Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Column: On paper, next year’s football roster looks worse


If you think the Kansas University football team lacks talent this season, wait until next year.

On paper, at least, the roster looks even worse.

Compare the 11 best seniors to the 11 best returning players, and it’s difficult not to reach the conclusion that the Jayhawks will face even longer odds in 2015.

Gone, in order of value to this season’s team: 1. Ben Heeney, 2. JaCorey Shepherd, 3. Dexter McDonald, 4. Michael Reynolds, 5. Jimmay Mundine, 6. Nick Harwell, 7. Keon Stowers, 8. Tony Pierson, 9. Ngalu Fusimalohi, 10. Mike Smithburg, 11. Trevor Pardula.

These 11 players with Div. I experience project as the best of the 2015 squad:

1. Corey Avery: The true freshman who at various times was offered scholarships by Ohio State, Texas and Nebraska has had to work hard for his yards, thanks to defenses loading up against the run. Still, he leads the team in rushing yards (417) and touchdowns (three) and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry.

2. De’Andre Mann: Quick and tough, the junior has rushed for 362 yards and averages 4.8 per carry.

3. Jake Love: He plays with the same crazed style as Heeney and although not as fast as Heeney does have good speed, which helps him compensate for below-average size for a linebacker. Solid player.

4. Isaiah Johnson: Junior safety has not matched performance of his sophomore season, when he was named Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

5. Andrew Bolton: Explosive defensive tackle has come on of late and has a chance to have a big senior season.

6. Michael Cummings: Not fast enough to turn the corner on runs, he has upgraded the offense since taking over at quarterback because he’s smart, decisive and throws an accurate-enough long ball to make the defense respect him as a passing threat.

7. Kent Taylor: Tight end came to KU from Florida with reputation as a talented pass-catcher not terribly interested in blocking.

8. Rodriguez Coleman: Wide receiver won’t get to showcase talent unless he avoids more disciplinary sanctions.

9. Fish Smithson: Safety’s instincts praised by interim coach Clint Bowen. So far, he has looked better against the run than pass.

10. Nigel King: Maryland transfer knows how to get open and plays a more physical style than most wide receivers.

11. Tevin Shaw: Hard-hitting nickel back makes plays, but needs to polish pass-coverage skills.

Clearly, Kansas can’t afford a third consecutive bad hire if it is to attain respectability this decade.


Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

With the help of Turner...Weis ran this program into the ground. The JUCO experiment failed miserably...and next year we will reap the full consequences of that. Most likely the next couple of years.

It starts with getting some studs on both sides of the line...preferably promising freshmen...that can develop within the system.

Jim Levitt and Phillip Montgomery are a couple of front running possibilities at head coach if they want the position. Both of these guys can bring a legitimate college level game plan into Lawrence that will bring consistent improvement...and bring back the fan base.

There are some other great options out there that Zenger will have to choose from. Perhaps some better options than he had 3 years ago.

Let's hope in time we can recover from this disaster started by Lew. It won't happen over night...but hopefully it doesn't take too long.

Al Martin 7 years, 11 months ago

"if they want the position" may be the operative phrase, and may have been during the last search, too. Through self inflicted wounds, we aren't that attractive a proposition right now.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Won't Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon be granted medical redshirts? If they do, that would be a nice lift on offense. I'm wondering why Hartzog isn't being worked in right now for next season? He's going to have to play next year unless we get a couple of other WRs in the rest of this class.

Tony Pierson should enroll as a graduate student so he can maybe play another year in this offense, if it doesn't change under the next coach. Then maybe Cummings can do the same thing the following season to add some much needed stability. There are some of these guys who are going to enter the draft like McDonald and Shepherd, so they for sure won't be back.

Whoever the next coach is, he's going to have to be committed and KU is going to have to be committed to letting him have at least 3 years to recruit the right kind of players. I really don't want any more transfers unless we do thorough checks on their character and if they are proven to have skills that can benefit this program.

If the next coach has the energy and commitment, there is no reason he can't be successful here, but it's not going to happen overnight. It's time to put the past where it belongs and stop dwelling on why we're here and start focusing on how we can get out of this rut. Do the things we can control, and the past is not one of those things.

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 11 months ago

Isn't this the third piece in about 3 weeks that Keeegan has written about how bad our roster will be next year? I get it already!

Al Martin 7 years, 11 months ago

Every year, Keegan gets bashed for being too negative, and every year his predictions turn out to have been too optimistic. It's an interesting dynamic we have here.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Every year he gets bashed for being too negative, then he gets bashed for being too optimistic. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Joe Ross 7 years, 11 months ago

Some of us didn't "bash" Keegan for being "negative". We objected on the basis of what we felt was an incomplete analysis. In retrospect, it appears that was a fair criticism, especially insofar as Montell Cozart was involved. However, I would add that the coaching had a lot to do with the poor performance of the team early in the season. With this article, I welcome Keegan's realistic evaluation.

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 11 months ago

Trust me, I'm not saying he's wrong, I just don't need to be any more depressed about the sad state of affairs two bad hires has left us with...

Bryce Landon 7 years, 11 months ago

So what will the result be next year? Instead of 2-10, are we going to go 0-12?

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 11 months ago

Most of the difference in the talent of the departing seniors and the returning players is experience.

And, of course, Keegan is making a very limited comparison. The kids who come off redshirt and some who have been backups this year are more talented than some of the seniors departing.

It's not all doom and gloom. The numbers and depth will be the greatest problem we face.

Which would you rather have, inexperienced players who have been coached well or experienced players who have not been coached properly for 2 years?

I look forward to next year.

Steve Corder 7 years, 11 months ago

I have no preference as to the next coach, nor do I know much about the prospects listed in prior pieces by the LJW staff, other than resumes filing up 2 lines of space. But I do like and appreciate the passion and energy of Clint Bowen, and in contrast to Charlie Weis, can understand why a coaching change was made.

I know those kids are working their butts off, and it pains me to see them come up short. Competitors never quit, regardless of the outcome, which is why I still hold out hope for them to win a game or two before the season ends.

AJ Cleland 7 years, 11 months ago

Jim Levitt and Phillip Montgomery are NOT a couple of front running possibilities at head coach. CLINT BOWEN is the front runner. It is his job to lose. He can recruit now. If Zenger wants to do the wrong thing and hire someone else, thereby destroying the beginnings of an awesome rebuilding job by Bowen, then KU football will sink deeper into the depths of the cfb abyss. Make Bowen HC now, let him recruit now, and stop wasting more time.

Rick McGowwan 7 years, 11 months ago

Okay, so you've hired CB and all is right in the world. Now, what other changes do you make? Who else on this staff stays and who goes? To think that Cholly was the only issue is naive. It is a complete effort by the staff, from top to bottom, and the results belong to everyone, not just the head coach.

I love CB's attitude and energy, but it isn't nearly enough to turn this thing around. We need someone proven at rebuilding or building programs. KU may as well be a start up at this point. We should treat it like it's our first year in football and build the program like we are UT-San Antonio. I don't think CB is the guy to do that. He might be the guy that gets the job though.

Kenneth Hillman 7 years, 11 months ago

Enough Keegan.

Try something positive on...

Chris Oestreich 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Keegan's article is negative just stating facts. I do believe that if Bowen is the man then lets get it done so he can begin the rebuilding process now. If the energy that has been generated in Coach Bowens first 3 weeks carry's over to the player development part of the program then next year may not be a total loss. Depth will be a problem until we recover from the JC failures that Coach Weiss had and that may take 3 or 4 years to over come. I say pull the trigger now if Clint Bowen is the man and then lets all settle in and give the guy 4 or 5 years to totally rebuild. We can not expect it to happen over night!!!

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't believe Zenger could hire Clint before the end of the season, even if the big boys give the o.k. It would look like we are not exploring all options. He must undergo an interview like everyone else and then if they are still wanting to hire him, pull the switch.

Brandon Mahon 7 years, 11 months ago

Jim I agree with you completely. I do not think Levitt should even be in the top 6 candidates with the baggage he would bring along with him. Also I like that Bowen has shown a lot of energy and commitment. I like him as staying at DC but I think there are more ready candidates but I think Clint needs to show more on the field. But there is no way you can already name him the head coach without taking a few phone calls and talking to some other candidates seeing what they offer and want to bring to KU.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

The only baggage that Leavitt would bring along with him is an attitude that would fire up this team against K-State. All three head coaches that came out from under Bill Snyder got fired in a period of 12 months. Then, Bill Snyder returned to coaching. Mike Leach was creaming K-State. Mangino was destroying them, then he came back. You think he might have been told to leave because of some issues over there?

Brandon Mahon 7 years, 11 months ago

My goal in finding a HC is to not only beat KSU but to be competitive everywhere. I understand him getting fired by KSU will light a fire for him, but every coach that would come here knows that KSU is our BIGGEST rivals and would want the teams fired up. Coaches like Warriner or Bowen because they have been around or a coach who has been in the B12 knows that. But I would rather take a KU team that competitive across the board, I am looking at the bigger picture not just KSU.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

Jim Leavitt was competitive every where at South Florida. He even beat us in Tampa in 2008. I'm looking at the bigger picture too.

In 2004, we broke the streak against Kansas State, and Snyder was head coach at K-State in 2004. Then in 2005 we broke the streak against Nebraska. That propelled this team into the Orange Bowl season two years later where we beat not just Kansas State in Manhattan, but Texas A&M in College Station, Oklahoma State in Stillwater and Colorado in Boulder. We throttled Baylor, Iowa State, and Nebraska. If we win that in-state rivalry, that propels the program against everyone else we play.

Sure, we made it to a bowl game in Mangino's second season, but we got throttled by NC State in that game. The thing Mangino brought to Kansas was that energy and the "can win attitude".

You named both Warriner and Bowen, who were parts of that success but it was Reagan who was here for the 2007 Orange Bowl season as well. Warriner is a long shot for the head coaching position at Kansas, but I do think he should be pursued.

K-State and Bill Snyder practice every week against the Kansas Jayhawks, and that propels them. When we beat them, they don't do well. When they beat us, we don't do well. It was the same in the early years at K-State for Snyder too. We dominated them for Glen Mason's first few years, then those matchups became close for a couple of years with K-State taking that advantage after they beat us two straight years and propelling them to a lot of successful seasons. When we beat K-State, we were bowling and winning bowl games. When we don't beat them, we don't go bowling most of the time.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 11 months ago

Mike Leach never coached at KSU, and Jim Leavitt is a Missouri alum. A Missouri alum leading KU football is not an easy sell.

W Keith Swinehart II 7 years, 11 months ago

Facts aren't the problem. It's how the facts are presented. Keegan typically presents a "glass half empty." His job is to promote the newspaper. "Negative" sells better.

I'd rather the LJW were trying to promote the football program. But that, apparently, doesn't sell newspapers.... although intelligently written and thoughtfully presented articles could also do the job, plus sell the program. It's just harder to do.

Robert Brock 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Keegan is being negative. In fact, I think he sugar-coats two huge problems: 1) KU will have NOBODY worth much on the OL and 2) the total number of Big 12-level football players on the entire squad will be remarkably low.

Bill Kackley 7 years, 11 months ago

Amen is right, my mother used to tell me that if you couldn't say something good don't say anything. So Keagan, shut up!

Doug Cramer 7 years, 11 months ago

LOL - so you preach positive in one hand...and the other you're telling Keegan to shut up. Kackley you're a piece of work my man.

Micky Baker 7 years, 11 months ago

You know what's funny is that you're trying to tell someone that they're a piece of work. Coming from you, it means nothing. Just saying.

Bill Kackley 7 years, 11 months ago

And you think Keagan is positive, just told him to say something nice or don't say anything

Marc Anthony 7 years, 11 months ago

"Clearly, Kansas can’t afford a third consecutive bad hire if it is to attain respectability this decade."

Now there's the pot calling the kettle black. You are firing a coach after 2 years knowing it takes much longer (normally 2-3 times as long) to turn a football team/program around... 'Hire a coach... no, fire the coach. Hire a coach... no, fire the coach.' 'Waiter, we'll have a pro-style offense... Waiter, no, make that a spread offense (it goes with our b-ball)... Waiter! Where's my order?... Let's go the service sucks. I'm taking my business elsewhere."

If you desire "...respectability this decade.", try taking a long introspective, objective look at who you are, what you want, and how long it will take, realistically.


Ethan Berger 7 years, 11 months ago

I'm a Bowen guy right now but what about Jack Del Rio? He got screwed in Jacksonville and his teams always played better than their talent. We have talent, its a matter of them being coached up. I want Clint as long as we go through the process and don't make a knee jerk reaction.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 11 months ago

Del Rio could be an option, but he has never coached at the college level in any capacity and I don't think KU can afford that risk with this hire.

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 11 months ago

  1. Heeney - Kyron Watson
  2. Shepherd - Davis, Neal
  3. McDonald - Boateng
  4. Reynolds - Olobia and others
  5. Mundine - Johnson and Taylor
  6. Harwell - Coleman, Hartzog, Butler
  7. Stowers - Holmes, D.J. Williams
  8. Pierson - Avery, Neal, Crawley
  9. Fusimalohi - Haughton, Gibson, Visinia
  10. Smithburg - Haughton, Gibson, Visinia
  11. Pardula - This will be the most difficult and yet the skill is the most common to find in existence among players.

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