Sunday, September 17, 2017


Tom Keegan: Big 12 armed to exploit KU’s young, vulnerable secondary

Southeast Missouri wide receiver Trevon Billington (14) pulls in a touchdown catch before Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor (8) during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.

Southeast Missouri wide receiver Trevon Billington (14) pulls in a touchdown catch before Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor (8) during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 at Memorial Stadium.


A couple of Kansas offensive linemen weren’t cutting it, second-stringers were promoted and they performed well in the 42-30 loss to Ohio, KU's 42nd consecutive road setback.

If only the defense could hope for the same from its beleaguered secondary.

Not likely to happen.

None of the seven safeties (two walk-ons) on the roster had a down of college experience at the position heading into the 2016 season.

Sophomores Bryce Torneden and Mike Lee start and Tyrone Miller and Emmanuel Moore, a wide receiver until the final couple of weeks of last season, back them up.

Starting nickelback Derrick Neal, a receiver for much of his career, is the lone senior among 18 defensive backs on the roster.

Neal beat out sophomore Kyle Mayberry, so it’s conceivable that Mayberry could show enough to create a competition there.

But at cornerback, junior-college transfers Hasan Defense and Shakial Taylor quickly sprinted to the head of the class and nobody came close to pushing them throughout camp.

Both have been targeted with great success, particularly Taylor, by MAC quarterbacks the past two weeks. Juco transfers tend to have trouble adjusting as juniors and the good ones can show significant improvement as seniors, but that’s not going to do Kansas any good this season.

It all adds up to a long year for the secondary, and therefore the defense, even if the D-line starts to disrupt quarterbacks in a more consistent way than it has one-quarter of the way through the season. Kansas has two sacks so far, one from Joe Dineen, the next from Daniel Wise.

As usual, the Big 12 is loaded with quarterbacks who know how to exploit inexperienced, vulnerable defensive backs.

West Virginia’s Will Grier, a Florida transfer, leads the Mountaineers into Memorial Stadium on Saturday. He’s averaging 342.3 passing yards per game with 11 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Killer numbers, but he only ranks fourth in the conference in passing efficiency, behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (348.7-10-0), Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek (463.5-9-0), Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph (378.3-11-1) and just ahead of Iowa State’s Jacob Park (311.7-8-2).

KU’s Peyton Bender needs to throw balls away instead of taking so many sacks and must reduce his interceptions, but he does put pressure on defenses. Bender (343.3-6-5) ranks eighth in the Big 12 in passing efficiency.

Even if Bender continues to throw for big yardage and plays cleaner games, it’s going to be tough for Kansas to compete in the Big 12 without a significant upgrade in the secondary. It’s difficult to foresee that coming this season. This isn’t the NFL. You can’t claim anybody off the waiver wire.


Ashwin Rao 5 years ago

Isn't it concerning that we have not recruited with Big12 in mind? It is sad that both aspects of our game (offense & defense) need major overhaul, 3 years into Beaty's term. It can't be that we are the worst school in the US to not be able to compete against likes of Southeast Missouri state & Central Michigan to get better recruits!

Ashwin Rao 5 years ago

Just curious, why is still pointing to last year for everything except #kufball? Fresh sites are there (just need to replace 2016 with 2017 in URL... so this needs to be fixed.) I had to use this blog post because I didn't see a private "Message" or "contact us" to privately notify.

Ashwin Rao 5 years ago

I meant #kubball is the only one that is current.

Edward Daub 5 years ago

I always thought that KU should have tried Cozart at Free Safety (Congrats to Montell on his Boise State QB Promise). After going to the Ohio Game, yes, we are struggling in man to man coverage. But, they also ran the ball well.

KU plays what appears to be a very basic defense, "Vanilla" comes to mind. 4 DL , 2 LB , and a Nickel in the Secondary. The Options do appear to be limited, going to a "Dime" 6 DB's is not practical, what go to 3 DL? Some more creative blitz packages might help. Or why not scrap the man to man coverage and go strictly with a Zone secondary defense?

There is no waiver wire, but KU also has the option to move Offensive players (wideouts, RB's, QB's) to Defense. Charlot comes to mind, he stood on the sidelines Sat in Athens.

I am packing my bags to head for Lawrence for the WVU Game (maybe cause I am headed to COLO?). I hope some of my old Lawrence friends will go the game, they have stopped buying season tickets. Rock Chalk!

Joe Ross 5 years ago

I wish someone would talk to Cozart and ascertain his take on player development, coaching, practice, preparation, etc.

Make the call, Tom.

Joe Ross 5 years ago

I mean comparatively speaking (Kansas vs. Boise St.).

Andy Godwin 5 years ago

Likely to be a very ugly game if you are rooting for KU. It will be very difficult to do much different, like getting pressure on the QB with blitzes, given that man to man coverage by DB has shown to be problematic. If the DB's continue to line up 10 to 12 yards off their receivers and then continue to miss tackles in open spaces, then the score differential will only get wider. Maybe once in a while try to knock a receiver off their route by pressing at the line of scrimmage. Not sure it could be much worse, than letting them easily catch the ball and then hoping the KU players can make a tackle in the open field.

Chris DeWeese 5 years ago

I wonder if Beaty is a little soft on defense. I'd have to check, but it seems like most of his recruiting centers around WRs and other offensive skill positions.

Robert Brock 5 years ago

After Saturday's game it will be Bye-bye Bowen.

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

I've done some thinking the past few days and I've come to the conclusion that one of these things should (in my opinion) happen.

1.) Beaty obviously needs time to fix the program, and a lot more time than we thought. Instead of 5 years, I think he realistically needs to be on a 10 year plan. He inherited less than 60 scholarships and had zero head coaching experience coming into it. Until he can get to a full 85 scholarship roster we can't expect him to beat quality FBS teams. Also, Bowen needs to be let go or step down. Let Beaty find a proven DC. He needs someone he can trust to put a respectable product on the field week in and week out. But the problem with this option is are people willing to give him the time to do that? With the what this program has been through since Mangino was let go, I highly doubt that.

2.) Clear the cubbard (Zenger, all Coaches) and start over fresh with a coach that has proven to rebuild a program. A few things would need to happen with this. First, we need to find a coach that fits that bill. I'm thinking a guy like Art Briles even with his checkered past. Second, Girod will need to take the reigns on the new renovation project and make it his absolute number 1 priority. Lastly, whoever comes in as coach they need to be able to keep the guys we have with having the ability to bring in new guys on a quick turnaround. This is a lot to ask but if a coaching move happens it needs to be without any hiccups as we can't afford anymore set backs.

At this point, the program is improving, but rather slowly. One thing that needs to be understood is conference realignment is right around the corner and we will be left in the dust unless we can rejuvenate the program immediately. I like Beaty, he's a great guy and if he came in with a full roster I think he'd be a fantastic coach, but it appears the timing was his biggest enemy. I know it's unrealistic to think Briles would coach here, but if we could get our hands on him I say pull the trigger. Who would you trust to save your life? A seasoned doctor or a doctor in their first year of residency?

Bryan Mohr 5 years ago A 10-year plan?

I'm all for the idea of Art Briles. He'd be a great choice.

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

Yea, 10 years is a lot. But if you think about it Beaty won't have a full roster until about year 5 or 6. That's if his recruiting efforts are consistent. Add another 4 years for the cycle to catch up where those players are then seniors. Seems ridiculous to give a coach that much time but it was ridiculous to only have 60 out of 85 scholarship players on the roster. And I don't mean 10 years to start winning, he should start winnng in between that time, but 10 years for the rebuilding to be complete and consistency to kick in. But as I also state we don't have that much time as conference realignment is around the corner.

David Kemp 5 years ago

Yeah I'm going to have to agree with you there!

John Brazelton 5 years ago

Everyone today demands immediate results. For everyone who is calling for the firing of the AD and all football coaches, you following the tradition that has made KU football the doormat of the Big 12. Every time KU has had a good coach in the past (i.e. Rogers, Mason, Mangino), they either left as soon as they had a winning record or they were fired. A coach who shows improvement needs 5 years to turn a program around, nothing less. We finally have decent 1st string players, but little depth. As for everyone's comments, why would any 4 or 5-star player or even a highly rated 3-star athlete want to come to KU and play football after reading all these post-article comments. If you are truly loyal KU football fans, a reader wouldn't know it from your poison pen comments.

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

I'd be more concerned that a 4 or 5 star recruit is reading comments from a rather small sample size of KU fans and taking it to heart. Let's be honest, not many, if any people take what any of us say seriously. We are not experts, we are not geniuses, and we are not in a place to make any decisions within the program. Most of us are simply giving opinions and letting out our frustrations. I say most because there are a few posters who are so full of delusion that their posts do not qualify as opinion but more accurately defined as nonsense.

Brett McCabe 5 years ago

Brazelton, the 5-year window is a myth. Snyder, Mason and Mangino all showed substantial improvement by year three.

And ten years? A complete joke.

What has Beaty or Zenger done for KU football to suggest they deserve another day, let alone another 7+ years? It's ludicrous.

Mark Bowers 5 years ago

John do you really think that these comments keep any kid from coming here? Honestly, our record sucks but these comments are what's hurting the program? The people that you're trying to protect or give excuses for are big boys and signed up for this! Results are the name of the game, and our results suck! Please get off the idea that comments are hurting the football program, they're not! It 's the product on the field that's hurting the future of the football program and school. the whole idea that people need to be patient and give someone forever and a day makes no sense. If you want another 7 yrs for Beaty to figure it out, I'd suggest following his progress at his next stop.

Bob Bailey 5 years ago

Don't fire all the position coaches! Some are pretty good, But our AD,HC, DC are abominable. They don't know How To Use what we've got! Whether the OC is any good, remains to be seen. I believe the position coaches are doing what they are allowed to do! Given a better HC maybe they would be right in line.

Layne Pierce 5 years ago

Strangely Nebraska is having a rocky time of it too, and what about Tennessee. Fact is we are not ready for prime time, so stop acting like it. We need to maximize the players we have, create an offense for them. Personally, I believe Bender has a better arm than Stanley, but Stanley can do more things, and we do not have an offensive line suited for his style of play. We need something that makes it easier for the offensive line, and we need to switch up occationally to 3 DL 4 LB, and once in awhile for the fun of it blitz. Let's use the clock to make the game shorter, keep the defense fresher, and for God's sake at least keep the game competitive longer. We might as well use bump and run because we have no pass rush, and we can't cover straight up, our zone sucks, so try something else.

I'm tired of always talking about firing coaches. At some point we have to ask ourselves, what is really rotten in Denmark? All we have to do is score 28 and hold them to 27.

Bryan Mohr 5 years ago

"All we have to do is score 28 and hold them to 27". It's easier said than done. We couldn't hold CMU or Ohio to that. Maybe against Baylor... maybe.

Team scoring per game: OSU 54.0 TT 54.0 TCU 49.0 OU 47.7 WVU 46.3 ISU 41.3 UT 40.3 KSU 39.0 KU 31.7 Baylor 25.0

Team Scoring Defense per game: OU 12.3 KSU 13.3 TCU 14.3 OSU 17.3 WVU 22.3 UT 26.0 ISU 27.3 TT 27.5 Baylor 33.0 KU 34.3

Austin Lopez 5 years ago

All the defensive blames goes on Client Bowen, he has been with Kansas on the defensive side of the ball for many years. Which means he has had a lot of time to get the DBs and Safeties he needs to be competitive in Big12 play. I don't think he has the ability to developed talent! Out of all the DBs/FS/SS we have you mean to tell me we don't have ONE quality starter. All I have been seeing is our secondary getting burned by MAC talents! No disrespect intended to the MAC kids but come on Kansas you are a Big12 school!!! Kansas has decent players it's just our coaches don't know how to 1. Develope or 2. Put players in position to be successful on the field. Boise has had Montell Cozart for how many months? And boy does he look great on the field for the Broncos!

Mike Nicco 5 years ago

It's tough watching Montell play better for a different coach and team. It begs the question, can a coach put his players in a scheme or system to utilize and maximize their talents or can he just coach a system?

Chris DeWeese 5 years ago

Chip Kelly? Kevin Sumlin? Les Miles? Ed Warriner? Brent Venables? Anyone? Anyone?

Jerry Walker 5 years ago

"why would any 4 or 5-star player or even a highly rated 3-star athlete want to come to KU and play football" -- John Brazelton

While we're not in a position to reap a bundle of 4/5 star players - we should clobber many other schools in the scrap for 3 star guys (especially conferences like the MAC).

Why? Discounting the cosmetics of Memorial Stadium we have facilities that rank with the best of them. Those coachable 3star guys can come here and be treated like studs, playing for a Power 5-D1 program - even without big time credentials. Top flight weight room, medical staff, and practice facilities. Those are some of the reasons.

Dirk Medema 5 years ago

It is amazing. Everyone that has been paying attention at all knows we are still a couple years away from having a full roster much less a Competitive P5 roster. The article shows how the coaches have manipulated the roster to convert the excess WRs into DBs but we are still woefully exposed back there. It also shouldn't be a news flash that we lost 4 of 5 DBs from last year with little depth developed. That isn't the fault of the coaches. It is what happens when a program cycles through coaches and ends up with an FCS 55 player roster. Changing that lack of depth isn't going to happen overnight or even in 4 years because it takes more than 1, 2, 3, 4, or even 11 players on each side of the ball to be truly competitive.

Go ahead. Switch AD, HC (the assistants go with him regardless) and repeat the cycle of futility.

Brett McCabe 5 years ago

Or get the program going in the right direction. A good coach could take this team next year and make it competitive, and actually build a real program.

In the third year of the program, we should be better. We aren't. No excuses.

Dirk Medema 5 years ago

Or a good coach - does a good coach exists who is actually interested in coming to KU given our history of canning coaches trying to patch up the past failures?

Or a good coach could be back to 20 players short of a full roster when players defect resulting in the revise storyline of needing at least 3 years to get back to a full roster.

Or a good coach in the realm of altered reality could sprinkle pixie dust on the players, or some other fairy tail nonsense.

The unfortunate reality is that we are still 10-15% short of a full roster, much less a full roster that has had 2-3 years to develop from 3* recruits with potential into college players.

It's interesting to see what has happened to mighty Baylor when they went from Big12 leader to back of the pack. Amazing correlation to the other team that is working with a short roster, but I'm sure they'll find some pixie dust as well.

Ashwin Rao 5 years ago

Let us not talk P5... let us beat MAC teams first! We have not shown that ability yet!.

Bryan Mohr 5 years ago

Well, I guess Bill Snyder is a miracle worker then. He took a pitiful KSU program and won 5 games in year 2, and won 7 games in year 3. Mangino won 6 games year 2, and 4 in year 3. Paul Johnson won 2 in year 1 and 8 in year 2 taking over a bad Navy program. How is that possible? All the chatter about needing 5 to 10 years just isn't so. What justifies Zenger firing Gill and Weis so soon then? To quote Zenger, "Lack of on-field progress" and "I have concluded that new leadership is necessary to place us on the path toward competing for championships in the Big 12 Conference". Rhode Island, an FCS program, played CMU into over-time at CMU. KU loses by 18 to the same CMU team in Lawrence in Beaty's 3rd year? I'm not going to accept these excuses of Beaty needing 5 to 10 years. It's simply false. Jeff Brohm took over a struggling Purdue program and beat Ohio in his first season... by 23 points (same Ohio team we just lost to). I'm sure someone is going to give some excuse why Snyder, Mangino, Johnson, and Brohm were able to win and why Beaty's situation is different. There is something different. Figure it out.

Austin Lopez 5 years ago

Bryan thanks for stating the facts!

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

I understand where you're coming from 100%. I wanted wins to start last year. And when I say 10 years I'm just saying I think that's how long it will take Beaty to go from 60 scholarships to 85, and then to start creating a respectable program. If you read the rest of my comment it also states we don't have 10 years to give. We need wins asap and for the sake of conference realignment which won't just effect our football program, but it'll effect all of our sports which effects overall revenue. If our football program doesn't find a way out of the abyss, it's bedtime.

Austin Lopez 5 years ago

I'm not trying to be mean but why are you so obsessed with this conference realignment coming soon?

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

It's okay I understand. But I'm so "obsessed" with it because it's a real possibility. The Grant of Rights contract for the Big 12 expires in 2025, if I remember right, and that's what keeps the conference together. After that, many things could happen, that if KU doesn't have their football program at a respectable point, they will be on the outside looking in. They were near last in the Big 12 for football revenue and they don't show any promise of fixing that any time soon. And 2025 seems far away, but in reality it's not. KU doesn't just have to be respectable by then, they have to have a steady increased revenue for at least 5 years before the contract ends to show they are more than capable of generating revenues to help support the conference. So that changes 2025 to 2020. That's only 3 years from now. Their basketball program simply can't do it alone. And our main concern is if Texas and OU decide to leave, because Texas will likely take Tech and TCU with them, and then OU will take OSU, all of which are schools that have a much higher football revenue than KU. That's half of the Big 12's 10 schools. Again, I'm not saying it's going to happen because it appears the conference is making a ton of money and so are the schools, but if it did I would prefer KU be in a position to choose where they go as opposed to landing with whoever takes them.

Austin Lopez 5 years ago

If Texas and Oklahoma leave it's not secret the Big12 is dead but long as Texas stay put the Big12 is safe even though the PAC12 want the Longhorns bad. But the Longhorns are pampered so much by the BIG12 It would be difficult to pick Texas away unless they want to lose the Longhorn network and all that revenue split they receive from the Big12. If the Big12 wants to sleep with no worries it;s obvious they have to pick another big program from another conference. Target Clemson and Florida State, or even a Arizona/Arizona state, South Florida wouldn't be a bad get either And it is the Big12 fault for where they are now passing up on Louisville for West Virginia, Instead they should of accepted the Cardinals also.

Austin Lopez 5 years ago

Also everyone remember Montell Cozart offered to switch to Safety but the coaches declined. Montell Cozart was athletic and I think playing safety was his calling but the coaches passed up on his offer, now look what we are stuck with.

Michael Sillman 5 years ago

One absolute truth that I believe is that you don't change a head coach in the middle of the season unless he has lost the respect of his players. As of this point I don't see sign of that taking place.

Firing the AD in the middle of the football season could poison recruiting for next year so I would wait until basketball season to do that. A new athletic director would want to look things over as to available coaches before pulling the plug on a coach anyway. I could envision a new AD sticking with Beaty for another season to show his patience and increase his chances of getting a great hire.

In the meantime I am happy to see that the players and coaches are continuing to saw wood. Only the fans have the luxury of cutting and running when things get dark.

Now that it is apparent that the defensive backfield is extremely vulnerable, we'll see whether the coaches can make adjustments to cover the weakness. I'm thinking more blitzes or dropping into coverage with more linebackers. If the defensive coaches can't make some improvements, then they may deserve to be fired.

My final comment is that I rest easy knowing that Kansas will never be left out of realignment. If a losing football team is a criteria, then half of the Power 5 conference teams will have to move to the MAC.

John Fitzgerald 5 years ago

KU is ranked 113 out of 130 schools at the moment, so only 17 schools are worse then they are. And none of them are not in a Power 5 conference. I don't mean to sound paranoid but if there is a possibility of a conference realignment we aren't exactly an attractive option when it comes to football, which is the largest revenue generating sport in College sports.

Jerry Walker 5 years ago

" Kansas will never be left out of realignment. If a losing football team is a criteria" -- Michael Sillman

Kansas BB and it's secondary sports will carry the day in any realignment -- and the other teams (regardless of their public statements) would welcome a pushover in the conference football schedule.

Dirk Medema 5 years ago

Bryan - There are a couple big differences between the coaches you mentioned and our reality.

  1. I'm pretty sure none of them started with a 55 man roster. Huge difference. That is an FCS roster.

  2. Scheduling. Those were days when you had 8 conference (challenging) games and 4 non-conference games which were open to the coaches decision on how challenging they should be. If you think back you might recall the phrase "cupcake schedule" being a creation from manhatten football and briles rode it as well. Both also complained when their programs were given lesser bowl games. It was not long ago that grampa was still scheduling 2 FCS teams. Today we are criticized for even scheduling 1.

Significant differences if you care to give any depth of consideration. The alternative is to join TKs knee jerk wagon team. Hopefully our leadership is more thoughtful than that.

Mark Bowers 5 years ago

When I think of Beaty, Bowen, & Zenger I'm reminded of what insanity means. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. It's not a knee jerk reaction when progress has stalled or completely stopped. Even if everything you say is true, it doesn't mean squat if people stop caring about the program and don't show up to the games.

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