The media spoke in ear-splitting volume Thursday exactly what it thought of the Kansas Jayhawks’ football team this season when the annual preseason poll results were announced.
With 56 media members voting and Kansas cobbling together a paltry 63 points, first-grade math tells me the Jayhawks were a virtual automatic choice for the cellar, which they have inhabited without much challenge the past five years — 3-40 during that time in Big 12 games.
I’d like to say the media is going to get it wrong. But the fact of the matter is the Jayhawks are so entrenched in last place that they could be there for years to come.
I just don’t understand it. How can a school like Kansas, with such a blue-blood tradition in the other major sport (basketball), get it so wrong in football year after year? I can tell you from personal experience, having graduated from KU, that the school is outstanding, the athletic support is energized, the sports facilities are excellent and Lawrence is a great place to live. KU has poured millions and millions into football practice facilities, facelifts and coach after coach with nary a scant return on its investment.
It wasn’t that long ago the Jayhawks were winning the Orange Bowl and gutty quarterback Todd Reesing was Johnny Manziel before Johnny Manziel. They were 12-1 and many thought the school had finally turned the corner, that fans wouldn’t be talking about the start of basketball during the third week of the football season.
But how the program has cratered. It started with the alleged Mark Mangino abusive-to-his-players fallout, then the forgettable hiring of overmatched Turner Gill. Then KU decided to go style over substance when it made a splash by hiring Charlie Weis, whose pedigree is based on what Tom Brady did when he was at New England. Brady has made a lot of people look much better than they are.
The best part of Weis so far has been the postgame press conferences when he tries to come off like Jay Leno, using humor to mask the mess he just witnessed on the field.
Weis’ first two Kansas teams have been bad and boring. You would have thought that for being an alleged “offensive genius,” he would have found ways offensively to make games competitive to overcome an unathletic, slew-footed defense. But last year it was the defense that actually wound up being more of a strength than an offense that couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean or protect which unfortunate quarterback of the week was running for his life.
I look at this year’s KU team and I don’t see much difference or improvement. The quarterback situation is dreadful, as it continues to take other teams’ rejects hoping that somebody will be the next Reesing. Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps were unmitigated failures (though other circumstances contributed to their demise) and UCLA castoff T.J. Millweard is the latest reclamation project.
The supposed chosen one to lead the team, though, is Montell Cozart, a wispy scattershooter who at least has the speed to run for his life, which he’ll do plenty of this year. KU seems to be well-fortified in the backfield, but it still has much of the same receiving corps that couldn’t catch a cold last year. Remember how heralded OU transfer Justin McCay was supposed to step in and be the receiving savior? His final line from last year — 9 catches, 84 yards and 1 TD. Enough said.
The defense improved last year, but against teams like Baylor and Oklahoma State, with their spread offenses and sprinter speed, the Jayhawks looked to be in slow motion. Some of the touchdown drives opposing teams had last year made it appear as if they were operating against air. KU simply doesn’t recruit enough athletic players with strength and speed to be competitive.
It's sad that Kansas can never put together a consistent run of seasons in football. Its fan base is fervent, as evidenced by selling out Allen Field House year after year with the usual 16,300. Given the expected course of the football season, that might be the crowd size by the final game.