Monday, February 18, 2019

Les Koenning not yet ready to forecast what KU football offense will look like in fall

Kansas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Les Koenning talks with reporters following head coach Les Miles' National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Mrkonic Auditorium.

Kansas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Les Koenning talks with reporters following head coach Les Miles' National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, in Mrkonic Auditorium.


Any time a football program hires a new coach, those who follow the team want to know what the presence of a fresh perspective will mean for the product on the field.

Unfortunately for those diehards who keep up with Kansas football and are curious about what the offense will look like this fall, with an overhauled staff working for new head coach Les Miles, the man who will be calling the Jayhawks’ plays is concealing more than he is revealing about his offensive philosophy — at least for now.

Asked earlier this month while speaking with reporters for the first time since he was hired about what he likes to do offensively, coordinator and quarterbacks coach Les Koenning began his response by explaining his current flexibility on the subject.

“Well, it depends on what your personnel is,” Koenning replied. “Look, if we need to throw it every down, we’re going to throw it every down. If we’re going to run it, we’re going to run it.”

Koenning, whom Miles hired to replace Chip Lindsey once the short-lived OC left KU to become the head coach at Troy, doesn’t expect to be quite so noncommittal about the offense in the near future.

Hired a little more than two weeks before he spoke with media members on National Signing Day, Koenning was still finding his bearings to an extent — learning people’s names around Anderson Family Football Complex and figuring out where all the offices, meeting rooms and even restrooms are located.

“I know a little bit of the personnel we have, but this spring will be really, really big for us,” Koenning said of offseason practices that will begin in March. “I mean, we’ll have the ability to line up under center, we’ll have the ability to line up in the gun. I think that’s one of the things that got me hired. It was multiplicity of things. When you become one (dimensional) you either fit one guy or you don’t. So it was easy for me when I talked with coach. I said, you’ll get those things arranged really easily. It fits right in to what we do. I think that’s the big thing.”

Some of Koenning’s hesitancy to discuss the specifics of what KU’s offense could look like during the 2019 season, he admitted, stemmed from his own coaching impulses.

“The more information I tell you guys,” he began, “guess what? We’ve got to play against them. There’s people listening. And every time you can make it a surprise or a little bit different it’s hard (for future opponents) to prepare.”


Kansas running back Khalil Herbert (10) leaves Kansas State defensive back Johnathan Durham (6) as he takes off up the field for a long run during the third quarter on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium in Manhattan, Kan.

The construction of KU’s offense, as Koenning alluded to, will really begin to take shape during spring practices. That’s when he and Miles and other offensive assistants will see firsthand what type of personnel with which the Jayhawks are working.

At this point, Koenning doesn’t know as much about returning players with starting experience, such as offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Malik Clark, Kevin Feder and Andru Tovi, or receiver Stephon Robinson or running backs Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert.

Of course, Williams’ future role with the team remains uncertain, too, as the running back’s next court date dealing with his domestic battery charge is set for June 3.

Koenning will be far more familiar with the entire roster a couple of months from now. As of early February, he hadn’t dived too deeply into game footage of KU’s returning offensive players.

“We have strictly been watching recruits,” he said at the time. “I’ve watched every 2020 quarterback, I went through all our signees that we’ve signed.”

But he expected to forge relationships with the players already in the program soon. And coaches this week have had more opportunities to interact with players now that the most frenzied part of recruiting season has died down and staff members have been able to better settle in after moving to Lawrence and joining the program.

“This is not going to change — who we have. It’s not like they’re going to leave tomorrow or something,” Koenning said. “We’re excited about them. They’re excited about seeing what we’re putting together.”

Koenning, the running backs coach at Southern Miss in 2018, has spent much of his career working for programs more renowned than KU, such as Alabama (2001-02), Texas A & M (2003-07), Mississippi State (2009-13) and Texas (2014).

However, he said it didn’t take much for him to be sold on coaching at Kansas. When he worked with Dennis Franchione at A & M, Koenning shared, the head coach with Sunflower State roots described KU as a “great place.”

“When I came here and interviewed with (Miles), of course I’d played — not played here, but I’d coached here a bunch. So it was pretty exciting, the things you saw happening,” Koenning said, pointing to the program’s new indoor facility outside of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

Challenges inevitably await Koenning as he takes the reins of an offense that has lagged behind its Big 12 competitors for years.

Asked to identify the biggest task ahead, Koenning said he thought the staff addressed one at the quarterback position, because KU signed junior college quarterback Thomas MacVittie, and there are “some other kids” with playing experience (Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick).

“I think that’s where it starts. You’ve got to start with a quarterback. And sometimes he gets too much credit and sometimes he gets too much blame, but he’s the guy that gets the ball every time, so that’s where we need to start,” Koenning said.

“The other parts of the offense, when you ask me after spring I’ll be able to tell you directly, rather than me making assumptions and guessing,” he added. “That gets us all in trouble.”


Dale Rogers 2 years, 8 months ago

I like that he plans to design an offense to fit the personnel rather than try to force-fit personnel into a pre-determined offense. Seems not long ago a coach tried the latter and look what happened.

Dane Pratt 2 years, 8 months ago

Same here Dale. Not bashing Beaty but he was hell bent on making the air raid work and we didn't have the personnel to do so. Pretty much took him 3 years to realize that and by that time it was too late.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

Ironically though, there were all kinds of people basking Coach Beaty because he wouldn't announce a starting QB. Said basically the same thing. Why give the opponents any additional info.

As Coach Koenning mentioned, sometimes QB's get more of the credit and blame. It would seem similar with coaches. Coach Beaty wanted to run a spread O because he had seen it be successful. The RB's ended up being more productive than the WR's, and when the OC didn't adapt, he let him go, and the O became better. Being willing and able to adapt to the personnel wasn't Beaty's downfall.

Ironically, aa A&M fan criticism at the time of our hiring him was that he refused to call running plays even in obvious running play situations.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

Dale, you couldn't be more right. Beaty's naiveté and lack of experience shone through most in his ineptitude in managing the offense and his near zealous belief that the system would save the team. No coach in the history of college athletics so misjudged his roster and mismanaged an offensive philosophy. Four O.C.'s in four years to manage a single offensive style - and all four failed because the HC couldn't get out of the way.

I never understood Beaty's passion for that offense. Only Mike Leach has ever had any significant success with it, and Beaty acted as if he was some sort of expert based on who-knows-what.

Again, nothing is highlighting more the new professionalism in this staff than the fact that they have the intelligence to evaluate a situation before making a plan to fix it.

And, as always, Dirk revises history. The article states that the new OC doesn't want to reveal his offensive philosophy before the team has even assembled for its first practice. Beaty announced to the world, 100 times a day, that he was an Air Raid master. In fact, every team on our schedule knew before our first game exactly what we would be doing. And people didn't bash him at first for his comical game of hide-the-QB. But yes, we all got tired of it somewhere around 3-33.

Phil Leister 2 years, 8 months ago

So does Pooka get to practice and participate in spring ball if his next court date isn't until this summer?

Chris DeWeese 2 years, 8 months ago

I think that's up to Coach Miles. He hasn't said much about this over the past couple of months, which leads me to believe he's adopting a wait and see approach. It doesn't sound like Pooka will be participating in Spring ball, but that could change I guess. If the terms of his diversion haven't yet been agreed upon, he's not actually doing anything (i.e. community service, reparations, anger mgt classes) that could count toward anything. I guess we'll have to wait.

John Brown 2 years, 8 months ago

Maybe if the team can generate fewer penalties they can have a better year. A team gains an advantage if the ball moves forward more than backward. Then there is a momentum thing and not messing that up.

Chris DeWeese 2 years, 8 months ago

I agree. Too many false starts and illegal formation penalties certainly didn't help the offense.

Steven Haag 2 years, 8 months ago

Haters will continue to hate. Good grief, freaking let it go. After Beaty let Meachum go, the offense was much better. I’m pretty sure it’s Beatys fault for the Russian interference with the election. It’s Beatys fault for socialism in Venezuela. It’s Beatys fault for all the snow and cold weather we are having😂😂😂😂😂. I can’t wait for one little thing to go wrong next year. I can then start blasting Les Miles.....right? After all, the head coach is responsible for everything. Oh wait, it will still be Beatys fault. Please help us out. When do we finally get to quit blaming him for EVERYTHING bad😂😂😂😂😂😂. What a joke some of these posters are.

Jayson Hawk 2 years, 8 months ago

6-42 As Chris points out AND the roster situation that he was supposedly hired to fix is now just as big of a disaster (if not worse) as it was when he was hired. I still blame Lew, SZ, Turner Gill and CW for their parts in all of this but DB is 1000% responsible for where this program is after his 4 years here. He was as clueless in year 4 as in year 1 continuing to call timeouts before punts, and at one point had to take a delay of game on the FIRST play of the game and another time needed to use a timeout on the FIRST play on defense because the wrong personnel was on the field. He never progressed as a coach and clearly our program never progressed with him in control. He got a free pass in year 1 and year two people were patient but in year three with all the BS that was being fed to the fans about how improved we were and after there was zero improvement, we knew where things were headed. He was an absolute disaster for this program and after 4 years he deserves ever bit of the blame he has gotten.

Jeff Coffman 2 years, 8 months ago

I like getting to know the coaches and some of their philosophies. This guy seems very level headed with a lot of experience and knowledge. I think everyone would love to know what we will be doing next, but I'm guessing this guy didn't know 5 weeks ago, that he would be an offensive coordinator at KU. I like how he wants to evaluate the talent and use the analysts to formulate an offense. Miles has done a lot of things right, but it seems like he has great connections. It seems also to me and this is just an observation. That many of the coaches and analysts have worked with Les in a variety of situations. Beaty I recall hired people that had beat him; whereas Miles has hired people that he has worked with and knows what they are capable of. I know that KU has been in a large massive crater when it comes to football, but Les has been filling it up so far really nicely.

Again I'm thankful for the KU leaders and Donors for investing in this program. I think another Defensive Analyst from Auburn was hired yesterday.

Kevin Robert Fest 2 years, 8 months ago

What a joke some of these posters are.

Classic coming from you Steven.

Steven Haag 2 years, 8 months ago

Kevin, and yet you refuse to answer my question. Must be a Democrap

Kevin Robert Fest 2 years, 8 months ago

He had 6 wins total. A better question is when will stop defnding him.

Micky Baker 2 years, 8 months ago

If you think that Beaty was that bad, then maybe those that think that should stop trying to compare Les Miles to him. Beaty is gone right? So who is really dwelling on it? Steven didn't bring up Beaty.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

He spent about 500 words ranting about it. He's not innocent and don't pretend that he is. He could have just let it all go by but he has no discipline.

Steven Haag 2 years, 8 months ago

HE’S GONE. That’s the point. Let it go. Move on. The jury is out on the new OC, head coach, DC, receivers coach, etc. i 100% agree with the statements made by the new OC, and yet, once again, certain posters KEEP dragging Beaty back into it. You were not the first, nor the second to do so, so I will give you credit there. Our responses should be on the hear and now, moving forward. Perhaps we should pull out an old tactic by Bruce Weber when he was at Illinois. Let’s have a “mock funeral” for the previous HC, then LETS MOVE ON.

He deserved to be let go. He had enough time. I’m not defending in such a way that I’m saying he was a good P5 coach, but it does NOBODY any good to keep beating the “dead horse”. Could we please move on?

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

He's probably stunned that Jeff Long doesn't want to pay him $1.5 million a year to be an offensive analyst at a team in our conference.

Kevin Robert Fest 2 years, 8 months ago

Tom heres my "Expert" opinion, let's waste a timeout wondering if we should go for it on 4th down. Lets have the play come in late after taking too long deciding, then get a false start penalty after rushing the play in giving the offense less than 10 seconds to get to line. This was one of our most effective tatics at KU. Ready break.


[''] 2 years, 8 months ago

Hahahahaha.Yes. It was definitely idiot theater often.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 8 months ago

On the Koenning front, there is a real intelligence to revealing as little as possible through the second win of the season. Imagine if we go to BC and win that game? It could be a season-changer and a program-changer.

Bill Snyder consistently showed as little as possible against weaker opponents to open the season. If we can win those games while withholding important aspects of our offense, it could give us a jump start when we head to Chestnut Hill. In fact, I'm considering getting tickets for that game.

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