Latest shakeup on Jayhawks’ coaching staff is play-calling duties
LAWRENCE, Kan. — Anybody watching Kansas last week could tell that something different was going on, though it had nothing to do with the personnel or anything else happening on the field.
It was the enlarged images of toast and chocolate donuts on the sideline.
Shortly before kickoff against Baylor, interim coach Clint Bowen decided to split offensive coordinator duties between John Reagan and wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau, and it would be Kiesau calling the plays — with some help from some tasty-looking signs.
"One of my biggest concerns was that transition of, ‘So, you’re the play-caller now, so everything’s going to be better,’" Kiesau said. "No, I have to take (Reagan’s) terminology and how he runs it and take it and put my flavor on it."
Flavor? Nice choice of words.
Kiesau said his preparation for Baylor was a little different than previous weeks, when he had been working solely with the wide receivers. There was far more to juggle.
"Because you’re trying to put the game plan together in your mind and you’re trying to focus on the big picture, where before you were kind of helping John out," he said.
Kansas has become painfully accustomed to coaching changes, though.
Before the season started, Kiesau and Reagan were hired by then-coach Charlie Weis to help overhaul a stagnant offense. Rather than an ineffective pro-style system, Reagan was supposed to bring his spread system from Rice. But nothing seemed to work early in the season, and Weis was ultimately fired after just four games, and Reagan promoted to interim coach.
Formerly the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Bowen kept his hands mostly off the offense until this past week, when he decided to have Reagan and Kiesau share their duties.
"Communication is always bounced off the wall," Bowen said. "Not just among the two coordinators but among the entire staff, and those guys come in there and you look at your plan, you start going through what you think is good and bad and picking it apart as a whole group.
"The coordinators just have the final say on what they really want and what they’re trying to put together," Bowen explained. "It’s always a collective effort."
With so many changes to the staff this season, Kiesau said it doesn’t make sense to make wholesale changes. The core of what is happening on the field is the same system Reagan was running, he said, with maybe a few tweaks to how plays are signaled in.
"If you’re speaking Chinese and then all of a sudden you go to English, there’s a learning curve," Kiesau said. "You have to find that happy medium and understand what you’re trying to get done to where you don’t backpedal. You don’t want to lose ground."
Kiesau actually started calling plays for Kansas during the bye week, giving him a bit of time to get used to it. He finally got a chance to pull the strings against Baylor, a 60-14 defeat.
The results weren’t what anybody was expecting, but everybody on the Kansas coaching staff understands that there are growing pains. Besides, the Bears are one of the best teams in the Big 12, and a rough way for a new play-caller to be learning on the job.
Perhaps a better test of the Jayhawks’ new offensive approach will happen Saturday, when they welcome fellow conference cellar-dweller Iowa State to Memorial Stadium.
"Everyone’s saying, ‘You have the new keys to the car, let’s go see it drive fast,’" Kiesau said. "Well, that sounds great, but you really have to think about the plays you’re calling and the results you’re getting. You have to be cognizant of the big picture. It handcuffs you to a certain extent, but we need to find answers as well."