Posts tagged with Ku

How difficult is the Kansas football job?

Kansas head football coach David Beaty responds to questions during Big 12 media days, Monday, July 18, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Kansas head football coach David Beaty responds to questions during Big 12 media days, Monday, July 18, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) by Matt Tait

During the past few decades bigger, taller, meaner, older men and all kinds in between have tried to tackle the job entrusted to second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty.

And very few of them have succeeded.

So just how difficult is the Kansas football job?

Beaty was asked that question — and dozens of others — Monday at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas, and, like with most things, the KU coach gave an honest and enthusiastic answer.

“You know what? It is a difficult job,” Beaty said. “But all these jobs are difficult. But I tell you what, it's a great opportunity. We know where we are headed and our players do as well. I can't wait for you guys to hear from those guys because I think you will hear in their voices, they know where we're headed.”

Unlike a year ago, when Beaty spent a good chunk of his time on the podium subtly pushing the recruiting angle, this year he talked more about concrete proof of progress, the process and what his players have done during his first year in charge.

No one can say Beaty was pleased with the winless season and the final record, but there were elements of that first season that made him happy.

“For us to go through a season that we went through, if you would have come to that last practice before that last game you would have never thought we hadn't won a game,” he said. “That was probably what I was most proud of. Our guys worked and enjoyed everything they did with regard to development. They know where we are heading and they can see the future.

“Is it difficult? Yes, but every job is difficult, doesn't really matter where you're coaching, everything has their own unique set of characteristics that make it difficult, but there is a lot of great things about 'em, too, and there is a lot of tremendous support at KU. They want to win. They give us what we need. We're finishing up a $2 million renovation and our fans want it and they know it's coming and our guys know it's coming, too.”

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When They Were Gold: Today marks 1-year anniversary of KU’s World University Games triumph

Fans shout and reach out to Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. after Team USA's 78-68 semifinal victory over Russia on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at the World University Games in South Korea. Selden scored 22 points in the win.

Fans shout and reach out to Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. after Team USA's 78-68 semifinal victory over Russia on Sunday, July 12, 2015, at the World University Games in South Korea. Selden scored 22 points in the win. by Mike Yoder

In a lot of ways, it seems like much longer than one year ago that the Kansas men’s basketball players were standing on a podium in South Korea with USA splashed across their chests awaiting the presentation of their gold medals.

So much happened between now and then, from KU turning in a fabulous 33-5 2015-16 season and reaching the Elite Eight to the fight for Cheick Diallo’s eligibility, the NBA Draft and, of course, the departure of stars like Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden and the arrival of their successors Josh Jackson and Udoka Azubuike, that it hardly seems possible that the World University Games wrapped up just one year ago.

Such is life at the highest level of college basketball in today’s world, where things change quickly and only a few elements of each program remain consistent from year to year — coaching staffs, venues, fan base, etc.

Adding support to that point, Kansas returns just five members from that gold-medal squad at the 2015 Games to its 2016-17 roster: Frank Mason, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg, Lagerald Vick and Tyler Self.

Ellis, Diallo, Selden and Brannen Greene all entered the NBA Draft following the 2015-16 season. Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Evan Manning graduated. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was ineligible because he was born outside of the United States. Devonte’ Graham did not play because he was injured. And SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose returned to their programs after the trip to Korea.

While many, including KU coach Bill Self, expected the Jayhawks to go over to Korea and suffer at least a couple of losses playing against grown men with international experience, the Jayhawks themselves never did. KU’s experienced and talented roster talked before it went about going over there with one thing in mind and that was winning a gold medal. Even those who believed that was possible did not envision a scenario in which KU would win eight games in 10 days without taking a loss.

That stretch included a double-overtime victory over Germany in the Gold Medal Game that ended early in the morning, Kansas time, and led to a day-long celebration by the team in Korea and KU fans back in Lawrence.

Devonte Graham, left, joins other Team USA players as they pile on Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. to celebrate their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Devonte Graham, left, joins other Team USA players as they pile on Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. to celebrate their double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

KU won its eight games overseas by an average of 20 points per game, with three of the eight victories coming by nine points, the closest being a one-point win over Serbia that put KU into the quarterfinals and the biggest blowout coming by way of a 65-point drubbing of Chile.

The Journal-World’s Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder were the only Kansas media members who made the trip to Korea and they chronicled every aspect of the Jayahwks’ experience, from the wins and stats on the court to the discovery of Korean culture and a little down time off the court.

For those KU fans feeling particularly nostalgic on this one-year anniversary of one of the more memorable summers in Kansas hoops history, be sure to check out our KU in Korea page which provides links and chronicles all of Mike and Bobby’s coverage from KU's quest to bring home the gold.

Team USA players bite on their gold medals after a win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Team USA players bite on their gold medals after a win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

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NBA Draft delivers latest reasons NBA, NCAA should tweak draft rules

One day, who knows how long from now, we’ll be talking about the NBA/NCAA 2-year rule like it was always in place.

That rule, which would require any player who chooses to attend college to stay a minimum of two years, does not exist yet, of course, but after watching Thursday’s NBA Draft, during which one of four eligible former Jayhawks was selected, I could not help but think how badly a rule like this is needed.

And I’m not simply saying this because of the long looks on the faces of athletes like Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis (31), KU’s Cheick Diallo (33) and Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere (28), all freshmen during the 2015-16 college season who thought they would go much higher in this year’s draft than they did.

I’m saying it because this draft, perhaps better than any in recent memory, showed that sometimes these one-and-done players who hear for a couple of years that they’re going to be lottery picks but wind up slipping after their lone season of college ball, need something in place to help them make better decisions.

I’m not saying Diallo was crazy for going pro. In fact, even though he fell out of the first round, I still think it was the right move for him to leave. Based on what we saw during his freshman season and how raw and young he still is in the game of basketball, I’m not sure Year 2 at Kansas under coach Bill Self would have been all that different for Diallo than Year 1 was. So if they’re telling you you’re a first rounder, where guaranteed money awaits, I totally get why you’d go.

I’m sure Davis, Labissiere, Maryland’s Diamond Stone (40) and others were hearing the same thing.

But when it came down to it, all of them had to sweat it out on Thursday night, when they should not have had to. Here’s how it could have been avoided:

  1. They could have been allowed to go pro right away. I still don’t understand how it’s legal to prevent this from happening. Diallo and Labissiere almost certainly would have been first-round picks in last year’s draft had they been allowed to enter early. It worked out for Labissiere and Diallo just missed. But think back to a couple of years ago, when former Jayhawk Wayne Selden was a projected lottery pick before his freshman season and now he leaves as an undrafted junior. That’s not to say Selden would have been better off as a basketball player had he entered the draft at 18, but he certainly would be richer.

  2. They could have been required to return for a second season of college ball. This would help not only the players but also the coaches and programs that spend so much time, effort and money recruiting these athletes, sometimes for as few as nine months worth of time with them.

If you’re a college hoops fan and you’ve been paying attention at all, none of this is new information. I get that. Baseball has it figured out, several other sports get it right. You’ve heard all of that. And you’ll keep hearing it until the NBA and college basketball fix their system, too.

I heard a lot of talk last night from analysts saying that players who go undrafted or even those who are unhappy with where they went in the draft should be able to return to school after the fact. That, too, would fix things, although I’m not sure I truly like that system much better and think it could bring with it as many problems as solutions.

The bottom line is this: Those of us hoping for a rule change to fix this mess may wind up waiting in vain, or at least waiting for a long, long time. What it’s more likely to come down to is these athletes making better, more informed decisions so that the Diallos and Davises of the world don’t have to experience what they experienced Thursday in New York City.

Draft night should be fun. It should be life changing. It should be a celebration. And it was for so many players, a few of whom I did not expect to get drafted — Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, Marcus Paige. Wow. All three were four-year players who had great college careers and can really play but may not be your prototypical NBA guys.

Here’s hoping the rest of college basketball was paying attention to those names being called and other one-time, can’t-miss stars falling, so that instead of seeing long faces on supremely talented players, we’ll see second — maybe even third — seasons of college basketball from some of them, therein making the college game even better than it already is.

Time will tell. And I’m not holding my breath. Merely hopeful.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2016: No. 24 - CB Kyle Mayberry

It's time for the second installment of this summer's Most Crucial Jayhawks list and, after starting off on the offensive side of the ball at arguably the most important position on the team on Monday, we hop over to defense for No. 24.

When you're coming off of an 0-12 season, every position is important. And while KU's defense should feature an improved group of players with decent experience, the KU coaching staff (and fan base) is always looking for ways to add top-tier talent to the roster.

That, regardless of how it arrives, would expedite KU's battle to rebuild the program and, also would give the Jayhawks and their fans something to get excited about.

That brings us to No. 24 on the list, a true freshman from Oklahoma, who promises to excite and plans to deliver, not just during his Kansas career, but as soon as he steps onto the field for Game 1 as a Jayhawk on Sept. 3.

Reminder: This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2016 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Tom Keegan and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing for the last two years, but the amount of fresh faces made this list much tougher to put together.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order. And, in case you miss some, be sure to check the links at the bottom of each entry for an up-to-date look at the list of 25.

New KU cornerback Kyle "Money" Mayberry.

New KU cornerback Kyle "Money" Mayberry. by Matt Tait

24. Kyle Mayberry, Fr. Cornerback

When it comes to playing cornerback in the Big 12 Conference, the target is always on your back, there are no down times and all eyes are on you from start to finish of most conference games.

That’s what makes the addition of Kyle Mayberry so important to this Kansas squad and why so many people in the program and in Mayberry’s camp believe the top-rated cornerback in Oklahoma in the prep class of 2016 may be a star in the making with the Jayhawks.

Tall, physical, long and athletic, Mayberry’s skill set transfers well to the Big 12, where he will face world-class athletes week after week disguised as wide receivers.

However, while Mayberry is gifted in all of those physical areas, his biggest strength might be his confidence. This young man believes he can cover anybody at any time and, upon meeting fellow-Oklahoman and former Jayhawk Chris Harris at Harris’ camp a couple of summers ago, Mayberry told him, point blank, that he was the best CB in the state.

“He asked who I was,” Mayberry told the Journal-World earlier this year. “And I told him I was the best cornerback in the state of Oklahoma. He said, ‘Oh, really.’ And then that season I had a great year, and he found out I really was.”

Mayberry, who goes by the nickname "Money," has the talent and skills to challenge for a starting spot immediately. The big question surrounding how successful that quest will be comes in the form of how quickly Mayberry will adjust to college life, the speed of the college game and KU’s defensive schemes and game plan.

If that comes as naturally as making plays did during his high school career, Mayberry could make a big early splash and that could pay big time dividends for the team. Even if he doesn’t, it’s easy to see Mayberry playing a significant number of snaps in a reserve role, rotating into the cornerback mix with Brandon Stewart, Marnez Ogletree and Stephan Robinson among others.

Although he won’t be in the spotlight off the field because of KU’s policy against freshmen talking to the media, Mayberry easily could find the spotlight on the field and could quickly develop into a fan favorite if his play holds up.

He has one of the brightest long term futures in the program and if he can get off to a solid start in Year 1, it would go a long way toward helping KU field a much more competitive team in 2016.

Top 25 Most Crucial Jayhawks of 2016:

No. 25 - OL Jayson Rhodes

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Is KU football facing a favorable schedule?

KU football coach David Beaty instructs his players during spring football practice on Thursday, March 26, 2015.

KU football coach David Beaty instructs his players during spring football practice on Thursday, March 26, 2015. by Richard Gwin

Finally, the Kansas football team may be catching a break.

It’s been a rough six seasons for the Jayhawks, who have piled up losses at a record pace since enjoying wild success under former head coach Mark Mangino. And there’s no doubting that in order to crawl out from under the mess the Jayhawks could benefit from a helping hand.

That’s exactly what they’ll get in 2016, according to FOX Sports writer Bruce Feldman, who ranks the Jayhawks’ 2016 non-conference schedule as the second easiest among Power 5 Conference football programs.

Here’s the criteria Feldman used...

"I've based this on my evaluation of opponents' merits for 2016 based on the following points system: 5 points for a Top 5 caliber team; 4.5 for a Top 15; 4 for a Top 25; 3.5 for a Top 40; 3 for a Top 60; 2.5 for a Top 80; 2 for a Top 100; 1.5 for a fringe FBS program or strong FCS team; a 1 for a complete cupcake. Also, I've added bonus points for a road game (0.5) or a neutral site game (0.25)."

After tallying it all up, KU’s non-con schedule strength index number came in at 1.83, tied with Washington for second lowest and just .02 behind Boston College, which claimed the No. 1 spot.

Feldman likes the way things set up for KU during its first three games before the grueling Big 12 schedule, with a pair of home games against Rhode Island and Ohio and a trip to Memphis that became a little bit easier to swallow this offseason, when former Memphis coach Justin Fuente left for Virginia Tech and several seniors exhausted their eligibility and followed him out the door.

Here’s Feldman’s take...

"The Jayhawks have a great chance to start the season with a win by opening at home against woeful URI, which was 1-10 in 2015. After that, Ohio, which has only 11 starters back, visits, followed by a trip to play a rebuilding Memphis team that not only lost its star QB but also its head coach and has only 12 starters returning."

Earlier this summer, though not as high, I also saw ESPN ranked KU's non-conference schedule as the eighth easiest among Power 5 programs.

ESPN's Power Football Index ranks KU's 2016 non-conference schedule as the 8th easiest among Power 5 programs.

ESPN's Power Football Index ranks KU's 2016 non-conference schedule as the 8th easiest among Power 5 programs. by Matt Tait

Clearly, the mere thought that KU may have a couple of easy games in the early going qualifies as good news for the Jayhawks. But if there's one thing KU fans have learned during one of the roughest stretches in college football history it's that nothing comes easy and easy definitely is a relative term.

Still, having a schedule that people don't deem one of the most difficult in the country, which has been the case during a couple of the past few seasons, should give KU hope that the turnaround could begin sooner rather than later.

Really, though, this fact qualifies as both good and bad news. Good because it gives KU a chance. Bad because if the Jayhawks stumble against this group, they won't really have any excuses.

That's not to say anybody should expect Kansas to be 3-0 after the non-con portion of the schedule passes on Sept. 17 — 2-1 would certainly register as a fantastic start and, according to Vegas and many college football analysts, 1-2 is the more likely result.

But momentum can be a funny thing. And if KU can get that first one against a woeful Rhode Island team, the Ohio game the following week looks a little more attainable and things can build from there.

The whole thing adds intrigue to something that KU fans already are keeping a close eye on anyway — how quickly can second-year coach David Beaty get things back on the right track and when will Saturdays at Memorial Stadium start to be fun again?

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Big 12 coaches give honest assessment of KU football

Kansas head coach David Beaty tries to keep his team amped up during spring practice on Tuesday, March 24, 2015.

Kansas head coach David Beaty tries to keep his team amped up during spring practice on Tuesday, March 24, 2015. by Nick Krug

The Big 12 crew over at ESPN.com recently talked to a bunch of different Big 12 football coaches to get the inside scoop on how each program is perceived by the rest of the conference. The full story will appear in ESPN's College Football Preview Magazine and, for Insider subscribers at this link.

It's a very cool idea and even cooler to see that so many coaches cooperated. They did so anonymously, of course, but that cleared the way for them to be brutally honest and hold nothing back.

It's under the Insider tag on ESPN.com so in case you're not an ESPN Insider member, here's a quick look at the three things said about David Beaty and the Kansas Jayhawks heading into Year 2 of the Beaty era.

Believe it or not, they're pretty kind and encouraging.

Coach David Beaty's winless debut wasn't a surprise, but it also couldn't have gone much worse, beginning with dropping a 41-38 heartbreaker to FCS South Dakota State in the season opener. Coach, can you talk about the state of the Kansas program?

"He took over a disaster, but I think he did a good job. They'll get some guys, but it's going to take a long time. They have to give him some time. He's going to need about eight years to get that program right. And it's not easy up there." -- Big 12 head coach

My thoughts ---> This was by far the biggest thing that stood out to me. Eight years is a long, long time and KU hasn't been able to get a coach to complete three years since Mark Mangino went eight seasons from 2002-09. The truth here is that eight years could be right. So often you hear people talk about giving a coach 5 years, but it truly could take eight years (seven more) for the KU program to be established and competing on an annual basis. That said, it's entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that the first signs of becoming competitive could show up much sooner. The eight-year mark shows just how in touch the rest of the conference is with what Beaty inherited. It's not as if these guys with huge egos who have done a good job elsewhere are acting like they could turn KU around in a year or two. They see it for what it is and, although that's not going to lead to any sympathy on Saturdays, it has to help Beaty and company feel like they're doing the best anybody could. Time will tell if they actually get it done.

The Jayhawks can be an unexpected test in Lawrence, despite a 2-20 Big 12 home record over the past five years. Baylor, TCU, Texas and Oklahoma State have all barely escaped with single-digit wins. Coach, can you talk about facing the Jayhawks on the road?

"They're spooky. Unless you're Texas, Oklahoma or Baylor and you can go up there and overwhelm them athletically, you kind of have to watch it with them. You can go up there, they'll have like 20,000 in the stands and they can get you." -- Big 12 head coach

My thoughts ---> This, at least right now, is the biggest compliment the KU football program could be paid by an opposing Big 12 coach. Nearly half the league has experienced this first-hand, so it's no surprise the ESPN guys found a coach who would admit this, but just as many have come into Lawrence and destroyed Kansas during the past six years. Cool of someone to actually call it like it is and admit that, as down as the program is right now, KU can get you if you don't show up.

Kansas nearly pulled off the upset of the year, falling at TCU 23-17 in mid-November. The Jayhawks' tightest conference loss was a sign Beaty has his young players buying into his energetic approach. Coach, can you talk about how it's even possible to turn this thing around?

"First, you find guys who want to be there. Then you recruit, recruit, recruit, with an eye on competing in Year 3 or 4. You have to teach them to compete. Teach them how to win." -- Big 12 offensive coach

My thoughts ---> Nothing earth-shattering here, but, to me, this is further proof that the path Beaty and company are on is a good one. They've put a big emphasis on recruiting good character players who are proud to sign with and play at Kansas. That's huge. Because if it starts meaning something to these players the way it did to Ben Heeney or does to Montell Cozart and Joe Dineen, then that'll increase the odds of a turnaround. There were flashes of teaching this group how to compete during the past couple of years and now the next jump is that teaching them how to win bit. That's going to be tougher. Especially in the Big 12.

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Another 2017 O-Lineman de-commits from KU Football

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Back in January, as the Kansas football coaching staff was racing to finalize its 2016 recruiting class, David Beaty and company picked up a couple of commitments from 2017 offensive linemen within hours of one another.

Today, neither lineman remains committed to Kansas.

Grant Polley (6-5, 275, Denton (Texas) High) de-committed almost exactly a month ago, and, on Tuesday, Jared Hocker (6-5, 290, North Richland Hills, Texas) followed Polley's lead. The two situations are unrelated other than the fact that both committed very early and soon found that interest from other schools with winning pedigrees was headed their way.

Hocker explained via Twitter on Tuesday.

"After a long period of deliberation, I have decided to de-commit from the Jayhawks and reopen my recruiting. When I received my offer from KU, I wasn't familiar with the recruiting process and, in hindsight, I made a premature decision. There is a great deal I like, even love, about KU not the least of which is the coaching staff. Coaches Beaty, (Zach) Yenser and (Kenny) Perry have all been wonderful to me and it is with the deepest regret that I feel I must re-examine my options. Please respect my privacy with no interviews due to my decision. Thank you."

Although the loss of both linemen certainly qualifies as a disappointment for the Jayhawks, it also comes as no surprise. Any time players of their caliber — or, really, any caliber — commit as early as they did to a place like KU, it's always a challenge for the Jayhawks to hang on to them.

That's not to say it can't be done, but when bigger and better programs come calling, it often can be tough for these players to stick with Kansas. That's human nature in many ways and understandable, as well.

With Hocker specifically, recent visits to Texas A&M and Texas Tech illustrate the point perfectly.

So it's back to the drawing board for Kansas, which will continue to seek offensive linemen in the 2017 class and is in on some pretty solid secondary options, including a couple of in-state linemen.

With Hocker now off the list, KU has oral commitments from six players in the Class of 2017 and room to add somewhere in the range of 15 more, depending on how many additions to the current roster wind up counting forward to the 2017 class via the blue shirt rule.

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Arkansas RB transferring to KU?

The Kansas University football program’s continued efforts to add depth and talent to its suddenly thin backfield ventured into SEC territory recently and may have found something of value.

According to the Twitter accounts of both his brother and his girlfriend, Arkansas running back Denzel Evans is transferring to Kansas.

Evans, a 5-foot-11, 217-pound junior-to-be, was a three-star prospect coming out of Houston’s Bellaire High when he signed with the Razorbacks out of high school in 2013. At the time, Evans also held offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, Michigan State, Minnesota and SMU.

Nothing official has come out of KU on the possible addition of Evans, but if he were to be added to the KU backfield, he would be the second running back rumored to join the Jayhawks this spring, with former Colorado State running back Deron Thompson (a likely walk-on) also choosing to come to Lawrence.

The Jayhawks certainly could use all the help they can get at the running back position. What, for years, was one of the deepest positions on the team, has become one of the least experienced, with only returning starter Ke’aun Kinner having seen any legitimate game.

Sophomores Taylor Martin and Ryan Schadler, both have game experience, but neither received much work at running back last season. Last weekend, freshman Khalil Herbert, a two-star back from Plantation, Florida, was expected to report to campus in time for summer workouts and his addition, also would give the Jayhawks depth at a spot in which teams cannot have too much.

Last season at Arkansas, Evans played in six games and logged six carries for 48 yards with a long of 31. As was the case with Thompson at CSU, Evans found himself in a crowded backfield and began looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Ironically, that elsewhere might wind up being the very spot where Arkansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell just worked.

Evans is close to graduating from Arkansas and is attempting to finish up his class requirements this summer. If he is able to, he would be immediately eligible to play at Kansas during the upcoming 2016 season.

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KU football locker room renovations under way

An artist's rendering of the new-look KU football locker room, coming this summer. Illustration courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

An artist's rendering of the new-look KU football locker room, coming this summer. Illustration courtesy of Kansas Athletics. by Matt Tait

You may have read a couple of weeks ago about the $2-2.5 million Anderson Family Football Complex upgrades planned for the Kansas University football program.

A new-look locker room, new players lounge and updated Mrkonic Auditorium film and meeting room were the cornerstones of the project and the goal was for the upgrades to be finished in time for preseason camp and the 2016 season.

Now, thanks to KU staff member Tyler Olker, we have visual evidence that the project is 100 percent under way.

Olker, KU's director of recruiting, posted to Twitter four pics of the early stages of the locker room makeover and you can see that construction crews are wasting no time getting going.

In case you forgot, the photo at the top of the blog is an artist's rendering of what the finished locker room will look like. Below are Olker's four photos of the initial progress.

Stay tuned for more...

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

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100 days out from another KU football opener & why you should care

Well, here we are, 100 days away from the start of yet another college football season.

And, as much as that’s a national holiday for the rest of the country, it often is a day to dread for Kansas fans. Not only is the interest in this program at an all-time low — and you can say that by any number of measures from season ticket sales to message board traffic and everything in between — but the idea of actually attending a football game and, heaven forbid actually staying to watch it, seems to have become something people get mocked for around here.

That only makes a hard job harder for second-year coach David Beaty and his Jayhawks, who, like every other college football team in America, have been working their butts off since the end of the 2015 season in hopes that the work they put in during the down months will pay off in the fall.

Knowing that it’s going to take more than the abstract promise of continued improvement to get KU fans fired up for another football season, let’s look at six reasons to get excited about the arrival of game day, exactly 100 days from today.

1. Game 1 is winnable. Big time. Not only should the Jayhawks be favored to beat Rhode Island in the opener, they should do it. It’s been a long time since KU put a hurting on an opponent in a season opener and there’s no better way to get the fan base jacked than by putting up a big number and rolling to a comfortable rout during Week 1. During the final four seasons under Mark Mangino, KU won its opener by an average of 38 points. In the six seasons — and three head coaches — since Mangino left town, KU has won four openers by an average of 14 points and lost two. Nothing would be more helpful toward getting things turned around than an old-fashioned butt-kicking on Sept. 3 at Memorial Stadium.

2. New offenses can be fun. Especially when they’re Air Raid offenses designed to get the ball to playmakers in space and operate at a pace that puts the defense on its heels. Forget about what you saw last year and consider KU’s 2015 offense the bridge between Charlie Weis’ pro style packages and what Beaty believes KU can run. If you show up on Sept. 3 and see more of the same, head back to the car and take that cooler full of cold beverages to the pool or the lake. But at least show up and check it out. Who knows? Even though KU does not have the talent it had during the Todd Reesing era, this new-look offense might remind you a little of that and you just might like it.

3. KU’s defense figures to be much improved. We saw evidence of this in the spring, when the KU defense most often got the better of the offense during scrimmages and the spring game. And I’ve heard some chatter about defensive coordinator Clint Bowen really getting his crew to buy in to what he wants to do. Some of the credit for that goes to experience. Some of it goes to the leaders like Fish Smithson, Joe Dineen, Marcquis Roberts and Brandon Stewart. And some of it goes to the addition of linebackers coach Todd Bradford and his ability to work well with Bowen and the other defensive assistants. Time will tell just how good this group actually can be, but you can expect to see a confident crew that takes the field with some bounce and swagger on Sept. 3.

4. Time to meet the new faces. By the time Sept. 3 rolls around, you’ll have read plenty about cornerback Kyle Mayberry, defensive linemen DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, linebacker Maciah Long, cornerback Stephan Robinson and defensive end Isaiah Bean. But this will be your first chance to actually see them play. You never know when KU’s coaching staff is going to land that player or pack of players that might be responsible for jump-starting a turn-around. Could he be on the list of names above?

5. The weather should be gorgeous. I know it’s a long ways away still and weathermen and women don’t normally forecast 100 days out, but if history tells us anything the opener should be very nice. According to usclimatedata.com, September is one of just two months each year in which the average high temperature in Lawrence is in the 70s. And they don’t play football around here in May, so why not take advantage of that?

6. Tailgating, man. My esteemed colleague Gary Bedore has called KU’s tailgating atmosphere one of the best decisions the athletic department ever made. Remember, there was a time not that long ago when fans were not allowed to consume adult beverages and enjoy one of the best parts about college football anywhere near Memorial Stadium. That changed back in 2001, and today, even when the likelihood of KU winning a game inside the stadium is low, the buzz outside the stadium is high, both from a participation perspective and the way the whole scene makes the areas surrounding Memorial Stadium, from the hill to the parking lots, look like a big time college football environment.

In the next 99 days, we'll have all kinds of info and analysis of the season ahead, but hopefully what you just read will whet your appetite just a little for that season opener against Rhode Island that is closer than you think.

In case it didn't, here are a few recent comments from Beaty on the opener...

"We gotta win some games. And that starts with one. We are focused on going 1-0 against Rhode Island I honestly don’t even know who else is on our schedule. I am focused on that game. And our kids are too.”

“It’s the most important game in the history of our program because it’s the next one. Period.”

“We’re gonna focus on winning one game at a time and putting a premium on winning. Winning is important. So we’re not gonna sugarcoat it. We came here to win and these kids want to win. We’ve worked our (butt) off and the kids have too. They deserve it. So we just gotta keep earning it.”

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