Archive for Saturday, March 31, 2001

KU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT O-LINE

March 31, 2001

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What does that mean this spring?

Not much.

"I think there's pressure that I need to prove myself since we're starting with all new coaches," senior left guard Bob Smith said following Friday's spring practice at Memorial Stadium. "I think it's the same pressure for everybody. Everybody here basically is a freshman. No one has seniority because of the new coaches."

Smith (6-4, 290) is one of the familiar faces on the KU football team, having started the final five games last season. The other two returning starters are senior right tackle Justin Hartwig (6-4, 305) and junior center Nick Smith (6-4, 295).

As far as the offensive line goes, though, those three could be in the minority.

KU coach Terry Allen and his staff made a concentrated effort to bulk up the frontline during the offseason, adding four junior college transfers -- left guard John Harvey (6-6, 305), right guard Brock Teddleton (6-6, 330) and left tackles Jawad Pearson (6-5, 300) and Danny Lewis (6-5, 290).

The other returners making a push for starting slots are medical red-shirt junior left guard Kyle Grady (6-4, 295), junior left tackle Justin Sands (6-7, 305), junior right guard Tony Damiani (6-4, 287), senior center Jason Stevenson (6-2, 290) and junior right tackle Gabe Rosalis (6-5, 285).

Allen also added former Missouri assistant Sam Pittman as offensive line coach.

"I've watched film on Sands, Kyle Grady, Nick Smith, Bob Smith, Hartwig and Stevenson," Pittman said. "Those guys are probably a little ahead of everybody else at this point. But certainly we have some new guys that came a long way from Day One to Day Two.

"And you have to understand, too, this system is new for 'em so they're learning as we go and doing a nice job of that."

Pittman said he wouldn't be making major changes in how things are done up front, but did admit the new schemes, offensive line calls and pass protections could take some getting used to for the veteran players.

"I think it helps out having new everything," Bob Smith said. "I mean, it's been a little confusing for me and a couple of the guys that have been here, but it's not that confusing. It's perfect for the juco guys to start over new. It's not completely different. It's just more efficient, I guess."

The addition of the juco transfers also offers the Jayhawks some serious size.

"I think so," said Hartwig, who can claim 25 consecutive starts. "With the addition of these new junior college guys, all the way across the front we all go about 6-5, 300. In the past we usually have one or two guys who were a little undersized. We all look pretty big and solid."

Now the only thing missing on the offensive line is a nickname.

"No, not yet," Hartwig said with a laugh. "That's still to come. We're still forming our identity."

Sands struggling

Sands, who's listed first on the depth chart at left tackle, has been hampered by a sore right hamstring this spring. He was slow to get up following one play about an hour into Friday's practice, and was worked on by trainers for 10 minutes.

His coach isn't concerned, though.

"As soon as he gets healthy we'll expect some good things out of him," Pittman said of the junior. "He's looked good the last two days, but obviously we need him to be healthy to see how good he is."

Sands made the move to offense from the defensive line last year, starting four games at left guard.

Coaches' clinic

KU had about 110 coaches in town for its coaches' clinic on Friday. The featured speaker was Baltimore Ravens defensive line coach Rex Ryan, whose father, Buddy, is credited with creating the 46 defense.

Up coming

The Jayhawks will don pads for the first time today with some live hitting, but no scrimmage is planned. Practice will start at 1:30 p.m. at a to-be-determined location based on today's weather.

-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.

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