It only took new Kansas offensive coordinator John Reagan about seven minutes before he was talking about the past. Back to his first run at KU.
The question was something about his offensive philosophy — the plan he’ll use to resuscitate a fading offense — but really, it could have been about anything.
“If you’re playing in the Orange Bowl with a 5-10 quarterback, sometimes you have to change things,” Reagan said. “Forget what the numbers say … you got to change things and get a little bit creative.”
If you’re a KU football fan, this story probably feels familiar. That 5-foot-10 quarterback, of course, was Todd Reesing, the signal-caller the last time the Jayhawks did anything of national relevance. Reagan was in Lawrence for those days, too, serving for five years as the offensive line coach for Mark Mangino. Reagan went to Rice after Mangino resigned following the 2009 season, but always wanted to come back to Kansas.
For one, Reagan had two young kids — Kaitlyn and Daniel — growing up here. But he also missed the atmosphere of Lawrence.
“I was just the dad down the street,” Reagan said.
Now he’s back. But you can forgive him if he doesn’t recognize the place. For the past four years, the Jayhawks have pretty much done nothing but take us space in the Big 12 cellar. And Reagan will be counted on to improve a consistently anemic offense.
Reagan helped Rice to bowl games during the last two seasons, running a version of the spread offense. But don’t mistake that for a pass-happy fun-and-gun system.
“You have to be able to run the football,” Reagan said, emphasizing one of his principles. “I think if you’re a much more talented team than anybody else, you can wing it all over the field and run as many plays as you want to. (But) I don’t think that fits everybody.”
Since his hiring in December, Reagan has been on the road recruiting and learning his new personnel. And for most, the key evaluation process will involve the Jayhawks’ quarterback position.
Reagan says Kansas has “options,” and perhaps that’s a start. Senior-to-be Jake Heaps, a former BYU transfer, will return after struggling in his first season, and Montell Cozart showed some playmaking ability with his legs during his true freshman campaign. UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard, a sophomore, will also join the fray, and Reagan has been impressed with Millweard’s arm and ability.
It’s too early to know how all the pieces will fit. Reagan, who will also serve as the offensive line coach, will spend the next months trying to piece together a unit up front. But for now, Reagan sounds like a coach who prefers his quarterback to have a little mobility.
“Unless you’re behind an All-SEC offensive line, you need a quarterback that can keep plays alive,” Reagan said. “I don’t know how much they need to be able to run the ball down the field.
“Everybody used to love to talk about Todd running the football, well he wasn’t necessarily the greatest runner ever. He kept plays alive.”