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Year Two Feels a Lot Like Year One

It wasn’t as if Kansas was so far off heading into 2010: winners of five games in 2009, 33 over the previous four seasons, the Jayhawks entered last season as distinct bowl contenders if not more, depending on your level of confidence. So I suppose the task facing Turner Gill ran closer along the lines of a change in mentality, reversing the culture inherited from his predecessor — one could say it was negative, or perhaps toxic, depending on where you stand on coaches using adult language. Something funny happened on the way to bowl play: Kansas was abysmal, failing in muster up even a pedestrian offensive attack and continuing a defensive slide that began in 2008 and has showed little sign of slowing down.

Basically, year two for Gill is more like year one. Or what year one is supposed to be for a rookie coach, rather: a bad team, a lack of identity and a tough road to climb, ingredients for a rebuilding season. So how did we get to this point?

Think of a snowball rolling down a hill: it starts small, picks up speed, accumulates momentum and, yes, snowballs. That was Kansas in 2010, with the snowball in question developing over the months heading into the season, when roster issues on both sides of the ball began to raise eyebrows.

Not all the blame can fall on Mark Mangino, though he’s a convenient scapegoat. He’s no longer around, for starters, and the ugly developments that led to his ouster quickly put him in the wrong, Kansas in the right. So Gill has that going for him — had that going for him, as it’s an excuse that won’t last too much longer.

No, not all the blame can fall on his predecessor. Gill did a horrible job with his quarterbacks, a concern we all highlighted during the spring and summer but one Gill exacerbated with his depth chart waffling. After thinking things over during the summer months, Gill named Kale Pick as his starter; that lasted all of one game, a terrible loss to North Dakota State. Then it was Jordan Webb, who started six straight games — winning a pair — before finding his spot on the bench.

Webb was replaced by Quinn Meacham, who went 1-3 over a four-game stretch, before Webb reclaimed his starting role for a season-ending loss to Missouri. So three starters over 12 games, with the quarterback Gill designated as the starter in August starting just that season opener. It was a mess at a position where a first-year coach — any coach, for that matter — most wants consistency, and it set an awful tone of the offense at large.

But it wasn’t just about the quarterbacks. It was nearly across the board, offense and defense — and the coaching, to be fair, which was not up to snuff. Hence the feeling that is year one all over again, or year two of a rebuilding project that, surprisingly, may not find the Jayhawks factoring in the new-look Big 12 for the near future. There’s nothing wrong with rebuilding: it’s just that few thought it was coming, and fewer still thought it would get this ugly.

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