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Monday, September 20, 2010

Keegan

No easy fixes for KU football

Kansas head coach Turner Gill closes his eyes as he paces past his players during the fourth quarter against Southern Miss, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Jayhawks fell to the Golden Eagles 31-16.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill closes his eyes as he paces past his players during the fourth quarter against Southern Miss, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010 at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Jayhawks fell to the Golden Eagles 31-16.

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In many ways, Friday night’s one-sided loss to Southern Miss illustrated more completely than did its first setback why Kansas University’s football team falls short of bowl-caliber quality.

The North Dakota State outcome involved so many peripheral factors — players too relaxed during the post-Mark Mangino reign needing a loss to pay closer attention to Turner Gill, for one — that set the climate for a stunning loss to a Div. I-AA opponent.

Friday night’s 31-16 bummer felt more like a simple case of the faster, stronger, deeper, more organized football team winning the game. Southern Miss of Conference USA has a good football team, but it’s not as if the Golden Eagles would rate as a popular pick to win the Big 12 North if they played in it.

KU’s problems start up front, and it looks as if they’ll be tough to reverse. Blocking problems on the punt team should be easier to remedy.

An overmatched offensive line, more than anything in football, is the domino that makes everything fall apart. It also leads to questions about play-calling. For example, some might wonder why Kansas ran the ball so often on second down when it didn’t work particularly well (16 rushes, 61 yards, 3.8 average). Maybe because it worked better than passing (2-for-6, 13 yards, one sack for a five-yard loss. That’s a net eight yards in seven plays, an average of 1.1 yards).

James Sims and Deshaun Sands both looked sharp, considering how few holes the line blew open.

Jeremiah Hatch continues to battle back problems. Even if Hatch can return to health — he’s listed as probable for Saturday’s game against New Mexico State — that doesn’t address the bigger issue.

All three games so far, the left defensive end has had no problem consistently getting to the quarterback. Right tackle Brad Thorson, who missed the start of preseason camp because of a foot injury, doesn’t closely resemble the reliable blocker of seasons past. Yet, he has remained in the starting lineup, which raises questions as to the readiness of his backup, red-shirt freshman Riley Spencer.

Look for KU to consider keeping an extra man in the backfield to fortify the protection on the right side. That gives quarterback Jordan Webb one less target from which to choose, but at this point he hasn’t yet mastered the art of scanning the field to find the open man, so the extra time will help him more than the extra receiver.

The pass-blocking failures always stand out more, but the run-blocking also needs improvement. Left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, the team’s most talented blocker, has kept defenders away from Webb, but isn’t as advanced run-blocking. He’ll get there, but it won’t happen overnight.

Scanning the roster for possible solutions to the O-line depth problem, moving defensive tackle John Williams back to offense might seem desperate, but is worth considering.

Not that the defensive line is loaded, either. Defensive end Jake Laptad, the program’s most celebrated player, hasn’t looked as quick. A shoulder injury limited him greatly during the spring, so it might just be a case of needing to catch up.

Bottom line: Quick fixes for teams losing battles up front rarely occur.

Comments

jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 7 months ago

Talk about someone being over paid, Gill's salary should be $5,125.34 a year.

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Ibajayhawk 3 years, 7 months ago

Lets try it this way. Everyone wants to blame the Oline for our problems or coach Long but maybe we might want to take a look at the head coach and the qb. Webb doesn't have a huge amount of time when he gets the ball but even an average qb who does his full progression can make better choices than he has so far. Webb's red zone abilities are a joke, he's all over the place with his throws and it can't all be put on the Oline. Ressing was able to make throws with similar time. I say if a qb can't make the throws in the time allowed then get somebody in there that can. I think coach Long's game plan has been pretty good so far it just needs to be executed. And last of all it's the head coaches responsibility to get it done. He should be taking the critizism and working on improving things instead of putting it to the fans who pays his salary and saying wait until next year. I'm not paying to wait until next year, Gill just doesn't care about this year, the fans or many of the players who are now on the team. There really is some very good talent on this team it just requires some decent coaching. So Gill get off your butt and help these kids become winners. I would like to win at least the easy ones this season and maybe not watch our qb get confused and sacked too many times. Maybe Gill could talk to him and tell him to knock off the bull-headed way of doing things and following the game plan. Make it about the team instead of himself.

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jayhawkintx73 3 years, 7 months ago

I agree they aren't doing well, but they can get better with good coaching. Technique. Really, at times this offensive line has excelled this season, but they have to get quicker and stronger, especially in pass protection against a blitz. The play calling can help with this too by putting a back in the back field to pick off a blitzer coming untouched through the line. The secondary looks much improved over a year ago.

With those things said, we have one guy who was a 4-star receiver playing safety. We shouldn't need to do those things, and until we don't have to we won't be a consistent high profile team.

I also have a few suggestions. Why can't we put two backs in the back field a little more often. Our running backs could use a lead blocker and it would make the defense have to defend another guy. It would soften the blitz packages they use against us. I also haven't seen an attempted shovel pass or a successful middle screen to a running back on a blitz. Putting an extra back in the back field could get that one extra block needed for the extra half second or so needed.

I thought the play calling against Southern Miss was atrocious. Where are the quick slants at? Maybe the team should pass more on first down too. Just a short pass in the flat or a quick hitter over the middle to Biere or the slot receiver would slow down the rush because there wouldn't be so many 2nd and 3rd and longs.

In my opinion, the coaches should allow the strengths of the players determine which plays will be ran, and not a desired system that doesn't give the matchup advantages of some of our players who are really much better than the statistics show such as Patterson and Jonathan Wilson. Webb also needs to be able to recognize when a blitz is coming, and the receivers and him need to communicate better. Stop the route short, or simply put in a system where the receivers change their routes on a blitz so that Webb gets the ball and gets rid of it on a one-one thousand count. Getting rid of the ball that quick doesn't give the defense time to react, and could set them up for a big play later in a game when we need to make a play to put a team away or get back into a game. Starting in 2012 we're going to be playing all the teams from the South every year and we need a full array of plays to keep them guessing.

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troutsee 3 years, 7 months ago

We have played three games. One poorly. One well. And one that was a lot closer than the final score would indicate. Gill deserves a chance. Come on guys. We are not loaded. We have a redshirt freshman QB, a freshman RB, and a freshman DE. The O-line was a very poor line last year.

Let's see what the rest of the season brings. Let's see how the recruiting process goes. By the way, give Gill credit for what he did at Buffalo, which was an unheard of program before he took over. So what if they played in the MAC. At that level of play, he brought more success to Buffalo University than they had experienced in years....maybe ever. Chuck Long was the OC at OU before bombing at SDS. However, I would not sell him short. Let's give this team and the coaches a little more time. Hopefully we will get better as the season progresses. I think we will..

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Cal Bender 3 years, 7 months ago

$2,000,000 a year. Wow! Look at this, from the KU Football history book:

Chuck Mather Named Football Coach at K.U. Massilon, O., High School. Succeeds Jules V. Sikes With 3-Year Contract to Start at $9,500;

That was in 1954.

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Charlotte_Jhawk 3 years, 7 months ago

I'm not a football expert. How can the Naval Academy beat Mizzou last year and the Air Force Academy give OU a tough game last week and yet we seem to flounder year after year? As I understand things, none of the players at the service academies are on an athletic scholarship so you would think they would be out matched in every game. Not so.

What are they doing that we are not? It would seem that we should have better football talent than they do.

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khummel60 3 years, 7 months ago

Thank you KURiggins. You said it way better than I could. Once again, I agree 1000%.

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KURiggins 3 years, 7 months ago

So, you know football. Really? Really? And you are ready to argue/debate that a new coach who was hired after the previous coach left under lets just say interesting circumstances mid-way, MID-WAY thru the recruiting season, who loses all of KU's Top Players from last year: Todd Reesing, Kerry "The Man" Meier, Dezmon Briscoe, Jake Sharp, Darrell Stuckey. Is suppose to win right away. Mark Mangino NEVER let another QB get any snaps. Oh..oh I forgot, Kale Pick got to run twice..sorry, forgot that idiotic stuff. Might I remind you, Mark Mangino had all those tools and still dropped seven in a row. SEVEN in a row. Now, in walks Turner Gill. First KU coach to be a Top15 team or higher since 1984 in Memorial Stadium. NOT Mark Mangino who did that. Turner Gill did! With a QB who had NEVER started a college game. By the way, I am really gonna laugh when Jordan Webb starts to kill teams and people who hated him want to jump on his bandwagon. If you know football as you claim you do, and if you can do math(which for some of the MU fans on this site I realize is an impossibility) I encourage you to look at rivals.com and check out what he did in HS. And you will know he is gonna be a beast in time. There are people out there who claim, claim to have played football and what to put the blame or our latest loss on Jordan ..then I say to them. You never really played football. I did. And its clear, very, very clear to anywhere who ever played, or actually knows football. The reason our offense was bad. ..its sad I have to explain this to the MU fans on this blog. Our OL. There was NO blast off the ball on running plays. Not sustaining their blocks. No fire in their belly. We LOST the "toughness" battle up front. At that point it does not matter what Webb, or Sims do. You MUST fire off your blocks, you MUST sustain your blocks and you must push around DL, not be pushed around. If you want/plan to have any success as an OL unit. Our OL has been horrible. But again, for the fools who do not check I will save you the time. On rivals.com, its clear to me that Turner Gill knew this and the first five guys he has recruited are OL for next year. He is gonna creat an OL similiar to the one he played behind at Nebraska. The kind that pushed people around, sustained blocks and always ALWAYS won the "toughness" battle. Turner Gill will be a success at KU. And Jordan Webb is gonna be a beast. Better count on it!

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KURiggins 3 years, 7 months ago

Ok Jayhawk Fans/and fakes.Time to be truthful. First, if you are going to diss Todd Reesing you are an idiot. No doubt about it. He made Mark Mangino's career, not the other way around. Yeah, cheer for Vince Young. By the way, how did he do yesterday? Against a real Steelers defense. Oh, and didn't Kerry "I need Icy Hot" Collins start for a long time instead of him becaue he and Ricky Williams were off smokin weed and being depressed. The only reason Todd Reesing is not in the NFL, is because the NFL does not always take the chances they should. And quite often they are wrong: Ryan Leaf is a prime example. He sells tires now. And HE HAD all those supposed tools to be great. Oh..oh more recent example ..how about JaMarcus Russell. Yeah, yeah ..lets draft an SEC QB because he MUST be great. He started at LSU. He and Leaf are gonna sell tires together soon.And by the way. Any idiot, I said idiot who believes JaMarcus Russell or Vince Young even belong in the conversation with Todd Reesing does NOT know football. You better be great at Texas or LSU, you could take a nap behind their offensive lines. You have All-Americans at every position and as back ups. Todd Reesing created something out of NOTHING. No one but a fool would argue he had anywhere near the tools that those guys did in college. They just reload at those schools. Todd Reesing deserves to be in the NFL. And he is one of the greatest scrambling QB's of all time. If I talked over your head, perhaps golf is your sport. Football isn't. By the way. I am a true KU fan. I have suffered thru the hard years and the good ones. I will be cheering for the Jayhawks win or lose. Period. Bandwagoners need to leave. Let the true blue fans have it. I am gonna laugh at these fools when Turner Gill has KU winning year after year and going to bowl after bowl. Its three games in and people are giving up on a coach who doesn't even have his players yet. Who lost Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe and Darrell Stuckey before he even got here.

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hawk316 3 years, 7 months ago

Tom, yet another good article. You're on a roll, man! On a positive note, the defense has surprised me a little, thus far. They are playing hard, and for the most part, playing well.

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grandpa 3 years, 7 months ago

Keegan: As much as I dislike most of your articles, you have a lot of truth in this one. Thorson is doing a poor job of containing his man. Tanner Hawkinson is not doing much better. FB Foster has done a good job blocking everytime he has been in. Last game he was in one time . In addition, I am having problems with the play calling. I am telling my age but I would let the quarterback call the plays. I am sick of the delays from Gill and the offensive co-ordinator. Webb should ask the receivers: Who can beat his man in the defensivwe backfield ? and go from there. On third and two, ask the linemen"Who can move their man"? and make the first down. Our offensive calls have been poor and predictable!!

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grandpa 3 years, 7 months ago

Keegan: As much as I dislike most of your articles, you have a lot of truth in this one. Thorson is doing a poor job of containing his man. Tanner Hawkinson is not doing much better. FB Foster has done a good job blocking everytime he has been in. Last game he was in one time . In addition, I am having problems with the play calling. I am telling my age but I would let the quarterback call the plays. I am sick of the delays from Gill and the offensive co-ordinator. Webb should ask the receivers: Who can beat his man in the defensivwe backfield ? and go from there. On third and two, ask the linemen"Who can move their man"? and make the first down. Our offensive calls have been poor and predictable!!

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youowethehawks 3 years, 7 months ago

TG is the man. Being a new coach is a process. You see your guys all spring and all summer. They lift weights and practice. You make evaluations on where they might fit best in your program. Then comes the regular season. All your evaluations on the practice field and in the weightroom get tempered by what you see when the lights are on and the clock starts ticking.

Sometimes, players don't react to the pressure of the game as well as you'd like them to. Sometimes, the stud you saw in practice turns out to only be a stud as compared to his teamate on the other side of the ball. Sometimes there are significant injuries or character issues that arise in the off-season and/or early-on in the regular season that limit your choices of who you can put on the field.

What you can't change is what's already happened. What you can do is do the best you can with the hand you've got. As far as X's and O's are concerned, I've got some questions, too. But by no means do I place the fault squarely at the feet of the head coach, or any of the coaches, for that matter. It comes down to execution, on the field, by players. As it's only this staff's first year, they don't have the luxury of having hand picked their team to fit their designs on the program. At the same time, there are still adjustments they need to make to fit their designs to the team they have. Like I said, it's a process.

TG is absolutely correct that we have to "recruit, recruit, recruit." He brought in some very talented freshmen that are already making an impact on the program, I don't see how you could fault him for that.

As for his approach with his players: we saw how the "stick before the carrot" approach worked with Mangina, ahem... Mangino, not well. Several players that were supposed to be key guys for us this year are no longer with the program because of character issues. Turner's approach, one that still involves discipline (but not for its own sake), is aimed at instilling self-motivation, self-discipline, responsibility (to one's self and one's team) and maturity in the student-athlete. This is 100% the correct approach. When you are switching gears from one style to another, some of your upperclassmen may see the change as a weakness, or feel like they have more room to play around and not take the game as seriously. That's not to say that there might not be some additional running or bear-crawls in their future. But when it comes to work ethic and feelings of mutual responsibility on your football team, lessons that your learn yourself are better kept than punishment meted out beacuse seeing you suffer makes your coach hornier than two 20 oz. porterhouse steaks all covered in butter.

Turner Gill is making better men out of his team and, eventually, those better men will make a better team. Oh.. and hoardes of 3 and 4 star recruits won't hurt either.

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Randy Maxwell 3 years, 7 months ago

It's apparent KU needs much help on both of the interior lines. I do think Riley Spencer will emerge a s a talent at right tackle. Getting Spikes back next year will help also. That gives them Hawkinson, Hatch and Spikes as guys to build around with Spencer as an emerging talent. Marongelli is servicable but not really big enough for Big 12 play at 6-2 290 lbs. The D-line needs a complete overhaul. The interior guys are OK with Johnson, Dorsey and Williams, just servicable, but the DE position is killing us. That's where the pass rush needs to come from and it's non existent. It would help to have more speed at OLB to blitz also. Tharp could help there I'm hoping.

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lama 3 years, 7 months ago

Solid effort by the previous coaching staff to capitalize on the Orange Bowl victory by...doing nothing on the recruiting trail. If Mangenius had not chased off most of his good assistants (Bill Young) with his charming personality, perhaps things would have been different. Gill will have to recruit for this program to be competitive again.

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diehardjhawk 3 years, 7 months ago

you are right on cg1029....he couldn't post a winning record @ Buffalo...why in the he!! would we pay him gobs of money thinking he can win against the big boys...hopefully the new AD puts him on a short leash

I'm tired of TG wanting to be the players best friend rather than their football coach. Winning is #1....college football is a business, not a feel good campfire sing-along.

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ralphus 3 years, 7 months ago

The fact that Gill took one look at this group and immediately went out and recruited eleventy billion O-liners should have clued everyone in to the talent level he inherited at that position.

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cg1029 3 years, 7 months ago

Gill is correct... We need to recruit, recruit, recruit.... A coaching staff that has a clue how to coach a D1 program would be a good place to start.

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Dyrk Dugan 3 years, 7 months ago

KU's o-line is the sticking point...and it makes everything else look 2nd rate. and i would take issue with one thing Keegan said....i saw Hawkinson give up a sack in the NDSU game....if he gives up a sack there, what will he do vs. KSU or NU?

we need to pick our spots for wins this year....and as HCTG says, "recruit, recruit, recruit!" at this point, four or five wins this year would be pretty darn good.

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yates33333 3 years, 7 months ago

Wonder if Keegan still thinks that if Opurum (of whatever his name is) were shifted to running back they'd win 3 more games? BTW his analysis this time is right on. When you get right down to what he says, KU needs another football team, maybe Nebraska?

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khummel60 3 years, 7 months ago

Excellent analysis. I never quite understood the hype about this returning OL - they simply weren't very good in 2009. The only team that gave up more sacks than Kansas last year (in the Big 12) was Colorado, and that was with one of the best scrambling QB's (in my opinion) to ever play Div-I football. I believe they will continue to improve, but they are not going to control the trenches in 2010. Coach Gill and his staff have done an admirable job of adjusting around the problem, but I think its fair to say Webb is going to get his clock cleaned a few times this year.

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KU_FanSince75 3 years, 7 months ago

Keegan--- As much as I hate to admit it, you're right on target with this article. I guess I am disappointed with the offensive line, especially since, they were supposed to be experienced and seasoned going into the campaign.

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