Lance Leipold’s willingness to work on full display at first Kansas football practice
photo by: Courtesy of KU Athletics
With just two words during Thursday morning’s practice at KU, Kansas football coach Lance Leipold unveiled his plan for making up for lost time as the Jayhawks opened preseason camp.
“More reps,” Leipold bellowed during a hand-placement drill with KU’s linemen near the start of the first official practice of the 2021 season.
Then it was on to share that same message with the next group.
Being hired after spring football put Leipold and his coaching staff behind. Not only will they have to run a full camp and get ready for their first opponent in the next four weeks, but they also will have to introduce their style and general philosophies in that same space.
Because of that, there will be no time for loafing between drills or delays of any kind while on the practice field. Even the idle moments can mean reps and a chance to get better.
In fact, at one point during Thursday’s practice one KU assistant could be heard reminding the players, “This isn’t a break.”
Leipold embodied that as well as anyone on Day 1.
Constantly bouncing from drill to drill, and from one side of the field to the other, he made it clear that he was willing to work just as hard as he would ask his players to work in the weeks ahead.
What that means for a 57-year-old veteran football coach compared to what it means for a 20-year-old college football player is certainly different. But the effort and intent can and, according to Leipold, will be the same.
“You’ve got to be smart on what you install and what they can handle,” Leipold said following Thursday’s practice. “But we’re going to push it as best we can here early, as well.”
All Leipold asks is for his players to be coachable and to give great effort. The rest of the process, he believes, will fall into place from there.
Asked if he had reached out to any friends or former colleagues for tips on how to approach the odd timing of his first session with his squad, Leipold laughed.
“I don’t know anybody that’s been through this,” he said. “The only guy I know that’s gone through it is the guy that replaced me (at Buffalo).”
The challenges facing the two are as different as the Big 12 and the Sunflower League.
At Buffalo, Maurice Linguist, who was the Bulls’ defensive backs coach in 2013 and 2014, inherits a culture and a crew that has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent years. His job will be to keep the train rolling along during his first year as a head coach.
At Kansas, Leipold is being asked to build the train, lay the tracks, fine-tune the engine and get the thing moving.
None of it will happen overnight. Leipold knew that when he signed up for the job. So, he’ll look for small victories along the way that build up to big progress.
And it all started on Thursday with the smallest of steps — a coach full of energy flying around the field asking for the best from his players.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for us,” he said. “There’s not going to be excuses. We’re going full-tilt at it.”