KU football offense historically bad in 2010, and what it means for 2011

I know, I know. The offseason is supposed to be about optimism, especially for the Kansas football team and coach Turner Gill in year two.

There's a problem with hoping for great things from KU's offense in 2011: The Jayhawks were so bad in 2010, that it's probably unreasonable to expect anything but a modest improvement in 2011.

Let's take a look back at KU's offensive stats in 2010 and what it might mean for the Jayhawks' offense in 2011.

History of bad BCS offenses and how KU fits in

For this blog, we will use the advanced statistical measure S&P+, developed by Bill Connelly of Football Outsiders.

The S&P ranking measures a college football team's offense by both its efficiency and explosiveness.

Connelly makes it easier for us to compare teams with his S&P+ ratings, which take into account a team's schedule then sets the baseline at 100. Therefore, an NCAA average offense is 100, anything above is better than average and anything below is worse than average.

Here's how KU's offense ranked in the S&P+ rankings in the 2010 season:

Offensive S&P+ — 73.3 (117th out of 120 teams)

Connelly has been keeping the S&P+ statistics for the last six seasons, and only four schools from BCS conferences in those six seasons have had worse S&P+ offensive rankings than KU posted last year.

Most of those teams showed only mild improvements the next year — if they showed improvement at all.

As you can see, none of the teams above rebounded from their bad offensive seasons to have an NCAA average offense the next season.

It's a small sample size, but the four teams averaged an increase of 27 spots in their NCAA ranking.

If KU increased its ranking in S&P+ 27 spots like the teams above, it would rank 90th, which would have ranked 11th in the Big 12 last year (Texas was 98th; Iowa State was 67th).

The odds don't appear to be good that a BCS offense like Kansas' could make a huge leap after having such a poor season a year ago.

Passing even worse

Here are the other S&P+ numbers for KU from 2010.

Rushing S&P+ — 81.9 (111th)
Passing S&P+ — 65.2 (120th)

Yep, that's right. After taking into account all the numbers and factoring in schedule strength, KU's passing offense was dead last out of 120 FBS teams. That means it was worse than 1-11 Akron, 1-11 Memphis, 1-12 San Jose State, 1-11 New Mexico, and yes, even 2-10 New Mexico State.

The Kansas defense line stops NMSU running back Seth Smith in the first half Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 at Kivisto Field.

The Kansas defense line stops NMSU running back Seth Smith in the first half Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 at Kivisto Field. by Kevin Anderson

Here's a look at the six teams that finished last in passing S&P+ and how they fared the next season:

Some interesting things from above.

For one, this isn't the first time that KU coach Turner Gill will be leading an offense that finished dead-last in the NCAA in passing offense the year before. Though Gill didn't coach Buffalo to its last-place showing in 2005, he did take over as coach in 2006. The Bulls improved 15 spots in the pass ranking that next season.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill gathers his offense during a timeout against Nebraska during the third quarter, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill gathers his offense during a timeout against Nebraska during the third quarter, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. by Nick Krug

Obviously, there is one team in the list above that did go on to have great success the year after having the worst passing offense in the nation, and that was 2007-08 Notre Dame.

That still shouldn't be much consolation for KU fans, as Notre Dame had an offensive guru as its coach (Charlie Weis) and a future second-round draft pick as its quarterback (Jimmy Clausen). After throwing for 1,254 yards in 2007, Clausen exploded for 3,172 yards in 2008.

The Jayhawks, at this point, don't have any quarterbacks that project as NFL players, much less high draft picks, so a Notre Dame-like turnaround shouldn't be expected.

Even if you include Notre Dame, the average last-place passing team improved only 24.4 spots in the passing game the next season. If KU was 96th instead of 120th last year, it would have ranked 11th in passing in the Big 12.

Take out the Notre Dame outlier, though, and the other four teams averaged a bump of only 9.3 spots. That would put KU's passing game at 111th next year, which would most likely make it the league's worst passing offense for the second straight season.

Poor "second" grade

In addition to pass offense, KU also ranked last in the nation in two other S&P+ offensive categories.

The Jayhawks were 120th in S&P+ during the second quarter and also 120th in S&P+ on second downs.

We'll get more to what finishing last on second down might mean a little later in the blog.

Does Gill bring hope?

We mentioned above that Gill already has experience with coaching a team the year after it registered the worst passing offense in the nation.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill calls a timeout against Georgia Tech during the second quarter, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas head coach Turner Gill calls a timeout against Georgia Tech during the second quarter, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

So what kind of passing numbers did Buffalo have under Gill? Let's take a look:

The above list shows that Buffalo did improve into an above-average passing team under Gill, but most of the improvement didn't take place until year three.

Keep in mind that KU's passing offense was worst in the nation last season, meaning if Gill took the same amount of time to make KU's passing offense above average, it would take place in his fourth season, not his third.

Just for fun, here are KU's S&P+ pass rankings from the last six years:

What to make of KU's numbers

For help analyzing exactly what all KU's 2010 advanced statistics mean, I went to the numbers wizard himself: Bill Connelly.

I asked Connelly five questions about KU's 2010 advanced statistics and what they might indicate for 2011. His responses are below.

Jesse Newell: KU's offensive S&P+ in 2010 was 73.3 (117th), while the next lowest BCS school was Purdue at 82.8 (107th). Can you give some perspective on KU's offense from what you see in the numbers?

Bill Connelly: This really was an incredibly bad offense. It was so bad that it is hard to figure out where to locate fault. In general, I tend to overlook anything that happens in a coach's (or coaching staff's) first year on the job. Sometimes it takes you a while to install your own culture and figure out what you've got. I can't imagine that it took Turner Gill and his offensive co-coordinators long to realize that they just didn't have much.

James Sims showed flashes, and as a freshman he's got plenty of time to improve, but I expected much more out of Daymond Patterson (who looked phenomenal against Georgia Tech) and Bradley McDougald.

Iowa State defenders David Sims (1) and defensive end Jacob Lattimer pull down Kansas receiver Bradley McDougald after a reception by  during the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 at Jack Trice Stadium.

Iowa State defenders David Sims (1) and defensive end Jacob Lattimer pull down Kansas receiver Bradley McDougald after a reception by during the fourth quarter Saturday, Oct. 30, 2010 at Jack Trice Stadium. by Nick Krug

Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long better hope that some of the incoming talent — Brock Berglund, Darrian Miller, JaCorey Shepherd — is ready to contribute from day one because there was almost no playmaking ability on this offense.

JN: In your S&P+ rankings, KU finished last in the nation in second down offense. What does KU finishing last in that particular stat indicate to you?

BC: There is something mystical about second downs that I have yet to figure out. So many teams are great on first and third downs but terrible on second, or vice versa, and it just makes no sense to me. Kansas was actually semi-mediocre on third downs (79th) but brutal on first (101st) and second (120th).

JN: KU was dead-last in your pass offense ratings. Can you put that in perspective?

BC: It really does take a group effort to finish dead last in a major category as a major-conference team. You must have bad/young quarterbacking, bad pass blocking, bad play-calling and a bad receiving corps. Teams turn things around rather quickly sometimes, especially in a coach's second year, but I think it's safe to say it's going to take a while for KU to work back up toward the middle of the pack in the passing game. If Sims and the young runners continue to improve, that will take pressure off of the quarterbacks, but still.

JN: KU's offensive S&P+ was 110.0 in the 2009 season (31st). Since you've been keeping your offensive stats, is this about the furthest drop (110 to 73.3, or 31st to 117th) in one season?

BC: KU's Off. S&P+ fell 33.4% in 2010, which is impressive, but is not the biggest drop since 2005. Notre Dame fell 40.3% from 2006 to 2007, Central Florida fell 39.9% from 2007 to 2008, Rice fell 39.7% from 2008 to 2009, Washington State fell 38.2% from 2007 to 2008, New Mexico State fell 34.4% from 2008 to 2009 (my personal favorite, since they were bad in 2008 too), and Washington fell 33.4% from 2007 to 2008. The 33.4% figure means they'll tie for sixth out of the 700+ teams that have played since 2005.

JN: A lot of folks are making the argument that KU struggled because it didn't have talent offensively. Because your S&P+ rankings take into account schedule strength, etc., would you say the S&P+ numbers suggest that KU's offensive coaches didn't make the best of the talent they had? Even a team like Akron finished better in offensive S&P+, and I can't imagine there's more talent there.

BC: Recruiting rankings suggested that the "talent" on Kansas' roster was far too good to finish so poorly on offense, that's for sure. I think when there's this much of a failure, some of it has to be pinned on the coaches ... just because there's more than enough blame to go around. Playing that poorly on standard downs (all first downs, second-and-7 or less, third- or fourth-and-4 or less) suggests that the coaches had no idea what plays to call; playing that poorly on passing downs (downs that are second-and-8 or more or third- or fourth-and 5 or more) suggests that there was no play-making talent whatsoever. Playing so poorly in the first quarter suggests that the gameplans weren't very good, while playing that poorly down the stretch of games suggests that gameplans weren't the whole problem — again, the talent just wasn't there.

I do think Sims and the runners are the key for 2011.

Kansas running back James Sims heads toward the endzone for a touchdown against Colorado during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas running back James Sims heads toward the endzone for a touchdown against Colorado during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

The passing game was so hopeless that improvement simply isn't going to happen unless the running game is so good that opponents have to account for it.



beebe1 3 years, 3 months ago

The problem is coaching -- or teaching. Did you count the number of times the O-line got 5 - 15 yard penalties? I didn't, but there were A LOT!!! Ohio State played the Sugar Bowl the other day. The team got 1 (one) penalty the whole game! Our problem was inadequate teaching clear across the board! (That and the fact no one counted the eligible receivers)

Gill is a great recruiter. Let him recruit. But get some 'teachers' for the rest of the staff. Obviously, Long screwed up the year as well!


jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 3 months ago

Dano1313, thats part of the problem, he doesn't motivate his players. That showed last year. If you played football at all you know that the coach gets on your butts, and gives you hell about getting the job done. All sports are like that. Does Gill know that there are openings at Michigan, Stanford, and Pitt. There might be an opening at LSU coming up? I am sure he would fit in at either place quite well.


danno1313 3 years, 3 months ago

At least the coach doesnt yell at his players. That's all that really counts.


newjayhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

I am really optimistic that this year will be quite different from last year in a much more positive way. I truely think that Coach Gill went with familiarity instead of playing the "best" players. He gave the returning players a chance, a whole season, to prive thier worth. As from listening to players perspectives on last year and also attending several practices.....their was a lot of RS talent not even used! This is not my opinion ,but directly from the players and coaches mouths. I am not naive enough to say Rose Bowl or bust....but, I believe there is absolutely no way on Gods' green earth that they will be as bad as the last two years. They will be much improved.


TommySmithElbow 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm with jayhawk1996 on bbb9705's puzzling "even though he's a christian".

John Wooden really suffered because of his calm demeanor and religion. He also didn't have success until late in his career. He would have been bashed to death in this world of internet/Twitter/Facebook posters.

I'm not saying that Turner Gill is going to be football's John Wooden, but I suppose the next irrelevant posting will be about some other stereotype.


bbb9705 3 years, 3 months ago

A Nebraskans viewpoint: When Bill Callahan got fired from NU, Turner Gill is the guy I was hoping to replace him. I think that, given a little time, Gill will turn out to be a good head coach for you guys. Even though he's a christian...the guy has a good head on his shoulders and is highly dedicated. Whether he can turn KU back around remains to be seen, but I don't think it's quite time to panic.


Mike Nicco 3 years, 3 months ago

Has anybody heard AD Zenger address the football program yet?

I've heard him speak twice and he always talks about the basketball program and how Coach Self is the face of the athletic department and we need to stay the course. Granted, the last time I heard him he was being interviewed during the UMKC game.

Has he mentioned his plans for the football program and Coach Gill? If not, is the fact he is staying quite even more telling...


Mike Barnhart 3 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, lots of bad teams in this story BUT Syracuse, Temple & Buffalo all had successful bowl seasons shortly after putting up those awful numbers.

Lets hope that 2011's better and 2012's a bowl season.


Michael Maris 3 years, 3 months ago

Well, some of the blame can be placed on the Coaching Staff. But, the Gill bashers' don't want seem to give the coaching staff any credit for wins against G-Tech and the come from behind win against Colorado. The win against New Mexico State (judging by these S&P Numbers) means that Kansas Football should've only won just 1 game this season.

So, the Coaches motivated players to win against G-Tech (after an embarrassing loss to N. Dakota State). Then, the coaches and players banded together to win the Colorado Game (when the players could've just hung their heads and allowed "This is the Bix XII, It's not Intramurals'' Coach to have at least one more chance at a victory in his CU Tenure).

So we will see what transpires in the 2011 Football Season. Am I disappointed about the 2010 Season. Yes, I am. I thought that KU Football Players were more talented than what they showed the entire 2010 Season. But, I do feel like the Coaching Staff has the knowledge to know what it takes to get the team back to being a winning football team.


thekansasboy1987 3 years, 3 months ago



jayhawkinnebr 3 years, 3 months ago

Kufan83, I can't agree with you enough. You are totally correct. Gill and the staff didn't know how to coach these guys, that did have talent. Gill did leave the Buffalo team without anything come in for them. I saw a Buffalo game where they were blown out this year. Their records was as bad as ours. They didn't have any talent at all. Ahpersecoachingexperience,(gosh, I wish you would shorten your name), looks like we were right after all, and I predict that things aren't going to get much better next year. With Gill, maybe from 120 to 118 with luck. Did anyone inform Gill that there are openings at Pitt. and some others coming up. We could give him a good recomendation of the highest.


ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 3 months ago

Hmmmmmmmmm. Looks like ahperblahblah was right all along. Time to hop on the bandwagon boys and sweathearts (Franklin style).


Mike Ardis 3 years, 3 months ago

Another item of note was that one of the three teams in 2010 who had a worse S&P+ ranking than KU (117) was Gil’s former team – the 2-10 Buffalo Bulls (119). So for those who complain that the cupboards were empty when Gil got to KU, apparently Gil left them really empty in Buffalo!

People may want to write off 2010 due to change in coaches and turmoil, but other schools in “turmoil” managed to do OK. South Florida only dropped from 71 to 74 with their new coach (Skip Holtz, who KU missed on) and beat an ACC team in a bowl game and Texas Tech dropped from 22 to 46 with a new coach (who KU ignored) but won a bowl game against a Big 10 team.

KU had some talent; the coaches either didn’t use it or didn’t know how to use it.


KU_FanSince75 3 years, 3 months ago

Jesse---- You are a numbers guy. I bet you were good at math going through school.


Ben Kane 3 years, 3 months ago

this is good news, only direction to go is up!


Jim Stauffer 3 years, 3 months ago

It is obvious we struggled mostly due to the O-Line early and the QB's. It would be naive to believe neither will improve significantly next year. Our most talented linemen were either very young while learning a new system (Hawkinson and Zlatnik) or were missing or diminished due to injury (Spikes, Hatch and Thorsen).

Our QB's were both in their first years. Add a year's experience and Brock Berglund to the picture and there is bound to be improvement.

Our defense seems set to improve which will give the offense more opportunities.

No question we can and will improve next year.


bigtex 3 years, 3 months ago

One of the main reasons we had a poor offense was Chuck Long. San Diego State started to perform alot better after he left. San Diego State called him the most expensive paperweight in the country. With the loss of Wyatt who should of been the offense coordinator and game day play caller KU is in a bad way.The players are alright just extremely mismanaged and under coached by Gill and Long. Until these coaches are replaced I don't care who the players are the offense will suffer.


Randy Maxwell 3 years, 3 months ago

Miami Ohio lost 11 games last year. They just won their 10th game this season last night so it can be done. Numbers are just numbers


gongs4ku 3 years, 3 months ago

Really a quality article. Great reading. None of it surprising, unfortunately.


Keith Hummel 3 years, 3 months ago

So if I understand this correctly, the best we can hope to for in 2011 is to not have the absolute worst team in the FBS, and to achieve a next-to-last place finish in the league. Wow - I can hardly wait for football season now. This article should get the anti-Gill crowd cranked up real good today.

The problem with indicators like the S&P ranking is that they can't account for all the intangibles and special circumstances. Of those historically "bad" teams mentioned, who showed only minor improvement the next year, how many had situations similar to KU (relatively inexperienced first-year head coach, program dealing with a scandal from the previous head coach, no athletic director, undersized linemen, lack of speed, large percentage of freshmen starters, attitude and behavior problems, etc.). The S&P can't take those things into account because they are subjective. So the extent to which this analysis can be used to predict the future, or blame the coaching staff is questionable.

Like many, I was disappointed with the coaching staff last year, and I think it is fair to expect far better results in 2011. There are reasons to believe 2010 was a statistical anomaly, and expect a historical improvement from this historically bad team. Additionally, I still hold to the basic rule-of-thumb that any new coach needs 2-3 years minimum before they can be fairly judged, S&P notwithstanding.


Kevin Crook 3 years, 3 months ago

Wow. I can't believe the new AD wants to tie his career to a football program like this. It wasn't hard to figure out that we were pitifully short on talent and that what we had was being coached poorly, but these numbers really put a stamp on it. I am pulling for Coach Gill. It's just obvious that he is either going to be a colossal flop or a huge surprise. The nice surprise scenario won't be a quick one either. We will have to endure lots of 10th place finishes in the league. I would like to see K-State's numbers. I have felt like they are really short on talent too but their coaching staff is coaching them up better.


Charlotte_Jhawk 3 years, 3 months ago

Excellent article. It is depressing. Critical for KU to turn this around. The athletic department needs an "all hands on deck" approach to fix this. Keep the faith, it can be done.


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