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Tempo is priority during Rob Likens' first spring at Kansas

Rob Likens plans to take the simple approach during his first spring at Kansas.

The Jayhawks' new offensive coordinator isn't going to be as focused on what his players are doing as much as he's concerned with how quickly they're doing it.

"The No. 1 thing is just to play fast, get lined up and just operate fast," Likens said.

It won't be a completely new trend for the Jayhawks, who upped the tempo of the offense in the final stretch of the 2014 season after Eric Kiesau took over as offensive coordinator before the Baylor game. Nonetheless, the uptempo focus of Likens' attack will be the most important thing he hopes to accomplish during the 15 spring practices.

"The big thing about playing fast is you're going to have to practice fast," he said. "You have to pick up the tempo in everything you do."

In addition to learning how it should feel to operate fast -- as well as how it feels when things aren't operating fast enough -- Likens wants to make sure KU's offense leaves the spring with a foundation that can be built upon during the remaining months before the season opener Sept. 5.

"I'm not going to worry about the variations of plays, we just want to get where the kids master the base of the offense," Likens said. "One of the biggest mistakes coordinators make is you feel like you have to put your whole offense in to start. What happens is you end up having to cover so many mistakes you never master your base plays."

Tempo, a base offense and unshaken fundamentals are the three key things Likens hopes to get accomplished this spring. Yet finding the players who will be the centerpiece of the offense won't take a back seat. The quarterback battle will get plenty of attention, but another key part of the personnel puzzle is just as important to the former Cal and Louisiana Tech assistant coach.

"The other thing is getting an offensive line together," Likens said. "As fast as we can, identify who those five guys are because I think it's extremely important they work together on a daily basis because they have their own language, their own communication, their own code words, their own timing on coming off blocks, combo blocks. They need to work together as long as possible if you're going to have any chance."

Center Joe Gibson and guard Junior Visinia are among the returning offensive linemen with starting experience along the offensive line with redshirt freshman Jacob Bragg and junior college D'Andre Banks, Will Smith and Jayson Rhodes set to battle for spots up front during the spring. Even though the Jayhawks don't have many playmakers returning, a solid foundation could do wonders for the skill position players on the roster.

Yet make no mistake, the quarterback position is a top priority.

"That's huge," Likens said. "You have to figure out your quarterback situation. By the time you reach fall camp you have two weeks of fall camp then you're getting ready for your first game. You should already have your quarterback established at that point. Obviously, your quarterback is that guy. It starts with him."

Luckily for Michael Cummings and Montell Cozart, they will step on the field with a clear canvas. Likens' desire to enter the spring without preconceptions about his players is a blessing for a duo that combined for 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while splitting starting duties for Kansas in 2014. He's not interested in what Cummings, Cozart or any other Jayhawks player has done in the past, only what they can do for him and the Jayhawks in the future.

"I have purposely not watched any game film from last year at all," Likens said. "It's hard for me to evaluate a kid off of something someone else told him. So I want to see them do the things I've asked them to do, that way I get a true evaluation of the kid."