3 takeaways from Lance Leipold’s press conference before Kansas football’s game against Texas Tech
LAWRENCE — Kansas is back in a game week, and after the recent open week Jayhawks head coach Lance Leipold could tell Sunday night his players were refreshed.
This week, Kansas has its next Big 12 Conference test with a Homecoming matchup against Texas Tech. The Jayhawks (1-4, 0-2 in Big 12) are still looking for their first conference win, while the Red Raiders (4-2, 1-2 in Big 12) are looking to rebound after losing against TCU this past weekend.
Before the two sides are scheduled to kick off Saturday at 3 p.m., Leipold took some time Tuesday to discuss his team at his weekly press conference. Here are three takeaways from what he had to say:
Leipold has relied on Group of Five transfers this season, and his pitch to future ones would include this point
Leipold has made the jump from Division III to Division I as a head coach, and in Division I gone from the Mid-American Conference at Buffalo to the Big 12 Conference at Kansas. And his first season leading the Jayhawks, has seen him turn to transfers from non-Power Five programs for significant roles in their respective first seasons at Kansas.
On offense, there’s redshirt junior Jason Bean (North Texas) at quarterback and redshirt sophomore Trevor Wilson (Buffalo) at wide receiver. Bean has started every game for Kansas and leads the team in both rushing and passing yards. Wilson is second on the team in receptions and first in receiving yards, owning the top average-yards-per-catch statistic among his fellow Jayhawks.
On defense, there’s junior linebacker Rich Miller (Buffalo). Miller’s versatility has been an asset for defensive coordinator Brian Borland and linebackers coach Chris Simpson. Miller is fourth on the team in tackles.
To potential prospects who could follow in their footsteps, Leipold would point to resources as something that changes going to Kansas’ level. From academic support to nutritional support to player development off the field, he said everything is magnified. So, the ratio of athlete to staff member is lower.
“When you’re coaching at a Group of Five level you talk about the FBS experience and a chance to maybe play a game or two in a bigger environment, obviously stadiums and that,” said Leipold, who then pivoted to Kansas. “But the number one thing … that quickly resonated with myself, is resources. It’s night and day, the resources that are available at the Power Five level and what we have at the University of Kansas in staffing, budget.”
Leipold noted how some athletes simply develop later than others, and alluded to their recruitment being affected because of it because of how sped up recruiting has become. Considering the adjustments that have been made to transfer rules, he thinks stories like Bean’s and Wilson’s and Miller’s will become more common.
“I think there’s a lot to be said about players that, whether it be from a Group of Five school, FCS or whatever, you see each and every year across the country that there’s probably that extra motivation to prove that they can do it in their approach,” Leipold said.
Kansas’ open week provided time to install things it didn’t get to in fall camp, but that’s not all it was about
Leipold said the team was able to get to some things that they hadn’t had time to before that were beneficial, especially offensively. Not having to prepare immediately for Texas Tech allowed for that. But as Leipold has mentioned before, to continue to build confidence the Jayhawks have to devote time to focusing on what they’re already doing.
Therefore, repetition can lead to better execution. As Leipold noted, Kansas has to improve at what it’s already doing. It’s not as if it took the week to write up a whole new playbook and implement a completely different scheme.
“So, we’re looking to continue to look for balance in what we’re doing to give enough looks on both sides of the ball,” Leipold said, “but also build confidence in execution.”
Kansas will remain aggressive on fourth downs
So far this season, the Jayhawks have only been successful on three of their 14 attempts on fourth down. That means they’ve only converted a first down 21.4 percent of the time.
According to ESPN statistics, Kansas is in the top 20 in fourth-down attempts and has the worst success rate among those teams. Include just teams that have played five games and Kansas is sixth in attempts.
Leipold said the Jayhawks aren’t going to change the way they operate, though. They’re going to continue to place an emphasis on possessions, controlling the ball and keeping their defense off of the field whenever possible.
“We’re going to continue to be aggressive and have faith in our offense. And I have confidence in (offensive coordinator) Andy (Kotelnicki) and what we’re going to do there to continue to be aggressive.”
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.