Mixed reactions from the Kansas football fan base met Saturday’s news, immediately following the Jayhawks’ season-ending defeat at Oklahoma State, that head coach David Beaty will remain in charge of the program following a 1-11 campaign in his third year.
Some supporters of the perpetually rebuilding program voiced their displeasure — via social media, message boards and internet comment sections — with athletic director Sheahon Zenger’s decision to bring Beaty back for 2018, in spite of his 3-33 record.
A similar reaction did not exist within the KU football locker room, according to players who spoke with the media shortly after Zenger’s steadfast endorsement of the coach.
Minutes after his redshirt junior season came to a close, defensive tackle Daniel Wise said the administration’s backing of Beaty meant a lot to him.
“It means a lot to this team just knowing he’s going to be back,” Wise added. “He’s a great coach, great man. He’s helped me a lot this year and helped me become a better man, a better football player.”
Starting left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, dedicated enough to the program to play most of the year with a torn labrum in each shoulder, echoed the sentiment shared by Wise when asked whether Beaty is popular with KU’s players.
“Coach Beaty’s doing things the right way and we trust him and we have his back. And things obviously haven’t gone the way we planned, but that’s life at the end of the day,” Adeniji said. “Not everything’s going to work out. But if you’re diligent and persistent in the process and you just keep pushing and keep fighting, eventually it’s going to come out for you.”
Junior Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender, who lost his starting job in October but returned to that role in the finale due to a Carter Stanley knee injury, said the Jayhawks “love” Beaty.
“As players, we want him to be our coach. It’s great the A.D. said he’ll be coming back and that’s a good thing, just because we can continue to build,” Bender said. “Obviously, the season didn’t go as we wanted to. At least we’ll have the same guy leading us and we can get the system in place a little more and turned around this offseason, so that’s good to hear.”
Redshirt junior linebacker Joe Dineen, who finished the season as the Big 12’s leader in solo tackles (91), total tackles (135) and tackles for loss (23), also focused on the positives after a season the players couldn’t deny felt disappointing.
“Obviously, you never want to go 1-11, but I’ll tell you what: I feel like me and the guys on the team became a lot closer. I made some of my best friends this year. Footballwise, I had a lot of fun. Even though we weren’t winning, I had a ton of fun this year playing with these guys,” Dineen said. “The coaching staff kept us up and ready to go every week, and I just had a lot of fun this year.”
With his third catch at Oklahoma State, junior Kansas wideout Steven Sims Jr. reached 2,000 career receiving yards. Sims’ nine-catch, 69-yard day, which included one of the Jayhawks’ two touchdowns, helped him finish the season with 839 yards and gave him 2,047 in his college career.
“Just kind of happy,” Sims said of reaching that mark. “My mom, my dad have been talking about it all week. So kind of did it for them.”
His father, Steven Sims Sr., the son added, hammered home the point.
“My daddy was like, ‘You better get them 20 yards.’ He was just on me. But it’s a good milestone,” KU’s best passing target said. “A lot of good receivers reach that milestone. I always feel like I’m a good receiver, so it’s fun.”
Heading into the fall, Sims hoped to produce 1,000 yards as a junior, but injuries made him a nonfactor, or severely limited his ability, in at least two KU defeats.
Kansas kicker Gabriel Rui hit a new career-long field goal of 50 yards in the season finale, easily beating his previous best of 43. It was the first field goal of 50 or more yards since Matthew Wyman also hit from 50 in 2016, against TCU.
Though Rui — in his second year at Kansas after playing at Northeastern Oklahoma A & M — was listed as a senior most of the season, he is expected to be back with the Jayhawks in 2018. That's because he was granted a redshirt for the 2016 season, when he never participated in a game.
As KU’s kicker this season, Rui made 17 of 20 field goals and all 23 of his extra point attempts.
While KU obviously finished last in the Big 12 standings in 2017, with the program’s second winless conference campaign of Beaty’s tenure, the Jayhawks also ended the season 10th in a number of statistical categories.
In conference play, Kansas finished worst in scoring offense (14.3 points), scoring defense (46.4 points allowed), total offense (287.8 yards), total defense (480.8 yards allowed), rushing offense (100.3 yards), pass efficiency (98.1, more than 100 points behind Oklahoma’s first-place 199.1), pass efficiency defense (172.7), first downs (13.9 a game), third-down conversions (26.3 percent), time of possession (27:35 on average), turnover margin (minus-14) and red zone defense (91.3 opponent scoring percentage).