This week, BearsIllustrated spoke with Christian Hardy, of the University Daily Kansan, about this weekends matchup between the Baylor Bears and Kansas Jayhawks. Hardy is the Sports Editor of the Daily Kansan, and covers Kansas football as part of his duties.
1. In his 2nd year, how has David Beatty continued to change the culture at KU? How are players responding?
That's a good question that's hard to really pack into one answer, but Beaty has certainly continued to change that culture here. Last year, he made a huge effort to garner alumni and donor support. On campus, he's made an effort to meet all the students who want to meet him, who support the program. He's also had full support from the athletic director Sheahon Zenger through the process — that led to the team's new $2 million locker room renovations this year. The biggest thing, I'd say is this: regardless of the troubles Kansas has had on the field, Beaty has always brought a genuine energy with him everywhere he goes in Kansas. He's very engaging as a spokesperson for the program, and he's completely repaired Kansas football's image within this community when it comes to how much Kansas cares about football. I think players reflect that energy, especially early in the season. That said, he still hasn't won games, so many fans will always doubt him and continue to unless he does win games. But it's a significantly better atmosphere than the last couple of coaches before him.
2. With Coach Beatty settling on a QB, what does he bring to the table? What dimensions does he bring to the offense?
Yeah, I think that's a great move from Beaty. Montell Cozart, from what I've heard for the last two years, has been great in practice. He's shown flashes in games, but he's been given several changes and never panned out. Now his time at Kansas is winding down and there's two young, fresh QBs who can come in. Obviously, as you know, Ryan Willis is the guy now. He has really, really impressed at times with his strong arm. Yet, with a young offensive line, he's often under duress, and when he gets under pressure, he's still very prone to mistakes. When you see some of his decision making, it's clear that he's still a sophomore QB with only a couple of starts. That said, when he has a clean pocket and coaches allow him to throw downfield, his arm can really impress.
3. On defense, it seems they have made some great improvements, but depth still seems to be lacking a little bit. Who are some players on defense that could stand out on Saturday?
Last week, depth on the defensive end was huge, but that's because Kansas was missing a few guys. Daniel Wise, if he plays this week, is impossible to miss on the interior line. He quite literally jumps off the film, and I think that says a lot for a guy who is on that interior line. He's probably one of the best defensive tackles in college football right now, and if he plays he'll be massive. Him and Dorance Armstrong, along with the emergence of guys like Cameron Rosser, make up a defensive line that I genuinely think is one of the best in the Big 12.
4. With a near upset win against TCU, how do the KU players approach this game? Will there be an emotional holdover or do you think they will bounce back and look for the upset win on Saturday?
There's really something about that TCU team that Kansas just picks up every year. I think part of that is defensive coordinator Clint Bowen shifting his formation and mixing up his looks in-game every year, and especially last week. That defensive scheming, more than anything, could help Kansas carry over to this week. Attitude-wise, I think this team stays mostly level-headed — at least they act it — with sort of the same attitude going into every game. There aren't many highs are or lows emotionally, save for after the Rhode Island win, which was Beaty's first.
5. How do you see KU attacking Baylor on both sides of the ball? How do you see things playing out?
Offensively, we're going to see Willis let it fly. Assuming Kansas gets down early, Baylor overpowers Kansas' offensive line, and Willis is dropping back and throwing on just about every snap. I don't at all expect the run game to be efficient. Defensively, Kansas has been able to create some pressure with four-man rushes, but I think after the success of last week we'll see Bowen continue to try to put pressure on the quarterback. The defensive backs on this team still struggle at times, and blitzing is maybe the best way to the defense to make up for their shortcomings in the secondary.