Posts tagged with Football
Nick Harwell likely to be big hit for Kansas football, based on performances of other recent transfers from four-year schools
Dayne Crist, Anthony McDonald and Mike Ragone from Notre Dame. Jake Heaps from Brigham Young. Josh Williams from Nebraska.
All five were highly rated out of high school and for various reasons were not able to either earn or keep starting assignments at their original colleges.
Based on those five transfers’ performances for Kansas under Charlie Weis, expect big things from Miami (Ohio) transfer wide receiver Nick Harwell. Why? Because the others performed at a similar level at Kansas as they had at their first schools.
The lesson to be learned: It’s generally not the school, the coach, or the system that keeps a player from excelling. It’s how his ability translates to college competition and the degree to which his body holds up. Obviously, how they do against college competition is a far greater predictor of success than how highly they were ranked in high school.
In three seasons at Miami, Harwell averaged 76.3 receptions, 1,055.3 yards and 7.6 touchdowns. In 11 games as a sophomore, Harwell caught 97 passes for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. In a five-game stretch that ended with the 2012 season-opener, he caught 55 passes for 867 yards and eight touchdowns.
No need to worry whether he can handle Big 12 competition. Harwell played two games against Big 10 schools. His combined totals vs. Minnesota and Ohio State: 20 receptions, 282 yards, one TD.
Harwell was suspended by Miami last April after he was arrested. He ultimately pled guilty to attempted theft, a second-degree misdemeanor. He is eligible to play in 2014.
To put his numbers in perspective, consider KU’s TD reception leaders from the wide receiver position the past four seasons: 2010: Daymond Patterson and Johnathan Wilson, two; 2011: D.J. Beshears and JaCorey Shepherd three; 2012: None; 2013: Rodriguez Coleman, Justin McCay, Tony Pierson, Andrew Turzilli, one.
Despite book-ending his junior season with multiple drops, tight end Jimmay Mundine had five of the team’s nine TD catches.
Spread the field and run the football. It worked for Kansas against West Virginia and it worked for Oklahoma against Kansas State.
Sometimes, it pays to take the obvious approach. I’ll be shocked if Charlie Weis makes the mistake of thinking that just because K-State knows it’s coming means it’s time to throw a changeup. You know, start Jake Heaps and fire passes all over the field to receivers who have trouble getting open and a tough time catching passes when they are open.
James Sims doesn’t need the surprise element to run effectively with the field spread, true freshman Montell Cozart at quarterback and Kansas State playing without injured run-stopper supreme Ty Zimmerman.
Sims, the only running back in KU history who has rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, wraps up an underrated senior year today.
Sims is averaging a career-best 4.9 yards per carry and career-high 24 receptions. Sims needs two rushing touchdowns today to make it four consecutive seasons with nine rushing touchdowns.
After a poor performance a week ago in Ames, Iowa, where he stepped out of bounds a yard in front of the first-down marker and seemed bothered by the extreme cold, Cozart has a chance to show he’s a tough competitor by running more aggressively than he ever has with a Jayhawk on the side of his helmet.
A strong season finale would establish Cozart as the favorite to win the quarterback competition heading into spring football, not that means much. Whichever quarterback performs the best and is seen as the best fit for incoming offensive coordinator/O-line coach John Reagan’s offense in the battle that includes UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard, will win the job.
Still, Cozart can only help his cause with an effort that shows he has the physical toughness and passing accuracy (20 for 56, 3.8 yards per attempt, no touchdown passes so far) to lead a Big 12 team.
The weather.com forecast calls for 7 mph winds and 44 degrees for the 11 a.m. kickoff, which ought to feel plenty comfortable for a game to be played on an ice-free field.
Naturally, Kansas State is favored by a couple of touchdowns and a field goal, in that range.
No player in a Kansas uniform for today’s game has won the state-rivalry game. K-State has won the past four games, the past three by an average score of 58-15.
This one doesn’t feel like that sort of a lopsided game. It’s starting to feel as if KU can make a game of it.
Charlie Weis is coming back for his third season as Kansas University’s football coach, but his offense isn’t.
That’s why news that John Reagan will join KU as offensive coordinator/O-line coach is a win-win for a football program that can’t keep firing its head coach every two years and can’t expect to become competitive in the Big 12 running an offense ill-suited for the college game.
One criticism of Weis you never have read here was the one so often aimed in his direction: He’s an arrogant know-it-all.
No, he’s not. He’s an obnoxious Jersey wise-donkey, but he’s not as stubborn as a mule. Never has Weis shown that he doesn’t claim to know it all more clearly than now, by going outside the program to bring in a guy who has shown he knows college X’s and O’s and wins games even when he doesn’t have the fastest Jimmies and Joes.
Weis couldn’t beat Reagan, so he enticed him to join him, not the move of a man too proud to acknowledge he is not the master of the football universe.
Reagan’s plate will be full, handling both OC and O-line duties, but maybe he’ll be able to bring one of his former KU linemen who has been working under him at Rice with him to help out. Adrian Mayes and Ryan Cantrell both are on the Rice staff.
What happens to Tim Grunhard? He’ll resign from KU.
Word began to spread throughout high school football circles in recent weeks that Aquinas High in Overland Park, which has a football head coaching vacancy, would be interested in talking to him. It’s not known whether Grunhard, former head coach at Miege, will pursue the opening.
Next season, Weis’ two most influential assistants will be former Mark Mangino aides, with Reagan running the offense and Clint Bowen the defense. Weis has proven he knows how to motivate players to bring the energy on Saturday and get it done in the classroom. Winning in football is a tough challenge at Kansas.
Heading into next season, Weis will have two years’ worth of trial and error on which to bank, and two assistants who won three bowl games in a four-year span.
I asked Kansas sophomore Buck (hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker) Ben Goodman during summer camp if he had ever listened to big band leader/clarinet player Benny Goodman, to whom my father used to tap his foot and snap his fingers while wearing the sort of grin Ben wore after starring in Saturday’s 31-19 victory against West Virginia. He said he had not and named Jay-Z as favorite recording artist.
After Goodman’s big day at the office — a great catch to start a 54-yard interception return, six tackles, two for a loss, one sack and a blocked field with his right hand while showing a strong vertical leap — I again asked him if he had had a chance to check out Benny Goodman.
“I haven’t listened to him, but every time I try to look up an article on me, he’s the first person to pop up,” Goodman said. “I always said if I scored a touchdown, I was going to take a personal foul and go to the band and lead it.”
Goodman was having a great time talking after the death of KU's 27-game Big 12 losing streak, the start, he hopes, of a Big 12 winning streak.
“This is the most fun I’ve ever had playing football,” he said. “I love my teammates. I love my coaches and I love the atmosphere and our fans.”
And he would love Benny Goodman’s music if he just would give it a listen. Now that Ben has gone from the bad-hands club — he said he repeatedly dropped the football in a pre-game catch with Andrew Turzilli — to the good-hands club, he really does need to check out the ultra-quick hands of drummer Gene Krupa, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, Teddy Wilson on piano, all in their primes playing in Benny Goodman’s big band.
Listen to this call and see if it doesn’t rekindle your anger over the Royals turning Bob Davis into a mop-up relief pitcher. Such passion, such a distinct voice and style. And nice work by David Lawrence pointing out that right guard Damon Martin took out the linebacker, one of the keys to James Sims scoring on a 68-yard run with 28 seconds left in the half. Whereas most of us tend to watch the ball, Lawrence sees the whole field every play.
Fifth-year senior center Gavin Howard supplies background on the play call.
“All of us had been telling the coaches that they’re trying to stop the inside stuff because we’d been gashing up the middle,” Howard said. “I was like, ‘We’ve got to start running some outside stuff.’ And honestly, I mean, it was just a play to kind of end the half. We weren’t thinking we were going to get 75 yards on the play because you don’t ever think that on a run play. But I reached my guy, Aslam (Sterling) reached his guy, Damon (Martin) got up on the linebacker, Ngalu Fusimalohi off the back side and James’ got some speed on him that I didn’t know he had.”
Coach Charlie Weis said he was hoping the play could get 30 yards, at best, setting up a pass into the end zone.
“When he came through the hole, I couldn’t believe how big the hole ended up being,” Weis said.
It was only the second time on the day that KU used the unbalanced-line formation and the first time was near the goal line. Left tackle Riley Spencer moved to the right side of the line, lining up outside Sterling, the right tackle.
“I’m pretty sure if you watch it on the film, Riley pushes his guy out and we kind of cut it at Aslam,” Howard said. “So all of us back-blocked and the safeties didn’t make the play.”
Check out Sims' 68-yard TD run:
Weather forecasts call for south winds of 27 mph at kickoff and staying close to that throughout the game.
Not that Kansas football coach Charlie Weis needed another reason to hand the football to true freshman quarterback Montell Cozart and let him win it or lose it without feeling as if he’ll be replaced by Jake Heaps at the first sign of trouble, Mother Nature drove home the point.
At least half the time, passing the ball will be extremely difficult. Defenses geared to stop the run have a tougher time doing that with fast, elusive Cozart at QB than with the immobile Heaps.
Look for Weis to not only give Cozart his first start for today’s 11 a.m. kickoff against West Virginia. Look for Charlie to let the young talent finish what he starts. I’ll be surprised if the coach does otherwise.
West Virginia is better against the run than the pass, but Kansas runs better than it passes, so that’s a push. The weather breaks the tie.
Charlie Weis doesn’t coach like a guy on the hot seat and with good reason. His seat won’t heat up until next season and even then only if no signs of significant progress are visible on offense.
Weis has been conservative about not ripping red shirts off of players he believes will benefit from an extra year in the program. That’s building for the future, not selfishly bankrupting it. (Pointing out the obvious, Weis has said that decisions on red shirts have not been made yet. It’s not an official move to red-shirt a player. It’s just that the ability to red-shirt him is lost once he plays in a game, excluding in the case of medical red-shirts, a category for which running back Taylor Cox and outside linebacker Samson Faifili would qualify if their injuries keep them out the remainder of the season.)
A look at probable red shirts who haven’t yet played in the program and bring exciting possibilities, in order of a guess as to how soon they could make a major positive impact, with their class as of next year listed:
1. Nick Harwell, Sr. WR, 6-1, 193: Unlike the other Div. I transfers Weis has recruited, the excitement he generates is based on his collegiate performance, not on his high school rating. As a sophomore at Miami of Ohio he had 97 receptions for 1,425 yards and nine touchdowns. Had big seasons as a freshman and junior as well. Attempts to earn eligibility for him this season failed.
2. Kevin Short, Jr. CB, 6-2, 185: Was ruled academically ineligible because not all of his credits were approved and will have two years of eligibility remaining. Long and fast, he has an excellent shot at turning of the five returning starters in the secondary into a frequently used reserve.
3. Montell Cozart, Fr. QB, 6-2, 189: His confidence borders on cockiness and, really, is that such a bad thing? Has been clocked at 4.5 in the 40, throws well on the run and in the pocket, and has a legitimate shot at competing for the starting job as soon as this spring. For the first time, Cozart’s name appeared on the depth chart this week, which at the very least gives Oklahoma an extra dimension for which to prepare.
4. Andrew Bolton, Jr. DE, 6-3, 280: LSU was interested in stealing him from KU after he made a verbal commitment, but the Tigers backed off once he injured his knee. Bolton was not fully recovered from the injury during summer camp, so he’ll make his debut next season. He’s built like a prototypical, long-armed NFL pass-rusher.
5. T.J. Millweard, So. QB, 6-3, 210: Committed to Virginia Tech, then Arizona State and then UCLA, following the assistant coach who recruited him to ASU. More mobile than Jake Heaps, but not as mobile as Cozart. Transfer rules require him to sit out this season.
6. Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Jr. OLB/buck, 6-3, 210: Undersized but fast, he suffered a season-ending knee injury during the summer. Will need to dedicate himself 100 percent to rehab to maintain his greatest asset, his speed.
7. Colin Spencer, Fr. RB, 5-10, 180: In similar fashion to Tony Pierson, Spencer accelerates to top speed in a blink and his top speed is way up there. An elite combine athlete, he played cornerback in high school.
8. Ben Johnson, Fr. TE, 6-5, 235: Basehor Linwood grad drew late interest from Oklahoma. High school defenses couldn’t figure out how to stop him from catching passes.
9. Joey Bloomfield, Fr. OL, 6-6, 295: Kansas State was among the schools to offer scholarship to the three-star prospect form Louisville.
10. Colton Goeas, Fr., MLB, 6-2, 245: Many recruiting analysts expected this three-star ’backer to attend the same school as high school teammate, Reeve Koehler, a four-star offensive lineman who disappointed KU when he headed for Arkansas. If all goes well, he’ll progress from third string (Ben Heeney, Schyler Miles) to second (Miles) to starter by his junior season.
11. Mark Thomas, Jr., WR, 6-0, 210: A nice blend of size and speed, but couldn’t beat out active receivers in the summer, so he’ll need to make most of this development year to make an impact.
12. Kellen Ash, Fr., OLB, 6-3, 225: Has made the most of weight-room workouts and has already packed muscle onto his frame. Sack-minded nature makes him a possibility at buck position as well.
13. Ishmael Hyman, Fr., WR, 6-0, 180: KU beat out Boston College and Purdue for the deep threat from New Jersey.
14. Jordan Darling, Fr., QB, 6-4, 226: A strong-armed, drop-back passer in the mold of Dayne Crist, he projects as fifth-string next season, but has the arm to move up if he grasps everything the position demands.
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis has shown he’s not afraid to shuffle the deck if something’s not working. His depth chart frequently changes and his offensive game plan shifts week to week, based on the strengths of the opposing defense. After last season, he tweaked the roles of defensive coaches Dave Campo and Clint Bowen.
So when Weis said at the end of his weekly Monday night radio show with veteran broadcaster Bob Davis that he was going to be “more involved with that this week,” talking about the chemistry between the quarterback and his receivers, it sent the imagination wandering. (I know, I know, if my imagination is going to drift, it probably should find more scintillating topics than KU's offense, but what can I tell you?)
Could it be Weis is going to get more hands-on in one area and relinquish duties elsewhere? The mere fact I’m asking that question makes me look forward to today’s noon press conference with Weis, moved up an hour from its usual time. His sessions never are boring, but this one could more newsworthy than most.
What could the coach have meant? Well, sometimes duties are split by having one coach wearing the title of “passing game coordinator,” another “running game coordinator.” Maybe Weis will take on the “passing game coordinator,” title, work more closely with receivers and have either wide receivers coach Rob Ianello or quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus calling plays from the press box?
That’s wild speculation, but with the offense ranked 117th out of 125 teams, nothing is too radical to consider. Under that scenario, someone else would be named “running game coordinator.” Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell, offensive line coach Tim Grunhard and either Powlus or Ianello would be the candidates, with Mitchell making the most sense.
Going outside the staff to recruit an offensive coordinator who installs his own offense with new terminology and schemes is not something that could take place in mid-season. That would have to wait until after the season.
The Buffalo Bills mid-to-late ’70’s offensive line known as The Electric Company didn’t make O.J. Simpson famous. O.J. made the men in front of him famous.
Quick, decisive, creative quarterbacks and running backs make blockers look better to the extent players constantly referred to as underrated sometimes can become overrated.
Nevertheless, now that the receiving corps has been upgraded, offensive line is the unit about which there is most cause for concern on the 2013 Kansas football roster.
More than 100 career starts are gone with the departures of Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli. Given that, is it realistic to expect that the same blocks that were there a year ago for James Sims and company will there this fall?
“I think, to be honest with you, in a couple of cases, we should improve in run-blocking,” second-year head coach Charlie Weis said. “I’m not going to get into particulars right there, but your view of how they run-block and my view of how they run-block isn’t exactly the same.”
That’s a relief, considering I’m a ball-watcher and don’t have the binoculars on the guys who start games with misshaped knuckles and finish them with swollen, misshaped knuckles.
Still, considering Hawkinson was drafted in the fifth round, Zlatnik was a main-stay strong man and Marrongelli brought so much experience, replacing them presents a tough challenge.
“I think that a couple of guys who are involved there now, that is their forte,” Weis said. “Their forte is run-blocking. I think that there’s a chance in a couple of cases that we could actually improve.”
As is the case with just about every unit on the team, Weis will rely on junior college recruits to protect the quarterback and pave the way for the talented running backs.
Moving from left to right, a look at the battles expected to be waged during summer camp:
At left tackle, Pat Lewandowski and Riley Spencer, neither of whom has started a game in college, compete for the starting spot. Lewandowski, a converted defensive lineman, is in his second season as an O-lineman. His quick feet grabbed the attention of Weis. He stands 6-foot-5-1/2 and weighs 287. Spencer, 6-6, 302, has more experience at the position but missed the final 11 games of last season with an injury.
At left guard, juco recruit Ngalu Fusimalohi will be pushed by third-year sophomore Damon Martin, who made one start a year ago. Martin has a reputation for being assignment-sound, but could bring a little more fire. Fusimalohi likely is one of the players Weis referenced when he talked about run-blocking being his forte. More than one player told me Fusimalohi is the nastiest football player on the team. Reading between the lines of what Weis said about last year’s O-line it was easy to infer that the coach wanted a meaner bunch in his second season.
At center, Weis has options. Juco transfer Mike Smithburg showed a nasty edge during spring practice, but his snaps in the spring game weren’t the smoothest. If he can iron those wrinkles, he has a strong shot to win the job. If not, he’ll compete for snaps at guard.
Sophomore Dylan Admire, is a bit short on size, but long on smarts. Brains come in handy at center, unless Admire is one of those super-intelligent athletes who think too much and suffer from paralysis through analysis. Gavin Howard brings smarts, but lacks stamina and isn’t exceptionally quick or strong. Howard also has experience at guard and tackle.
Senior Randall Dent made 10 starts at right guard and encountered mixed results, which isn’t necessarily discouraging considering his lack of experience. It’s not a stretch to project more consistency this season from the strong man whose forte is run-blocking.
Senior Aslam Sterling, who reshaped his body and shed more than 60 pounds since arriving at KU last summer, projects as the starter at right tackle. He had enough talent that even though he was way out of shape and was juggling heavier academic requirements, tougher practices and learning a complex new offense, he was given eight starts, six at right tackle, two at right guard. Red-shirt freshman Brian Beckmann, 6-6, 298, showed enough during the spring that Weis put him second on the depth chart at right tackle.
Better conditioning and more experience should make the right side of the line better than it was a year ago. If one of the candidates at left tackle can emerge in a big way, that would be huge. Listening to Weis talk about Lewandowski’s athleticism is a bit reminiscent of the way Mark Mangino talked about Hawkinson when he moved him from defensive end to left tackle.
Spencer? I remember former KU O-lineman David Lawrence, now a KU broadcaster/Free State High freshman football coach, watching film of Spencer on signing day and coming away from it impressed with his feet. Spencer opened Weis’ eyes during the spring.
If neither Lewandowski nor Spencer takes a big step this summer, the sleeper for protecting the blind side of Jake Heaps is juco recruit Zach Fondal, who turned down Arkansas, Texas Tech and South Florida to sign with Kansas. He will trail Lewandowski and Spencer in terms of knowledge of the offense and conditioning, but if he’s talented enough, Weis will want him on the field sooner than later.
High school recruit Joey Bloomfield, 6-6, 305, of Louisville shapes up as a likely candidate for a red-shirt year.
The most shocking aspect of Thursday night’s coverage of the first round of the NFL draft involved the amount of shock expressed over Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o not getting drafted. Why did anyone consider him a first-round talent? He’s slow and stiff, not nearly agile enough to project as a front-line NFL player.
Te’o couldn’t tackle Alabama running back Eddie Lacey in the BCS title game. The surprise should have been over Lacey not getting drafted. Anybody who had Te’o ranked higher than Lacey must not have seen that game.
During the second round must we endure more speculative talk of teams trading up to get Te’o, when it’s clear he’s not talented enough to motivate a team to go to all that trouble to get him?
Might as well speculate that teams are trading up to get Tanner Hawkinson and Bradley McDougald, the two top prospects from Kansas in this year’s draft. Prediction: Hawkinson will be selected in the seventh round Saturday, McDougald either the same round or not at all. For Hawkinson, a lack of strength by NFL lineman standards will be what keeps him from getting drafted Friday, when the second and third rounds take place. For McDougald, unsure tackling will keep him from being considered earlier than late Saturday.
A year from now, James Sims will be a draft prospect and in 2015 several Kansas players could hear their names called.
Andrew Bolton, a defensive end who was bound for LSU out of junior college until he suffered a knee injury, has more of an NFL look than anybody on KU’s roster. He is expected to report this summer and if his knee has recovered sufficiently projects as a 2015 draft pick.
Defensive tackle Marquel Combs and safety Isaiah Johnson, junior college transfers on course to join the team in the summer, also have a lot of potential. So do defensive linemen Chris Martin and Keon Stowers, both spring standouts. Does Ben Heeney have a big enough frame to add enough weight? Wide receiver/running back/return man Tony Pierson has speed that will capture the attention of NFL scouts. Wide receiver Justin McCay has everything but blinding speed that scouts like in a receiver.
“McCay reminds me of Keyshawn (Johnson) when I first got to the Jets,” Weis said. “Routes were always a little short, not the fastest guy in the world, big, strong, tough, will catch everything you throw to him, will block everyone with physicality. Keyshawn was the first pick in the entire draft, so if he reminds me of Keyshawn ... They even wear the same number (19).”
McCay’s favorite receiver: “Keyshawn Johnson.”
Jake Heaps is on the small side for a pocket passer, but that won't stop him from getting drafted if he throws with a great deal of accuracy during his two years running the Jayhawks' offense.
KU connections in Thursday's first round were indirect ones. Tight end Tyler Eifert, recruited to Notre Dame by Weis, went to the Cincinnati Bengals with the 21st pick. Wide receiver/return man Cordarrelle Patterson was chosen by the Miami Dolphins with the 29th selection. Stowers and he are cousins.