Year one of the Turner Gill era ended in predictable fashion on Saturday when the Jayhawks dropped the final contest of the season to rival Missouri in Kansas City. A rivalry game that three years ago featured two top five teams, now looks like a game and a rivalry headed toward a lopsided era unless major questions and concerns are addressed.
For Gill, year one was ugly. An opening game loss to North Dakota State, lopsided embarrassments to Baylor and Kansas State and a finale against a Missouri team that looked as comfortable in their dismantling of the Jayhawks as they might have been in a practice scrimmage. The good news right now? The offseason has arrived.
Kansas and Gill need to begin work immediately on building for next year. Whatever occurred in the offseason between Mangino and Gill first year, it didn't work. Players looked soft at times, the team disorganized and the Jayhawks outclassed in almost every contest. How Kansas managed a win over a ranked Georgia Tech and that miraculous comeback against Colorado is a mystery in a lot of ways.
The reality is that Kansas could have just as easily been 1-11 this year with a lone victory over New Mexico State. A New Mexico State team that possibly represented the only team the Jayhawks lined up against that looked overmatched. What it means for Gill is that everything about this team needs to be evaluated.
For Kansas it might start with the signal caller. Kale Pick, Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham represented a three man weave that yielded little in the way of results. Can any of the three truly step into the role with another year of development and succeed? The common belief at this point is no. Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long need to find a quarterback and they need to find one fast.
After that, improvement needs to come up front. The Jayhawk offensive and defensive lines will need an upgrade. On the offensive side of the ball it's possible that a healthy group could cure some of the problems. A healthy group with a strict offseason program that is. On the defensive front, it's tough to say where the pieces will come from as Kansas hasn't been able to land any major players on the recruiting front and what they have in place looks to have a long way to go.
There are a few positives for the Jayhawks. Toben Opurum's switch to defensive end seems to be a move paying dividends and with a full offseason at the position Opurum will be a leader on the defensive side of the ball for Kansas. In the defensive backfield, Greg Brown, Bradley McDougald and Tyler Patmon all looked solid late in the season and could provide a solid corps for 2011.
Still, it's a project. A bigger project than anyone thought. At the beginning of the season the conventional belief was that the cupboard wasn't bare at Kansas. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't, but one thing is clear and that's the fact that there is plenty of work to do in terms of scheme, talent and conditioning.
Right now Gill has 4 years remaining on a guaranteed contract. Gill will be getting a new boss in the near future and he'll have to begin showing some improvement in a hurry. Right now the gap between Kansas and Missouri is a wide one. Gill sits 0-1 vs. Gary Pinkel. It's hard to envision a coach succeeding at Kansas if he can't put a product on the field that can at least play a competitive game against Missouri.