This is tricky, because it’s dealing with a real person.
Kansas football coach David Beaty doesn’t want to disparage former offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, someone he called “a dear friend” earlier this week. Meacham will likely get another job in football soon — likely next year — and Beaty doesn’t want to say anything negative that might affect that.
Then again ... Beaty just fired Meacham last week, so the questions he faced at his weekly news conference Tuesday were fair: What led to the change? And what differences would there be in KU’s offense moving forward?
To better understand the situation, it’s perhaps best to go back to one play in particular from KU’s last game against West Virginia.
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Or, in this case, one that never happened.
Early in the fourth quarter, quarterback Peyton Bender turned to the sideline to look for a potential play adjustment with 10 seconds left on the game clock. With 4 seconds left he snapped his head back to quickly relay the message to teammates, then at 1, he clapped his hands together twice in an effort to get the snap to avoid a delay of game penalty.
Beaty called timeout to keep KU from a five-yard markoff. ESPN’s cameras focused on him right after that, when he grabbed assistant coach Justin Johnson’s headset, covered his mouth and screamed wildly at Meacham up in the booth.
On Tuesday, Beaty explained the sequence, saying he needed to borrow Johnson’s headset because his wasn’t working.
“We’ve got to do a better job of getting the play in, being more efficient with our play-calling,” Beaty said. “That helps our quarterbacks by being able to slow the game down, and go to school on their information, as opposed to the ball being snapped just as we get the play called.”
So start here. KU’s plays — too often — weren’t getting in on time. That likely had something to do with Meacham.
And that, in turn, had a ripple effect on KU’s offense.
“I think we had an issue a little bit with communication,” Bender said, “from the box to the field to the quarterback.”
Bender followed by speaking about experiences similar to what Beaty described. He said often, by the time KU has been signaling and communicating its changed play call from the booth, the play clock was at three seconds or less. That led to miscommunications and sometimes — even worse — KU having to stick with a bad play call against the defensive look it was going against.
“You really didn’t have much of an ability .... you kind of just had to snap it,” Bender said, “so you didn’t take the penalty.”
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Beaty’s main message to offensive players this week after taking over as coordinator has been efficiency and simplicity.
Beaty believes football is all about taking advantage of matchups. If there are favorable numbers up the middle, run it. If a defense is stacking defenders there, it’s time to pass to the outside.
There also are some old-school Air Raid principles in his overarching thoughts. Hal Mumme created the first Air Raid based on the idea that by repeating plays, his offense could beat defenses by simply out-executing them. In other words, his players would make the most of its practice time by perfecting easy concepts.
Beaty appears to want to get back to that type of style with his comments this week. He spoke multiple times about running plays KU had practiced in the spring, summer and fall. He made mention of coaches working to not stray from their offensive gameplan while also choosing to not go crazy scheming up new calls for each opponent.
“Not trying to do new things,” Bender said. “Just sticking to what we’ve done for months now.”
Bender described it as “creating the routine play.” If that’s accomplished, down after down, play after play, KU will be able to move the football more effectively than it has in past games.
KU has a few winnable games left. The Jayhawks should be about two-touchdown underdogs (or less) in home games against Iowa State, TCU and Texas, while a road game against Kansas State isn’t as daunting as it once seemed.
Still, the Jayhawks likely will need better offensive production to have a chance. According to the schedule-adjusted statistics from SB Nation’s Bill Connelly, KU’s offense ranks 112th out of 130 FBS teams, while its down-to-down efficiency is 125th.
It all leaves plenty of room for improvement.
“We feel like we have a higher ceiling,” Bender said, “than what we’ve shown up to this point in the season.”