It’s hard to root against Kansas these days, but TCU Football fans are hoping the magic from Austin doesn’t travel north. As the Frogs look to avoid being the Jayhawks next victim, we reached out to the fabulous Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk to give us the inside scoop on all things KU.
Frogs O’ War: Which win over Texas is your favorite?
Andy Mitts: Has to be the one this year. This win actually felt like it was an accomplishment, with Kansas making plays to capitalize on Texas mistakes. The prior win was Kansas benefitting from Texas play that was so bad that it rivaled even KU’s incompetence in that game. Plus, winning on the road in Austin for the first time ever is just phenomenal, especially if it’s the last time they play there before Texas goes to the SEC.
Frogs O’ War: What is it like to know that 95% of the country is rooting for your team, one that frankly is irrelevant in college football most of the time, during a primetime game?
Andy Mitts: It’s fantastic! After Texas and Oklahoma announced that they were leaving for the SEC, I’m fairly certain that the majority of the nation wished nothing but the worst for them in all of their remaining conference games, but it’s fun to be able to once again plunge Texas into a low point in their program history. Plus, it was a welcome change to listen to every national recap show and hear them lead with a KU football accomplishment.
Frogs O’ War: Lance Leipold is pretty much universally respected as a coach, but inherited one of the most challenging P5 jobs in the country. Very early obviously, but is he doing enough to give KU fans hope?
Andy Mitts: Definitely, especially when you factor in that he has only been on campus for roughly 6 months. He missed out on an entire spring practice, and while there was a lot of staff carry-over, he’s still trying to install an entirely new system in approximately 3 months. The biggest reason for hope has to be the play of the offensive line. While they haven’t been spectacular, they have been a drastic improvement over the last few years, when the QB had less than 2 seconds to make a decision after each snap. While any rational Kansas fan isn’t expecting a bowl game next season, it’s great to be able to go into every game with at least a mild sense that a blowout isn’t inevitable.
Frogs O’ War: TCU Interim Head Coach Jerry Kill basically said that Kansas is playing like a completely different football team this year when it comes to fundamentals and execution. As someone who watches the program closely, would you say that’s a fair assessment and where are you seeing that show up most on game day?
Andy Mitts: That’s definitely fair. Lance Leipold has been preaching consistency as the bedrock of his program since he showed up. He stated that they would prefer players that can execute consistently at a higher floor than one that has a higher ceiling but is wildly inconsistent. To that end, we’ve seen steady improvement throughout the year, even though the step up in competition has generally outpaced that improvement. The offensive line is one of the biggest spots where we’ve seen this, but Devin Neal has slowly gotten better at picking his spots to make a cut up field when running.
Frogs O’ War: From a scheme perspective, what has the new staff brought to the table on offense and defense?
Andy Mitts: It seems bad to say this, but the simplest way to describe the difference is that it seems like there is actually a plan. Under Les Miles, the staff seemed to be playing a game of tug-o-war, as the game plan changed each week. I haven’t always agreed with the decisions this staff has made, but they definitely seem to have an actual plan for this team.
Frogs O’ War: Kansas has dealt with issues at QB, including injuries and ineffectiveness. But Jalon Daniels appeared to take the reigns Saturday in Austin. What has changed for the sophomore QB and do you think he can be “the guy” going forward?
Andy Mitts: Unless they want to maintain his redshirt (which they’ve already stated he doesn’t really care about anymore), he has to be the guy moving forward. I was stumping for him coming into the year, based on the potential that he showed last season, but we were told that he was struggling to learn the system as quickly as Jason Bean and Miles Kendrick. I also think there was some trepidation about the ability of the offensive line to protect him early in the season, and the improvement we’ve seen there really enabled him to show off his natural ability against Texas last week. Barring a huge setback this week, I think he can put himself in a solid position to be “the guy” going into next season too.
Frogs O’ War: Who is your favorite player to watch on offense and defense and why have they earned that honor?
Andy Mitts: On offense, it has to be Devin Neal. The way he attacks on his runs is just fantastic to watch. On defense, I have a hard time picking between Kenny Logan and Kyron Johnson. Logan flies all over the place, making big plays pretty much anywhere on the field, and Johnson has straight up mauled a few guys to get big sacks the second half of the season.
Frogs O’ War: What is a successful season for Kansas Football in 2021 and has their play impacted your expectations going forward?
Andy Mitts: This season has already been successful. We’ve seen steady improvement that can be used as a foundation to build upon and we’ve seen enough high-level performances that it’s easy to believe that they are actual signs of Kansas doing things well instead of the opponent failing horribly. Another win or two to finish out the season could ramp up expectations considerably for next year, but I have to think that a bowl game in 2023 or 2024 still has to be the target.
Frogs O’ War: TCU Football is down bad and might have to play a CB at RB and a WR at QB this weekend. So, is this about to be a winning streak on the road in Big 12 play for the Jayhawks? Hit us with your score prediction for Saturday.
Andy Mitts: I really do think so. Kansas is coming off a fantastic performance with new players that have a bunch of confidence, and they match up well to be able to take advantage of holes in the TCU roster. While the advanced metrics seem to favor TCU quite handily, they don’t account for all the players that TCU is lacking and the big step up in both confidence and potential from the switch to Jalon Daniels. I don’t think this game gets too crazy, and both teams will give up big plays, but give me a 27-24 Kansas victory.
Frogs O’ War: If you were TCU AD Jeremiah Donati, who would you hire to replace Gary Patterson? As another Big 12 member school, what would be the worst/funniest hire the Frogs could make?
Andy Mitts: Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s easy to say Sonny Dykes or Billy Napier, but for some reason I’m worried that TCU won’t be the most attractive job that those two will be offered this offseason. I saw someone mention Ed Orgeron as a possibility, and I can honestly say I didn’t immediately hate the idea.
In terms of funniest hire, bringing Gary back I think qualifies, but I think going for someone like Deion Sanders, while it would be entertaining, would be a bad hire for a school like TCU. Not saying that I don’t think he can coach, but I just don’t think he’s a good fit with the way that TCU sees themselves as a program.
Frogs O’ War BONUS QUESTION: It’s basketball season, and Baylor and Texas are stealing the shine from KU Hoops. How do you see Self’s squad doing this year and will the Jayhawks retake their place at the top of the best basketball conference in the country’s throne? Who are some names to know on the squad?
Andy Mitts: This Kansas squad is loaded, from early NPOY candidate Ochai Agbaji to PG transfer Remy Martin (who hasn’t actually had to have as big of a role as many expected he would) to sharpshooting big man Zach Clemence, this team has basically any sort of player you can ask for. This doesn’t even include the slow-starting David McCormack, who also started slow last year before playing at a 1st Team All American level the second half of the season, or Jalen Wilson, who has yet to play following a suspension stemming from a DUI in the preseason.
It’s hard to imagine that this team won’t win the Big 12, even with the high level of competition. The Jayhawks are a legitimate national title contender, and while they might have to share the regular season conference title, I expect them to get that share and make a deep run in the tournament this year.