Bob Lutz

Beaty is the right guy for KU football, but should take a step back

Kansas coach David Beaty talks to players during the second half of the Rhode Island victory Sept. 3.
Kansas coach David Beaty talks to players during the second half of the Rhode Island victory Sept. 3. Associated Press

David Beaty speaks to me. I am moved by his enthusiasm and his genuine love for Kansas football.

KU fans I talk to think he will succeed in making the Jayhawks viable again. By the sheer force of his passion, this has to work.

Right?

Then there was last Saturday’s first-half meltdown against Ohio. The Jayhawks, looking every bit the Jayhawks we’ve come to know and ridicule, could do nothing right. And the Bobcats, a middling team from the Mid-American Conference, jumped all over Kansas.

It was embarrassing, ugly and a stark reminder of just how far the Jayhawks have fallen and how difficult it will be for Beaty, or any other coach, to pick them up.

Kansas didn’t win any games last season, but opened 2016 with a resounding 55-6 win over Rhode Island. That win made people feel good. And it might have made KU’s players feel like they had come farther than was the case.

Ohio dropped a big dose of reality on Kansas. And perhaps on those of us who were so easily buying what Beaty was selling.

It’s confusing.

This week, Beaty announced he was going to take over as kickoff and punt returners coach after explosive KU receiver/returner LaQuvionte Gonzalez lost two fumbles while dropping punts in the Ohio loss.

In March, Beaty took over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Rob Likens while also becoming quarterbacks coach.

Beaty’s enthusiasm has its own zip code. But can we get him to slow down just a hair?

His coaching real-estate grab might sound reasonable as he explains his motives to take on more and more responsibility. But isn’t one of the primary jobs of a head coach to delegate key responsibilities to assistant coaches? Isn’t trust built amongst a team’s coaches a primary factor in success over failure?

Beaty hired Joe DeForest to be KU’s special teams coach after last season. DeForest, with 26 years of coaching experience, came from West Virginia and had previously coached 11 years at Oklahoma State. He has coached 10 All-Americans.

But apparently he’s unqualified to teach Gonzalez to catch punts.

“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to be my fault,” Beaty told the media this week, referring to fumbles. “That’s why I’m doing it. I’ve done it for a long, long time and I have specific teaching progression that I want to use. I just think it’s sound and I know exactly how I want it taught and I know what I want it to look like.”

Ultimately, it’s Beaty’s job and he’ll either succeed or fail on his merits. But doesn’t that quote sound heavy-handed? And shouldn’t Beaty’s assistants, especially one with as much experience as DeForest, supposed to be able to teach technique the way he wants it taught?

This might turn out to be not much of anything. But it reeks of an insecure young coach who thinks the best way to fix a problem is to fix it himself, even though he’s surrounded by others whose livelihoods have been built around being fixers.

Too many cooks spoil the stew, as they say, and too many fixers might do more harm than good to Gonzalez, who has shown through two games to be a dynamic playmaker — when he can keeps his hands on the football.

Beaty’s lack of experience might be getting the best of him here. His unabashed enthusiasm is an attribute, until it isn’t. At some point, results on the field mean more than exclamation points.

There’s been a lack of excitement surrounding Kansas football for a while now, stretching through the coaching regimes of Turner Gill and Charlie Weis.

Gill was in over his head and Weis didn’t seem to embrace the moment.

Well, Beaty has the moment in a bear hug. Whether he’s up to this task is still a question.

Let’s hope he is, because Beaty is a great champion for KU and its football program. He says all the right things, but the words won’t mean much if the losses continue to mount.

The win over Rhode Island provided a reprieve. It was Beaty’s first at Kansas and the way the Jayhawks played indicated a promise that hadn’t been felt in a while.

Ohio smacked that promise in the mouth, though. And Beaty’s reaction, to take on even more of the coaching responsibility, is a red flag.

There’s no hurry up to this job. It’ll take at least a few years of solid recruiting and “coaching ’em up” for Beaty to get KU to respectability. Knee-jerk reactions likely aren’t the answer.

Count me as among those who still believe in Beaty, in spite of the danger signs we’re seeing from what appears to be an overzealous, impatient young coach. He can grow out of those flaws.

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