LAWRENCE — Kansas football fans will spot a new offense Saturday against Texas.
Stephon Robinson has already noted a difference — or, that’s at least true of one part of the Jayhawk junior wide receiver.
“Yeah,” Robinson said, “my legs have noticed that a lot.”
When the Jayhawks (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) travel to No. 15 Texas (4-2, 2-1) for a 6 p.m. Saturday tilt at Darrell K. Royal—Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, they’ll do so with an offensive coordinator making his play-calling debut at the Power Five level. Les Koenning was fired from that role at the outset of the team’s bye week and replaced with Brent Dearmon, a senior offensive consultant and 34-year-old run-pass option guru.
While Robinson, fellow wideout Andrew Parchment and other Jayhawk starters have insisted that, outside of tweaks to verbiage, not much has changed within the team’s scheme, all have highlighted one aspect that’s expected to be dramatically different from the six-game Koenning tenure: pace.
“He pushes tempo a lot in our practices,” Robinson said of Dearmon. “We’re pushing that 24/7. Like, it’s a two-minute drill every single play. He’s bringing that enthusiasm and fast pace every single play.”
The Jayhawk offense ranks 35th nationally at 6 yards per play but total just 356.6 yards per game, which ranks 95th. That disparity points to perhaps the most disconcerting statistic of the season to this point for Miles’ squad: the KU offense ranks 130th, dead last, in plays per game (59.8).
An up-tempo style should give the Jayhawks a chance to right that particular ship. If nothing else, Robinson believes opposing defenses will notice new approach.
“Oh, they’re going to be tired,” Robinson said. “You know, we can switch it up too — we can go slow, we can go fast. They’re not going to be able to stop it at certain times. That’s just what we’re going to bring.”
Parchment highlighted several skill position players — Robinson, sophomore running back Pooka Williams, senior wide receiver Daylon Charlot — as potential beneficiaries of Dearmon’s promotion.
“If you’ve got a lot of skill players like we have, I feel like once you go up-tempo, I feel like that puts the defense at a disadvantage,” Parchment said. “If you misplay us that one second, then one of our skill players can take it the distance.”
Parchment said the new-look offense could best be described as “a new cook in the kitchen,” an individual working with the same tools and ingredients as his predecessor but one with a fresh approach. Shortly after accepting the promotion, Dearmon pulled Parchment aside and told him he expects “a lot of big plays” and that the offense is going to depend on him.
Parchment, who already has three 100-yard receiving outputs this season, appreciated the gesture.
“I’m up for the challenge," Parchment said, "and I’m ready to showcase to everybody what skills I have, just to prove coach Dearmon right, that he can put me in that situation to make big plays for the team.”
Accurate or not, concepts installed by Dearmon were widely credited for the Jayhawks’ best offensive performance this season, a 48-24 victory over Boston College in Week 3 that saw KU amass 567 yards of offense. Parchment, however, cautioned anyone expecting that kind of production immediately against that line of thinking.
“Especially with the Big 12, everybody runs complex coverage. What you see pre-snap is not what you’re going to see post-snap,” Parchment said. “Boston College, their defense was a little different. What you saw is what they were in. So I don’t feel like it’s going to be that easy of a transition for us, especially with Texas being a very high-powered team. I feel like as we get more comfortable with the system and stuff like that, good things are going to come.”
While it may not be drastic differences in points scored or yardage gained, Parchment echoed Robinson in highlighting one aspect to the Dearmon-led offense that should be immediately noticeable.
“I definitely like the new edge that we’ve got on the offensive end. With us just sprinting onto the field, I know a lot of teams don’t do that, so it’s just going to catch the other team off guard,” Parchment said. “It just shows that we’re ready to play football.”
And that goes for everyone on the KU roster.
"The O-linemen have been complaining a little bit about it," Parchment joked. "But we're just having fun, trying to get better every day."