Campus Corner

Ask Rustin: Realistic expectations for KU football and projecting Bill Self’s rotation

Kansas football coach David Beaty.
Kansas football coach David Beaty. mdavis@kcstar.com

There is a general and unmistakable rhythm to every college single coaching change in college football. The new guy, for the most part, is always an about-face from the old guy in terms of personality and coaching style. The new guy will spend his first couple months trying to rouse the fan base with the same talking points — he’ll outline his recruiting style, he’ll try to create some type of “culture,” he’ll brag repeatedly about his new strength coach and how hard his new players worked during the first summer.

I bring this up now, on the eve of David Beaty’s first game at Kansas, because I think KU fans are pretty used to these rhythms by now. That’s how it works when a fan base goes through three coaching changes in six years. That’s not to say that those “new coach” talking points are wrong or misguided — recruiting is the lifeblood of any program, culture is crucial in a winning team or organization, and the strength coach really can be among the most important roles in any college football program.

But when a fan base has watched losing football for six years, and new coaches are constantly rolling into town, telling you how it’s going to be different, sometimes those old talking points can get a little stale. I’ve sensed some of this “new regime fatigue” over the last few months, while hearing from KU fans in emails, tweets, etc.

Like this one:

There is not 100 percent consensus, of course, not even close. But as Beaty begins his first season at Kansas, I think it’s important to remember a few things.

1. Being the head football coach at Kansas is not an easy gig.

2. Beaty may be facing one of the toughest rebuilding projects in recent college football history.

3. Once upon a time, Turner Gill and Charlie Weis did say many of the same things that Beaty and his staff are saying now.

4. Beaty is not Turner Gill or Charlie Weis, and aside for one year as an assistant under Gill, he wasn’t at Kansas for those years. In other words: He wasn’t the one offering the talking points and hope then.

So, OK, let’s get onto the first mailbag of the year. Hopefully we can dive into some football, some preseason basketball thoughts and keep this a regular thing here on Fridays. On to the questions:

The official over-under for victories, according to most oddsmakers, is 1.5. Kansas is a slight favorite this week against South Dakota State, and after that, it basically comes down to this: Can the Jayhawks win another game?

I’ve mentioned this before, but the schedule, once again, does no favors. Memphis played in a bowl game last year. Rutgers is coming off an eight-win season, and Kansas hasn’t won a road game since 2009. (Then again, the Rutgers program appears to be barreling toward true Dumpster Fire status.)

The Big 12 schedule, meanwhile, offers three glimmers of hope.

At Iowa State on Oct. 3.

Texas Tech on Oct. 17

West Virginia on Nov. 21.

Kansas handled Iowa State last season at Memorial Stadium, but this is not last season, and the Jayhawks’ recent track record in Ames is less than stellar. Texas Tech is probably the worst Big 12 team KU will face at home. And the Jayhawks beat West Virginia at home in 2013. (The Mountaineers also appear markedly improved, especially on the defensive end.)

To reach two victories, Kansas is likely going to have to win a game in which it is not favored. It’s possible. But realistically, it’s going to be a tough road to two wins.

The term “free pass” is a little cliche, but for all intents and purposes, yes, this is basically true. Beaty is not responsible for Kansas’ depth issues or its other roster deficiencies. How do you judge Beaty then? Here are a couple ways:

1. Does the new offense appear competent? Beaty’s background is offense, and he hired an offensive coordinator, Rob Likens, with an impressive resume. They want to play up-tempo, which could be interesting when they reach the Big 12 portion of the schedule. Can they find the right quarterback and make major strides on that side of the ball?

2. Will Beaty’s team play disciplined football and continue to play hard even when the players are overmatched?

3. Recruiting and player development. Rinse and repeat.

The question: Will Devonte’ Graham or Svi Mykhailiuk be in the starting lineup this coming basketball season?

So last spring, after Cheick Diallo signed with Kansas, I offered this as a likely starting lineup this year.

Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and Cheick Diallo.

Diallo, of course, is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center, and that could change things. But anyway, let’s look at the major question: Who’s the third perimeter player to start alongside Selden and Mason? Mykhailiuk is an intriguing talent, and if he can be a consistent threat from the outside, he may be one of the bigger sleepers in all of college basketball. But I think the other perimeter spot goes to Graham.

Bill Self has continually stated his desire to play two small guards. The KU offense, Self believes, is at its best when there are multiple playmakers and ball handlers in the guard rotation. The presence of Graham also allows Frank Mason the freedom to occasionally roam off the ball and be a scorer. And lastly, it allows Selden to play on the wing, where he can crash the offensive boards and not worry about any ball handling duties.

The real question, though, may be less about the starting lineup and more about the rotation. No matter what Self says during the offseason, Kansas almost always trims the rotation to eight or nine players during conference play. Generally speaking: Four bigs, four smalls and a fifth guard who’s playing time can fluctuate. Last year, Self’s rotations were a little more predicated on matchups. And perhaps the same will true again this year.

It’s the first week of September, but here’s one stab at a nine-man rotation.

Guards: Mason, Graham, Selden, Svi, Greene

Bigs: Ellis, Diallo, Mickelson/Lucas, Bragg/Traylor

OK, I cheated a little there. But again, assuming Diallo is eligible, those last two post spots are the most intriguing. It seems likely that Self will need the bulk/length of either Mickelson or Lucas off the bench. And the other reserve frontcourt spot could come down to the talent of Carlton Bragg vs. the toughness and experience of Jamari Traylor.

Then again, maybe Self just finds a way to play a lot of big guys.

Good question, Andy! To me, it’s comes down to a simple value judgment from Gordon. If the Royals offer something close to the market rate, and Gordon determines that offer to be sufficient, then yes, they can re-sign him. If the Royals do not offer something close to the market rate, then no, they won’t.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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