In his 20-plus years as a football coach, David Beaty has seen enough successful offenses to realize the importance of a go-to wide receiver.
Operating in an era of up-tempo, spread attacks designed to score as quickly and often as possible, having multiple pass-catching options certainly is ideal. The Kansas football coach simply thinks the presence of a clear No. 1 target can make all the difference.
“Just think about when you don’t have one,” Beaty said a couple weeks back, at Big 12 Media Days.
The second-year KU head coach doesn’t have to search too deep into the recesses of his memory bank to find an example of an offense that lacked a supreme receiver. During the Jayhawks’ winless 2015, they averaged only 218.6 passing yards a game and an insufficient 15.2 points.
The often anemic numbers didn’t sit well with Beaty. From the high school ranks in his home state of Texas, to stops as an assistant at Rice, Texas A & M and KU, Beaty often found himself with an exceptional receiver at his disposal.
“At A & M we had Mike Evans. We had Ryan Swope the year before,” Beaty said. “When I was at KU (as an assistant for Mark Mangino), we had Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, both catch over 90 catches apiece.”
Indeed, in 2008 the Jayhawks and quarterback Todd Reesing played with No. 1A and No. 1B receivers. Briscoe burned opposing secondaries for 92 receptions, 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns. Meier caught 97 passes for 1,045 yards and eight scores.
However, since 2009 — the final season in Lawrence for Reesing, Meier, Briscoe and Mangino — no KU receiver has come close to matching that type of production, and the program lost at least nine games in each of the ensuing six seasons.
During Beaty’s 0-12 debut at Kansas, senior Tre’ Parmalee led the team with 41 catches, 599 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games. Beaty, who doesn’t want Year Two at KU to resemble his first, has since taken over play-calling duties and installed his own version of the famed Air Raid offense.
Eternally optimistic, Beaty doesn’t wonder if Kansas will find a go-to receiver this fall, but rather which Jayhawk will emerge as a game-changer.
“We’ve got to find one, and we’ve got some potential guys,” Beaty said. “It’ll be interesting to see. We’re gonna end up having one, because we’re talented.”
While sophomore receivers Steven Sims Jr., Tyler Patrick and Jeremiah Booker all return to the KU passing game this year, the man most likely to break through and give opposing defensive backs headaches appears to be junior LaQuvionte Gonzalez — a transfer who played for Beaty at Texas A & M two seasons ago.
“Quiv hasn’t played football in a long time, but, boy, is he a dynamic little fool,” Beaty said, wearing a grin. “And he can catch, and he can run. He is dynamic. He might be as dynamic as there is in this entire conference.”
Of course, it’s difficult to take over a game as a receiver without an effective quarterback to deliver accurately those opportunities. Red-shirt junior Montell Cozart and sophomore Ryan Willis will have their chances to win the starting job in the weeks ahead by proving Beaty’s offense is more suited for them than what KU ran under Rob Likens last season.
As much as Beaty loves the idea of lining up an unstoppable receiver, he understands QB remains the most valuable position — perhaps in all of sports.
“If you don’t have that guy,” Beaty said, “you ain’t got nothin’.”