Grimes hopes increased trust leads to more aggressive KU offense

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

Kansas offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

When Kansas offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes asked his players how they felt the spring went — his first with the program — wide receiver Lawrence Arnold had an answer, gleaned from his days spent watching from the sidelines.

“I feel like we played with a lot more energy as spring progressed,” Arnold said, as relayed by Grimes. “I felt like early on we were just kind of flat, and then as spring went on we played a whole lot better, but played with more energy every day.”

When asked why the Jayhawks were able to improve in that way, offensive lineman Nolan Gorczyca, who Grimes pointed out has “probably improved as much as anybody,” had a simple response of his own: “We’ve built trust.”

That answer resonated with Grimes, as the apparent root cause of the increased energy Arnold had observed.

“There’s trust between players and coaches, there’s trust between players and players, and I think the longer you’re with a group, the more that comes,” Grimes said. “The more that comes, then you become a little bit freer to be yourself, and when you can be yourself then you’re showing your true self, and that energy, I think, shows up.”

Just as importantly, though, it brought the Jayhawks closer to one of Grimes’ primary objectives: playing without fear.

“If we can develop the kind of trust that every player feels like they can be the best version of themselves, then it’s OK to make a mistake, and that’s a big part of playing fearless,” Grimes said.

As Grimes put it, by way of example, a fearless offensive tackle might initiate contact on a pass block, instead of waiting to get hit; a wide receiver might high-point a ball instead of waiting to haul it in; a quarterback might look to throw into a tight window.

“You believe you can make the throw, you believe your player can make the catch, I want us to play that way,” Grimes said. “That’s one of the things I’ve been talking to them a lot about.”

Indeed, fearlessness is one of the so-called “Fab Four” key values he’s been trying to instill in the KU offense, as running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. told reporters earlier in the spring, along with speed, physicality and the ability to have fun.

“It’s what we want to do going into the game, what’s our mindset for the game,” Hishaw said. “And keep those four things in your mind, you should be able to play good.”

The players seem to have taken well to Grimes’ approach; wide receiver Luke Grimm previously characterized him as intense but open-minded.

“(I) threw a lot at them, made it really hard for them from a mental standpoint,” Grimes said, “from the playbook, gave them a bunch every single day, and I think they’ve handled it well.”

Spring practice was so productive for Grimes and company, in fact, that he said with a smile, “I wish we had another week or two.” But it ended Tuesday.

The KU coaching staff will instead turn its attention to, among other things, the spring transfer portal window and individual evaluative meetings with its current players.


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