Camp has started, and the games are less than a month away. With that in mind, it’s time to start gearing up for the season. To help with that, I gathered everyone around the table and asked them to help sum up everything that has happened in the last few months. We broke the conversation up into multiple pieces, and we’ll be bringing them to you all the way up until the start of the season. Don’t forget to chime in with your own answers in the comments.
The single biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s team is Les Miles and the swagger surrounding the Jayhawks. Where do you think this has paid the biggest dividends this summer?
David: It won’t show immediately, but probably in recruiting. KU is making the “finalist” list for some talented guys who wouldn’t have taken a call from KU before. In terms of immediate impact, the biggest difference has to be competence. David Beaty showed us beyond any doubt he never learned how to run a P5 football program. I make no guarantees about Les Miles’ success at Kansas, but we know the guy has what it takes to run a good team. That in itself should make things a bit better and more focused in Lawrence as he starts to fill the roster with his guys.
Kyle_Davis21: I agree, recruiting is probably the answer. But for the sake of variety, I’ll go in a different direction. We won’t know if this pays off until games are actually played, but I’ve read a handful of quotes from players talking about the physicality or practices, how hard they’re working, their confidence level, etc. It doesn’t seem like Miles has had any issue getting buy-in from the players, and—as much as you can ascertain from the quotes—the swagger and confidence that Miles is imparting on the team could help make these growing pains a bit easier.
Fizzle: Recruiting is big but David and Kyle already addressed that so I will say enthusiasm to be different. National media is talking about Kansas in a positive way. Les made a big show of the spring game. People are excited about Kansas football this year. Thats a huge difference from last years team. Sure they will suck this year but people will turn out for that first game.
Brendan: In a general sense, I think it’s just an overhaul of the perception of the program, and in a sense the athletic department (not to get too ahead of ourselves). Like Fizzle said, national media is discussing Kansas positively instead of either flat-out ignoring the team or mocking it endlessly. I think it’s fair to say people feel the university seems to be acting like it cares about football, finally, and that kind of thing is reflected in press coverage, attitudes from fans and, of course, recruiting.
Mike: Nah, it isn’t recruiting. David Beaty was in the mix for highly rated guys, and even famously got some verbals that put KU in the top-10 of recruiting classes. We know what happened after that. KU has 20 players for next year’s class that are **checks notes** yup all three-star players. I think Brendan is on the right track in that it has something to do with national perception, I think both locally and nationally. Instead of, “how many games is KU going to lose” it’s more along the lines of, “how long until Les Miles turns around KU football?”
Andy Mitts: I actually think the buy-in from the players is the biggest noticeable difference. While there was some initial publicity from hiring Miles, overall the talk has been about the same. No one will really start talking about what Kansas will be able to do until they start actually doing it. And Mike is right that other than certain recruits talking about how they like Les Miles and wanted to play for him a long time ago when he was at LSU, there really hasn’t been much of a difference in recruiting yet. Instead, the player quotes that are coming out of camp and summer workouts talk more about the culture change and the credibility that having Les Miles running the staff brings to practice. While this time is usually filled with lots of platitudes and generic messages about improvement and coming together as a family, you can actually tell the level of excitement is elevated in these guys. That may be normal with any coaching change, but it’s definitely noticeable when compared to the last couple years of the prior coach.
It’s been a big up and down this summer, with lots of positive news, but also some not-so-great developments. Which summer story has you the most concerned?
David: I don’t know that any of it has me all that worried. Pooka’s suspension was a bit light, but that will blow over. A couple guys have transferred, but that happens. I guess my biggest concern was Les Miles at Big 12 media days. He didn’t seem particularly prepared or organized. In itself that’s not huge, but since he came across the same way at his introductory press conference, I have some concern that he’s lost a step since his LSU days.
Kyle_Davis21: Yeah, nothing is overly concerning right now in terms of moving forward into the season. I’m not concerned yet, but I’m keeping a close eye on the quarterback situation. Still reeling from the quarterback carousel and refusal to name or stick with a starter under David Beaty, it would make me feel a lot better if 1) We know the starter before the first game week, and 2) The reason for the starter is because he’s proven to be the best option and not just because a decision had to be made so they flipped a coin.
Fizzle: Gotta be Pooka. I’m glad that chapter is closed.
Brendan: Hard to argue the Pooka point. It’s never a good thing when your best player is involved in a legal incident that could directly affect the outcome of the season and the near future as a whole (thinking in terms of football only, of course, I’m not here to relitigate the whole case). I’m with Kyle, though, I think the vibe that Miles is going to pick his guy and stick with him is refreshing from the dartboard approach Beaty seemed to take. I’m a Carter guy, but if the answer is MacVittie I’m fine with it as long as he gets some leash.
Mike: Yeah, I don’t know that I’m too terribly concerned with any of them now that the Pooka situation has been handled (and it has been handled, whether or not you or I agree with the decision). When you’re dealing with 100+ kids aged 18-23, things like curfew violations and DUIs will happen. The one story I don’t get that keeps coming back, though, is David Beaty suing KU for his $3M buyout. Why not just pay the guy and make it go away? It’s a bad look for the university.
Andy: I’m not really that worried about most of the stories, even the Pooka news. The reaction will blow over eventually, or if it doesn’t it will be because Kansas has become nationally relevant and people want something to attack. What has me the most concerned is the DUI arrest of Malcolm Lee. The team is already trying to replace a lot of lost talent in the front 7, and Lee was a recruit that was expected to fill in immediately in that gap. We don’t know how long he will be out for, or if he will even play at all, but losing him has to be a big negative for the team going into the year.