The Kansas football team’s offense has a new coordinator for 2017, but that doesn’t mean the Jayhawks hit the restart button on the Air Raid system head coach David Beaty implemented prior to Doug Meacham’s arrival.
Both Beaty, who put himself in charge of the offense in 2016, and Meacham, the man KU’s third-year coach hired to take over, will tell you their Air Raid concepts are one and the same. That should come as good news to the quarterbacks, receivers, running backs, tight ends and offensive linemen who return this season, because spring practice won’t involve installing a new philosophy and learning a new playbook.
“A lot of the terms and route structure and everything, it’s really the same,” Meacham said, when asked about the Jayhawks transitioning from one coordinator to another. “That portion of it’s the same. There’s a couple of things, but not really.”
Now that Meacham is at the controls, what wrinkles or tweaks might Kansas incorporate?
“Well,” Beaty countered, “I’m not going to tell you that.”
Of course the head coach didn’t want to reveal specifics of X’s and O’s, but Beaty said almost every aspect of his offense and Meacham’s are “exactly” the same. Still, some differences will emerge the longer Meacham is around, giving him the chance to learn what each player on the roster might bring to the offense.
“Probably more just his twist on it,” Beaty said of any variation to come. “And you’ll see it. You’ll see it kind of develop. It doesn’t behoove me to talk about that right now, and I hope you know I’m not trying to be smart about it. It’ll develop into what it develops into.”
The Jayhawks are only two practices into their spring schedule, with 13 more to go. Then there is preseason camp in August, before the real tests come in the fall. All the while, Meacham, the former co-coordinator at TCU, will be able to understand which approaches within the Air Raid offense project as the most effective for Kansas.
“It was interesting to watch him work with a couple pieces today,” Beaty said, following KU’s first practice on Monday, “that I don’t know I would’ve thought to use the way he did, which is what I love about Meach. He and I think little differently sometimes.”
Meacham, who played offensive line at Oklahoma State in the late 1980s and blocked for Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders, said he had some knowledge of the receivers he would get to work with before he accepted Beaty’s offer to join the KU staff. Meacham, who also will coach those receivers, referenced LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Steven Sims Jr., and Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot — “I knew they had some guys.”
It wasn’t just the idea of working with talented personnel, though, that inspired Meacham to leave a TCU program that went to a bowl game in each of his three seasons in Fort Worth, Texas.
“You’re in this league, a lot of people talk about — recently — Kansas is turning the corner,” the new offensive coordinator said. “They’re not a layup. You’ve got to prepare and there’s a little bit different vibe out there than what it was. You just feel like it’s coming, you know.”
A former assistant at Oklahoma State and Houston, as well, Meacham credited Beaty with cultivating an atmosphere in which players and coaches can enjoy themselves, and feel inspired to put in the effort to try and turn around a long-struggling program.
“And those players see the coaches happy and working hard,” Meacham said, “and they’re going to do the same thing. It’s not misery.”