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Upgraded roster just one part of the ongoing culture change taking place within the Kansas football program

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Kansas sophomore cornerback Shaad Dabney (16) during the first day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022.

Kansas sophomore cornerback Shaad Dabney (16) during the first day of practice on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2022. by Chance Parker/Journal-World photo

For the entirety of the 16 months since he took the head coaching job at Kansas, Lance Leipold and many around him have talked about changing the culture of Kansas football.

Thanks to a couple of his comments at Wednesday’s annual media day, we now know what at least part of that process looks like.

Early on in his 25-minute news conference at Mrkonic Auditorium, Leipold was asked how returning players who were “recruited over” had responded to that challenge and their new reality. Specifically, the question mentioned running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. and linebacker Taiwan Berryhill, both third-year players in the program.

After raising his eyebrows in reaction, Leipold cut the question short and asked, “How did you word that?” When the phrase “recruited over” was repeated, Leipold listed off a bunch of reasons why that was not the case and is not the idea.

“Nobody got recruited over,” he said. “Guys got recruited to help make this roster better. I want to make sure we understand that. And when those guys are recruited, they’re coming in here to compete. Nobody was promised anything.”

Furthermore, defensive coordinator Brian Borland said the need to upgrade the talent on the roster from Year 1 to Year 2 was not exactly a secret.

“We all know that we need to improve our team and we need to improve it in every way,” Borland said Wednesday. “And one of those ways is just the quality of players at every position. I think everybody’s embraced that and I’m really happy about that.”

The concept of earning it has been kicked around at Kansas for a long time now — so much so that it even became mocked in some circles. But with this coaching staff, and for this group of players, the idea of earning what they get is about more than just playing time.

It’s about time and attention from the coaches. It’s about respect from their teammates. It’s about support from the fans. And, ultimately, they hope and believe it will be about wins.

Leipold said he did not mean to sound defensive when responding to the question on Wednesday. But he also noted that the concept of recruiting being used to replace inferior talent was “part of the mentality that we have to keep changing, inside our program and outside our program.”

As much as recruiting is a never-ending process, it’s not always the only answer. Player development is a key part of any successful program, and Leipold and his staff want the culture of Kansas football in the future to be as much about guys getting better after arriving as it is about better guys coming through the door.

Regarding Hishaw, who Leipold said has had as good a camp as anybody, Leipold said it was ludicrous to think that just because he was here or just because Devin Neal was entrenched as KU’s starter that the coaching staff would not go out and try to add the best running backs it possibly could.

Doing that, and not limiting the pool of talent from which they could pick, led to KU landing Minnesota transfer Ky Thomas, who is expected to play a key role for the Jayhawks this fall.

“Premier programs in college football keep recruiting. Why wouldn’t we do the same,” Leipold asked.

They obviously are. KU’s 12-man transfer class which was ranked in the top 25 nationally by some outlets, is expected to make an immediate impact.

While adding that many new faces invites the potential for some of the returning players to feel like they’re being pushed out, Leipold and his assistants said Wednesday that had not been the case.

“I think all of us would feel a bit of a threat,” Borland said. “But we’ve really tried to help guys see it differently and we have not had those kinds of issues. We don’t have guys here that are bitter or resentful or going against the flow because of that.”

Added Leipold: “If you don’t like competition, I don’t know if Power 5 football’s for you, or college football in general.”

One thing working in KU’s favor here is that many of the newcomers sensed that would not be an issue.

Defensive back Monte’ McGary, a super-senior cornerback from Utah State, said his first impression of the culture at Kansas was that it was rooted in urgency.

“Guys didn’t want to sit around and wait,” McGary said Wednesday. “It’s a sense of urgency, but it’s also take action. Don’t just talk about it, actually be about it. Even on the little things. I kind of felt that as soon as I walked in.”

It remains to be seen how successful this coaching staff will be in its quest to change the culture at Kansas and get the program back on the winning track.

But one thing is already known. The coaches are not going to change who they are or what they believe in to make players of any age or experience level feel more comfortable.

The fact that Leipold and company already have inspired 100-plus players to embrace that says a lot about the culture change that already has taken place.

Comments

Dale Rogers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Kind of off topic.... Is there a pronunciation guide for first and last name for all players on the roster? And some of the coaches, too!

Matt Tait 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Good question. There usually is something on game days for the broadcasters. Not finding anything on their site right now. But ask away and I'll help you here for now...

Dale Rogers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Will hang on to this article and compile a list later. Not sure it will be today. Wife is in the hospital so spending much of my time there.

Dale Rogers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Going through the roster, there are fewer than I expected. Some are a matter of how the vowel is pronounced, like "Puni. Is it Pooh' nee, or Puny. Others might be on which syllable is the emphasis.

Kai Kunz

Kenrick Osei-Bonsu

Owen Piepergerdes

Mack Moeller

Kael Farkes

Nolan Gorczyca

Dominick Puni

Deondre Doiron

Taiwo Onatolu (this one may be the obvious?)

Len Shaffer 1 month, 2 weeks ago

When are you guys going to put in schedule for THIS year, including TV listings? We went through this last year, and I don't understand why we have to wait until the last minute to get an updated schedule.

I also emphasize what I've mentioned a few times before: PLEASE change the format back to showing mostly headings and upcoming games at the top right instead of having a HUGE picture at the top. And PLEASE change it so we can respond directly to posts again.

Matt Tait 1 month, 2 weeks ago

I'm not sure where you're looking, Len, but all of the things that you've mentioned here have been addressed.

Are you using the desktop site or mobile or what?

The schedule was updated a few weeks ago. Here's the link.

https://www2.kusports.com/schedules/football/2022-kansas-football/kansas/

We can't do TV listings yet because, other than the first couple of games, those are determined by the Big 12 a week prior to kickoff.

As for responding directly to comments again, the reply function has been fixed for months.

Let me know where you're viewing the content and maybe we can help you more.

Richard Wade 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Matt - I access kusports,com through my laptop at home and the site goes to the mobile site. I have never accessed the site through a mobile device. I have to go to the bottom of the page and click the "Desktop Site." Also you might want to know that the Facebook log in for comments isn't working. Thanks for all your hard work.

Joey Meyer 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Ah, thank you!

I've always read the paper from my desktop, but it defaults to the mobile site. That's what's pulling in the big picture, very very wide text (100% of screen width), and the lack of Reply options.

Going and clicking "Desktop Site" at the bottom resolves all of this. Way better, thanks guys!

On a side note, just a normal windows PC here with Google Chrome. Has been defaulting to the mobile site version for at least a few months now. Glad to get that cleared up today. - and thanks Matt and the team for your hard work on all this!

Matt Tait 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Thanks for hanging in there with us, you guys. That desktop trick is important and for some reason our content management system has been defaulting the page to the mobile site for a while now. We're on them to fix it permanently and, more importantly, are in the process of switching to a new CMS that will eliminate a lot of those issues and give the site a fresh look. I think you'll like it. Hoping we move over in the next month or two.

Dale Rogers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

When I go to my laptop after looking at the site on my phone, I see that same large picture, etc. I have to go to the bottom of the menu and choose "desktop."

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

TV listings aren’t decided until a couple weeks before each game. I think we know the first 3 at this time. The networks wait to see who is doing well and who’s not.

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

On the topic of upcoming games - obviously Tennessee Tech is first, but there’s not much out there about them. They got clobbered by Tennessee last year - their only fbs opponent, and still finished bad.

Looked to see what I could find about game 2 WVU. In one preseason preview, they completely overlooked our game. Not even mentioned. Right in between their backyard brawls against Pitt and VTech. I’m fine with them sleeping on us.

Hopefully, we play lots of players in game 1 to get everyone some game reps and the score is solid but not gaudy enough to draw attention.

Kent Broddle 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The front page of the mobile site links the football schedule to the 2021 schedule for me...

https://m.kusports.com/schedules/football/2021/kansas/

Len Shaffer 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Thanks Matt.

I'm using a laptop (a Mac), so perhaps that's the problem.

Brett McCabe 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The schedule link goes to 2021 for me. Desktop. Also on a Mac with Safari.

Brett McCabe 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Added Leipold: “If you don’t like competition, I don’t know if Power 5 football’s for you, or college football in general.”

This is the quote to me. And it comes from a guy who has coached at three levels of college football.

Looking back at the Weiss, Beaty and Miles eras, I always thought that their approaches were right but wrong at the same time. None of these coaches came with staffs, which meant that they were immediately behind the 8-ball in terms of recruiting. I felt that all three should have went heavy into the JUCO ranks on their first recruiting classes in order to bolster the rosters and buy time to add staff and set-up a true recruiting program.

Weis did this to some extent, but he didn't recruit JUCO's with 3-years eligibility. He also chased off a lot of guys on the roster, not because they were afraid of competition but because he belittled them.

Beaty waited until his last full year of recruiting, which hurt the roster for the future. And Miles had a very small first class due to recruiting limits.

Leipold, with a full staff and plenty of recruiting contacts, still took advantage of what was in front of him: new transfer rules which allowed them land a top-25 transfer class while starting to build their own recruiting pipeline for the future. I think Leipold will win here because he is smart, unlike the last three coaches we hired.

Doug Roberts 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Wow, how can any player, especially on a perennially bad team, be offended by adding more talented players?! The LAST thing anybody in this program should feel is entitlement.

Doug Roberts 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Also, I get the 2021 schedule as well on my android. Every once in awhile I'll get the giant picture front page, but learned to change the settings from desktop to mobile in the bottom left corner of the page.

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Brett - I would add that among other reasons, Wei’s failed because the majority of his recruits never made it to the field, and many never even made it to campus.

DB had plenty of reasons to be let go, but he did at least get his recruits to campus and most with more than 2 years of eligibility.

Coach Leipold definitely benefits from the end of the 25 player annual limit. It wouldn’t have been enough to correct the shortcomings of the previous coaches, including TG - the beginning of the spiral down, but the roster would definitely have been better. I think all the players we’ve added this spring (10?) were because that limit is eliminated.

Dale Rogers 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Can't recall the exact numbers but am thinking 19 transfers and 6 high schoolers. That's just 25. Did I miss some?

Dirk Medema 1 month, 2 weeks ago

Brett - That is a great quote. It embodies why I believe Coach will be successful. It challenges the players without demeaning them. I think it was Mrs Leipold that made the comment in the first article introducing the family. You go away from conversations with him feeling encouraged to do more.

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