Agpalsa and players work on ‘marrying our ideas together’

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa instructs his players during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

This is the fourth time Daryl Agpalsa has come into a veteran offensive line room as its new coach, and he fully acknowledges that he hasn’t always found the right balance between his own way of thinking and his players’.

“I’ve done this before and I’ve failed, if I’m being completely honest,” he said Thursday, and later added, “I made the mistake, probably, earlier on in my career of saying, ‘Hey, this is how I’ve always done it, this is the way I’m going to do it, and this is the way you’re going to do it,’ as opposed to marrying our ideas together.”

Agpalsa’s last three jobs were under Kansas coach Lance Leipold at Wisconsin-Whitewater and Buffalo, then on his own at Northern Illinois. As he faces another fresh situation at KU — albeit with a similar coaching staff, which means familiar terminology, practice habits and everything else — he’s altered his approach.

For example, if there’s a minute difference in technique between what he preaches and what the Jayhawks are accustomed to, he may choose to yield.

“It could be footwork, it could be hand placement, and I was like, ‘Well, has this worked for us?'” Agpalsa said. “I validate it on the tape, I say, ‘Listen, if you’re comfortable, and you play fast doing it that way, let’s attack it that way.’

“Because I’ll tell you guys what, we won nine games last year. My job isn’t to change everything. I want to continue that trend and keep it rolling.”

It’s analogous to the way that, as Leipold has described it, KU’s offense has more broadly approached the arrival of coordinator Jeff Grimes as a replacement for Andy Kotelnicki — making slight stylistic changes (like implementing more work under center) but maintaining the motion and schematic variation that helped the Jayhawks succeed in recent years.

The presence of Grimes has also been a boon to Agpalsa himself. While Grimes works with the tight ends at KU, he spent much of his career as an offensive line coach across a wide array of teams and leagues, including at Auburn and LSU in the Southeastern Conference. Agpalsa called him “a wealth of knowledge” and said it was a blessing to work with him.

“I like to feel I’ve done a lot of great things in my career, but what’s so fun for me is I always feel like I continue to learn and grow,” Agpalsa said. “Coach Grimes has been a lifelong offensive line coach for 30 years. To have the opportunity to bounce ideas off of him, to learn from his mistakes before I even make mistakes — or that we made the same mistakes (and) we have something in common — he’s been fantastic, man.”

Even though Agpalsa and Leipold had their close prior relationship, Grimes also played a significant role in bringing Agpalsa aboard when Scott Fuchs left the staff to join the Tennessee Titans in February.

“I let Jeff Grimes have a lot of say,” Leipold said on his “Hawk Talk” radio show Wednesday. “I knew what I felt about Daryl as a coach, a person, and all those things, but I wanted the offensive staff to feel comfortable.”

Leipold previously said it was “unanimous” among that group that Agpalsa was the right fit.

So far returns have been positive from the players, too. Agpalsa’s approach seems to have resonated with guard Kobe Baynes, who said, “He’s open to new ideas, but he also has core base fundamentals. He does such a great job just kind of breaking down to the little things.

“I kind of feel like (he and Fuchs) are the same animal, different beast, if that makes sense,” Baynes added. “They kind of have that same intensity where they want to demand a sense of greatness from you.”


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