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Embarrassing loss no reason to indict Gill

The Big 12 lost only one game over the weekend, and it was what we in the business call (forgive the technical jargon) a doozy.

New Kansas coach Turner Gill endured a nightmarish debut, a 6-3 snoozer loss to North Dakota State, an FCS team. Gill's detractors like to cite his career record, now at 20-31, as a reason why Gill was unfit to be Mark Mangino's successor in Lawrence, ignoring the extreme difficulty of winning eight games and a MAC title at Buffalo, as Gill did in 2008.

Saturday's debacle, in which Kansas mustered less than 300 yards and turned the ball over three times, obviously gave those critics more ammo.

But the jury should hold its verdict on Gill's major conference coaching chops.

Take a gander at the preseason All-Big 12 team. Exactly one Kansas player made the list: left tackle Tanner Hawkinson. Kansas' next best player? Cornerback Chris Harris.

I believe it was Aristotle, or perhaps Plato, who said, "A left tackle and cornerback, a championship team do not make."

Only Iowa State and Oklahoma State had fewer players on the All-Big 12 team, but the Cyclones have a senior quarterback and a 1,000 yard rusher, and Oklahoma State returns a former All-American at running back.

Gill's not going to make excuses, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have plenty to fall back on. Kansas is the Big 12's least talented team, and little around the conference was more obvious than that after Saturday night.

Even the best coaches are only as good as the players they're coaching, and while it's obvious Gill didn't maximize what talent he does have against the Bison, it's still one game -- and his first. The same for his two quarterbacks. His starter, sophomore Kale Pick played sparingly and threw five passes last year. Pick's backup, redshirt freshman Jordan Webb, had never played.

If recent history tells us anything, it's that teams with good quarterbacks have success in the Big 12. Maybe Pick or Webb show they can be good one day. They were not good on Saturday.

Gill pulled Pick for his less experienced backup, Webb, in the fourth quarter. Webb gave the team life by leading what could have been the game-winning drive. He hit tight end Tim Biere for a long gain, only to have Biere commit the Jayhawks' third turnover and end their best chance for a comeback.

In the Big 12, success means scoring. And when Kansas needs points, it has no one to rely on for a pressure pitch or catch, or a tough five yards.

A coach is ultimately responsible for his players, yes, but a coach can't catch passes and hang on to the ball for his team. Harp on discipline and fundamentals all you want, but it's still too early to draw any real conclusions.

No coach has ever been judged fairly on nine months and one game. Gill deserves more time before you bash him mercilessly, frustrated Kansas fans. He might be Tom Osborne. He might be Bill Callahan. Right now, we have no idea. What we do know is Kansas needs more talent and depth almost everywhere.

The question of how close Gill comes to either mark won't be answered on the field this year. It will be decided on the recruiting trail over the next two years.