This week marked the beginning of the final push to the beginning of the season. With Fall Camp more than halfway over, the coaching staff was able to give some honest evaluations of what they have seen and the progress being made.
But before we get into the updates, we have a quick reminder about the open practice being held at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium tomorrow (Saturday, August 20th). Gates will open at 8am and practice will start at approximately 8:30am. If you have the chance, make sure you get out there to sneak an early peek at the team before the season opener.
Media Day gave us a lot of quotes from both players and coaches. While I was unable to be in the room in person to talk to the players, I did get an opportunity to hear the press conferences, and I came away with some distinct impressions, including the solidification of the mantra for this team.
The consistent message of consistency
It seems weird to be surprised by how consistent the messaging from the coaching staff has been, especially when that message is about players being consistent in their efforts.
What allows it to still be surprising is just how far that message stretches through everything they do. From the way the program recruits to the expectations for each player in each practice, all the way to the approach for playing from start to finish in a game.
And that has been a constant theme for the Jayhawks since Leipold and his staff took over. What also shouldn’t be surprising is that this is a consistent theme for this staff no matter where they have coached. As Leipold put it, “My expectations in intensity will be the same if we’re down by 30 or up by 30.”
No such thing as “recruiting over” someone
One particular moment stood out when one of the reporters asked about how some of the players (and potentially Daniel Hishaw specifically) have reacted to being recruited over. His immediate reaction was to insist that no one has been replaced. Instead, other talented players have been brought in to help compliment those that are already here and provide the team more options to be successful.
The point that Leipold made is a good one, and has been a real sticking point for some of the prior coaching staffs. I can’t count the number of times that a player was replaced by a new recruit, and instead of finding a new role on the team, he transferred out at the first opportunity.
Again, the message has been a consistent one: if you can help the team succeed, these coaches will find a way to get you on the field. That has allowed the Jayhawks to retain the majority of the contributors from last year’s thin roster while adding a significant amount of depth and versatility. And this is an important step in developing the program as a whole. After all, Leipold was absolutely correct when he said that “premier programs in college football keep recruiting. Why wouldn’t we do the same?”
Depth leads to versatility and optionality
The biggest dividends from the addition of all the talent in the offseason has been the variety of drills and looks that can be run in camp. Both offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki and defensive coordinator Brian Borland noted that fall camp last year was a struggle.
With such a limited roster, it was difficult to practice multiple options for play and reps when you only had enough players to field the lineup. Now the depth of each positional groups allows for multiple waves of players that can practice different things with different combinations of lineups. The team went from having to map out what to run to avoid overworking players to now having to regiment which players get which reps to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate.
But with the increase in the number of players comes the ability to increase the number of reps that can be run for the team in practice. That leads to more options that can be evaluated and more ways that the plan can be tweaked to take advantage of the options on the roster.
And ultimately, with deeper and more prepared personnel on both sides of the ball, practices where the offense and defense match up against each other are being more beneficial. All the coaches were clear that they feel like this time around, more work has been done and more improvements have been made to get them ready for the upcoming season. Don’t be surprised if we see even more early improvement this season for the Jayhawks.
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