Matt Tait: Biggest job for new Kansas OC Chip Lindsey: Get Pooka the ball

photo by: Mike Gunnoe

Kansas running back Pooka Williams Jr. reels in a pass from quarterback Peyton Bender Saturday.

New Kansas offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has been on the job for barely 48 hours and already extended a scholarship offer to a four-star, dual-threat quarterback from Alabama.

That’s a terrific start. And recruiting, no doubt, will be a huge part of Lindsey’s job at Kansas.

But no matter how things work out for Lindsey at KU during the next several years — whether he reignites the Kansas offense and ultimately becomes the program’s next head coach or goes down in flames — no job will be easier, or potentially more important, than the one he will be tasked with 12 times next fall.

That job? Get Pooka Williams the football.

Give credit to the previous coaching staff for landing a player like Pooka in the first place. They got him to Kansas, helped him make a splash in the Big 12 as a true freshman and used him to show the world that serious talent had returned to the KU football roster.

Now, it’s time for Lindsey and company to make Pooka a star. What an exciting first challenge. And, let’s be honest, doing so should not be all that difficult.

Pooka’s speed, vision, toughness and swagger — not to mention his name — make him the perfect player to serve as the face of a program. Pooka’s overall talent and versatility make him the perfect player to build an offense around.

Lindsey, of course, will have other duties, roles and responsibilities, particularly as he gets started and helps Les Miles try to rebuild the foundation of Kansas football.

That list is long and includes: Both finding and developing a quarterback; bringing an aggressive edge back to KU’s offense while maintaining the ball-control mindset that will help KU compete as an underdog; fitting scheme to personnel; knowing how and when to use timeouts (and when not to); being balanced, creative and unpredictable with play calls; and utilizing the other talent you actually do have (see: Daylon Charlot).

So it’s not as if Lindsey will be operating from the mindset of Madden’s Franchise mode and can just make Pooka the best player in the game and thrash all comers. But he can and should put Pooka in a position to do more.

Last season, in 11 games, the Kansas freshman finished with 1,125 rushing yards on 161 carries and 289 receiving yards on 33 receptions, with nine total touchdowns and one passing TD. On average, Pooka gained 7.3 yards every time he touched the ball in 2018.

All of those numbers, except the average yards per touch, should go up in 2019, and, for my money, Pooka’s catches should come close to doubling.

After all, the Jayhawks will be looking for a replacement for always-reliable senior wideout Steven Sims Jr., and quick strikes of Pooka magic will help fill that void and be an easy way to emphasize getting the ball to the team’s best playmaker.

Beyond that, pumping the ball to Pooka more through the air would allow Lindsey to complement Pooka’s ability in space with the threat of Khalil Herbert and/or Dom Williams running between the tackles.

All three backs likely will and certainly should continue to fill a variety of roles. And call me crazy for dreaming of an offense that, at least a decent chunk of the time, features all three players on the field together.

Regardless of what that is or how it looks, as long as it starts with Pooka touching the rock as many times as possible each week, the Kansas offense will continue to have a chance, fans will continue to want a peek and Lindsey will be cheered and revered, not jeered like so many others who have held the title of KU’s offensive coordinator during recent years, only to live up to just the first word of the title.


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