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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Curb your enthusiasm: Jayhawks don’t want to play overexcited

The Jayhawks pack it in tight as they prepare to rush onto the field before kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

The Jayhawks pack it in tight as they prepare to rush onto the field before kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

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In the moments leading up to kickoff, particularly for a season opener, college football players try to harness any boosts in adrenaline, testosterone and general euphoria that accompany the pre-game buzz. If a hype meter could scan each player as he stepped on the field, it likely would register off the charts.

A year ago, in his first game as head coach at Kansas, David Beaty not only saw that first-hand, he had the medical numbers to back it up.

“We have heart monitors on our guys,” Beaty explained, “and we went back and looked at the data from pre-game last year in the first game, and the heart rates, it was phenomenal the difference. Even in our highest-rated heart monitor in practice, it was not even remotely close to what pre-game looked like, and those heart monitors tell us a lot.”

The Jayhawks’ eagerness certainly wasn’t the only factor in the outcome, but they ended up losing that home opener against South Dakota State, 41-38. Obviously KU’s players and coaches don’t want to experience such a disappointing outcome again on Saturday, when Year 2 under Beaty commences at Memorial Stadium versus Rhode Island (6 p.m. kickoff). Now that all involved have worked together longer, the head coach said the staff wants to “curb that enthusiasm just a little bit.”

An overzealous approach might have been unavoidable for many KU players this time last year, with so many entering the season lacking college football experience. Kansas used 39 first-time players a year ago, tying Florida State for the national lead. Likewise, KU eventually played 33 first-time starters in 2015, tying Central Florida for the most in FBS.

Then a sophomore, linebacker Joe Dineen remembers the anticipation he felt while waiting to take the field 12 months ago.

“I was nervous and high heart rate and all that stuff,” said Dineen, who started the first game of his career a week later. “I was probably a little bit too excited. I think this year, obviously I’ll be excited, but I’ll be more focused.”

As the season progressed, the junior linebacker added, players subdued their pre-game routines and trended more toward a focused approach than “a bunch of rah-rah stuff” the second half of the year.

After playing so many youngsters in what turned out to be a winless season, KU now returns most of its statistical leaders, so the Jayhawks expect fewer learning-through-experience impediments to overcome in the months ahead, even though the program remains in rebuilding mode. Dineen said players now know what to expect out of a typical Saturday and should take a more balanced method.

“Obviously you’re not gonna be down,” Dineen clarified, “but you want to keep a level head.”

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen wouldn’t mind seeing more deliberate tactics taken in pursuit against Rhode Island, either. A former KU defensive back, Bowen understands the tendency to get excited for an opener, leading to a player over-pursuing or abandoning the structure of a defensive call. The coach has seen it all before. Players get “illusions” that they can come up with heroic, game-changing plays. He just wants them to follow their assignments.

“Guys want to make plays. They want to be the guy that gets to jump up and down and celebrate — and they should. It’s about making plays,” Bowen said. “But it’s about making plays within the concept of what you’re supposed to be doing.”

As Beaty and his staff keep trying to build the program back up to respectability, he said coaches will continue to “go to school” on heart rate numbers and find the best ways for players to manage emotions or anxiety.

Bowen doesn’t think he has to worry about all of the Jayhawks being high-strung any more.

“I think with the older guys,” he said, “they know their plays will come when they’re supposed to.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 5 years, 11 months ago

"Kansas used 39 first-time players a year ago, tying Florida State for the national lead. Likewise, KU eventually played 33 first-time starters in 2015, tying Central Florida for the most in FBS."

A year ago was 2015, so was it 39 or 33?

David Leathers 5 years, 11 months ago

39 first time players*

33 first time starters*

I read it as 6 of the 39 didn't start at some point in the season.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 11 months ago

Exactly the way I read it, to it also David. ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

Jerry Walker 5 years, 11 months ago

Thinking before posting is usually a pretty good idea.

Micky Baker 5 years, 11 months ago

First-time players vs first-time starters.

Jeff Soisson 5 years, 11 months ago

Ah,

Go Fight, Go Fight Win!!!!!

Time for the bird to fly!!! This team is not happy, we have a great coach, I like it!! KU wins this one!

Mick Allen 5 years, 11 months ago

I certainly agree with Matt. The only thing that would be more embarrassing than lugging the goal posts to Potter's lake would be losing to the Rams,which will not occur.

Greg Ledom 5 years, 11 months ago

The 39 and 33 numbers still astound me as to how far Weis and Gill buried this KU football program. I gain more respect for Beaty day after day for even accepting this monumental challenge. Rock Chalk coach!!!

Mick Allen 5 years, 11 months ago

Obviously my earlier comment was responding to Matt's goal post article not Benton's article. My excuse, it's early.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 11 months ago

They are trying to build the structure of a real, first class college D-1 football program. We do not have the athletes to put into that structure yet that allows us to compete at the highest levels. But we never will unless you build and sustain the structure that will draw and attract them in large numbers over time.

Armen Kurdian 5 years, 11 months ago

KU cheer squad was featured on Fox & Friends this morning, ROCK CHALK!

David A. Smith 5 years, 11 months ago

Man....I keep looking at the photo of the players in uniform above, and think that those are the best looking uni's in college football. My only complaint is that I really wish we'd do away with the friendly Hawk. We need to stick with the angry Hawk for football.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 11 months ago

How about solid blue with no logo. Classic.

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