LAWRENCE — This was an important distinction for Brent Dearmon to make.
Dearmon, Kansas football’s new offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and an individual Les Miles has described as “one of the brightest individuals” he’s encountered during his many years in the sport, met with the media Thursday for the first time since his promotion to those duties. Dearmon replaced Les Koenning, who was fired Sunday ahead of the team’s bye week.
The 20-minute news conference covered a lot of ground — what fans can expect out of a Dearmon-led offense; the former offensive analyst’s thoughts on Pooka Williams, Carter Stanley and the pieces he’s inherited; his own expectations for what lies ahead. Dearmon spoke with confidence and frequently flashed a knowledge of the sport and a sharp wit, a combination that appears to have already made him a hit with players.
There was one instance, though, where Dearmon misspoke, answering a question on his reaction when Miles called him Sunday with news of his promotion.
“When I got that call I was not ready — not expecting that call,” Dearmon clarified. “I was ready, but just wasn’t expecting it to happen in that way.”
As he did so often Thursday, Dearmon continued his response with a personal touch.
“The last four days, I’ve got a two-and-a-half-week old newborn in the house, so I wasn’t getting much sleep already,” Dearmon said. “It’s been a really fun week.”
On to business.
Dearmon, who KU described as a “rising star in the world of high-scoring offenses” in its January news release announcing his initial hiring, found his way to Lawrence through then-offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey — the two worked together at Auburn before Dearmon moved on to positions at Arkansas Tech and later as head coach at his alma mater Bethel. Dearmon’s offenses wowed at those stops, particularly in run-pass option plays, which were the subject of his 2017 book “The Evolution of the RPO.”
While KU (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) has shown flashes of those principles, its offense nevertheless ranks 92nd nationally in yards per game (356.6), 95th in points per game (22.6) and, perhaps most distressingly, 116th in average time of possession (26:08).
Dearmon obviously hopes to right the ship in those areas but cautioned against expecting immediate wholesale changes.
“We’re not going to go in and have a mass overhaul of what we do on offense,” Dearmon said. “We’re coming off a one-week bye week. We’re going to keep doing the things we do. Of course everybody knows that I run a few RPOs, but we’ve already got a lot of those things in already. ...
“It’s not like we’re just going to come in and reinvent the wheel and do something completely different. It’s just having a vision and a voice and getting those guys believing in that vision and moving forward.”
Early returns in that department, Dearmon indicated, have been positive.
“I think our guys are hungry,” Dearmon said. “That’s the thing I really liked about this week: Our guys have come out this week and they’ve attacked the situation. A lot of places, players will use this as kind of a setback and a crutch and an excuse. I think our guys have attacked it, our coaching staff has attacked this situation. ... I think we’ve just got to get our guys to do what they do best, put our guys in the best positions to do what their God-given ability is.”
Two of those players — sophomore running back Pooka Williams and senior quarterback Carter Stanley — will play integral roles in determining the effectiveness of Dearmon’s first half-season as a Power Five coordinator.
Williams, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, has gotten off to a slow start by his own lofty standards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry but just one rushing touchdown across his first five games. A certified bell cow now in the aftermath of senior running back Khalil Herbert's abrupt departure, Williams’ raw talent level compares favorably to former Auburn standouts Tre Mason, Cameron Artis-Payne, Corey Grant and Kerryon Johnson, Dearmon said.
“Man, I like scoring touchdowns. There’s no particular scheme with that,” Dearmon said. “I’d like to see No. 1 (Williams) cross the goal line a little bit more, so whatever way we can draw up to get No. 1 to cross that goal line, I’m all about that.”
Stanley, who has started every game this season, has an innate resiliency that Dearmon loves. He recalled a conversation he had with safeties coach Clint Bowen on Wednesday where Bowen informed him that Stanley was on his “eighth or ninth” offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach during his five-year stint at KU.
“You’ve gotten to see a little bit of his toughness this year with him trying to jump over guys, him trying to extend a fourth-down play,” Dearmon said. “Just what he’s been through in his football career in amazing, and yet he shows up every day with a smile on his face. Just a tough kid, a quick-release kid that we’re going to go to war with.”
Game planning will continue to be a collaborative effort, with several voices offering input. In terms of goals, Dearmon said he separates them into long-term aspirations — limiting turnovers, dominating time of possession, third-down efficiency and red zone scoring to name a few — and a more immediate focus, which he labeled “right-now goals.”
“Our right-now goal is we’ve got to get better every day,” Dearmon said. “That’s something I ask those guys after practice, that’s something we talk about in our meetings: ‘Did I get better today? Did I help Kansas football today?’ If we go in going, ‘OK guys, we’re going to (score) 50 points a game right now,’ that’s not really the goal we’ve got right now. Our goal is to focus on us. ...
“A favorite golfer of mine I think made a statement that he never played the competition, he played the course. So we’re trying to go out every day trying to get better at Kansas, and that is our current goal.”
If nothing else, Dearmon appears thankful for what he referred to multiple times as his “leap of faith” — the decision 10 months ago to leave the safety of a head coaching job at his alma mater for what could’ve best been described as an unknown.
“I think the Lord," Dearmon said, "has brought me down a path for a reason."