Kansas Football Coaching Changes: Tim Grunhard Gone, John Reagan in?

John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE

Warden and PenHawk discussing the changes announced last week by the administration and Kansas coaches.

Warden: The offseason got an early start on Wednesday afternoon with the Lawrence Journal World reporting that Tim Grunhard was going to step down from his coaching duties.  The LJW also reported that former Kansas assistant and current Rice offensive coordinator would be hired to replace Grunhard and be named offensive coordinator at Kansas.  As everyone knows, the offensive has been terrible for the two years Weis has been in charge.  2013 is actually the low point of the last four years if you look at Offense F/+, with the Jayhawks at 119.  It was clear that something wasn't working and when that happens in college football, changes get made.

PenHawk: I was a bit surprised that Ianello wasn't the first to get the axe, given Weis' "three weeks" comment about the receivers after the ISU game, but the hire of an OC comes as no shock. What Weis has been doing hasn't worked, and it was time to bring in an experienced college OC who can come up with a gameplan that works at this level.

Warden: Grunhard being the first change isn't that surprising though.  A large part of the offensive issues this year start with poor line play.  Early in the season, the run game couldn't get going and Jake Heaps was under pressure on any play that wasn't a 3 step drop.  Interestingly though, I think the line has been quite a bit better over the last half of the season.  Too little, too late?

PenHawk: Depends on how much we believe the whole "stepping down" story. It's a bit coincidental that the coach in charge of the worst unit on the team suddenly has a reason to leave his position. I would agree that the o-line has looked a bit better recently, but how much of that do we attribute to Grunhard? We've just recently found a single lineup to stick with, and as Weis would never let us forget, he recently started focusing more of his time on the o-line as well. I don't know that Grunhard is the reason the line has been so bad overall this year, but I haven't seen anything so far that fills me with confidence in him as a line coach.

Warden: That's what makes being a fan of a bad team so hard.  You never know who, when, or why something works. You just stick with it and hope the intuition was right.  And yeah, I doubt Grunhard would be stepping down if the team had just won 7 games.  As far as Reagan goes, this is an interesting hire.  A large percentage of fans would have been thrilled with anyone being named offensive coordinator after the last couple of years.  But bringing in a guy with ties to the Mangino era?  That's PR gold for Weis and Zenger.  Hiring the OC and connecting to the last successful coach at Kansas will get a lot of fans excited again.

PenHawk: It definitely isn't a sexy hire, but you're right in that KU fans are feeling pretty nostalgic for the Mangino era these days, and bringing back a familiar name from that time will at least create some positive feelings. Feelings aside though, this will be his first coordinator job above the Conference USA level, so we'll have to see how it pans out.

Warden: Reagan's offenses at Rice have stuck out nationally in two ways over the last couple of years.  First, they run a lot of plays.  In 2012, they ran the 14th most plays in FBS.  This year, they're 25th in number of plays.  Rice has also been a leader in time of possession.  In 2012, they led the nation averaging almost 34 minutes a game.  This year is a little lower but they're still 12th in the nation at just under 33 minutes.  This appears to be by design, what do you think it means for the Kansas offense?

Penhawk: He clearly knows how to run a run-first spread offense. Given what we've seen our offense evolve into recently with Cozart at the helm, I'd say Weis probably found a guy who already knows how to do what Weis is trying to do. If you like the type of offense you saw against West Virginia and Iowa State, then Reagan is probably a guy you want in this position. We'll likely see an effective ground game that runs plays and eats yards.

Warden: did you really just include Iowa State? While Rice has ran a lot of plays, the offense hasn't been great according to F/+.  In the 3 years Reagan has been offensive coordinator, Rice has ranked 102, 86, and 77.  They're improving but this doesn't scream home run hire.  Talk me into liking this again.

PenHawk: Well, Rice is a run-first offense, and while they aren't a dominant one, they're generally effective. They rank 38th in the country averaging 4.88 yards per carry. They're also 29th in scoring 26 touchdowns on the ground. Their 5.59 yards per play is middle of the pack at 67th, but given (ostensibly) more talent at a Big 12 school, you'd like to think his ceiling would be higher here. The numbers won't blow you away, but the name of the game under Reagan has been efficiency. A lot of their metrics don't look great, but their DNP (their points scored versus what would be expected given starting field position) is pretty solid. You can also look at their First Down Rate (their number of drives that result in at least one first down or score - where we are dead last in the country), which ranks 35th overall.

I'm not certain about the hire and definitely won't make guarantees, but a Reagan offense should be one that doesn't crap out in the three plays and keep our defense on the field most of the game. We won't be a Baylor-style machine, but I think this team could have some success with the "slow but steady wins the race" approach. And again, I would hope we can get better talent than what he worked with at Rice, which should lead to a greater level of success.

Warden: Looking towards next year, this hire can't be good for Jake Heaps right?  Rice hasn't had an all out run only QB but they have relied on Taylor McHargue to be able to move the ball with his feet.  Hiring Reagan seems to point the offense towards Montell Cozart or transfer T.J. Millweard.

PenHawk: Regardless of who ended up OC next year, I think it would have been hard for a guy like Heaps, who just couldn't get it done this year (to what extent that was actually his fault is another debate). The offense has simply been more efficient under Cozart and the competition is only getting stiffer with Millweard entering the fold next year. But yes, a slow, pro-style pocket passer isn't going to fit in with Reagan's style of offense, so I don't see much of a future for Heaps as anything more than a fifth-year senior afterthought, which is unfortunate for all parties involved.

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