Ever since Mark Mangino guided the Kansas Jayhawks to an Orange Bowl victory over Virginia Tech in January of 2008, the KU program has fallen on hard times to the point where the case could be made it’s among the five worst in the country.
It’s pretty much a given of the Big 5 Power Conference teams, it’s the worst.
Mangino’s teams filled the 50,000-seat Memorial Stadium during those halcyon days, spearheaded by dazzling quarterback Todd Reesing and a terrific, attacking defense led by Aqib Talib.
But Mangino’s alleged old-school way of treating his players got him in trouble and eventually he was shown the door.
Turner Gill, the one-time Nebraska star quarterback, was hired and it was the beginning of the downfall. Gill, while being an exemplary person, was overwhelmed by the job and his tenure didn’t last long. Then came the ill-fated hiring of Charlie Weis, a big name with an even bigger ego who plummeted the program into the abyss as he thought he knew it all when in fact his reputation was built mainly on being Tom Brady’s quarterback coach at New England. Brady has done just fine without old Charlie.
David Beaty is now in his third year of rubble restoring. He went winless his first year and won only twice last year, though one of the wins was over Texas, which has as many resources as any school in the country (and that loss led to the firing of coach Charlie Strong). You would have thought the Jayhawks had defeated Alabama as the victory is still being celebrated, even if it was against an inferior Longhorn team that couldn’t get out of its own way.
Being an alum of KU, I still have my doubts about Beaty. A 2-22 record will do that. I love his half-glass full, positive outlook even when things look bleak. I like the fact that he appears to be recruiting a higher level of player, due in part to the addition of energetic assistant coach Tony Hull, who has opened up a Louisiana pipeline.
But Beaty made several questionable in-game coaching decisions in the last two years. He was not only the head coach, but offensive coordinator and even took over special teams at one point, none of them being very successful since he spread himself so thin.
Beaty, to his credit, hired away Doug Meacham from TCU to take over as offensive coordinator. That may have been his top recruit since last season. TCU regularly put up big numbers and Meachem is regarded as a spread offense guru. At least if the offense spins its wheels this year, it won’t be totally on Beaty.
The Kansas defense has been its biggest drawback, especially the secondary. When KU played teams like Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, it was as though the defense put up little resistance and looked terribly out-athleted.
But maybe the times are changing. Junior defensive end Dorrance Armstrong Jr. is the Big 12’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Lineman Daniel Wise is the envy of a lot of teams. Mike Lee has gained the reputation of being a savage hitter in the secondary.
But KU fans shouldn’t get too excited. The program still doesn’t have a full allotment of scholarship players. The offensive line is slow and small by today’s college standards. It’s going to be baby steps and KU fans need to understand that. Beaty will be the Big 12’s Coach of the Year if he can win four games.
For now, I’d just take the Jayhawks being competitive week in and week out. Especially against Kansas State, which has cast a huge shadow over KU.