Toughness, teamwork common themes on David Beaty's coaching staff


Today marked the third time since 2010 that I've found myself in the position of having to walk into a room full of football coaches whom I did not know and explain to them that I planned to spend the next however many years covering and caring about just about everything they think, say and do when it comes to Kansas football.

Because I've done this so often, I kind of have it down. First impressions are important, so you want to be professional and respectful. But you also want to be confident. Above everything else, though, you want to make sure you don't assume familiarity. Few things outrage me as much as that and I try very hard to make sure I'm never the one doing the assuming.

So there I was, with my hand extended, my business card ready to pass out, and my questions ready for the new members of David Beaty's KU football staff ready to go.

There were eight of them who met with the local media for the first time on Wednesday and although I didn't quite make my way around the room to say to all of them, I saw enough of them to know that what I thought was an impressive staff on paper is even more impressive in person.

It's not their resumes or track records or accomplishments that make Beaty's boys impressive. It's the type of people they are. Like their head coach, they're energetic, engaging, friendly dudes who are here to coach football and have a little fun doing it. When I say fun, I'm not talking about the kind of get-togethers you see at the country club. These guys are serious about the business and even more serious about the challenge they've agreed to take on by joining the football program at KU. But they're not so stuffy that they're going to be relentless jerks in their pursuit of that, nor are they so naïve to think that it's going to be easy.

Each one of these guys — Rob Likens (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Zach Yenser (offensive line), Calvin Thibodeaux (defensive line), Klint Kubiak (wide receivers), Gary Hyman (special teams/tight ends), Kevin Kane (linebackers), Je'Ney Jackson (director of strength and conditioning) and Gene Wier (director of high school relations) — seems well aware of the monumental rebuilding task that's ahead, and rather than being intimidated or turned off by that, these guys seem to be gearing up for a fight.

The two common themes that bounced around throughout the room were toughness and teamwork. Nearly every coach I spoke with mentioned something about playing tough and coaching tough kids. The most notable such soundbite came from Kubiak, the 27-year-old wide receivers coach who told me that he wanted KU's wide receivers to be the toughest unit on the team and added, “And if they're not, they won't play.”

Then there was offensive line coach Zach Yenser, whose position group is tougher than most by nature, who said he was not at all intimidated about jumping into the wild and wide-open Big 12 Conference after dealing with all kinds of styles of offenses in the Pac-12. Again, though, Yenser was not cocky when talking about why he thought what he, Beaty, offensive coordinator Rob Likens and the rest of the offensive staff would bring to the KU offense, more confident in his belief that, with hard work and, of course, toughness, it would work.

Speaking of Likens, he listed the three things that he wants to see from the offensive players he puts on the field and toughness was included in the trio of traits: We want them to be fast, we want them to be tough and we want them to have great character, he said. And he added that the staff was not really willing to compromise or sacrifice in any of those areas.

All the words and talk in the world won't mean a thing for the results on the field. And, by now, it's quite clear that KU fans are not interested in hearing about how things will be better or different or new. They just want to see better football.

I get the sense that this staff, like Beaty and like Clint Bowen before him, gets that and is made up of a bunch of regular guys who are much more interested in working and finding ways to fix problems and create advantages than talking about how they'll do it or what needs to happen.

Time will tell if my read on these guys is right or wrong or if it'll make a difference. But given what I learned today about the personalities and make-up of the coaches in charge of bringing change to KU football, it seems like the program is starting over in a pretty good spot — for the long haul — and is backed a bunch of coaches who understand the challenges, are willing to embrace them and should be pretty easy to like.


Pete Hatcher 7 years, 10 months ago

I like everything I see and hear except for the black KU Charlie Weis polos.

Kevin Randell 7 years, 10 months ago

I really hope the coaches have some say on the designs, because Adidas has really struck out with their designs the past few years. I'm kind of curious as to what the uniforms will look like next season.

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree with Brett on the grey/blue uniforms. I also think the war hawk helmet was pretty sweet! But those chrome deals were heinous!!!

Jim Stauffer 7 years, 10 months ago

So, you guys are more concerned about the unis than the guys wearing them? C'mon, a bunch of grown men concerned about what their pants look like when they are going to a scrum on a muddy field trying to win a ballgame.

I understand the concept of looking good makes a guy feel good but all this stuff about uniforms is ridiculous. Have a home uni and a road uni that look good and represent the school well and go play.

James Baker 7 years, 10 months ago


I had to take about a five-minute breather after reading that marathon of a first sentence/paragraph.

Do you guys have editors at the LJW?

Matt Tait 7 years, 10 months ago

James - I'm glad you survived and were still able to comment. I'll let my editors know.

This blog was one of five things I wrote yesterday and I was just trying to get it up on the site as quickly as possible — before heading off to cover another event — so KU fans could hear/read a little more insight about the big meeting with the new staff. If I had more time, it might not have seemed quite as rushed, but I didn't. I'd rather get you the information/input than not, though.

Hope you still found the content useful. Have a great day!

Joe Joseph 7 years, 10 months ago

Another way to get in good with the new coaching staff is to write a bunch of really glowing, over-the-top positive stuff about them.

I get that there's not much reason to be critical at this time, but every time KU hires a new coach, or every time the season is fresh and new, the homerism sure seems to come out.

Matt Tait 7 years, 10 months ago

You call it homerism, I call it observing what's in front of me. Trust me, if these guys would've sat at the table and acted like arrogant punks yesterday, I would've written that. They didn't. I liked them. And I think it makes sense for them to want to make a good first impression, both with the media and the fans reading our stuff. That's all this was. Nobody is saying the program is saved or that they're going to win 9 games because of these guys. It'll take time. Don't read it if you're not interested in giving your time and merely want to see if they win or lose.

Fair warning: We sent four reporters to cover yesterday's event and will have much more about these coaches and those first impressions in the next several days. Proceed accordingly.

Thanks for the comment, though, and have a great day!

Lance Cheney 7 years, 10 months ago

Matt coming out with some fire! I like it!

Michael Sillman 7 years, 10 months ago


Do you know the number of scholarship players returning next year from the old team?

While I am asking for the moon, can you break it down by whether they will be seniors, juniors, and sophomores?

I think that info would really put the coaching challenge in perspective.

Matt Tait 7 years, 10 months ago

Hey Michael - I'm working on a larger piece that explains exactly that and more. They'll be about 7-10 guys short of the allowed 85 scholarship players and, not counting walk-ons or potential transfers, only 15 of them will be seniors who arrived on campus as scholarship players. Of those 15, eight are former juco transfers. Those facts point to it being a tough season in 2015.

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