Monday, November 23, 2020

Jayhawks eager to see what type of impact interim O-line coach John Morookian makes

Masked offensive line coach John Morookian demonstrates techniques to the Jayhawks during a KU football practice on Nov. 23, 2020.

Masked offensive line coach John Morookian demonstrates techniques to the Jayhawks during a KU football practice on Nov. 23, 2020.


When Les Miles fired Luke Meadows as Kansas football’s offensive line coach with just three weeks left in the season, it had plenty to do with the Jayhawks’ play up front throughout an 0-7 start.

While speaking Monday with media members for the first time since what Miles described as “a tough decision,” though, KU football’s head coach chose to focus on the future and how he thinks interim O-line coach John Morookian will help the blockers.

“We wanted our team to have the opportunity to improve and get better,” Miles said of his decision. “It just felt like going another direction was the thing to do.”

How much of a spark a staffing shakeup can provide between now and the Dec. 12 season finale remains to be seen. But Miles didn’t claim bringing in Morkookian, who was on staff as an offensive senior analyst, would lead to any specific achievements.

“We just felt like there was an opportunity to promote John Morookian and find out exactly what his view of line play is,” Miles said. “And I like his background, I like who he is.”

Morookian, a four-year starter on the offensive line for Toledo from 2008-11, starting 49 games in a row at right tackle, joined the KU staff in March of this year.

Before that, he already was working in the Big 12, as a quality control assistant at Iowa State for head coach Matt Campbell — a run-game coordinator and offensive coordinator at Toledo during the final three years of Morookians’ days as a right tackle.

Though the former O-lineman has only been a position coach for a few days at KU so far, Miles quickly appreciated the young coach’s approach.

“He jumped right in there,” Miles said. “Line coaches have the propensity to be right in their huddle and right around. And that was Morookian. He did a good job. He did a really good job.”


Ashley McCaffrey/Kansas Athletics

John Morookian, named KU football's interim offensive line coach by Les Miles with three games left in the 2020 season, watches during a KU practice on Nov. 23, 2020.

No KU offensive linemen were made available during the team’s weekly media session on Monday afternoon. But junior receiver Takulve “TK” Williams shared what he noticed about the O-linemen and how they have responded to having a new position coach.

“It looks like Coach John’s getting after them,” Williams attested.

The receiver acknowledged the transition might not be easy for KU’s O-linemen, given the situation and timing.

“Obviously their coach got fired. I’m sure it probably hurt them,” Williams said. “You grow a relationship with certain people.”

KU senior defensive lineman Sam Burt, who goes up against the O-linemen at every practice, thinks the coaching change has been a positive overall.

“I know the guys in the O-line room are pretty strong-willed. They’re very adaptable. I think they’re kind of taking it on with a little pep in their step,” Burt shared, “and just trying to adapt to their process and adapt to the changing circumstances as best as they can.”

While KU could end up eventually bringing in a different coach in the offseason to take over with the O-line, because Morookian has the interim tag attached to his job, Miles said he’s looking forward to seeing in the weeks ahead what kind of coach Morookian is.

According to Miles, he wants to learn about his new assistant’s points of view and methodology, and work with him to accomplish what’s possible in the short term.

“This will be, in my opinion, a nice format for he and I to describe and discuss about football,” Miles said. “That’s all. I think he’s a step forward.”

Burt said he’s looking forward to seeing what type of impact the coaching change will have along the O-line.

Williams, too, is curious to see how it plays out on the few Saturdays KU has left on its schedule.

“I can see that their effort’s still there,” Williams said. “We’ll see, like come game time, if you see any changes.”

The Jayhawks (0-7 overall, 0-6 Big 12) play host to TCU (3-4, 3-4) on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium (7 p.m., FOX Sports 1).


Len Shaffer 2 months ago

Unless Morookian can suit up, I doubt it will make much of a difference.

Brett McCabe 2 months ago

If you’d like to know the precise moment when KU’s 2020 offensive line began to struggle, here it is: Signing Day 2017. On that day, KU football was being lead by a guy who had one plan: save my job by any means necessary.

KU signed 22 players in 2017 recruiting class. The class averaged 2.73 stars, well below the 2.9 needed to consistently compete in the Big 12. But there’s more....

In Beaty’s attempt to Hail Mary his way to a neat deal, he not only recruited below the water line, but he recruited 10 short-term JUCO players. That’s nearly half the class. But there’s more.....

The entire class included only 3 offensive linemen. One of those three are not on the 2020 roster, leaving a total of two official signings on the OL out of 22 players. But there’s more....

Of that class, only 8 players remain on the KU roster. The 2017 class is important because those are the kids who would be Seniors and RS Juniors this year. The backbone of your team. And especially on the OL where guys need time to get big and strong and mean.

So, the holes you see on the OL now were created in 2017. And the holes you see on the team as a whole weren’t helped much in 2018. Beaty went for 12 JUCO players out of 22 that year. Only 5 remain on the team.

In his last two recruiting classes, Beaty signed 44 players. Only 21 are still rostered. Keegan went through these numbers for all of us before he left for Boston. Beaty did as bad a job at handicapping this program as Weis. In my mind, he was worse. Because he knew what a roster shortage looked like. And he still prioritized his personal bank account over fixing the problems. Enabled, of course, by K-Stater Zenger.

If you are going to play 5 offensive linemen each year, you are going to have to average close to 5 offensive line recruits per year. Not exactly, of course, but if you don’t average somewhere close to 5 OL recruits, at some point you will get thin at the position.

And that’s where we are now. And there is no quick fix. The pipeline has to be filled or else nothing comes out on the other end.

Two games into Beaty’s second season I said that he needed to be fired. He had proven that he was an imbecile at that point and, once an imbecile, always an imbecile. Had we fired him that day, KU football would be much better right now. The recruiting classes of 2017 and 2018 would have been coordinated by someone, anyone, that would have done a better job. Because you couldn’t have done a worse job if you specifically tried.

Brandon Pope 2 months ago

At least we have 4 OL recruits in the 21 class so far. One is a 2* but have to start somewhere.

Dane Pratt 2 months ago

You really know how to hold a grudge.

KU football is what it is, not due to just one person. Too many moving parts over the last decade or so to lay the blame solely on Beaty.

Dale Rogers 2 months ago

Well stated. Thank you for the enlightening numbers. As for Morookian, this obviously is a trial period. It will be interesting to see if he is retained next season as the permanent OL Coach.

Doug Roberts 2 months ago

Guys wins the job on last name alone.

But still, given 3 games to show improvement of a struggling OL and having never been a position coach before? Yikes!

I don't think this is really an audition for the job as much as just needing someone to wear the hat the rest of the way. But he's young and a go-getter, so who knows?

Dale Rogers 2 months ago

Miles made it pretty clear he's working closely with Morookian. And Miles does have that O=Line coach experience. Every great coach has to start somewhere. Usually it's at a lower level. But if Miles sees something in this guy, maybe he'll prove to be what we need. Kind of like Roy Williams getting his first HC job at Kansas.

Doug Roberts 2 months ago

I was going to ask what kind of clever football inspirational lingo "three stripe life" means on his t-shirt, then I looked it up and it's just an Adidas plug.

"Drink your Ovaltine".

David Robinett 2 months ago

I’m reminded of the myth of Sisyphus…

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