Kansas Swings for the Fences By Hiring David Beaty

When Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger set out to find the replacement for Charlie Weis, he likely hearkened back to the glory days of the Jayhawks’ run to the 2008 Orange Bowl. That team was led by a tough, rugged head coach with a keen eye for detail, and was largely built on the backs of solid but mostly overlooked Texas recruits.

At the end of the day, Zenger had his sights set on David Beaty, who had a successful stint coaching high school football in Texas; was responsible for recruiting multiple top 100 prospects to Texas A&M; and, probably most notably, has been at Kansas twice, having recruited some of the players on that 2008 Orange Bowl team.

As a Kansas fan, I can’t help but be excited yet skeptical.

Beaty’s introductory press conference was decent — he certainly knows how to recruit, and he knows how to recruit to Kansas, but it takes a different type of program to develop players at Kansas. Unless things break unbelievably well or Beaty is the best recruiter in America, I cannot see the Jayhawks being filled with three- and four-star athletes. The players need to be developed, which, to his credit, Beaty seems to understand.

Because of his youth and energy, I expect him to be able to get good assistant coaches, perhaps better assistants than Kansas should be able to get. Because of his relationships in Dallas, I expect some of those assistants to be Texas high school coaches. While I’m sure that will cause some chuckles outside the Kansas fan base — and some consternation inside it — Art Briles and Gus Malzahn, to name a notable pair, began their careers as high school coaches.

That’s not to say that whomever Beaty ends up choosing to fill his staff will turn into Briles or Malzahn, but like everything else about this hire, it is a home run swing. Beaty could be an up-and-coming superstar, destined to either be Kansas’s Bill Snyder or leave the program in five years for greener pastures. Either way, he would leave the program in a much better place than where he found it.

This hire is not without its risks. Beaty has been a coordinator for just two seasons, separate one-year stints at Rice and Kansas, and struggled both times. Though Rice improved when he was there in 2010, the Owls’ S&P rank via Football Outsiders was just 101st. He wasn’t much better the next season at Kansas, ranking 94th.

His sales pitch to Zenger likely revolved around his relationships with high schools in Texas, and the Dallas area specifically. However, it is a lot different recruiting Texas kids to Kansas now, compared to the previous time he did so. Back then, it was mostly Texas and A&M or bust, and it was possible to convince kids a tier below to come to Kansas due to multiple games per year in the state of Texas. Now, it seems as though there are three times as many Texas programs looking for those kids. While programs such as Baylor and TCU aren’t hunting for the same level kids that Kansas is, programs like SMU, Houston, Texas Tech, and Rice are, and they’re all getting better at finding those kids. The biggest thing, though, is it just means there are more programs to compete with for those kids…

… which, in a way, makes it more logical to bring in Beaty.

If you want those kids, why not bring in someone who has a relationship with their high school coaches? I could talk myself in circles about the pros and cons of hiring David Beaty, and I have done so multiple times since his hiring last week, but it comes down to this: He reportedly has a great plan to build around not just Texas and Oklahoma kids, but Kansas and Missouri kids as well; he has a relentless attention to detail and work ethic; and from everything I have read about him, the guy knows EVERYONE, and it is no surprise why so many high school kids want to play for him.

Add in his drawl, the earnest, honest way in which he speaks, and the way he seems to make whomever he speaks to feel like the most important person in the room, and I almost hate to admit how much he reminds me of a certain other coach plying his trade in Lawrence. Will David Beaty be Bill Self? Maybe, maybe not. But he won’t be Turner Gill or Charlie Weis, and for now, that’s a good start.