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Lance Leipold’s confidence is currently the most consistent thing about a Kansas football program trying to find its rhythm

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against Baylor on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against Baylor on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Late during his regular Tuesday press conference at the Anderson Family Football Complex, Kansas coach Lance Leipold briefly interrupted a question from a reporter to set the record straight.

The question began: “As you’re trying to build this thing…”

The interjection went like this: “Oh, we’re going to build this thing,” Leipold said with a grin followed by a swig of water. “Not try. We’re going to.”

And Kansas fans should feel lucky to have a front-row, all-access look at how it’s going to be done.

The true turnaround still may be years away, if it comes at all. And the challenges that Leipold and his players and coaching staff face are too numerous to list here. But the confidence of the head coach does not appear to be one of them.

That’s worth noting because of Leipold’s demeanor in the aftermath of last Saturday’s 45-7 loss to Baylor. In his postgame press conference, Leipold was noticeably emotional and visibly upset about his team’s shortcomings and the way a 14-7 game at halftime turned into a bloodbath in the third quarter.

Kansas fans should want that. It’s good to see that losing a game like that affects him. If it didn’t, KU would be in jeopardy of walking down the same la-dee-da path of complacency after tough losses. No one has time for that.

Three games into his KU career, and coming off of a loss that he admitted “was a little bit more of a sting,” Leipold now has a better feel for exactly what he has gotten himself into.

And while life at Kansas is vastly different from what he experienced at Wisconsin-Whitewater or Buffalo, Leipold does not appear to have forgotten what it takes to build because of the success he enjoyed at his last two stops.

It starts with consistency. And while it may be a while before consistency of any kind shows up on the field on game days, we’re seeing it just about every time Leipold steps up to a microphone, win or lose.

He has proven to be very good at answering questions in a thorough manner and with the kind of explanations that help you see both what he’s talking about and what he visualizes down the road.

He has yet to face any real tough questions, but, at Kansas, aren’t they all tough in one way or another?

What makes his ability to answer them all the more impressive is that he’s answering questions mostly about issues he had no part in creating.

More important than any of that is the fact that Leipold always goes out of his way to remind anyone listening that the responsibility for everything that happens within this program now falls on him. Good, bad or indifferent.

“We have to do a better job coaching,” he said Tuesday. “It starts with us. We can’t be mad at the player whose on-the-job training is also on Saturdays.”

That concept of on-the-job training is a big part of this. Ask anyone in the program whether these players are willing to put in the work required to move Kansas football forward and they’ll say yes before you even finish the question.

But just because someone is willing to do something does not mean they’re ready to do it.

Think about how many 13-year-olds would happily hop behind the wheel of a car. And then think about what the streets in your town would look like if we let them. It probably would be the traffic equivalent of 45-7.

Leipold is rocking with a bunch of 13-year-old drivers right now. And while that may pay off at some point down the road, it also forces him to keep his focus on developing them the right way rather than expecting them to have it licked in a matter of a few weeks.

That’s why this coaching staff is so eager to push consistency and why that trait, if they can acquire it, might be the magic formula that brings about real change.

“It’s getting us to be consistent,” Leipold said Tuesday. “Individually and then within a unit and then a side of the ball and a team and all those things. Once we start seeing it more, confidence goes (up). And if you start stacking those (things) up, then you start playing better.”

KU’s next opportunity to do that will come at 3 p.m. Saturday in Durham, N.C., where the Jayhawks (1-2) will take on Duke (2-1) in their final nonconference game of the season.

Reply 10 comments from Greg Ledom Krohnutz Brett McCabe Barry Weiss David Robinett Robert  Brock Dirk Medema Njjayhawk Dale Rogers

Baylor beatdown a tough reminder that Kansas football still has a long, long way to go

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) gets into the end zone untouched by the Kansas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) gets into the end zone untouched by the Kansas defense during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Before we get too far into this column, let me start by saying that none of what you’re about to read should come as a surprise.

Yet, because of things like human nature and emotion and hope, there we were on Saturday morning, seeing and hearing from Kansas fans who genuinely believed that the Jayhawks not only could be in the game with Baylor but also could win.

They weren’t. They didn’t. Baylor 45, Kansas 7.

Roughly as many people showed up for KU’s Week 3 game and Big 12 opener as were there in the season opener. And by early in the fourth quarter nearly all of them were gone.

Just like that, a day and game that started with some excitement and optimism ended the way we’ve seen so many KU games end in recent years — with a lopsided outcome on the scoreboard and the cold, hard glare of concrete serving as the backdrop for the final meaningless minutes.

This is not the fault of the current coaching staff or even the players who were out there fighting on Saturday. This is the fault of reality. And the reality is KU still has a long, long way to go before it can expect to be competitive in the Big 12 Conference.

Remember, this was an unranked Baylor team that had not proven anything yet. Not only that, this latest Bears team to lay a beat down on Kansas wasn’t even one of the 21 teams that received votes in this week’s Associated Press poll.

You know who was? Five of KU’s final nine opponents, meaning that seven of KU’s nine remaining games will come against teams that were either ranked or receiving votes this week. Generally speaking, those aren’t the kinds of teams that this Kansas team can be or should be expected to beat.

It’s things like that, and outings like Saturday’s, that should — and now likely will — keep Kansas fans from overreaching for relevance the rest of this season.

Lance Leipold was hired to rebuild a program that was in the gutter long before he ever considered taking on the challenge. It was never going to happen overnight.

It was clear during the postgame press conference that this unfamiliar feeling is not one that Leipold is used to or willing to accept. That can only help. But even with that, the progress is going to be a slow-and-stalling sort of thing.

Leipold’s message to his team after Saturday’s game was simple: Own the beating, accept responsibility and come back more motivated than ever to improve.

It’s really all they can do. And it’s what Leipold and his coaching staff will demand, which, in the big picture, provides some long-term hope.

The hope that comes in the short-term, though, is just too fragile to be real.

Consider the most gut-wrenching part of Saturday’s blowout as proof of that.

After surviving an ugly first quarter and finding their way back into the game in the second quarter, the Jayhawks trailed just 14-7 at halftime and had all the momentum on their side heading into halftime. For that 20-30 minute portion of Saturday, KU appeared poised to make its believers look awfully good.

And then, just five plays into the second, it was over — the game, not just the momentum.

A three-and-out by the Kansas offense. A KU punt. And a 69-yard touchdown pass by Baylor on its first offensive snap of the half put this one on ice.

The rest was merely a formality and it set up an October and November that will test both this team and its fan base that proved through two home games that it was willing to show up to support this team.

We’ll see where things go from here.

Reply 13 comments from Dirk Medema Benny Armstrong Michael Maris Eastbayhawk Dale Rogers Kall3742 Andy Godwin Rodney Crain Brett McCabe

This week’s big question: What awaits Kansas football at Memorial Stadium in Week 3?

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against South Dakota on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold and the Jayhawks take the field for kickoff against South Dakota on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Two games into the 2021 college football season, the Kansas Jayhawks sit at 1-1 and with an equal number of reasons to be encouraged and frustrated.

What that means to the long-suffering Kansas fan base that showed up in force for the season opener two weeks ago will be revealed at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for the Big 12 Conference opener for both teams.

First-year Kansas coach Lance Leipold knows what he’s hoping to see. So do the players, first-year Athletic Director Travis Goff and the rest of the KU administration.

“It’s a chance for us,” Leipold said Tuesday. “I’m just glad to be at home again, and hopefully our fans — and of course the students — that were so impactful in the first game of the year come back out and watch. And hopefully they see that this group is working hard and that they can be an impactful thing for our conference opener.”

The Bears enter Big 12 play at 2-0, with a 29-20 win over Texas State in Week 1 and a 66-7 shellacking of Texas Southern in Week 2.

Given the opponents, those outcomes are almost as drastically different as KU’s first two outings, which produced a close-call win one week and a 27-point road loss to a ranked opponent the next.

Leipold said Tuesday was the first time he had even considered whether he wished KU had another so-called tune-up game before jumping into Big 12 play. But the numbers show in might not have been a bad thing.

KU will play at Duke (1-1) in Week 4 on Sept. 25, and the Blue Devils enter Week 3 ranked 77th in the FBS in total defense and 22nd in team offense.

KU, meanwhile, is 71st nationally in total defense and 103rd in total offense.

Baylor’s numbers? The Bears rank 16th in total defense and 11th in total offense. So, yeah, maybe that Duke game to close out the non-con schedule this week wouldn’t have been so bad after all.

Then again, this coaching staff and this administration are not wired to determine the health and hope of the Kansas football program by how things look today.

“We’re going to have positive things happening that aren’t always going to show up on the scoreboard that are going to be signs of progress,” Leipold said Tuesday, voicing a popular refrain from the past decade.

But then he added the key part.

“And we have to balance those and keep working on those but not get into moral victories and think that’s going to do it for us," he said.

Win or lose, finding a way to keep the stadium full and rocking the way it was during the opener into the meat of the season would qualify as a moral victory in its own right. And that would be one worth celebrating.

Now it’s time to see if there’s anything the Jayhawks can add to it.

Reply 7 comments from West_virginia_hawk Njjayhawk Matt Tait Gdkadjayhawk Dirk Medema

Kansas coach Lance Leipold not apologizing for close-call win over South Dakota; just the opposite, in fact

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold signals to an official during the second quarter on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World)

Kansas head coach Lance Leipold signals to an official during the second quarter on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. (Photo by Nick Krug/Special to the Journal-World) by Nick Krug

Before diving into Kansas football coach Lance Leipold’s breakdown of KU’s Week 1 victory after watching it on film, let’s start with the most important thing Leipold said during Monday’s press conference.

“There’s not a position on our team that we can’t get better at,” he said.

If that does not give you a clear look at exactly how KU’s new coach hopes to build this thing, you might never get it.

There were plenty of players and even position groups that performed well during last Friday’s season-opening victory over South Dakota. But those performances are now yesterday’s news.

In order for those outings to matter, Leipold wants to see those same guys perform that well again. And again. And again. And again.

His players themselves and the rest of the coaching staff are seeking that, as well.

If KU gets to the point where enough guys are doing that enough of the time, then there may be reason for optimism in Lawrence.

Until then, the Jayhawks are still just one track into recording something they hope will sound more like a Top 40 hit and less like the kind of death metal that comes pouring out of an angry teenager's bedroom.

No one is going to brag about KU’s three-point win over an FCS program. More, bigger and better was the goal.

But when you consider that wins have been so tough to come by at KU in the past decade, the fact that Leipold and his program have openly embraced that 17-14 victory as a good first step is also a sign of how they plan to build this thing.

Humbly celebrate the successes, no matter how big or small. Work hard to fix and eliminate the failures. Do that until the tally marks in Column A far outweigh the number of tally marks in Column B. And then keep going.

In Week 1, the mere fact that Kansas found a way to win after going down 14-10 with 5 minutes to play is good enough for a mark in Column A.

“The thing that I was most proud of is the things that I maybe saw on film last year when things didn’t go right, and how we responded and overcame that,” Leipold said Monday. “And yeah, you can say. ‘It’s an FCS team’ or whatever. All those other things that I’m not going to worry about right now.

“The fact is, this team came from behind when it had to, and it had a fourth and 10 and other things, and we found a way to win a football game.”

Fans and foes alike speculated after the game that many Kansas teams in that same scenario in recent years would have found a way to not get it done.

Leipold was asked Monday if he saw anything specific on that last offensive drive that illustrated why this team came through in that situation last Friday night.

While acknowledging that he wasn’t in the huddle, the first-year KU coach pointed to a few things he believed were factors.

Quarterback Jason Bean’s composure and center Mike Novitsky’s positivity topped the list.

“Hypotheticals are always tough, to say whether or not it would have happened in another year,” Leipold said. “I'm just awful glad it happened Friday.”

The Jayhawks are going to have to improve a lot — remember that opening quote? — before anyone is going to predict them to be competitive the rest of the way. After all, Vegas listed Coastal Carolina as a 27-point favorite when the line for this Friday’s game first came out.

But Leipold and company are hoping that a little confidence from their early success combined with the new mentality of several fresh faces may expedite things a bit.

“There is enough newness in some of the personnel that hopefully can help change things as we go through this season,” Leipold said.

This week, KU travels to No. 17 Coastal Carolina on Friday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff that represents one heck of a test and an even better opportunity.

Reply 19 comments from Dale Rogers Rodney Crain Doug Roberts Matt Tait Adam Bengtson John Strayer Richard Wright Dirk Medema Jeff Coffman Njjayhawk and 1 others

Picking a starting quarterback for the Kansas football program in 2021 comes down to how much risk coaches are willing to take

Kansas quarterback Jason Bean talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility.

Kansas quarterback Jason Bean talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility. by Nick Krug

First-year Kansas football coach Lance Leipold still has until Friday night to reveal the identity of KU’s starting quarterback, but it seems like several people following the race already have made up their minds.

So I figured why not join them?

For me, this battle has come down to two Jayhawks — senior Miles Kendrick and sophomore transfer Jason Bean.

Before I go any further, let me remind you that my opinion is based almost entirely on what I’ve heard and learned from talking to people and not from watching the competition play out in practices, the bulk of which were closed to the media.

All three QBs vying for the starting nod, including sophomore Jalon Daniels, have traits that make them appealing choices. You’ve surely read or heard plenty about those. On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki said he'd be comfortable with any of them playing.

But it’s two of those strengths that have me down to Kendrick and Bean.

Kendrick’s ability as a game manager could be ideal for the kind of offense KU wants to run in Year 1. Rely heavily on the ground game, ask Kendrick to throw it 12-15 times a game — high percentage throws at that — and allow him to use his maturity and poise to lead the offense and avoid trouble.

Bean’s speed and ability to hurt opponents by taking off and running make him an intriguing option, especially given the fact that KU is expected to feature its ground attack this season.

Highlighting those two is in no way intended to be a knock on Daniels. Remember, he’s still just 18 years old — he won’t turn 19 until Oct. 29 — and, in a sense, he’s still just a freshman.

The experience he gained last year, though important and real, came under such duress and took place in extreme circumstances that extended beyond just football.

Giving him a more natural chance to develop may benefit him a great deal in the future. And because of his age, he still has the potential to be a two- or three-year starter down the road.

Confidence and personality are not issues for Daniels. So let him spend the year competing, working, growing and improving while staying ready to roll in case he’s needed.

It’s entirely possible that he will be, even if he starts the season on the bench.

If you’re asking me to bet on who the coaches will go with, I might lean Kendrick. If you’re asking me who I’d go with, I’d probably lean Bean.

Choosing between the two is kind of like playing the lottery.

If you go big, and you go with Bean, hitting the right numbers could bring life-changing money. But if you’d rather play it safe and you want to go with a $5 scratcher ticket, don’t be surprised if even a win only brings you 50 bucks.

No matter which QB the Kansas coaching staff picks, none of the three probably changes the win/loss record all that much this season. So you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

But Leipold has talked a lot about getting games to the fourth quarter and being more consistently competitive than KU has in the recent past, win or lose.

Kendrick and Bean, in different ways, seem best suited to do that. And, of the two, Bean brings the more exciting skill set and greater potential to the field.

Reply 10 comments from Andy Godwin Dale Rogers Dirk Medema Jim Stauffer Karen Mansfield-Stewart Jeff Coffman Brett McCabe Matt Tait Glen

While Kansas football wins might still be tough to come by, better effort, execution in opener could be a sign of better days ahead

Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr. talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility.

Kansas safety Kenny Logan Jr. talks with media members during interview on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 at the Indoor Practice Facility. by Nick Krug

It’s game week for the Kansas football program, and we’ll know soon enough whether things really do look and feel different for the Jayhawks under first-year head coach Lance Leipold.

Up to this point, they certainly have. But hearing tales about things being done differently from one coach to the next is a tired exercise for KU fans.

They want to see it. And this team, with its new coaching staff and combination of new and returning players, has an opportunity to show Jayhawk Nation what it has been longing to see for more than a decade now.

The Jayhawks are a little more than a two-touchdown favorite against visiting South Dakota on Friday night. So it’s more than just the 100 or so players inside the Kansas locker room who believe that this team will start the 2021 season on a high note.

But it has to be about more than just winning the game.

Believe it or not, the Jayhawks are actually 7-4 in their last 11 season openers. But only once (2011) did a win in the opener lead to a 2-0 start.

And let’s not even talk about what season-opening losses to Coastal Carolina (2020), Nicholls (2018), South Dakota State (2015) and North Dakota State (2010) did to the hope for those seasons.

You can’t build momentum without getting off to a good start. And even in many of the games they won in the last 11 season openers, there were enough concerns that showed on game night that left doubt and leveled confidence heading into Week 2.

So, what constitutes a good start, one that might actually make fans feel like things are different with this program?

A 31-7 victory? You bet. Scoring 50-plus points? Maybe. Playing a clean game free of self-inflicted mistakes and miscues? Absolutely.

While those are the types of things both Jayhawk fans and Leipold and his staff will be watching for on Friday night, the players themselves will be focused on one thing and one thing only — doing their jobs.

If that sounds a little too Bill Belichickian for your liking, I understand. But, boy, that sure would be a good mantra for this program to follow as it officially opens up another try at rebuilding.

The players know that. This coaching staff has lived it. And, as the Jayhawks prepare to move to 1-0 for just the fourth time since 2015, there appears to be some synergy at work that hasn’t always been there in the past.

Junior safety Kenny Logan, who has charisma for days and is right at home in his role as one of the team leaders, says he can’t wait to get back out there in front of the fans on Friday night. But it’s not because of the energy and the excitement that he hopes will fill the stands. Instead, he wants to show them that this team is worth watching.

Senior linebacker Kyron Johnson is so motivated to do things differently during his last go around in college football that he has reverted to things he hasn’t done since his high school days — more work before and after practices, with or without his teammates.

That’s how much he wants this coaching staff to succeed and to be a small part of the reason it does.

There are dozens of other stories of buy-in with this bunch, aided in no small part by the addition of former Buffalo coaches and players who already have been to battle with Leipold in the past.

The tough schedule and the fact that this version of KU's rebuilding adventure is still just starting sounds like a 2-10 season to me. But there should be enough on display — perhaps as soon as Friday night — to make you think that better records are ahead under Leipold.

Reply 1 comment from Armen Kurdian

QB Race 2021 - Who brings what to the Kansas football huddle?

Kansas football quarterbacks Jason Bean, Jalon Daniels and Miles Kendrick

Kansas football quarterbacks Jason Bean, Jalon Daniels and Miles Kendrick

It’s almost game week for the Kansas football program and we still don’t know which quarterback will be the first to take a snap for Lance Leipold’s first KU team.

Truth be told, Leipold still might not even know yet. As he has promised repeatedly throughout preseason practices, this battle is one that could go right up until kickoff on Friday night.

All three QBs who appear to have been in the running this month have had their moments. And all three bring slightly different skill sets to the KU huddle.

For me, the choice is not as much about picking the best or most talented quarterback as it is about picking the QB whose skills best fit what the Jayhawks need today.

Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki teased that mentality when he said the coaching staff was looking for “consistently good” play not “occasionally great” play.

None of us have been out there for full practices, so we don’t have much of a feel for how the competition has looked beyond what we’ve heard.

But we have asked questions. We have talked to the players themselves. And we do have some idea of what this program needs from its quarterback, both today and in the years to come.

There’s a better-than-good chance that at least two of these guys — and perhaps all three — will be under center for Kansas this fall. All three have had their shot with the first team throughout preseason camp and it appears as if the starting job is still up for grabs.

The goal, of course, is to pick one, watch him shine and stick with that guy for the entire season.

Easier said than done.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what each of the top three options at the position would bring to the offense this fall at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.

We’ll go with alphabetical order to make it clean and easy.

Jason Bean – 6-3, 189, Jr.

Bean is the wild card of the bunch. He’s a guy that very few KU fans have seen play. He’s a guy who is known for his speed and ability to move around and make plays.

And he’s a guy who has better career stats than the other two contenders combined — 1,307 passing yards on 101-of-182 passing with 17 TDs and nine interceptions, with 440 yards rushing and five more touchdowns on 73 carries.

Here’s the rub: Those stats all came in basically two seasons at North Texas and no one knows whether his talent will translate to the Big 12 level.

Bean believes it will. He’s a confident kid. But he’s also still getting familiar with his surroundings.

Sure, Leipold and the Kotelnicki offense are new to all three of these guys. But at least Daniels and Kendrick began learning it while knowing almost all of the players around them.

Bean is just starting to hit his stride in building those relationships and he has appeared more and more comfortable in that area each time I have seen him this summer.

If that new-found comfort and familiarity extends to what he does on the field, that could bode well for a late push that wins him the job.

Jalon Daniels – 6-0, 215, Soph.

The second-year Jayhawk is by far the most outspoken of the three.

Daniels has a personality and an energy that people tend to gravitate toward, and those traits have made him well liked by his teammates.

He also has a big arm and the ability to extend plays and improvise when things break down.

We saw plenty of that last year. While it led to Daniels gaining a ton of respect as a true freshman thrown into the hottest part of the college football fire, it also got him in trouble to the tune of four interceptions, four fumbles and what seemed like 4,000 crushing hits.

He popped back up after nearly every one of them. And that, too, won him a ton of respect in the huddle and in the locker room.

Daniels says he learned a lot from the mistakes he made last season. He says things have slowed down and the college game makes more sense to him now.

Those facts have only added to his confidence. If it’s a gun slinger you want under center this fall, Daniels is likely the guy you’re hoping to see on Sept. 3.

Even if he does win the job, though, accuracy is going to be the biggest thing to watch with Daniels.

Miles Kendrick, 5-10, 205, Sr.

Kendrick is without question the safest choice of the three. He has poise, he’s been around the program (and college football) the longest and he is confident in his ability to operate in any situation.

While all of those traits are great for QBs to have, the one thing he doesn’t have is the ability to wow you. Maybe that’s OK with this coaching staff. Or, better put, maybe that’s OK with this coaching staff right now.

They sure seem like the kind of group that would prefer, at any position, to play the fundamentally sound player who avoids mistakes and executes what’s called.

Therein lies the problem with Kendrick. While he is that player in a lot of ways, his average arm strength and inability to consistently push the ball down the field (5.4 yards per attempt for his career) make him a little easier for opponents to scout and contain.

There is, of course, the chance that he has improved a great deal from last season or that this offense fits him better.

If the coaches are calling things that fit his strengths — short, quick passes, moving to throw and staying ahead of the sticks — Kendrick could be the right guy to get the first crack at leading the KU offense this fall.

For my money, though, he always has seemed more like a rock solid back-up option rather than a front-line featured talent.

Reply 4 comments from RXDOC Brian Skelly Dirk Medema

Grunhard family’s past experiences at KU aided Colin’s decision to join Jayhawks

KU center Colin Grunhard calls out an assignment during the first practice of the 2021 season on Aug. 5, 2021.

KU center Colin Grunhard calls out an assignment during the first practice of the 2021 season on Aug. 5, 2021. by Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics

When I first heard that Colin Gunhard was transferring to Kansas to finish his college career, one thought went through my head.

There was no way his father, former Kansas City Chiefs center Tim Grunhard, would have let him come to KU if he did not believe the football program was in a better spot today than it was when the elder Grunhard was an assistant coach at KU for the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

I never got around to writing that then, but the thought never left my mind.

On Tuesday, with Colin in attendance as one of the 25 KU players made available at this year’s media day, I decided to ask him what role his father’s past experience at KU played in his decision to join the Kansas program after four seasons at Notre Dame.

“He was very instrumental,” Colin said Tuesday. “And my mom was, too. My dad’s a great football mind and I can always lean on him for things like that.”

Colin said the process of picking Kansas was “kind of like when I was going out of high school.”

Both of his parents helped him weigh the pros and cons of his options and then left the decision to him.

Asked, though, if his father would have said "don’t go there" if he believed a particular school or program was not a good place or fit for his son, Colin didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Absolutely,” he said.

The fact that those words never came from his dad's mouth helped cement Colin's belief that coming to Lawrence was a good next step.

“He can kind of see past the BS or all the recruiting talk and all that because he, you know, was kind of a part of doing both sides of that,” Colin said of his father’s assistance this spring. “He was very helpful.”

So, too, were his own memories and experiences of his dad’s time at KU nearly a decade ago.

“I was here, too,” Colin said. “I would go to every home game in Lawrence and I went to a couple away games when my dad was coaching. It was fun being around the team.

“I really loved it. I would play tackle football on the hill when I was in like seventh or eighth grade. I watched the games, I looked up to the players and I just really enjoyed being around Kansas. I love being here.”

Now that he is, Colin gets to see if he can do something more at Kansas than he did as a four-year walk-on at Notre Dame.

With the Irish, for whom his father starred during his college days, Colin appeared in 13 games in three seasons while playing exclusively on the scout team as a freshman.

His early work with the KU offensive line has shown the kind of versatility that could make him a factor at any one of the three interior line spots, and Colin said he prides himself on being able to play more than one position.

With KU adding Buffalo transfer Mike Novitsky at the center position following Colin's decision to join the team, his immediate future could be at either guard position and as a reliable back-up center.

On Friday, KU O-Line coach Scott Fuchs said he was encouraged by Colin's growth and development at guard and that he prefers for his interior linemen to know a little bit about all three positions — if not all five spots — because it increases KU's chances of putting the five best offensive linemen on the field to open the season.

“I do like him there," Fuchs said of Colin at guard. "I think he's done a really nice job there and I'm pretty excited about that."

Reply 2 comments from Dirk Medema

Realignment Today: Want KU to end up in the Big Ten? Now’s a good time to start acting like it belongs

A Memorial Stadium record of 51,821 fans attended the Kansas-Kansas State football game on Saturday in Lawrence.

A Memorial Stadium record of 51,821 fans attended the Kansas-Kansas State football game on Saturday in Lawrence. by thad-allender

As Kansas football’s first preseason camp under head coach Lance Leipold nears its end, the evaluation of this team remains a work in progress and is expected to continue right up to kickoff on Sept. 3.

But while Leipold and his staff still have plenty to sort out before the opener, would you believe that it’s the Kansas fans that could be the most important part of the 2021 season?

For years, you’ve heard folks from KU’s athletic department — players, coaches and administrators alike — plead with the Kansas fan base to come out and support the Jayhawks’ rebuilding football team.

And for years this program has not always deserved your support.

But it may be more important this year than ever before.

The reason? Conference realignment, of course.

If KU fans are content with decision makers in the Big Ten, Pac-12 or ACC tuning in and thinking the Jayhawks have formally changed their school color to silver (the color of the empty bleachers), then they’ll likely continue to leave David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium half empty or worse this fall.

But if they’re interested in making a real statement that KU is and can be a relevant football school again, they’ll pack the place.

It’s as simple as that.

With Oklahoma and Texas moving to the SEC and sending the college sports world into its latest upheaval, athletic departments and conference officials across the country are anxiously awaiting what comes next.

For now, the eight remaining Big 12 schools are proceeding with the idea that loyalty and a goal of creating a revamped Big 12 Conference is a viable option.

Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

At the same time, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has said he understands that those eight schools are likely to be exploring contingency plans, as well.

At Kansas, the belief held by many Jayhawk fans is that the school’s storied and proud basketball program would be a dream pick-up for any conference.

But realignment is and always has been about football. So the eyes from outside world will likely look past Allen Fieldhouse to what unfolds at the base of Campanile hill this fall.

Even if simply supporting Leipold and the program is not enough to get you out, there are other good reasons for KU fans to come out this fall.

A big one on that list is the opportunity to show and tell Oklahoma exactly how you feel about their decision to leave the conference.

The Sooners are going to get a lot of that this season — and maybe a few bad whistles, too — and KU fans will be missing out big time if they let the point spread of that Oct. 23 contest keep them from letting OU hear it.

When was the last time the Sooners came to Lawrence and experienced a hostile environment? It’s been a minute. Maybe it’ll help.

Besides, KU plays at Texas this season (on Nov. 13), so if the 2021 season winds up being the last go around in the Big 12 for those two football powerhouses, this could be your only chance to say thanks for everything and wish them well. Eye roll.

The rest of the reasons to show up this fall are all about supporting Leipold, new athletic director Travis Goff, the KU players and the program and culture they’re trying to build.

That reason has been in place every year, but there’s more at stake this time around. People are watching. It's not that game attendance will play any real role in any realignment negotiations, more that the optics of looking like a university that gives a damn about football could help and that continuing to show the opposite might hurt.

If KU fans want their basketball program to do battle with the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois in the Big Ten or want to do their part to help ensure that KU remains in a power conference, their showing at football games this fall could play a part in making that happen.

It’s show-up-now-or-stay-quiet-later time for Kansas fans.

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VIDEO: Jayhawks describe team identity heading into 2021 Kansas football season

Kansas players get stretched out for practice on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas players get stretched out for practice on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Because there's a new coach, a new philosophy and a new focus for the Kansas football program under first-year coach Lance Leipold, finding out what the team is all about, from the players who have built it, seemed like a worthwhile activity during Tuesday's media day.

With that in mind, I checked in with 15 of the 25 players KU made available at this year's media day to get their thoughts on the identity of this team as the Sept. 3 season opener draws near.

There were several different answers that covered everything from offense, defense, culture and mentality.

The overall theme of the answers was not so much that things are going to be different this year (a refrain that KU fans have heard over and over during the past 10 or so seasons), but that this group understands that it's the little details and team chemistry and camaraderie that will take this group where it wants to go.

We won't know how fast they'll get there or even if they'll get there under the new regime. But this group, from the coaches down to the players, is not shy on confidence, conviction and the desire and willingness to put in all the work they can to try to make it happen.

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