During the past five seasons of mostly disappointing Kansas football, there have been a lot of Twitter hashtags associated with the KU program.
This year is no different, as the folks at KU are pushing yet another hashtag to serve as the mantra for Kansas football in 2015. However, while the process remains the same, the message behind it is vastly different.
“We’ve been talking a lot in the offseason about what our goals are and what our vision is,” first-year KU coach David Beaty said. “And every day in every way we’ve been talking about earning it.”
And from there, the new hashtag was born — #EarnIt. It’s a simple message but one that carries with it the hopes, goals and visions of a new coaching staff and an entire program.
As is the case any time a new coach takes over, culture changes infiltrate the environment little by little and ultimately come together to give the program a completely new look. The hard work, some of which is already underway, remains ahead. But Beaty feels good about the foundation that was put in place during the offseason and so far this spring.
“We’ve worked really hard to eliminate entitlement in our program,” Beaty said. “They know that they’re entitled to nothing and that they have to earn everything. They have bought into that, and the quicker we all understand that the better off we’ll be.”
Put another way: “We’re trying to keep from talking right now and trying to go do as best we can,” Beaty said.
That last line essentially is what #EarnIt is all about. Spots on the depth chart are up for grabs. Players are being moved up and down depending upon their most recent efforts. And practices are full of drills based on competing. Even the coaches get involved in the competitions, sometimes by actually participating and other times by paying the price with the losing side.
“There’s a winner and a loser in everything we do,” Beaty said. “(That creates) accountability, and those guys get excited about that.”
That philosophy will be the basis upon which the latest version of the KU football program is built. And as much as Beaty has thoughts — good and bad — about how this team will look in the fall, his sole focus is on inspiring his guys to work as hard as they can now while waiting to see what that produces later.
“To me, the answer is real simple,” Beaty said. “We have to earn that. I can’t tell you that. I can tell ya, but it’s just words until we show it.”
Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen on Wednesday gave a quick breakdown of the major parts of the Kansas defense. And like Beaty said last week, Bowen confirmed that the strength was up front.
“At defensive end, I think those kids are probably the farthest ahead, with (Ben) Goodman and (T.J.) Semke, two veteran guys,” Bowen said. “The D-tackles are the babies; they’re the ones that have to grow. At (linebacker) we’re all over the place with experience and where guys are going, and then in the secondary it’s all new.”
While replacing eight starters on a defense that ranked in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 in 2014 seems daunting, Bowen said it was far from the biggest challenge he’s faced during his 20-year coaching career.
“We have a good group of kids on defense,” Bowen said. “Even though they haven’t played a lot on game day, they’re kids that have played football before. They’re working hard, they’re buying into the system and that really does make things easier.”
With the 2015 NFL Draft now just four weeks away and the combine and most collegiate pro days in the past, it’s time for the heavy speculation to begin.
Former Jayhawks Ben Heeney and JaCorey Shepherd continue to be the most likely Jayhawks to be drafted in the seven-round, April 30-May 2 NFL Draft, and both names continue to pop up on draft boards across the Internet.
According to a five-round mock draft done by Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union-Tribune, both Heeney and Shepherd should expect to hear their names called in this year’s draft.
Brown has Heeney going as a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 123 overall. He has Shepherd slotted one round later, as the fifth-round pick of the Denver Broncos at pick No. 164.