When David Beaty was a high school coach, plying his trade at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, he possessed a particular belief about rebuilding football programs. If one of his teams featured a strong corps of sophomores on the varsity, Beaty says, it usually boded well for the future — even if that meant some painful lessons in the short term.
“If you played a lot of sophomores on the varsity and they got a lot of experience, typically, those teams were pretty good by the time those kids hit their senior years,” Beaty said this week. “Because you give them something that they can’t get.”
That something, of course, is experience, and Beaty is hopeful the philosophy holds true for the Big 12 level. Kansas, though, is taking Beaty’s high school rebuilding rule one step further: The Jayhawks are throwing a crew of true freshmen into the fire.
“We’re kind of in the middle of that right now,” Beaty said.
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The latest true freshman to join the youth movement is receiver Jeremiah Booker, a native of College Station, Texas, who debuted last week after breaking his collarbone during fall camp. Booker, listed at 6 feet 2 and 195 pounds, wasted little time making an impact. He finished with three catches for 39 yards in a 66-7 loss to Baylor. The output did not surprise Beaty, who had tracked Booker’s high school career while serving as an assistant at Texas A&M.
“He’s a tireless worker,” Beaty said, comparing Booker to Iowa State standout Allen Lazard. “He approaches the game like a pro does. He takes care of his body in the training room and the weight room. Everybody that has really been around him has talked about him being a pro.”
As Kansas, 0-5, prepares to face Texas Tech, 4-2, at 11 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, the Jayhawks’ growing horde of young players will once again move to the forefront. True freshman quarterback Ryan Willis will make his second straight start. True freshman receiver Steven Sims Jr. continues to hold down a starting spot in the receiving corps. And true freshman cornerback Tyrone Miller, Jr. and defensive end Dorance Armstrong continue to earn snaps on defense.
It’s perhaps no surprise then that when Beaty spoke at KU’s “Late Night in the Phog” event last week, he brought along Willis, Armstrong and Miller to stand by his side on the Allen Fieldhouse floor.
“They’re all true freshman,” Beaty said. “And I wanted them to see you.”
The thinking is simple enough: If the winless Jayhawks are going to take some knocks during a grueling Big 12 schedule, they might as well use the baptism to gain some needed experience for the future. That’s where players like Booker come in. In his first season in the program, Booker has drawn praise for his physicality and maturity. But as Beaty speaks about Booker now, he also thinks about the future. Imagine, Beaty says, what he could be in a couple years.
“He’s a big dude already,” Beaty said, “but he’s got some growing left to do.”
Texas Tech at Kansas
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
TV: Fox Sports 1
Other story lines
1. Will Kansas ever crack the Texas Tech hex? The Jayhawks are just 1-15 all-time against Texas Tech and they’ve never defeated the Red Raiders in Lawrence. For many of those games, Texas Tech was rolling under former coach Mike Leach. But the Red Raiders have never been world-beaters in the Big 12. One thing is for sure: The streak will probably continue Saturday.
2. Attendance watch: Kansas announced an attendance of 25,910 last week against Baylor. According to KU’s records, the Jayhawks had not had a crowd that small at Memorial Stadium since the final game of the 2001 season (24,000 against Wyoming).
3. Will Ke’aun Kinner be healthy? After rushing for more than 100 yards in his first two games, Kinner, a junior running back, hasn’t approached that in KU’s last three games. Last week, Kinner was limited by some nagging hand and thigh injuries. Beaty is hopeful he’s back and ready against Texas Tech.