What can we say about the 2011 season for the Kansas Jayhawks? It probably wasn’t what Turner Gill invisioned when he took the job two years ago. Kansas started off the year with two wins (one of them against a pretty good NIU team). After that it was a loss to Georgia Tech where the Yellow Jackets put up 66 points and then it was nine more consecutive losses to close out the year. Kansas had a chance to salvage something from their season when they took Baylor and future Heisman Trophy winner RG3 to OT but they lost by one. After that loss came the nail in the coffin for Turner Gill when Kansas lost to Texas A&M 61-7. Gill was terminated less than 24 hours after their season ending lost to SEC bound Missouri. Gill was replaced by Florida OC and former Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis. WHAT? It’s going to be really interesting to see how that turns out. We caught up with Big 12 guru Jay Beck of Turfburner to get his take on the 2011 Kansas Jayhawks and catch a quick glimpse into 2012.
CFBZ: In our Pre-Season Preview you said you thought Turner Gill was headed in the right direction but also said that Kansas probably wouldn’t win more than four games. They won two and Gill got fired. Do you think it was the right decision?
Turfburner: Well, hindsight is always 20-20. At the time he was fired, I still maintained he needed a third year. He only had one full recruiting cycle and that class was pretty solid, plus the overall roster was very young and inexperienced. And he lost his defensive coordinator during the first part of the summer and didn’t have an ample chance to replace him (so he promoted from within) which didn’t help the situation, either.
Now after some time has passed and more information has come out, it seems like there were some issues going on internally as far as a lack of discipline and some academic issues that now make is seem like the right choice was made by letting him go. Of course, it’s always easy to knock a guy after he’s gone and air all the dirty laundry so you have to take some of the things you here with a grain of salt.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Turfburner: The first thing is the defense. It was simply terrible. You can take your pick of awful stats to talk about. They gave up over 50 points four times, Georgia Tech rushed for over 600 yards against them, Oklahoma State scored 56 by halftime, Baylor scored 21 unanswered in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime and then scored again to win, and the list goes on and on.
The other memory that stands out was their trip to Texas. For a good portion of the season, their offense had been at least respectable, but the meltdown in Austin was mind numbing. Three first downs the entire game, 46 total yards, negative 2 yards rushing, and the only ran 36 total plays the entire game. Give Texas’ defense credit, but that was an incredibly bad performance all the way around.
CFBZ: The Hiring of Charlie Weis came out of left field. What are your thoughts on bringing him in to lead Kansas?
Turfburner: The best way I can describe the hire is this: short term solution. That being said, I don’t necessarily think it was a bad hire given the current situation in Lawrence. No up and coming college coach was going to touch that job after the results the past two seasons. What Weis can do is bring in a couple good recruiting classes, get Kansas out of the dumpster they’re currently in and bring them back to respectability. If he is there more than three seasons (four at the most), I’ll be shocked. Over those three seasons, if he can get KU back up to say .500, the sell to the next coach becomes much easier.
As for Weis, he’s really in a no lose situation. Six wins gets you fired at Notre Dame. Six wins at Kansas and you get a contract extension. And if he can’t get the ship turned around, he goes right back to being somebody’s offensive coordinator and rides off into the sunset.
CFBZ: Which offensive players do you think are a good fit for Charlie’s system and have a chance to break out next year?
Turfburner: Over the last few days, Kansas has announced several departures from the program and probably the biggest was freshman running back, Darrian Miller. I would have had him penciled in as one of the answers to your question.
They still have James Sims , however, who is a dependable back that has rushed for 1470 yards over his first two seasons and will give Weis’ offense a good weapon in the backfield as he breaks in his offense.
With Dayne Crist coming on board to play quarterback, that will help ease the transition since he already knows Weis’ offense. The question becomes, does he have anyone to throw the ball too? One guy that should help is converted quarterback turned wide receiver, Kale Pick. He had 34 catches last season as a junior and he could be in for a big year in the new offense.
CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest opportunity areas for this team going into the off-season?
Turfburner: With the new coaching staff, obviously spring football is going to be huge. You can bet KU’s new strength and conditioning coach is going to put the players through the ringer during winter conditioning which is going to set the tone for spring football. When you only win five games over two seasons, it becomes easy for the players to start going through the motions. And that right there is the biggest opportunity this offseason, just a shift in the overall attitude of the entire program
They will be installing new systems on both sides of the ball and one thing you always worry about with an NFL minded staff coming in (Dave Campo is the new defensive coordinator) is will the schemes be too complicated for the players to learn in a short amount of time. This isn’t the NFL where you have the players all day to yourselves, something Weis should know all too well from his time at Notre Dame and Florida.
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