Kansas football has a new head football coach, and to get some intel on him, I reached out to Tim Riordan, the site manager over at UBBullRun.com.
RCT: Well Tim, let’s get right into it. Kansas has hired Lance Leipold to be its head football coach. I feel bad for Buffalo fans, I really do, mostly due to the timing of it. Tell me generally, what kind of a coach is Kansas getting here?
UBBR: Leipold is a pretty flexible coach who is not married to any particular scheme. The offense under QBs Tyree Jackson vs Kyle Vantrese looked quite different. Formations were all pretty similar but what happened after the snap was night and day.
He let Jackson be a gunslinger because he had a cannon and that mentality; he had Vantrease manage the game because Kyle is a heady QB whose arm is sufficient for college, but he is not going to blow anyone away.
As a side note, I really want an apology for taking Tuner Gill, which led to us bringing in Quinn. Quinn set us back a half a decade at least.
RCT: Ok, fair enough, we’ll talk more Gill here in a bit. Leipold has a reputation as a program builder, but on first glance, it’s hard to see why. The Bulls were 13-11 in the two years prior to his arrival. Talk about the Jeff Quinn era, and what the situation was when Leipold arrived at UB.
UBBR: UB was 13-11 in those years for two major reasons - we had Khalil Mack and Brandon Oliver. I’m sure you’ve heard of the first, and the second could have been more a household name if not for an unfortunate injury which derailed his career.
Mack was of course a “man playing against boys” in the MAC. Even at the P5 level he would have been the most dominant man on the field (hello Ohio State).
Oliver set most of UB’s rushing records, made his way to the NFL, got a chance to start with San Diego and did well with it.
UB was a “good” team but those two guys are probably the only reason Jeff Quinn managed to get us to the postseason. In fact, I think the biggest slam against Quinn is that he could not win a division title with them on the roster. Leipold has not had a Khalil Mack-level player - in fact, if you look at “drafted players” Quinn stacked up four of them, Leipold only two.
What Leipold built was solid enough to endure the normal change you see on college rosters. You lose your stud QB to the draft, and then his replacement goes down in week 3… No problem, we will trot out Kyle Vantrease, tweak the offense a bit, and still win the division.
We lost RB Jaret Patterson (who put up video game numbers for two seasons) to graduation, and I was not at all worried about that. We have a built-in guy ready to come in and do the same thing next year.
So, Quinn won with a few flashy players, while Leipold built a program around a solid skeleton that could put together 3-5 good seasons.
RCT: I was on Team Monken just like you - that said, why did Kansas make the right call in hiring Leipold over Monken, or Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton, both of whom have engineered (in my opinion) much more remarkable turnarounds?
UBBR: Honestly, I don’t know that you did make the right call. I suppose the only reason to really look at Leipold over Monken is because the only success that Monken has had is with the triple option, and it’s hard to make that work when you’re in a conference where the teams will come to be ready for it.
All three are good, and I don’t know that you could have went terribly wrong with any of them. I suppose Leipold did a bit more with less at Buffalo than Monken managed at Army. It’s worth noting that Monken has owned Leipold on the field.
RCT: Leipold also has a reputation as a player developer. The Bulls had yet another player taken in this year’s NFL Draft, which is pretty impressive considering the recruiting rankings, and have placed a bunch of guys on all-conference teams over the last several seasons. How well deserved is this reputation?
UBBR: I saw a lot of comments about UB’s terrible recruiting over on RCT and TBH I think you guys were not really aware of the situation at Buffalo.
UB, on the whole, was a middle of the pack MAC team in recruiting under Leipold. That’s good because we didn’t even have a fieldhouse open until this past season. We were, in terms of player facilities, in the stone age (even among mid majors). He did well with that, better than Quinn, better than Gill. I think he will do well at recruiting in Kansas.
As to evidence of his player development skill I would not look at guys like Jaret Patterson, but Kyle Vantrease. Patterson had all the tools to be great in the MAC; Vantrease took some work but he is now one of the better QBs in the conference.
RCT: Do you have any concerns with Leipold as a gameday coach? Clock management, substitutions, etc? Will he punt on 4th-and-1 from the opponent’s 40-yard line?
UBBR: OH GOSH YES!
He’s come far but has made some real boneheaded clock and game management decisions in the latter parts of a half. It’s really my only knock on him as a game day coach.
He wasted timeouts either by not using them and then needing seconds later in the half, or by using them to do nothing, i.e. lining up to punt, taking a timeout to talk it over, and still punting.
RCT: Oh God. I’m having David Beaty flashbacks already.
Do you have any insight as to whether or not Leipold will bring much of his current staff with him to Lawrence?
UBBR: I’ve heard some whisperings from people I know in the department that those discussions are ongoing. A lot of it is going to hinge on what UB does, do we replace Leipold with an on-staff coach and promote? Or do we hire from outside?
I’d expect his top wants would be DC Brian Borland and AHC/RC Rob Ianello. OC Andy Kotelnicki has also been with him forever. If UB taps one of these guys to sit in the big chair they will may stay regardless of what Kansas does. Then it falls to “do Kansas donors want a mid major heavy staff, or will they push Leipold to use what’s already there.”
We are both behind the eight-ball on the calendar.
(Editor’s Note: It looks like Leipold will bring a majority of the Buffalo staff with him to Lawrence.)
RCT: Ok, let’s get back to Turner Gill. I feel like I’m the one who needs to offer you the opportunity to apologize for Turner Gill. I mean, the guy had one winning season at Buffalo, built on a ridiculous turnover margin. Hindsight being 20/20, it was a terrible hire for Kansas.
UBBR: Why would I apologize? And was it, really, a terrible hire? Look at the numbers. Gill had more success than Charlie Weis, David Beaty, or Les Miles.
Honestly, you guys have issues. Maybe the new AD will fix things, I hope so.
But blaming Turner Gill for Kansas playing badly (being really kind here with my words) is like blaming the coroner for someone dying in a car accident. We said at the time that Kansas was a terrible job and Gill should avoid it at all cost. Really, it’s you who owe us an apology (see above) because it landed us Quinn who took a program which was not in disarray and flattened it for half a decade.
RCT: OK, well, let’s get into this for a minute. What makes you say Kansas was “a terrible job” going into 2010? OK, sure, the AD (Lew Perkins) sabotaged the previous coach at the time (Mangino) and torpedoed a 5-0 start into a 5-7 finish in 2009. But prior to that KU was coming off of four consecutive bowl-eligible seasons, with three bowl wins (including an Orange Bowl).
Not just that, but KU had NFL talent all over the field (Chris Harris, Bradley McDougald, Dexter McDonald, Steven Johnson, Tanner Hawkinson, maybe a couple more?). And Gill couldn’t win more than three games a year? And yes, for the record, I do think it was a terrible hire.
UBBR: It’s not that I think Kansas was a terrible job, heck for the money I’d take it. And, it didn’t look awful. But you nailed the reason for the failure - “the AD (Lew Perkins) sabotaged the previous coach.” The AD at Kansas has been *terrible* at football going back to that decision, and it’s not Gill’s fault. You had two other coaches who had astounding success at the highest levels also fall flat on their face at KU.
There have been systemic issues around KU’s football for a long time. Mangino may have been the right man to thrive in that environment but he was an outlier under the previous administration at KU. How many times did you bring in a new coach to “fix things” and only give him a season and a half before the fan base was calling for their job? How many times did an AD cave to that unrealistic fan demand to try to save his own skin?
So ten years, four coaches… some proven P5 talent, some promising G5, some promoted from within… What’s the common denominator?
It was not Turner Gill. Gill won at Buffalo, he won at Liberty, and both schools gave him a bit of time to establish his culture and get to winning. How much time did KU give him? At Buffalo, Leipold went 5-7 his first season (late season collapse) and then 2-10 the next season. Would Kansas (circa 2010) have given him another season?
Gill may have been a terrible hire for KU, not because he can’t coach, but because the culture at KU was not going to give him time to build a program. That’s a mistake KU has repeated three more times since Gill.
I sure hope for the sake of Leipold you guys got that out of your system.
RCT: Interesting take, Tim. My first thought is that Gill didn’t have to build a program at Kansas - it was already built. The Jayhawks won 31 games in the four years prior to his arrival, including 3 bowl games. All he had to do was sustain. Shoot, he didn’t even have to do that well! Just win 25-ish games over a 4-year span and that’s good enough for KU. It sucks for both of us that it didn’t work out.
Thanks for sitting down and doing this for us. And yes, if I could officially apologize for hiring Turner Gill on KU’s behalf, I would. Regardless, we wish you and the Bulls all the best, and I’ll give you the last word if you have anything you wanted to mention that I didn’t ask about.
UBBR: One thing that I’d like to mention is Leipold’s personality. It serves him well but the guy is about as exciting as paint drying. In terms of content he’s not going to give you a lot of laughs. A friend of mine tried to do a parody Twitter account of him and gave up after two weeks. How does one parody plain toast?
Thanks to Tim for joining us! Check out his work over at UBBullRun.com.