This week, our Q&A is with Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk, SB Nation’s Kansas site. Thanks for talking to us, Andy!
1. This month, Kansas has shown some fight against TCU and Oklahoma State. Is this a testament to David Beaty? Has he changed the culture in and around the program since taking over?
I don’t believe this is really any indication of a culture change or suddenly Beaty’s changes are working. Instead, we are seeing the norm of what has happened the last few times against those opponents. Ever since joining the Big 12, TCU can’t seem to shake our football team, each time winning by a margin that was far less than what it should have been. And Oklahoma State has had lots of problems in Lawrence, nearly losing two years ago before a late kickoff return TD put them up for good.
Don’t get me wrong, this defense has made huge strides from last year, and are a reason for Kansas fans to be excited about the future prospects of this team. Clint Bowen was just ok as an interim head coach, but now that he can focus on the defense and has guys who are physically capable of playing at a Big 12 level, we are starting to see some of the schemes and play calling that make him a valuable defensive coordinator.
2. On the topic of David Beaty and the program, are Kansas fans hopeful for the future? Has he been making any strides on the recruiting trail?
There is definitely some hope for the future, but most people see Beaty for what he is at this point: a fantastic asset for recruiting, but a huge work in progress for pretty much every other aspect of the head coaching position. His play calling is questionable, he has already had to step himself back multiple times after trying to get too involved in too many aspects of the game, and while he has all the enthusiasm in the world, his knowledge of the game seems way too focused on the receiver position.
The talent is definitely coming. We have multiple transfers coming in next year, and Louisiana has suddenly opened up as a pipeline that we are pulling from. I have no doubt that Beaty will have solid classes the next couple years, but the main question is going to be what he can do with them once they get here.
It’s easy to say that things will be better once we have a full complement of scholarship players, and that will definitely help with the late-game decision making. But tired legs don’t cause all the mental mistakes or back game management situations. While we are cautiously optimistic, we’ve been down this road too many times to get our hopes up too high.
3. Sophomore receiver Steven Sims has three 100-yard games this year. What makes him so difficult to defend? What are his best qualities as a receiver and playmaker?
His size and speed. Each of those 100-yard games featured a very short pass that he turned into a very long gain. He is small enough that he can squeeze into tiny holes that most people wouldn’t be able to. And once he turns on the gas, he is pretty much the fastest guy on the field. If he has any kind of space, he’s probably taking it to the house.
4. Aside for Sims, who are some other potential playmakers that Sooner fans should keep an eye on this Saturday?
Most of our playmakers come on defense. I sound like a broken record during these Q&As, but guys like S Fish Smithson, DT Daniel Wise and DE Dorance Armstrong are consistently getting recognized nationally for their play right now. The defense had 5 different players who collected sacks last week, so pretty much everyone is a playmaker for that unit at this point.
On offense, the two main guys to look out for are WR LaQuvionte Gonzalez and RB Ke’aun Kinner. They have both contributed heavily, and while Gonzalez can be a bit loose with the ball sometimes, he still is a big play threat every time he touches the ball.
5. How do you think things will play out this Saturday? What does Kansas have to do to make this a competitive contest? What’s your final score prediction?
The defense is going to be key. If they can disrupt Baker Mayfield by getting pressure, they can at least stem the flow of points. Unfortunately, I think it is also going to take a masterful game by the offense, with no turnovers given up. That has been the downfall of this team in pretty much every game they lost this season. Essentially, the defense is great, but the offense turns the ball over so often that there is really no way to expect the defense to keep the points off the board.
Ultimately, Oklahoma is going to be way too much for this team, and while the defense is probably one of the better ones that Oklahoma will face all year, the offense can’t exploit the obvious weaknesses of the Sooner defense. I’ll predict Oklahoma 45, Kansas 20.
1. Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue (formerly Oklahoma Joe’s) or Arthur Bryant’s?
Joe’s Kansas City
2. Power & Light or Westport?
Power & Light
3. Do you think the Chiefs win the AFC West this year? Do they have a shot to make a deep playoff run? As a Chiefs fan, I’m still skeptical.
I think they end up winning it. Denver’s defense is really not that great this year, and the offense is still having growing pains. Oakland has looked good so far, but I still don’t trust that team to put together a huge run. San Diego is good enough to play spoiler, but that’s about it. The Chiefs have likely the best defense in the division, and I honestly couldn’t really find a team that is clearly better than them this year other than the Patriots.
4. Do you think the Jayhawks win a 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title this year?
Absolutely. The rest of the conference is down, having lost important pieces of their teams without really replacing them, while Kansas has actually likely improved into a serious national title contender. I see the Jayhawks winning the conference by 2-3 games this season.