Assistant football coaches spend so much time watching video of opponents that they tend to refer to players by numbers instead of names.
Oklahoma’s No. 36 is fullback Dimitri Flowers, a 6-foot-2, 247-pound senior from San Antonio.
A standout blocker and a strong short-yardage back (four rushing touchdowns), Flowers does his sneakiest work as a receiver. He has 20 receptions for four touchdowns and has averaged 17 yards a reception.
“They’re not a sit there, drop-back, throw-the-ball, offense,” Bowen said. “It’s a run offense. They’re really about a 50/50 run-pass. Each personnel grouping is maybe 60-40. (No.) 36 is the hidden weapon in the whole deal.”
“He’s the guy who’s in there blocking and mixing it up and then catching the pop pass,” Bowen said. “He’s the guy. It’s a lot more of a deception offense than people give them credit for in terms of the play-action pass and stuff they do off the run game. It’s not Baker Mayfield sitting in the pocket throwing a drop-back pass.It’s a lot more of a deceptive offense.”
Deception tore the Kansas defense apart early in the season when young players routinely bit on play-action fakes.
“Early in the year we struggled obviously with everything,” Bowen said. “Eye violations is what we call them. They can’t keep their eye on their target or they keep their eye on their target and they take it off. We’ve been able to steadily improve on that all year. We’re doing things now that we obviously didn’t do earlier in the year.”
Bowen used the Kansas State game as an example of the improvement in eye discipline.
“They’re the king of the fullback pop and they tried it four times against us and didn’t complete one,” Bowen said. “We covered it every time, which had that been the first three games of the year, we would have been 0 for 4 on it. In the Ohio game we were (0 for 4). I’m proud of our guys. They’ve stuck in there and they’ve continued to listen and they’ve continued to work and they have improved.”
Bowen illustrated his point about eye violations by discussing a play the Sooners use to free Flowers.
“You’ll have a defensive end in front of 36 and a safety over the top of him in whatever coverage, quarters, whatever it is, but (a safety is) responsible for 36 if 36 goes vertical. Well, 36 is going to block that defensive end for a count, it’s going to be hard play-action right at him and then 36 is going to slip down the middle of the field.
“A young safety will see the block and run down there like a madman thinking he’s got to fit the run and then he misses him. Whereas a veteran safety will creep down there, knowing he has time to make his fit, and he’ll see him slip and go.”
And the veteran safety will go with him.
“(No.) 36, has caught a lot of balls just on those type of deals alone,” Bowen said.
Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham is more worried about No. 31, edge rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, whom he called the Big 12's best defensive player.
So how did it come to this? How did a Kansas football program that won the Orange Bowl with a 12-1 record just 10 seasons ago, tumble so far?
One wrong-headed coaching firing and one poor hire by former athletic director Lew Perkins and two poor hires by current AD Sheahon Zenger caused the avalanche.
Well, no kidding, Captain Obvious.
Perkins met with Jim Harbaugh, who has said that the AD would not let him coach Stanford in its bowl game. Perkins has denied that to friends. So Perkins, who could have had former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, hired Turner Gill and Zenger fired him with a 5-19 record.
A number of qualified coaches expressed interest at that point. Dave Doeren, who recruited Aqib Talib, James McClinton and many other standouts working for Mark Mangino, desperately wanted his dream job. He not only had Wisconsin defensive coordinator on his resume, but he was winning big at Northern Illinois. Zenger made the mistake of not hiring him and Doeren’s now 7-3 at North Carolina State, heading for his fourth consecutive bowl game, after inheriting a poor roster that went 3-9 his first season. I always felt as if Doeren’s aggressiveness in pursuing the job was held against him when it should have counted in his favor.
Instead of Doeren, Zenger hired Charlie Weis and fired him with a 6-22 record. Doeren took great satisfaction in beating Weis' Jayhawks in 2012.
Zenger had worked with Justin Fuente at Illinois State and might have hired him to replace Weis. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the then-chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little took that option away from him because she decided Kansas would not be paying any buyouts for football coaches. Fuente’s buyout was $500,000. He’s now doing very well at Virginia Tech, where his buyout is $15 million.
Former Mark Mangino assistant Ed Warinner wanted the Kansas job and Zenger appeared super high on him after having dinner with him in Columbus, Ohio, during a Kansas basketball trip. Warinner then was co-offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer and now is offensive line coach at Minnesota.
Somewhere along the way, Beaty passed Warinner on Zenger's list of prospects. A strict disciplinarian with a head coach's personality who produced phenomenal rushing numbers as OC at Army and record-breaking passing numbers as OC at Kansas, doesn't interview well, but knows how to communicate with football players to make them produce efficiently and cleanly. He will win as a head coach if ever given the chance.
Zenger’s final decision came down to Troy Calhoun of Air Force and Beaty. In the end, Beaty’s potential to recruit the state of Texas was the deciding factor in Zenger selecting him.
The Champions Classic, which celebrates its seventh season Tuesday at United Center in Chicago, serves college basketball well by putting the sport on people’s minds in mid-November with an annual doubleheader blockbuster on a Tuesday night, when MAC games are the only football competition. (Then again, MAC teams compete quite well, don't they?)
The Champions Classic serves all four basketball programs well by giving them exposure and in some cases filling coaches with no shortage of material to show players they aren’t quite ready for prime time.
Since it’s a huge plus for all four schools there is no reason to believe it won’t last forever, growing in stature through the decades, centuries and millennia.
Kansas ranks last in the Champions Classic standings with a 2-4 record, but the games haven’t necessarily been accurate predictors of NCAA tournament performance for the four schools. KU is the only school that has not either lost in the first round (Duke twice, Michigan State once) or failed to make the NCAA tournament field (Kentucky in 2013). All four schools have made it to the Final Four since the start of the doubleheader.
KU is 2-0 vs. Duke and 0-2 vs. Kentucky and Michigan State. The round-robin stays in turn every year, so Kansas always plays, in order, Kentucky, Michigan State, Duke.
In Tuesday's doubleheader, No. 1 Duke faces No. 2 Michigan State in the 6 p.m. tipoff and No. 4 Kansas faces No. 5 Kentucky in the night cap, optimistically scheduled for 8:30 but likely to tip at closer to 8:50.
A look at Champions Classic standings:
||Hall of Fame coach
||W||L||PF||PA||NCAA tournament record since CC started; best & worst finishes
||4||2||432||369||19-4, Best: NC in 2012; Worst: NIT in 2013
||3||3||451||453||12-5, Best: NC in 2015; Worst: 1st-round L in 2012, 2014
||12-6, Best: FF in 2015; Worst: 1st-round L in 2016
||2||4||413||451||15-6, Best: NC runner-up in 2012; Worst: 2nd-round L in 2014, 2015
Raise your hand if you think Kansas will emerge victorious from its 5 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Austin against heavily favored Texas.
Anybody not wearing a Kansas uniform or coaching for the visitors?
OK, now raise your hand if after the first play from scrimmage in last season’s game vs. Texas in Lawrence you thought the Jayhawks would emerge victorious. A refresher: On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Jacorey Warrick scored on a 75-yard pass play, covering the final 71 yards after the catch on the short pass from Shane Buechele.
Kansas went on to win 24-21 in overtime for David Beaty’s first and to date only victory against an FBS school.
Can Kansas do it again? If it can cause six Texas turnovers again it can. It was the highest turnover total by a team in a Big 12 conference game since the Longhorns turned it over six times vs. TCU in 2014. No Big 12 school has that many miscues in a game this season. Texas has turned it over seven times in nine games.
In the stunning upset, KU had as many interceptions (three) as it has in nine games this season. Brandon Stewart returned his 55 yards for a touchdown and Fish Smithson and Mike Lee also picked off passes, Lee’s leading to the winning field goal.
D’Onta Foreman, now with the Houston Texans, rushed 250 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries, but also lost two fumbles. Tyrone Swoopes also lost a fumble.
Dorance Armstrong was in on 11 tackles, three for a loss, two sacks, forced a fumble and recovered one, then famously stiff-arming the 235-pound Foreman to the ground. Armstrong called it, "the best game of my college career so far."
Listening to former Oakland Raiders quarterback and Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders coach Tom Flores in a recent radio interview, it struck me as interesting that he mentioned that he anticipated the Raiders playing well in Miami because a lot of Raiders came from that region of the country and would have a lot of friends and family members in attendance.
It never occurred to me that would be a factor in an NFL game, but it is mentioned often by college players.
Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise both brought that up during their interviews this week in preparation for KU’s trip to Austin to play Texas, which the Jayhawks defeated in overtime, the school’s first victory against Texas since 1938.
Plus, being overlooked by Texas and other Texas universities plays a role in their motivation. Armstrong was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 player in 2016 and Wise surely will earn first-team honors this season, so all of the Texas schools, if they had it to do over again, would have offered scholarships to both players. But so far, they haven’t been able to win a game in their home state.
A second consecutive upset victory against the Longhorns would keep Kansas from breaking the streak for consecutive road losses at football’s highest division. At the moment, KU is tied with Western State (Colorado), which lost 44 in a row from 1926 to 1936.
During that streak 17 of the losses have come in Texas. A look at the Lone Star-state losing streak:
||47,291||Oct. 31, 2009
|Texas||101,357||Nov. 21, 2009
|Baylor||35,405||Oct. 2, 2010
||Oct. 29, 2011
||Nov. 19, 2011
|Baylor||39,039||Nov. 3, 2012
||Nov. 10, 2012
|Rice||22,974||Sept. 14, 2013
|TCU||41,894||Oct. 12, 2013
|Texas||97,105||Nov. 2, 2013
||54,071||Oct. 18, 2014
|Baylor||45,754||Nov. 1, 2014
|Texas||92,529||Nov. 7, 2015
|TCU||44,375||Nov. 14, 2015
||56,494||Sept. 29, 2016
|Baylor||47,598||Oct. 15, 2016
|TCU||42,969||Oct. 21, 2017
Counting scholarships in college football is somewhat of a moving target. Asked a few weeks ago how many scholarship players Kansas has on the roster, coach David Beaty said 84, but that total counted walk-ons given scholarship because KU wasn't at its limit of 85.
Tallying how many players originally came to the program on scholarship is a better measure of a team's scholarship numbers. Beaty declined to reveal how many such players Kansas has. The best guess, not counting dismissed players LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Maciah Long, is 67, a figure that includes unofficially suspended right tackle Charles Baldwin and nickel back Derrick Neal. It also includes running back Octavius Matthews, whose heart-test results ended his football career and potentially saved his life, and Denzell Evans, who suffered a career-ending injury during training camp.
Part of the scholarship shortage can be attributed to recruiting too many transfers from four-year schools and junior colleges, instead of sticking to his original plan of bringing in huge high school classes every year. Transfers, such as quarterbacks Montell Cozart and Ryan Willis, guard Aaron Garza and tight end Jace Sternberger, also have thinned the ranks.
An educated guess at the players who originally came to Kansas on scholarship,:
Freshmen (17): Shola Ayinde, Earl Bostick, Jay Dineen, Joseph Gilbertson, Quan Hampton, Chris Hughes, Kyron Johnson, Liam Jones, Travis Jordan, Ian Peterson, Dru Prox, Tyriek Starks, Kenyon Tabor, Kyle Thompson, Robert Topps III, Dom Williams, Takulve Williams.
Sophomores (18): Hakeem Adeniji, Isaiah Bean, Julian Chandler, Daylon Charlot, Malik Clark, Hasan Defense, Cam Durley, Evan Fairs, Antione Frazier, Chase Harrell, Khalil Herbert, Mike Lee, Kyle Mayberry, Clyde McCauley III, Shaq Richmond, Carter Stanley, Bryce Torneden, Andru Tovi.
Juniors (24): Dorance Armstrong, Charles Baldwin, Peyton Bender, Jeremiah Booker, Jacob Bragg, Antonio Cole, Joe Dineen, Josh Ehambe, Denzel Feaster, Isi Holani, J.J. Holmes, Larry Hughes, Kerr Johnson, Taylor Martin, Octavius Matthews, Willie McCaleb, Tyrone Miller, Emmanuel Moore, Osaze Ogbebor, Tyler Patrick, Keyshaun Simmons, Steven Sims, Shakial Taylor, Daniel Wise.
Seniors (8): Kellen Ash, Jacky Dezir, Denzell Evans, DeeIsaac Davis, Zach Hannon, Bobby Hartzog, Ben Johnson, Jayson Rhodes.
During our KU Sports Hour football podcast Monday, Matt Tait asked me to throw out a guess off the top of my head as to the number of assistant football coaches Kansas has had in the eight seasons since Mark Mangino was forced to resign.
I guessed 35. Pretty close. The correct answer is 38, including three men who were assistants under Mangino. David Beaty was Turner Gill's wide receivers coach in 2011. Clint Bowen was hired as special teams coach by Charlie Weis in 2012 and took over as defensive coordinator in Weis' following seasons and has remained in the position under Beaty. In 2014, John Reagan was Charlie Weis' offensive line coach and his offensive coordinator, the latter a responsibility Reagan lost a couple of weeks into Bowen's time as interim head coach after Weis was fired four games into the season.
KU has had a great deal of staff turnover in recent seasons at certain positions. For example, six different men have served as the program's offensive coordinator in the past five seasons. KU has had five wide receiver coaches in five seasons and four defensive line coaches in the past four seasons.
Kansas went 50-48 in eight seasons under Mangino and with three games left in the eighth post-Mangino season has a 15-78 record.
If Kansas makes a change at head coach, it will be interesting to see if the next head coach is someone who has had the majority of his staff together for a number of years, which would save the step of a coaching staff meshing and assistants growing familiar with the head coach's way of conducting business.
||2010 (Turner Gill)
||2011 (Turner Gill)
||2012 (Charlie Weis)
||2013 (Charlie Weis)
||2014 (Charlie Weis)
|2015 (David Beaty)
||2016 (David Beaty)
||2017 (David Beaty)
then Eric Kiesau
|| Buddy Wyatt
Playing defensive back in the Big 12 ranks among the most difficult jobs in college sports.
Seldom was that more obvious than this past Saturday when Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph combined to throw for 1,046 yards, including 598 yards from Mayfield, a perennial Heisman Trophy contender.
Kansas has both Oklahoma schools remaining on its schedule after visiting Austin this Saturday in an attempt to defeat the Longhorns for a second consecutive year.
So far, Kansas (1-8 overall, 0-6 in the Big 12) hasn’t had much success in stopping the pass. Opponents have averaged 277.4 passing yards per game with 24 touchdowns and three interceptions.
The failure to assemble a better secondary hasn’t been for lack of trying on the part of the coaching staff. In head coach David Beaty’s three recruiting classes, KU has used 15 scholarships on players now in the secondary, plus three on defensive backs no longer in the program.
The most successful of the bunch so far have been safeties Mike Lee and Tyrone Miller, nickel back Bryce Torneden, cornerback Hasan Defense and former cornerback Brandon Stewart.
Others, listed in alphabetical order: Shola Ayinde, Bazie Bates IV, Julian Chandler, Daylon Charlot (recently converted from receiver to safety), Antonio Cole, Denzel Feaster, Kyle Mayberry, Emmanuel Moore, Ian Peterson, Shaquille Richmond, Stephan Robinson, Shakial Taylor and Robert Topps III (red-shirting in first season in program).
Corione Harris of Landry-Walker High in New Orleans was ranked the 60th best prospect in the nation when he made a verbal commitment to Kansas and shouldn’t have any problem starting from Day 1 should he honor his commitment. Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas A&M are among other schools that offered Harris.
Checking the Associated Press preseason college basketball poll to see how many regular-season games Kansas is scheduled to play against ranked schools always makes for a fun exercise.
Let’s take a look at how the numbers compare, starting with Devonte’ Graham’s freshman season through this, his senior season, to see how KU’s schedule measures up.
In Graham’s freshman year, KU's schedule included games against preseason No. 1 Kentucky, No. 7 Florida, No. 18 Michigan State and No. 25 Utah, plus two Big 12 games vs. No. 10 Texas, No. 14 Iowa State and No. 19 Oklahoma. That’s 10 regular-season games vs. schools that appeared in the top 25.
In Graham’s sophomore season, KU had game games against preseason No. 13 Michigan State and No. 18 Vanderbilt, plus two conference games vs. No. 7 Iowa State, No. 8 Oklahoma and No. 22 Baylor. That’s eight regular-season games against preseason top 25 schools.
Last season, KU played preseason No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 11 Indiana, plus two Big 12 games against No. 20 West Virginia, No. 21 Texas and No. 24 Iowa State for a total of nine games preseason top 25 schools.
This season, No. 4 Kansas faces preseason No. 5 Kentucky and has a pair conference games vs. No. 11 West Virginia and No. 24 Baylor for a total of five games against schools ranked in the preseason poll released earlier this week.
Not by design, the schedule is less challenging this season, in part because just three Big 12 teams are ranked as opposed to the usual four. Syracuse, which KU plays in Miami, often appears in the preseason top 25, but doesn’t this season.
Look at the bright side of a less brutal schedule. Udoka Azubuike, still on the raw side, will have a chance to restore confidence if he doesn’t have a terrific showing against Kentucky (Nov. 14, United Center in Chicago) and Billy Preston will grow increasingly comfortable playing in the paint while developing confidence in that area of his game. Both players have huge upsides and rank as the two biggest X factors on the team.
The rigors of Big 12 play, with home-court advantages greater than in most conferences because of the on-campus arenas as opposed to NBA buildings, will be plenty stiff enough to prepare Kansas for the NCAA tournament.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said that he left Udoka Azubuike in at the end of the 100-54 exhibition blowout against Pittsburg State for conditioning reasons. Not a bad idea. Azubuike looked winded at the end of his 24-minutes night.
But as the season wears on, there will be games in which Self will want to rest all of his rotation players. As transfers from four-year schools, guard Charlie Moore and forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson are eligible to practice, but can’t play in games.
At the moment, Kansas has eight scholarship players and two walk-ons available to play in games. Once Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible second semester, his anticipated debut coming at Nebraska, Kansas will have nine scholarship players, plus two walk-ons. One more walk-on, particularly a big one, wouldn’t hurt.
Through the years, college basketball coaches have addressed roster shortages by hitting up the football coach for help.
A review of KU’s football roster reveals one former basketball player worthy of some late-game minutes once the football season ends.
James Sosinski, a 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end from Chandler, Arizona, put up nice numbers for South Mountain Community College in Phoenix last season. He averaged 19.1 points and 12.6 rebounds for South Mountain as a freshman. He has not yet appeared in a game for the football team. He would get more playing time if he joined the basketball team.