Column: Kansas football long way away

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The vastly entertaining theater that has unfolded in bowl games, especially on New Year’s Day, hammered home a point that already should have been obvious. Kansas University is so, so far away from fielding a competitive football program.

One team after another featured quarterbacks who made defenses skittish with their running ability. High-speed, punishing blows delivered by so many kickoff coverage teams threatened to wear out the material on the arms of recliners across America. Big, fast pass-rushers flew off the edges to bury quarterbacks. Kickers made field goals.

Offensive lines built by high school recruits who made themselves ready through years of weight-room sweat opened huge holes.

The players looked so much bigger, faster and stronger than most who will start next season for Kansas.

Many teams that dominated Kansas were on the other end of the beatings in bowl games. The Big 12 went 2-5 in bowls and KU played its two most impressive games vs. the Big 12’s two winners, losing to Oklahoma State 27-20 and to TCU 34-30. The conference’s five schools that lost bowl games did so by an average of 40-25. KU lost to all five by an average of 42-10.

Arkansas absolutely manhandled Texas, 31-7, in much the same way as the Longhorns had their way with Kansas, 23-0. Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine repeatedly ran away from the Jayhawks with an NCAA-record 427 yards and five touchdowns in OU’s 44-7 slaughter. Clemson handled the Sooners, 40-6, despite 134 yards from Perine.

Complicating matters for new KU coach David Beaty, the NCAA yearly scholarship limit of 25 means his first roster likely will have at least 10 fewer scholarship players than the 85 allowed.

Mix in receiver Nigel King’s decision to make himself eligible for the NFL draft and the departure of seniors Nick Harwell, Jimmay Mundine and Tony Pierson from the offense and Ben Heeney, Dexter McDonald, Michael Reynolds, Jacorey Shepherd and Keon Stowers from the defense and Trevor Pardula and Justin McCay from special teams and it becomes difficult to imagine KU not getting worse before it improves.

Stemming the recent attendance decline represents quite a challenge. KU’s attendance was down 10 percent in 2014 to an average of 34,077. The only lower power-five conference schools: Washington State (30,794), Duke (27,291) and Wake Forest (27,210).

Beaty’s discipline to resist parting from his stated goal of building with high school talent faces a tough test, but it’s the only way to go.