With injuries to Kansas University’s defensive line being one of the big stories from the first couple of weeks of fall camp, one piece of good news came from senior Patrick Dorsey and red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski being sidelined.
KU’s ability to shift senior Michael Martinovich and sophomore Randall Dent from the offensive line over to D-line not only gives the Jayhawks much-needed depth on defense, but also says something about KU’s five freshmen offensive linemen and how they’ve progressed during their first camp.
“We saw our freshmen offensive linemen on film, and when they’re all together (offensive line) coach (J.B.) Grimes said, ‘Man, we have a big freshman offensive line. And they’re only freshmen,’” offensive coordinator Chuck Long said after Thursday’s practice.
Long said the goal this summer was to get a few of those true freshmen onto the team’s two-deep depth chart.
“Now, because of some injury situations over on defense, we’ve managed to do that,” he said. “We’re full steam ahead with that goal.”
Of the five, Blue Valley West graduate Dylan Admire, who enrolled in January and participated in spring drills, has made the biggest strides.
“Oh, definitely,” Long said. “Dylan’s gonna be a really good football player. And he’s ahead because he’s been here longer.”
Admire, 6-foot-3, 283 pounds, currently sits behind senior Jeremiah Hatch at center on KU’s depth chart. As for the rest of the crew, Travis Bodenstein (6-5, 295), Luke Luhrsen (6-5, 290), Damon Martin (6-5, 265) and Bryan Peters (6-5, 305) all have played well enough for Long and the coaching staff to feel good about the prospects of sticking them onto the field during a game.
“We’re getting past that,” said Long of the reservations of playing true freshmen on the O-Line. “We still need some camp time for that to develop, but a lot of these guys came here on their own in the summer. That’s a plus. Those guys studied on their own and that gives you a head start.”
O-line’s best battle
With the 10 offensive-line spots starting to take shape, Long was asked which position had the best competition. Without hesitating, he pointed to left tackle, where junior Jeff Spikes and third-year sophomore Riley Spencer are battling hard every day. Interestingly enough, Spencer and Spikes are featured on the same page — 77 — of KU’s media guide this year. Their competition on the field seems to be as close as their mug shots are on the page.
“Coach Grimes created some competition between Jeff Spikes and Riley Spencer, and it’s made Jeff Spikes so much better this camp,” Long said. “It really has. That’s probably the one (battle) that sticks out on the offensive line, and Jeff has done great this camp because of that. They push each other. And that’s been a good thing.”
Spikes missed all of last season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon, and Spencer, because of a lack of depth, was forced to play around 100 snaps despite dealing with a shoulder injury that required surgery in the offseason.
Bourbon moving forward
After missing most of spring ball because of a broken leg, red-shirt freshman running back Brandon Bourbon has endured an ongoing battle with minor injuries during preseason camp. But if the last two days are any indication of where he’s at, Bourbon may be turning the corner.
“He ran well today,” Long said of Bourbon. “The last two days he’s been doing really well so he’s working and fighting through that and that’s part of maturity. When you’re a running back at this level, you’re gonna get banged up. That’s a given. So how you work through that is key. But the last two days Brandon has shown up. Probably his best two days of camp.”
Forget me not
Speaking of running backs, much has been made about the group of young and talented backs that KU will take into the 2011 season. And while watching guys such as Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson and James Sims rip up the field has been a delight, Long cautioned against overlooking veteran running backs Rell Lewis, a senior from Muskogee, Okla., and Deshaun Sands, a sophomore from Pompano Beach, Fla. Lewis missed all of last season with a knee injury and Sands was used only sparingly during 2010, rushing for 211 yards and one touchdown on 55 carries.
“Don’t count those guys out now,” Long said. “Rell is someone who’s very experienced and he’s shown great maturity from when we got here until now. I just believe that at that position you need as many as you can get. And, right now, we’re working with all of them.”
As for those other backs, Long said Sims, last year’s leading rusher as a true freshman, was the one who had shown the most consistency in all aspects of the position.
“We feel that James does pretty well at all of it right now,” Long said. “He not only runs well but he pass protects pretty well. The rest of them, we’re working that out to see who the best ones are.”