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89 Days: What Should the Offense Look Like?

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Iowa State v Kansas Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

If fans had to pick a single most glaring problem that led to Les Miles' ouster at LSU, many would choose the offense. Despite putting a lot of offensive talent in the NFL, the offense seemed to be a touchy subject in his later years there.

The main issue seemed to be that the product wasn't a whole lot of fun to watch. In an era where teams are moving to up-tempo spread offenses throwing the ball around and lighting up the scoreboard, LSU stuck with a pro-style, run based offense that made frequent use of fullbacks and tight ends. In 2014, the Tigers ran the ball 621 times while passing just 276. The next year, Miles' last full season in Baton Rogue, they ran 506 times vs 277 passes. The thing is, this didn't necessarily result in bad offense. They had the 34th and 12th ranked offenses in the country per S&P+ in those seasons. Nonetheless, his refusal to change was reportedly a factor in his dismissal.

Does this mean that Kansas will be trying to win in the high flying Big 12 with 21 personnel and fullback dive plays? Not necessarily. First, while Miles may be stubborn, it's unlikely that he believes this group of players is going to succeed by beating opponents one on one in the trenches and running the ball right at them. But second, and perhaps more importantly, that's not the type of offensive coaching staff he's put together.

Before being hired away as Troy's head coach, Chip Lindsey was Miles' choice to coordinate the offense. Lindsey had held that position at Auburn the two years prior, leading one of the more innovative P5 offenses under guru Gus Malzhan. Prior to that he'd spent a year each at Arizona State and Southern Miss, and at both stops he'd run some version of an up tempo spread with balanced run/pass splits.

When Lindsey left for Troy, Miles hired Les Koenning, whose last P5 OC job was working with Dak Prescott at Mississippi State, in an offense that was slightly run-heavy, but showed defenses multiple looks out of the shotgun, with a lot of players shifting in and out of the backfield. Working with Koenning is senior offensive consultant Brent Dearmon. Last year, Dearmon was head coach at Bethel (KY) at the NAIA level. Bethel racked up 540 yards and 55 points per game while running a spread out offensive attack full of motion, misdirection, and varied playcalling designed to have the defense guessing on every play.

Looking at the staffing decisions, it's very unlikely that the Mad Hatter brought these guys in to run a lot of ISOs out of the I formation. I fully expect to see Kansas operating out of the spread, and my guess is that we'll see a bit more running than passing. This may be a little disappointing to KU fans who have seen an inept "air raid" attack the last four years, but keep in mind that the spread we saw under Beaty was spring-game-level vanilla. It looked more like a high school spread offense in terms of complexity. Koenning and Dearmon in particular like to keep defenses honest by mixing up looks and formation, often at the line of scrimmage using players in motion.

My hope is that we'll finally see a bit of innovation in the Kansas offense, something that's generally been lacking in recent years, despite the Jayhawks working with a talent deficit and needing every advantage they can get. Dearmon ran an offense (albeit at a much lower level) that was nearly unstoppable last year, and I think we may see a lot of his fingerprints all over this year's scheming and playcalling. Regardless of what it looks like, Kansas fans mostly want to see consistent production. Some fresh ideas and misdirection will be the best way to accomplish it out of the gate.