During the opening days of Kansas’ fall camp, first-year coach David Beaty handed his players an unusual directive: When they walked around the football facilities, they were to move as fast as possible. If that meant sprinting from the meeting room to the weight room, so be it. In fact, the sprinting was encouraged — safely, of course.
“When we break a meeting in here, those guys don’t walk,” Beaty said. “I mean, everything is speed when nobody else does. We get out of this room really quick. We don’t walk out of here slow.”
Yes, after six straight losing seasons, you might say Beaty is remaking the program in his own image: Upbeat and up-tempo. In 2015, the Jayhawks may need large helpings of both speed and positivity.
In his first head-coaching job, Beaty has taken over a program with a well-documented numbers crisis — the scholarship number is in the 60s and the puny list of starters returning. This is also program that has gone 12-48 over the last five seasons, so it’s not hard to be skeptical of Kansas’ chances in 2015.
You won’t find such skepticism from Beaty and his staff, who offered a dollop of hope in early August, unveiling a list of new walk-ons and transfers that included receiver Joshua Stanford (Virginia Tech), receiver Quincy Perdue (UAB) and linebacker Marcquis Roberts (South Carolina). In addition, junior college running back Ke’aun Kinner could offset the offseason loss of starting running back Corey Avery. And a handful of freshmen could contribute right away ... or be forced into action, depending on your perspective.
Under Beaty, some aspects of the program will appear similar — former interim coach Clint Bowen is back to coordinate the defense. Some could appear markedly different — Beaty hired hired offensive coordinator Rob Likens, a former Cal assistant, to run an up-tempo, spread offense.
First and foremost: The Jayhawks some major depth issues, and the question marks begin at quarterback. Junior Montell Cozart will likely begin the season as the starter, while freshmen Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley have drawn some praise during fall camp. Cozart will get a shot early, but if the idea is to rebuild, will Beaty and Likens be tempted to see what the freshmen can do? On defense, the Jayhawks must replace All-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney, standout cornerback JaCorey Shepherd and the rest of the secondary. The linebacking corps and secondary is almost totally unproven.
So where does that leave the Jayhawks? Kansas fans have seen some rough football over the last four years, which makes it all the more surprising that this could be the leanest season of them all. That’s the reality in Lawrence. The non-conference schedule does no favors. Kansas must play host to a Memphis program that played in a bowl last season and travel to Rutgers. That makes the opener against South Dakota State crucial. Beaty is trying to lay a foundation, and you can see some of the concrete — recruiting, culture, etc. — falling into place. But on the field, it could be a long season at Memorial Stadium.