Blogging about a team that's not any good is not any fun- I speak from experience, having had to deal with numerous Q&As last year when the Frogs were tailspinning and Jarrett Anderson refused to run the ball, so I have the utmost respect for those who follow a team that a 4-8 season is a sign of progress. Misterbrain of Kansas' SBNation block Rock Chalk Talk is just such a fellow, and was happy to do a Q&A exchange with me about the KU football team even though basketball season has just about started. Without further ado, let's get into the questions!
Hawk: The Big 12 conference lost its best running joke when Charlie Weiss was fired early in the year, but I'm sure it was a relief to you guys (as well as to every woman who watched Kliff Kingsbury morph into Charlie in the Big 12 ad) . How has interim coach Clint Bowen been different from Charlie so far, and who do you like to take over the reigns in Lawrence next year?
misterbrain: It's been night and day between the two. Weis came across as disinterested in the way the program was developing, Bowen is the consummate "Kansas Guy". On the field, Bowen seems much more willing to experiment with new combinations and schemes to find what works. First we saw it with the switch to Michael Cummings at quarterback, and most recently the promotion of Eric Kiesau to Co-Offensive Coordinator with playcalling duties. As for morphing Charlie, I think the rest of us were pretty scared by it too.
Hawk: Senior quarterback Michael Cummings seems to have come on in a huge way, having three straight games of 60% or higher completion ratings. Has he matured enough that you're confident that he'll continue to perform well against TCU's speedy 4-2-5 defense, or do you think he may regress?
misterbrain: I don't know that it is a matter of regressing against the TCU defense. He could make huge strides against them and the Jayhawks still get absolutely destroyed. However, I don't think it will be possible for him to replicate the line he has had during meaningful minutes, but once we hit garbage time, he'll get his stats in.
Hawk: Before the breakthrough win against Iowa State, Kansas has been much more competitive with the teams of the Big 12, staying within a score of OSU and hanging close with Texas Tech for three quarters- what has been the biggest difference for the Jayhawks from last year to this one?
misterbrain: The main difference has been quarterback play. The receiving corps is basically the same as last year, and the running backs haven't suffered a bit from season-ending injuries to the starters at the end of camp. The main change is going to Cummings, and finding a QB that can run the system and spread the ball effectively. It helps that those three teams are at the bottom of the conference as well and deeply flawed, but having an offense that has been able to manage to stay on the field for more than 3 or 4 plays at a time has been vital to turning this around.
Hawk: Give us two KU players on offense and defense that will make the biggest difference in the game on Saturday.
misterbrain: Since we've already talked so much about Cummings, I won't include him. On offense, two others to look at will be Jimmay Mundine, the TE who Cummings has come to rely on in pretty much every tight spot, and Corey Avery, the true freshman running back who has stepped up admirably since the beginning of the year and held his own quite well. Tony Pierson is a dangerous weapon on the offense as well, but it's those two whose play seems to correlate the most with the overall play of the offense.
Hawk: The national perception has seemed to be that Kansas doesn't really care about its football program (and hiring Charlie Weis to coach supported that notion at least a little bit), but that the KU athletic department was willing to pay Weis so much to coach there seems to imply otherwise. As a fan, what do you want out of the football team- a bowl game every few years, a perennial bowl team, a conference championship contender? What do you think is a reasonable long term expectation for the KU program?
misterbrain: I think it is a fair assessment to say that the majority of fans really only care about basketball, but deep down, every fan wants a reason to care about college football, even if it is just to have something to pass the time from the end of summer until basketball season. But we got a bit spoiled with the 2008 Orange Bowl victory, and many of us don't see why we can't have a successful football program without hurting the basketball team. Ideally, we all want a perennial conference championship contender, but in the next ten years, I'd be happy with a program that gets to a bowl slightly less often than not and continues to improve year after year (with the occasional blip).
Hawk: Finally we come down to prediction time. How do you see Saturday's game playing out, and how will the Jayhawks do the rest of the year?
misterbrain: We are all pretty much prepared for a quick downturn, as we have no illusions that the success we saw against Iowa State can be kept up against a much better team in TCU. And considering that our final two opponents are Oklahoma and Kansas State, we are expecting the lose out the rest of the year. It was fun while it lasted, but the fanbase is ready to officially turn the attention to basketball and congratulate the football team on a decent (got the coaching change we wanted and won a Big 12 game) season.
Our thanks go out once again to misterbrain and the crew over at Rock Chalk Talk- it's been a pleasure talking to them this week and hopefully they'll be nice to us during basketball season. Be sure to drop by Rock Chalk Talk for the KU coverage of TCU's game, as well as my answers to Misterbrain's questions coming tomorrow.