Posts tagged with Ku Football
When Charlie Weis was fired on Sept. 28 and this whole Kansas University football coaching search first got rolling — the third such endeavor by KU since 2009 — there was one name that I always used to answer the question, “So who's gonna be the next coach?”
It might be time to put that name back at the top of the list.
Based on what I learned from a handful of conversations I had throughout the day Tuesday, I'm elevating Texas A&M assistant coach David Beaty to the No. 1 spot in my percentage wheel.
Here's a look:
1. David Beaty – 37%
2. Clint Bowen – 25%
3. Other – 16%
4. Justin Fuente – 10%
5. Tim Beck – 7%
6. Ed Warinner – 5%
As you already know — and many of you have so kindly pointed out — this does not mean Beaty is absolutely the guy or even in the lead or anything like that. The percentage wheel merely keeps tabs on what I think might happen and it's sounding a little more likely by the day that Beaty could be the guy the Jayhawks wind up with as the 38th head coach in program history.
If that's the case, the Jayhawks certainly would be making a solid hire.
I knew Beaty briefly during both of his stints as the KU wide receivers coach — once under Mark Mangino (2008-09) and again in 2011 under Turner Gill — and I liked everything about the guy.
He's a good guy. He's genuine. There's not an ounce of phoniness to him and he has incredible people skills, with the ability to relate to people from all walks of life, from a 16-year-old three-star recruit to a 72-year-old millionaire donor and everyone in between. He's one of those guys who seems to call everyone “partner” and finds a way to make them like it when he does. Some might even say he's the Texas version of Bill Self, personality-wise at least.
His recruiting ties throughout Texas are already well documented — he's a native of Garland, Texas and worked at four different Texas high schools from 1994-2005 — but it's probably worth noting that he has the deepest ties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which has been a hotbed for Kansas during the past decade and definitely will continue to be so into the future.
Beaty owns a highly intense personality, one that's rooted in down-home goodness and having fun. That's not to say he's a pushover. Not by any means. In fact, his receivers at Kansas always talked about how demanding he was and that he emphasized that they do all of the little things right — particularly with regard to blocking — and often did not accept anything less than perfection. At the same time, he respected them enough to make them feel appreciated and knew how to reward their solid efforts.
A lot has been made about Beaty being “the next Art Briles,” but that's a lot of pressure to put on one guy given the fact that many believe Briles is as good as they come in the college football coaching profession these days. The reason that probably comes up so often is because Beaty was a successful high school coach in Texas and followed that success to the college ranks, where he's done well both as a position coach and a recruiter.
One former Big 12 assistant I spoke to about Beaty said he believed without hesitation that Beaty was ready to make the leap to the head coach's office and added that if that's who the Jayhawks end up hiring they will have made a very quality hire.
In 2010, Beaty was the offensive coordinator at Rice and he held the co-offensive coordinator title during his second stint at Kansas under Gill while coaching wide receivers at both schools. He's been the A&M receivers coach for three years and is in his second season as A&M's recruiting coordinator.
It's possible there was some hope early on that KU might be able to convince Beaty to come to Lawrence as the offensive coordinator, but I'm betting A&M would step up and battle to keep him if that were the only offer on the table. If KU offers him the head coaching job, there's probably not much Kevin Sumlin could do to make A&M sound more appealing than that.
• As you can see, I've also added former Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck to the percentage wheel after being told not to sleep on the guy during this search and removed Matt Wells from the list.
• As for the one removal, I didn't hear much, good or bad, when asking around about Wells on Tuesday and I also noticed that Jon Kirby over at JayhawkSlant.com was planning to remove him from his board.
• I don't think Clint Bowen is done at this point. That's why he's still in the No. 2 spot on the percentage wheel. But his best shot right now seems to be if one or two other guys pass or remove themselves from contention. Let's say Beaty elects to stay at A&M (perhaps with a raise and a new title) and Fuente waits for a better job to come open to make his leap. If that were to happen, I think Bowen would be the guy.
• There's always the chance that someone new could enter the picture and that's why I've got "Other" up there so high still. All of that 11th hour talk that I heard on Sunday was pretty interesting.
• It's still early, but this thing seems to be moving pretty quickly. That makes sense because of all of that prep time Sheahon Zenger, Chuck Neinas and company had as the season played out and, it also makes sense because KU would be smart to move as fast as possible given the fact that big-time jobs Florida, Michigan and Nebraska are all open at the same time and what goes on there and the trickle-down effect that would follow could impact Kansas if they wait around too long.
Here's the latest info I'm hearing about the KU coaching search, which, without a doubt, has turned up a notch during the past several days now that the end of the 2014 season has arrived.
If you'll recall from previous interviews we did with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, this week is about phone interviews and lining up the list of finalists for what figures to be a serious few days next week.
No word on exactly how many guys will be involved in this week's phone interviews, but the safe guess is in the 12-15 range (probably no more than 20), with the ideal goal being to narrow that list down to 5 or so by the end of the week so things can get serious next week.
I've been told that there is a chance that new candidates could get involved at the 11th hour — many believed that's what happened with Weis, but Zenger told me at one point after Weis was hired that the former Notre Dame coach was on the radar from the outset during the last hire — but given the fact that Zenger, the search committee and consultant Chuck Neinas have had weeks to get their ducks in a row, it would have to be a pretty amazing candidate to get involved in this process so late.
Anyway, as I mentioned on Twitter, I spent a good chunk of Sunday on the phone talking to sources and trying to find out where this whole thing is at, and here's a few quick nuggets along with a little word association game with some of the more well-known names believed to be in the mix.
Take it with a grain of salt, because until we're able to hear from Zenger himself, there's no telling what's true and what's not, plus, as you've seen before, things can change in a hurry with these coaching searches.
• I've been told that there are a few players who are projected returning starters who would consider leaving KU if Clint Bowen is not hired as the head coach. Such threats pop up everywhere during almost every coaching transition and cooler heads often prevail, but this one may have legs given how passionate this roster is about playing for Bowen. It might not get to that, and even if it does, a few of these guys could change their minds. But the names I'm hearing are pretty significant players.
• There's so much talk out there about how much KU could and/or would pay for its next head coach and that dollar value is a little fluid. If the right guy came along, Zenger surely would look at paying a little more than is ideal. Similarly, if the right guy could be had for a bargain price, don't expect Zenger to overpay him just to make the job seem better than it is. That's exactly what happened with Turner Gill and it was a big-time mistake. He should've never been paid $2 million with resume. He likely would've come for half that, since his Buffalo salary was $450,000. All that said, I think the number Zenger would like to settle on is in the $800,000-$1 million range with some hefty incentives added in. There are a lot of good coaches who could be had for that price and, perhaps more importantly, setting it there could weed out some of the guys just looking for a money grab. Remember, Zenger is one of the lowest paid AD's in the Big 12 and that doesn't stop him from working as hard as the others.
• When word broke that Will Muschamp was out at Florida and Bo Pelini was out at Nebraska, KU fans — and many others — jumped on both names as potential hires for the Jayhawks. Don't count on it. I've been told that Muschamp's ties to Florida, which is where Kansas got Weis, hurt his chances, and, as of Sunday night, there had been no contact between Pelini and KU of any kind. That could change, of course, and, if Pelini were to show interest in the job, it seems KU would gladly have a conversation with him. Think of it as Bruce Weber being hired by Kansas State in basketball. A few years ago, when Weber had Illinois rolling and before Bob Huggins and Frank Martin breathed life into the KSU program, a guy like Weber would've never been within reach for the Wildcats. But things happened, the timing was right and K-State landed a solid coach they may not otherwise have had a shot to get. All that said, I'd bet against Pelini coming to KU, largely because of his less-than-friendly reputation and how that might go over with the fans and big donors.
• Along those same lines, and philosophically speaking, I don't think the fact that those guys were fired is what hurts their chances. Hiring a guy who recently was fired seems to be a non-issue with this search, provided it's the right guy.
• One last thing regarding Pelini and the Nebraska job…. The more openings like that the pop up the more the KU pool of candidates gets watered down. That's not to say that the Cornhuskers and Jayhawks would be going after the same guys — that's probably not the case at all — but let's say Nebraska hired a guy like Justin Fuente from Memphis or Scott Frost out of Oregon. The replacements for those guys could be in KU's pool and could impact the hire here. One thing KU has going for it in that regard is the timeline. I still think this thing will be wrapped up sometime next week given the fact that Zenger & Company have had the advantage of that nine-week headstart.
• OK.... Let's finish this update off with a little 10-words-or-less exercise on some of the guys believed to be in the mix. DISCLAIMER: Clearly, this is not everyone who might be involved in this process, just a few of the names who have been thrown around most often.
~ David Beaty – Texas ties have him very much in the hunt
~ Tim Beck – Some concern about what Pelini firing does to him
~ Clint Bowen – Definitely still in it and a likely finalist
~ Dana Dimel – Can't see it
~ Justin Fuente – Strong candidate. Heard there's interest both ways
~ Willie Fritz – Relevant this week but doubt he survives to next week
~ Jim Harbaugh – NFL teams trying to trade for him?
~ Jerry Kill – Too many factors point to no
~ Jim McElwain – $7.5 million buyout & interest from bigger schools
~ Chad Morris – SMU bound, for those who hadn't heard
~ Will Muschamp - He'll be a DC somewhere bigger & try again later
~ Bo Pelini - Could get involved late, but would he?
~ Ed Warriner – He'll get a chance to make his case
~ Matt Wells – Hot name but still a little green
• Finally, my first percentage wheel of the 2014 coaching search… This one's not easy, folks.
- Clint Bowen – 45%
- Other – 22%
- Justin Fuente – 13%
- David Beaty – 12%
- Matt Wells – 5%
- Ed Warinner – 3%
On a cold, blustery Wednesday afternoon at Memorial Stadium, the Kansas University football team went through its final Wednesday practice of the 2014 season.
Just two practices remain before Saturday's game at Kansas State, which will bring to a close another KU football season filled with a couple of close calls and more disappointment.
There was nothing disappointing about the start of Wednesday's practice, which featured a World Cup-esque penalty-kick shootout-style punting drill involving some of the most unlikely candidates.
Ben Heeney and Nick Harwell were the captains for their respective squads in the best-of-five contest and Heeney was allowed only to pick offensive starters and Harwell only defensive starters. From there, the two sides took turns fielding punts from the mechanical punter to see which side could pick up the most grabs.
First up were Tony Pierson for Team Heeney and Dexter McDonald for Team Harwell. Pierson, as he's done several times throughout his playing days, dropped back and smoothly corralled the ball as it fell into his arms. McDonald, despite hearing from teammates how the pressure was on, followed suit and both teams were on the board.
Next up Jimmay Mundine for Team Heeney and Courtney Arnick for Team Harwell. Mundine also made his grab look smooth and Arnick, though under it in time, bobbled his try and watched it fall to the ground. 2-1, Heeney.
Now's when the fun really began. Next up: offensive lineman Junior Visinia for Team Heeney and defensive lineman Tedarian Johnson for Team Harwell. As the ball soared through the air and tracked into Visinia's area, the big freshman stuck his two hands out and speared the ball like a pig at a luau. No points for style here. A catch is a catch, and Junior's grab got the team fired up.
Needing to match Visinia to keep things tied, Johnson ran way too far in on his while it was in the air and watched it soar 15 yards behind him when it came down. 3-1, Team Heeney.
With Team Harwell needing to win the next two just to draw even, offensive lineman Larry Mazyck squared off for Team Heeney against D-lineman Keon Stowers for Team Harwell. Mazyck looked smooth as all get-out as he made his way to the ball but may have been a little too smooth on the catch and it fell to the ground, keeping Team Harwell alive. Stowers, however, could not capitalize, as his “ole'” attempt at the floating punt came up empty. Team Heeney put this one away, 3-1, with one kick left on the board.
Naturally, the KU offense exploded with joy over the victory and then went into the meat of practice.
Here's what caught my eye from the rest of the time I was out there:
• New father DeAndre Mann was a full participant and ran plenty of reps with the first string. Mann's absence has hurt the Jayhawks a little lately in that it's left the bulk of the running duties in the hands of true freshman Corey Avery. Avery has done well, but that's quite a load to handle and Mann's size, maturity and style certainly would've helped the KU running game. Maybe Saturday will be the day he gets a little momentum back to take into the 2015 season.
• Former KU linebacker Brandon Perkins (2002-05) showed up to practice to surprise interim coach Clint Bowen and the attempt worked. Bowen lit up when he saw Perkins and immediately had memories of a five-sack game for Perkins against Louisiana Tech in 2005. When Bowen asked Perkins what he was doing in town, the former KU linebacker said, “I came back for you, coach.” Perkins ranks fourth on KU's all-time sacks list with 20.
• Call it a hunch, but look for T.J. Semke to make an impact in Saturday's game. Listed behind Stowers as a second-string nose tackle along with Andrew Bolton, Semke looked to have a little extra nastiness to him during Wednesday's practice and seems like the kind of guy who would do well in a game like Saturday's.
• Finally, KU will practice on Thanksgiving but will go in the morning so the players can spend the afternoon of the holiday with their friends and families. Several guys from out of state will either spend the day with their teammates who have families nearby or with members of the KU coaching staff.
With one game left in his KU career, senior linebacker Ben Heeney did something drastic to try to bring a little luck the Jayhawks' way…. He shaved his beard.
The bearded Heeney has been a fixture around KU football for the past couple of seasons and the Hutchinson native has been known as much for the look as his dominating play on the field.
Wednesday, at the final media session of the season, though, Heeney walked in with a fresh shave an evil-genius smile.
Heeney said this week was the first time half of his teammates had seen him without the beard and even shared stories of veterans having to do a double-take when they walked past him in the locker room.
"Everyone's been turning their head because they didn't expect it to happen," he said. "I just kind of want to play a game without it and see what happens. I'm not just a beard, I'm also a human being."
Heeney said he had some fun with the shaving session earlier this week and left various forms of mustaches and snapped pictures of those with his cell phone before saying goodbye to the facial hair for good — at least for now.
"It was kind of spur of the moment and I was just like, 'Man, it's not bringing any good luck,' so I just wanted to shave it off and play a game without it and see if it brings any luck. Everyone's always been so all-about it, I was just kind of like, 'All right, this isn't all I am.'"
Talk to a dozen people and you'll get a dozen different opinions on which direction the Kansas University football program should go with its coaching hire.
Check that, you'll probably get about two or three times that many because not only could you get a different name from each person, but you also could get a different list of what factors and elements should be most important.
Welcome to Sheahon Zenger's world.
For some folks it's the idea of recruiting Texas that means the most. These people like, maybe even love, Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and receivers coach David Beaty. And why not? The guy can walk into just about any high school in Texas and bust out a secret handshake or hug with one of the football coaches and, from there, he's got a automatic chance with the players he's going after.
Don't think that's important? Think again. That kind of relationship, which current KU receivers coach Eric Kiesau developed with Nigel King's high school coach, was the deciding factor in why King chose Kansas. King trusted his coach. His coach trusted Kiesau. And the Maryland receiver picked the Jayhawks and never looked back. That's worked out pretty well for both parties, don't you think?
For other people, recruiting Kansas and/or Oklahoma is just as important as Texas. And I don't disagree with that. You'll always want to get as many players out of the Lone Star State as you can, but, at Kansas, you're never going to get the best Texas has to offer. Ever. In Kansas and Oklahoma, your chances go up to get the cream of the crop from those states and you don't have to look that far back to see proof of that. James Holt, Chris Harris and Jake Laptad all came from Oklahoma. Jake Sharp, Kerry Meier, Mike Rivera, Darrell Stuckey and Ben Heeney all came from Kansas. Both states are important. So there's no need for this to be an all-Texas-all-the-time endeavor.
Whether you favor Beaty, Clint Bowen, Tim Beck or Willie Fritz or think that recruiting, player development or sincere connections with big-money donors are the most important jobs of a head coach, this thing is probably going to come down to four or five names that have a real shot at becoming KU's next coach.
I could sit here and draw up a list of 20 guys who have been talked about, considered, contacted or crossed off the list, but that would be a waste of time because many of those guys, although intriguing for one reason or another, were never really in the running.
See, searches like this often travel down two paths. The first and most obvious path is the road to finding the right guy. It's the most important thing on the plates of Zenger and the search committee and you can bet that 12-15 hours a day — phone calls, research, investigations, etc. — from any number of people involved are being spent on trying to pinpoint Mr. Right.
The other path is completely different and, although it does not end up in the home or office of the right guy, it often leads to that person. That's where a lot of those 20 or so names come into play and many of them came into play during the last search, as well. Remember when it was rumored that Zenger had met with former Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez during the search of 2011? It wasn't to see if he was interested in the job. It was instead to see what he thought about the KU program, what others had told him about Kansas and the Big 12 and an inquiry into what factors should be important. And before you go thinking that Alvarez's answers shaped Zenger's opinion, remember that this was just one example of a meeting like that and, therefore, it only had some impact into how Zenger proceeded.
Such conversations are crucial when you're trying to find a coach because Zenger has a much greater responsibility in this whole deal than just to pick the guy he likes. That's especially true this time around after Charlie Weis was shown the door. Zenger has to like the guy in order for him to have a chance, but, believe it or not, this time around it's just as important for others to like him to — committee members, current and former players, athletic department officials and donors alike.
The only way that Kansas is going to successfully rebuild its football program is by finding a leader that can take all of these elements and personalities into account and make all of them work and come together. The project is too daunting for one man — coach or AD — to do it alone. And the road is too rocky and fraught with pitfalls for anyone to expect that.
I think that's why Bowen seems to be the odds-on favorite right now. He's working with the advantage of being able to show concrete evidence of how successful he can be in some of these key areas. The players love him. The alumni is all-in. The product on the field has improved, Oklahoma and Baylor notwithstanding, and Zenger likes him. He would not have given him this chance if that weren't the case.
So, in Bowen, you've got a known commodity, a guy who plenty of people would support and a guy who, no question about it, would give his heart and soul to the program. Heck, he already has.
What the next two weeks or so are about is stacking candidates up against what you know you have in Bowen.
How does Candidate A compare to Bowen in recruiting philosophy and production? How does Candidate B compare to Bowen in player development? How does Candidate C compare to Bowen in ability to connect to people, donors, players and fans alike?
Such a scenario is rare in college coaching because, more often than not, the interim guy is not actually a candidate for the job, more just a guy who can land the ship before leaving town with the rest of the staff.
And because of that, coaching searches often produce a final pool of guys who have to be compared to one another in a guessing-game situation. If a school narrows its choice down to three guys, it has to pick the best of the bunch based on what it thinks it knows — and likes — about each guy. In KU's case currently, it can stack the strengths and weaknesses of the other finalists against what it absolutely does know about Bowen.
While that figures to be a good thing for Bowen, given the way his time as interim coach went and was received, it's an even better thing for Zenger and Kansas because it increases the odds that they'll get this one right.
The Kansas University football team was drubbed on the road by Oklahoma on Saturday and it seems safe to say that very few people really saw the 44-7 beat-down coming.
For one, KU had built a little momentum of late, knocking off Iowa State in dominating fashion and nearly upsetting No. 5 TCU a week later. Thinking the Jayhawks would win in Norman was a reach, but expecting them to be competitive, give OU a tough battle and keep that momentum moving in the right direction seemed fair. Even a couple of national writers in the press box prior to the game remarked to me about how they figured KU would easily cover the 28-point spread.
They didn't. Not even close, really, as OU's superior size and ability to adjust to the inclement weather proved to be way too much for KU to handle. The offense did nothing. The defense was blown off the ball over and over as OU freshman Samaje Perine rumbled to an NCAA record and a whole mess of school records and the game was pretty much over by halftime, making the second half a mere formality.
This game was ugly. The Jayhawks never got anything going on offense, struggled even worse on defense and just looked outmanned from start to finish. Some people will want to blame Bowen for this one and he certainly deserves his share of the blame, but this was a total team collapse and the outcome won't move the needle much when looking at whether Bowen is the right guy for the KU coaching job, in much the same way that last week's near-upset of No. 5 TCU did not end with a contract landing on Bowen's desk. It's the big picture that matters here — Bowen's vision for the program, plans to execute that and ability to coach players, rally the program and recruit to Kansas. Those things are all way more important than the outcome of any one game — good or bad — and that's why Bowen remains as strong of a candidate for the job today as he was before the beating at OU. His answers to those questions, and more, during the formal interview process will determine his fate.
Three reasons to smile
1 – These are tough to come by after an outing like that, but there was a play late in the game when senior Tony Pierson caught a short pass and appeared headed toward being knocked out of bounds with relative ease for a short gain. He wasn't. Pierson fought off the tackle, slipped past a couple more and turned it up the field for a first down. It was a rare highlight for the Jayhawks on Saturday and it didn't change a thing about the outcome. But it was a subtle reminder about the character and toughness of this senior class, which now has just one game left as a part of the KU football program. Expect a ton of emotion and heart like this to be on display next week in Manhattan.
2 – Freshman running back Corey Avery had a couple of really nice runs in this one and also caught a pass for one of KU's biggest gains of the day. It didn't matter for Saturday's game, but it definitely showed how fortunate KU is to have this guy coming back next season. Avery has been every bit as good as advertised and should only get better. It's not easy for a true freshman to handle so much of the load on a bad team, but Avery has done an admirable job and learned a lot during Year 1 of what figures to become a solid career.
3 – It's hard to know exactly what was going on because the sounds were muffled and I didn't get my own eyes or ears on the situation. But while we were conducting postgame interviews on Saturday, there was some commotion coming from what appeared to be the KU locker room. Lots of yelling, passion and even a little anger were the tone of what we heard and even though there was no way of telling whether it was KU players, coaches , both or even KU people at all who were responsible for all the noise, it was very evident that the Jayhawks were pissed about their play. That should not surprise anyone, but has to be nice for KU fans to hear, given that the tone of the postgame comments was more about moving forward and forgetting about what happened. If the sounds were from Jayhawks, it's clear that they took some time to vent before moving on.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Having an NCAA record set on you is bad enough, but having it done the way it was only makes it worse. Samaje Perine is a heck of a running back and he's got a bright future in the Big 12 and beyond. But most of the holes he ran through were enormous and I think you could conservatively say that most capable running backs in the country would've gained at least 250 yards running behind that same line and through those same holes. The record will live for a while and always be a part of NCAA history. How quickly KU can move past the mental hit of getting blown off the ball all day will determine how competitive they can be next weekend in Manhattan.
2 – KU's O-line play, which had taken a couple of steps forward during the past two weeks, took a major step back on Saturday. Credit OU's D-line and active front seven for a lot of that, but it was still very obvious that the KU O-line no showed. Michael Cummings had guys in his face all day long, the KU running game only had a few moments worth talking about and these guys looked vastly overmatched all day long. Their struggles severely hampered the KU offense and took three of the Jayhawks' best playmakers — receivers Nick Harwell and Nigel King and tight end Jimmay Mundine — almost completely out of the game.
3 – Even KU's punting game was a little rough in this one. Sure Trevor Pardula booted it 11 times for a 41-yard average, but he had one snap zip right through his hands (although the turnover didn't hurt KU) and another came dribbling back to him (which he responded to by fielding it well and bombing a kick). A big theme this season has been the fact that KU just can't make as many mistakes as its opponents because the Jayhawks' margin for error is so much smaller than everyone else. By this point in the season, bad weather or not, those types of mistakes can't be happening.
One for the road
KU's long afternoon in Norman, Oklahoma:
• Moved the Jayhawks to 579-597-58 all-time.
• Increased a streak of 16-straight losses to opponents ranked in the top-25.
• Prolonged streaks of 29 consecutive losses in true road games and 32 losses in games played away from Lawrence. Kansas’ last road win came at UTEP on Sept. 12, 2009.
• Also extended KU’s Big 12 Conference road losing streak to 25-straight league road games and 28 conference matches played away from Lawrence with the last victory occurring in Ames, Iowa on Oct. 4, 2008.
The Jayhawks will close out the 2014 season and the interim head coaching era of Clint Bowen with a 3 p.m. kickoff in Manhattan against Kansas State on Saturday. The Sunflower Showdown has been lopsided — both ways at different times — for a number of years and it's hard to know what exactly we're in for this weekend.
It's no secret that Kansas University quarterback Michael Cummings has been dealing with some kind of arm issue for the past few weeks, although you'd never know it from watching the guy play.
Series after series, play after play, Cummings has picked himself up off the turf, hustled back to the huddle and called the next play. Teammates occasionally check on him and ask how he's feeling. Junior wide receiver Nigel King said every time he or anyone else had asked Cummings if he was OK, the reply came quickly and usually was short-lived. “I'm OK, I'm OK,” King recalled Cummings saying during a recent game.
Cummings is not interested in focusing on himself or his well-being. He much rather would nod to show nothing's really wrong and move on to calling the next play and leading the offense.
After all, that's what he's here to do, and, pain or no pain, the guy is not about to give in to a little soreness while the opportunity of a lifetime is within reached.
Asked earlier this week how he was feeling physically, Cummings painted a genuinely sunny picture.
“I feel great today, actually,” Cummings said Wednesday afternoon before being asked how he felt a few days earlier. “Sunday was a little tough. Tuesday was a little tough only because we didn't lift on Tuesday.”
Against Iowa State, Cummings momentarily left the game with a right shoulder issue before returning to lead the Jayhawks to victory. Against TCU, the injury — or something like it — popped up again after Cummings plowed in for a one-yard touchdown run.
Despite taking a shot on the play, Cummings said he came away with no bad feelings about another quarterback draw being called in the future.
“If they're there, I'll run 'em,” Cummings said.
KU coach Clint Bowen, who called Cummings' physical toughness “underrated,” will be the first to tell you that, at this point in the season, if you've been playing for your team at all, you're going to be a little beat up. A lot of times, what separates those who become players and those who don't is the ability to play through that pain and continue to produce at a high level.
“If you're one of those guys that can't handle that, then college football is a rough business for you,” Bowen said. “And Michael is obviously proving week after week that he's a pretty tough guy, and you know you can count on him to go out there and battle through some of the discomforts that come with football.”
Cummings has done that and takes pride in it.
“I'm not walking around sore all day,” Cummings said. “I think it is just playing through pain. My shoulder was sore, but if they call a pass play, I have to hit it. If not, I need to be off the field. So if I'm out there I'm gonna do whatever the play calls me to do.”
From the minute he was named interim head coach of the Kansas University football program, on the same day former KU coach Charlie Weis was fired, Clint Bowen brought something to the program that previous head coaches couldn't — a deep and real connection to Lawrence.
That's not to say that Weis, Turner Gill, Mark Mangino and others did not appreciate Lawrence, enjoy living here or develop some kind of connection with the community. But it never came close to reaching the level that Bowen's has.
As you all know by now, Bowen grew up here. He played football at Lawrence High and KU, has been a Jayhawk for as long as he can remember and, perhaps most importantly, has no desire ever to leave. People know that. They also know that he can coach. And when you combine the two, you get the flood of support you've seen growing for Bowen day-by-day, week-by-week for the past couple of months.
I can't go a day or a place in this town right now without hearing somebody talk to me about Bowen and why he's the right guy for the job. It should be pointed out that most of these people are not qualified to hire a head football coach at a major university, but almost all of them are KU fans and it's those fans who will have a big role in helping KU football return to respectability, Bowen or no Bowen.
Some people just talk about their feelings. Others send emails and write letters or post their thoughts on social media sites. And still more have tried to think of ways to demonstrate their support for Bowen in a larger manner. One such way recently showed up at local bars Six Mile Tavern, in West Lawrence, and Louise's Downtown, on Mass Street.
Near the front of each establishment, hang giant banners that simply read “We Want Clint!” They may only be a couple of banners hanging at a couple of bars in town, but they speak for a lot of people and are merely the latest signs of support for the hometown candidate.
The KU administration is going to conduct a full and thorough search at season's end and it's absolutely the right thing to do. The last two hires went wrong and this one, for half a dozen different reasons, has to go right. So taking their time and making sure they get it right should be commended.
Besides, it's not like KU taking its time makes Bowen any less of a candidate or eliminates the overwhelming amount of support he already has received from the community. If anything, it might actually make that support swell.
Bowen will be in the mix. And he will get a legitimate chance to convince KU, beyond the recent results on the field, why he's the best choice for the job. Until then, don't be surprised if you see more banners like these popping up all over town.
They may be small steps, but, at least for a few moments in the past week, Kansas University football was relevant once again.
Don't get me wrong, I fully recognize that there are plenty of die-hard KU football fans who live and die (and most often agonize) with the ups and downs of the program and show up ready to support their team win, lose or draw.
To that group, the Jayhawks are always relevant. But I'm talking relevant to college football. I'm talking relevant in the sense that something crosses one's brain that makes college football fans everywhere go, 'Huh, Kansas. Look at that.'
Last week, the Jayhawks had at least two of those moments. The first and most obvious came on Saturday, when KU put a heck of a scare into No. 5 TCU and threatened to single-handedly shake up the entire college football playoff standings, at least for a week. Truth be told, the Jayhawks did that even in a 34-30 loss to TCU, which entered last week ranked fourth in the ever-important college football playoff standings and, by some time tonight, will know whether that close call with Kansas hurt them or not.
The Jayhawks had plays that popped up on SportsCenter and other highlight shows. The names you know well were kicked around nationally for a couple of minutes and, although it went down as just another L, the effort regained Kansas some national respect.
I figured that respect would come and go pretty quickly but then I read this rundown of the playoff standings from the folks at FOX Sports, who not only gave TCU some credit for holding off Kansas (inspired team, on the road, Big 12 foe, all that jazz) but actually sounded off about the coaching search currently under way here. It caught me off guard and when I read it I had to read it a second time to make sure what I saw was right. But it was. There in the third comment under No. 5 Baylor was mention from former college football great Charles Davis — one of a 13-man FOX panel designed to track the playoff progress — gave a shout-out to interim head coach Clint Bowen for a job well done.
Davis: “(Baylor) will benefit from TCU’s struggle at Kansas (give Clint Bowen the job, Kansas; he deserves it), and the 'TCU’s ahead of Baylor in the poll, but Baylor beat TCU head-to-head!' discussion gets quelled, at least for this week. Baylor’s schedule is catching up as they finish with all Big 12 games, including hosting Oklahoma State Saturday night on FOX.”
It might be a small mention and it certainly is not KU impacting the national scene the way the next head coach (whoever that will be) and athletic director Sheahon Zenger want, but it's infinitely better than the blowouts of the Turner Gill and Charlie Weis days and something that, short as it may have been, KU fans can hold onto and take pride in.
The Kansas University football team did not win Saturday's thrilling showdown with No. 5 TCU at Memorial Stadium, but you'd never know that from the reaction that came after it.
Smiles radiated, pride beamed and the Jayhawks walked, talked, looked and sounded like a real football team again. There was even an opportunity for interim head coach to blast the officials for a couple of interesting calls, but, true to the form he's had throughout this whole ordeal, Bowen paused, thought carefully and chose to take the high road.
It was a good move. Even if he didn't agree with the calls that went against his team, whining about them in the postgame press conference would have done nothing — not for the game, not for his candidacy for the full-time job and not for the attitude he's instilled in his team since taking over. That attitude, of course, focuses on one mindset and one mindset only: Work hard, be tough and worry only about the things you can control.
That recipe almost enabled the Jayhawks to pull an all-time upset against a TCU team vying to stay in the conversation for the first ever college football playoff. The Horned Frogs won, and that's all that mattered, particularly on a day when other top-tier teams struggled or lost. But it could be argued that it was the Jayhawks who came away from this one having gained the most.
Never has the support behind Bowen been greater. Interest in the program is headed in the right direction again. Fans of KU football are no longer embarrassed to call themselves that out loud.
Bowen had a lot to do with that, but to give him all of the credit for it would be wrong. He's the captain of the ship, but the guys with the oars are some pretty big time players with a lot of heart and pride. And most of them are pretty good at football, too.
TCU found that out first-hand on Saturday and left Lawrence feeling fortunate to have survived.
If it's football you want to talk about, Saturday's effort against a darn good TCU team proved that the Jayhawks might have a chance to be competitive in their two remaining games. That's something almost no one thought they could say a couple of weeks ago. But this team is tough, the offense is clicking and the defense is confident it can play with anybody. That alone should make for a fun couple of weeks. If it's the coaching search you're more interested in following, Saturday's game was relevant there, too. Bowen has proven he can coach. He took a group of guys who have done nothing but lose and made them winners. Maybe not on the scoreboard all that often, but they'll leave here with their heads up and remember this season much differently than it looked like they were going to. People realize that. People like that. And it's made a huge difference in the way a lot of people view Bowen as a candidate for the job.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – If the way Jimmay Mundine competed out there did not earn your respect, the guy must have done something to your family. Seven catches, 137 yards, a touchdown and a part of what seemed like 40 missed tackles. All while having a heck of a time. Mundine was sensational in this game and has been a huge part of the reason for the solid play turned in by QB Michael Cummings. His effort against a Top 5 team on top of all he already has done this season should put him in the lead for first-team all-Big 12 honors at tight end.
2 – Forget about Michael Cummings' statistics, let's talk about the young man's toughness. I counted three times where he walked off the field looking like he might not be able to continue, yet, each time he trotted back out there and not only played but also threw darts. I could go on and on and on and on here, but you get the point. The kid's tough. He's a heck of a competitor. And he deserves a ton of respect even if he's not impressed.
3 – That's two weeks in a row that the Jayhawks have started fast and you can see what that's doing for their chances to be competitive. After brutal starts against Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, the Jayhawks have finally stopped digging themselves huge holes that they can't crawl out of no matter how well they play. The improvement of the offense — credit Bowen, Cummings and Eric Kiesau for a big chunk of that — has played the biggest role here, but so has the general mindset of this team. For the first time in a long time, these guys truly believe they're good enough to win and are getting results and production that back that up.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – KU's special teams cost them again. Against Oklahoma State, a Tyreek Hill kickoff return for a touchdown — and the decision to kick it to him — cost the Jayhawks a victory and on Saturday against TCU, punter Trevor Pardula's big leg got the Jayhawks into trouble for a change when Cameron Echols-Luper returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the difference. Those things will kill a lot of teams, but they're especially deadly for a team like KU that just doesn't have much margin for error.
2 – With all the talent returning in the backfield heading into this season, you would've never been able to convince me that the KU passing game would be more productive for this team. But it has been lately. KU averaged just 2.1 yards per carry against a tough TCU defense. Corey Avery (10 carries, 27 yards and a touchdown) had good moments and it would've been very interesting to see him get three more carries when the Jayhawks took over at the TCU 10 yard line late in the game down by seven. But hindsight's 20/20 and there's no guarantee Avery or anyone else would've got in either. The way Cummings and the pass catchers are playing — along with the improvement of the O-Line — the running game doesn't have to be great. But it does need to be a threat to keep the defense on its heels and 2.1 ypc won't cut it.
3 – It really is a shame that Saturday's loss was the home finale. With the new wave of support building behind Bowen and his boys it would be cool to see what the crowd would look like if the Jayhawks had one more home game this season.
One for the road:
KU's four-point loss to fifth-ranked TCU on Saturday...
• Moved the Jayhawks to 579-596-58 all-time. • Pushed TCU's lead in the all-time series lead 19-8-4. • Increased a streak of 15-straight losses to opponents ranked in the Top 25. • Prolonged a span of more than three years since the Jayhawks have won games in consecutive weeks. • Pushed the stretch of years it's been since KU topped TCU to 18. • Increased KU’s deficit to TCU in games played in Lawrence to 9-6. • Gave KU an even 3-3 mark at home in 2014.
KU will travel to Norman, Oklahoma, this weekend for a match-up with the Sooners at 11 a.m. Saturday.