Coach Les Miles has made the first major coaching shakeup of his Kansas tenure.
On Sunday afternoon, Miles fired offensive coordinator Les Koenning and promoted analyst Brent Dearmon into the role. This comes as KU enters its bye week, and also following the Jayhawks’ 45-20 home loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
“This was a difficult decision, but it is in the best interest of our football program both now and in the future,” Miles said in a release. “There is still a lot of football left to play this season and I want to put our players in the best position to be successful, which is why I am making the change now.”
Let’s start with Dearmon here. Hired in the offseason as a senior KU football analyst, Dearmon has been considered an expert in run-pass option (RPO), even writing numerous books on the topic.
Dearmon, who was head coach at NAIA school Bethel last season, oversaw an offense that led all college football levels in scoring at 55 points per game.
“I am excited to get to work right away with the staff and players, and invest in their future both on and off the field,” Dearmon said. “There are a lot of talented young men on this team and it’s up to us as an offensive staff to have them prepared each and every week, and that will be our No. 1 priority.”
Dearmon, who was previously not allowed to be an on-field coach for KU as an analyst, still had a big part in the team’s 48-24 road upset over Boston College last month. KU quarterback Carter Stanley cited Dearmon specifically in postgame interviews after the Jayhawks ran many successful RPO plays.
“It wasn’t like we added like a whole bunch of new stuff,” Stanley said. “It was a lot of great RPO stuff that coach Dearmon mainly brought to this program. I’m really thankful for this coaching staff.”
Miles complimented Dearmon on Sunday, calling him “one of the brightest individuals I have encountered in all of my years coaching.” Prior to 2018, Dearmon spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Division II Arkansas Tech and two seasons as an analyst for coach Gus Malzahn at Auburn.
“I believe our players will be naturally drawn to Brent’s leadership and coaching ability,” Miles said. “I have the utmost trust in his ability to lead young men and this move puts our players in the best position to be successful moving forward.”
Now to Koenning. The 60-year-old was Miles’ second hire for offensive coordinator in the offseason, coming to the Jayhawks after Chip Lindsey left Lawrence to take the head-coaching job at Troy.
Per Koenning’s term sheet signed on Jan. 21, he will be owed $500,000 for this season and $500,000 for next, with the full amount to be paid over a 23-month span. There also is an offset, meaning if Koenning takes another football job in the next two years, KU will not have to pay him that part of his salary.
Though Koenning was offensive coordinator in title at KU, it seemed that he often was deferring to Miles when it came to both schemes and the final call on plays. Koenning, who only available for interviews twice during his KU tenure, was asked on Aug. 16 about how much Miles was providing input with the offense.
“Let me tell you: Coach Miles has been absolutely great to work with — a really, really good man,” Koenning said. “And y’all know this, y’all have been around him: phenomenal man.
“In every place I’ve ever worked, every head coach that I’ve ever worked with, has got a philosophy or got something they believe in or that they have done other places, because they’ve been successful. Those are the things that we’re thriving on as coaches. We wouldn’t be here without Coach Miles and our belief in him and he believing in us. So those are the big things that are exciting to me.”
Koenning came to KU from Southern Miss, where he was the running backs coach in 2018. Previously in his career, he’d been offensive coordinator at Alabama, Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
Through six games, KU ranks last in the Big 12 in scoring offense (22.8 points per game) and seventh in yards per play (6.0).