KU junior cornerback Aqib Talib dropped back and returned a punt late in the Nov. 24 game against Missouri. It was the first punt return of his career, but it might not be his last.
"He's returning punts now," cornerback Chris Harris said of Talib. "He wants this game bad. It's a big-time game for him."
Perhaps it's no surprise. KU has struggled to find a solid punt-return specialist, and Talib used to be out of the question for that role because he was stretched too thin between offense and defense.
But the emergence of Kerry Meier at receiver meant less snaps for Talib on offense. Those may get shifted over to special teams for the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech.
KU offensive tackle Anthony Collins was in a ton of pain at the end of the Missouri game Nov. 24, hobbling around on a bad ankle.
He said the time off before the Orange Bowl would heal him up nicely.
"Dr. Murph (Murphy Grant) and all the rest of the doctors have done a great job on my ankle," Collins said. "They're doing a real good job of getting me better, getting me back to 100 percent. I'll be 100 percent for the Orange Bowl."
That goes for many of the impact players who were hobbling around the last couple weeks of the regular season.
"I still think we have a few that we have to be mindful of their repetitions on the practice field," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "A lot of guys, we were kind of just hobbling around, and had ankles, knees, hips, shoulders. : I don't see any lasting problems."
One guy who won't play is backup linebacker Arist Wright, who Mangino said "suffered a pretty serious injury" in the Missouri game.
KU running back Jake Sharp had just one carry for zero yards against Missouri on Nov. 24, a startling number considering Sharp had 788 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in the first 11 games.
"It was tough," Sharp said. "I think some things happened to where my name just didn't come up. I guess that's just the way it goes. If I could do anything to change that, I certainly would."
On their own
After practicing in Lawrence through Dec. 24, KU players will get Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 off to spend with their families before heading to Miami on Dec. 27.
Those who live nearby will board a charter flight in Lawrence bound for Miami on Dec. 27. Others who live out-of-state will trickle in to South Florida on their own and meet up at the team hotel.