The return of the Percentage Wheel, a look at KU’s 2020-21 strengths and weaknesses and a little recruiting
There's no time like the present to get back to our "Ask Us Anything" blog, which will feature questions from readers about KU hoops, KU football and anything else on your minds.
We got a bunch of good questions this week and look forward to more in the weeks ahead. So if we didn't get to yours today, look for it next week and keep the questions coming in the meantime.
We'll plan to post a new version of the blog each Monday at least until sports returns, which will hopefully be sooner rather than later.
That leads us perfectly into our first question. Thanks again for the help with the content and if you have questions for future "Ask Us Anything" blogs, you can post them in the comments below, on Twitter with the hashtag #AskKUSports or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let's get to it!
Those of you who have been with us for a while might remember a little something I used to call the “percentage wheel” during the chaotic days of conference realignment.
Yes, I’m just now fully getting over the realignment madness. And, yes, I’m also bringing the percentage wheel back to help answer this question.
First, a quick disclaimer: Because information, planning and even hope for sports during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed so much and so quickly during recent weeks, it’s hard to get a real feel for what might happen. So my prediction here is based off of a number of factors — conversations with people in sports across the country, the latest I’ve read from scientists and health experts and even a dash of a gut feeling tossed in for good measure.
With that said, I think a spring football season is looking more and more likely by the day.
Last week’s news that KU was temporarily pushing the pause button on its voluntary football workouts, though not catastrophic, was a blow that those in the college football will be back this fall camp did not need.
And it’s not just happening at KU. It’s happening in even greater numbers in other cities, with Clemson being the most notable. But down the road in Manhattan, Kansas State shut down its workouts before KU even reached that point. And others continue to follow suit as positive tests inevitably continue to pop up.
I’ve thought for a long time that the powers that be in the college football world would do whatever they had to do to ensure that football is played this fall. And I still think there’s a strong chance that’s true.
But if you’re asking about the likelihood of football — at any level, really — being played in the fall, my optimism for that is far lower than it was 10 days ago.
Without further ado, here’s my percentage wheel for college football’s return. As always, it’s subject to change, perhaps even later today.
1 – 2020 season delayed to a spring start – 48%
2 – 2020 season starts on time – 34%
3 – 2020 season delayed but still starts in the fall – 15%
4 – 2020 season canceled altogether – 3%
I know that fourth option is awful to look at, but, as KU AD Jeff Long has said throughout the past couple of months, the virus is control here and, because of that, no one truly knows exactly how it’s all going to play out.
I saw last week where Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott noted that college football in 2020 might not be a one-size-fits-all scenario, and I think that’s important to remember, as well.
Some schools and conferences might be able to play and others might not. So I don’t know exactly how that fact fits into your question — or my answer — but it’s also worth remembering when thinking about the college football season as a whole.
I still think there’s hope that KU and college football can find a way to play starting in September, but that hope is starting to dwindle a little bit each day.
We don’t yet know how many players will be in the 2021 recruiting class, so that makes this question a little tougher to answer.
With Mitch Lightfoot, Marcus Garrett and Silvio De Sousa all being seniors, it seems safe to predict that it will at least have three players in it and it’s possible that it could have one or two more depending on some early-entry potential on the rest of the KU roster.
One of those spots is already spoken for by 2021 forward Zach Clemence who committed to Kansas this spring. And, truth be told, Clemence would not be a terrible prediction here.
The 6-10, stretch 4 who committed to KU in May recently moved up a couple spots to No. 29 in the Rivals.com 2021 rankings and I wouldn’t be shocked if he finishes a couple of spots higher still.
Having said that, I think the best answer here is one of Clemence’s teammates at Sunrise Christian Academy — small forward Kendall Brown.
Brown is far from a lock to join the Jayhawks, but they’re in on him and his game and skill set fit the program to a tee.
The versatile 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing who continues to improve and rise in the recruiting world is currently ranked No. 12 in the Rivals 150.
Others to watch as you wait for this question to be answered include point guards Hunter Sallis (currently ranked No. 11) and JD Davison (No. 15), along with Atlanta power forward Daimion Collinson, who is ranked No. 20 and just recently trimmed his list to a final 10 that includes KU, and shooting guard Matthew Cleveland, who is down to a final five that includes KU.
All are players worth tracking, but I’ll put my money on Brown.
It’s been an interesting first couple of years for Jeff Long and I’m not surprised that this question came up.
But I think it’s important to point out that the easy answer to your question is, yes, he is competent.
Long has a ton of experience and has been through nearly everything a college athletics administrator could possible go through on one level or another throughout his career.
His style is not for everybody and I know there are fans out there who don’t love his on-camera personality and zany stunts like diving into a swimming pool with his suit on and things of that nature. But that’s him. And, in my opinion, being true to yourself is a pretty key part of leadership, whether you're talking college athletics or anywhere else.
I thought Sheahon Zenger was dealt an insanely tough hand during his first two years on the job, when he took over and almost immediately was thrust into the conference realignment craziness while also having to fire and hire a football coach at the same time.
But Long has had a similar go of things. Realignment has been replaced by the COVID-19 pandemic — who could possibly have been prepared for that? — and he, too, found himself in the position of firing and hiring a football coach while also navigating the choppy waters of KU’s NCAA infractions case.
Any one of those things would be a lot for any AD to handle and Long has had to deal with all of them at pretty much the same time.
Has he played it all perfectly? Nope. But I don’t get the sense that the missteps have come because he was incompetent.
We’ll know more in the months and years ahead. And a big part of summing up Long’s time at Kansas — however long that winds up being — will be how he leads KU through the pandemic madness, both from a health and safety standpoint and the inevitable hit to KU’s athletics budget.
I know you didn’t ask me to grade his first two years, but if you had I’d probably have to say incomplete at this point. So many things that were issues when he took over or popped up after he started remain unresolved and we need to see how those things wind up before making any definitive conclusions about his ability as an AD.
I’ll quickly give you a couple of each to answer this question and then we’ll spend the next several months following the progress and breaking things down from there.
Strengths — Depth, versatility and size.
KU’s depth on the perimeter is absolutely insane this season. In fact, even with the likelihood of KU coach Bill Self starting four guards, it’s still hard to not feel like you’re leaving someone out.
Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji are locks to start in my opinion. After that, you’ve got at least four guys with a strong case at the final two perimeter spots — Christian Braun, Dajuan Harris, Bryce Thompson and Tyon Grant-Foster. And we’re not even mentioning Jalen Wilson or Tristan Enaruna here, two players who would probably start for a lot of other teams.
That leads me to next strength — versatility.
With all of those weapons at his disposal, Self has the luxury of mixing and matching talents and styles to fit whatever way he wants to play on any given day.
He can play small and fast. He can play with his best athletes. He can play with Garrett or Grant-Foster at the 4 and go with Harris, Garrett and Bryce Thompson as three legit ball handlers on the floor at the same time. The possibilities are almost endless.
That becomes particularly true when factoring in what he can do with the front court. David McCormack is poised for a big jump. And he can play by himself as the 5 man or at the 4 with Silvio De Sousa in the lineup, as well. Same thing with Lightfoot at the 4.
And then there’s freshman big man Gethro Muscadin, who could either become a prime redshirt candidate or a player who finds a spot in the rotation based off of his motor and bounciness.
So much depth, so much versatility and so much size. It’ll be a much different team than the one we saw in 2019-20, but, in time, it has a chance of being nearly just as good.
The weaknesses are tougher to spot with so many new faces, but here’s what they look like today, at least on paper.
The Jayhawks have done well to improve their shooting by adding Thompson and freshman guard Latrell Jossell, but I’m still not sure this is going to be an dynamic 3-point shooting team.
Agbaji, Braun and Thompson can all shoot it and Grant-Foster has it in him, as well. I actually think Garrett is primed for his best 3-point shooting season, but I know how you guys feel about that topic so we’ll hold off on that for now.
With that said, there is no Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman or Isaiah Moss on the 2020-21 roster.
But that’s where the depth comes in handy. While this roster might not have a player who can approach 40% shooting from behind the arc for the season, it has enough options and guys willing to take those shots to get what they need on any particular night.
Low post scoring might be another weakness, although we’re grading that on a bit of a curve coming off of the Udoka Azubuike era.
McCormack can hang down low but is just as comfortable away from the basket and I’ve actually heard that Lightfoot improved his low-post scoring a great deal during his redshirt season.
The wild card here is De Sousa, but it’s hard to imagine even a combination of those three — plus Muscadin — becoming anywhere close to as dominant and dangerous as Azubuike was when he was healthy.
That’s not necessarily bad news for the Jayhawks, it’ll just make things a little different. And, again, that’s where that versatility and the ability to play different styles and mix and match pieces will prove beneficial for Self and his coaching staff.
Maybe it’s all these random pieces of grass I’ve been eating, but it seems like the past few days have been the busiest since Les Miles took over the Kansas football program.
OK, that’s not true.
I haven’t tried the Les Miles Diet and gnawed on vegetation from a nearby patch of sod.
But the part about the KU football offices remaining immersed in activity and the phones of coaches buzzing and ringing constantly is true.
With Miles simultaneously completing his coaching staff, and working with his assistants to sign as many targeted recruits as they could this week, whatever holiday breaks KU’s staffers are able to enjoy soon will be well deserved.
With that as a jumping off point, let’s hit today’s round of questions.
I’ll admit I was surprised by the amount of junior college prospects that were targeted and signed for KU’s 2019 class. To make sure everyone is up to speed, here’s the rundown of the six signees — right now there are 11 players total on board in what is expected to end up a class of 15 or so — from the junior college ranks.
• 3-star Mesa C.C. (Ariz.) QB Thomas MacVittie (6-5, 225)
• 3-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Ezra Naylor (6-4, 210)
• 3-star Golden West Coll. (Calif) CB Justin Ford (6-1, 180)
• 3-star Iowa Western C.C. DE Malcolm Lee (6-5, 270)
• 2-star Coahoma C.C. (Miss.) DL Caleb Sampson (6-4, 285)
• 2-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Andrew Parchment (6-2, 185)
The questions about relying too much on the juco ranks are fair, because, as alluded to, this 6 to 5 ratio of jucos to preps looks pretty similar to the 11 to 8 ratio from David Beaty’s 2018 signing class.
I think what makes this different is the situation.
Beaty was entering his fourth season at KU after Year 3 didn’t go as planned. He and his staff, though they didn’t say so publicly, knew another year of losing football would cost them their jobs. And ultimately they were right.
They tried to load up on players who were more likely to contribute immediately because they knew that would give the 2018 team a better chance of winning five or six games.
On the other hand, Miles and his staff kind of had to scramble to find talent. The first assistant hired, Chevis Jackson, still isn’t three weeks into his tenure here. Same goes for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot hasn’t even been here two weeks.
And today was the first day of college football’s early signing period, when so many recruits now get their decisions out of the way.
This was a tough spot to walk into for Miles and his staff. You wouldn’t have to go too far out of your way to describe finding talent to sign as kind of an emergency, either, given the circumstances.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to toss out a cup of Kool-Aid that on first sniff seems too similar to one that poisoned him or her before.
But, as just mentioned, I do think KU’s options were a bit limited. When other coaching staffs have the ability to meet and interact with high school prospects (and their families and coaches) over the course of a few years instead of a few weeks, that’s a distinct advantage.
Plus, I think part of the good news with this group of jucos is that talent evaluators seem to like them. QB Thomas MacVittie in particular.
Remember: he signed with Pitt out of high school. It didn’t work out there, but he didn’t mind going the juco route and proving himself. MacVittie ended up becoming one of the most highly regarded juco QBs available.
I think it’s also important to remember that these juco players will, for the most part, be coached by different KU assistants than some of their unsuccessful predecessors were through the years. Let’s not rule out this staff’s ability to maximize the potential out of some of these two- and three-year players before they’re even given a chance to coach them up.
And, yes, KU is banking on at least one or two of these guys proving to be “overlooked gems,” and help KU’s chances of being competitive in 2019 and 2020.
Maybe I will end up completely wrong on this, but I do think Miles and his coaches kind of had to do what they had to do in terms of the number of junior college players they signed.
I think when they fill out the class in February, we’ll see more incoming freshmen in the mix. And I think in 2020 and beyond you should see KU going almost exclusively with preps, the way most successful programs attack the recruiting trails.
Only time will tell. But I’d say if you’re a KU football fan, try to be patient with the 2019 class and trust that Miles has the right coaches in place to do things differently in the years ahead.
Perry Ellis is old enough to be Dedric Lawson’s father, I’m pretty sure.
But I get why you’d ask this.
Even though Lawson, unlike Ellis during his days with the Jayhawks, actually looks like a college-aged basketball player instead of a 40-year-old scoring machine, there’s plenty of old man in his game.
Lawson will be the first to tell you there’s not a lot of athleticism involved in what he does. He’s just sound and smart and has a great feel for the game. He’s fine banking in a layup over a defender instead of dunking on him so severely his opponent is doomed for social media meme fodder.
I enjoyed watching Ellis’ smooth offensive game when he was at KU, and Lawson is equally entertaining to observe. And, let’s be honest, Ellis could actually explode off the floor from time to time. So maybe Ellis actually is younger than Lawson? The Memphis native certainly doesn’t jump as high as most 21-year-old, 6-foot-9 aspiring All-Americans.
OK, you’ve stumped me. It’s impossible to say who’s older.
From Dirk Medema, via the comments section: Could the lack of comment on Coach Hull's status be tied to the status of the other coaches? If he comments on Coach Hull but doesn't comment on others then it could be creating a perception he doesn't want. Obviously we want to know, but we don't need to know for the coaches to do their jobs effectively. It is just a matter of convenience for us. While we have heard that Hull has been out recruiting, I don't recall hearing that it was in contrast to the others not recruiting. While not a good sign for the others, it is encouraging for keeping Coach Hull.
Obviously this question came through before this week’s news that Tony Hull will be back as KU’s running backs coach.
But the question from Dirk here hits a lot of important points.
To me it has been pretty clear for weeks now that Hull would be back. But I couldn’t report that because I didn’t have enough sources saying so.
And I do think a lot of the delay had to do with determining how the rest of Miles’ staff would be filled out. They didn’t want to announce, ‘Hey, Hull is back,’ and at the same time not be able to provide any sort of update on Bowen’s status.
Regarding other coaches not recruiting, that actually was the case. Hull was doing things on the recruiting front that most of David Beaty’s former assistants weren’t while things got sorted out. Again, I heard this from a reliable source. But I couldn’t get enough details from other sources to reach a point where it was something I could report. There’s some responsibilities involved in journalism that you just can’t take lightly.
From Phil Leister, via the comments section: Is Quentin going to be the latest in a long line of highly-regarded Bill Self recruits - Oubre, Alexander, Diallo to name a few - who comes in full of promise and disappoints relative to the hype? Is it something about Bill's system that lends itself to this? Bill called Q as complete of a guard as he's ever had, which we have not seen in any way, shape, or form.
This has been a strange freshman season for Quentin Grimes up to this point, so Phil’s question makes a lot of sense.
I think what separates Grimes from those former KU players referenced is that he’s not nearly as raw offensively.
True, Grimes is both making mistakes on offense and misfiring on his shots — 38.2% from the floor, 33.3% on 3-pointers and even 55.6% at the foul line.
But I think it’s too soon to write him off. His attitude appears to be perfect through his struggles. And the fact that he can defend means Self won’t give up on him.
If you watched Grimes at all while he played for Self on Team USA this past summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, you saw some of that complete guard play Self has referenced.
I think there are so many new parts on this KU team that it has added to Grimes’ adjustment period. But I see him figuring things out in the weeks ahead. Good athlete. Plays hard. Head’s in the right place. All he needs is for some shots to fall and he could take off.
One quick things to address before we jump into another round of “Ask Us Anything” questions.
That KU-Villanova game. I’m not sure if it was because of the early tip or because I’ve been fighting off a cold, but it took a little while for that one to fully sink in.
Right there in front of us, in arguably the greatest venue in all of sports, were two of the best programs and coaches in college basketball, slugging it out, toe to toe, for 40 minutes.
Both teams had their good moments and both teams had a few bad. But man did they both compete. I found it wildly entertaining to watch Villanova coach Jay Wright and KU coach Bill Self give it their all, as well. We’re used to seeing this from Self, of course. He is one of the most energetic and demonstrative coaches on the sideline in the game.
But Wright was right there with him, and given the fact that it was Wright’s team that was playing in the hostile environment and having a tougher time, it was interesting to see how hard that guy worked during the game and how much he had to sweat to get his guys to (a) hear him, (b) execute what he wanted them to do and (c) stay on the refs.
Nothing groundbreaking there, but it was interesting to watch, up close, because things have gone so well for Villanova during the past five or so years and, at least in this one (and probably others), Wright showed that, as charmed as the Wildcats have been, he’s really had to work to make it all happen.
Same has been true, of course, for Self throughout his unprecedented success at Kansas and that record stretch of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles.
What a game. What a classic matchup. What a wonderful thing for college basketball.
And to think we get to do it all over again next year — albeit in a different venue — in Philadelphia.
All right. Let’s dive into today’s questions. As always, keep your “Ask Us Anything” questions coming here, on Twitter with the hashtag #AskKUsports or via email at email@example.com
I like this question because it goes beyond the simple whining about Garrett not being a good shooter.
And it’s an interesting thought.
To be fair, though, Garrett has tried to be more than a 3-point shooter and is fully aware that long-range shots are not his specialty. That said, the fact that he still pulls the trigger shows that Garrett, himself, is confident in his shot — at least enough to take it — and it also shows that teams defending Garrett know what they’re doing.
One of the most underrated parts of Garrett’s game, in my opinion, is his ability to get to the basket. It might not always look the prettiest — often it does — but it is effective. He’s got good handles, is quick and strong, and has a good knack for getting the ball up to the rim when he gets in close, which almost always leads to a foul and often can lead to an and-one situation.
So, yeah, Garrett should shoot more twos. And I think he tries to do that. But we’re not talking about 10-foot jumpers here. Most defenses are not going to give you that shot. And there are enough moments when Garrett has the open 3-pointer that the best move is for him to just pull it instead of dribbling in five or six feet and then pulling up. Doing that gives the defense time to react and recover and gives away the open shot in the first place.
At this point, — and I think this is where Self and the Jayhawks are at with Garrett right now, too — Garrett’s offensive production should be viewed as gravy. He’s so good defensively, so steady on both ends and so smart all over the floor, that sometimes you just have to accept the sub-par offensive game in order to allow for those other strengths to be on the floor.
And make no mistake about, in just about every other aspect outside of offense, the Jayhawks need Garrett on the floor.
It will be really interesting when Azubuike comes back to see what happens to that starting lineup. If Grimes does not get going by the start of Big 12 play, I think you could see Garrett sliding into his starting spot. Who knows? Maybe that would relax Grimes a little and get him going, too.
You’re on to something here, although I don’t think manipulate is the right word for it.
Does Self use the media to get his message across to the team from time to time? I think so. Particularly when things are going well. Let’s say the team is winning but not playing the kind of defense Self wants to see. He’ll say it because he knows it’ll get written and he knows they’ll read it.
One thing worth pointing out there, however, is that Self’s not telling us anything he doesn’t tell those guys, over and over and over, to their faces.
But sometimes getting the message across in a different way can help it sink in. That’s why you hear Self call his teams soft on occasion or why he, more recently, explained that looking at this season as one where KU is undefeated and ranked No. 1 is not exactly the best way to do it and doesn’t tell the full story of this team.
Self is a master motivator and he knows what buttons to push and when to push them. What’s more, he knows that pushing this button with one player does not work as well as pushing that same button with another player. And he adjusts.
Speaking to the team through the media is something a lot of coaches do, but Self is among the best at doing it and knows exactly how to get across the messages he wants his players to hear. As I mentioned above, that doesn’t replace telling them in person but it does support it and add another dose to the lesson.
First off, what KU has done so far is nothing short of fantastic. They have a bunch of really good wins, they’ve played a tough schedule and they’ve found a way to come out on top even while not playing their best basketball for long stretches of time.
That can only help them when things get tough down the road or it’s do-or-die time in March.
But your question is an interesting one and one I had not yet considered.
It’s tough for Self to win coach of the year honors because of the insane expectations he has established for himself and the program. Oh, you won another Big 12 title despite losing five starters? Big deal. You’re Kansas. That’s what people expect.
I think that’s the kind of thinking a lot of people have when it comes to tabbing Self as a coach of the year candidate and that’s why you don’t hear about him in the mix all that often despite piling 30-win seasons on top of each other. There’s always some coach out there who elevated a program that people did not expect to be so good that will get a lot more attention. Fair or not, that’s just the way it is.
Self has earned his share of respect in the Big 12 coach of the year voting, but even there, overachieving coaches often walk away with the hardware.
So what does that mean for this year? Well, probably more of the same. As I mentioned, this start is insane and I thought KU would be in good shape if it got through nonconference play with two losses. But to think they’re three wins away from entering Big 12 play unbeaten is incredible. At this point, barring something catastrophic occurring, it looks like they’ll go into Big 12 play with a record of at least 11-1. And that sets Self and company up to have a pretty impressive record when the postseason rolls around.
Plenty of time to get to that, though.
The other part of your question is more relevant right now and that’s because Dedric Lawson has been so good, even while not necessarily looking that way. His numbers are insane — at or near the top of the Big 12 in so many categories, including points and rebounds — and, to me, he looks like he’s getting more comfortable with his role by the day.
If so, that’s only going to lead to more big games down the road and you could be looking at a guy who is capable of putting up some ridiculous games. We’re talking a 30 and 20 gee or two is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Unheralded coming into the season is probably a good way to describe it, but that’s on the national level. This coaching staff knew what it had and they’re dancing in their offices about the potential of this player and this team when things finally all come together and run a little smoother.
I love this question because it shows you the excitement and optimism of the KU football fan right now.
But at the risk of throwing a wet blanket on that, I’m going to go with KU volleyball.
Les Miles is a big name coach who has brought in a few solid assistants and appears to be headed in the right direction with adding some pieces in recruiting that can help immediately. But the football hole is still large and crawling out of it won’t be easy.
With volleyball, the climb is much less steep and will likely come down to staying healthy. Remember, this was a team this season that, even without All-Americans Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne, was able to beat mighty Texas in a thrilling match at home. So the have the pieces required to remain a Top 25 program. What they need to do now is stay healthy.
They played most of the second half of the season without their top setter and also had to overcome the loss of Patricia Montero, who was finally healthy and poised to have a monster year.
Battling through one of those things is not easy, but having to endure both was simply too much and was the reason KU fell a notch this year. But the talent is in place and the hunger should be back and bigger than ever. So I’ll take KU volleyball as the team that returns to the rankings sooner than Kansas football.
There’s going to be some kind of record established here for most-asked-about topic because ever time we ask for “Ask Us Anything” questions, at least 8-10 people immediately jump in looking for an update on De Sousa.
The NCAA’s not saying anything, KU’s not saying anything and, to my knowledge, nobody knows when either side will say anything any time soon.
Self has talked about being optimistic that they’ll hear something before winter break, but finals are over and Christmas is just eight days away. I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
To get right down to your question, though, it’s important to note that the NCAA has not said it is “stopping” sanctions, merely that it won’t levy any kind of punishments until the season is over.
Coaches like Gonzaga’s Mark Few have been outspoken in their disgust of that stance, but I’m not sure that will change anything and the NCAA certainly is not going to let anybody force it into doing anything — or acting any sooner — that is different from its own timeline.
So I guess the news could be viewed as a good thing for KU in that they won’t have to worry about any ruling or punishment — if any is coming — impacting this season.
But I’m not sure that has any impact on De Sousa. I still think there’s a chance he could play, but that feeling dwindles by the day. And if he does play, it’s now looking like mid-January will be about as early as it could happen.
I’ve said and written this before and still think it could happen this way. I don’t know that the NCAA’s delay here means that the process will be delayed. Remember, if they’re looking into things, it has already started. It’s not like they’ll be starting after Christmas. So it’s possible that they could reach a conclusion in early January and then come back and say, ‘You know what, the time he has served is good enough with us, he’s eligible moving forward,’ and that would be that.
They also could not saying anything all year and De Sousa could sit for the entire season.
All of that is really just a long-winded way of saying that nothing is new, all possibilities remain in play and we will update you as soon as we hear anything at all about De Sousa’s future.
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The past several days have turned out to be quite busy for new KU football coach Les Miles on a couple of fronts.
Miles is adding to his staff on what seems like a daily basis, with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, receivers coach Emmett Jones, defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, offensive line coach Luke Meadows, and defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson in place.
What’s more, the Jayhawks are starting to see early results on the recruiting front since Miles took over.
It didn’t happen overnight. The groundwork was set from the day Miles took over. But now we see visible evidence of how it has paid off in terms of KU’s 2019 recruiting class.
With that, let’s dive into today’s questions.
So, as Ted points out here, one way that Miles and his staffers have attacked the recruiting trails early is by identifying preferred walk-on (PWO) players around the Sunflower State and Kansas City metro area.
That’s a sign that they’re doing a good job with their overall strategy and not solely focusing on finding scholarship players. You need walk-ons to help the program at practices and if you identify the right ones, you might even get a quality game day player out of going that route. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re investing more time than usual on finding quality walk-ons now, given the 2019 signing class is expected to be small, at about 15 players or so.
But it’s not as if Miles or any of the people working for him are ignoring the need for impactful recruits. This week has proven to be a big one, with KU landing commitments from St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back Jayden Russell, 6-foot-5, 250-pound Andale athlete Mason Fairchild and Thomas MacVittie, who is a junior college quarterback whose college career began at Pittsburgh.
KU is also looking at a number of other prospects as next week’s early signing period approaches, including:
• Donte Starks, a four-star linebacker according to Rivals, from New Orleans who is verbally committed to LSU
• Valerian Agbaw, a three-star athlete from Powder Springs, Ga.
• Dontario Drummond, a three-star receiver at East Mississippi Community College
• Malcolm Lee, a three-star defensive end at Iowa Western C.C.
• Jerrod Means, a three-star receiver from Lovejoy, Ga.
• Ezra Naylor, a 6-4 receiver at Iowa Central C.C.
• Eugene Minter, a 6-4 receiver at Dodge City C.C. currently committed to Arkansas State
• Da’Jon Terry, a 6-3 defensive tackle from Meridian, Miss.
This is a great way to describe the KU basketball season up to this point.
Maybe it’s not as noticeable because he has such a laid back, good-natured personality, but I think Dedric Lawson might be the dog you’re looking for.
He’s easily this team’s best overall player and to me what has stood out about Lawson is his ability to come through late in close games — even if he hasn’t played up to his standards earlier in that same game.
Lawson delivered in overtime when Kansas beat Tennessee in New York. He completely took over in crunch time against New Mexico State, and KU would have lost if he hadn’t.
Those are just a couple of moments but I think Lawson is still getting comfortable with his role in his first season of playing at Kansas and being The Guy. I bet we’ll see plenty more dog in him in the months ahead.
Chris: Is there a 2nd legit 3 point shooter on the #KUbball roster?
I mean … Not really. Right?
Players and coaches will tell you Charlie Moore and Quentin Grimes can fill that role. But neither has proven that with any consistency yet.
Moore has been pretty dismal from 3-point range so far — 3-for-22. Maybe this is just a slump and he ends up being a reliable threat from outside.
But to me Grimes is the guy who should become KU’s second 3-point threat, behind Lagerald Vick (29-for-52). Even though we don’t think about the freshman guard as that type of marksman from behind the arc right now, he’s still not been that bad on 3-pointers (11-for-29).
Now, as you may recall, Grimes did go 6-for-10 in KU’s season-opening win over Michigan State, so he is just 5-for-19 in the seven games since. That can change and I think it will. Grimes is too talented for the rest of the season to play out without him taking off. He looks so smooth shooting from deep that an uptick in production seems inevitable to me.
If you haven’t been following KU athletic director Jeff Long on Twitter, you may not know that Horejsi Family Athletics Center, home of KU volleyball, recently was demolished.
And that’s because the Horejsi family paid $10 million to build a bigger, better venue for coach Ray Bechard’s program.
The new arena should seat roughly 1,000 more fans than did the recently leveled one, which had a 1,300-seat capacity.
Construction of Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena is expected to be completed before the Jayhawks begin their 2019 season.
I’m not sure exactly why there hasn’t been an announcement yet regarding Tony Hull, the running backs coach and associate head coach for former KU football coach David Beaty.
When Miles took over he stated his plans to interview all of Beaty’s staff members and gauge whether he would like to retain certain coaches and personnel.
Those meetings have come and gone. And Hull, unlike other members of Beaty’s staff, has been actively recruiting since Miles took over. Hull made an in-home visit with Russell before the three-star defensive back committed to KU.
I’d be shocked if Hull isn’t a member of Miles’ first staff. Perhaps at this stage they’re still shaking out specific roles for everyone. Will Hull still be the running backs coach? Maybe. Perhaps he’ll be the recruiting coordinator. Or both.
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Already more than two weeks removed from the day Les Miles was introduced as the Kansas football program’s new head coach, there seems to be no stopping the buzz surrounding the program.
This past weekend Miles invigorated the Allen Fieldhouse crowd at halftime of the basketball game versus Stanford by simply strolling onto the court, saying a few words, eating some grass and giving away some Yeezys.
The KU fan base seems to love its new football coach and the hope his presence provides for a program that has fallen flat since a previous administration forced Mark Mangino out.
And the offseason fervor figures to continue in the days and weeks ahead, as Miles continues to fill out his staff and he and his coaches carry out a critical step in the rebuilding process: recruiting.
With that, let’s get to today’s questions. And remember, you can hit us up anytime on Twitter by using the hashtag, #AskKUsports.
While I haven’t yet got the chance to speak with Lindsey directly — plans from KU staff to make Miles’ hires available for interviews remain in the works — the more I read about him and listen to what he has to say the more I’m intrigued about what his addition will mean for the program.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Lindsey ends up being KU’s quarterbacks coach, as well. And QB has been a position of need for the program since Todd Reesing graduated.
It’s not realistic to think Lindsey will be able to make a quality Big 12-level QB appear out of thin air in time for the 2019 season. But the man already has extended an offer to a Class of 2020 four-star prep by the name of Robby Ashford.
That doesn’t mean Ashford will actually end up at KU and become the offense’s savior. It does give you a sense though that Lindsey will be aggressive in finding an effective QB to fit into his system.
Lindsey plans on building the offense around KU’s play-makers, and while it may take time to identify which Jayhawks can fit that bill other than Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert — I happen to think Daylon Charlot will, too — I think fans should be excited about the hire.
Because this one was asked during basketball season and most KU football outcomes have been foregone conclusions for years now, I’m going to assume this health-related inquiry is about KU basketball’s recent run of close games.
It really did look at various points that KU was going to lose to Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford.
I honestly was impressed that the Jayhawks didn’t drop any of those, because this is a team that’s still finding its way.
There’s no calming influence or unflappable veteran on this roster such as Frank Mason III or Devonte’ Graham to carry the Jayhawks to a victory when the odds are against them. And yet this team still is unbeaten.
The deeper we get into the season, the more it looks as though Dedric Lawson and Devon Dotson will be the players who lead game-changing runs when Lagerald Vick isn’t dominating offensively.
So that should be encouraging for the KU die-hards out there who don’t handle losing or tight games well. This team has room to grow and it’s already in a pretty good spot. Plus, the offense might not look as out of sorts in coming weeks, as Udoka Azubuike’s ankle injury forces Bill Self to go back to the four-guard lineup that has worked so well the past couple of years.
From Matt Roesner via email: Coach Miles will have ~15 available slots for recruits this coming year. In looking at the KU football team in 2019, what are your thoughts on key positions of needs, and how the graduating class (and any other losses of eligibility) are going to influence Coach Miles and KU?
As I detailed in a recent story, the football team is losing half of its 2018 starters.
There’s no way to replace Daniel Wise and Joe Dineen on defense. But defensive linemen and linebackers will be positions of need in this recruiting class.
Lindsey needs to find a QB for the Class of 2019, too. Whether that’s a high school senior who can be a longterm solution or a transfer who can step in more ready to compete — or both — don’t be surprised to see Kansas bring in a player to compete with Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick.
It will be tricky, because there are positions where KU needs help immediately and a lot of times, particularly with true freshmen, first-year players are not ready for those types of roles. Developing returning players who haven’t been heavy contributors previously will be critical.
Hull is no pushover. He’s a big, tough dude. But the running backs like playing for him and respect him. There’s value in that.
But, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, Hull’s been a prized member of KU’s staff because of his recruiting prowess back in and around his home city of New Orleans.
If Hull wasn’t at KU, there’s no way Pooka Williams, Mike Lee or Corione Harris ever would have signed with the program. And those three players will be pivotal in 2019.
Having the foresight to bring Hull aboard was one of the better moves David Beaty made in his four years on the job.
It seems Miles will keep Hull around, too, so that’s good news for the program in this early stage of a massive rebuild.
From Steven McKillip via email: Is there any information on the "blueshirts" that count towards the 2019 recruiting class? Since they are taken up spots in the 2019 class, will they ever play for Kansas?
While it’s difficult to distinguish in many cases which players from the past few recruiting classes were straight-up scholarship athletes and which ones with which Beaty and his staff decided to take the blueshirt route, I don’t think KU fans should be overly worried about how useful those blueshirt players will be for the new coaching regime.
I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if many scholarship and blueshirt players benefit from having new coaches around. A new assistant may see something in a player that a previous position coach didn’t or may be better suited for developing certain strengths within a player.
Plus, a lot of these guys who didn’t contribute much in 2018 will be a year older, with more coaching and lifting and preparation behind them, so, theoretically, they should be more capable of playing a role in 2019.
Now, this line of thinking might not hold up if a number of blueshirt and scholarship players end up transferring for some reason between now and next season. Then you have an even bigger problem just in terms of available bodies. But I don’t think there’s any indication at this point that Miles and his staff plan on running people off or that players wouldn’t want to stick around and play for the new coaching staff.
Sleeping on Vick, KU football commitments and is it time for Marcus Garrett to join the starting lineup?
Just when I thought this whole Les Miles to Kansas hysteria had calmed down a little and we could move on to talking more about the basketball season that’s under way or what’s next for the football program as a whole, The Mad Hatter himself came flying out of the Allen Fieldhouse student section and onto the floor for a halftime introduction during last Saturday’s victory over Stanford.
OK, fine. Let the hysteria continue.
Miles is clearly going all-in on his time at Kansas and his confidence, in himself and the team, is boiling over nearly every time we hear from him.
That’s a good thing for the program and the university and can only help bring some momentum back to Kansas football.
Wild to think that just a handful of days after Kansas hires a man of Miles’ caliber, Kansas State officially said goodbye to legendary head coach Bill Snyder.
That news, if you haven’t heard yet, became official on Sunday and it could have a huge impact on Kansas football.
For starters, the Jayhawks have always been better off — from the 1980s to present day — when Snyder has been somewhere else during the Sunflower Showdown.
Beyond that, though, Snyder’s retirement and the changing of the guard in Manhattan opens the door for Miles and Kansas to make up some ground when it comes to in-state recruiting.
That, as much as anywhere, is where you win these annual KU-K-State battles and Miles already has made it clear that he understands the importance of winning the state, both on game day and in the recruiting wars.
I have little doubt that K-State will hire a terrific replacement for Snyder, but the next couple of weeks and the transition as a whole gives KU a real opportunity to make up some ground on their rival to the west.
All right, let’s get right to this week’s batch of questions.
Be sure to keep the questions coming in the comments below, in response to our Twitter requests, on Twitter via the hashtag #AskKUsports or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I like the question and I see why you’re asking, but I’m definitely not sleeping on Vick.
The dude’s crazy talented, more confident than ever and is the only one on this roster who can legitimately carry himself with that, “I’ve seen it all, man” mentality. That’s so valuable to a team.
The reason I had Garrett pencilled in over Vick as a starter all offseason was twofold. First, it was based on a few conversations I had with a few people after Vick was welcomed back. I wasn’t sure if he would be given the opportunity to start so I played the odds. Clearly, his attitude, effort and performance trumped that and he’s been a starter since Day 1.
Second, it’s not as if I was putting a walk-on out there in his spot. Garrett’s a stud and does so many things that Bill Self absolutely loves. Again, I played the odds there, as well.
If you listened to our most recent KU Sports Hour podcast, you heard that I picked Vick as my choice for team MVP through the first half of nonconference play.
(If you haven’t listened yet, go check it out to see who Benton and Shane picked)
I realize that’s not a huge surprise nor is it something different than what thousands and thousands of KU fans would have picked, but it is an indication that I’m not sleeping on the guy.
He’s been sensational and KU is still unbeaten largely because of him. He’s also been a blast to watch and much more fun to cover, as well. KU coach Bill Self has said it, but Vick looks like he’s having fun out there and is playing with a ton of joy.
As for the Dotson part of your question, that has nothing to do with Vick and everything to do with my thoughts on Devon Dotson. The kid is off to a sensational start and has flashed some serious game while being asked to carry a pretty large load.
Oh, and he’s only going to get better.
Vick’s a star and he’s been spectacular so far. But Dotson has been the most consistently impressive player on both ends in my opinion, simply because he’s doing all of this as an 18-year-old freshman and delivering.
The chemistry between Vick and Dotson is pretty cool to watch right now and neither player would be quite as good without the other.
From Ron Rutkowski via email
Marcus Garrett….He has a ton of talent, but cannot shoot. Awesome on Defense, but a bit of liability on Offense. He can slash, cut, dunk, but weak on the outside shot and always seems to be short. Has anyone ever had him tested for “Depth Of Perception”---easily fixable— glasses and/or vitamins.
This is so interesting to me, Ron, but I have not heard one thing about Garrett’s vision as being a part of his problem.
I talked for over an hour with his uncle — and AAU coach — about Garrett’s shot heading into the offseason and his eyes never came up. It was all about form, technique and repetition.
I hear what you’re saying, though, and, at least somewhat, can speak from experience. I wear glasses to correct nearsightedness — mostly for driving and at night but pretty much wear them all the time since the prescription is so mild — and I’ve always wondered if I wore them when I played ball if it would help my game.
I still play 2-3 times a week with a group of dudes ranging in age from 24 to 50 and we all have pretty good basketball backgrounds and get after it. But I never wear glasses or goggles or contacts when I play.
It hasn’t really hurt my shot — I’m much more of a passer, defender and screener to begin with — but I do notice a difference when I take my glasses off when I get into the gym.
I’ll poke around on Garrett’s situation and try to find out if there’s anything there. But I would doubt it. For one, I think his shooting woes are just a comfort thing and getting that fixed is a work in progress. For two, I’m not sure that I’ve noticed him being short on his shots like you have. So I’ll keep an eye on that, too.
Interesting question, though.
Speaking of Garrett, let’s jump in on him a little more here. I actually was going to write a blog about this today anyway, so we might as well just handle it here.
I definitely think a case could be made for him sliding into the starting lineup, but here’s why it might — MIGHT — not happen.
If Self goes to Garrett and is relying on Grimes off the bench, it could put the team in an even tougher spot. Right now, Grimes starts and hits the floor with the confidence that comes from that and then shows that he either has it or doesn’t. Most days so far, it’s been the latter, but at least Self has had somewhere to turn, with both Garrett and Charlie Moore sitting on the bench.
If Self benches Grimes and goes with Garrett, he could find himself in a tough spot if Garrett were to get into foul trouble or have an off night himself. Then, he’d be asking a player like Grimes, confidence potentially shaken by the benching, to go out there and play through it after the benching. That probably wouldn’t do much in the way of helping him snap out of his funk.
I think a strong case can be made for either decision — to continue starting Grimes or benching him — but based on the way Self continues to pump his confidence that Grimes will be fine, my guess is he’s going to ride it out for a little while longer before making any major changes.
After all, giving Grimes a chance to show he’s engaged and then going with someone else if he isn’t hasn’t hurt Kansas yet.
I’m mildly surprised that no one has — in fact, I would’ve put money on Jayden Russell committing on Sunday after a visit this weekend and taking in that KU basketball game — but I don’t think it’s panic time yet.
Miles is a big name and a nice draw for Kansas, but it’s not as if these kids he’s contacting are going to jump all in at the first phone call. They still have others recruiting them and need to take a real look at Kansas before signing up to play for the Jayhawks simply because the new head coach won a national championship a dozen years ago.
I think what’s been most impressive about Miles’ efforts so far is the fact that he’s hitting the state hard like he said he would. I’ve seen all kinds of kids from the state of Kansas post to Twitter that they’ve been offered Preferred Walk-On spots by Kansas (PWOs) and that, as much as any commitment, is a sign that Miles is really trying to build this thing through an emphasis on the Sunflower State.
Many KU coaches have talked about it, but few have done it. If Miles can get that done, the commits will come and the wins and better days just might follow.
This is such a fascinating question to me because I keep thinking back to last year and what I might have said at the midway point of the season if someone had asked me about De Sousa’s potential impact later in the season.
After those first few games, where he couldn’t play more than a minute or two and looked so out of sorts out there on the floor, it would’ve been hard to predict that he’d do what he did in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments for the Jayhawks.
But he did.
Now De Sousa’s in a much different situation and the question with him is whether he’ll even be given the opportunity to contribute.
Nothing’s new on that front — at least not that we’re aware of — so the question comes down to this: Which is more likely, Grimes snapping out of his funk or De Sousa playing at all?
I’m not really sure where I stand these days on whether De Sousa has a chance to play. (I’m probably leaning more toward no than ever before) But I do know that plenty of people at KU are still of the belief that it can happen.
That said, I think the odds are much greater that Grimes will snap out of his funk and start to figure out how to play at this level.
Right now he’s thinking way too much and is in his own head. Self called it a mental block. That’ll go away with more time, more reps and some success. So my money’s on Grimes here and that’s probably the case even if De Sousa is cleared to play.
Grimes is too talented and too full of potential at a position where KU could really use him to not figure it out at some point.
That Michigan State game was something to watch but it might actually have been a bit of a temporary detriment to Grimes, who has not played with the same free mind and confidence since that night. Could it be because his own expectations were too high after that and now anything other than hitting 6 of his first 7 3-pointers seems like a disappointment?
Could be. Or it could simply be a case of a freshman needing time to adjust.
The past few days inside Anderson Family Football Complex, according to those who would know, new Kansas football coach Les Miles has stayed busy by assessing various aspects of the Kansas football program he just took over.
Think: meetings, phone calls and more meetings and calls, mixed in with whatever the new man in charge can do to settle in and get comfortable.
Miles has spoken with assistant coaches from his predecessor David Beaty’s staff and met with players, as well.
While no hires have been announced as of Wednesday afternoon that could change quickly.
And that leads us right into our first question for today’s post.
I asked Miles during his introductory press conference how long he thought it would take to get his staff in place. And while he didn’t give a definitive timeline for the process, his answer showed that finding the best coordinators he can will be his priority.
Miles doesn’t have to rush these hires and he made it clear from the day he took this job that he had been having conversations with potential assistants and coordinators already and would continue to do so.
This week has been the first time Miles could really speak with potential coordinators, too, because last week many candidates were busy preparing for the last game of the regular season.
As Miles speaks with potential coordinators this week it is also likely he will act quickly if it becomes clear someone he wants to bring on board is interested. He told the Journal-World recently that having coordinators in place would be one of the most important steps for him as he fully attacks the recruiting trail for 2019.
Michael Hinton: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sports' Wally Hall wrote a column that referenced the Razorbacks' losing football season(s) and Jeff Long's contributions. What are your thoughts? Things obviously ended poorly for Jeff Long at Arkansas, his previous stop as an athletic director. Long was fired in November of 2017 after close to 10 years heading the athletic department at the SEC school.
Though Long’s hiring of Bobby Petrino brought the Razorbacks victories and appearances in both the Sugar and Cotton bowls, that relationship ended in an ugly fashion when Long had to fire Petrino in 2012, in the aftermath of the coach’s motorcycle accident. The whole ordeal eventually revealed Petrino had hired his mistress to work for the football program and the coach misled members of the athletic department.
Long had interim coach John Smith handle the football team in 2012, and the Razorbacks went 4-8.
When Long hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, Arkansas finished 3-9 in 2013 before Bielema posted a 22-17 combined mark for the next three seasons. But Arkansas fell off again in 2017, going 4-8. Long was fired shortly before the season’s conclusion and soon after Bielema was done, too.
Even before Arkansas finished 2018 at 2-10 — with its .167 winning percentage going down as the worst in program history — the school’s football fan base didn’t mind blaming Long for its current state. I had a few Razorbacks supporters email me this past summer just airing their grievances about his time there.
Does that mean Long’s hiring of Miles will go so poorly? Of course not. But it’s also important for everyone to step back every once in a while and realize it is way too early to tell how the next few years will play out for KU football.
KU football attendance really began falling off a cliff near the end of the Charlie Weis era. But it officially went kersplat in 2018, with announced crowds in the 15,000 range at each of the Jayhawks’ final three home games of the season.
That’s what makes 40,000 such an ambitious figure for Miles’ KU debut — slated for Aug. 31 against Indiana State.
Even so, the KU fan base seems genuinely fired up about the program’s latest reboot. And between the intrigue surrounding Miles and having a chance to watch Pooka Williams perform his unique form of on-field voodoo, I think KU can get there.
Nine months out, I will take the slightest of overs.
Though nothing is official yet, it sure seems likely that Miles will keep Tony Hull, KU’s Louisiana recruiting guru, in place.
And, with Miles having spent more than a decade living and working in Louisiana, I think that pipeline will only grow stronger in the months and years ahead.
Both Miles and Hull have strong connections down in the New Orleans area, and while the very best players from down in “The Boot” will likely continue to pick SEC programs, Hull has proven he can get coveted prospects to KU.
With Miles in place, the number of talented Louisiana players KU is able to sign should only increase — even though the new coach has made clear his plan to recruit heavily near his new home, too.
Oh, yeah. And, no, I don’t think fans need to worry about Pooka Williams leaving. Just my gut feeling.
I’ll begin by saying this: KU has done a good job thus far of keeping Miles’ search for his coordinators under wraps.
I’m guessing a lot of that credit goes to Mike Vollmar, KU’s senior associate AD for football administration, who, like Long and Miles, has great connections throughout the college football universe.
Fans obviously can’t wait to find out if Miles can bring in some more big-name coaches for his first staff. But I get the sense most of the people around the KU football program — except for Miles, obviously, and probably Vollmar — don’t yet know how this will all play out.
It’s probably worth monitoring the status of recently fired UNC coach Larry Fedora, as well as various members of his staff. One of Miles’ sons, Manny, was a backup QB at UNC, so Miles has to know those coaches fairly well.
John Papuchis was Fedora’s defensive coordinator at UNC, and he was a graduate assistant at KU from 2001-03. Papuchis also worked for Miles during the new Kansas coaches first three years in Baton Rouge, La.
Before Fedora became a head coach at Southern Miss, he was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2005-07 (after Miles left that program to go to LSU).
I’m sure the pool of candidates will be large and I think it’s a safe bet whomever Miles hires to lead the offense and defense will have plenty of experience.
It’s hard to believe that just a week ago we were all digesting the news that Les Miles was the new Kansas football coach.
Now, after the season football finale against Texas and an impressive week of basketball in the Big Apple, the whole idea that Miles is KU’s football coach seems to be commonly accepted and embraced both here in Lawrence and across the country.
Crazy how fast things can change.
Miles, of course, still has all kinds of work to do, from filling his staff to actually getting the program back on track, but it’s clear, just one week into his reign, that he’s all in and he came to Kansas to coach football and win games.
We got a lot of “Ask Us Anything” questions regarding Miles and his staff this week. And Benton will answer most of those on Wednesday.
Today, though (OK, OK, tonight if you’ve been paying attention), I’ll dive into a few of the basketball-related questions that we received.
Thanks for the questions and keep them coming, in the comments below, on Twitter with the hashtag #AskKUsports or via email at email@example.com.
Let’s get to it.
I love this question (and questions like it) because it allows us to have a little fun and forces you to really think a little bit instead of just sharing information or dropping knowledge.
With that in mind, I really only think one of these is possible and that’s the Quentin Grimes breakout. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Lagerald Vick becoming KU’s player of the year. That is very much in play and, believe it or not, he could easily wind up being this team’s MVP.
But given that names like Mason and Graham recently have won Big 12 player of the year honors — and then some — I’m guessing that you mean bigger awards and I just can’t see Vick challenging for those, largely because it takes a pretty complete all-around game to win awards like that. Mason and Graham both were as good as passers and rebounders as they were scorers and right now Vick’s pretty much just looking like a scorer, albeit a pretty damn good one at that.
So that one’s out. And I don’t know if I can picture a scenario in which K.J. Lawson jumps all the way into the starting lineup before his Senior Night in a couple of years.
That’s not a knock on Lawson. I like his game, I admire his cool, calm and collected playing style and I was wildly impressed by the way he played against Tennessee in New York. But the opportunity only came because Marcus Garrett was out. Had Garrett been able to play, Lawson probably would not have had the chance to play 19 minutes.
Could things happen down the road that lead to Lawson getting more opportunities like that one (his solid playing being one factor that leads to that)? Absolutely. And it’s not all that hard to see him finding a way into the rotation from time to time. But to reach the point where he’s in the starting five, I just can’t see it.
So I’ll go with Grimes. Partly because the other two aren’t as likely — at least in my eyes — and also because Grimes is so talented and it’s going to click for him at some point. It might take until after winter break for him to be fully comfortable, but when he does there’ll be no turning back.
And if it does take that long, that might actually wind up being good news for Kansas because the Jayhawks have been pretty good with him fighting through a mini-slump to start the season. Adding a player of his caliber reaching his potential halfway through the season would almost be like adding a completely new player altogether.
Grimes is going to be rock solid this year. And he’s going to have some games that make you sit back and go, “Wow.” It just might take a little while to get there.
Nothing crazy happening here. Elliott’s redshirting. Self announced that after a game early in the season in which Elliott did not suit up or play.
This seems to make plenty of sense, given the fact that Elliott came to KU a bit late and as a walk-on. The Jayhawks really aren’t losing anything by him officially sitting out the 2018-19 season and Elliott’s not missing out on anything either.
He now can fully embrace his role as a member of the red team in practice, where he can spend the season developing his game against KU’s starters and rotation guys, while doing his best to push them to become better along the way.
Elliott came to Kansas with the idea that he’d have to put in some work to earn anything resembling playing time. He certainly did not expect to come in and make an immediate impact and this decision to redshirt gives him five years to reach the point of making an impact instead of just four.
That’s one more year in the weight room, one more year against elite competition, one more year with a close-up look at how the whole Kansas basketball operation works.
That might not pan out this year or next, but you never know what could happen three or four years from now, with the right amount of effort, work and development.
I’m a huge fan of the fact that so many KU fans still remember my percentage wheel that gained traction during conference realignment and served me well during a few coaching searches, as well.
But I haven’t had as many opportunities to use it of late, despite people asking me to break it back out. Take the recent KU football coaching search, for example. Jeff Long ran a quiet search and I only received bits of information about three or four guys along the way.
Most of it was concerning guys who were not taking the job, therefore I couldn’t throw them on an percentage wheels because what I was hearing would have landed them at 0 percent and what fun is that?
The bottom line is this: Unless I’m getting good information about a handful of options, I’m not going to throw one together just to do it. I could have done that with the KU football search and probably would have had Miles at 77 percent or so most of the time. But I didn’t have any great info on any other candidates and did not want my percentage wheel to look lame or, worse yet, be a waste without providing any good information.
Why did I go into all of this to answer a question about De Sousa? Because it’s kind of the same thing here.
Nobody’s talking much about De Sousa’s chances of playing and that, to me, means it’s settling in around 50 percent. But everything’s 50 percent, isn’t it? He either will or won’t, right?
I get the question. And I understand how you could see me being able to say there’s a 20 percent chance or a 75 percent chance or whatever the case may be. But without any good information to go on, it would just be guessing.
I’ll leave it this way: I haven’t given up on the idea that De Sousa still could find his way onto the floor this season and will actually play for the Jayhawks at some point again. And I don’t think he or the KU coaching staff have given up on that either.
Expecting it to happen or be announced any time soon might be wasting time, though.
This one, to me, has the feel of one of those situations that will get sorted out sometime after the holidays, with the NCAA ruling that the X-game suspension that De Sousa already served was sufficient and KU can announce that he’s now eligible to play.
I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting on that outcome. But if he does play again, I think that’s how it could go down. There is, of course, still the very real chance that he won’t play at all this season, which would be too bad both for Silvio and the Jayhawks.
First off, shoutout for the Twitter name. I've heard there are a handful of good Les Miles parody accounts out there already, too. Always fun.
So here’s a Miles-related question for ya (I couldn’t miss out on all the fun) and I chose this one because my gut tells me things will play out from the inside out.
What does that mean?
I think Miles will soon — if he hasn’t already — determine which members of the current KU staff he wants to keep and that very well could be the first bit of coaching staff news we hear.
Makes sense, right? It’s easy to announce “so-and-so is staying,” without having to make a big fuss out of it.
I still think Clint Bowen and Tony Hull will be retained in some capacity and a handful of members of the staff and support crew also could be retained in GA or analyst roles. We already know KU is looking to expand its staff in that regard so why not keep at least a few people who already are familiar with the current roster, opponents, etc.?
I’m a little bit surprised that we haven’t heard about at least one of the two coordinators yet, but that tells me that Miles has been waiting on something, perhaps someone to be fired or a season to be completed.
Benton will have more input on the assistants later this week.
I already addressed the De Sousa question up above, so look back at that if you’re skipped down to this one.
But let’s get into the other two questions real quick.
Regarding Keegan, of course we miss him. Tom was a huge part of everything we did here at KUsports.com for the past 13 years and was an absolute blast to work with. He always embraced our coverage ideas and was excited about trying new things or doing podcasts or videos — or both — as a way to both entertain and bring good information to our readers.
He’ll be tough to replace. And we’re working on doing just that at the moment.
But I’m also excited for him and his opportunity in Boston. I think he’ll kill it there and what an amazing town and opportunity for a sports columnist, huh? The guy’s earned it and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get used to seeing him Tweet about Tom Brady and the Patriots of sending live updates from a Yale-Harvard football game. Crazy!
As for your last question, if you would have asked me this question before the season began, I’d have said there’s absolutely no way KU would reach January without a loss.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t sure they were going to win their opener because of the veteran Michigan State guards that Grimes and Devon Dotson handled so incredibly well.
But KU has already made it through three of its toughest nonconference games and five of the seven remaining non-con games are at Allen Fieldhouse. The two that aren’t? New Mexico State on Dec. 8 at Sprint Center and a true road game at Arizona State on Dec. 22.
New Mexico State is 4-1, with a loss to Saint Mary’s, and Arizona State is 5-0, with a win over No. 15 Mississippi State.
Neither of those games — along with Villanova at home — will be easy. But KU will be favored in both of them and should be plenty motivated in that Arizona State game after watching Bobby Hurley’s squad walk into Allen Fieldhouse last year and put a beating on the home team.
KU’s schedule is tough. Even the so-called no-name teams are tough opponents who are experienced and slated to finish first or second in their conferences. But one of the most impressive things about this Kansas team thus far is that the Jayhawks aren’t anywhere close to playing their best ball yet and if that comes — or they at least get closer to that — in the next few weeks, it’s not hard to see KU making it to 12-0 entering the Big 12 opener on Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma.
I wouldn’t bet a ton on it happening because you just never know when that rare off night is going to pop up. Lord knows we’ve seen it enough over at Sprint Center throughout the years. But I think, at this point, KU’s chances of running the nonconference table are slightly better than 50-50.
Hey, KU fans. After a wild week and a crazy Sunday, it’s time for another edition of “Ask Us Anything,” and what better way to kick things off than by starting with a Les Miles question?
Miles, you surely know by now, was officially introduced as the newest Kansas football coach on Sunday evening.
The response from the KU fan base has been overwhelmingly positive and there is a real feeling around the program that Miles will be the guy to finally get things going in the right direction again.
Kansas does, of course, close out the 2018 season with Texas at home on Friday. And even though the Longhorns are on the verge of playing for a Big 12 title, one more strong effort from the home team — like they showed at K-State and at Oklahoma — could be just what Miles and company need to hit the ground running and capitalize on some on-field momentum for a change.
Even though the opportunity to really make it count won’t arrive until next September, a strong finish, win or lose, could go a long way toward setting the tone for the offseason ahead.
Beyond that, the Jayhawks have a cool opportunity to be doubly energized in this one, playing hard to honor David Beaty on his way out and maybe just a little harder to show Les Miles they’re happy to have him.
We’ll see what happens. While we wait, here’s this week’s first “Ask Us Anything.”
This is such a good question because it cuts to the core of what will define whether Miles is successful at Kansas.
We know the man knows football and we know he can coach talent. But can he get that talent at a place like Kansas?
He sure seems confident in his ability to do so and it sounds like he’s going to jump on it right away. Getting his coordinators in place quickly is a high priority so Miles and his new staff — or at least the most crucial parts of it — can get out and start pitching players to join the 2019 class.
The early signing period arrives Dec. 19 and we’re now roughly 20 hours removed from the end of Miles’ introductory presser.
I won’t break it down to hours, but I’ll say Miles and company have their first KU commitment by Sunday. Maybe more than one.
I get the reason behind this question, but I’m not seeing it.
Could KU Chancellor Doug Girod be a little more aggressive with his comments and/or actions about the ongoing issues surrounding the FBI and NCAA investigation into corruption in college basketball?
But would it behoove him to do so? Probably not. Girod and the Jayhawks have been cooperating fully with the feds from the very beginning and there’s no reason to think that they won’t give the NCAA the same courtesy and respect.
For one, they have to. In some ways the fate of the program — at least as it pertains to any fallout from this latest mess — is in the NCAA’s hands.
Beyond that, it just makes sense to do it that way. The easier KU makes it on the NCAA, the better the chances are that the NCAA will be a little more understanding of the whole picture here.
So, no, I don’t think it makes Girod look like an idiot to wait for direction from the NCAA, I think it makes him look wise.
Having said that, I do think KU, if it wanted to, could begin looking into its own internal investigation of the recruiting practices and problematic things that brought KU into the heart of the college hoops trial. But that’s another question altogether and could be something Kansas plans to get to after the NCAA has its turn.
Time will tell.
Good point about Vick’s recent highs being followed by some pretty memorable lows. But this, to me, feels different.
It’s clear, even though it’s only been three games, that Vick understands his place on this team and how important his veteran status is. This team has absolutely needed someone to take the bull by the horns in the past couple of games and Vick, through his play and personality, has done that to perfection.
That kind of result from Vick making a move that many weren’t sure he could even make surely will add to his confidence and leave the KU senior feeling better than ever about his all-around game.
I loved how Vick used the words, “extreme confidence” after the Louisiana game when asked about his mindset right now. And I’m sure that he’s ready to keep that rolling from here.
It will be interesting to see how he fares in New York City, given the fact that it’s a slightly bigger stage in a big time environment and Vick no-showed in the season opener in a similar setting.
But I think he’ll play well. I’ve never believed that Vick was one to back down from the bright lights and after the way he’s played these past two games, I would think he’ll be all the more ready for them in Brooklyn.
The more he puts quality outings together now — with consistency on both ends leading the way — the more likely it is that he’ll be able to sustain it into Big 12 play and beyond this time around.
I make one comment about how Dedric Lawson could go for 40 against Michigan State and I’ve got people out there who won’t let me live it down.
I know it was a bit ridiculous to throw the 40-spot out there for a guy who had never played a regular season game for the Jayhawks, but he was 5-of-18 in that game and still finished with 21. Imagine if he had made just four more shots — therein shooting 50 percent from the floor — and climbed into the 30s.
Anyway, I don’t know Lawson’s vertical but I know it’s not among the best on the team. It doesn’t need to be. The Memphis transfer is not the type of scorer who jumps over people and puts highlights on film. He’s more of an efficient scorer who quietly but surely puts together pretty solid games even when it doesn’t seem like it.
And he needs to start becoming more efficient and get out of his own head a little bit. As soon as he does that, things will become easier for him and the scoring will come. This guy’s too good to stay in a funk for too long.
Lawson today reminds me a little of Malik Newman during the first couple months of last season. It took him a while to get going, he had a little trouble finding his place and getting comfortable, but once he did, there was no looking back.
If I’m the one making the call, he does. And if you’re asking me if I think he will, I do. In fact, I don’t think there’s much question about it.
Miles said Sunday that he was open to retaining members of the current staff and Hull, the running backs coach and associate head coach from New Orleans with all of those Louisiana connections, is the most obvious and logical assistant to keep.
He played an enormous role in bring Pooka Williams and Co Harris to town — along with a few other Louisianimals — and should vibe great with Miles’ philosophy and system.
Hull’s a laid back, easy-going type of guy who does not have trouble getting along with anyone. Given a chance to sell himself as an important piece of KU’s future, which Miles will do, it’s easy to see Hull making a good first impression and sticking around town.
Miles said Sunday that he did not know Hull personally but he knew of him and admired his production and reputation from his days recruiting New Orleans back at LSU.
Crazier things have happened, but I’ll be very surprised if Hull’s not a part of Miles’ staff at Kansas.
Email question from "LLFrost"
Why do so many “fans” leave the KU Men’s basketball games early? Close game, blowout, early game, late game makes no difference…the expensive seats are more than half empty by the end of the game. Is there anything that can help them stay? And in a related question; Just how few student seats can the athletic dept. provide for basketball games before it turns the best home court advantage into a blasting recorded music, half empty parody of what it used to be?
These are tricky to answer because I have to speak for thousands of people to do it. But I have a couple of thoughts.
The leaving early part is easy to me and you don’t have to like it. But the reason so many do leave early is to get a jump on traffic and get home to get to bed. Remember, not everyone who attends KU’s home games lives in Lawrence. A lot of people have to drive, some great distances, to cheer on the Jayhawks so it makes sense for them to want to get home before midnight. Especially with KU playing so many 7 and 8 p.m. games.
I get why that doesn’t excite the die-hard fans who stay to the very end no matter what, but I’m willing to give these folks a break. As for what can keep them around, a close game is probably the best answer.
And regarding your question about student seating, I know KU takes that issue very seriously and does not want to do anything to limit the number of student seats avaiable.
In fact, during a recent story I wrote about a reorganization of some of the sections, associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said, “...as always, we will accommodate every student that wants to attend a game...” and I believe him.
I haven’t seen the full reports, but I have heard rumblings that student attendance has steadily gone down during the past 5-10 years. Not drastically, but going down is the opposite of going up and if trends show that those seats aren’t going to be filled by students, it makes perfect business sense for Kansas Athletics to try to fill them with people who will cough up some cash to get them.
It’s a wild time of year for Kansas fans, what with the basketball season just underway and the university’s athletic director, Jeff Long, searching for the football program’s next head coach.
So there couldn’t have been a better time to fire up a new feature at KUsports.com, the “Ask Us Anything” blog.
We’ve had great inquiries already and we know there are innumerable more to come, and we encourage you to keep sending them our way.
You can respond to our tweets calling for questions each week — @Kusports — or you can send us your own Tweet using the hashtag #AskKUsports. You also can email us, if that’s easier. Just send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you put #AskKUsports in the subject line.
On to today’s questions.
First off, I want to admit how much I love Coach Taylor’s character in Friday Night Lights. It made me want to pick him initially when I saw this question.
But I have my doubts that he would succeed at a program like Kansas in 2019 and beyond. Sure, he went 47-15 with four playoff appearances and two Texas state championship rings and deserves at least an interview with Kansas Athletic Director Jeff Long.
However, fans need to take a deeper look at the candidate. His teams nearly always came out flat in big games before a thrilling finish, almost as if it was scripted. Quarterback Matt Saracen, not Coach Taylor, actually suggested the hook and ladder to secure a state title in the first year.
That miraculous play saved Coach Taylor from being fired, because it would be hard to explain not winning one state title during the two seasons with Smash Williams and Tim Riggins in the backfield.
Coach Taylor demonstrated the ability to build up a program when he took over at East Dillon, though I’d argue he was fortunate to land a talent like Vince Howard at quarterback. Even with Howard as the signal caller, Coach Taylor did not show the ability to adapt to a modern offense, which would be apparent in the Big 12.
At East Dillon, Coach Taylor continued to run a majority of his plays under center. In fact, Luke Cafferty is the one who suggested moving to shotgun when he filled in at quarterback after Coach Taylor benched Howard. Coach Taylor eventually won a second state title on a hail mary touchdown pass, which again seemed almost too good to be true.
If you made me pick one on this list, I’d have to say to Coach Boone from Remember the Titans, though I’d have my doubts about his ability to adapt to the modern age of college football as well. After all, he did claim he hates trick plays and only keeps six plays in his offensive playbook.
A wildcat candidate that did not make this list is actually Coach Porter from Gridiron Gang. He demonstrated the ability to take over a completely new program and lead those players to a championship game in the first year. If Long wants a coach who has shown they can rebuild a program, he could do worse than Coach Porter.
I like the premise of this question, because I thought it was one of David Beaty’s smartest coaching decisions during his KU tenure to take that safety against TCU.
But the situation against Kansas State was much different. The Wildcats needed just 2:16 to travel 60 yards on six plays and score the go-ahead touchdown. If KU takes a safety, K-State just needs a field goal to secure the win and it would probably have needed to go about 60 yards to do so.
Not to mention, the Jayhawks certainly had their opportunity to end that drive. On fourth down, K-State turned to the Wildcat on the opposition’s 48-yard line to pick up the necessary two yards. Alex Barnes had to bounce outside to pick up the yarage and keep the drive going. That play was more detrimental than anything else.
If KU takes a safety, K-State would have likely milked as much clock to set up a game-winning field goal. Yet the Jayhawks had a chance on their final drive to make something happen. The screen to Pooka Williams on the final offensive play certainly looked like it would have worked, if quarterback Peyton Bender doesn’t lose the ball.
Obviously this is all hypothetical, but I do think KU not taking the safety was the right call. I just hope that we are analyzing more decisions like this in the years to come, because it is far more interesting than tracking airplanes like our guy Benton Smith has been doing the past 10 days.
This is a fair question, and speaks to why Long took action after nine games in 2018.
But I’d argue that the fact that this is even a question is a testament to the impact of having Long as an athletic director. In the most recent coaching search, KU is probably not fishing in the same pond with programs like Louisville and Maryland. It is why the Jayhawks ended up with a candidate with no head coaching or coordinator experience.
The fact that prominent candidates, like Les Miles, have even shown interest is credit to Long’s history in administration and athletics. Because of that alone, I think there should be less concern regarding other coaching vacancies.
Of course, the longer the coaching search continues, the competition for these candidates will increase.
If anything, I think finding a coach sooner rather than later is necessary due to the impact it will have on recruiting. The race to find KU’s guy and then get started on the 2019 class should be far more concerning than competing with other programs for Long’s man.
Based on everything KU coach Bill Self has done as of late, I would imagine he did not know that Silvio De Sousa’s name would come up in the trial. Self made sure to hold out Billy Preston, and is currently keeping De Sousa out of competition this season.
Self has been proactive throughout much of this situation, so I find it hard to believe he heard anything about De Sousa until recently.
Yet it is worth mentioning that Self rolling with De Sousa last year was mostly by necessity. Kansas was depleted, particularly in the frontcourt last year, which was why it was so important to Self that the NCAA cleared De Sousa at the time. And De Sousa was a big factor in the team’s run to the Final Four.
This season, Self is able to be more flexible with his newfound depth, and that’s probably the biggest difference.
Maybe I’m being naive, but I’m not sure why KU fans are so keen on dragging other programs like Duke into this. As a fan of college basketball, I’d like to see the best schools competing at the highest level.
This could certainly be just getting started, and if the NCAA really wants to fix things it may take a good look at some of the biggest names.
That being said, my current thinking is that it won’t end up coming down to that. I subject to the theory that if the NCAA came crashing down on someone, it would not be the big-time programs. I might be wrong, but it just makes sense from a financial standpoint.
I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying that you are right, the NCAA may not want to dig into Zion’s recruitment. After all, this year’s Duke team is going to be must-watch television all season and the NCAA certainly won’t be complaining about the revenue and positive attention that should bring.