LAWRENCE — This week’s episode of “Hawk Talk” didn’t include football coach Lance Leipold, but it did have its fair share of guests to talk about that team and more around Kansas Athletics.
Jayhawks athletic director Travis Goff touched on how the football team has been doing, and looked ahead to what the athletic department is planning for in the future. First-year baseball coach Dan Fitzgerald updated the progress he’s been able to make since arriving on campus, and spoke to a former Kansas player who’s enjoying a storied postseason run at the professional level. And two football players, Kenny Logan Jr. and Devin Neal, were there to talk about the Jayhawks as well.
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Here are five takeaways from Wednesday’s edition of “Hawk Talk”:
Transformation coming in 2023…
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The vision for the changes that are coming to David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium is clear in the respect that there’ll be a transformation of it, but to an extent that’s been all that has been clear. Saying things like the players and fans deserve what’s coming, and that there’ll be a positive economic effect from this construction project that has a campus-wide commitment, only takes things so far. But Goff did highlight his perspective on one thing that has been a topic of discussion.
Goff said they are still talking about how the phasing of the project will unfold, but that regardless there are a lot of reasons to play through what’s decided without moving the team’s games to another location. The most important reason, in Goff’s mind, is ensuring that the players don’t lose that home-field feeling in a way that would set the program back.
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That the Jayhawks’ football team is doing as well as it is so far this season has been amazing for Goff to watch, and according to him the best part about it is seeing guys like Neal and Logan see the work they’ve put in is paying off. Goff added the fans have had a chance to see what the right kind of program can look like at Kansas. Right now, the team is 5-3 with the most wins it’s had since 2009 when it finished 5-7.
“This didn’t need to be and have to be a fairy tale of 6-0 and 7-0 and 8-0 and on and on and on,” said Goff, seeming to allude to the team’s 5-0 start and subsequent three-game losing streak. “This needed to be a progression this year. 5-0 gave us all an incredible spark, incredible excitement. This group’s going to be there next Saturday and we’re going to have a whole lot more that wouldn’t have otherwise been there because they’re now seeing that progression with the program.”
Goff thinks he and head football coach Lance Leipold see it in a similar manner, in that they all want immediate outcomes but also see ultimate success being determined by a “more middle-to-long-term progression.” That’s where Goff said people’s energy and focus is being spent. They feel that ultimate success is possible, and draw confidence from the current team.
Kansas Athletics announces strategic plan ‘To The Stars’
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Kansas Athletics’ “To the Stars” strategic plan was revealed Wednesday, ahead of the show. It’s set to serve as a road map for the department as it pursues success in the future both at home and away from the arenas of competition. According to a release, a 46-person committee spent more than 14 months putting it together and more than 4,000 people were surveyed.
Goff said during “Hawk Talk” the survey responses spoke to where the department’s been, where it’s at and where they all want it to go. He invited accountability from fans and athletes, and noted they’re being ambitious to the point they may fall short on some of their goals. And he added the plan will need to be something that can evolve over time because of the changing landscape of college athletics.
It’s been a while since Rob Thomson starred as a Kansas baseball player back in the 1980s, but for good reason there are those around the program who have been highlighting him recently. Thomson, now a Major League Baseball manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, has reached the World Series. The Phillies are going up against the Houston Astros.
Fitzgerald said he is absolutely picking the team coached by a former Jayhawks player to win. The two of them have connected, Fitzgerald explained. And the plan is for Thomson to visit during the offseason.
Neal, a sophomore running back for the Jayhawks, is a part of a position group that was highlighted routinely during fall camp practices. It was one many expected to be a critically important piece of Kansas’ offense, because of how much talent many felt it had. And according to Neal, offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki calls the group “The stable.”
Neal also provided any injury update. He said redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Michael Ford Jr. is ready to go after recently getting banged up. Ford, Neal pointed out, is an example of how beneficial it has been that the team is in a bye week.
Jordan Guskey covers University of Kansas Athletics at The Topeka Capital-Journal. Contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JordanGuskey.