KU Jayhawks football coach Lance Leipold’s reconstruction analysis

Laurent Hayden Hatcher recently had to set his alarm clock for 5:30 a.m., but he says he was only responsible for himself. The Kansas football defensive end was a few minutes late for lunch at

Hayden Hatcher recently had to set his alarm clock for 5:30 a.m., but he says he was only responsible for himself.

The Kansas football defensive end was a few minutes late for lunch at the team’s premises a few weeks ago. He figured he could get away with it.

Hatcher was wrong. He was put on a list for “Championship Protocol,” which meant his discipline would help clean out the weight room an hour before someone else arrived.

It was then, Hatcher said, that his first conversation with Lance Leipold came back to him.

“He was a man of his word,” Hatcher said, “when he said he was going to give us discipline.”

The new orientation was self-requested.

Hatcher, during a one-on-one interview with Leipold in May, was asked by the coach what he wanted most from the new regime. Hatcher responded with two words – ‘responsibility’ and ‘discipline’ – while saying that all the best football teams he had played with before shared these qualities.

He was not alone with these thoughts. Hatcher says many of his teammates told Leipold the same answer, with the coach sharing that with them ever since, including once in training where he stopped exercising minutes after not liking his energy. team.

His message then: You wanted me to hold you accountable for your actions, so it’s time to take it up.

“Nobody can worry about it,” Hatcher said, “because that’s what we asked for.”

The moment is just one example of the change that Leipold and the staff are trying to create.

Player after player will tell you that there is a difference between this year and the others. Trying to create a new culture, the coaches at KU have focused their attention on the details.

This could be a clipart image shown at the start of team meetings. Or the presentation of the Jayhawk logo as it appears in the weight room. Or a checklist at the establishment’s lunch table.

Most of these things may seem trivial on the surface. But if KU is to reverse a long-dying program, the squad’s players are confident – with the coaching emphasis – that those finer points will help them get there.

“If you make all people buy into the little details,” said KU running back Devin Neal, “that’s what wins you games.”

‘The difference’

KU running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson prepared to win the daily race – and he wasn’t the only one.

Offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki’s daily offensive meetings had all followed the same pattern: an introductory slide, a few words of welcome to his guys, then a flip in the image of a hand with fingers pinched with the thumb and l index finger within an inch of each other.

LaDifférenceKU.png
Kansas’ current offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki displays his photo of “The Difference” at a 2020 practice clinic available on YouTube. YouTube screenshot

Kotelnicki had previously explained what the photo meant to him. This, he said, was “The Difference” – a visual representation of the margin he sees each week between winning and losing.

It could be a block. Or a guy who struggles until the end of a play when he doesn’t have to.

The movie – time and time again – had shown him that a team’s result each week boils down to how a team fares with this hidden part of the game.

And his attempt to convey that to his players had become something of a game.

Every day, just as he moved on to slide two, KU’s offensive players had started a tradition of punching him. “The difference!” they shouted in unison, letting their trainer know they already knew what he was going to say next.

That day, however, Pesek-Hickson and his cronies were too quick. Kotelnicki has changed the layout, so that the next screen shows notes on their performance during a recent scrum.

“We screamed ‘The difference’,” Pesek-Hickson said with a laugh, “and it wasn’t ‘The difference’.”

This is far from the only type of active learning that coaching staff use to pass teaching points.

Another segment of Kotelnicki’s presentation focuses on “What Is Rock Chalk” and “What Is Not Rock Chalk”. With the former, he could show an example of what he calls an “RBI block” – an effort where a player’s effort on a defender opens a teammate’s touchdown run (or drives the run, if you want to use the baseball analogy he’s going for).

The latter, meanwhile, could show a lineman jumping early, or a receiver not securing the ball as he should.

Each of these could have a huge impact.

“It really is a great tool for us,” said KU offensive lineman Colin Grunhard, “to see the difference in practice and in our lives.”

It’s teaching points like this that linebacker Rich Miller says are the reason he decided to follow the Buffalo staff to KU.

Miller, who has played all 20 games for the Bulls in the past two seasons, says he’s been reiterated that Saturdays are for the fans, but Mondays are when teams actually win the games. He says it’s not hitting that snooze button when you could – or focusing on discipline all the time to stay that way when you’re tired in the fourth trimester – that matters most in the end.

“You can’t train badly all week and come out on game day and think it’s going to happen like magic. It doesn’t,” Miller said. “It’s one thing they do. “instilled, and I really love that, because it made me better as a person. That’s how I live life. Do all the little things right every day.”

So what routines have become the new normal for KU soccer players in 2021?

It turns out that almost any Jayhawk can give you a different answer.

‘It’s almost forcing you to do well’

Defensive lineman Caleb Taylor admits that the first few days in the weight room under new strength trainer Matt Gildersleeve weren’t exactly smooth.

“The biggest emotion I saw when we first started was the confusion,” Taylor said with a smile, “and I was one of them.”

KU’s strength training sessions had never had so much whistling before. Not only that, players who lifted in groups of 3-4 were constantly asked to always do Something, part of a change that allowed each person to work even if they were not working on a specific machine.

An example: while one player is doing bench press, another can do rolling exercises. They start each set of reps at Gildersleeve’s whistle, and when the subset ends, each group runs to the next station.

They better go fast. Taylor says guys who don’t make it to their next place with a goal are fired by Gildersleeve, sometimes having to retreat to the other end of the weight room to show they can properly run to their next place .

“I have the impression that at the beginning, some people were resistant to it, because it was obviously new. You’re going to be a little resistant to everything, ”Taylor said of the changes. “But after a while, and people have really settled in, I feel like they’re starting to like and kiss her, because we’re doing a lot of things in the shortest amount of time possible.”

These aren’t the only weight room rules that have been found to be important.

Each bumper plate – used for lifts like the bench press and squats – has a Jayhawk logo on it. When these are returned to the racks, they should be returned with the Jayhawk appearing upright. Miller says violators of this rule can be subject to “a lot of yelling” and ups and downs as well.

Catcher Luke Grimm also said major changes have taken place in nutrition as well. He says every player has pre-supplements and vitamins given to them every morning… which he ticks off once he gets them. After training, there is “Refuel Road”, which contains hydration materials and foods like frozen fruit. Again, players must confirm that they have completed this step.

Lunch is the same way. Each player has a designated time to be there and must sign that they have been there.

“I think a lot of guys have changed, matured, this discipline being there,” said Grimm. “It almost forces you to do right – like you can’t do wrong. “

The force staff work to identify the individualized needs of a player. Over the summer, Gildersleeve made sure every Jayhawk received a post-workout shake with the proper protein / carbohydrate balance needed for their strength or weight loss goals. Taylor would sometimes say that this meant he would have to take a larger spoon or straw for his own shake; a normal straw wouldn’t work because her specific smoothie had a custom serving of Cheerios on top.

Leipold, meanwhile, has its own ways of encouraging strict diet in practice. Players run between practice periods – “If you walk, you’re wrong” has become a common refrain – while his talks with the team at the end of the drills require each person to kneel down while staying behind the trainer. yard line that is in front. from him.

“Stick to the line,” said the teammates as they controlled each other.

Other rules have also been introduced. Players are not allowed to wear hats at team meetings, while dirty lockers are also prohibited, meaning unclean clothes need to be cleaned as well as empty bottles.

Hatcher said that an essential part of it all was that everyone was held to the same level; no one is above the rules which made the teammates accountable to each other.

What followed, says Hatcher, is a solid foundation for the discipline.

And a vision of what he coveted for the program just a few months ago.

“It’s not just something we put on a T-shirt; it’s something we’re doing here, ”Hatcher said. “And we see it day by day, whether you like it or not. “

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Jesse Newell – he won an EPPY for Best Sports Blog and was previously named Best Beat Writer in its broadcast by AP Sports Editors – has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analysis stems from his math professor father, who handed out rules to Trick-or-Teaters every year.


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