Playing Madden, doing math with Einstein: How KU’s play-submission process has unfolded so far

photo by: Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

KU offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki calls out directions to the offense during practice on Aug. 4, 2022.

One of the more entertaining storylines at fall camp for the Kansas football team this year — and a succinct reflection of the team’s increased experience, as well as the trust it has built among its coaches — is the offense’s ongoing creation and presentation of plays to offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki.

The process is intended to foster an increased level of investment in the offense, Kotelnicki and head coach Lance Leipold have said. By midweek, the quarterbacks, tight ends and offensive line had already submitted their plays, with the wide receivers and running backs set to meet with Kotelnicki shortly.

“They get to understand our lens a little bit,” Leipold said earlier this month, “but it’s having a piece of ownership, and it gives them a chance to be creative and fun, and shows our belief in them.”

Kotelnicki said Wednesday he had been particularly impressed by the submissions he got from the O-line: “It wasn’t just a bunch of ‘Hey, let’s put eight linemen on the field and throw me the ball’ kind of stuff. Although (Dominick) Puni did one of those deals.”

“All we’re trying to do is get these young men to critically reflect on what they’re doing and what, really, their goals are,” Kotelnicki added. “For them to be able to do that and not come in with a bunch of just BS — except for Puni taking a snap — shows that they’re getting it, that they understand what we’re trying to do.”

At KU football’s media day Wednesday, the Journal-World seized the opportunity to survey the offensive players about the play-creation process. All quotations below come from Wednesday except where otherwise noted.

What has the process been like?

Doug Emilien, redshirt sophomore receiver: “I get to show my creative side, how I play ‘Madden,’ you know, putting stuff together.”

Jason Bean, redshirt senior quarterback: “It’s been a new task that I’ve never had to do.”

Trevor Wilson, redshirt junior receiver: “You got some of the big guys coming up with some crazy ideas, and then some of the skill players even coming up with crazier ideas. I think that just shows where everybody’s mindset is, and we’re just having fun with it.”

Quentin Skinner, junior receiver (interviewed Aug. 13): “(I’m going to design) something that’s going to involve downfield play, something that’s going to work and so we’re going to keep using it too, not just one-moment plays.”

Jalon Daniels, junior quarterback: “It’s definitely been amazing, because to be able to go into the quarterback room with the other quarterbacks and be able to construct a few plays that we feel (are) going to work, we want to be able to see them (run) in the game.”

Mike Novitsky, senior lineman: “It was fun, kind of putting on the offensive coordinator hat as a unit and drawing up some stuff that we think will work.”

Devin Neal, junior running back: “As a running back group we created our own plays. Obviously, they’re all run plays for us and all of us are involved.”

Torry Locklin, junior running back/receiver: “I think that’s a real good thing, to ask what a player’s perspective is on a play, and then get feedback from the coaches, and them making tweaks to the plays and certain things like that.”

Kobe Baynes, redshirt sophomore lineman: “It’s kind of fun to see Coach K work. It’s kind of like seeing the wheels turn. It’s like watching Albert Einstein do math. Suggesting something to him, he’ll find a way, he’ll find the reason to run it, the reason not to run it.”

Luke Grimm, junior receiver (interviewed Aug. 13): “He’s letting us open up to, hey, maybe because we’re out there seeing it and it could be different than (the staff’s perspective), maybe we could put in a play that we think would have worked against this team, this front last year.”

Cole Ballard, freshman quarterback: “I think it’s really cool how he trusts the players enough to do that.”

Who has produced the most creative or interesting play?

Locklin: “There’s been a lot.”

Daniels: “I’m definitely going to say the quarterbacks. We know what’s going on. I feel like we’re going to be able to get some people open.”

Ballard: “Definitely JD. JD has some good ones.”

Novitsky: “Dre Doiron.”

Baynes: “Ar’maj Reed-Adams. His play is pretty fun. I would say his idea for it was amazing, so I think it’s going to be really cool to see … (outside of the O-line,) TK, Trevor Kardell, has a really cool play.”

Bean: “Probably Trevor Kardell. Trevor Kardell, for sure.”

Neal: “Probably Trevor Kardell. I can’t give you the details of that, but it’s definitely probably him.”

Grimm: “Trevor Kardell had one and it was pretty cool. It’s like a nine-man shift. It’s a pretty cool one. Once we run that, you guys will see it, you’ll probably know what I’m talking about.”


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