Entries from blogs tagged with “basketball”
SEC schools, other football programs with national cachet and whatever school hires Les Miles have a better shot, but it’s not impossible that Kansas could end up snagging one or two of the recruits verbally committed to LSU who decide to reopen the recruiting process.
It’s a long shot, sure, but a few factors make it worth dreaming about, whereas in past years it would have amounted to a waste of time.
Factor No. 1: Daylon Charlot.
Kansas landing the Alabama transfer and Louisiana native made anything possible. Nick Saban was sorry to see the fleet wide receiver grow impatient and leave the program. Watching him run at KU’s practices, it’s easy to see why Saban had long-term plans for him.
Factor No. 2: Tony Hull.
KU’s running backs coach. A native of New Orleans and former high school head coach there, Hull already has gained commitments from three players from Louisiana high schools: receiver Takulve Williams, defensive end Troy James and athlete Travis Jordan.
Hull also was the high school coach of red-shirting Kansas quarterback Tyriek Starks, who committed to Kansas before Hull was hired to replace Reggie Mitchell.
Six of LSU’s 20 commitments are from Louisiana.
Factor No. 3: KU’s state-of-the-art, second-to-none new locker room.
Anyone who doesn’t think it was worth the fund-raising effort needs to consider what linebacker recruit Jarvis Russell told Jon Kirby of Rivals: “Words can’t describe how nice the locker room is. Their locker room is top of the line and I think I could live in there for the rest of my life.”
A linebacker from Grenada, Miss., Russell visited Kansas during the weekend the Jayhawks lost to Ohio. He originally had committed to Mississippi State but decided to open up his recruitment. So any LSU recruit to do the same would not be the first from the mighty SEC to make Kansas one of his visits.
Also, LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson was pursued by Kansas beore choosing Oklahoma State.
Playing quarterback for Kansas against a brutal schedule requires making the right decision when the best-laid plans break down.
For example, take a look at three screen shots taken from ESPN's telecast, all from the biggest play of KU's 43-7 loss at Memphis, defensive tackle Jonathan Wilson's interception return for a touchdown.
The first shows guard Jayson Rhodes falling to the ground after he let a defender blow past him.
The second shows quarterback Montell Cozart getting tackled by the defender Rhodes missed. In this one, Rhodes is on his back as the football sails over his head.
The the third screen grab, the best available but just a tick too late for a true representation, shows that if the block had been made, Cozart very well could have found tight end Ben Johnson for a big gain. We'll never know for sure, of course, but do know that if the Jayhawks could have scored on that possession instead of delivering a touchdown in the other direction, the game would not have been over by halftime. In reality, Memphis took a 33-7 lead into the second half.
The broken play doesn't change that Cozart made a bad decision, it just illustrates that the offense's problems start before the quarterback pulls the trigger.
Don't look now, but Kansas has the ninth-ranked passing defense in the nation, allowing just 135 passing yards per game and 4.8 yards per pass attempt.
The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.
Big 12 offenses know how to shred secondaries every year, so it’s not realistic for Kansas to maintain its current national ranking, but if the Jayhawks can pressure the quarterback on a regular basis the way the hounded Memphis’ Riley Ferguson they can slow down pass-happy offenses looking to run up the score on them.
“We fed off of each other’s energy, that’s what we do,” sophomore Dorance Armstrong said of the heat the the Jayhawks put on Ferguson.
Clearly, Memphis came into the game determined to keep defensive tackle Daniel Wise from getting into the backfield to slam ballcarriers to the turf the way he did in the first two weeks of the season.
Every move Wise made was greeted with a pair of blockers double-teaming him. He didn’t make any tackles until the second half and finished with three, none behind the line of scrimmage.
It was imperative that the rest of the D-line take advantage of all the extra attention being paid to Wise or other teams would have no qualms about doing the same. Wise’s mates up front delivered, combining for four of the team's five sacks, three for 19 yards from Armstrong and one apiece from junior DeeIsaac Davis and senior Damani Mosby.
“We can do better,” Armstrong vowed. “We came into the game with zero sacks and we just had to make sure to come out with a sack early. As a defense, to go two games in a row with no sacks, that’s not our standard.”
Actually, Kansas did have one sack coming into the Memphis game, but none from the defensive line. Linebacker Courtney Arnick had one sack for five yards coming into the game.
The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.
One week from Thursday, Kansas faces the No. 1-ranked passing offense in the nation.
Patrick Mahomes leads the country with 497.7 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
A more encouraging way of looking at it than focusing on the Red Raiders’ passing ranking is to consider that Mahomes is facing the nation’s ninth-ranked passing defense.
It’s only been one year since the Memphis football team traveled to Lawrence for last season’s matchup against Kansas, but the Tigers will feature a much different look Saturday.
Exit former coach Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech) and quarterback Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos). Enter Mike Norvell and Riley Ferguson.
Norvell, the youngest FBS head coach at 34, was Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2012-15. The Sun Devils ranked 23rd in the nation last year in total offense.
In Week One — the Tigers had a bye last week — Norvell became the first Memphis head coach to win his debut since 1984 with a 35-17 victory over Southeast Missouri. Both Norvell and KU coach David Beaty belong to the same coaching tree under current ASU coach Todd Graham.
When Graham was the head coach at Rice, he hired Beaty as a receivers coach in 2006 — his first full-time college assistant role. Three years later, at Tulsa, Graham hired Norvell in the same role.
“I know Mike really, really well. One of the finest young minds in all of college football,” Beaty said of Norvell. “Very sought after, he could’ve went a lot of different places. A really good football coach.”
Graham told the Commercial Appeal: “Very similar coaches. Guys that are very passionate, guys that are very smart. Great motivators of their players. And obviously great offensive minds. … (I'm) really proud of them.”
During Memphis season-opening win, junior transfer QB Ferguson threw for 295 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut. He played for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas last year after starting his collegiate career at Tennessee.
The Tigers had no problem in their passing game against SEMO, completing 65 percent of their passes. But in the run game, they only had 110 yards on 33 attempts (3.3 yards per carry). Patrick Taylor led with 86 yards on seven carries, which included a 51-yard run.
The Tigers might be without senior running back Sam Craft, who missed two weeks of practice because of a hamstring injury. He ran for 333 yards and five touchdowns last year, along with 114 receiving yards and two scores. According to Tom Schad of the Commercial Appeal, Craft was a limited participant at practice Wednesday and only did a portion of the 7-on-7 drills.
One player who won’t step on the field is senior defensive lineman Latarius Brady, who made two starts and had 13 tackles last year. He is recovering from a torn ACL in spring practices, but isn’t expected to return until next month.
The Jayhawks will try to keep pace offensively with Memphis, especially after last year. The Tigers recorded 651 yards of offense in last year’s matchup, the third-highest single-game total in school history. That included 281 rushing yards for five touchdowns.
Interesting note: The Jayhawks have played in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium twice, but never against Memphis. In 1973, KU lost to Tennessee in a neutral-site game, and later in the season, lost to N.C. State in the Liberty Bowl game.
FIVE TIGERS TO WATCH
No. 4: QB Riley Ferguson | 6-4, 210, jr.
In his Memphis debut, Ferguson completed 26 of 40 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns against SEMO.
Connected with 10 different pass-catchers in Week One, replacing first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch under center.
He redshirted in 2013 at Tennessee after suffering a leg injury. In 2015, he was quarterback at Coffeyville CC and was 225 of 332 for 2,942 yards and 35 touchdowns, earning first-team all-KJCCC honors.
No. 3: WR Anthony Miller | 5-11, 190, jr.
Miller was dominant in the season opener with nine receptions for 103 yards. It was his fifth-career 100-yard receiving game and he was one catch shy of tying his career high.
The redshirt junior made four starts last season, finishing third on the team with 47 receptions and ranking second with 694 yards. He added nine carries for 54 yards and a score.
Along with his talent at receiver, Miller is the top option as a punt returner. He returned three punts against SEMO for 33 yards.
No. 54: C Drew Kyser | 6-5, 300, soph.
Last year, he played in all 13 games as a true freshman with 12 starts. He was instrumental in an offense that finished 19th in the nation in total offense (486.9 yards per game).
Named to the Remington Trophy fall watch list, awarded to the top center in the country.
No. 8: CB Arthur Maulet | 5-11, 190, sr.
Don’t let the 0 receptions vs. Missouri State fool you. Cross earned first-team all-AAC honors in 2014 for a reason.
The tight end caught three passes for 69 yards and a TD in the Tigers’ bowl win over BYU to close 2014.
On the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s top tight end.
No. 46 : PK Jake Elliott | 5-10, 165, sr.
One of the top place kickers in the nation, earning preseason All-America honors from USA Today. He earned second-team honors from Sports Illustrated and third team from Athlon Sports.
In 2015, Elliott tied a school record by making 23 of 28 field goals. He drilled two field goals in the season opener, both longer than 40 yards.
The kicker set a new school record by hitting 63 extra points, going perfect in the process. He’s made his last 147 PAT attempts.
Four of Elliott’s seven kickoffs went for touchbacks in the season opener.
The two-time AAC Special Teams Player of the Year ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 333 points. Elliott only trails New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (369) and Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (362).
In the two-plus years since Joel Embiid left Kansas for the NBA, his injury-plagued career has kept him from playing any games for the Philadelphia 76ers. But the 7-foot-2 center from Cameroon somehow found a way to stay relevant in the league’s zeitgeist by becoming an internet/Twitter/Instagram star.
In particular, videos of Embiid going through basketball workouts during his rehab process became both wildly popular for fans of the Sixers and the young big man, while simultaneously serving as fodder for jokes about him never appearing in an actual professional game.
Well, The Ringer took the Embiid mythology to another level Wednesday, when Kevin O’Connor’s story on the 22-year-old prospect included a mockumentary on the former KU star.
Titled, “Joel Embiid: Legacy of a Legend,” the video includes such one-liners as:
“This is what watching Wilt Chamberlain in person must’ve felt like.”
“And there’s a revelation: Oh my God. LeBron James is trash.”
“Joel Embiid is one of the bravest men, probably on the face of the planet.”
Perhaps the jokes will stop this coming season, when Embiid is on schedule to make his NBA debut. Or perhaps more injury setbacks will continue to group the promising center with the likes of Greg Oden.
Some people think Embiid could win Rookie of the Year, and others will remain skeptical until he proves them wrong.
No matter where you stand on the Embiid debate, The Ringer’s video tribute is worth checking out.
— Watch the mockumentary below:
During my two-and-a-half years as co-host of a show on ESPN Radio in New York City, Mondays after a Jets loss required the least preparation. Throw out the phone number and listen to the apoplectic voices break it all down to help themselves avoid a breakdown.
When the stressed-out voices were firing the offensive or defensive coordinator, they often offered as proof the lack of adjustments made at halftime.
Kansas created plenty of fodder for griping in Saturday’s 37-21 loss to Ohio (University, not State), but accusations of a lack of halftime adjustments could not be aimed at the coaching staff.
The halftime adjustments the offensive staff made, albeit way too late, certainly worked given that the same Jayhawks offense that produced 21 total yards in the first half totaled 190 in the third quarter.
Defensive adjustments worked as well. Ohio (University, not State) amassed 359 total yards in the first half, 66 yards with a turnover in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter, most of it played without injured quarterback Montell Cozart, didn’t go as well. As was the case in the first half, Kansas couldn’t stop the run and OU (Ohio, not Oklahoma) ate 10 minutes of clock with an 18-play, 81-yard drive that ended in a field goal.
Still, give the KU defense credit for allowing just nine second-half points on three field goals. Before that game-clinching drive, here’s how Ohio’s second-half possessions went: Three plays, five yards, punt; three plays, two yards, field goal; four plays, 13 yards, punt; eight plays, 36 yards, interception by Fish Smithson; three plays, zero yards, field goal.
The halftime adjustments worked. The plan coming into the game did not.
Under former Nebraska coach Frank Solich, Ohio’s football program finished with a winning record for the past seven seasons, including five years with at least eight wins.
The Bobcats have similar expectations this season, voted to finish second in the MAC East preseason poll, but they were upset by Texas State last week, losing 56-54 in triple overtime as a three-touchdown favorite.
In their season opener, the Bobcats struggled with their inexperienced secondary, surrendering 440 yards through the air and watching the opposing quarterback complete 72.7 percent of his passes. Then there were penalties — lots and lots of penalties. They were flagged 13 times for 141 yards.
But the biggest challenge for the Jayhawks will be slowing down Ohio’s offense and controlling the line of scrimmage. Ohio has an experienced front seven on defense, limiting Texas State to only 2.5 yards per rushing attempt (106 yards on 42 carries).
With redshirt senior quarterback Greg Windham under center, in his first career start, Ohio posted 546 yards of offense, including 393 yards in the air. Windham also ran for 37 yards on eight attempts. He found receivers Jordan Reid (5 catches, 93 yards, 2 TD) and Elijah Ball (4 catches, 50 yards, TD) with some consistency, but also found his running backs out of the backfield.
Running backs Papi White (6 catches, 128 yards, TD) and Maleek Irons (5 catches, 54 yards) proved to be capable targets.
In the backfield, Ohio went with a running back by committee approach. Irons had 62 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 attempts, while Dorian Brown had 64 rushing yards and Papi White added 29 rushing yards and a score.
The Bobcats will likely be without injured running back A.J. Ouellette, Ohio’s leading rusher for the past two years. He left with a foot injury in the first quarter against Texas State and Solich told the media he would be out indefinitely.
Senior receiver Sebastian Smith could also miss the game, according to the Athens Messenger. Smith, the school’s leading receiver last year, injured his groin during fall camp and was unable to finish the second half last week.
It will be the first matchup between the Jayhawks and Ohio since 1967. Ohio won, 30-15.
Interesting note: One of Ohio’s biggest strengths is its continuity. It’s the only school in the country to have the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator over the last 12 years.
FIVE BOBCATS TO WATCH
No. 14: QB Greg Windham | 6-1, 215, R-sr.
Made the first start of his career against Texas State and showed off his dual-threat ability, throwing for 393 yards and four touchdowns and running for 37 yards on eight attempts. He completed 28 of his 46 passes.
Last season, Windham appeared in 11 games and completed 19 of his 40 passes for 298 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. He had 27 carries for 116 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per rush.
Windham was named the starter on the final day of fall camp after former teammate JD Sprague left the team because of a rib injury.
No. 23: FS Kylan Nelson | 5-10, 202, soph.
After missing all of last season because of a hip injury, Nelson marked his return in Ohio’s inexperienced secondary with two interceptions and two tackles.
Nelson played as a true freshman, making an appearance in 10 games. He had 16 tackles (11 solo), recovered a fumble and made an 84-yard kick return touchdown. He didn’t return any kicks last week.
In the 56-54 triple overtime loss last week, Nelson admitted to The Post that the defense wore down by the end of the game, “I hate to say it, but I think we just got a little tired. I really hate to say it. I thought we were in pretty good condition. We went quite a while. I thought we executed pretty well for the most part.”
No. 24: SS Toran Davis | 6-0, 206, R-sr.
Was everywhere on the field last week, recording a career-high 17 tackles (team-best six solo). It was the ninth-highest single-game total in program history and the most by a player since 2009.
The redshirt senior was fourth on the team in tackles last season (59), deflecting two passes and forcing a fumble.
At strong safety, Davis only has one interception in his career.
No. 93: DE Tarell Basham | 6-5, 254, sr.
One of the best pass rushers in school history, he only needs one-half sack to take sole possession of first place on the all-time career sacks list. He had one sack last week and has 19 in his career.
In 2015, Basham made 11 starts at defensive end and led the Bobcats with 5.5 sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.
The senior from Rocky Mount, Va., recorded 7.5 sacks in his freshman season — fifth highest in a single season in Ohio history — on his way to All-American honors.
Named to the Ted Hendricks Award watch list, which is awarded to the top defensive end. He was just one of two MAC players to be named to the watch list.
No. 48: K Louie Zervos | 5-9, 152, R-fr.
Playing in his first game last week, Zervos set a stadium record with four made field goals, going 4-for-5 with four extra points.
The redshirt freshman from Tarpon Spring, Fla., was named the MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.
Zervos made three of his field goals in the range of 35-45 yards. He missed an attempt from 41 yards.
Even one week against one of the five least talented teams of Div. I football, FBS and FCS combined, can reveal obvious traits about a squad coming off an 0-12 season.
For Kansas, which ended a 15-game losing streak with a 55-6 thrashing of Rhode Island, two factors leaped off the replay: 1. The Jayhawks, as suspected, have far more speed than a year ago. 2. The offensive line — still too young, too at a disadvantage because of not having as many combined years in a college weight room as most college blockers — will have trouble getting much push for runs up the middle.
In contrast, Ohio has a ton of experience up front on both sides of the ball. Kansas has talent at defensive line, so matching the Bobcats’ massive O-line is a possibility. The other matchup doesn’t figure to go as well for Kansas, with Ohio’s experienced D-line having the big strength edge. So Kansas will need to turn speed and creativity into big plays Saturday in order to emerge with its first two-game winning streak since two weeks into the 2011 season.
A look at a handful of Jayhawks with the capability of making game-turning plays:
1 - LaQuvionte Gonzalez: He consistently used his speed and quickness to get open and looked like a threat to pop one nearly every time he touched it as a kick and punt returner. By reaching around the defensive back and somehow coming away with the ball for a touchdown, Gonzalez provided a highlight that figures to be shown for years, maybe forever. The defense must account for him at all times and still he finds ways to get open.
2 - Montell Cozart: Sure, it wasn’t his first big day against FCS competition, but Cozart looked so much more decisive, more accurate and even looked as if he has strengthened his arm. David Beaty’s version of the Air Raid offense just might suit Cozart ideally. An easy man for whom to root because of his thick skin and positive personality, Cozart has the potential to make Beaty look wise for resisting the temptation to turn him into a wide receiver.
3 - Taylor Martin: He and Gonzalez are the two fastest players on the team. That speed makes Martin a threat running on the edge and getting behind the defense on pass patterns. Cozart barely overthrew him on a long pass down the sideline or he might have gone ... all ... the ... way.
4 - Dorance Armstrong: I had forgotten that Armstrong changed to No. 2 for his sophomore season and on one of the first plays of the replay I watched on ESPN3, I wondered who that player flying toward the sideline was, figuring he must be a safety. He’s a defensive end and he plays with equal parts speed and intensity.
5 - Daniel Wise: Emerged as a team leader during offseason conditioning and looked like a man on a search-and-destroy-the-quarterback mission in the opener. He has the potential to deliver a strip-sack at a pivotal point in the game. The D-tackle's most important work will come in doing his job against the run.
6 - Kyle Mayberry: The true freshman cornerback from Tulsa did not have the uncertain, shaky look so common among athletes competing in a college game for the first time. He’s blurry fast, seems to love the spotlight and has the sort of confidence that could enable him to take a chance and deliver a pick six.
7 - Beaty, the offensive coordinator: Again, it helped that Rhode Island was the opponent, but Beaty certainly seemed to have a winning touch for what play to call when. The Rams’ defensive line was pushing back the Kansas blockers — not a good sign — and getting more aggressive by the play. So Beaty called a play that baited that aggressiveness and resulted in tight end Ben Johnson standing alone in the end zone for an easy touchdown reception from Cozart.
Not all football games are won and lost in the trenches. Sometimes they are won with big plays, which very likely will be what Kansas needs if it is going to defeat Ohio.
NOTE: Las Vegas oddsmakers set the opening line at Ohio minus-9, which means Ohio was a nine-point favorite. In slightly more than 24 hours, the legal-betting public had moved the line an amazing 12 points, making the Jayhawks a three-point favorite, which was where the line stood as of Tuesday morning.
Kansas, seeking to move two games above the break-even point for the first time since improving to 2-0 in 2011 with a victory at home against Northern Illinois in Turner Gill’s second and final season on the job, has a few factors going for it Saturday when Ohio visits Memorial Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
First, Kansas should be able to draw more from Ohio’s Week 1 game tape than vice versa because the Bobcats were in a tight game, one they lost to Texas State, 56-54 in three overtimes, so they couldn’t hold back anything from the playbook.
In contrast, KU could afford to treat much of its 55-6 victory against Rhode Island almost like an NFL team approaches an exhibition game. The Jayhawks spread the ball around to multiple players, giving Ohio so much to prepare for and so little on any one player.
Nine different Jayhawks caught a pass and three different quarterbacks combined for six touchdown passes, Montell Cozart throwing three, Ryan Willis two and Carter Stanley one. Ohio must prepare for both Cozart and Willis. Four different running backs rushed the football anywhere from four to nine times.
The second factor involves KU’s Week 1 strength, the passing attack, matching up with Ohio’s Week 1 weakness, defending the pass. Kansas passed for 399 yards vs. Rhode Island and Ohio surrendered 440 yards and five touchdowns at home vs. Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference.
The third factor, the biggest one considering the extent to which emotion sways football performances in general and in the college game in particular, involves respect.
Oddsmakers made a loud statement that in their opinion KU’s 49-point victory said far more about the quality of its opponent than about the Jayhawks. Visiting Ohio opened as a nine-point favorite. What happened in Lawrence stayed in Lawrence in terms of national respect. Acting quickly, bettors put so much money down on KU that the Jayhawks became favorites in slightly more than 24 hours. As of Tuesday morning, Kansas was favored by three points, a remarkable swing.
If second-year head coach David Beaty can parlay the original lack of belief in his team among outsiders into an emotional outburst that fuels players to perform out of their minds, Kansas could score a victory and make believers out of Las Vegas oddsmakers who set the point spreads, and more important, out of a fan base that can be enticed back in droves at the first unqualified sign of legitimate progress.
Big game Saturday.
When the Kansas football team takes the field for the first time this season on Saturday night against Rhode Island, expect to see a new-and-improved Dorance Armstrong Jr.
When head coach David Beaty describes the sophomore defensive end as a “big rascal,” he isn’t joking. Listed at 225 pounds when he first arrived in Lawrence a little more than a year ago, the 6-foot-4 Armstrong has put on more than 20 pounds since. In Beaty’s terminology, the lineman no longer looks like a stick.
“He’s gonna be something to contend with,” Beaty predicted.
Armstrong certainly previewed his potential at times a year ago. In his first career start, against Oklahoma, he established personal freshman-season bests in tackles (six) and sacks (two). But there were plenty of games before and after that (he played in all 12) when Armstrong didn’t make as much of an impact.
“I loved it,” the Houston native said of of starting KU’s final five games of 2015. “It made me a better player. As I watch film on last year, what I did, I’m able to critique my game and focus on better things, what I can do to make myself better.”
While preparing to become more of a force as a sophomore, Armstrong realized this past offseason he needs to use his speed more against the “bigger dudes” on opposing offensive lines and stay communicating with his defensive teammates to make sure they’re all on the same page when the ball is snapped.
Armed with that knowledge and a full offseason under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson, the second-year defensive end from Houston feels much more equipped to help his team.
“I’m way stronger than I was when I first came here,” Armstrong said. “I’m able to do a lot more than what I was doing at first.”
Although a slight injury to his right leg inspired KU’s coaches and medical staff to keep him out of several early preseason practices in August, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said the coaches never worried the time off would impact the start of Armstrong’s season.
“He’s a naturally gifted kid. He’s physically fit. He’s not a get-out-of-shape-and-get-fat kind of guy,” Bowen said. “Once he was able to start getting some reps back in he picked it up pretty quick. He had all those reps in the spring time, so learning’s not an issue for him. He was able to bounce back and get going strong again.”
In fact, Armstrong said that stretch of watching practice from the sidelines didn’t hold him back in the weight room.
“I hate I wasn’t able to play with the rest of the team for a few,” he said, “but as I was out I was with Coach Jackson. He made me do a lot of extra weight-lifting. I kind of gained something from it.”
As Armstrong rushes URI starting quarterback Wesley McKoy and goes after the Rams’ running backs near the line of scrimmage, he’ll do so with a larger repertoire of moves and higher expectations for himself.
Bowen, too, strongly believes KU’s talented defensive end will stand out throughout the season. In the coach’s opinion, Armstrong is the type of lineman capable of turning into the defense’s most valuable player.
“He has a very well rounded skill set for a defensive end. He has a pass-rush ability. He’s strong. He can play the run. He’s a legitimate Big 12 defensive end,” Bowen said. “He’s not just a one-trick guy. Last year early on that’s about what he was — he could rush the QB. But he’s built his his body up and the strength up now that he hangs in three and he can play all the techniques and play them well.”
I won’t pretend that I can say something nice about the Kansas football depth chart having three names listed as possible first-stringers with the season-opener days away.
Best-case scenario would have had one of the three quarterbacks blowing away the competition by now.
Instead, I’ll reach into the issue and find something nice to say.
The size of the crowd for Saturday’s Rhode Island game has the potential to turn faces red, so I’ll use this week’s blog to examine whether head coach David Beaty’s attempt to keep his starting quarterback a secret until the 6 p.m. kickoff will increase the size of the crowd or decrease it.
Since URI, 1-10 in the Football Championship Subdivision last season, doesn’t have the talent to create scoreboard suspense, uncertainty regarding the starting QB, provided it doesn’t leak before game night, adds a little intrigue, creates a potentially powerful moment.
If Beaty really can pull it off and keep the secret, fans will explode in support of whichever quarterback sprints off the sideline. Cool moment, one that might motivate someone on the fence to buy a ticket and head to Memorial Stadium. So in that sense, it should increase attendance.
The potential for it backfiring at the gate exists. Here’s how: Fans wanting to believe the team will improve significantly from last season’s 0-12 finish might fear that Beaty keeping the secret in order to give his team an edge means the Jayhawks are weak enough to need an edge to defeat a team that went 1-10 in a lower division. Most thinking that way will get off the fence and makes plans for a Saturday night out on the town or in the den watching multiple games.
My guess is fans curious to experience suspense at Memorial Stadium, not that common a feeling in recent years, will outnumber those bummed that the coach thinks his team needs the edge against the Rams.
Humans tend toward optimism, particularly in regards to a team that has not yet lost a game.
Will it be Ryan Willis, Montell Cozart or Carter Stanley to take the first snap of the 2016 season? My guess is it will be Willis, but it’s only a guess. The only way to know for sure is to show up before Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.
Just in time for the first game week of the season, Kansas football players on Sunday evening got to check out the team’s refurbished locker room for the first time.
Throughout preseason camp, the Jayhawks had to stay out of the space on the ground floor of Anderson Family Football Complex as the project reached completion. During that time, players instead used a renovated but old room underneath Memorial Stadium that coach David Beaty said “didn’t have a whole lot of ventilation.”
Needless to say, Beaty explained Monday morning on the Big 12 football coaches media conference call, the players were pretty excited to evacuate their temporary headquarters.
“I guess the word ripe comes to mind in terms of the way that room smelled,” Beaty said. “So I think they were looking for some relief from that, as well.”
KU’s second-year head coach thought the Jayhawks benefited from experiencing the past few weeks of practices, including some two-a-days sessions, in a less than desirable setting before introducing them to their freshly revamped, state-of-the-art locker room.
“But I think that allowed us to understand that’s not gonna make or break you. When we were able to walk into that room (Sunday night), I think the appreciation level was extremely high,” Beaty said. “You could tell just a sense of energy infused into our guys as they walked in there.”
The old locker room, built in 2008, received more than $2 million worth of upgrades, courtesy of KU football donors.
A KU spokesperson said the overhaul isn’t quite totally complete, but the improved area will feature a new layout, redesigned lockers personalized for each player, an updated sound system and an illuminated Jayhawk on the ceiling.
Adjacent to the locker room lies the modernized players lounge, complete with a pool table, shuffleboard, foosball, air hockey, pop-a-shot, arcade games, a barber shop, cushy theater-style seats and big-screen televisions connected to video game consoles.
Since Beaty took over the program, he said the players have done everything the coaches have asked of them. Rewarding them with a revamped facility, he added, helps keep the Jayhawks’ focus on the team’s “stakeholders,” as the players try to give the fans a team that will make them proud.
“It was a pleasure to be able to open those doors (Sunday) and let those guys know how much they’re appreciated,” Beaty said, “and really being able to reinforce the fact that people care about them here and there is a commitment to football.”
In a video of the players’ first steps inside their cutting-edge locker room, posted by KU Athletics, the Jayhawks show off some of their favorite parts of their new home. A placard above each stall features every player’s picture, name, number, hometown and Twitter handle. Each locker has spaces equipped to charge their phones and special filtered compartments to air out their cleats, shoes and shoulder pads.
“This is insane,” junior linebacker Joe Dineen said in the video. “This is a lot nicer than I expected it to be. A lot of room. Even like the little gadgets inside the locker are just insane.”
Dineen said the Jayhawks also got to have lunch with the donors who made the renovation possible.
Senior safety Fish Smithson said KU’s players lounge now probably ranks as one of the best in the country.
“This definitely helps out recruiting a lot,” Smithson said in the video, “’cause you know kids these days, they want to see what makes your program different.”
At the beginning of the month, when the Kansas football team reported to Lawrence for preseason camp, David Beaty invited another head coach on campus to give the Jayhawks a pep talk.
Behind closed doors, KU basketball coach Bill Self didn’t gloss over the football program’s struggles. He instead referenced the present as a place to start assembling a product that will make Kansas fans proud.
We know this now thanks to Time Warner Cable Sports Channel - Kansas City, which tweeted out a video of Self’s speech Thursday morning.
While Self hailed the importance of the football players being a part of the “Jayhawk family” he also informed them that he and the rest of the basketball program want to see them succeed.
“Get this in your head: We want you to win and win big,” Self said.
The way the 14th-year KU hoops coach explained it, the university’s storied basketball program has reached a place where their jobs as players and coaches are pretty obvious, and they’re constantly trying to match their historical predecessors.
“I’m never gonna be the best coach ever here,” Self told the KU football team. “Phog Allen coached here. And whoever we recruit is never gonna be the best player that ever played here. Hell, Wilt (Chamberlain) played here, OK.
“Our job is to maintain,” he continued. “You know what your job is? To build.”
While the first season under Beaty didn’t produce a victory, Self asked the players whether that difficult fall also served as the starting line for establishing a new culture.
“Now, deep in your core, if you’re worth your salt at all, would it mean more to you to be a builder or a maintainer? Think about it,” Self said. “Being a builder means maybe going 0-12 your first year, ’cause you don’t have as many bullets, all right? But being a builder is developing a culture. How are you gonna work? How responsible are you gonna be? How hard are you gonna study film? How good of leadership you’re gonna have. Are we gonna pick each other up? How good a teammate you’re gonna be. That’s the culture. That’s how you have a program.”
Before wishing the Jayhawks luck in the coming months, Self rattled off some of the universities where basketball and football have had great success, referencing Ohio State, Oklahoma, Florida and Michigan State. Then the basketball coach reminded the players it wasn’t that long ago that KU football was great, too.
“That means it can be done again. You guys agree?” Self asked. “There’s been some brothers pave the way before, OK. Now you’ll get to pave the way for future teams coming.”
If the players in the football program now can lay the groundwork for another successful run like Kansas experienced with Todd Reesing, Aqib Talib, Mark Mangino and company, Self said they too will be “remembered forever” and understand what it’s like to be a part of the “Jayhawk family.”
— Watch TWC Sports Channel KC’s entire video below.
Every time a walk-on football player makes his way onto the Kansas depth chart it becomes that much easier for a high school player considering joining the Jayhawks without the benefit of a scholarship for the start of his career.
Red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Mesa Ribordy had to pay his own way this season and last. He had enough faith in his ability to believe that he will be on scholarship his final three years in the program.
Ribordy is on track to make that happen. Players who spend two years as walk-ons and then earn scholarships only count against the overall scholarship limit of 85 per Football Bowl Subdivision school. They don’t count against the single-year limit of 25.
In order to get back to a competitive level, Kansas will need to take advantage of several players in that category, which makes Ribordy a very valuable recruit.
A 6-foot-4, 290-pound graduate of Louisburg High, Ribordy is pushing for time at both right guard and center and has a strong chance of becoming one of the eight blockers who account for the majority of snaps at the five offensive-line positions.
Other players from Kansas high schools who have joined the program as walk-ons since David Beaty became head coach and hired Gene Wier as director of high schoo relations include: sophomore transfers Keith Loneker Jr. (Baker University, Free State) and Ryan Schadler (Wichita State track, Heeston), junior transfer Deron Thompson (RB Colorado State, Wichita Northwest); sophomore Reese Randall (RB Baldwin); red-shirt freshmen Mazin Aql (DE Blue Valley), Jackson Jenkins (OL Bishop Meige), Beau Lawrence (OL Blue Valley Southwest), Nathan Miller (CB Washburn Rural), Hunter Saulsbury (OL Blue Valley Southwest); freshman Tate Vang (WR, Goddard).
Kansas State has dominated in-state, walk-on recruiting and Kansas is coming from behind, but it’s important the coaches stay committed to bringing depth to the program through this method in hopes of eventually closing the gap on the Wildcats.
Kansas head football coach David Beaty’s media policy makes freshmen off-limits for interviews, but that didn’t keep teammates and Beaty himself from talking about running back Khalil Herbert during Monday's media session.
Clearly, Herbert has made a strong first impression.
“I saw him make some really good cuts, stuff that a typical freshman can’t really do,” tight end Ben Johnson said of Herbert’s performance in a Saturday scrimmage in which the South Florida native carried the ball three times for 93 yards and a touchdown. “That kind of stood out to me and I was pretty impressed. He’s just a natural ballplayer. There are things you can coach and things you can’t coach. He’s kind of one of those guys who just has natural instincts.”
Quarterback Ryan Willis shared what it does for him to see that sort of an effort from a freshman: “It fires me up. ... The key to this offense is getting it to our playmakers. Our playmakers right now are our running backs.”
Texas A&M transfer LaQuvionte Gonzalez is the top playmaker at wide receiver and his face lit up Monday at the mention of Herbert’s name.
“I love that kid,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, he can really run the ball. I like that kid. He’s got pretty soft hands. He can catch like a receiver. He’s an all-purpose back. He can do everything.”
Herbert, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound burner, comes to Kansas from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., where he played for former NFL defensive back Mike Rumph, now cornerbacks coach for University of Miami.
As did Gonzalez, Beaty gave Herbert points for more than his ability to run the football.
“He’s a dominant guy,” Beaty said. “He’s fast. He actually pass-blocks pretty good. Smart kid. Great kid. He showed some real burst on Saturday. Avoided some tackles, avoided a tackle in the backfield and took it for a long run, something I haven’t seen in a while.”
Beaty also praised the work of first-string senior back Ke’aun Kinner, sophomore sprinter Taylor Martin and the short-yardage contributions of Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans.
Say something nice about Kansas football: Improved depth eliminates need to rush freshmen onto field
True freshmen Larry Hughes and Clyde McCauley combined to start nine games at offensive tackle for Kansas last season and classmate Tyrone Miller started the first seven games of the season at cornerback.
If the same players were true freshmen this season, they would combine to start zero games at those positions.
That demonstrates the improved depth, most of it through upgraded recruiting, that already is taking place in the major rebuilding job.
“They were not strong enough to compete in this league,” strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson said of Hughes and McCauley. “They weren’t, and it was evident when they played.”
That’s why true freshmen linemen redshirt in all but rare circumstances.
Hughes and McCauley aren’t as strong as they will be two years from now, but they are a great deal stronger than a year ago.
“I’ve put on 25 pounds since when I first got here,” McCauley said. “I’m way stronger. My clean shot up about 50 pounds. My bench shot up about 90.”
He shouldn’t have had to face future NFL defensive linemen before those gains were made, but the ranks were so thin last season, he and Hughes were pressed into duty.
In contrast, incoming freshman O-linemen Hakeem Adeniiji (6-foot4, 265 pounds, Garland, Texas) and Antoine Frazier (6-4, 260, Huffman, Texas) have the luxury of red-shirting, which doesn’t necessarily mean they will.
Jackson said they both arrived on campus stronger than some of the veterans were when Jackson rejoined the Kansas football program in Jan., 2015.
“Those kids are both 260 pounds and they’re bench-pressing over 315 pounds,” Jackson said. “Young guys who are able to do it, it’s a great foundation to be able to build on.”
There is no masking a lack of strength up front or a lack of speed in the back of the defense.
Miller does not and will not ever have the speed to play cornerback in the Big 12. But the coaches didn’t know where else to turn, so they played a true freshman safety at cornerback and it showed.
Now if the Jayhawks need to call on a true freshman at cornerback, they can choose from a pair of speedy players born to play cornerback in Kyle Mayberry from Tulsa and Mike Lee from New Orleans. If they aren’t ready, it won’t be because they are playing out of position or don’t have the speed to keep up.
As for Miller, his confidence will grow instead of shrink now that he’s playing a position that suits his talents.
At linebacker, true freshman Maciah Long (6-2, 240) is more physically ready for Big 12 play than most freshman, but he played quarterback in high school and is new to the position. No need to rush him into action and burn his redshirt with experienced reserve linebackers Courtney Arnick, Kendall Duckworth, Keith Loneker Jr. and Osaze Ogbebore on hand.
This is a strange new world for Kansas football.
Former Alabama players are transferring to play for the Jayhawks. Like THE Alabama. Not South Alabama. Not Alabama-Birmingham. The Alabama with Nick Saban and all those national championships.
Charlot already has participated in preseason practices at KU and Baldwin is expected to do so soon. While neither Alabama transfer will be able to help Kansas win games until the 2017 season, they join junior receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (Texas A&M), junior running back Denzell Evans (Arkansas) and senior linebacker Marcquis Roberts (South Carolina) as former players from the mighty SEC who have relocated to KU.
So what are we to make of this? Do we need to pay attention to every single SEC player who decides to move on?
No. But it’s at least an intriguing trend and another reminder that second-year coach David Beaty and his staff are doing the right things in recruiting.
Which brings us to the case of former LSU receiver Tyron Johnson. On Thursday, Johnson announced on Twitter he’s transferring from LSU. What does this have to do with Kansas? Funny you should ask.
Johnson, a sophomore who had nine receptions, 150 yards and two touchdowns for the Tigers as a freshman, was a five-star receiver at Warren Easton High in New Orleans. If that school sounds familiar to you, it’s because first-year KU running backs coach Tony Hull used to coach there.
So a 6-foot-1 receiver ranked 11th nationally in the Class of 2015 who received scholarship offers from LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and others is available.
I wonder if Kansas would have any interest in that kind of talented player?
Obviously this doesn’t guarantee anything for KU. Johnson seems to be the type of athlete who could choose to go just about anywhere in the country at this point, even if things didn’t work out for him at LSU.
But given Johnson’s connection with Hull and the way recruits seem to believe in Beaty and his staff, it’s definitely a plot worth watching.
The Kansas football team is now a week into its preseason camp. How do the Jayhawks, who went 0-12 a year ago, look? Let’s try to piece some clues together.
Second-year head coach David Beaty, his assistants and the players meet with media for interviews a couple times a week in August. So that definitely helps. One can get a sense of the vibe at the football complex through those sessions and Beaty divulges enough that it’s easy to tell the Jayhawks are upbeat about their progress. All the while, the coaches are smart enough to know they haven’t made some miraculous turnaround over the course of one offseason that will have them contending for bowl berths this winter.
The trickier part in all this, though, is determining exactly how much more smoothly things are running during practices. Kansas lets media check out portions twice a week this time of year, but those only last around 15 minutes and include warmups and stretching.
That’s definitely better than nothing, but we’re not exactly watching the first-string offense and defense square off — at least not yet. On Monday afternoon, following some special teams work at the opening of KU’s first practice in full pads, red-shirt freshman quarterback Carter Stanley took the field for some reps and repeatedly handed off to junior running back Denzell Evans (the transfer from Arkansas). Evans ran low to the ground and picked up nice chunks of yardage each time.
Next came the most interesting play of camp thus far — during the windows open to the media at least. Freshman running back Khalil Herbert checked in and on his first touch the 5-foot-9 newcomer from Coral Springs, Fla., bursted up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown.
Before the Jayhawks got back to their behind-the-scenes progress, sophomore running back Taylor Martin and junior QB Deondre Ford picked up a few yards on an option and Ford connected with sophomore receiver Tyler Patrick on a quick-hitter for a short gain.
Obviously it would be far more interesting to see how sophomore QB Ryan Willis, the favorite to start at this point, looks in Beaty’s Air Raid, as well as how the offense will incorporate the likes of junior receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez, senior running back Ke’aun Kinner and the rest of the skill players.
Maybe those peeks will come, but in the meantime we’ll have to rely upon KU-produced practice reports that are sent out to the media for nuggets of information.
Thursday was a two-practice day for the Jayhawks, and the first one began early in the morning. Here are the notes from that session, courtesy of the KU media relations department:
Willis hit red-shirt freshman tight end Jace Sternberger for a 17-yard gain over the middle during 7-on-7
Willis found senior receiver Shakiem Barbel for 20 yards along the sideline
Red-shirt freshman receiver Chase Harrell jumped up to haul in a 25-yard pass form red-shirt junior QB Montell Cozart
Cozart came away with back-to-back touchdown passes — one to sophomore receiver Jeremiah Booker and another to Barbel
Sophomore receiver Daylon Charlot, a transfer from Alabama who will have to sit out this season, took several reps and has “speed to burn” and a “great work ethic,” according to the KU-produced report
The following defensive players recorded tackles for loss: senior safety Tevin Shaw, junior defensive tackle Isi Holani and sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Wise
Both Wise and senior linebacker Cameron Rosser had a sack
There you have it. KU’s first Thursday practice delivered some highlights, it sounds like. Of course, we don’t know the things that broke down for Kansas during the practice, because KU has no reason to include those in its press release, but it’s a starting point.
We’ll continue to try and fill in the blanks in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s special teams coordinator Joe DeForest speaking with new KU play-by-play man Brian Hanni about the the Jayhawks who will play critical roles in between possessions. DeForest says freshman Kyle Thompson and junior Cole Moos are battling for the starting punter spot, while incumbent place kicker Matt Wyman, a senior, is competing with junior Gabriel Rui.
Beaty and the Jayhawks will speak with the media on Friday, which also includes another peek into practice.
Je’Ney Jackson’s non-stop search for how to make Kansas football players faster even takes him elsewhere in the athletic department at times. Jackson said he consults friends Stanley Redwine, KU’s head track and field coach, and sprints and hurdles coach Elisha Brewer.
“I’ll ask coach Brewer, ‘What things are you doing with your indoor sprinters?’ I pick her brain to see what I can steal.’ ... If you have an extremely slow team it’s going to be very hard to compete in this league,” Jackson said.
That’s been part of KU’s problem in recent seasons. Jackson is convinced it’s much less of a problem now and said that 42 players in the program were hand-timed at 4.59 seconds or faster at 40 yards. (He said just three returning players in the spring of 2015 met that standard.)
Asked to name the Jayhawks’ five fastest players, Jackson obliged: “Taylor Martin, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Brandon Stewart, probably Kyle Mayberry, and I’d say Bobby Hartzog.”
A moment later, another image popped into Jackson’s head and he expanded the list by a name.
“And you know who I forgot is Ke’aun Kinner,” Jackson said. “He is definitely in that mix. Ke’aun Kinner. He is definitely in the top five. Here’s what’s nice: I have to think about it. It’s not, ‘OK, we only have five guys who can really run fast.’ ”
Every day during summer conditioning season, Jackson pitted fast runners against each other in races, believing the competition makes them train faster and in turn become faster.
Martin had the fastest unofficial 40 time, so I thought I’d ask him for his top 5. First, I asked him to name the toughest guy to beat in a race.
“Me, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Ke’aun Kinner, (Colin) Spencer and T-Pat, Tyler Patrick,” Martin said.
Jackson and Martin mentioned eight players between them: Three cornerbacks (Stewart, Mayberry and Spencer), two running backs (Martin and Kinner) and three receivers (Gonzalez, Hartzog and Patrick).
Martin said Gonzalez is the toughest one for him to beat in a race.
Kansas definitely is getting faster.
Now it’s your turn to say something nice about Kansas football. Anybody out there?
Dallas Skyline point guard Marcus Garrett, who on Monday made a verbal commitment to attend Kansas, wears No. 6 for the red team in the first video below.
Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound point guard who has the size to play the other two perimeter positions as well, is shown in the video below playing against Texas A&M three-star recruit T.J. Starks, a 6-foot pure point guard who led Dallas Lancaster to the state title last season.
Rivals does not include Starks in its top 150 for the Class of 2017.
In the next video, Garrett is wearing No. 23 in blue and Irving MacArthur point guard Andrew Jones wears No. 10 in white. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound, five-star shooting guard, committed to Texas to play for Shaka Smart. Rivals ranks him No. 22 in the Class of 2017.
It won't take long for the Kansas coaching staff to turn Garrett into a much more intense defender. Other coaches will have a tougher time trying to figure out how to defend a long guard with a quick first step and a touch so soft the net barely moves.