One extremely unsurprising reason KU football is excited for primetime
Lest we forget that athletes are human, too, the announcement of a 7 p.m. CT, primetime matchup featuring KU football and TCU on FOX this Saturday brought a little joy to the KU locker room.
The Jayhawks are coming off back-to-back-to-back-to-back 11 a.m. (CT, of course) kickoffs, starting at Ohio in a game that was technically played in the eastern time zone.
The Jayhawks' schedule on those days involved a 7 a.m. wakeup — which can be as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. for players who require treatment — followed by a 7:30 a.m. offensive meeting and walkthrough. Then the players eat a meal and head to the stadium, all before 9 a.m. on a Saturday.
"Everyone's different. Some people like to sleep in, some people are early-morning risers," said quarterback Peyton Bender.
Anyone stand out in that second group?
"Not that I know of," Bender said with a laugh. "They kind of force us to be morning people, though."
It shouldn't come as any semblance of a shock that players relish the chance to sleep in.
It's also no excuse for the Jayhawks' performances over the last four weeks of the season, since their opponents have to wake up at the same time.
Still, the change is welcome.
"One thing that we've learned through our years is that you can't get them to take the rest on the front end. Kids just don't do it. Neither do we," said KU coach David Beaty. "They'll sleep in the morning, but they won't sleep at night. They're going to bed when they go to bed. That's just the way it is."
Some players handle the schedule better than others.
Redshirt junior Joe Dineen identified junior wideout Jeremiah Booker as someone who consistently brings energy no matter what time it is.
Dineen admittedly isn't much of a morning person himself, though he still manages to make it to the field on time.
"The thing with me is I get really nervous and I get anxiety so it's hard for me to sleep the night before a game anyways, let alone if I have to wake up early," Dineen said. "I'm not tired before the game, though. I'll tell you that. I get up and ready to go before the game. But maybe when I first get up I'm a little sleepy."
On the road, Dineen rooms with former Free State High teammate Keith Loneker Jr. — "Loud. Loud. Snores. Loud. Phone is loud," Dineen jokes of Loneker's morning habits — but that isn't where the biggest problems happen.
The night before a game, especially on the road, the coaches can just about guarantee players have their lights turned out by 10 or 10:30 p.m., depending on the schedule.
The rest of the week, however...
"It's critical," said defensive coordinator Clint Bowen. "That's where sometimes having older, mature kids is a little bit better. You know these guys in their first, second, even third year of college, it's still kind of fun for 'em."
The coaches address that very thing with the players. In addition to conversations about sleep and decision-making throughout the week, players can also read articles posted on the wall of the weight room with studies relating sleep to peak performance, reaction time and memory, according to Dineen.
That being said, the coaches aren't blind to the idea that college kids are going to be, well, college kids.
"You know what I mean," Bowen said with a smile. "You remember those first few years."