Tuesday, August 6, 2019


Matt Tait: The optimist’s outlook on the 2019 KU football team

Newly-hired Kansas football coach Les Miles greets the Allen Fieldhouse crowd during halftime of the Jayhawks’ game against Stanford on Dec. 1, 2018.

Newly-hired Kansas football coach Les Miles greets the Allen Fieldhouse crowd during halftime of the Jayhawks’ game against Stanford on Dec. 1, 2018.


Editor's Note: With KU football’s preseason camp now under way and the start of the season less than four weeks out, it’s time to start sizing up how the Jayhawks will fare in 2019 under new head coach Les Miles. Yesterday, we brought you a look at the new era of Kansas football from the point of view of the pessimist. And today, we’ve flipped the script and are looking at things through the eyes of the optimists.

After a long offseason full of changes, Kansas fans are that much closer to learning the answer to the biggest question surrounding Les Miles’ football program: How good can the 2019 Jayhawks be?

Kansas fans have asked themselves that question every season for the better part of the last decade. The answer has often been less than satisfying.

But for the fourth time since 2010, KU is starting over with a new head coach and that alone is enough for some Kansas fans to feel optimistic about the season ahead.

After four rough and repetitive seasons under David Beaty, the program finally has new leadership and it certainly does not hurt that the personification of that leadership owns a national championship ring and, up a level, once chaired the College Football Playoff Committee.

Surely, by just adding Miles and KU Athletic Director Jeff Long, the program is in better shape and headed toward better days. Right?

But coaching is just one aspect of the game and it takes much more than a new approach at the top to deliver victories to Lawrence.

Not to worry, says the optimist. These Jayhawks actually have the type of talent on both sides of the ball to be competitive right away.

And it all starts with a man named Pooka Williams. In Williams, who earned all-Big 12 honors as a true freshman and a preseason all-Big 12 nod this summer, the Jayhawks have a player who is talented enough to play for a one-on-one against just about anybody in the country, can hold his own week in and week out.

Williams is talented enough to play in any backfield in the country, and the Jayhawks are lucky that their running game not only includes Williams, but also talented backs around him to keep him fresh and keep defenses guessing.

There are a couple of other reasons on offense to feel good about the new era of Kansas football, most notably an experienced and mature offensive line led by Hakeem Adeniji and a talent-rich group of pass catchers itching to break out.

Heck, new blood at quarterback in the form of Thomas MacVittie is also reason to get excited, even if we’ve never seen him play a down at Kansas.

We have seen the others who came before him play. And even though each of them had their moments, none of them proved to be consistent enough to elevate the offense. Maybe MacVittie won’t be either. But as of today, it’s at least a possibility. And sometimes new faces in key places are just what is needed for a turnaround.

If that proves true, that could be good news for the KU defense, as well.

With a front seven full of new names, it could be merely a matter of time until we discover the next Daniel Wise, Joe Dineen, Ben Heeney or Dorance Armstrong in crimson and blue.

And a strong and experienced secondary led by safeties Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden and a host of returning cornerbacks should help give those guys up front the time they need to find their footing and perform.

And then there’s the schedule. You can’t ask for two better games to open a new era than Indiana State and Coastal Carolina at home.

Indiana State is 16-28 in its past four seasons, including an 0-11 mark just two years ago.

Coastal Carolina is transitioning to a new head coach after six successful years under Joe Moglia, and the Chanticleers’ new head coach has never competed in the SEC or won a national title game.

Roll all of that into one big, juicy optimist’s burrito and dig in. There’s plenty of reason to believe that things are changing for the Jayhawks and that this is the year, after all of that waiting, that things are finally going to be different.


Eliott Reeder 3 years, 2 months ago

I prefer this outlook! I guess that makes me an optimist. Go Hawks!!!

Randy Bombardier 3 years, 2 months ago

Geez, some input needed for this to be truly the thoughts of an optimist. C'mon Matt. So we get two wins. Where's the rest of the article?

Michael Leiker 3 years, 2 months ago

Seems to tell you a lot about what Tait's thinking...

Eric Eakins 3 years, 2 months ago

I just posted this on the Pessimist article before seeing the Optimist so i will repost here.

How about a statistical approach. Every decade since 1950 we have had a minimum of one 7+ wins in a season. 1980's having only 1 season. Every other decade oscillating between 2 and 3 seasons of 7+ wins. This decade = 0. Law of averages says we are due. I'm not saying we are going to get 7 this year but we are past due and the history supports a rally every 10 years or so. I think what the stat means is KU admin/fans have a tolerance of 5-7 years before heads roll. A) this decade broke that mold in a bad way but eventually heads did roll. B) Instead of waiting for the reactive down cycle and being patient, it would be great to see a proactive long term strategy and lack of patience like we have with the basketball program.

Steven Haag 3 years, 2 months ago

It just means that there is not much to be optimistic about this year. I’m optimistic about our future, but it will take time. Beaty brought in some talent, but was not a good coach. Let’s see what Miles and his staff can do. The players themselves need to but in and bring effort and energy. Maybe year three we can be optimistic with flirting with a 500 record........maybe.....

Steven Haag 3 years, 2 months ago

It just means that there is not much to be optimistic about this year. I’m optimistic about our future, but it will take time. Beaty brought in some talent, but was not a good coach. Let’s see what Miles and his staff can do. The players themselves need to buy in and bring effort and energy. Maybe year three we can be optimistic with flirting with a 500 record........maybe.....

Dirk Medema 3 years, 2 months ago

The optimist’s view would also include the other 3 new head coaches all coming to Lawrence. Even the optimist isn’t expecting Ws against the top teams so we are helped by not wasting home games against those teams. The teams picked for the bottom are all home games. WVU also has the least experienced returning players and a new coach.

Brian Wilson 3 years, 2 months ago

I am optimistic for this year. All you naysayers and Matt. A good head coach: puts players into positions that they can play, learns what players like to do and do well and uses that information. A good head coach will take what was successful for their players in the past and keep the best of it, then add in some of what will be new in the future, and then add in plays that help cover our weaknesses. IMO HCLM is not what KU has had in the past. KU will be running plays that will help compensate for a porous OL and keep the defense off balance. And on defense he will adjust and fill the gaps. I really do expect 4 wins this year and wouldn't be surprised if it's even 5. it doesn't take too many mistakes, turnovers and a few beakout TD's to put a good team down and it can happen to anyone. I would think we will win at least one win that falls into that category.

Dirk Medema 3 years, 2 months ago

It seems that you are calling out Matt. Seems really uncalled for. There have been others that have beat that drum, but Matt has stayed around and been quite even keel and objective, which is saying something when he has to report on the longest bowless streak in college football (almost 2:1), and so many other streaks. We started breaking those streaks last year, but the program is still a work in progress. That's just fact without fabrication, and he's even been one of the writers bringing out the fact that disproved the fabrications of the real naysayers.

Hat tip to you Matt, and thank you.

David Robinett 3 years, 2 months ago

The coach will make all the difference. That combined with an experienced offensive line and I predict at least five wins.

Robert Brock 3 years, 2 months ago

We have good men on the case. Chancellor, AD, HC...eventually, there will be a lot of Ws. Patience.

Joseph Bullock 3 years, 2 months ago

I have said this before about this upcoming season- I expect 5, possibly 6 wins (can you say ‘Bowl Game’! I know people will laugh at this, but I have legitimate reasons for my outlook. Under Coach Beaty, we were so close, several times, but had some breakdowns/penalties that cost us big time. Coach Miles has even said that he inherited a lot of talent, and when you add in the new Coaches, and the new Recruits, to what we had come back, I’m expecting this season to surprise a lot of people-in a very good way! Rock Chalk!

Bryce Landon 3 years, 2 months ago

I'll believe it when the wins actually start piling up. But until then,


P.S. Not to rub it in - oh wait, yes I do! - but the Hawkeyes are considered a contender to win the Big 10 West!

Eliott Reeder 3 years, 2 months ago

nonfan #lamestcommentever #iowafan #pickaschoolalready #bandwagon

Chad Smith 3 years, 1 month ago

Bryce the Big Ten West is perhaps the most wide open division in all of college football. Iowa definitely has a shot. But so do Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern. I literally have no idea who's going to win it. Minnesota has the easiest schedule as they will not play Michigan, Michigan state or ohio state this season. Iowa has to play at Michigan, at Northwestern, at Wisconsin, and at Nebraska. If they win the division, they will definitely have earned it.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 2 months ago

Bryce, what’s with all the trolling? Are there no fan sites for Hawkeye football? You love KU basketball but troll KU football. I don’t get it. And your username, Jayhawk Unto Death. What’s up with that. You're quite the enigma.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 2 months ago

Dane, I believe the word you're looking for is "frontrunner."

Bee Bee 3 years, 2 months ago

I m not sure I O W A is the school to tout if you're a FRONT RUNNER. Just saying.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 2 months ago

A valid point. I should have said "fair-weather fan" instead.

John Fitzgerald 3 years, 2 months ago

Tait is very tame on his optimism. Can't say I blame him, though. It's been a rough decade.

Bryan Schmiedeler 3 years, 1 month ago

While the win-loss record is the ultimate way to judge a program, I am curious about what other indicators would make us "pessimistic" or "optimistic" about the new coaches and where this program is headed.

A new coach has to play the hand that was dealt him. He doesn't have control over attracting talent and recruitment, who is on the schedule, etc. That will come later.

But there are things that he can control that would give me an early indication of whether he knows what he is doing, or not.

  1. Preparation and teaching basic football skills. Do we have good fundamentals, can the guys tackle, block, etc. Every player at this level I would think is teachable, and if the staff cannot install fundamentals, then we have serious problems. Have we scouted the opponent so we have a game plan that gives us the best chance to win.

  2. Do the players quit or do they play hard until the end of the game? Do they continue to play hard and compete all the way to the end of the season?

  3. Can the coaches actually get the offensive and defensive plays called in time to give our guys a chance to be successful (that was infuriating with our last set of coaches)? Let's broaden this to, does the coaching staff do things that are obviously just plain dumb and are "unforced errors."

  4. Again this is one of my pet peeves about Beaty, can the coach pick a quarterback and stick with the guy long enough to let him get some confidence and rhythm? It wasn't like our opponents were desperately trying to figure out who would start at QB so they can game plan for that. All it did is hurt our own team. Let the players know you have enough confidence in the QB that you will actually announce it ahead of time. I can be less snarky I suppose and say, can they evaluate talent?

As an aside, before the Orange bowl season I was really upset that Mangino picked this unknown guy T Reising for quarterback and moved Meier to WR. I thought, he better know what the hell he is doing.

He did.

  1. Do the coaches make good half-time adjustments, and also make needed adjustments as the season goes on. This might sound in contradiction to #4, but it is not. I said "good" adjustments. Example - running the ball is not working so let's pass more or vice versa. We really have a weakness at this position, and we have an abundance of talent at this other position, can we move a player out of their natural position.

I am very curious what people think of this list. Are there things you disagree with, things you would add?

  1. Does the coach use the term "cat" when mentioning players, e.g. "Tony did a great job yesterday. That cat knows how to play."

I don't know why, but that always bothered me.

But the coach can do and say anything he wants if we go to a bowl game :).

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