Fans get a welcome reprieve from stress this week as their Oklahoma Sooners get set to face the Kansas Jayhawks, but that doesn’t mean the opponent doesn’t provide some intriguing subjects. Here to discuss Les Miles’ hiring, David Beaty’s tenure and Pooka Williams’ skill set is Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk — SB Nation’s Kansas site.
Also, make sure to check out our preview podcast with Rock Chalk Talk’s Mike Plank. Keep in mind that this was recorded before the reports of an impending agreement, but Mike did discuss his feelings on a hypothetical Les Miles hire.
As far as football is concerned, Kansas fans haven’t had much to smile about in many years. However, they’ve been able to smile about freshman running back Pooka Williams, averaging 5.9 yards per carry in his young career. What makes him such a unique talent?
It has to be his quickness. He is both fast and elusive, and the ability to make a play in space sets him apart from a lot of other guys, even in the conference. I think the most surprising part of his game though has been the vision he has when running inside the tackles. There have been a few plays where he has made some last second cuts when it looked like there was going to be a sure tackle, and the ability to quickly identify where the hole is going to be and then put himself into it gives me hope that he will have a hugely productive career.
Kansas ranks 121st in passing S&P+, but Oklahoma ranks 82nd in passing defense S&P+. If Kansas ends up finding a rhythm in the passing game, which receivers are most likely to give the OU secondary some issues?
The most obvious is Steven Sims Jr., who has been a phenomenal talent for the Jayhawks in his career, even though he hasn’t gotten a lot of receptions in this season. He is one of the best receivers in Kansas football history, and his production is really determined by the output of the QB as opposed to anything he is (or isn’t) doing.
Another guy to keep an eye on is Jeremiah Booker. He has started to make some key receptions in the last few games, and he serves as a quick outlet pass for Peyton Bender on plays where he needs a safety valve.
Speaking of the passing game, what should Oklahoma fans expect from starting QB Peyton Bender?
That’s a good question. He has been very erratic, even when he has good games. He is definitely more of a traditional pocket passer, so if you can collapse the pocket, you can disrupt any rhythm that he might be able to establish. He isn’t particularly skilled in the quick passing game either, so if you can get pressure in the first 3-4 seconds it will be hard for him to get going.
Does Kansas cover this week (35.5)?
I want to say yes, just because of how large that spread is, but the Kansas defense will only be able to do so much. If the offense can’t get anything going, even against a defense as bad as the Sooners, then it will be a very long night for KU fans.
The common narrative surrounding David Beaty was that he inherited an impossible scholarship situation and actually improved things. However, Kansas fans have explained on numerous occasions that things are actually worse. So, what were his missteps as a head coach, and how did he make things worse?
I actually wrote that article, and there are really three main things that have made the situation worse, two of which were directly under his control.
The first one is the large number of players leaving the program, the vast majority of them being career-ending medical issues. Those are in no way Beaty’s fault, and definitely did him no favors in trying to fix the situation. However, he started by trying to immediately boost scholarships by using blueshirts, which essentially allow you to borrow scholarships from the next year. And he made that deficit worse by using more than half of his scholarships in the last two seasons on junior college players. He prioritized trying to get more wins and save his job over doing the actual job he was hired to do.
It’s now being reported that Les Miles is finalizing a deal to be the next head coach at Kansas. What do you see as the pros and cons of this hire, and do you think KU will make the switch to natural grass as a result?
There is a lot to like about the Les Miles hire, with the main positive being the experience and high level of coaching ability he brings to the table. His presence helps to secure the Louisiana pipeline that Tony Hull started in the last couple years. His coaching strengths line up with where most of the talent has been for Kansas recently, and he automatically bring big-name credibility when he goes out on the recruiting trail.
The disadvantages start with the cost, although I think Kansas was ready to pay $3M a year or so with whomever they were bringing in. Also, there is real concern that Les is a short-term hire. If he can get the program back on its feet quickly, then the job becomes a more desirable destination for an up and coming coach next time around. But if the success doesn’t come, then we really just made an expensive mistake without getting a lot of real value.
I don’t see Kansas making a switch to a natural grass field just for Les. Instead, we’ll probably just see a small bag of fresh clipping delivered to the sideline before every game.
Realistically, how long do you think it will take him to bring Kansas back to being competitive, and how can he best accomplish that goal?
It depends on what you call competitive. Not getting blown out in any games? He can probably do that immediately or in year 2. The fact of the matter is that a lot of the problems at KU were coaching issues. Beaty was well known for very questionable timeouts, bad 4th down decisions, and more. Having a competent play-caller will help immensely immediately.
Competitive in terms of competing for bowl games and/or Big 12 titles? The first is likely in year 2 or 3, but the last one probably isn’t even a possibility until year 5. There is just too much in terms of differences in talent, and the recruiting will take a while to close that deficit. They can play spoiler pretty soon if Miles is successful, and that should be enough for KU fans.
Who is your favorite KU alum outside of sports?
It has to be Rob Riggle. I love comedians in general, and he is just funny enough to balance out his ridiculousness. And it always helps when a celebrity is very vocal in his fandom.