Chat about the Lawrence sports scene

July 17, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan takes your questions about KU, Lawrence High, Free State and other area sports teams.


Hi and welcome to our chat today. I'm Andy Samuelson the online sports editor for and I will be today's chat moderator. Today we our joined by Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan. Thanks Tom for taking time this afternoon to join with our and readers.

Tom Keegan:

No sweat, Andy. It's nice to be with you. I love the air conditioning here in the News Center. I wish I could look for stories in here all day. Unfortunately, the stories are all out there in the blistering heat.


Well lets get right to the questions.



It is shameful that we are coming up on FOOTBALL SEASON and all people want to talk about on these chats is KU Basketball.

How do you see the KU FOOTBALL season shaping up? Also, how do you rank the rest of the Big XII?


Tom Keegan:

This year's team will be short on experience and loud on talent, which should make for an unpredictable season early and an exciting one from start to finish. If KU can be as fortunate in the injury department as it was last season, I think the team can be better. Depth at some positions (quarterback, secondary) is shy, so staying healthy is even more important than usual. You have to like the explosiveness of the offense. Jon Cornish is a star. Kerry Meier can't be expected to get it done right away, but you have to love the way he runs with the football and the zip he puts on his passes. When receivers are open, he has such a quick delivery and so much velocity on his passes, he'll get the ball in there before the opening disappears. Reading defenses, particularly in the first half of the season, will be a serious challenge, so don't expect a finished product right off the bat. The toughest games on the schedule: At Toledo, At Nebraska, At Iowa State, At Missouri, Texas A&M.



Where does the future at running back for 2007-2008 stand with the departure of Jon Cornish. Any insight into who will be a leading candidate? Jon Randle? Jake Sharp? DeMarcus Lang?


Mexican Hawk

Tom Keegan:

Angus Quigley, a redshirt freshman, is a really explosive runner. The coaching staff has been working with him to get him to, stop me if you've heard this saying before from KU coaches, run with his pads low to the ground. Until he learns to do that better, he will get smoked, opening himself up to injuries and fumbles. Jake Sharp has that look in his eye of a winner. He's really small, but he compensates with speed, quickness and that killer instinct. Look for him to play as a true freshman on special teams and even as a running back in certain situations. I don't have any insight to offer on Lang, other than that the coaching staff was excited to get his signature on paper.


What type of impact do you see local athletes like the Murphy twins and Ballard having at KU?

Tom Keegan:

Christian Ballard is as fascinating a case study as you'll ever come across. It's not often you see this sort of blend of size and speed at scouting combines for college football prospects. So far, though, Ballard hasn't figured out a way to translate that size and speed into dominance on the football field. In the few games I've seen him play, he didn't impress me as a player who instinctively seeks out contact. In my 25 years of getting paid to write about sports though, I can remember athletes who didn't get aggressive until facing players as big or bigger than they are. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. Let's say Ballard gets flattened his first day of camp with KU by a behemoth and that triggers in him what has been lying dormant. Then, and only then, you are talking about an NFL prospect. At what position? Glad you asked. At the moment, he doesn't look aggressive enough to develop the sort of pure hatred he'll need to attack quarterbacks. That brings us to the other side of the ball. He certainly has the size, speed, and hands to play tight end. But will he embrace the physical demands a tight end faces? Will he block with a hint of violence? Here's a wild thought: Maybe he's a wide receiver, a really, really big wide receiver. There was a time when we all would have laughed at the prospect of a Daunte Culpepper-sized man playing quarterback. The Murphy Brothers are amazing young men. They lost their father to an accident when they were about 10, if memory serves. Their mother and grandfather, Verner Newman III, have done a great job of raising them. As for how they'll do on the football field, I see Ryan developing into either a receiver, which he's being recruited at, or switching to the secondary. Scat back Brian Murphy, smaller than his brother, has potential as a return man. Ryan could be a return man as well.


Do you see another Danny Manning type of player coming from this area and going to KU anytime soon? A local kid that gets quality minutes?

Tom Keegan:

I don't see a Danny Manning type player coming from anywhere. In today's world, someone that good would spend one year playing in college, then off to the pros. But it's not as if a Danny Manning comes along every year. As far as a local kid getting minutes, if you can count KC as local, Travis Releford, a guard from the Class of 2008, would get tons of minutes right off the bat. He's as good as it gets. Tyrell Reed, a 2007 guard from Burlington, is a really good player who bears a physical resemblance to Kirk Hinrich. Whether KU will have a spot for Reed remains to be seen, but I think he would help any Division I program in America.


Hi Tom. I've seen you at several of the high school events and do appreciate your interest. In my opinion, besides the community's support of KU, this town shows little interest in having suitible venues for it's young atheletes. Freestate's baseball facility is unfinished; LHS doesn't even have a field; soccer fields are second thoughts out in the middle of a pasture and then, we must rely on the relationship with our two colleges to have a field to play football on! Check out ODAC and CBAC for comparison on how others in the state treat their young atheletes. What's your view of the commitment to the young atheletes in our town?



Tom has time for one more question.

Tom Keegan:

I guess it's all relative. When I came here for my job interview and had a real estate agent take me around the town, the first thing that struck me was how envious my oldest son would be when he saw Free State's baseball field. He used to play close to 100 games a year all over the state of CT and considered it a real treat when he got to play under the lights. The town of Norwalk, didn't have a field with lights. Free State does. I also think it has a big-time feel to it. As far as Haskell Stadium, the place reeks of history. Generations of LHS football fans seem to like the charming old place and so do I. As for the soccer fields being in the middle off a pasture, I can't imagine a child complaining about that cool setting, unless he heard adults complaining about it first. ODAC and CBAC have more updated facilities, and that's great. I never have equated commitment to young athletes with the state of the facilities. To me, commitment starts first with parents who support team-first attitudes, are there for their children after rough games, and make sure to stress the importance of respecting authority figures, in this case the coach. Then the commitment comes from coaches, who make sure to pay as much attention to the talent-challenged as the talented, and don't favor their sons or daughters too blatantly. Next it comes from the young athletes showing a commitment to each other. The great compliment that ever could be paid to an athlete is two words long: Great teammate.


That's going to do it for our chat today with Lawrence Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan. Thanks a lot Tom for your time today, and also a big thanks to our readers for all their input into this chat.

Tom Keegan:

Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to the Pat Henderson chat on Friday for more football talk.


Former_Jhawk 11 years, 9 months ago

To follow-up on "opinion", I would like to say that there are opportunities for athletic development outside of the schools. Though the schools do need to do a better job of brining in qualified strength and speed coaches for thier athletes. I myself am an NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist. I train several athletes from LFSHS, including those mentioned in this chat. We train on the KU campus whenever possible. The kids at that age don't need a multi-million dollar facility to improve, a good strength coach would be able adapt a training program to what is available. Many coaches still use tires, medicine balls, chains, and rope to make better athletes.

The area has talent, I have seen a good number of kids in this area who have the potential to be scholarship collegiate athletes as long as they are willing to put in the hard work, with a qualfied professional, necessary to achieve that goal. You can reach me at if you have any further questions or comments.

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