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Monday, September 21, 2009

Keegan

Offense must do better

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Three games into the season, the Kansas University football team’s offense has averaged 537.7 yards per game (second in the Big 12), scored 16 touchdowns (tied for first) and has committed just two turnovers (tied for second).

Yet, most of the talk about the unit has revolved around what’s wrong, not what’s right. Receivers dropping balls, Dezmon Briscoe not always running the precise route Todd Reesing anticipated him running, holding penalties here and there, slow first quarters.

Why such scrutiny of an offense that so far has done a good job? Easy. Because the way this team is constructed, good won’t cut it from a unit that has potential for greatness. In order for this team to hang with Big 12 heavyweights, the offense will have to perform at near perfection because the defense is young in some spots and soft in others.

Junior Jake Laptad and surprising senior Maxwell Onyegbule give the Jayhawks a pair of pass rushers, but will the tackles get enough penetration to flush the quarterback toward a rushing end? Sophomore cornerback Daymond Patterson has looked great hanging with receivers running deep routes, and senior safety Darrell Stuckey is a proven star, but where are the turnover-generating playmakers on this relatively young defense?

After his team looked to be in need of a little tightening-up on both sides of the ball in dumping Duke, 44-16, in Memorial Stadium, KU coach Mark Mangino was asked if this team had the potential to have a season reminiscent of the 12-1 Orange Bowl champ of two seasons ago.

His answer revealed this defense is as short of that one in the demeanor department as in experience and pure talent.

“I don’t know how many games this team will win, but this team has a completely different personality than the 2007 team,” Mangino said. “It’s just a different group of kids, different way to coach them. I think the things they do share in common is a great work ethic. They play hard, but the personality of the team is a lot different from 2007. I can’t compare them.”

That team featured a first-team All-American in cornerback Aqib Talib and a second-team selection, tackle James McClinton. Talib oozed with confidence and played with a nasty, trash-talking edge. McClinton, so at peace spiritually, rightly never saw that as a contradiction to his violent, trash-talking style of playing football. He viewed both sides of him as outlets for his boundless passion and energy. Middle linebacker Joe Mortensen, then a junior playing on strong knees, had a most sinister, twisted laugh when he talked about delivering particularly vicious hits. All three players were good, they knew it, and they demanded excellence from teammates.

“They were kind of like the whip, making sure everybody was focused on every play,” Mangino said of Talib and McClinton. “This year on the defensive side of the ball, it’s the coaches that stay on top of every single thing, not that we didn’t in 2007, but we had more pure leadership than we do now.”

No shortage of leadership and playmakers on offense means a good defense is all that’s needed for this team to have a shot at hanging with the best.

Comments

dillustration 4 years, 6 months ago

Tom, just heard you on Kietzman show. When are you going to join Fitzgerald and break out your purple shirt on the Drive Show?

There is a REASON why Kietzman told you "great job" at the end of your segment.. you gave him stuff to throw in KU's face for awhile now.

Great job indeed. Traitor.

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fabio 4 years, 7 months ago

I can't believe it's not butter.

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KirkwoodHawk 4 years, 7 months ago

I didn't see the Duke game, but how much of Duke's yardage came after the outcome was no longer in question? Remember, having a young defense, it may be harder to hold the focus when the lead is so big, particularly when, as Mangino notes, there are no pure leaders on the field, like we had in 2007. A problem, but when the games are closer against the better competition in the B12, shouldn't be as much of an issue.

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jhawk7783 4 years, 7 months ago

Agree with KU_Alumn_2000: offense is doing fine. #1 in country in yds/game, and highly ranked in most statistical categories. Defense is improving, but still a work in progress. Twenty three 1st downs and 390 yds total offense is too much to give up to Duke, even with Cutcliffe as their coach. Two new great coaching hires in Miller and Sims. Actually, Sims wanted the job last year; wish we would have had him instead of Joe Bob.

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bradt1719 4 years, 7 months ago

lets just be sure that we, the fans, are so freaking loud on saturday. every down when were on defense needs to be deafening (sp?). i know i have wrote this in a couple places but this team should be good saturday. sure its not OU or Nebraska where we know fans will be crazy. so ready for the game...

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gardenjay 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, I suppose my comments came out too harsh yet again. Anyway, I am a big fan, and have high hopes for KU this weekend. I am glad they are a tough opponent, we need to toughen up our game.

Although I really think Sharp should stay on the bench to make sure he really heals up. Tying him down might be necessary, but how about just as a symbol that we know he wants to play but coach aint (ain't?) letting him, and so Jake can then relax in knowing that all footage from the game will show him inescapably tied to the bench.

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KURocksChalk 4 years, 7 months ago

Question: Did anyone notice if the early start time for the Duke game kept fans at the game longer? I have seen people expressing concern over that in the past and was wondering if time of day made much difference.

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JBurtin 4 years, 7 months ago

The linebackers are playing back sometimes because they can afford to when you're playing with a lead. A team like Duke is unlikely to go to the ground game to catch up when they are 30 points down.

All in all, the linebackers have been quick in swarming to the ball and have done an excellent job of giving the opponent 7 yards when they needed 10.

None of our opponents have rushed for more than 100 yards as of yet. Of all of the things to be worried about, I don't think the Linebackers are a big cause for concern.

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beebe1 4 years, 7 months ago

In Ohio, we haven't seen a KU football game this year. Worse than last year. But the comment that our LB's were 8 yards from the line of scrimmage makes me scringe! And, I don't see any evidence that the Defense accounts for every eligible receiver! Too much 'Prevent" and maybe too many defenders guarding a 'territory' with no eligible receivers, and none headed that way. Better than last year, but the problems are NOT solved!

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Annette Lee 4 years, 7 months ago

I got spoiled after the insight bowl, seemed like the receivers caught everything. So my expectations are higher. Anyway USM has big receivers and a good RB so they will be a test IMHO. But we are at home with a sold crowd ...RCJH!!!

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Phoggin_Loud 4 years, 7 months ago

The bottom line is that you play the team that is in front of you that week. Just ask USC.
One thing about HCMM, his teams get better as the year progresses. With that said, they are far better than this time last year; specifically in the running game and pass rush. Do they need to shore some things up? Absolutely.
This team is 3-0 and should continue to grow each week. I'll worry about OU the week of October 24th. Right now, let's go beat Southern. Miss.

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KU_Alumn_2000 4 years, 7 months ago

Gardenjay...are you in the atmospheric science program or something? This is the second time I've heard you talk about initial conditions.

Again...our offense will be fine. It's the defense that concerns me. We're seeing the defense perform similar to how they were performing last year at this time with non-conference games.

When we allow 22 first downs...and 390 yards to Duke...it's a little eye opening. I agree...this southern miss offense is no slouch...and they have won their last eight games dating back to last year.

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ShazzyD 4 years, 7 months ago

I agree with people who say Kansas isn't playing their best ball yet. But I think everyone who is saying that needs to watch some other college games. No one is playing their best ball yet. It is too early in the season for everything to gel. Give it a few more weeks. We will be ready by the Oklahoma game, and by the way we'll be 6-0 then too. So just chill.

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Jaydub 4 years, 7 months ago

Sorry to say it RockChalkJayBlog, but Florida and others have a better offenses than us. We really haven't had a real test yet.

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RockChalkJayBlog 4 years, 7 months ago

Well this is the point...With all the bitching and moaning about KU leaving points on the field, they still have the #1 offense in the nation.

Think about that for a moment.

Then realize KU didn't have a TE for two games, the starting RB for one game and the best WR on team (on arguably the best WR corp in the nation). Then factor in all the missed drops that KU missed just on Saturday (the two drops by Briscoe and Wilson).

Then go look back at the statistics.

KU has a special offense and once everything clicks and everyone is healthy at once, you'll be eeing an amazing offense.

So while they must do "better," they're doing pretty darn well right now.

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gardenjay 4 years, 7 months ago

Yes, but you are arguing about football 'statistics'. They not only are blind to the competition, causing skew that way as was pointed out above, they ignore important factors such as the potential for good or bad (e.g. dropped passes) - as well as having no initial conditions (players that may be somewhat sick, for example) or boundary conditions (weather, for example).

If you are from KU, then you care about the accuracy of these things. Go tell ESPN to stuff it with their #$&#_$*#&$ 'statistics', while enjoying them at the same time. It is, after all, purely entertainment.

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RockChalkJayBlog 4 years, 7 months ago

I love how everyone is ripping the offense when it is the best offense in the nation.

A&M and Arkansas have better yardage averages, but they've played one less game than KU.

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Dirk Medema 4 years, 7 months ago

Phoggin_Loud says... KU is #3 in total offense and #11 in scoring offense. Not to mention that they are #6 in scoring defense. They are still a work in progress, but does anyone remember last year at this time?

Agreed that the sky is not falling, but there are clouds up there that hopefully can be cleared up. The numbers, while nice, are decidedly skewed based on the level of competition, especially at this point in the year when you are averaging over such a small sample of games. Southern Miss will provide a much greater indicator of things to come.

I'm thoroughly agreeing with you on the beauty of it being a sellout. Gotta keep that going to warrant talk about improving the stadium. With a few thousand miles keeping me from contributing to the home field advantage, I am also loving that every game, even 1-aa UNC, has been televised. To me that is as telling as anything. The media knows that KU has a loyal fan based worth scheduling for.

I still say that '07 OB was as much about the fans in the stands as the teams on the field, and love to hear the tiggers whine because of it. What person in their right mind would bring an "antler" into your home?

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labbadabba 4 years, 7 months ago

"swishymcjayhawk (anonymous) says...

i love how people who have never seen the playbook assume that we haven't opened it yet."

Uh, we've had one CB blitz all year. 1. Rivet is right. There's a lot more we haven't seen. These games are akin to preseason NFL.

I don't see a lot wrong with this team right now. If we had not had the dropsies on Sat it would have been 60-16.

A few things I AM worried about (taken from some thoughts over at RockChalkTalk.com) 1) WRs unable to get open 2) CBs still playing soft and 8 yards off the line

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Phoggin_Loud 4 years, 7 months ago

Just read that Saturdays game vs. S. Miss. is officially a sellout. This makes 6 in a row. Great job, 'Hawk fans!!!

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Phoggin_Loud 4 years, 7 months ago

The link didn't post like I thought it would. Click on "Kansas" to see all of the stats.

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Phoggin_Loud 4 years, 7 months ago

Offense must do better?? I agree that they have had some big drops, but KU is #3 in total offense and #11 in scoring offense. Not to mention that they are #6 in scoring defense. They are still a work in progress, but does anyone remember last year at this time???
Let's all just calm down for a minute and check out the national numbers after 3 games. Here you go:

http://www.ncaa.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/ncaa-m-footbl-fbs-team-rushing-offense.html

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Joe Baker 4 years, 7 months ago

truehawk93 (anonymous) says... This Miss St game will be that game for each KU player.

I corrected myself on the "Slow Start" piece- I meant So. Miss not Miss St

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Joe Baker 4 years, 7 months ago

We are fine! Mangino has done a great job placing players into strategic positions. These games have allowed us to prepare for the B12. They may not be fierce competition, but it does give us some scrimmage to learn what we have, what is needed and tune the talent. We were a little inconsistent against Duke early in the game, but we finally got our groove and played up to our basic ability.

Yes, we have a ways to go and these guys are learning to execute, execute, execute. If you play these Top 10 teams, get beat early without learning your areas of improvement, you'll fail to find those areas of opportunity that need attention. Harris and Thornton need to step up big because it's gut check time NOW!! This Miss St game will be that game for each KU player.

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Andy Hess 4 years, 7 months ago

i love how people who have never seen the playbook assume that we haven't opened it yet.

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Rivethead 4 years, 7 months ago

Uh, yeah, what DoubleDD said.

And remember that both on O and on D......we still haven't opened the playbook yet. Everything has been very basic, very vanilla so far.

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DoubleDD 4 years, 7 months ago

The sky is falling the sky is falling. Come on would ya!! Almost every team is a work in progress. It's just killing me how everybody thinks there is something wrong with KU. The only thing wrong with KU is they have one of the toughest conference schedules of anybody in the Big 12. Man KU hasn't even played their best game yet and are still blowing out teams by 30 or 40 points. Yea KU's defense is going to get lit up in conference play but who's isn't this the Big 12. At least KU can get after the QB this Year. So just calm down and enjoy the ride were ever it takes us.

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NebraskaJayhawk 4 years, 7 months ago

Right on Keegan... We need "nasty" players. We need guys that want to just flat out lay people out like Mort & Rivera were doing in '07. And we need someone in the secondary to become a Talib. I really thought Thornton had a chance to be that kind of player this year, but apparently not...maybe Harris. I know Stuckey is nursing and injury..I'm looking forward to seeing what havoc he creates when he is healthy. So far he hasn't contributed any big hits, etc.

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Robert Brock 4 years, 7 months ago

Let us not over-look Southern Mississippi. USM has won their last eight football games and against tougher opponents than Northern Colorado or UTEP.

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Janet Scott 4 years, 7 months ago

We have a long way to go....a l-o-n-g way to go to stay with the elite of the Big 12, and we need to "get there" fairly quickly. From what I saw on Saturday in game #3 of this season, I'm even concerned about beating the Mildcats in Manhattan and MU in KC, and even NU in Lawrence. Too many lapses and too inconsistent.

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KU_Alumn_2000 4 years, 7 months ago

Great article Tom.

We need to get to the next level, which is beating the likes of Big 12 south powers in OU, Texas, and Tech; but I'm concerned that our defense will struggle when we play that type of competition. If our offense can eventually click on all eight cylinders, nobody can stop the O, and our special teams appear to be solid.

The defense on the other hand is missing some things, and our opponents scores are not a complete indication of the quality of our defense. Especially against Duke, they had no problems driving the ball down the field. Two drives could of scored easy field goals, but they were obligated to go for it on fourth down being down by multiple touchdowns. The final Duke drive ended on an interception in their own inzone, which could of been another field goal or possible touch down if more time was available. A guy like Colt McCoy would have no problems moving the ball against our current and ongoing D.

Hope I'm wrong about this observation, but here are a couple of stats to give this discussion some substance.

1st Downs: Duke 22 - Kansas 23 Net Yards: Duke 394 - Kansas 490 Time of Poss: Duke 31:16 - Kansas 28:44

Clint Bowen and his staff will have their hands full when scheming against our 2nd half of the season opponents.

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