During last Saturday’s game day simulation, which featured the Jayhawks suiting up in full uniform and running through everything from taking the field to pregame warm-ups and the opening coin toss, co-captain Ben Goodman caught a glimpse of something he did not quite expect.
Newcomers Damani Mosby, Anthony Olobia and a few other defensive players unfamiliar with the big-time stage of Big 12 football were going absolutely wild in an empty stadium.
“I saw those guys get jittery when we had the mock game,” Goodman remembered. “When they heard the bell (on the PA system) I just saw those guys get geeked, they just went crazy. I actually liked it but I definitely don’t want them to exert all their energy before the game.”
That last part has been an important topic around the KU football complex for the past week or so as the Jayhawks, new and old, have gone through preparations for Saturday’s 11 a.m. season opener against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium. Goodman, one of three co-captains, and some of the veterans on the team have started to talk to the younger guys about how to conduct themselves on game days. And first-year head coach David Beaty, who, himself, might have to rein in the emotions of running onto the field as a Division I head coach for the first time in his coaching career, also has addressed it throughout the preseason.
“We had a freshman academy every day at noon during camp,” Beaty said. “We would release everyone else to lunch and keep those freshmen here. All we did was talk about (how) they’re going to start hitting walls as young players. Those guys are going to play (and) we wanted them to understand what was coming at them.... You don’t have to hit those walls if you know they’re coming.”
While most of the walls Beaty spoke of represented physical fatigue, self doubt, nerves or even fear, he also made sure to address one on the other side of the fence that could show up as soon as this weekend.
“As a coaching staff, we have an extra job Saturday to try to manage that emotion that’s going to be wrapped up,” Beaty said. “Being able to step out there just for warm-ups, if nothing else, is going to be something we’re going to have to be able to manage, particularly with the number of young players that are going to be experiencing their first Division I football game.”
Beaty continued: “We’ve talked about it. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on it. Understand the kickoff is when it starts for us to really unleash everything. Until that point we have to pin it up a little bit so we don’t expel too much energy before we get to the actual game part. Particularly our young guys.”
It might sound crazy to suggest that a team can be too fired up for a game, but Goodman, who is one of just three Jayhawks (Michael Cummings and Bryan Peters) going through opening week at Kansas for the fifth time in his college career, has seen it too many times before.
“It is possible for them to be too hyped,” he said of the guys preparing to make their Division I debuts.
Junior quarterback Montell Cozart, who, just two years ago, was in this same position, agreed with Goodman and said it felt a little strange to be on the other side of things looking at wide-eyed newcomers preparing for their first taste of Kansas football.
Although he still has experience in just 14 games, Cozart said he offered some advice to KU’s young guys this week.
“There’s gonna be 50,000 people there (give or take) and I just told ’em to go out there like they’ve been doing all camp,” Cozart said. “It’s just us, the ball and the other team. Don’t worry about the crowd, don’t be looking into the stands. It’s just another game. It’s faster, the guys are stronger but it’s just another football game and you’ve been doing it since you were young.”