Given last night's news that Rob Likens was coming to Kansas to join David Beaty's staff as the Jayhawks' offensive coordinator, I decided it would be worth asking around to see what I could learn about Likens, who comes to KU on the heels of a decade working with Cal coach Sonny Dykes, who is known for running the Air Raid offense.
I first heard about Likens coming to Kansas from a source on Monday evening. A little later that night, Dykes confirmed the news to a couple of media outlets in California. So even though nothing official has been released by KU, this is a done deal.
KU fans have waited with great anticipation for the identity of Beaty's OC, and now that we know who he is, let's take a little deeper look at what he's about. It did not take long to find people, both in and out of the coaching profession, who had good things to say about Likens, both as a football coach and a person.
Energetic, genuine and a lot of fun were three of the phrases that came up most often and, a quick Google search on Likens uncovered a couple of videos on YouTube from when Likens was mic'd up during a couple of Cal spring practices last season.
Practice is certainly different than game day and coaching the Golden Bears' outside receivers carries different responsibilities than running and calling an entire offense, but these videos give you a pretty good look at what Likens is all about.
There'll be plenty more to learn about Likens in the next several days, but this is as good of a place to start as any.
As far as conference tune-ups go, you really can't ask for a much better match-up than the one the Kansas University men's basketball team faced Sunday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
In its last game before jumping into a grueling, 18-game Big 12 schedule, Kansas knocked off a tough, athletic and talented UNLV squad, 76-61, mixing equal parts of toughness, skill and momentum to turn back the Rebels.
The victory capped KU's non-conference record at 11-2, which, by all accounts, is pretty solid given the difficulty of KU's schedule. Many fans and critics will point to KU's two blowout losses (to Kentucky and Temple) as reasons to question this team — and it certainly remains a team with plenty of questions. But, given the fact that teams like Tennessee, Georgetown, Michigan State and UNLV were on the schedule, a case could be made that Kansas easily could have more than two losses.
As I mentioned above, there are plenty of questions about this KU hoops team. The Jayhawks are still trying to find an identity, keep juggling the starting lineup, continue to lack low-post scoring and appear to be on thin ice at point guard behind Frank Mason. With all of those aspects of this team being addressed on a daily basis, the one thing that should not need addressing is effort and intensity. It appears as if the Jayhawks understand that, too. After laying an egg in that loss to Temple, KU responded with two very good high-energy games against Kent State and UNLV. Both were at home, and that always helps, but, with Big 12 play starting, I think we've seen the end of the days where Bill Self and his coaching staff need to remind the Jayhawks to bring it night in and night out.
1 – It looked clear from very early in the game that Perry Ellis had plans to hit the offensive glass. And hit it Ellis did. The junior forward finished with a game-high five offensive rebounds and looked aggressive in grabbing each one. Ellis has been called out on a few occasions this season for his rebounding, but a line of 16 points and 9 boards, with five on the offensive glass, would be one KU would take every night the rest of the way.
2 – KU's offensive balance was on full display. Five Jayhawks scored in double figures to hold off the Rebels, and those 72 points came in a variety of ways. From powerful dunks inside to three-point bombs from the outside, KU's balance against Vegas was exactly the kind of display Self would like to see the rest of the way for two reasons: 1 – Because it makes the KU offense tougher to defend. 2 – Because it diminishes the chances of KU delivering a dud like Temple or Kentucky.
3 - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has not mailed it in. He played just two minutes and has only cracked 20 minutes once in the past six games, but that has not kept Mykhailiuk from playing hard when he's out there. In those two minutes, Mykhailiuk recorded a steal, an assist, a rebound and a big-time save, all of which led to positive things for Kansas. Given his young age, it's great to see this young man keeping his head locked in enough to contribute no matter how much or little he plays.
1 – KU still needs to find a way to protect the paint. With no true rim protector in the game for much of the afternoon, the long, athletic UNLV front line attacked the rim with intensity in building a four-point halftime lead. Self said Monday that KU needs Cliff Alexander to be the guy that steps up in this area, but whether that will happen in time is worth wondering about. Alexander's long arms and general demeanor give him the right tools to play the part. But he's still trying to figure out so much about college basketball that adding one more thing to his to-do list seems dicey.
2 – Frank Mason's shin hurts. A bruised shin is about as good of an injury as a fan or coach could ask for from one of his team's most important players. But it's still not good. Mason is so important to this team that even losing him for a half could be detrimental. He's tough. There's no doubting that. But even tough guys can break down when they're forced to play nearly the entire game and play it the way Mason does.
3 – Sure, Cliff Alexander's 10-point night was important, but it also was the only thing KU got from its bench. That's not good. Self played just eight guys in this one — and two of them played fewer than 10 minutes — so the chances for KU's bench to do something were not great. But with the Big 12 grind starting Wednesday, KU's going to need more from its bench on a nightly basis. In short, as Self said Monday, “We need everybody.”
KU's 15-point victory over a tough UNLV team...
• Made Kansas 11-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the eighth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept Kansas an undefeated 5-0 all-time versus UNLV.
• Improved KU’s record to 7-0 in home games this season and 6-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in his 60th season of Kansas basketball.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 15 straight games.
• Made Kansas 719-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 181-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 336-71 while at Kansas and 543-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,137-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will hit the road on Wednesday for their Big 12 Conference opener, 8 p.m. against Baylor in Waco, Texas. The game will be shown on ESPNU.
By now, having read about, followed, experienced or agonized over three coaching searches since 2009, fans of Kansas University football certainly are no strangers to the hierarchy of what's important before, during and after a coaching change is made.
The before and during are behind us. KU named former Texas A&M assistant coach David Beaty the 38th head coach in school history on Dec. 5, and, since then, Beaty has been running every which way trying to get things lined up for signing day in February and the start of spring football a month later.
Although the identity of a few of his staff members remains a mystery, sources have indicated that Beaty has nailed down most of the positions during the past couple of weeks.
Here's a quick recap of what we know:
• Clint Bowen – Holdover from former staff will be the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
• Reggie Mitchell – Another holdover from Weis' staff, it would make sense if Mitchell continued in his role as running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.
• Louie Matsakis – Another holdover from previous staff who finished 2014 by coaching KU's special teams will have a yet-to-be-determined role on new staff. Likely an administrative type of job.
• Kevin Kane – Former KU player who has worked at Wisconsin and Northern Illinois will coach linebackers.
• Gene Wier – Former Olathe North and Texas high school football coach will come on board in an off-the-field staff position.
• Klint Kubiak – 27-year-old son of NFL coach Gary Kubiak is the likely WRs coach.
• Calvin Thibodeaux – Former Oklahoma defensive end and Tulsa D-Line coach likely to coach KU's D-Line, as well.
• Je'Ney Jackson – Former KU assistant and Indiana basketball strength coach, will run KU football's strength and conditioning department.
• Justin Springer - Former KU linebacker, and another holdover from the previous strength staff, will stay on as a member of Jackson's crew.
As far as we know, KU essentially is still looking for four more names of full-time assistants and the following duties:
• Offensive coordinator
• Quarterbacks coach, which could very well be the OC
• Offensive line coach
• Tight ends coach
• Defensive backs coach, which could be Bowen
• Possibly a second defensive backs coach, if they split duties to safeties & corners
• Special teams coach, which could be lumped with another role, i.e. TEs/ST coach
Of the bunch that's already on board, Jackson may be the most important name we've heard thus far. Because Bowen and Mitchell were announced to be staying as soon as the Beaty hire was official, those guys are not included. Both are big additions to Beaty's staff, but neither figures to have the immediate impact that Jackson will.
I talked to former KU cornerback Chris Harris about Jackson the other day. Jackson was KU's defensive backs coach when Harris played at KU and the current Denver Bronco absolutely loves him.
Harris told me that Jackson is going to have KU's players ready for battle and added that they probably won't like him much at first because he can be a hard ass. That's a good thing, if you're a fan of the program anyway.
One other interesting thing Harris stressed about Jackson was how good of a teacher of technique he was. In Harris' experience, that obviously had to do with playing DB, but, generally speaking, most coaches who are known for the way they teach technique are pretty buttoned-up dudes and detail oriented. I'd expect that to be exactly what KU's getting from Jackson.
For those who might want to see and hear a little more about what Jackson's all about, here are a couple of YouTube videos I found from his time at Indiana. Yeah, training basketball players and football players is a little different, but Jackson inherits an incredible training facility in Lawrence and you can bet he'll bring several of the same training principles to town with him when he takes over.
There are few things that fix problems in sports like winning and, in that regard, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up a huge home victory, 78-62 over Kent State, on Tuesday night.
Still irked by their showing at Temple more than a week earlier, the Jayhawks came out with greater intensity and a sense of purpose that certainly was missing the last time they took the floor, and, really, has been absent from time to time throughout the season.
Call it youth, call it a learning curve, call it whatever you want. But it definitely is reality. So is the fact that, even though the Jayhawks held off a pretty stiff challenge from a decent Kent State squad, there were still almost as many bad moments as good. But, as you all know by now, those negatives don't show up nearly as much when a team wins, and Kansas (10-2) needed Tuesday night as much as a 9-2, Top-15-ranked team can need a victory at this point in the season.
Without question the most encouraging part about KU's 10th victory of the season was the fact that Frank Mason, who again was spectacular, looked around and got the help he needed on both ends of the floor.
Kelly Oubre was great — is anyone noticing a trend emerging here?
Perry Ellis was relentless even after a slow start.
And Cliff Alexander had enough positive moments in the second half to remind KU fans what the Alexander who showed up earlier this season then disappeared just as quickly as he arrived looked like.
All in all. The effort was better, the intensity was better and so was the result.
Offensively, Kansas has enough weapons, versatility and talent to find a way to score enough points to win games. There are going to be nights — and, really, there already have been — where this team will struggle, but breaking out of an offensive slump really can be as simple as one guy hitting a shot or making an extra pass that gets the ball rolling again. So there's really no reason to worry too much about KU's offense and Tuesday was a good illustation of this. It's defense that is a different story, and, what Self said about Cliff Alexander — how “he can play well if he's just active” — can apply to the entire team and really help KU's defense shine. In the first half, that really wasn't the case except for one or two guys. But in the second half, when Kent State shot 18 percent worse and scored just four points in the decisive first eight minutes, KU's defense dominated and won the game.
1 – The Jayhawks played faster and reaped the benefits. Throughout the eight days between games, KU coach Bill Self stressed tempo and pace to his team during practice. And it was clear that KU really tried to turn things up a notch against Kent State. Not only were they willing to — which Self actually said was easier because Kent State was not afraid to run either — but they succeeded big time. KU outscored Kent State 19-0 in fastbreak points, and even when they weren't directly scoring buckets, they found themselves dictating play or getting the to free throw line, both of which serve as reminders of more ways KU can control games in areas other than the scoreboard.
2 – The opening few minutes of the second half were crucial and KU delivered. Not only did they score the first five points of the second half to push their six-point halftime lead to 11 just like that, but the Jayhawks did it by getting to the free throw line. Even though they didn't connect on all of their trips — and were an uncharacteristic 13-of-22 from the free throw line for the night — the fact that they were able to get there helped them establish control and gave them a chance to pick up some easy points.
3 – The KU defense recorded a season-high eight blocked shots, but the total number was not nearly as impressive as the way the Jayhawks got there. Seven different players swatted a Kent State shot attempt, with freshman Cliff Alexander being the lone KU player to pick up two blocks. The total marked the largest number of players to block a shot in the same game since 2010 and served as further proof that Bill Self's boys took their shortcomings against Temple to heart.
1 – KU's first-half offense was merely OK and featured way too many possessions of one-on-five basketball. On a few occasions, that was because of the shot clock winding down. And there's definitely nothing wrong with a guy trying to be aggressive by making a play and attacking the rim. But Self's offenses have always flowed so well and the Jayhawks always have looked so much better when they achieve that flow. This team's still getting there in that regard.
2 – Wayne Selden continues to be a bit of a mystery and even Bill Self has started to acknowledge that. After the game, Self said Kelly Oubre had firmly locked up the 3 spot in the starting lineup but added that he'd love to see Brannen Greene or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — or both — elevate their games to the point where they're pushing Oubre. Self then went on to say that if either guy could do that, it would probably help Selden, too, and therefore would help the team. Selden made just 1 of 7 shot attempts with one of the misses coming on a perfectly drawn up lob out of a timeout. Instead of laying it in or throwing it down, Selden, who elevated above the rim, tried for the home run and wound up firing the ball over the iron and into the Kent State bench. Selden's 29 minutes marked the fourth time in the past five games that the sophomore guard has played fewer than 30 minutes.
3 – Brannen Greene played just four minutes in the first half and did not get into the game again until the final three minutes, when the outcome had been decided. The quiet night from the sophomore was merely the latest in the odd up-and-down trend from the sharp-shooter, who, just a few games again, was in position to lock up a starting spot himself. It's hard to say exactly what's going on with Greene, but Self briefly mentioned his inconsistent nature in the postgame. I'm sure the bulk of that inconsistency is showing up in practices, but KU needs Greene to figure it out as soon as he can. With Frank Mason taxed to the max at the point guard spot and Selden still struggling to produce himself, KU's going to need all the help it can get on the perimeter to survive Big 12 play.
KU's 16-point squeeze job of the Golden Flashes...
• Made Kansas 10-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept the Jayhawks unbeaten all-time versus Kent State (2-0) and improved them to 12-1 against current membership of the Mid-American Conference.
• Pushed the Jayhawks to a 63-8 record in games following a loss under Self.
• Made Kansas 5-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in the building's 60th season.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 14-straight games.
• Made Kansas 718-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 180-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 335-71 while at Kansas and 542-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,136-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will close out the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 schedule on Sunday with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off against UNLV. UNLV already boasts a victory over Arizona and should pose a significant challenge for the Jayhawks. After that, KU heads to Waco, Texas, on Jan. 7 for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
You all saw it, so there's no real reason to rehash the gory details of Monday nights' 77-52 KU basketball loss to Temple.
The Jayhawks were as bad in this one as they were in the loss to Kentucky in the second game of the season, and, in some areas, may even have been worse.
Clearly, very few people saw a loss like this coming, given the way the Jayhawks have played lately and shown steady growth over the course of the season. The bottom line, though, is this team is still relying on a lot of young players and many of those guys are still learning how to play at this level, how to play for Bill Self and how to fit into leadership roles.
Many believed that Wayne Selden was poised to step right into that role as the unquestioned team leader, but, even if he has shown areas of improvement in that department, he's still a work in progress there. So is Perry Ellis, who has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of complete struggle, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, all in the first 11 games.
Where Ellis and Selden go from here will be important, but clearly this team is in need of improvements in a bunch of areas and from a bunch of guys before Big 12 play gets started, which is now just two weeks away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks respond to this loss, and I'm not just talking about how they play against Kent State next Tuesday. KU was exposed in some pretty important areas in the loss to Temple and there are teams in the Big 12 that have the right mix of personnel, swagger and talent to try to replicate what the Owls did to Kansas in this one. The easy thing to say is that KU will learn from this loss, work hard over the break and keep getting better. And I'm sure all of that is true. But KU's going to have to find a way to tweak what it does on both ends of the floor to prevent nights like this from happening again. We're not talking wholesale changes or anything drastic, but they have to find easier ways to score and also need to identify the right lineup that's willing to compete defensively every possession. The guys that will do that are the guys that will get the most minutes in the coming weeks.
1 – Plenty has been said about Frank Mason's night and the guy deserves all the credit in the world for showing up to play on a night when most of his teammates didn't. Mason scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting — including 4-of-6 from three-point range — and added three steals and two assists. The most impressive number of them all, however, might have been the minutes played. Mason was on the floor for every second of the game, which only further proves (a) how valuable he is to this team and (b) how obvious it was that he was one of the few guys who was ready to battle.
2 – His numbers did not reflect it, but I thought Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned in a second straight game where he looked much more like the Svi we saw early in the season than the Svi we saw during a recent slump. He was aggressive and willing to compete, even if his shots weren't falling either.
3 – You hate to use the old “wake-up call” line for one of the reasons to smile, but there weren't many others in this one so we'll go with it. So much has been made about KU's ability to find ways to win so far this season even on nights when it didn't play its best. That's a good trait for a team to have, but it's not a given. I think there's a chance that some of these guys — especially the younger dudes — started buying into the idea that all they had to do was show up and they'd find a way to pull out a win. That kind of belief and confidence is a good thing, so long as the team executes the first part, which is to show up. KU did not do that against Temple, and that'll be the lesson it can take away from an awful nigh heading into January.
1 – OK, so there were more like 30, but if we're going to narrow it down to just three, we'll begin with KU's terrible start. That first 10 minutes (and maybe even the first 3-5) really set the tone for the entire night. The Jayhawks looked disinterested, lazy, sluggish and, simply put, like they didn't want to be there. Off nights are going to happen. But with a roster this deep, talented and versatile I didn't think we'd see a night where almost every player in crimson and blue failed to bring it. Monday was one of those nights and the Jayhawks got what they deserved because of it.
2 – While that start was a tone-setter, KU's defense was what cost them most and eliminated any chance KU had to stay in the game. That was particularly true in the first half, when Temple's guards drove to the rim at will and the Owls' crisp ball movement led to open shot after open shot. Long story short — Temple got whatever it wanted on offense and KU looked powerless to stop it.
3 – Cliff Alexander continues to be a work in progress and, in some ways, may even have taken a step or two backwards these past couple of weeks. Early in the season, Alexander was getting by on energy, effort and raw ability, but, today, he seems to be over-thinking things and looks flat-out lost at times, particularly on defense. One sequence Monday night showed that better than any other. With KU still hanging around early in the second half, Alexander fired a 16-foot jumper early in the shot clock. It's not a terrible shot, and it's one he can make, but there's no need to take it when he did. On the very next possession, Temple ran a high ball screen and Alexander left his man to go double team, which allowed the guy he was guarding to slip effortlessly to the rim, where he received an easy pass and finished a bunny to add to Temple's lead. Even after starting, Alexander only played 17 minutes, took just the one shot and scored 2 points. The big freshman needs winter break to arrive as much as anybody.
KU's beatdown at the hands of Temple on Monday:
• Snapped an eight-game winning streak, which was KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made Kansas 9-2 or better for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.
• Dropped KU’s record away from Allen Fieldhouse to 5-2 this season and 1-1 in true road games.
• Made Kansas 8-4 all-time versus Temple and 60-17 against current members of the American Athletic Conference.
• Moved Self to 334-71 while at Kansas, 541-176 overall and 4-1 all-time against Temple.
• Made KU 2,135-824 all-time.
After going their separate ways for Christmas, the Jayhawks will return to action at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when they'll take on Kent State at 7 p.m.
Information on the identity of new Kansas football coach David Beaty's coaching staff continues to be tough to come by, but sources told the Journal-World on Monday that legendary Olathe North football coach Gene Wier is expected to join Beaty's staff in the off-the-field coaching role.
That role, though not specified by the sources, likely will be something in the area of on-campus recruiting coordinator.
Such a role would seem to fit Wier perfectly. His knowledge of and connections in the high school football world in Kansas are second-to-none and the man who guided O-North to six state championships in the late 1990s and early 2000s also was a head coach for nine years in Texas before returning to the Sunflower State.
Wier's addition would bring the number of known people in Beaty's coaching staff to five — defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Clint Bowen, running backs coach/recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell, linebackers coach Kevin Kane, former special teams coach Louie Matsakis and Wier.
Stay tuned to KUsports.com for more updates.
Following Saturday's 96-69 victory over Lafayette — a game that was actually a much tougher battle than the final score indicates — Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self explained that he no longer would divulge his starting lineups after Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene both were held out of the starting five just one day after it was announced that Alexander would join the group for the first time this season.
Greene was late to weights on Friday, Alexander had what Self called a bad day of practice that same day and Landen Lucas and Kelly Oubre slid into their spots.
I get where Self's coming from on this, but, after what we saw on Saturday it might not matter whether he announces his starters or not. It might just be that obvious. If Oubre continues to make the progress he's making and plays at all like he played on Saturday, he'll be in there. No questions asked.
After that it'll come down to the fifth spot, where Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander look like the top three options. Lucas and Traylor have had their chances. And they've been serviceable. But Alexander's the best of the three and the odds are good that he'll figure out how to handle his business away from game night sooner rather than later.
If he does, the starting five is easy to pick out — Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — and KU fans won't need to wait for it to be announced by Self or anybody else.
There were plenty of good things and a few bad things about Saturday's victory, but the fact that this team can throw so many good shooters on the floor makes them tough to handle. KU has shot the ball well from the outside through the first 10 games of the season and Self said before the season that he thought this group would be the best three-point shooting team he's had in a while. He was right. Mason, Selden, Oubre, Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all can knock down the three if given room and, with Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander doing enough inside to occupy the paint, these guys are getting a lot of open looks and that should continue. KU is shooting just under 40 percent (62-for-157) from three-point range so far this season, and six different Jayhawks are shooting 34 percent or better from downtown. The Jayhawks were 12 of 23 from the outside against Lafayette and that clip helped keep the scrappy Leopards from creeping too close in the second half.
1 – We already mentioned Oubre's big game, but it's worth mentioning again. The guy scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, blowing out of the water his previous career-highs in both areas. But it was not just the final numbers that made his day so impressive. It was the way he got them. Oubre was aggressive, smooth, confidence and cagey. And he picked up his big line in relatively easy fashion. In fact, a single play in the first half that delivered two of Oubre's six misses might have been one of his most impressive moments. After misfiring on a wide open three-pointer from the left wing, Oubre immediately followed the miss, caught the rebound in mid-air and went right back up for what looked like it would be an easy put-back. It wasn't, as Oubre's follow had a little too much behind it and the second shot came clanging off the rim. Rather than get discouraged, Oubre dug in, kept fighting and saw that mentality pay off. He seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the game afterwards and it should be interesting to see how he responds to the breakthrough on Monday night.
2 – Welcome back, Svi. After looking out of sorts during the past few games, Mykhailiuk regained his old form and again looked sharp on Saturday. He scored 11 points, made three three-pointers, played 22 minutes and appeared to be having fun again. He also dished two assists and picked up a steal and appeared to be thinking less and playing loose a lot more. There's no doubt that seeing his outside shot fall again lifted his confidence.
3 – A lot of KU fans want to talk about this team's tendency to let big leads slip away, but I don't think that's cause for concern, or at least not too much concern. Teams are going to make runs. Opponents aren't going to quit. In fact, they're probably going to play even harder when facing a big, double-digit deficit. That's to be expected. And the mark of a quality team, at least in my mind, is when it can watch a big lead slip away and find a way to dig back in and build it back up in the minutes that follow. KU did that a couple of times against Lafayette and these Jayhawks appear to be comfortable operating that way.
1 – KU has looked pretty good defensively when the games have gone up and down this year, but the Jayhawks struggled to keep the Leopards from finding their rhythm behind the three-point line in this one. The only reason this is worth sighing about is that it should have come as no surprise that Lafayette was going to fire away from the outside. KU's latest opponent came into Allen Fieldhouse shooting 42 percent from three-point range and had nothing even close to resembling an inside presence. Still, Lafayette knocked down 12 of 26 three-pointers (46 percent) and used the long-range bomb to crawl back into the game after KU looked to have put things away by halftime. With KU's depth, length and athleticism, there should not be too many teams that get as many easy and open looks from the outside as the Leopards did on Saturday.
2 – Landen Lucas may not only have lost his starting job, but he may also have lost a good chunk of his minutes. The big man who made a late start in place of Cliff Alexander played just six minutes and went from being in the starting lineup at the beginning of the day to being on the floor in the final two minutes when Tyler Self, Evan Manning, Josh Pollard and Christian Garrett were getting their time, as well. Lucas missed the only two shots he attempted, including a bad miss of a sweet dime from Selden, and grabbed just one rebound and picked up one foul. Self has said he'd like to play five perimeter guys — Mason, Selden, Greene, Svi and Oubre — and possibly four big men, with Ellis, Alexander and Traylor being locks. That leaves that final spot to a battle between Lucas and Hunter Mickelson. And I don't think you have to look any farther than Saturday to see who might be in the lead there. Oh, and that could quickly turn into six perimeter guys and three bigs if Devonte' Graham can come back healthy.
3 – It's a minor thing but I noticed it a few times during Saturday's victory. Jamari Traylor seems to have a hard time closing the door on the trap when the Jayhawks pick up with some full-court pressure. It's not something to be too concerned about given the fact that the other team's point guard should be quicker than Traylor and able to avoid getting trapped, but it just looked like Traylor struggled to execute when he was asked to do this. He didn't use the sideline to his advantage, got caught bouncing instead of closing out and put the Jayhawks at a numbers disadvantage by doing it.
KU's victory over the visiting Leopards on Saturday:
• Extended Kansas’ winning streak to eight games, which is KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made the Jayhawks 9-1 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Pushed KU to 1-0 all-time versus Lafayette and 9-2 against current membership of the Patriot League.
• Made Kansas 4-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Made KU 717-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 179-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 334-70 while at Kansas, 541-175 overall and 1-0 all-time against Lafayette.
• Made the Jayhawks 2,135-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks will travel to Philadelphia for their final game before Christmas on Monday against Temple at the Wells Fargo Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be shown on ESPN2. After that, KU will close out 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when the Jayhawks welcome Kent State to town for a 7 p.m. game on Jayhawk TV.
12:31 p.m. Update
It looks like everything worked out with Blinn College offensive lineman Jayson Rhodes' transcripts because KU is now announcing him as a member of today's mid-year transfer haul.
Rhodes, who got in with KU late after offensive lineman Delonte' Murray changed his mind and signed with Cincinnati, is a 6-foot-4, 310-pound guard who had offers from Grambling State, Hampton, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, Southern Miss and UT-San Antonio.
He'll arrive at KU in time for spring football and will have three years of eligibility remaining, which makes him a guy the KU coaching staff can bring along slowly if need be. That's not to say he'll need it, just that they'll have that flexibility.
The addition of Rhodes brings KU's total haul for the day to seven — 3 offensive linemen, 2 defensive backs, 1 defensive lineman and 1 running back.
Here's a quick look at Rhodes' film and bio.
RHODES BIO: Played one season at Blinn College under head coach Keith Thomas... Helped lead the Buccaneers to a 4-4 mark in 2014... Earned second team all-conference honors in 2014... Started the season on the defensive side of the ball, before moving to the offensive line... Sat out the 2013 season as a redshirt.
Original Post: 9:49 a.m.
It's not quite the spectacle that national signing day in February brings, but it's important nonetheless. And it's already well under way for the Kansas University football program.
Mid-year transfer signing day offers those junior-college players who were able to graduate in December the chance to sign their national letters of intent early so they can report to their new schools in time for the spring semester, which begins in late January, and, more importantly, the start of spring practices.
Here's a quick list of the new Jayhawks who made it official this morning, starting with Kilgore College cornerback M.J. Mathis, who signed his letter at 8 a.m. in his hometown of Crosby, Texas, with a few close friends and family members present.
Mathis, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound corner with a good mix of physical presence and legit speed, said signing his letter was an amazing feeling because it put an official end to a couple of stressful months that came with waiting for KU to change coaches and signing day to arrive.
Here's a quick look at some Mathis highlights:
Other new Jayhawks who signed this morning include:
• Will Smith, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound, three-star offensive lineman from Butler Community College, who committed to KU in early June after an official visit.
SMITH BIO: Played two seasons on the offensive line for the nationally-ranked Grizzlies... Coached by Troy Morrell at BCC... Earned a three-star rating from Rivals.com and 247Sports.com... Saw action in 11 games for the Grizzlies, helping them earn an 8-3 overall record in 2014... Picked up all-conference and all-region honors in 2014... Helped lead the Grizzlies to the 2013 conference and region titles.
• Jacky Dezir, a 6-3, 305-pound, two-star defensive lineman from College of DuPage, who also committed to KU in early June after an official visit.
DEZIR BIO: Spent two seasons at the College of DuPage playing for head coach Matt Foster... Sat out the 2014 season as a redshirt... Played in 10 games for the Chaparrals, helping them earn a 7-4 record in 2013… Recorded two sacks in the 2013 Carrier Dome Bowl against ASA College… Recorded 24 total tackles during the 2013 season, including 13 solo tackles... Also credited with 3.0 TFLs.
• Bazie "L.B." Bates IV, a 6-1, 195-pound, three-star defensive back from Trinity Valley C.C., who committed to KU in late June. Name is pronounced Baz-ee.
BATES BIO: Spent two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College suiting up for head coach Brad Smiley… A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com... Played as a cornerback on the 2014 team that was a perfect 12-0 in 2014… Helped lead the Cardinals to the SWJCFC championship, the Region XIV championship and the Heart of Texas Bowl title in 2014... Recorded 26 total tackles, including 16 solo stops, as a sophomore in 2014... Led TVCC with four interceptions... Also had four pass breakups... Spent the 2013 season as a redshirt... Collected 11 tackles and one pass breakup for TVCC as a freshman in 2012.
• D'Andre Banks, a 6-3, 325-pound, three-star offensive lineman also from Trinity Valley, C.C., who committed to Kansas after an official visit last weekend. Banks had been committed to Louisiana-Lafayette, but switched to Kansas after his visit.
BANKS BIO: Played two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College for head coach Brad Smiley… A three-star prospect according to Rivals.com... Saw action as an offensive guard on the 2014 team that went undefeated (12-0) in 2014… Helped lead the Cardinals to the SWJCFC championship, the Region XIV championship and the Heart of Texas Bowl title in both 2013 and 2014...Spent the 2012 season as a redshirt.
"Coach (David) Beaty is a great guy and has a plan for the program,” Banks said shortly after committing. “I want to be a part of it. The facilities are excellent and it feels like a tight-knit community."
• Ke'aun Kinner, a 5-10, 185-pound, three-star running back from Navarro Junior College, who committed to KU earlier this week and was named a first-team Juco All-American on Tuesday.
KINNER BIO: Suited up for two seasons at Navarro Junior College under head coach J.J. Eckert... Earned a three-star ranking from Rivals.com, 247Sports.com and Scout.com... Finished his two-year career at NJC ranked third all-time in rushing yardage (1,918 yards) and ninth all-time in carries (277)… Ranked second in single-season carries and topped the single-season per game rushing average list in NJC history… Rushed for 1,696 yards and 22 touchdowns on 253 carries in 2014… Also caught 17 passes for 109 yards through the air... Earned First Team National Junior College Athletic Assocation (NJCAA) All-American honors in 2014... In his two-year career at Navarro he recorded 26 rushing touchdowns… Named the Southwest Junior College Football Conference's Most Valuable Player in 2014.
Former Kansas University cornerback Aqib Talib continues to prove he's one of the top cover corners in the NFL during his first season with the Denver Broncos.
Talib, who has battled injuries throughout this season and his career, has started 13 games for the Broncos this season — opposite his former KU running mate Chris Harris — and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions after snagging a key pick against Phillip Rivers and the Chargers last weekend in a victory which clinched the Broncos' fourth AFC West title in a row.
Talib was at his best against San Diego and was constantly highlighted for his impeccable technique and great instincts. He has 55 tackles this season — 48 of the solo variety — and already has as many passes defended this season (14) as he did all of last season with the Patriots.
Talib's lockdown ability has been one of the biggest reasons the Broncos' defense has improved by leaps and bounds over last year's group, and, as long as he's healthy, Talib continues to show why he's regarded as one of the league's best cornerbacks and, even more to the point, why he makes so much money.
Harris cashes in
Former KU cornerback Chris Harris, now in his fourth year with the Denver Broncos, agreed to a five-year contract extension worth more than $42 million.
Harris, regarded by many as one of the top all-around cornerbacks in the league, is enjoying his best season as a pro on the heels of offseason ACL surgery.
He joined Denver as an undrafted free agent in 2011 for a $2,000 signing bonus. Harris already has tied his career high with three interceptions this season and has 48 tackles, 46 of them of the solo variety.
McDougald's monster day
Former Kansas wide-receiver-turned-safety Bradley McDougald played the best game of his young NFL career on Sunday, finishing with 15 tackles — 11 solo — in Tampa Bay's 19-17 loss to Carolina.
McDougald, another undrafted free agent who is in his second year with the Bucaneers, has started three of the 13 games he has played in this year and has 37 tackles and three passes defended.
Johnson fitting in fine
Injuries have depleted the Denver Broncos' linebacking corps and that has opened the door for former Jayhawk Steven Johnson — yet another undrafted free agent — to slide into the starting lineup.
Johnson, now in his third season in the NFL, has played in 12 games for the Broncos this season and started the past five.
He finished Sunday's victory over San Diego tied for third on the team with four tackles — all solo — and now has 27 tackles on the season to go along with a half sack and a fumble recovery.
Former KU safety Darrell Stuckey was pretty quiet during the Chargers' loss to Denver last Sunday, but one week earlier, the Kansas City, Kansas, native scored the first touchdown of his NFL career on a fumble recovery and return during the Chargers' loss to New England.
Still known for his contributions on special teams, Stuckey has appeared in 14 games this season (his fifth in the NFL) and has 27 tackles and two passes defended to go along with the TD.
Opurum picked up
After spending the past couple of seasons as a part of the Houston Texans' practice squad (he was even active for a game or two) former KU running back/defensive end Toben Opurum has been picked up by the New Orleans Saints and signed to their practice squad.
Newly named Kansas University football coach David Beaty made up for lost time in the recruiting grind last weekend by not only getting 11 members of the Class of 2015 to visit campus and but also by picking up seven oral commitments since Saturday night.
The first future Jayhawk to commit came Saturday evening, four more prospects joined him on Sunday and the latest to pledge their services to Kansas delivered the good news bright and early Monday morning and again early Monday afternoon.
The news of these commitments spread like wildfire on KU message boards and Twitter and added even more shine to Beaty's reputation as a solid recruiter.
But it's not necessarily the players who Beaty picked up that made his weekend haul impressive. It was the fact that he was able to pull it all together so quickly in the first place and without much of his coaching staff on board that caught my eye.
Beaty had prior relationships with a couple of the guys who committed, but he had had no contact whatsoever with a couple of the others. The fact that those guys were not only willing to visit Kansas, but, in some cases, also visited despite already having committed elsewhere speaks to the strength of Beaty's relationships in Texas.
At least a couple of these prospects said the bond between Beaty and their high school coach carried enough weight for them to give KU a look. After that, the ball was in Beaty's court, and, Beaty, like so many coaches who came before him in his current job, has said he believed KU's chances of landing a guy increase dramatically if he can just get guys to visit campus.
That proved to be true with half a dozen guys in the past few days, and, although they might not all pan out, they seem to be the kinds of players KU needs to sign to get the rebuilding project off the ground.
Most of them are good athletes with impressive resumes, and many of them were overlooked by the “big schools” because those places fill their commitment lists with four- and five-star guys each year, not the two- and three-star guys who came to campus last weekend.
If nothing else, that idea should offer a little perspective for the furious weekend of recruiting that was. These guys all appear to be worthy prospects. And a couple of them have some impressive size, skills and stats. But they're far from a guarantee and they still need to be coached and developed and put through the grind of college football before we really have any idea what kind of players they can be — especially in the Big 12 Conference.
Beaty knows that. And he's willing to put the time in to make it happen. He's also planning to hire a coaching staff that thinks the same way.
Recruiting is a contagious business. Year after year, with program after program, fans often get caught up in the hype and promise of what a prospect looks like on paper or what his high school statistics might lead them to dream he could become in college. It's understandable. But at a place like KU, it's important to remember both sides of the coin. Given the fact that so many recent recruits have failed to pan out, that should not be too hard to remember for Jayhawk football fans.
That's not to diminish what Beaty and company accomplished this weekend, though. What they did was impressive. And it's important mostly because it shows — with actions rather than words — what Beaty is all about when it comes to recruiting. Substance over style.
See, two years ago at this time, the Kansas football program was in the middle of building what was dubbed the #DreamTeam2013. It was made up mostly of highly ranked junior-college prospects and featured some incredibly outgoing personalities, many of whom now appear to have something to fall back on in terms of a marketing and promotions career since the whole big-time football thing did not work out.
To be fair, a few of the guys in that “Dream Team” class did make a significant impact on the KU program. Dexter McDonald and Cassius Sendish were two-year starters in the secondary, Ngalu Fusimalohi and Mike Smithburg started both of their seasons on the O-Line and Trevor Pardula single-handedly fixed KU's punting woes.
But those were not the guys who were talking the most during the recruiting period. Guys like Marquel Combs, Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Chris Martin and others were the names that wowed people — as much for their excitement and enthusiasm as their rankings — but those guys never played a down for the Jayhawks. And their failure to pan out and eventual departures from the program left a hole in KU's roster that Beaty is now trying to fill.
He'll have to be creative to do it, and he'll have to work twice as hard as he would at an established program. But, again, he appears to be ready and willing to do just that and what he got done last weekend was definitely a good start.
MORE FROM THE RECRUITING TRAIL...