Thursday, September 17, 2020

Notebook: Lack of spring reps showed for KU’s O-line in loss, Miles says

Kansas football head coach Les Miles wears a mask while walking around during an early August practice in the team's indoor facility.

Kansas football head coach Les Miles wears a mask while walking around during an early August practice in the team's indoor facility.


In a 2020 college football calendar filled with oddities, one of the strangest discrepancies occurred long before the kickoff of a pandemic impacted regular season.

Some programs, unlike KU, were able to get in some spring practices before the entire sports world got put on lockdown.

It so happened the Jayhawks in their opener faced a Coastal Carolina team that not only had reps in the spring, but got through its entire 15-practice schedule.

In the wake of his team’s 38-23 home loss to the Chanticleers, KU head coach Les Miles this week was asked if he noticed anything in the opener that would have been helped by practicing in the spring.

While Miles didn’t use the Jayhawks’ lack of springtime preparation as an excuse — 52 FBS teams in total didn’t even start spring ball, according to Sports Illustrated — he did say those offseason sessions are a necessity.

“I think it’s really where you teach your kids to play. The snaps that you see, competition,” Mile said on the Big 12 coaches media teleconference. “The snaps where you lay the foundation of their football.”

As far as Miles is concerned, one KU position group in particular showed how much it needed spring practices during the loss to CCU.

“The offensive line gets better because they’ve taken good footwork and they’ve been taught and they’ve run into serious contact and they know how to drop their hips and use their hands. All those things happen in the spring,” Miles said. “We look forward to getting our spring back as we go forward.”

The Chants racked up 12 tackles for loss and three sacks against KU’s O-line.

According to SI, CCU and UConn were the only two FBS programs to have all of their spring practices. In total, 28 programs had at least six practices in the spring.

Similar to KU, Kansas State, following a spring with no practices, lost at home in its opener to an Arkansas State team that practiced 11 times.

Coin toss backfires

The Jayhawks’ season began with a successful midfield coin toss prior to kickoff against CCU. And instead of deferring to the second half, they elected to receive the first half kick and open on offense.

“We took the ball, so we were looking forward to capitalizing on some early momentum,” Miles explained on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show, “and being in that stadium, because we enjoy being in The Booth.”

Obviously the idea of jumping out to an early lead didn’t do the trick. KU’s first drive had traveled 41 yards before a Thomas MacVittie pass for Lawrence Arnold went off the receivers’ hands and CCU secured the interception, leading to a 62-yard TD drive and early lead for the visitors.

In retrospect, KU would’ve preferred to get the ball first in the second half, down 28-3 thanks to three giveaways before halftime.

“I think it’s an innocent team. A team that doesn’t understand how to start fast,” Miles said. “I did a poor job obviously getting them to do that.”

Miles said the coaches have discussed the slow start with players since then, as the team looks to move on during an off week.

“It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to turn out,” he said. “When you give three turnovers away (leading to 21 points off turnovers for CCU), I don’t care who you are, you play on the Dallas Cowboys and it would look very similar.”

Uzo-Diribe on top young coaches list

One of KU’s young position coaches landed this week on 247 Sports’ 2020 edition of its “30 Under 30” list of the industry’s rising stars.


Photo courtesy of KU football

Kansas football coach Les Miles promoted former quality control staffer Chidera Uzo-Diribe, naming him KU's new outside linebackers coach on Jan. 24, 2020.

The honor went to outside linebackers coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe, currently in his first year as a full-time assistant under Miles.

A four-year letterman as a player at Colorado from 2010-13, Uzo-Diribe had 19.5 sacks, 30.5 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles in his career before later transitioning to the coaching profession. He got started at CU as a defensive graduate assistant and followed D.J. Eliot to KU when Eliot became the Jayhawks’ defensive coordinator. Uzo-Diribe was a quality control staffer in 2019 before getting promoted in early 2020.

“Uzo-Diribe has emerged as an impact recruiter, landing players from California, Texas and Georgia, including two of the eight highest ranked recruits in the Jayhawks’ 2021 class,” Chris Hummer wrote for 247 Sports, adding that one source told him the KU assistant “has a really high ceiling in this profession.”

In his previous behind the scenes role, Uzo-Diribe said earlier this year, he learned a few things that he thought helped his transition to a full-time assistant.

“I think just understanding more about the Big 12 Conference,” he said, “what offenses do, what they like to attack, having a good understanding of the defense and kind of where we fit. And how we can do things to capitalize on some things that the offenses will do.”


Benjamin Shear 1 month ago

It would be interesting to see if there truly is a correlation between the number of spring practices and a team's W/L record at the end of the season. Obviously it does matter, but to what extend remains to be seen. And for some teams, maybe like KU who are young and relatively inexperienced, a full spring practice season would make even more difference. I have a feeling the Alabama's and Clemson's of college football would still win without a full spring practice schedule.

The team can either complain about it and call it unfair, or move on and play. It seems like HCLM has the right attitude.

Bee Bee 1 month ago

More like lack of toughness and heart. CCU O and D lines didn't have much of a problem did they?

Brian Wilson 1 month ago

I diagree!

If KU lacked toughness or heart they would have quit.
And, the score would have been worse.

Brian Wilson 1 month ago

When I was knee high to a Jayhawk, I was a musician and I played football, on the OL ... opening up holes, pushing the DL where ever needed,...and it requires a myriad of learned techniques unique to every opponent and situation. You also have to know the teammate beside you and their capabilities for it all to work. It's not much different than playing an instrument, as practice makes perfect! If you practice the plays, apply your techniques repetitively, you will perform without having to think about it. It's at that point, when a player can enjoy, listen, see, and pay attention to the finer details of their performance and to raise it to another level

Coastal Carolina (CCU) s not more talented or faster than KU. Coastal was just better prepared and was able to just call their plays and just have fun. Had this game been against a really talented team it would have been a 70-7 blowout. Once this game started, KU just couldn't remember where they were at. Just like performing in a band, there is no time in football to stop in the middle of the page and think about what your supposed to be doing. KU coaches created a game plan failing to recognize prior to the game just how poorly the players had prepared themselves and their inability to play by rote. IMO, this is the biggest reason CCU looked faster and ran KU over. What I don't agree with in this article is that having spring practice for two weeks, five months ago, would have helped very much in this game. I hear HCLM about all the learning and technique, etc...but seriously, the starters have been playing a for a few years by now and they should hopefully know what to do. What this really proves is that it doesn't take long for rust to set in or and for memories to fade. I am sure that getting in a full 15 days pre-season practice would have helped, but, things in the past few weeks got missed and we just got a wake up call. Hopefully KU will someday find a way to stop this from this happening time and time again. I am happy to see HCLM admit some coaching responsbility but the players should share in this as well. Players have the ability to do some homework and practice on their own so that they don't screw up their part. Time to move on! and for now, I would think KU would simplify things until knocking off the rust off and getting everyone on the same page.

Chris Condren 1 month ago

The reason for the loss was a total team failure in the first half. Everything went wrong from being unprepared to play, a total failure in execution, bad coaching and committing lethal turnovers. Blame lies at every level. Thank goodness this team did not have to play on Saturday.

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