Tomorrow, perhaps like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we will all wake up from a terrible nightmare and realize we are in Kansas, or playing them this weekend and all is actually well with Rutgers football. Or something like that. Anyway, it's been a disaster start to the season but the perfect medication has arrived. Tomorrow we square off against a Kansas team that is 0-2, lost to an FCS school handily, and hasn't won a road game since the first year of the Obama administration. To say we need this game is an understatement.
This week I was fortunate to speak with Andy Mitts from SB Nation's Kansas site, Rock Chalk Talk. Andy was gracious enough to give us some insight into the Kansas football team and what we can expect tomorrow.
How badly did Charlie Weis set back the program and what is the general feeling of the fan base towards his tenure? What is the outlook regarding new coach David Beaty? What were the expectations for this season?
The consensus is that the combination of Turner Gill and Charlie Weis as back-to-back coaches completely decimated any kind of program we might have had. We are basically starting over from scratch, as there really isn't anything left to build on.
Charlie Weis wasn't afraid to tell it like was, as evidenced by calling his own team a "pile of crap" , but he always failed to see his part in the problem throughout his tenure. He started by dismissing a bunch of players that Gill recruited and tried to plug the holes with junior college players. What he failed to do was recruit any real program players - the guys that will stick around for 3-4 years that allow you to actually build the program. Instead, we got a bunch of players ready to jump at a moment's notice or who got in trouble and had to be dismissed themselves.
Beaty finally gives us a new direction to look forward to. He was here as part of our last successful season, and he has been saying all the right things. Since we are down so many players, there really have been no expectations set for this season, other than hopefully they can show a bit of improvement from week to week. But we realize how dire the situation is.
There are only 64 scholarship players on this team. Why has there been so much attrition with the roster and which position groups have been most affected?
Bad recruiting mostly. Many of the guys that we had were of poor character. Some of our guys just didn't want to stick around, with Nigel King a guy who jumped to the NFL draft, only to go undrafted. Injuries have taken their toll as well.
Essentially every position has been hit by something. Michael Cummings was likely going to be the starter at QB before he got injured during camp. Our cornerbacks and defensive line are incredibly thin.
Ke'aun Kinner has started the season averaging 135 rushing yards per game with a 6.3 yards per carry. Has he been the highlight of the season so far and what type of running style does he bring to the offense?
He's easily been the highlight of the season so far. I'm not even sure you can make a case for anyone else at this point. As far as his running style, he's kind of a jack-of-all-trades. He isn't a speed demon by any means, but he could very easily beat a guy to the corner. He can't bowl everyone over, but he sure can take multiple hits and keep on moving forward. He was a huge get for this staff.
Coach Beaty has implemented a no-huddle spread offense that has averaged over 80 plays a game so far. What has the mix/ratio been between run and pass plays? Should Rutgers expect a lot of slants and quick passes, similar to what we experienced with Washington State? Do you expect success against our young secondary?
Surprisingly, this version of the "air raid" hasn't really gone through the air too much. The ratio is about 55-45 weighted to the run, but that isn't all that surprising when you have a weapon like Kinner at your disposal.
The nice thing about this offense is that there isn't really a set type of pass that gets used. If the slants and quick passes are successful, then I'm sure we'll see a lot of them. But part of the success of the offense is mixing in a lot of medium and long passes to help keep everyone on their toes. I have a hard time seeing them abandon the long ball, especially since that young secondary is such a big target.
Your defense has given up 96 points combined between losses to South Dakota State and Memphis. Has it been a complete overhaul on that side of the ball and is there anyone of note we should be aware of? Which has hurt the defense more so far this season, the run or the pass?
The run defense was supposed to be our strength, but we got gashed by both South Dakota State and Memphis. Since most of the turnover on the roster has come to the defense, it's fair to say that this is a brand new look.
In terms of people to watch, I'd say Ben Goodman and Fish Smithson are the two you are most likely to hear on Saturday.
Do any fans care about playing Rutgers and how should we expect your fan base to travel for this game?
I think some of the fans care, but with many signs that this is going to be a horrific season, a vast majority of the fans have pretty much tuned the team out. I wouldn't expect a fairly large contingent of Kansas fans, unless a bunch of people decide that they need to vacation in the New York area this weekend.
Kansas hasn't won a road game since 2009, losing their last 30 in a row. What needs to happen Saturday for them to leave with the victory?
They need to score more points than the other team. Seriously though, Kansas is going to have to win the turnover battle handily. They also need the offense to go on sustained drives, as they are too thin to be out there for very long and hold up against even a minimally competent offense.
How do you think the game will play out?
I have a hard time thinking this is anything but a Rutgers victory. You could make the case that Rutgers is the worst team that the Jayhawks will play this year, but even that probably won't be enough to allow them to come away with the victory. I'm going to have to go Rutgers 31, Kansas 21
Thanks again to Andy Mitts and our friends at Rock Chock Talk. To view my answers to Andy's questions, click here. Good luck to them and at least they have a basketball powerhouse to look forward to in a couple of months.