Burnt Orange Nation: Kansas is 0-8 and hasn't won a game on the road since 2009. Just how poor of a job did Charlie Weis do in Lawrence and how much progress has new head coach David Beaty made? Is he on the right track and what does that even mean for the Jayhawks right now? Is there any hope of getting back to where Mark Mangino had the program seven long years ago?
Rock Chalk Talk: Charlie Weis was awful in so many different aspects of the job. As a tactical coach, he was terrible. Supposedly an offensive genius, he never coached a KU quarterback who actually completed 50% or more of his passes, and he never really found a consistent offensive identity, seemingly changing the offensive scheme every week to fit the opponent. The defense was the only thing that improved during his tenure, and by his own admission he didn't even touch the defense.
He also came up with a half-baked plan to replicate Bill Snyder's success at K-State by loading up on JUCOs, but went overboard with the plan (17 of KU's 24 commits in 2013 were JUCOs), seemingly unaware that without a developing core of 4-year players, he was going to find himself without a full football team when the JUCOs graduated or left/got kicked off the team (which happened to an alarming number of them). Perhaps fortunately for him, he never had deal with those chickens coming to roost, as David Beaty inherited the mess and ended up with a team of about 60 scholarship players when all was said and done after this recruiting cycle. Simply put, Weis not only sucked while he was coaching in Lawrence, but also managed to leave behind a mess that will take multiple recruiting cycles to clean up.
As for Beaty, it's nearly impossible to tell if progress is being made right now because of how dire the roster situation is. Right now, six of the 22 starters are freshmen, and four of them (including the quarterback) are true freshmen. They returned only one player who started all 12 games in 2014. The team is so young and the depth chart is so thin that they can make great strides this year and still get beaten by 40+ points every week. The good news is that some of these young players are showing real promise, and Ryan Willis looks like he'll end up a four-year starter at quarterback. There are signs of progress here and there, but it's going to take a year or two before Beaty can really be accurately evaluated.
BON: Other than the three-point loss to South Dakota State to start the season, the most competitive game on the scoreboard was the 10-point loss to Texas Tech. How did the Jayhawks manage to hang with the Red Raiders and is that type of performance repeatable this weekend?
RCT: The Texas Tech game looks good on paper, and it was fun to stay competitive for an entire game, but it also has "fluke" written all over it. It was a quiet, sparsely-attended 11:00 am kickoff, and Tech came out playing sloppy football and never really got clicking. Kansas still gave up 576 yards to the Raiders, and despite playing the second-worst defense in the Big 12, could only muster 20 points of their own. I hate to be such a downer on my own school, but if they replayed that game ten times, Tech probably wins them by an average of at least 30 points. Whether it's repeatable this weekend is entirely in the hands of the Longhorns. If they see that it's Kansas on the schedule and come out with a ho-hum attitude, the game could be close. If they smell the opportunity to atone for the ISU game last week and bring their A game, there is little Kansas can do to stay competitive.
BON: The numbers suggest that the offense has been pretty putrid this season. Have there been any flashes from freshman quarterback Ryan Willis and are there any skill positions players for Texas to worry about defensively?
4. Four of the top six tacklers for Kansas are defensive backs. Is that the strength of the defense or is that just a result of poor play from the front?
RCT: Ryan Willis, despite his uninspiring numbers, has been pretty impressive, especially given that he's a true freshman working behind a terrible offensive line. He has a big arm and has a lot of confidence in it. His numbers would look a lot better if a) he got a little more time from his pass protection, and b) his receivers actually caught the ball. You can probably count on at least four or five accurate passes being dropped by KU's young receiving corps this week. As far as skill position players, true freshmen wide receivers Steven Sims and Jeremiah Booker have looked impressive (when they hang on to the ball). Sims has great speed and has shown an ability to get behind the secondary, and Booker has a good combination of size and athleticism that he's still learning how to use. Both have made some big plays here and there, just not on a consistent basis.
BON: Four of the top six tacklers for Kansas are defensive backs. Is that the strength of the defense or is that just a result of poor play from the front?
RCT: That's the result of a weak defensive line. Senior defensive end Ben Goodman is actually a very good player, but a lack of talent elsewhere on the line has enabled teams to take him out of the game more often than not. Freshman defensive tackle Daniel Wise has shown great improvement but is still a freshman starting at defensive tackle in the Big 12. The line doesn't occupy blockers well enough and it's been pretty easy for running backs to get to the second level. The other part of the tackling numbers is that the corners, while they've also shown some improvement, usually allow their man to catch the ball and end up with a lot of tackles as a result.
BON: The run defense has been pretty poor this year for the Jayhawks. Is loading the box against the Horns enough to expect to slow down a rushing attack that has been productive in two of the last three games?
RCT: I will say that, although the Jayhawks don't defend either the run or the pass particularly well, they're probably better-suited to play a running team. The safeties don't have the agility to shut down the talented slot receivers you see at Baylor and TCU, and tend to get exposed by those same types of teams in the running game where they get spread out and have to make plays in space. From what I've seen, Texas doesn't use the width of the field much, and Kansas has some very solid tacklers at linebacker and safety, even if they're lacking some athleticism. I certainly don't think we'll see KU shut down the Texas running game, but I'd rather see them go against this type of offense than one that wants to throw it 60 times a game.
BON: How do you see this game playing out? Kansas gives Texas trouble in Lawrence, but has struggled to compete in Austin. Does that change this year?
RCT: The only way I see this staying close is if the shutout at Iowa State has thoroughly demoralized the Longhorns. I haven't watched a lot of Texas football this year so I don't have a good read on the team (though it seems like maybe no one does), so I can't say with any confidence that Texas will come out sluggish enough to let Kansas hang around. I don't think this has the feel of a total blowout, but I don't expect a close one. Kansas has shown they're generally only capable of scoring 10-20 points against Big 12 competition, so I'm guessing Texas slowly amasses just enough points over the course of the game that the Jayhawks won't be able to keep up. In the end, I'm guessing Texas wins with a final score in the 35-14 range.