Kansas coach David Beaty often talks about the importance of his team dealing in reality.
So while there are reasons to be optimistic heading into the 2017 season — a positive buzz built from both recruiting and a win over Texas — Beaty knows that won’t mean much if the Jayhawks don’t show progress in the next few months.
“We said long ago that Year 3 should be a year where we start seeing dividends,” Beaty said, “because of the amount of time that we’ve had with our guys to develop them.”
Beaty isn’t talking about moral victories either.
“It’s about winning and losing in college football. Dividends are reflected in wins,” Beaty said. “We have to win football games. That’s a requirement for programs to survive in this day and age.”
One can understand why the pressure should be greater than in years past.
Some of the natural challenges at KU have faded over time. After inheriting a program embarrassingly low on scholarship numbers, Beaty and staff have nursed the roster back to a respectable position.
They’ve also had time to develop their own players.
Take defensive end Dorance Armstrong as an example; after committing to Beaty three years ago, he’s added nearly 40 pounds while emerging as one of the nation’s top pass-rushing threats.
Stories like that can be found throughout the roster. The offensive line has both experience and depth. KU’s receivers are led by junior Steven Sims, who labored through a true freshman season before emerging with 859 yards as a sophomore.
“Our guys have invested so much, and they were babies. They were all youngins,” Beaty said. “Now they’ve got 24 games of experience under their belt, and that experience is something you just can’t give them. You’ve got to go get it.”
There are other benefits to having a program with three years of stability. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen sees it in practice each day, as a standard of expectation has been set by the upperclassmen with workouts becoming more efficient.
“If I’m talking to you about tucking your shirt in at practice, then I’ve wasted five seconds of all of our lives that we’ll never get back that we could have been talking about something important,” Bowen said. “So I think the more you get rid of that, the more you can focus on the things that truly matter.”
Redshirt junior Daniel Wise can appreciate the value of experience as well. The defensive lineman, who has gained 30 pounds since arriving on campus, remembers the difficulty of early practices, as simple tasks like understanding the play call and being in the correct rotation spot required focus.
All of that has become second nature over time.
“You know the playbook like the back of your hand,” Wise said. “Now it’s just all about improving on the little things.”
It hasn’t been a painless rebuild under Beaty. The Jayhawks went 0-12 in 2015 and 2-10 in 2016, with the coach saying this offseason he was “obviously not happy with the amount of win production that we’ve been able to put up.”
Whether that improves this year should be more in Beaty’s control. KU’s depth chart is filled with his guys — players who not only have better-developed bodies but also a greater understanding of what their coaches want from them.
“Obviously, we were a developmental program. We still are,” Beaty said. “But just because it’s Year 3 doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. You’ve got to still go earn it just like we did Day 1.”