every day, for some people, is a challenge. And then for others, and this is gonna sound cliché, but, for others, every day is an opportunity. And that's how it is for me. I do a front hand-spring out of bed every day.”
“Some of those things sound crazy,” he continued. “But they roll off my tongue because that's who we are.”
Whether Beaty wins or winds up being the right guy for Kansas is up for debate and will not be determined for some time. But he's got the right mindset to get the job done. And, for the first time in half a dozen years, it matches the mindset that led KU to the 2008 Orange Bowl.
With that established, it's now time to see what he can do.
KU fans joked across Twitter that newly named football coach David Beaty deserved at least some of the credit for inspiring the Jayhawks' comeback victory over Florida at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, and why not?
Until Beaty took the floor at halftime to say hello to the KU fan base, the Jayhawks (6-1) looked pretty awful in falling flat and behind by 15 to the Gators as the teams entered the locker room at halftime.
Of course, there's no doubting that Bill Self and what he said to the KU players during the break had more than a little to do with the Jayhawks' roaring comeback, but most of Friday belonged to Beaty and if KU fans are half as kind to the new coach when football season rolls around, the program might actually be headed somewhere positive.
Until then, there's a whole lot of basketball left to be played and if the Jayhawks more often look like the team they were in the second half and less like the team that sputtered up and down the floor in the first, there figure to be some great days ahead in the immediate future.
Coming off of a pretty solid showing in the Orlando Classic, I wondered how the Jayhawks would respond against a tough Florida team and an even tougher coach in Billy Donovan. Initially, things looked good and the Jayhawks stormed out of the gates and to an early lead. But Florida kept fight, kept its composure and then put a heck of a scare into Kansas. It might not have been much fun for KU fans while it was going down, but that might go down as one of the best things to happen to this team. They played well in Orlando and looked good doing it. That wasn't the case for the full 40 minutes on Friday, but these guys now know they can fight back and pull themselves out of trouble. Being down by 18 at home early in the second half probably qualifies as a little more than “trouble,” and you can bet that Self and the veterans on this club will make sure every player on the roster remembers exactly how that felt so they won't find such
Three reasons to smile
1 – Wayne Selden got back on track in a big way and did it with what Self called “real points.” Selden looked to be in as much of a zone as I remember seeing him in since he lit up Oklahoma in Norman last season and he scored from inside and outside with the look of a guy who knew success was coming. It was only a matter of time for Selden to get going again and now that he has, maybe he'll be able to play with an ever clearer head the rest of the season. One thing to note about Selden's big scoring night, though: He finished with zero rebounds, one assists, one block and zero steals. At least when he wasn't shooting it well, he was still contributing in other areas. And I thought it was interesting that his game against the Gators was almost all about scoring. Something to keep an eye on.
2 – What can you say about the fight the Jayhawks showed in the second half? They were intense, hungry, passionate and, well, just better. The players fed off of each other's energy and seemed to really ramp it up after each made bucket or each forced turnover. The fans were fantastic in doing their part to help the cause and the whole thing was pretty impressive to watch.
3 – KU's free throw shooting was fantastic. And the way Florida closed the game, the Jayhawks needed every one of them. Four guys missed just one or no free throws, led by Cliff Alexander's 8-of-8 showing and Devonte' Graham's 9-of-10 clip. Not bad for a couple of freshmen in clutch moments.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – On a night when the building was as fired up as it had been all season and a day when KU named a new football coach, the Jayhawks struggled to match that intensity in the first half. After a decent start, they shut it down and looked slow, sluggish and disinterested, which probably had a little something to do with the way Florida was taking it to them. KU responded with incredible energy in the second half — and the Fieldhouse faithful continued to urge the Jayhawks on — so the first-half funk is not reason to panic.
2 – KU coughed it up nine times in the first half and almost all of them were simply careless mistakes. The Jayhawks telegraphed passes, were lazy with the basketball and, perhaps worst of all, seemed to really try to press after making a mistake. They cleaned it up considerably in the second half, but their first-half issues were a good reminder that this is still a young team learning how to play for Self and how to play together.
3 – I hate to keep picking on the guy, but somewhere along the line, Jamari Traylor lost his confidence and that is really affecting his play. Against Floriday, Traylor missed two easy shots, committed two pretty bad turnovers and played his second lowest number of minutes (15) this season. It's not just that Traylor has lost confidence that's a concern. It's the fact that (a) he's still too important to this team to sit completely and (b) you can really see that every little mistake he makes bugs the heck out of him and that seems to add to the problem.
One for the road
KU's spirited come-from-behind win over the Gators...
• Made Kansas 6-1 or better for the third-straight season and 10th time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at KU.
• Gave Kansas a 1-1 record in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with both games against Florida.
• Made Kansas 4-2 all-time versus Florida.
• Made Kansas 3-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 178-9 in AFH under Self and 717-109 all-time in the venue.
• Improved Self to 331-70 while at Kansas, 538-175 overall and 2-1 all-time against Florida.
• Made KU 2,132-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks continue their stretch of tough games, when they travel to Georgetown on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff with the Hoyas. The game will be shown on FOX Sports 1.
When I woke up this morning, I figured it would be just another normal day on the Kansas University coaching search trail. The hire seemed to be at least a few days away and my objective was to call some more sources and find out what people were hearing and/or talking about.
I should've known my day would be a little different when I woke up to a carton of ice cream in the sink and a note from my wife that said, “You put the ice cream back in the fridge last night.”
As I mentioned on Tuesday in my daily coaching search blog, Texas A&M assistant coach David Beaty was the name I produced most often when asked back in September and October who I thought would be the next head coach of the KU football program.
The reasons are plenty and have been well documented both on this site and throughout the Internet. Beaty has a great reputation as a top-notch recruiter and his ties to the Texas high school scene are as impressive as just about anyone's.
That should help him not only upgrade the talent at Kansas but also could aid him as he tries to put together a coaching staff up to the challenge of turning KU around.
As we moved through the process and learned about the criteria that would determine which candidates had a real shot and which didn't, it seemed like Beaty was an obvious name to keep at or near the top of the list.
He's been at Kansas in both good and bad times, so he knows the lay of the land and, like former KU interim coach Clint Bowen, has seen what works and what does not. I think that's huge and will allow Beaty to move forward quickly without having to waste much time getting that figured out. It's a process than can take as much as a year or two for most coaches and, although there will still be things Beaty sees for the first time — especially considering this is his first time holding down such a big-time position — his ability to lean on past experiences should help make any growing pains very minimal.
Beaty's was a name that checked several of the right boxes long before the end of the season arrived and the search ever officially began. There's no doubt that Beaty was on the KU radar from the moment Charlie Weis was fired and he most likely never left his perch of strong contender.
Several people I spoke with today said Beaty was very impressive during his phone interview this week. He must have been for the in-person interviews to go up in smoke, and I would think that's a good sign for the strength of this hire. Rather than merely impressing one guy, Beaty impressed an entire committee. One source told me there was not a single person on the committee who doubted Beaty after hearing his plan for how to lead the KU football program.
As I outlined this morning, that plan likely included detailed plans about his coaching staff, recruiting — both in Texas and Kansas — general offensive and defensive philosophies and ways to close the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12 Conference.
It's a tall task for anyone to undertake and, for no other reason than that, you have to tip your cap to Beaty, 44, for being willing to take it. Sure, it's a promotion. Sure, it's a raise. But it was both of those things for Turner Gill, Charlie Weis and Terry Allen and things did not wind up working out too well for those three.
Overall, though, I like the hire. I think Beaty has a chance to put together a great staff and I think his energy, age and enthusiasm will be big assets for KU in this latest rebuilding project. If what I'm hearing about Beaty's salary range is accurate — base around $800,000 with incentives added on to that — I like the hire even more because it will (a) leave KU with more money to help him hire a killer staff and (b) keep him hungry.
Who cares what other schools pay or what other coaches make? This isn't a popularity contest. A lot of places it is. But Kansas cannot afford to have that mentality. It needs guys who can coach football and recruit talent and it should pay them what they're worth not what they want the job to be.
David Beaty is a well-respected guy — even if he's not a big name — and I don't think he'll have any trouble gaining the respect of the players, the KU athletic department and, ultimately, the fan base. The reason? He's a likable dude and it will not take people long to see that.
10:48 a.m. Update:
It looks like the timeline for the the KU coaching hire has moved up drastically and, according to multiple sources, an announcement could come as soon as this afternoon.
It looks as if Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach David Beaty has emerged as the clear leader for the job and may be named the 38th coach in KU history as soon as this afternoon.
According to a source, the KU assistant coaches were asked to leave the football complex today because someone of some importance was coming through later. According to online flight tracking, there is a plane en route to Lawrence from College Station, Texas.
Beaty was believed to be a strong candidate throughout the process, with his recruiting ties in Texas and past experience at KU giving him two important qualities for the job based on what KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger outlined as key factors before the search fully began.
Beaty, 43, worked on the staff of Mark Mangino at Kansas from 2008-09 and for one year under Turner Gill in 2011.
According to USA Today, he made $359,500 at A&M in 2013. He is expected to make at least twice as much as that plus incentives at KU.
Stay tuned for more updates as this story develops.
Original post, 9:39 a.m.:
It's Friday, and we've now had a full week of coaching search speculation and banter while Kansas University athletic director Sheahon Zenger has had a full week to conduct phone interviews and narrow down his list of candidates to replace Charlie Weis.
From what I've been able to gather, it sounds like this thing is close to wrapping up but that does not necessarily mean there's a clear No. 1 or No. 2 choice, just that they've done a fair amount of narrowing down candidates and are in position to conduct final interviews and use those to make their decision.
I think it's safe to say that between 7-12 coaches (perhaps one or two more) went through phone interviews with Zenger and members of the search committee this week — a couple are probably still doing that today — and I'm guessing that four or five of those will get an in-person interview, which could begin as soon as Sunday night but most likely will take place Monday and Tuesday.
There appears to be the sense that this thing could wrap up even before next Friday, but that, of course, depends upon how the in-person interviews go and assumes that no other new candidates join the party. It's hard to know whether that will happen, but it certainly could. As I was told from the beginning, the search committee would not be opposed to 11th-hour interest, provided it came from the right candidate.
It seems Clint Bowen, David Beaty, Tim Beck and Ed Warinner will get interviews. That has been reflected in the percentage wheel throughout this process. I still think there could be another serious contender or two involved here, but I've had a hard time pinpointing who that might be. If that's the case, it's most likely a sitting head coach, but my money would be on it being a name we might not have heard much, if at all, during the past week. In short, I don't think it's Willie Fritz, Bo Pelini, Jerry Kill or any of those other names you've all heard throughout this process.
I'm still working the phones to try to see if any of my sources have heard any other names pop up, so stay tuned throughout the day for updates, if available.
While we wait, let's look at a few of the factors that I think will be crucial during the interview process and probably already were during the round of phone interviews. Generally speaking, the second interview becomes an extended version of what already took place over the phone. I heard the phone interviews were around an hour, but you can bet the in-person interviews will be three times that long, if not longer.
• One thing I think the committee will really want to hear is who each candidate believes it can bring in as part of its coaching staff. This, obviously, is not a guarantee, but it's pretty common for guys who have head coaching aspirations to have an idea of who they'd like to have on their staff and many of them have even had conversations with these guys in the past. Something like, 'Hey, if I were to get this job or that job would you come with me as my OC?' They don't have to have signed contracts at the ready during the interviews, but I think one of the advantages of having a committee here is that you get several different opinions and reads on how confident a candidate is in the staff he could put together based on how he tells you who it might be.
• Another huge aspect is each coach's recruiting plan. This goes beyond just saying, “We'd hit Texas pretty hard” and stuff like that, and includes information on the types of kids and players they'd go after along with the crucial territories and any plans for how to make recruiting Kansas a priority and how to handle walk-ons.
• The committee also is going to want to hear about general football philosophies. For example, if a guy comes in and talks about running a pro style offense, he probably won't be seen in the most favorable light. But this step goes beyond just talking about offensive and defensive schemes. The committee also will want to hear how each candidate plans and expects to compete as a heavy underdog in a tough conference and how they would plan to narrow the gap between KU and the rest of the Big 12.
• Another important element of the interview could be to provide a detailed plan for how practices would be run. Again, the candidates probably won't have to go as far as drawing up a complete daily practice schedule — though that probably wouldn't hurt and a couple of guys probably will — but the committee surely will want to hear how practices will be run, what the tone of practices will be like and those on the committee familiar with how things ran under Turner Gill and Weis surely will compare what they hear in interviews to what they saw during the past four or five seasons. Clearly, what's been done in the recent past hasn't worked.
Don't get me wrong, I think the interviews will be very important because they'll allow the committee to get a real, live feel for the confidence, comfort-level and charisma of each candidate. But I don't think this is a deal where a guy can win the job simply by hitting a home run in the interview.
If this committee has done its job, which it seems is the case, then its members have talked to all kinds of people about each one of the candidates and done extensive background checks on each of them, involving everything from football to family to philosophy.
I think that may be why this search has gone at the pace that it has. After back-to-back swings and misses with the past two head coaches, they cannot take anything for granted this time around. And that has way more to do with the overall good of the program and the university than it does just for Zenger and his future.
Having said all of that, my latest percentage wheel has not changed much at all from yesterday morning. I know people expect Warinner to move up on my list, but, even with him coming in for an interview, I'm leaving him where he's been all along for now based on what I've been hearing.
If there's an 11th-hour candidate, that will certainly change things, but, as of now, it seems like Bowen and Beaty are the front-runners and pretty close at the top. It could come down to the interviews and whether Beaty gets an offer. If he does, I think he takes it. If not, I think it's Bowen.
Here's a look:
1. Clint Bowen 34%
1. David Beaty 34%
3. Other 22%
4. Ed Warinner 5%
5. Tim Beck 5%
Stay logged on to KUsports.com throughout the day for any news or updates that may come our way…
1:44 p.m. update:
There was a Tweet out there — isn't there always? — that said that the KU job had been offered to Ohio State assistant coach Ed Warinner.
I talked to plenty of sources today, both before and after the Tweet, who said no offer has been made and that KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger and the search committee were still in the process of trimming down their list and identifying the finalists.
Warinner may very well be in that group and there have been reports that said he was one of the guys who participated in the phone interview with members of the committee this week, but reports of an offer having been made to anybody are definitely premature.
I've been told from the very beginning that Warinner would likely get a chance to interview. That has not changed and he may well be one of the final few guys who gets a face-to-face interview with Zenger and company next week. Time will tell.
Stay tuned for the latest from the search, which is starting to catch some heat given how quickly Florida and Nebraska filled their openings. None of that should matter to KU, though, other than in the obvious way that the openings at Colorado State and Oregon State could impact what KU's doing.
Original post: 9:30 a.m.
It's a little early for an update but I was able to get on the phones a little quicker today and found out a few interesting tidbits that might impact the KU coaching search.
The first has to do with Texas A&M offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle recently interviewed for the head coach opening at Tulsa, which is his hometown.
The news of Spavital's interview was first reported by KRIV-TV and confirmed by the Tulsa World.
According to a couple of people I've talked with, it sounds very likely that Spavital will get that Tulsa job, which, obviously, would leave open the OC job at A&M. That's where things get interesting for Kansas and for two very different reasons.
If Spavital leaves, one could make a case for Beaty being the obvious choice to replace him as the Aggies OC and that could come with a significant raise and be enticing enough to make him pull his name from contention for the KU job.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if Spavital leaves and A&M coach Kevin Sumlin chooses to put someone other than Beaty into the OC job, it would open up some questions as to why Beaty was passed over a second time for that OC job. When talking about Beaty as an option for the KU job, many have said it would be hard enough to envision KU hiring someone who's not even a current coordinator, but wouldn't the hire be even more difficult to sell with a guy who keeps getting passed up?
It's things like this that make the whole timeline of this hire very critical. The more these other moves happen around KU, the more possible it is that they impact the KU job. That's not to say each instance has a direct effect on what KU is actually doing, but, in the coaching world — especially as far as the fans and media are involved — perception is almost as important as reality.
And it's things like this that leave me believing Clint Bowen still has a very good shot of getting this job.
Here's a look:
1. Clint Bowen – 38%
2. David Beaty – 30%
3. Other – 23%
4. Ed Warinner — 5%
5. Tim Beck — 4%
Stay logged on to KUsports.com for more updates throughout the day.