The Kansas Jayhawks made a change in leadership Monday morning with the firing of athletics director Sheahon Zenger. While a change in AD may be an ominous sign for a head coach of a struggling football program, Kansas football coach David Beaty appears to be safe from any further changes.
“Sheahon has been a loyal Jayhawk, and our athletics department has improved in many areas under his leadership,” Kansas chancellor Douglas Girod said in a released statement. “But Athletics continues to face a number of challenges, and progress in key areas has been elusive. To achieve the level of success we need and expect, I have determined a change in leadership is necessary.”
“[Earlier] today I spoke with Coach Beaty and shared my expectation that he will continue recruiting hard and getting his team ready for the season,” Girod made a point to say in his released statement about the firing of Zenger.
Deputy athletics director Sean Lester will fill the gap at the AD position on an interim basis while Kansas conducts a search for a new athletics director.
Zenger was named AD at Kansas in 2011, after a previous stint at Illinois State. Prior to his job at Illinois State, Zenger was an assistant AD at Kansas State. Zenger has made two coaching hires for Kansas football. The more recent hiring of Beaty was made in after the 2014 season and has yielded a football record of just 3-33 in that span. Prior to Beaty, Zenger was responsible for hiring former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis to a massive contract that took a toll on Kansas athletics years after the Weis experiment had imploded. Of course, Zenger should take the brunt of the attack for the Weis hire, but there is plenty of blame to be spread around with others having a chance to say “no” to the sizable contract that was being offered to Weis at the time.
With a new AD coming in, it may not be unfair to suggest the 2018 season must be one that sees obvious improvement in the football program on the field. Beaty’s hot seat will certainly be warming if Kansas continues to struggle and a new AD is put in place to decide his fate as the head coach moving forward.
A year ago at this time we took a look at the early success Kansas head coach David Beaty was having on the recruiting trail. At the time, Kansas had a top 10 recruiting class that was highlighted by a nice haul from the state of Louisiana. It seems the Jayhawks coach is continuing to create a pipeline in the state of Louisiana as he continues to build up the Kansas program because he just landed an early commitment from a talented quarterback out of the state.
Lance LeGendre, a four-star dual-threat quarterback from New Orleans, has committed to Kansas by way of a brief statement on Twitter. For the time being, LeGendre is choosing Kansas over offers from programs like Alabama, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Missouri and more. LeGendre is the first recruit on the board for Kansas at this point in time, but it is a key one in continuing to build a pipeline of talent from the football-rich state of Louisiana out to Kansas.
Kansas signed two four-star players from Louisiana in the Class of 2018 with DB Corione Harris and RB Anthony Williams. Although Kansas had a handful of players committed from Louisiana last February, a number ended up going to other programs. But keeping Harris and Williams in Kansas was crucial for the effort Beaty has been working on. If he manages to keep LeGendre on the board as well, that effort will only become stronger.
“He’s a good guy and obviously a good recruiter,” Legendre said to Jayhawk Slant following his commitment, referring to Beaty. “He’s bringing a lot of guys from the Boot and he’s doing a lot of good things. When I was in the eighth grade he helped me get into Warren Easton. So we’ve had a good relationship since then and he’s a great guy.”
Beaty is a Texas native and has spent most of his coaching career in the state of Texas, but three years as an assistant at Texas A&M as the Aggies moved into the SEC helped introduce Beaty to the importance of recruiting talent from the state of Louisiana. It is not easy, of course, with LSU historically dominating the top talent and Alabama plucking more and more of the top-tier players away to Tuscaloosa, not to mention the other competition to land talent out of the state. But Beaty has made it a mission to attempt to compete for recruits in the state and hopes to use the players he lands as key figures in elevating the status of Kansas football.
Kansas has gone 3-33 in three seasons under Beaty, including a 1-26 mark in Big 12 play. He has had to build from the ground up, but he seems to have some sort of a plan of attack for recruiting. Beaty’s biggest hurdle is convincing his recruits to follow through on their commitment to a program that has historically been struggling to win much of anything.
You may not think Kansas has found reasons to be optimistic about its future after going 2-10 in 2016, but Kansas is taking some small baby steps forward as a program under David Beaty. In 2017, Kansas is already looking to build on a strong start to the recruiting efforts and will invest more in its coaching staff, two key ingredients to turning a program around.
Let’s be honest in agreeing Kansas had nowhere to go but up. Since a magical 12-1 season in 2007, the Jayhawks have had just winning season, and that was the following year in 2008. After failed runs under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, Beaty was hired to provide some new energy in the program, and although that hasn’t necessarily been seen in many ways on the field, it is becoming clear something may be working off of it.
Though incredibly early, Kansas currently has a good jump on its Class of 2018 efforts with what is ranked the fifth best class according to Rivals. Forget about Beaty’s mission to “take this dadgum state back,” because Kansas has been setting up shop in Louisiana and the results are paying off. With eight commits lined up, including a trio of four-star prospects, Kansas is already taking strides in improving the roster’s talent level. The three four-star recruits (WR Devonta Jason, DB Corione Harris, WR Ja’Marr Chase) already equals the total number of four-star players to sign with Kansas from 2014 through 2017. Nothing will be official until next signing day when they submit their letters of intent, but if Beaty and his staff can keep those players on board, that would be a giant step forward. All three also happen to be from Louisiana, where Beaty appears to be building a pipeline with three other players from the state included in the early Class of 2018 lineup. The recent success in Louisiana, a state rich in football talent that has seen a few battles favor Kansas over LSU, has led to a promotion for running backs coach Tony Hull to associate head coach.
One way to keep that going is by providing some financial security to the staff, and Kansas is reportedly doing that. According to a report by Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star, Kansas will be bumping the overall pay of the staff by $731,400 to push the total pay over the $3 million benchmark and putting them more on par with their Big 12 opponents. Beaty is also getting a bump in pay following his contract extension last December. This is what happens when you beat Texas.
We are not at the point where we can throw Kansas into the Big 12 championship picture, and it may be a while before we are, but Beaty has things working in Lawrence in the offseason. How much of that translates over to the football field in 2017 and beyond remains to be seen, but Kansas fans have reason to be optimistic about where the program is going.
Kansas head coach David Beaty is shaking things up on his staff this season by declaring he will take on the responsibility for calling offensive plays and coaching the quarterbacks. That essentially strips offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Rob Likens of any defined responsibility on the staff, although he remains a member of Beaty’s assistant coaching staff.
“Rob is still going to carry the same title,” Beaty said earlier this week, according to KUSports.com. “But I’m gonna call the offense, and I’m gonna coach the quarterbacks this year. And that doesn’t have anything to do with Rob. It has to do with me. I want to be more actively involved with the QBs and what we do offensively.”
Beaty last called plays for an offense in 2011 as a co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. He also called the shots at Rice as offensive coordinator in 2010. The last time Beaty coached quarterbacks was 2006 and 2007 as a passing game coordinator with Rice. With Beaty taking on the lead role of calling the offense, Likens will be used as an extra coach where needed despite holding the same title, officially.
“He’s a little bit more of a walk-around guy right now,” Beaty said. “It allows him to help me a little bit. Rob can go address some of the running-back stuff, some of the O-line stuff, and we get a chance to come back and make sure we’re really doing everything efficient.”
Kansas ranked 10th in the 10-team Big 12 in total offense with an average of 331.5 ypg (115th nationally). Kansas quarterbacks (led by freshman Ryan Willis with junior Montell Cozart appearing in five games) completed 53.8 percent of their passes with 12 touchdowns thrown and 14 intercepted passes. Part of the problem for Kansas was simply a lack of talent to produce much with the offense, but Beaty is looking to set a tone and that was never satisfied last season with the anemic Kansas offense. How much that will change in 2016 is probably minimal, but taking authoritative control just put more of the bulk of the responsibility on Beaty for better or worse.
It is also worth mentioning Willis is continuing to recover from an injured right wrist, which will leave more reps in spring for Cozart, Deondre Ford, Keaton Perry and Carter Stanley.
Kansas wide receiver Shakiem Barbel received some positive news on Wednesday. The NCAA has agreed to grant him an extra year of eligibility, allowing him to play one more year of college football in 2016.
“We are excited to have Shakiem back for another year,” said Kansas head coach David Beaty in a released statement. “He is a great teammate and a guy with some quality experience. It will be valuable to our program to have him in our locker room and back out on the field with us.”
Barbel’s eligibility was a bit of a question mark given his transfer to the program from Fresno City College in 2014. Barbel started two games for the Jayhawks last season and he appeared in all 12 games. Because he appeared in every game last season, it was a question of whether or not the NCAA would grant him one final season. Barbel has appeared in 22 games since his arrival in Lawrence.
Last season saw Barbel catch 15 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.