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Thursday, December 17, 2020

KU’s AD expects ‘improvement’ from football program in Les Miles’ 3rd year

Kansas wide receiver Steven McBride (19) is tackled by a group of Kansas State defenders during the second half of an NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas wide receiver Steven McBride (19) is tackled by a group of Kansas State defenders during the second half of an NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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With a winless 2020 Kansas football season still fresh in his mind, KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said Thursday he thinks the program’s fans should expect “improvement” in 2021, but hesitated to quantify that term.

“I honestly believe we’re going to be better,” Long said during a video press conference with media members. “I think how much better remains to be seen.”

While Long described the recently completed 0-9 campaign for the Jayhawks in head coach Les Miles’ second season as not what he had hoped for, the man who hired Miles to take over the perpetually rebuilding program said both of them understood getting KU football on track would be a process.

“We were not pleased with the success on the field. Again, at times didn’t see the kind of progress that we had hoped. But there have been so many things impacting this year, not only for Kansas but for every college football team,” Long said. “I am really comfortable with Coach Miles and his continuing to build the program.”

The Jayhawks haven’t won a game since Oct. 26, 2019, their lone Big 12 victory of Miles’ first season, when they finished 3-9 overall and 1-8 in league play. They will enter Miles’ third year in charge next fall on a 13-game losing streak.

How much better KU looks more than eight months from now, of course, will have a lot to do with how Miles and his staff utilize the offseason. Long noted he thinks the experience several of the youngest players in the program picked up this year will be helpful.

“What’s the record? I don’t have a record in my mind,” Long said of 2021. “We have to improve. We need to win. I think we’ll benefit from spring practice, we’ll benefit from strength and conditioning in the winter and the summer. I think we’ll benefit from a nonconfernce schedule. Hopefully we’ll be able to have a regular nonconfernce schedule (unlike in 2020, when KU played only one non-league game). And then we’ll go in better prepared to compete in the Big 12.”

On the same week that KU signed 19 high school seniors for its 2021 recruiting class, Long said he thinks many of them will come in and play, just as the Jayhawks’ 2020 recruits did.

Over the course of its nine-loss season, KU played 27 true freshmen in total. Eleven started at least one game: offensive linemen Armaj Adams-Reed, Bryce Cabeldue and Garrett Jones, receivers Lawrence Arnold, Luke Grimm and Steven McBride, running backs Daniel Hishaw Jr. and Amauri Pesek-Hickson, linebacker Taiwan Berryhill, cornerback Karon Prunty and quarterback Jalon Daniels.

While Long saw the involvement of those and other freshmen as a positive for the program’s future, he admitted in some cases it was a negative for the present. He said some of the youngest Jayhawks looked overmatched at times, “just because of the physical maturation of football players.”

Long again hammered home a point he and Miles have referenced often in the past several months, that they want to bolster the program with recruiting classes filled with high school players, an approach Miles and his staff took with the entire 2020 class and have so far with the 2021 class, which won’t be completed until February.

“In any Power Five league you’ve got to compete with third, fourth and fifth year players,” Long said. “The process is continuing. It is a process. We didn’t get in our condition overnight and we won’t build out of it overnight.”

Long referenced the program’s recent string of losing seasons on more than one occasion during the interview session. It has now been 12 years since the Jayhawks finished with a winning record and made a bowl game (the 2009 Insight Bowl). KU has won three or fewer games 11 years in a row, a span that now includes two winless seasons.

During the most recent dozen years of losing football, KU went 26-115 (.184). Since Mark Mangino was forced out following the 2009 season, the Jayhawks are 21-108 (.163) under four different head coaches.

The completion of the latest season filled with defeats happened to coincide with the Knight Commission recommending removing FBS teams from the NCAA, making the highest level of college football its own entity.

Long was asked whether such possibilities for the future of the sport created some uneasiness at KU.

“We’ve recognized and we’re very aware not only in athletics but as an institution that our football program needs to be better,” Long said. “It needs to be better and be able to compete and be a part of the Power Five.”

Comments

Adam Bengtson 1 month, 1 week ago

As much as I rag on football you have to let Miles finish 4 seasons with his class of recruits you cannot start the cycle again....Kansas would be reviving a dead program and should see 3,4,5 wins in 5 years. No person can expect a 6-6 season for at least 5 years. Program has to build a culture that is so confused at moment...

Sam Meyer 1 month, 1 week ago

This rebuild should not be judged on year 2 results. This team was predominantly sophomores and freshmen. So long as we continue to recruit pretty much exclusively HS players and keeps us out of trouble, Les Miles gets until the end of year 4 before I would consider an alternative. I’m behind HCLM. I truly believe we can be 7-5 in 2023 (year 5).

John Strayer 1 month, 1 week ago

But without wins, can you keep the roster and those early classes intact? How many weeks of poundings before moral is completely gone? Right now, it seems like an impossible task...:(

Dane Pratt 1 month, 1 week ago

It’s fair to wait until after 4 years but this is his third recruiting class which have ranked 70th, 49th and 47th compared to K-States classes ranked 68th, 49th and 68th. That means most of next years roster will be comprised of players he’s recruited. If Chris Klieman who has only been a D1 head coach for two seasons can field a competitive team, then Les miles who has been a D1 head coach for 18 seasons should not be too far behind.

Brian Wilson 1 month, 1 week ago

First year does not count. The scraps and leftovers were worse than I thought the only thing Beatty ever achieved was Pooka and filling the roster. None of which really panned out I think due to not developing the players.
But now, Beatty two recruiting classes and has been able to redshirt accordingly. Which is why KU has 34 Freshman to end out this year. Next year KU also gets lucky to keep a few from for that extra covid year. Accountability - team work and trust, footwork and hands, strength & conditioning, plays and responsibilities.

Brian Wilson 1 month, 1 week ago

Not sure where you got your number. From a KC Star article KU’s recruiting classes (according to Rivals) ranked
95th in 2016,
55th in 2017,
48th in 2018, - Beatty's last year of recruits held on for Miles.
and the we tied for 70th in 2019 - A low number of scholarships to give.
Instituting a red shirt program the 2018 and 2019 classes rolled into the Freshman class of 2020, Hence ending this year with 34 Freshmen.

Greg Ledom 1 month, 1 week ago

Technically 3rd class, sure, but I’d suggest this is Miles 2nd full recruiting class with the first one being a late scramble because of the new arrival of Coach. He deserves 5 years and will get it, I’d lay money on it. Klieman took over a much better football program than what Miles took over. Snyder had the program on solid footing. Klieman just had to make sure not to screw it up. Miles on the other hand took over a program literally the polar opposite and thus the reason he needs more time than Klieman. He’s recruiting well with the majority of recruits rated 3 stars and all high school kids. We haven’t built this program this way in a long time (including Mangino) who hit the JUCO ranks every year albeit not heavily. Let the recruiting play out, keep building the program the right way, and see where it takes us with at least 5 years worth from Miles. Rock Chalk!

Dane Pratt 1 month, 1 week ago

Agree but we need to start seeing some progress next season. Does not have to be in the form of wins but we should be more competitive.

Galen Holston 1 month, 1 week ago

I have said it before and I will say it again. We have to recruit and develop a legitimate Big 12 QB to win and an offensive line that can protect him....not a bunch of fat slow unathletic guys. Bill Snyder and Gary Pinkel understood that and Klineman does too. I am not so sure Miles gets that .He never recruited or developed any elite QBs at LSU and I don't see any in the clubhouse or on the recruiting list now. I guess we will see.

Dirk Medema 1 month, 1 week ago

Miles needs to be given 4-5 years not so much because he needs that long to succeed, but because it would be the death of the program if a NC Coach doesn’t succeed or in any way is perceived as not getting enough time. Commenters could dream about this coach or that coach, but none worth having will come if Miles fails.

The sad thing is we were a good game day coach away from being bowl eligible 2 years ago. Now we are statistically the worst team in college football. #3 in the bottom 10.

Dane Pratt 1 month, 1 week ago

And to prevent Miles from going the Juco route like his predecessors.

The scholarship hole we’ve gotten ourselves into is in part another indictment of the NCAA. What does it say about the governing body when a program like Penn State with all their transgressions can recover from the sanctions leveled against them and a program like Kansas which committed no crimes cannot. The former committed multiple acts of pedophilia and covered it up but our transgressions were far worse. We played by the rules, committed no violations and we fired an abusive head coach. Seems like the recruiting restrictions are needlessly draconian.

Brett McCabe 1 month, 1 week ago

Had Miles been hired under the old recruiting rules, his first recruiting class might have been a whopper. He still had tons of reputation going for him, he had Hull’s active recruiting connections in Louisiana and he would have had the time to staff and recruit properly. As it stands, his first class gets nearly a full pass.

And of course, then there is COVID. And the fact that he inherited a gutted roster, that just happened to bottom out in year two of his tenure.

He does deserve some time and space to overcome some seriously challenging problems.

But, if the team does not look better next year, attendance will be terrible, finances will be worse and recruiting will begin to sag. The team has to get better next year. The alternative is not good for anyone.

Ross Hartley 1 month, 1 week ago

@Galen Holston How about: JaMarcus Russell Matt Flynn Ryan Perrilloux Jarrett Lee Jordan Jefferson Andrew Hatch Zach Mettenberger Anthony Jennings

Doug Roberts 1 month, 1 week ago

Patience is a virtue. KU football fan patience is a miracle.

Keep it up, and I'll soon be a Saint.

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