Les Miles: KU's O-linemen 'settling in'

Kansas head coach Les Miles works with offensive lineman Api Mane on Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the indoor practice facility.

During the buildup to his first game as the head football coach at the University of Kansas, Les Miles at times went out of his way during press conferences and interviews to let people know how optimistic he felt about the Jayhawks’ offensive line.

Two games into the season, though, the play up front has neither wowed observers nor overwhelmed opposing defensive linemen and linebackers.

While watching KU’s O-line during the team’s closed practices, Miles forecasted the group would give the Jayhawks “great play” and described the blockers as a “big, good-looking group of men.”

Given those projections, one might conclude Miles hasn’t been pleased with what he has seen during a 1-1 start from the offense’s point of attack.

The coach didn’t go that far, though.

“I think they've played well,” Miles said earlier this week.

So what’s keeping the offensive linemen from playing that dominant brand of football their coach wants KU playing?

“I think everybody is settling in,” Miles said. “I don't know if that's — it makes great sense when you're moving. You arrive at the new house and you settle in, right? I think what we're doing here is we're finding plays that fit our kids that are playmakers. I think we're settling in, if you will, on how to equip our players best. I think there's some time there.”

True, there are still 10 games left to play in 2019 for the Jayhawks, beginning with their Friday night nonconference finale at Boston College (6:30 p.m., ACC Network). And through two games, senior quarterback Carter Stanley has been sacked four times (twice in each game) while attempting 48 total passes.

On numerous other plays, though, Stanley has been hurried or at the very least sped up and/or forced to throw or make a decision while on the move due to the defense making its way past the offensive line sooner than expected.

What’s more, even though preseason All-Big 12 running back Pooka Williams Jr. returned and rushed for 99 yards on 22 carries against CCU, there were several occasions when the sophomore rusher had to maneuver and break tackles just to eke out small gains.

Five of Williams' attempts went for zero to 2 yards, and he was taken down in the backfield twice — both times in the fourth quarter.

Senior Khalil Herbert ran for 82 yards on only eight carries. He got dropped for a loss of 4 yards on one and had a 1-yard carry.

According to the Pro Football Focus grades provided to Jayhawk Slant, senior left tackle Hakeem Adeniji (79.7) was the only KU O-lineman to receive a grade higher than 70 in the Jayhawks’ loss to Coastal Carolina.

In a Week 1 victory over Indiana State, PFF gave grades of 70 or higher to three O-linemen: center Andru Tovi (73.9), Adeniji (73.6) and right guard Chris Hughes (72.6).

Given Miles’ clearly high expectations for the group, Adeniji assessed where the offensive line is at entering Week 3, compared to where the Jayhawks thought they would be.

“I think we’re progressing,” Adeniji said. “I think we’re not where we want to be. But I don’t think we expected to be there this early in the season. But I think if we keep improving like we have been and we can do, I think we’ll be able to get to where we want to be.”

Although Adeniji and Malik Clark are playing every snap on the left side of KU’s O-line, the staff, as planned, is rotating players in and out at center and on the right side of the line.

Per PFF’s snap counts, starting junior center Tovi played three times as many snaps as reserve Api Mane against CCU.

The rotations were more evenly split on the right side of the line, where right tackle Kevin Feder and right guard Hughes started and played four more snaps than right tackle Clyde McCauley III and right guard Adagio Lopeti.

Adeniji said he doesn’t think the rotations are impacting what he and Clark are able to do on the opposite side of the line.

Miles said he is happy with the rotation approach thus far.

“Yeah, we're expecting that they're going to get better, OK,” Miles said of the O-linemen. “And the guys that are getting rotation time are talented guys and now need some reps to get us better. Obviously the plan is that sooner rather than later we'll be ready to play dominant football.”

KU enters its game at Boston College (2-0) ranked 115th among FBS teams in points per game (15.5), 94th in yards per play (5.24) and, according to ESPN’s analytics, 129th out of 130 teams in offensive efficiency.

Comments

Bee Bee

They are big. But they are not good.

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

"dominant football" ?! good lord les, lets be realistic here: the only 'dominant football' left to be played this year is Against us! we are toast & the CTE is clearly kicking in; reality escapes. have u thought of getting the ball to pooka in Space? just a Thought. jfc. RCJH

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

Dale Rogers

If I understand what Miles is saying, they are essentially trying different things with the o-line guys to figure out what works and what doesn't. That actually makes sense to me. You can't figure that out when you're only playing against your own team. You have to do it against real competition. Once they figure out what works, then they can really start to show improvement on the field. You cannot correct mistakes until you know what those mistakes are. Basketball can do that experimentation in the exhibition games, which do not show up in the record. Plus, there are enough basketball games in the season, those exhibition games are forgotten by season end. In football, it all shows up in the record. I'll give them time to figure it all out. I'm expecting to see progress, slowly, but surely, by mid-season. To blast them before that is short-sighted.

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

Steven Haag

Sorry Dale, not buying it. K-State is clicking on all cylinders. Our offensive efficiency is 129 out of 130 teams. This should not be. I was happy with the hiring of Les......but I wasn’t over the moon with excitement. He was let go from LSU for a reason. He wasn’t “out of this world” while he was with Okie State. Do I think he and his staff have better potential than Beaty and his crew? Yes I do, but I am underwhelmed at this point.

1 week, 3 days ago

Report

Dale Rogers

I suspect had you reversed which team the two coaches had Les Miles would be looking really good right now and Klieman not so good. KState has tons more talent. Can't really compare the two teams even if they had the same exact coaches.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Phil Leister

You've hit the nail on the head!

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Bee Bee

Bear Bryant, John McKay and Nick Saban couldn't win many with what K U has at this point. They SHOULD have easily won these first two games EASILY.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Brian Wilson

Leave Les alone. He has to be a leader, confident and positive. The OL is big slow and strong, but each member has their own talents. Notice his comment about finding plays that fit the talent. Some players block to the left better than the right. Some drop back while others push better........pass/rush. Moving forward we may be rotating a few of the OL from left to right side but my guess is HCLM is not going to give that info away. We also may change plays and how we lineup to take advantage of one players ability on one side of the line verses the other. Its a process, easier to do when you've done some of it the last year or two and know the players. The players at schools like Alabama are usually talented at everything and this type of adjustments are not necessary.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Brian Wilson

"I think what we're doing here is we're finding plays that fit our kids that are playmakers. I think we're settling in, if you will, on how to equip our players best."

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Steven Haag

@Dale....TONS more talent😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂. K-State is loaded with 3 star, just like we are. We actually have more 4 star than they do. If anything, we have MORE talent than K-State. Change the kool-aid that you are drinking.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Lucas Town

In the past 10 seasons (2010-19) according to Jayhawk Slant and Go Powercat, half the time KU had a higher recruiting class and the other half K-State had a higher recruiting class. K-State has had a better recruiting class 4 of the past 6 years. I don't put much stock in the stars of each player, but one school is clearly teaching their players the fundamentals and building upon them. KU's main issue is not lack of talent. There is no coaching stability, due to poor hires and KU players are on a constant learning curve with every new staff that comes to town.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Steven Haag

Spot on Lucas. K-State got a new coach this year and he isn’t “learning” the strengths and weaknesses of his O-line. Maybe he figured that out in practices. Maybe they have a better O-line coach.....I honestly don’t know. I do know we are getting manhandled by inferior FCS teams. Not giving me waves of confidence. We do need confidence, we need to be mean, and we need to be tough. Not sure how long it will take to get there, but every other team is getting better each week also, so if we don’t grow up fast, we are looking at 1-11.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Bee Bee

Exactly, Steve. The K U O line was a head taller and many lbs heavier than both defenses they played. The O line looks good but they are not tough or mean.
The D line isn't a lot better. They were rarely in the backfield in either game and were stalemated or just plain run over several times.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report

Randy Bombardier

Well I guess there's a reason the show is called Miles to Go.

1 week, 2 days ago

Report