New Kansas football coach Lance Leipold’s approach to building a staff drastically different than his predecessors — and that’s a good thing
Continuity was one of the most popular themes of Lance Leipold’s introductory press conference on Monday, and the new KU coach’s moves since that day have delivered the Jayhawks with a fair amount of it already.
Sure, Leipold and his coaching staff are new to Kansas. But the fact that they’re not new to each other is massive.
In fact, Leipold’s reported plan to bring seven Buffalo assistant coaches with him to Kansas represents the first time in the post-Mark Mangino era at Kansas that a first-year staff under a new head coach has had more than two full-time assistants who worked directly with the new head coach the year before coming to Kansas.
Sure, most of the coaches who have linked up together at Kansas have known each other or their new boss from being around the coaching world. The recruiting trail, coaching clinics and mutual acquaintances can make the college football coaching fraternity a small world.
But knowing a guy or admiring him from afar and hoping to work with him one day is a far cry from working with him closely for several years.
With that in mind, and with Leipold appearing to make familiarity a key part of his first staff at Kansas, here’s a look back at just how big of a task putting together a new staff was for the four hires who came before Leipold at Kansas.
• In 2010, Turner Gill brought Aaron Stamm (special teams/tight ends) and Robert Wimberly (safeties) with him to Kansas from Buffalo. The rest of the staff was new to Gill with the exception of Joe Dailey, who also worked with him at Buffalo and came to KU as an on-campus recruiting coordinator.
At the time, coaches were allowed to have 9 full-time, on-field assistant coaches (it’s 10 today), which meant that 22% of Gill’s staff had been with him immediately before coming to Kansas.
• In 2012, Charlie Weis came to KU from Florida, where he was the offensive coordinator, a job he also did with the Kansas City Chiefs after leaving Notre Dame. That meant that there were no coaches who officially worked on Weis’ staff that he could bring with him, but he did at least try to find familiarity. Rob Ianello (wide receivers/recruiting coordinator) and Ron Powlus (quarterbacks) were with him at Notre Dame. And Jeff Blasko (tight ends/special teams) and Scott Holsopple (strength and conditioning) worked alongside Weis at Florida. Still, even if you counted Ianello, Powlus and Blasko, that’s just 33% of the new staff, with six coaches who were new to Weis, including Gill holdovers Buddy Wyatt and Reggie Mitchell.
• In 2015, David Beaty encountered a similar situation, seeing how he was a receivers coach at Texas A&M when he got the Kansas job. Gary Hyman (special teams/tight ends) worked with Beaty at A&M, as did Klint Kubiak (wide receivers) for one season as a GA in 2012. Other than that, it was all new partnerships, with the exception of holdovers Clint Bowen (defensive coordinator) and Reggie Mitchell (running backs/recruiting coordinator), with whom Beaty had worked in a previous stint at KU.
• And, not surprisingly, Les Miles, in 2019, had similar numbers, made both likely and necessary by the fact that Miles was out of work in the couple of years prior to being hired by KU. None of the full-time members of Miles’ first staff at Kansas — which changed dramatically during his two years in town — had prior experience working for him, unless you count cornerbacks coach Chevis Jackson, who played for him at LSU. Miles did hang on to Beaty holdovers Bowen (safeties), Tony Hull (running backs) and Zac Woodfin (strength & conditioning), but nearly the entire group was starting from scratch when it came to working together.
Miles’ Defensive Coordinator, D.J. Eliot, brought D-line coach Kwahn Drake with him from Colorado, providing some continuity there. But neither had worked for Miles prior to 2019. Beaty tried a similar approach with Offensive Coordinator Rob Likens bringing O-line coach Zac Yenser with him from Cal in 2015. But neither instance provided KU with any real edge in terms of familiarity, player development or game day advantages because both Beaty and Miles had their fair share of input on the KU offense during those stints.
There already has been a lot of talk among Kansas fans, and even with many people inside the athletic department, about Leipold being a breath of fresh air simply because he comes to town in a different position than any of the four men who were hired as the head football coach at KU before him.
And while it remains to be seen if Leipold’s change-of-pace demeanor and track record will impact the bottom line of wins and losses in the way Jayhawk fans are hoping, the approach he appears to be taking with his first KU coaching staff differs greatly from everything Kansas has seen since 2009.
For a program that has gone 21-108 overall and 6-91 in Big 12 play during the past 11 seasons, looking different in just about any area sure has to be appealing.