In the latest edition of WRNL Interrogates, misterbrain from the Kansas SB Nation blog Rock Chalk Talk joins us to talk about the pillow fight of the century. Thanks to misterbrain for answering our questions, and may the least bad team win on Saturday...
WRNL: I kinda have to lead with this, because it's what everyone's wondering. Are things really as bad as they appear this year in Lawrence? We have a pretty hot tire fire going in Ames, but it can't be near the blaze you've got going on over there...
misterbrain: Oh yeah, it's definitely horrible. I mean, it's been so bad that we had serious discussions about whether Illinois or Kansas was worse after they fired their coach right before the regular season. To put it quickly, we are worse.
It's been bad enough that we have been down big to every single one of our opponents, including FCS power South Dakota State at home in the season opener. But the way we lost that game was particularly brutal. Instead of getting a chance to kick the game tying field goal, the snap was fumbled with only a few seconds left and Montel Cozart ran around before being tackled instead of spiking the ball. The Memphis game was somewhat competitive at half time, but the Tigers quickly put any hopes of an upset to rest. And Rutgers was missing what seemed like half their squad but still cruised to victory.
If we hadn't just fired a coach, I'd almost say I'd be willing to trade programs with you guys. Hopefully we've hit rock bottom and have only up to go, but honestly, it looks like you might be joining us shortly if Rhoads can't get a big win or two this year.
WRNL: Who are the key players on both sides of the ball for the Jayhawks?
misterbrain: Ke'aun Kinner is the offensive player to watch, but like Jamaal Charles on my fantasy team, he's just gonna get his, so I wouldn't say he is key to the offense. Instead, I think Cozart is going to be the most important, as he has to avoid stupid mistakes that kill Kansas drives. He hasn't really been able to do that so far this year, so I'm not too hopeful that he will.
On defense, I'd have to go with Ben Goodman. He's been the only semi-bright spot on the whole side of the ball, but the senior has to get himself under control. He's been making uncharacteristic penalties, which may be a result of having pretty much nothing in the way of support from his teammates.
WRNL: Despite KU's struggles so far this year, David Beaty seems like a guy the fanbase can get behind. Will he be the man to lift Kansas out of the perennial conference cellar?
misterbrain: We have high hopes for him, but the expectation is that he has a long road ahead of him. As has been widely reported, the Jayhawks only have 64 scholarship players, and they can only add up to 25 new guys each year. It will take at least another two years to replenish the scholarship roster, so right now the team is relying heavily on preferred walk-ons just to fill out the depth chart.
But his reported focus on making recruiting connections and the revamp of the program appears to have set him up on solid ground for success. At this point, the struggles seem to have much more to do with his talent pool, but it's not going to be possible to really evaluate his time here as coach until he actually has a full roster of scholarship players to pull from.
WRNL: For fans who haven't been following as closely, what has Coach Beaty been doing schematically on offense and defense? Anything different from what we've seen out of the Jayhawks in the past?
misterbrain: The big news was that the offense was going to be an air raid, but we haven't really seen the heavy passing attack that a lot of people thought we were going to have. Instead, the Jayhawks have leaned on their only consistent weapon in Kinner, and the play selection has been pretty balanced.
For the defense, it's kind of hard to nail down exactly what they are running, because nothing is really working right now. The team keeps adjusting to try to find something that works, but the secondary is so thin that I'm not sure they'll get a chance to pull together a coherent scheme, especially as the competition ramps up in Big 12 play.
WRNL: What's your prediction for the final score? If Kansas doesn't pull off a win against the Cyclones, do you see them going 0-fer the rest of the way out, or will they clip someone along the way?
misterbrain: It's going to be rough for the Jayhawks to get a win at all this year, especially on the road. This pretty much means that I'm expecting the 0-fer the rest of the way. Rutgers was probably the worst team we will see all year, and South Dakota State was probably our best chance for a win, so it will take an act of God for us to win a game all year.
That being said, I think that Kansas makes this game closer than the final score indicates. Kinner is going to run wild on the ISU defense, but he won't be able to run the ball on every play, and no one else from Kansas is going to get going. The defense tries to keep it close, but ultimately ISU pulls away and wins it 31-14.
WRNL: BONUS QUESTION! I'm sure we both agree that basketball can't come soon enough. Which players are your early pick for All-Big 12 1st Team honors? Got any advice to pass the time until the season starts?
misterbrain: Honestly, this was tougher than it should have been, but only because I had to force myself not to focus on basketball in order to be able to cover the football team properly. But after some thought, I've come up with the following in no particular order:
I think Selden sneaks in right now because of his huge performance in the World University Games, but I also think he takes a huge step forward this year. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Rico Gathers jump onto the list if he isn't affected by his extra-curriculars from this offseason. We could also see a freshman or two jump in, but I don't think anyone is a shoo-in right now.