LAWRENCE, Kan. — David Beaty could stand at a pulpit and go toe-to-toe with the most long-winded, passionate and downright positive preachers to ever step foot inside a church.
It’s a nice ability to have when you’re trying to sell Kansas.
By now, the depths of the Jayhawks’ ineptitude the past five years are well known: the 15-game losing streak, the poor recruiting classes under Turner Gill and Charlie Weis, the winless season in Beaty’s debut, the subpar stadium and apathetic fan base.
Yet as Beaty stood at a lectern inside a team meeting room this week, appraising the first three weeks of the season, he launched into an unscripted address brimming with optimism.
“We’re excited about moving forward,” he said. “Really as we get into it, you start looking at it, there’s a lot of surprising things that you’re actually doing a little better than you thought.”
Like passing yards allowed, where the Jayhawks rank ninth nationally. And in total defense, where they have gone from 120th out of 125 schools last season to 62nd through their first three games.
Similar improvements have been made on offense and special teams, too.
Beaty is also a realist, though. He understands the only statistic that truly matters is number of wins, and a victory over Rhode Island followed by losses to Ohio and Memphis is hardly progress.
“There’s some positive things there,” he said while meeting with reporters during the Jayhawks’ bye week, “but the details are in the things we’re not doing well, but they need to hear about the ways we’re improving as a team because we are making improvements. We just haven’t done enough yet, so the details are going to be huge for us as we go through this week.”
Two major areas of emphasis: ball security and field position.
Turnovers have destroyed any chance of winning the past two weeks — nine of them in total. The Jayhawks lost a pair of fumbles and threw a pick against the Bobcats, and last week coughed it up four times and threw two interceptions in a six-turnover meltdown against the Tigers.
Kansas has no prayer against Big 12 foes making those kinds of mistakes.
“The thing that we learned as we look at the tape is it’s never as simple as you think it is. Ball security is an everybody deal,” Beaty said. “All those things are coached, and we’ve just got to coach them harder, because when we do, the results will be a lot different. They’ll fall in suit.”
The same rings true for trouble with field position, where the Jayhawks have made a habit of starting in the shadows of its own goalposts. The turnovers have contributed to the problem, but so has a mixed bag on offense and scattershot performances by special teams.
“Starting drives inside your 5 or inside your 10, that makes it tough sledding, and conversely, if we’re not making our opponents start their drives inside their 20, that makes it tough sledding,” Beaty said. “I want to say of 14 drives or 15 drives last week, Memphis started inside their 25 twice, and we started inside of our 12 six times.”
That certainly won’t fly against the high-powered offense of Texas Tech, which kicks off Big 12 play next week. The meet Thursday night for a game that will be showcased on national television.
There were still questions for Beaty to answer Tuesday after his lengthy oratory, ranging from the future of decrepit Memorial Stadium — “our fan base deserves a quality, wonderful, great fan experience” — to his own self-scout, where he admitted to a number of personal faults.
But one point he drove home time after time was his steadfast belief in progress.
These aren’t the same old Jayhawks. Beaty is sure of it.
“You’re never going to be there. We are always going to be developing,” he said. “You’re going to hear me say that from now until we win a conference championship, which we will do. I’m not sure when, but we will get to it, and we will always be developing.”