It really stunk seeing them get off to a 5-0 start last fall, only to see the wheels come flying off. In retrospect, the end result was more the rule than the exception, though.
There was a monumentally huge difference, though, between this past 5-7
squad and all those other 5-6 and 4-7 teams that played their way to
the bottom of the Big 8/12 and into Kansas Football obscurity.
Find me another sub-.500 Jayhawks team that could claim three NFL draft
One, sure. KU almost always had at least one stud who managed to stand
out, despite the staggering amount of mediocrity surrounding them. You
know what they say about broken clocks.
Occasionally, those bad KU teams would have two young men drafted.
But three? Never three.
Defensive back Darrell Stuckey was the first to be selected. He was
generally considered KU's best NFL prospect in the draft, and that was
borne out in the fourth round when he was chosen by San Diego.
Wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe entered the draft after his junior year,
KU's first early entry since Charles Gordon came out after the 2005
Wide receiver Kerry Meier was selected by the Falcons in round five. It
wouldn't have been possible to script a more bittersweet week for
Meier. Within eight days, he will have witnessed his older brothers
death, realized his own dream of playing in the National Football
League and then attending his brother's funeral.
There's no doubt that last year's Kansas team underachieved, and
looking in the rear-view mirror, we know why. But when Mark Mangino was
hired, I said regardless of the circumstances of his departure, he'd
leave Kansas Football better than he found it. I stand by that
statement, and that brings me to my point.
You can talk about coaching 'em up all you want, but when it comes to
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stepping up to the mike and calling your
name, it's the young man who's done all the heavy lifting.
NFL draft picks have to be freakishly blessed, athletically, and
possess a passion and strength of character that enables them to play
football at a level most of us can't fathom.
It wasn't all that long ago that guys like Meier, Stuckey and Briscoe –
hard-working, selfless, fiery guys who were so physically blessed –
didn't attend Kansas. Hell, certain past KU coaches didn't even try to
recruit them, ceding them as soon as they heard bigger football schools
were starting to take an interest.
But these guys did choose KU. They believed enough in the coach, in the
program and in the University to play football in Lawrence.
Sure, last season was frustrating. I think we're all in agreement: the
Jayhawks should've won more than five lousy games.
A little bit of that frustration dropped away late last week, though,
when Stuckey, Meier and Briscoe all got phone calls.
I'm excited for all three of them. They're solid young men as well as
outstanding football players who all stand a good chance of making and
contributing to their new teams.
But I'm just as excited for the Kansas football program. Three draft
picks despite a lackluster 5-7 season is a sign that things are
significantly better than they were back in 2002.
Even better, it seems that for the first time in a long time, an
outgoing KU coach left the program with more than just a little bit of
talent in the cupboard.
Some have already compared rookie KU head coach Turner Gill to coaching
disaster Terry Allen. Sorry, but I just don't see it. Just because a
coach is a good guy doesn't mean he's a lousy coach. Tom Osborne caught
a lot of heat for being a good guy, too. He was too religious, too Tony
Robbins, too deliberate, too cheesy. Well, looking back, that all
worked out pretty good for Dr. Tom and Nebraska.
Terry Allen was a lousy coach not because he was a good guy but rather
because he was a lousy coach. He had no experience at the BCS-level and
absolutely no concept of what a Big 12 football player was supposed to
The same can't be said for Gill. Gill has recruited and coached
BCS-caliber talent. He's got rings. It's rash and irresponsible for the
Allen comparisons to start before he's ever coached a game in Memorial
Stadium. Gameball never recruited and retained anything near the talent
Gill has walked into. I'm not saying Kansas has Big 12
championship-caliber talent, but I'm willing to bet the ranch that no
one in Gill's defensive backfield will be mistaken for Zach Dyer
anytime soon, either.
The law firm of Briscoe, Stuckey and Meier stand as icons of how much
better KU's talent level has become. They're symbolic of the firm
foundation the program sits on.
Now it falls to Gill to make the most of it. If he doesn't, it won't be
because Kansas can't land good players. It will be because Turner Gill
can't land good players and isn't cut out for the job.
Draft is Proof That KU is Much Better
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