LAWRENCE — There have been so many new twists to the Kansas football experience this season, it's getting hard to keep up with all of the changes.
The latest revelation? KU coach Turner Gill has enforced a no-cell phone policy on his players. The Jayhawks are to hand over their phones before they clock in the day before a game, and they'll get them in the locker room after the game.
"Everybody was kind of in shock," KU wide receiver Daymond Patterson said. "We hadn't had anything like that in the past years. (Gill) just feels like it's a business thing. He wants us to focus and be ready for the game and not be thinking about outside things."
Gill prides himself on his ability to communicate. He has commented on how he wants his players to get off their phones and talk to each other.
Considering Gill's commitment to keeping everybody on the same page, KU's disjointed efforts in two of three games this season should come as a shock. The Jayhawks are 1-2 and in dire need of a victory on Saturday against New Mexico State, and one of the reasons is poor communication.
Last week at Southern Mississippi, Kansas burned several timeouts because it couldn't get the play call to quarterback Jordan Webb in time. When KU got the ball in the final minutes trailing 31-16, it had no timeouts to aid a comeback attempt. In general, the Jayhawks didn't play with the same fast pace they utilized in the win over Georgia Tech because the coaches, sideline signal givers and players couldn't carry the same tune.
Gill acknowledged the issue early in his weekly news conference Tuesday by saying that one of the keys to improving his offense — ranked 103rd nationally at 296 yards per game — would be "more cohesiveness out of our play calling."
"From a coaches' standpoint, one thing we gotta do is make sure we get the play in fast enough," Gill said. "That's part of it. Number two, the people (on the sideline) that are giving the signals and the quarterback being able to receive it so there's not any misunderstanding.
"That's going to happen occasionally. It's not gonna be perfect. But we can be a lot better than what we are. The third, fourth or fifth ballgame, you hope to have yourself a little bit more consistent in being able to get things done."
It was probably premature to think the Jayhawks had it all figured out after beating the Yellow Jackets. KU started a redshirt freshman quarterback in Webb and a freshman running back in James Sims against the Golden Eagles. Still, the Jayhawks didn't make many rookie mistakes — they had no turnovers and just one offensive penalty.
KU's biggest problem was a lack of rhythm, which stemmed from offensive coordinator Chuck Long protecting Webb from thinking too much in his first road start. Long said Southern Miss blitzed a lot, so
he decided to send in the blocking scheme along with each play call. That extra information often created a logjam in the communication process.
"As young guys grow in the system, they'll be able to do more on their own," Long said. "What we're trying to do is take it off of them in just about everything and put it on us, which is why you see some slow pace at times. We're just trying to make it as simple as possible for (Webb). Are we at an expanded state with him? No, we're not. We're just not there yet."
Webb has impressed his coaches in his two starts, completing 62 percent of his passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He has also shown an ability to keep plays alive when under duress. Webb does not want these other issues to impede the Jayhawks' progress anymore.
"You never want something outside of your play to actually affect your play," Webb said. "It's just something that we gotta get better at. We're working hard at getting the tempo back to what it was against Georgia Tech."
KU's offense will get one more chance Saturday to get on track before Big 12 play.
"Being more efficient will help the flow of our offense," Gill said. "There's been flashes, here and there. We're heading in the right direction. It's time now where we've played enough football games that we need to be more cleaned up."
Defense tentative — After Kansas' loss to Southern Mississippi, KU cornerback Chris Harris said that the Jayhawks had difficulty getting into their plays on defense. KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush said Tuesday that the issue wasn't making the calls, as it was for the KU offense at times.
The Golden Eagles played at a fast pace, which made it difficult for the Jayhawks to play anything other than their base defense.
"We knew that going in," Torbush said. "When you got that kind of speedæ.æ.æ. we ended up quite honestly getting into more of our base stuff than we wanted to. Because the linebackers and safeties got a little bit scared of not getting lined up to go."
KU was hurt by staying in a base package because Southern Miss became comfortable facing it.
"They know what to try and call against that," Torbush said.