Matt Tait: The pessimist's outlook on the 2019 KU football team

Kansas head coach Les Miles talks with offensive lineman Api Mane and quarterback Thomas MacVittie on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

Editor's Note: With KU football’s preseason camp now under way and the start of the 2019 season less than four weeks out, it’s time to start sizing up how the Jayhawks will fare under new head coach Les Miles. History has shown us that there are generally two camps this time of year, the optimists and the pessimists. Here’s a glimpse at what the pessimists might be thinking today. Check tomorrow for the optimist’s point of view.

I don’t know about you, but it sure would be nice to know a little more about this Kansas football team heading into a critical 2019 season.

Maybe that knowledge wouldn’t actually do much. Maybe it’s better to have a few surprises, a low bar and very little information about what kind of team Kansas will field this fall.

After all, haven’t we become pretty accustomed to knowing exactly what would go down at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium year after year for the past decade?

And isn’t it fair to be bracing for more of the same this season, even if the hands that cover your head are wearing diamonds and gold?

Exhausted is the Kansas football fan who has continually found a reason for hope each August for the past 10 years.

You know the type. Maybe you even are one. And if you are, my condolences.

New players, new coaches, new hopes, new dreams. All of it has been a regular part of riding the Kansas football wave of late, and that swell has not crested beyond the four-win mark in a decade.

So why would anyone expect things to be any different this year?

Sure, Les Miles is a proven head coach who has accomplished some big things during his career. But he also has been out of coaching for the past two seasons and didn’t exactly set the world on fire his final couple of seasons at LSU.

Beyond that, the Big 12 is a whole different animal than the SEC, and it’s only fair to expect Miles and his coaching staff to endure some kind of a learning curve on the journey to where they want this program to be.

Pooka Magic is great. And it was a lot of fun last season. But even then, when teams and defensive coordinators had no idea what was coming, his electric runs and tremendous talent only helped the Jayhawks record three wins.

How much better can we expect him to be when KU’s opponents have had an entire offseason to prepare for him?

And then there’s the quarterback quandary. Carter Stanley’s a heck of a competitor and an even better guy, but we’ve seen his ceiling. And if that winds up being better than what newcomer Thomas MacVittie can bring to the huddle — in Week 1 or at any point during the 2019 season — we probably already know how this movie ends.

The defense has some bona fide playmakers, but not enough of them play close enough to the line of scrimmage for it to matter. This KU secondary should be one of the top two or three defensive back groups the Jayhawks have fielded since Mark Mangino left town, but that will only matter if the guys up front can stop the run and rush the passer.

If they can’t — and we genuinely do not know this answer yet — then we’re staring down the barrel of a season of Bryce Torneden and Mike Lee leading the team in tackles. Both are great players and as tough as they come. But KU fans, coaches and players should not want either leading the team in takedowns.

The addition of Les Miles is a big deal. And, in time, it should matter. It’s just hard to picture that time being now.

Miles, like everyone else who has ever come through this program, is probably going to have to take a few lumps before things start looking up.

Comments

Steven Haag

Matt, great article. It’s most likely the “accurate” view and closer to reality than the optimist view. However, I look forward to the optimist view. We need a good, competent quarterback, and some good D-line and linebackers. Throw that in with another great year of takeaways and we could see 5 wins.....but I will stick with reality.....I mean the pessimist view

3 months, 1 week ago

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Ray Winger

I believe that this is less an opinion regarding the football team, and more a personal
disclosure of excuses/pessimism, etc. I think the improvement in the KU Football team over the last few years is notable. Failure to win a certain quotable number of games, is one last measure of improvement. One would like the number of wins, to have suddenly brought some measure of relief, but that isn't the way this is going to have happened. It is rather a grinding, sweating, hope rendering, slogging, heart wrenching, tedious improvement, that yields more wins.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Tom Gillaspie

Nice job of saying exactly nothing, Are you a Republican? Ha.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Robert Brock

KU football reminds me of an old fave book title: Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up To Me. Thanks, Richard Farina.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Dale Rogers

I'm somewhere in the middle. I'm looking for noticeable improvement, meaning being competitive in most of our games rather than winning more than 3 games. If we win 3 and show competitiveness in most of the other games this season, I'll be satisfied. Then I'll look for more wins beginning the second season.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Randy Bombardier

Yup. Patience required at this point. A first year coach typically gets 2 wins. We definitely need non conference cupcakes to get our program going. Then if we can just get effort, make few mistakes over time we will get better.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Dirk Medema

Spot on analysis Matt. DL and QB should determine the course of the season.

If Coach Beaty was able to get 3 wins last year, and was the reason for our demise, I would certainly hope we’re able to get more this year. The challenge Beyond that knee jerk reaction is that we replace Rutgers with BC and 3 included upsets (1+, 1-).

I’m hoping the coaching change is worth a TD per game improvement which should be good for at least one more win.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Pius Waldman

Matt stated this is the negative discussion so naturally he is looking at reasons for failure. My thinking is hopefully the games will be competitive fans helpful with positive reactions and future
recruiting gains better players. One cannot expect immediate high improvement but some will be well received. K-State game needs to be competitive and lets win it..

3 months, 1 week ago

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Curtis Blankenship

The realist would ask, "how could it be worse?" while the pessimist would say, "Check that, they are worse". It all lies on the offense, and the ability to keep the D off the field. As far as looking for a heady or mature QB, we just saw 3 years of that with Cozart (he had those, but couldn't throw the ball). I am hopeful Miles will bring this team together, but the rebuild is such a top to bottom job, I would keep low expectations for this year.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Chris Bailey

Well looky there an article with no win predictions or any false hopes. Just honesty. I think that being honest and reigning in our enthusiasm with us possibly exceeding expectations is a much better way to look forward.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Dane Pratt

I'm cautiously optimistic but I can't blame anyone who is pessimistic. It's been a pretty bad decade and even though I'm hopeful Miles is the answer, there is no proof we've turned a corner until actual games are played.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Tom Gillaspie

Three wins at the most, Same old, same old. Les just looking for that last paycheck, Washed up, has been, Hey, prove me wrong.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Greg Ledom

That’s a bunch of BS. You want to see a washed up, has been, only looking for a paycheck coach. Look no further than Charlie Weis. Don’t put Les in that category until proven otherwise. Whether we get 3 wins or more this year, who cares, look for a solid foundation, effort, technique, execution, etc., etc. and for this year and probably next, let the wins fall where they fall.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Doug Wallace

Win or lose we will just have to wait and see the results!

3 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Corder

Dive a little deeper when comparing this August to those in years gone by.

3 months, 1 week ago

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Barry Weiss

I'd like to see 4 wins and about 3 games as close as one score late in the fourth quarter. If we can do that, KU football is back!

3 months, 1 week ago

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Eric Eakins

How about a statistical approach. Every decade since 1950 we have had a minimum of one 7+ wins in a season. 1980's having only 1 season. Every other decade oscillating between 2 and 3 seasons of 7+ wins. This decade = 0. Law of averages says we are due. I'm not saying we are going to get 7 this year but we are past due and the history supports a rally every 10 years or so. I think what the stat means is KU admin/fans have a tolerance of 5-7 years before heads roll. A) this decade broke that mold in a bad way but eventually heads did roll. B) Instead of waiting for the reactive down cycle and being patient, it would be great to see a proactive long term strategy and lack of patience like we have with the basketball program.

3 months, 1 week ago

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