Burnt Orange Nation: The record certainly doesn’t indicate much progress, but what’s your assessment of how the David Beaty era is going so far in Lawrence?
Rock Chalk Talk: It’s going about as well as can be expected, honestly. We determined pretty quickly that Beaty was hired mainly to help restock the shelves of talent here, as attrition during the Turner Gill and Charlie Weis eras left us with less scholarship players than an FCS team. We’ve gotten a few higher-profile transfers, including some from big-time programs, and we seem to have opened up a Louisiana recruiting pipeline, so there is at least some progress there.
The hope was that he would assemble a staff that could help him develop some skills with in-game coaching and day to day game planning, but the Air Raid he wanted to install is completely one dimensional, with no real deep throws being used and a complete underutilization of the running game. There are too many punts on 4th and short, especially when there is little to be gained in field position or when the game is still somewhat in reach. Ultimately, it’s starting to look more and more like Beaty will get to finish out his contract (to avoid paying another coach to not coach us) to restock the talent and then we’ll be looking for someone to take the next step with the program.
BON: Relatedly, how excited are you for basketball season?
RCT: Ecstatic. Basketball is the best sport anyway, so it’s about time to set aside this distraction we call football. With Kansas looking to be in a good spot to win their 13th conference title in a row, it’s an exciting time to be a Jayhawk. Traveling to Hawaii to play Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic was a good opportunity for this team, and of course the annual Champions Classic in another great opportunity to play another high-quality program.
BON: How did Kansas manage to keep things close against TCU and is there anything replicable about that game head into this weekend?
RCT: I’m not really sure I could give you a good answer on that, because every single one of our games against them has been close since they joined the conference. In the context of this season, the defense was still performing at a high level, and the switch away from Montell Cozart to Ryan Willis at quarterback provided the team with a spark. Add in that TCU was starting their slump and you end up with another close game in the series.
For this weekend, it’s really going to depend on how well the offense can stay on the field. The defense has been pretty good this year, but the lack of depth and large amount of time they are on the field causes long stretches where they just can’t perform at a high level. Kansas has the talent at the top level, but when they have to substitute out, they just don’t have Big 12-caliber talent to keep them in the game.
BON: Besides some flashes from Laquvionte Gonzalez and Ke’Aun Kinner, is there anything going well for the Jayhawks offense?
Steven Sims Jr. is the only other consistent contributor on the offense. His speed has allowed him to turn many short gains into long touchdown runs this year. He is the kind of depth threat that we could use in the Air Raid offense, but a few drops and a lack of willingness to go deep has really limited his role this year. New quarterback Carter Stanley seems to have opened up the offense a little bit, but it seems like it may be a little too late to expect that pay any dividends at all.
BON: The Jayhawks run defense has struggled all season. How many yards do you think D’Onta Foreman will have a chance to put up on Saturday?
RCT: Eleventy bajillion? That seems too low. The main issue has been the lack of depth. DT Daniel Wise has been good against the run, and Dorance Armstrong Jr has been solid as well, but their main strengths are in the passing game, and there just isn’t enough strong talent around them to hold up for 60 minutes. The team is still better than last year, but there just isn’t the overall level of talent from top to bottom to really highlight that improvement.
BON: Defensively, the lone bright spot appears to be the secondary. Is that mostly a result of the fact that most teams don’t have to pass to find success or is that group a legitimately capable unit?
RCT: There might be something to that for the unit as a whole, but when teams have tried to pass deep consistently, they haven’t had a ton of success with it. It’s much easier to dink and dunk it around the field, or run it around the line that often sells out to stop the pass. Safety Fish Smithson has been recognized multiple times by Pro Football Focus this year as one of the best defensive backs in the nation, so there is definitely some talent in that backfield. And the aforementioned Wise and Armstrong are terrors on pass rush, so many times the quarterback just doesn’t have time to load up for long throws.
BON: Anything that Texas fans traveling to Lawrence should know about?
RCT: Definitely try to find some time to explore the area around the stadium. The campus is such a beautiful place to walk around, and there are many local establishments on the outskirts that can give you a great experience, especially if you decide you want to do a little celebrating after a big win on the road.
BON: How do you see this game playing out?
I don’t see how it can go well for the Jayhawks. It looks like Texas has hit its stride, and while the Kansas offense came alive a little bit against Iowa State, it still stalled out way too many times. The only hope is for a few quick turnovers that set the tone and frustrate the Longhorns. If the defense can get pressure early, they might have a chance to keep it going throughout the rest of the game.
But honestly, I see Texas winning this one big, becoming bowl eligible and marching on to try and save Charlie Strong’s job. Texas 52, Kansas 13.