Just over six months ago, a week over to be exact, the Kansas Jayhawk football program announced Turner Gill as it's new leader and Head Coach. Gill's name had been tied to various head coaching jobs for several years but he had never managed to find the right fit. With a Kansas offer last December, the Buffalo Bulls coach and longtime member of the Nebraska Cornhusker program finally made the leap.
While he's yet to coach a down for the Jayhawks, Gill is now at the six month mark as a head coach. He's pieced and held together one recruiting class, assembled a staff, run his team through spring drills, set out on a regional glad handing tour and started the process for his first official recruiting class at full strength.
How has he done? As with any job there are always growing pains. Areas where there are struggles. At the same time there are areas where a coach can make a quick impact and a strong first impression. The most important six months of his first year are still to come, but after the first six here's where we're at.
C+ B -
Early reviews on the staff were very positive. Turner Gill was known as a strong recruiter and the group he had assembled was believed to be the same.
Early on the small group at hand was able to keep together and patch a few holes to make a fairly small first class matter. Unfortunately the same cannot necessarily be said in regards to the current state of recruiting as early returns aren't as strong.
Take away what was believed to be a strong suit for the group and all we have to go off of is the spring game which amounts to a glorified practice. Unfortunately the Jayhawks didn't overwhelm the first crowd of the Turner Gill era as the group looked to be a long way from gameday ready.
It's early, and this group still has some strong assets that have plenty of time to show through. Six months in, with a very limited sample they are passing with a
C+ B- , it's a satisfactory grade more than an overwhelmingly positive grade.
Player Morale - A
Now this should be a hats off to both Turner Gill as well as the staff so with that in mind I'm going to go back and bump that initial C+ for the staff up to a B-. There were a lot of fences in need of mending when Gill made his way to Lawrence. Between his personality, philosophy and the group brought in, much of the morale surrounding the team has made a strong recovery.
Any time you have transition it takes some getting used to, and there will surely be those that find the situation isn't the right fit after all. At the moment however, the players and those surrounding the program are much happier and once again working toward a common goal.
One small example. These coaches and Turner Gill are prepared to let these players take risk on defensively. They might still find that risk means they face a little "tough coaching", but they are encouraged to and expected to attack. That is a different and welcome move from recent years.
Midterm grade is an A in this respect and after last year, that's a start.
Recruiting - B-
This was said to be a major focus of this staff and a priority set by Coach Gill. Given the circumstances Gill was able to do a nice job with his first class.
Currently, it's a bit of a tricky climb. Kansas has faced some difficulties over the last few months and the conference realignment mess is no exception. Right now Coach Gill has a group of commitments that come with very little fanfare but do fit the athletic mold he mentioned early on. That said, the lack of big name players and competing offers is a bit concerning to some.
Someday Coach Gill may be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of having an eye for hidden talent, but as of today it's a wait and see game with the fans, just as it is with recruits when it comes to Kansas.
Recruits want to see Kansas win before jumping on board, fans want to see Kansas recruit and win. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? A few solid seasons and Gill and his group could become great at recruiting. Right now, with the limited sample, good is about the strongest word that can be used.
Early grade for Gill is a B- based on salvaging the 2010 class, but struggling early with some of the bigger name area kids in this class.
Coaching - C+
With the understanding that the spring game and spring practices provide a very limited sample, that sample wasn't overwhelmingly positive. There were areas the Jayhawks looked good, but there were also areas the Jayhawks looked pretty bad. Surprisingly some of those "bad" areas were areas where fans were expecting a strong showing.
The team is adjusting, the game play wasn't always crisp and there is plenty of work to be done by September.
Certainly this was a tough spot to be in. Rebuilding a team that collapsed a year ago and doing so while building an entirely new identity can be difficult. Throw in the fact that this group lost it's primary leadership and there are bound to be growing pains.
C+ for now.
Fan Morale - B
Early on this was probably quite a bit higher. All things considered of late, the lowering of the grade might have some to do with Gill's actual limited performance to date, but it also has a lot to do with the overall problems in the AD.
To his credit, Gill has set out on a goodwill tour that makes it's way clear out to my backyard in Colorado. He's a genuine person, with strong morals and he has the makings of a great ambassador for Kansas.
Still it's a long road. It took Mark Mangino into his sixth season, a miracle season at that to breakthrough, and that came crumbling down in a matter of moments. Gill's personality likely lends itself to a bigger upside if Kansas gets back to that point or wins consistently, but that doesn't change the fact that he'll face plenty of skeptics on the climb early on.
B from the standpoint that Gill is doing and saying all the right things, but still has to almost exceed expectations before the cautious optimism of the Kansas fanbase can turn again turn the corner again.
So far we have about five areas where we can look at the early impact of Turner Gill. Wins and losses will be a bigger indicator and certainly the Coach deserves some time and support in getting there.
Right now what are the remaining questions lingering regarding the staff, and Coach Gill? Early grades and thoughts from the rest of you here at RCT? Personally I go back and forth between giving a greater benefit of the doubt and realizing that it's going to take high expectations and reaching for those in order for this program to be successful.