The countdown to the beginning of on-field football action continues, and as we come near to the one-month mark, it’s time for the staff here at RCT to get in their final “summer” thoughts for the program.
Obviously the big news since the last time we did one of these is the hiring of Jeff Long as the new athletic director. While there are a lot of angles to take with this one, I’d like to know what you think the biggest way that this hiring changes the football program and the attitudes around it?
David: The main difference is the bar being raised for the football program. Zenger had made it clear that he was going to find any possible reason he could to keep Beaty (and himself) in place. Now he has to produce meaningful improvement, and he likely only has this year to do it.
I’d like to think Long’s background and history in the SEC, making big name hires, will open doors to candidates who might have otherwise been hesitant to come to Lawrence. In reality though, I don’t think that will make a huge difference.
dnoll5: For me, it’s the personal feeling that the athletic department will actually do something positive for the football program. For the first time in a long time, I feel like the program will be going in the direction that we’ve wanted it to go and honestly hasn’t been going since they let Mangino go.
Mike.Plank: Both those guys have made good points so far. I think dnoll really nailed it; for years KU has said they were trying and even has thrown some money at the football program. With changes in the administration, maybe they can root out whatever is holding this program back at an institutional level and finally start to make progress on the field.
Kyle_Davis21: To reiterate what the other guys have said slightly differently, it’s about credibility. Kansas has chosen a man who has a significant role at the top of the sport. built successful programs, hired good coaches, and is respected by virtually everyone. Before, when speeches and promises were made, it sounded great, but came from unproven voices. When we hear Long’s vision, it seems plausible because we know he has done it before and can do it again. I have to imagine coaching candidates, donors, and others will feel similarly and that can go a long way toward getting everyone onboard.
Andy Mitts: To piggyback on what everyone else has said, it removes the conflict of interest and a lot of departmental baggage that was associated with the football team. We don’t have to worry any longer about how objective the person evaluating the football program and staff actually is, because there is no longer a vested interest in keeping a guy that the current AD hired in place. If Long gets through this season and says that he feels Beaty has the ability to turn it around, I can at least respect that the conclusion was reached after an objective evaluation process. While I may not agree with it, I can at least respect it is coming from someone who knows what it takes to turn around a football program. Plus, it adds a sense of urgency to the season, to at least show some sort of improvement.
The Jayhawks can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to personnel, as they are annually losing players that are expected to contribute to the team. Of the recent departures this summer, which is going to have the biggest impact on the team this year?
David: By default I’ll say Taylor Martin, because none of the other recent departures have done a whole lot. Martin hadn’t been very impressive at running back, but still had 652 career rushing yards. Kansas isn’t in position to write off the loss of an experienced player who’s actually found himself in the end zone a few times.
dnoll5: I agree with David. Losing a player with any ability and asking this coaching staff to replace it is a hard ask.
Mike.Plank: I guess for me it’s WR Chase Harrell, who went to Arkansas. Martin was going to be no better than fourth on this years RB depth chart anyway, but Harrell would have (or should have) been given every opportunity to start opposite Steven Sims. At 6-4, he definitely has the size you want in a wideout. As for experience, he caught 25 passes for 221 yards last year with 3 TDs and made a few impressive catches in the 2017 spring game, but I get the feeling that coaches never really figured out how to use what they had in him. I’m gonna be super pissed when he’s first team All-SEC this year.
Kyle_Davis21: Martin is the biggest name of the four guys that left the team last month, but because of all of the depth at that position, I’m going to say either Kenyon Tabor or Jacob Bragg. Tabor was a three-star tight end that Beaty spoke highly of and who could have come in and helped replace the 350+ yards of production from Ben Johnson last year. Bragg was an offensive lineman who had a handful of starts under his belt, and we’ve already talked at length about how important the offensive line position is this year. Both guys will be missed.
Andy Mitts: I’m not surprised that most people seem to have forgotten about him, since the news of his retirement from the game was so long ago in the summer cycle, but Mesa Ribordy has to be the guy for me. He was by far the favorite to be the most impactful offensive line player, and the plan was for him to be the rock of the line at center. His medical issues threw the plan for the O-line into disarray, and I’m still honestly not sure how the team will make up for his loss.
Despite the pessimistic attitude we’ve had here recently, there has to be SOMETHING that you are looking forward to for this year. What is it?
David: I guess I’m interested to see if Doug Meacham can get something going offensively. I tend to think fans overrate him, but he at least has to be capable of more than the garbage we saw from the offense last year. We’ve seen time and time again that in modern college football, you don’t need incredible talent to put up numbers on offense. It’s not likely, but I’d like to think there’s some chance of things clicking and the Jayhawks using Sims and Herbert to put up some points this year.
dnoll5: Daniel Wise and Joe Dineen on defense. They should be fun to watch until they’ve been out there for 34 of the last 40 total possessions and their legs fall off. Sorry, I know we’re trying to be optimistic here, but old habits are hard to break, you know?
Mike.Plank: How Jeff Long finds $3M for Beaty’s buyout? Oh, you probably mean on the field. I’m interested to see how Corione Harris and Pooka Williams make the transition to D1 straight from high school; both of those guys should be expected to start and contribute right away for a program in the shape that KU is in.
Kyle_Davis21: Steven Sims. The wide receiver has been the guy on offense for two years, and had more than 1,100 total yards in 2017. He’s one of the main reasons to watch KU games, and this is his chance to put an exclamation point on an already great career. I’ve been doing research on where Sims stands in terms of KU greats at the position for an article that will run soon, so I will say that this season could cement his legacy even further.
Andy Mitts: To be perfectly honest, I agree with basically everything here. But in the interest of being different, (and trying to convince as many people as possible to subject themselves to the possibility of absolute misery with me this year), I’m going to mention Mike Lee. I’m interested to see how he steps up this year to take charge of the secondary, as he is probably the upper classmen with the most promise and leadership potential. Wise will be the unquestioned leader of the D-line, Dineen is the face of the defense as a whole, but how Lee steps up will go a long way towards determining if the Kansas defense will be even halfway respectable this year.
The next installment will come right before the season starts, so be ready for a breakdown of the early season games as we ramp up towards the season opener.