Entries from blogs tagged with “college football”
The last time the University of Kansas football team won a Big 12 game, many of the men who occupy key roles on this year’s roster weren’t even involved with the program.
The Jayhawks, with interim coach Clint Bowen leading them, defeated Iowa State on Nov. 8, 2014.
KU had dropped every Big 12 game since, and the conference skid hit 16 this past weekend, against Oklahoma State. Kansas (1-6 overall, 0-4 Big 12) came within a missed field goal of upsetting TCU a couple weeks ago and entered the second half Saturday against the Cowboys trailing by only four points.
The longer Kansas goes without knocking off a conference foe, the harder it is for the players — and, surely, the program’s supporters. Still, for play-makers such as sophomore Steven Sims Jr., who’ve only experienced league losses, the stigma that accompanies the program’s Big 12 troubles only makes them hungrier.
“Starving,” Sims clarified. “We want to get that win so bad in the Big 12. Because the win over Rhode Island (55-6 in the season opener), it was a win, but we just felt like we want to beat a team in our conference to prove to everybody that we can’t only beat a (FCS) team.”
KU’S BIG 12 LOSING STREAK
34-30 L vs. TCU
44-7 L at Oklahoma
51-13 L at Kansas State
38-13 L at Iowa State
66-7 L vs. Baylor
30-20 L vs. Texas Tech
58-10 L at Oklahoma State
62-7 L vs. Oklahoma
59-20 L at Texas
23-17 L at TCU
49-0 L vs. West Virginia
45-14 L vs. Kansas State
55-19 L at Texas Tech
24-23 L vs. TCU
49-7 L at Baylor
44-20 L vs. Oklahoma State
It seems highly unlikely the streak will end this week or next, with KU traveling to No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 10 West Virginia. But severing it as soon as possible definitely remains a high priority for Kansas players.
“It’s very important,” said sophomore Dorance Armstrong Jr., another crucial Kansas cog yearning for the better days he believes are ahead. “No one wants to go four years with having a losing streak. Every game that we don’t come out with the victory, it eats at us. It should strive us to go harder. For the most part we’ve got to keep doin' what we’re doin’ and get better at most of the things we’re doin’, as well.”
Against OSU, the Jayhawks trailed 24-20 with six-plus minute to play in the third quarter before suffering yet another conference setback.
“There’s a little bit of positive out of that,” Armstrong said, given the context of a relatively better showing than KU had a week earlier in a 49-7 blowout at Baylor. “We take the positives out of every game that we have, but for the most part that’s not how we play. That’s not the type of game we need to play — ever,” he added of the 44-20 defeat versus OSU. “For us to be that close at halftime and then for the final score to be that, it’s not acceptable. We’ve just got to keep working and get the positives out of all of it.”
Now a senior, safety Fish Smithson is one of the few current players who can say he has experienced a conference victory — almost two full years ago. Like many of his teammates, he left the field Saturday dissatisfied, and said players are eager to put an end to the streak.
“That’s tough. Because that’s why we all came to the University of Kansas, to get Big 12 wins and play in bowl games — stuff like that,” Smithson said. “The wins not coming in Big 12 play, that’s kind of tough, but at the same time we can’t get down. We just gotta keep fightin’.”
At this point, a Nov. 12 home game against Iowa State (1-6, 0-4) looks like KU’s next shot to put an end to the misery.
As for the program’s 41-game losing streak away from Lawrence … that’s another story (or blog).
We all know the Kansas basketball team is about to have another typically great season under the guidance of Bill Self. Win 30-plus games. Capture another Big 12 regular-season title. Enter March Madness as one of the favorites to reach the Final Four. You know the drill.
What we don’t know, however, is which of KU’s talented players will finish 2016-17 as the team’s leading scorer.
Each of the last couple of years, you got the feeling Perry Ellis would take that honor, and he did — 13.8 points per game as a junior and 16.9 as a senior during his (insert a number of years here that makes you laugh) season playing inside Allen Fieldhouse.
No Ellis means a new leading scorer for the Jayhawks this season, but it’s easy to make an argument for a number of different players, as Matt Tait has discussed recently here at KUsports.com.
In a not-so-scientific poll of KU basketball fans, the majority (53%) predicted junior guard Devonté Graham will put up the most points. Sure one-and-done wing Josh Jackson finished second, with 22% of the votes. Senior guard Frank Mason III accounted for 11% of the fans’ picks, but 14% thought another Jayhawk on the roster will score more than Graham, Jackson or Mason.
Thanks to SI.com, we now have some more information to digest in this debate. SI’s College Basketball Projection System forecasted statistical outputs for every player from the Big 12, ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, AAC, Atlantic 10 and Big East, as well as players on numerous marquee mid-major programs, and came up with a list of the top 100 scorers for the upcoming season.
The first Jayhawk to appear on the list is Jackson, at No. 49. SI’s system projects the versatile freshman small forward will average 15.7 points.
The only other Kansas representative on the list — which ends at players averaging 13.8 points — is Mason. The cunning veteran lead guard is expected to score 14.0 a game.
According to SI, Jackson figures to use 23% of KU’s possessions on offense, while Mason’s volume projects at 21%. Those numbers are close and indicative on how this team figures to play. There is no ball-dominant guard nor must-feed big man down low. The Jayhawks should have multiple capable scorers and matchups will determine who leads the team in points from game to game.
Of course, these computer-simulated numbers don’t mean the season actually will play out this way. Maybe Jackson leads KU in scoring before moving on to the NBA, like Andrew Wiggins did before him. Perhaps Mason’s athleticism and toughness help him accumulate the most buckets and free throws. Graham seems like a legit candidate, as well, with his three-point shooting touch and ability to finish in the open floor. And it’s hard to rule out Carlton Bragg Jr., who is poised for a significantly larger role as a sophomore. It should be an interesting storyline for KU fans to follow in the months ahead.
Also of note from SI’s projections, Kansas will have to figure out ways to stop some of the best scorers in the nation this year. Davidson senior point guard Jack Gibbs tops the list, with 23.6 points per game predicted. KU faces Gibbs at Sprint Center in December.
Duke junior guard Grayson Allen, whom the Jayhawks will see at Madison Square Garden in the second week of the season, came in at No. 3, with a projection of 20.1 points.
When Kansas opens the regular season in Hawaii, SI’s No. 13 scorer, junior guard James Blackmon Jr. (17.6 projected PPG) will be there trying to outgun Mason, Graham and Jackson.
Once Big 12 play begins, the most difficult man to stop might be Oklahoma State sophomore guard Jawun Evans, the conference’s top player on SI’s list (16.2 projected PPG).
— Check out the full list of 100 scorers at SI.com.
Down 49 points on the road in the third quarter this past Saturday at Baylor, Kansas football coach David Beaty got an extended look at backup quarterback Carter Stanley.
The redshirt freshman checked in for starter Ryan Willis to begin KU’s final drive of the third quarter, and though other skill players, such as true freshman running back Khalil Herbert and sophomore receiver Steven Sims Jr. deserve even more credit, the offense did score its first — and only — touchdown of the game with Stanley at QB.
The Jayhawks (1-5 overall, 0-3 Big 12) already had picked up two first downs on Herbert runs and moved the ball 25 yards before Stanley, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound freshman from Vero Beach, Fla., attempted his first pass.
Out of a typical KU shotgun set, with four receivers, Stanley quickly spotted Sims breaking open out of the left slot for an easy throw, roughly five yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
From there, Sims, one of KU’s top play-makers, juked his man and sped away to a 34-yard gain that got Kansas inside BU’s 10-yard line for the first time all game.
Stanley missed his next attempt to big red zone target Chase Harrell, a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman. Then, after Bobby Hartzog drew a pass interference penalty to give KU a first down and move the ball to Baylor’s two-yard line, Beaty called on freshman Maciah Long to come in for a snap as a wildcat QB. The Bears stopped Long for no gain and Stanley threw another incompletion (intended for Sims) before Herbert finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run.
On Tuesday, Willis praised Stanley for helping the Kansas offense finally break through.
“He did a good job, put us in a good opportunity. He drove the ball down the field. He did a great job. I’m proud of him,” Willis rattled off. “I’m good friends with him. We have a lot of good quarterbacks who can move this offense, and whoever’s in there is gonna do a good job.”
The remainder of Stanley’s snaps came in the fourth quarter, with fewer results. Kansas picked up just one first down on four possessions over the final 15 minutes. Stanley threw incomplete passes intended for Evan Fairs and Keegan Brewer, and had another throw intercepted by Clay Johnston after KU got the ball in good position, thanks to a Damani Mosby fumble recovery.
Stanley went 2-for-5 on fourth-quarter passes, with minimal gains: five yards for LaQuvionte Gonzalez and six yards for Harrell. He finished his longest appearance of the season 3-for-8 with one interception and 45 passing yards.
As you might expect, Beaty didn’t rave about Stanley’s performance, calling it average.
“There were still a lot of things that we saw that we need to get a lot better at. Particularly the pick. Just eyes in the right spot, understanding what coverages are doing to you, not picking a route out, that will get you in trouble,” Beaty said, sounding similar to his review of Willis’ bad outing at Baylor.
Beaty thought Stanley did some things well, referencing the QB’s decision-making on plays featuring run-pass options. But the head coach/offensive coordinator/QBs coach also said Stanley didn’t always properly prepare his receivers before snaps.
“We had a couple times when we weren't on the same page with those guys and that comes down to communication and that’s, there’s no excuse for that,” Beaty said. “Communication errors, they’re not tolerated. So we gotta get that taken care of.”
The appearance marked Stanley’s fourth this season. He didn’t play in either of KU’s home losses, to Ohio and TCU.
- vs. Rhode Island: 3-for-4, 56 yards, 1 TD
- at Memphis: 4-for-6, 26 yards, 0 TDs
- at Texas Tech: 2-for-2, 11 yards, 0 TDs
- at Baylor: 3-for-8, 45 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
- SEASON: 12-for-20, 138 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
At KU’s practice sessions, Beaty says Stanley has shown steady improvement, week by week.
“It was good to be able to get him in the game and be able to give him a quarter and a half to really see what he can do and run some offense — some real offense — other than just handing the ball off. We needed to be able to do that,” Beaty said, “and in that situation, hey, unfortunately, it was what it was. We were where we were. You'd love to be able to get young guys in the game when you're up by a bunch. But in that situation it gave me an opportunity to see what he could do and I wanted to do that and we wanted to do that. So it was good to be able to see him a little bit more. He’s got a long way to go, just like all of ’em. But he works hard at it and I appreciate that.”
Based on what we’ve seen thus far from Stanley, it’s hard to see Beaty moving him up KU’s depth chart to No. 1 any time soon — let alone for Saturday’s homecoming game against Oklahoma State (4-2, 2-1). I mean, let’s not get crazy.
It seems it would take unexpected injuries or further regression from Willis for the head coach to start Stanley in the immediate future. But if Stanley really is making progress behind the scenes and keeps doing so, and if Kansas keeps getting blown out, maybe Stanley will get his first college start in November.
As has been said so many times regarding KU’s quarterback situation this season: Who knows?
The Kansas offense did something a bit unexpected Saturday in its home game against TCU.
KU football fans had grown accustomed to seeing the Jayhawks play two quarterbacks, a strategy implemented by head coach David Beaty during the first four games of the season. But no one outside of the Kansas locker room could’ve seen this coming.
On the first play of the second quarter, newly named starting QB Ryan Willis was no where to be found. In his place on the Memorial Stadium turf for a third-and-1 play at KU’s 29-yard line stood a 6-foot-2 freshman wearing a No. 6 jersey.
Much more massive than Willis or backup Kansas quarterback Montell Cozart, 245-pound true freshman Maciah Long faked a handoff to running back Taylor Martin and powered ahead for a one-yard gain, just enough for a first down.
Recruited to KU as a linebacker and listed on the roster as a tight end, Long played QB in high school at Houston’s North Shore, where he led the Mustangs to the Class 6A Division 1 state championship, picking up offensive MVP honors in the title game.
Long only came in for one snap at QB for the Jayhawks (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12), and the play did little more than extend the possession ahead of a punt. But it could be a harbinger of more to come.
Beaty said at his Tuesday press conference the offense had been working on using Long “for weeks.” KU’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach added he hopes to expand Long’s role going forward.
“He's a load, and he's getting better at it, which gives you an extra gap for defenses to have to defend,” Beaty said of one of the benefits of putting Long, a running threat, in at QB.
Leading up to this week’s game at No. 11 Baylor (5-0, 2-0), Beaty mentioned the Bears are able to do the same with their full-time QB Seth Russell (5.2 rushing yards per carry, three touchdowns this season).
Whether Kansas will start turning to Long for more short-yardage or goal-line downs moving forward, Beaty didn’t care to specify.
“When the situation calls for Maciah, we'll use him as much as we can,” the coach said. “We're not going to necessarily tip our hand to how we're going to use him or how much we're going to use him, but I do know this: He's getting well, finally. He was hurt for a long time. He’s been hobbled for four weeks. That ankle has not been healthy. Having him healthy now is really helping us with wanting to use him more.”
Ranked last in the Big 12 in rushing offense (97.2 yards a game) and ninth in total offense (376.4 yards), KU needs every offensive wrinkle it can create. So more Maciah Long at quarterback doesn’t seem out of the question in the weeks to come.
In fact, perhaps everyone who follows Kansas football should’ve seen this coming. This past winter, at KU’s Class of 2016 signing day press conference, Beaty raved about Long’s versatility and size.
“We're going to use him at linebacker,” the coach said in February. “Don't be surprised if we don't put him back there and see him do some of the stuff you're going to see him do on tape here (running the ball as North Shore’s quarterback). Built-in short yardage scheme there with a guy that weighs 230 to 250 pounds. I won't give him up. I think he's somewhere between 230, 250, good-looking kid and can run for a kid that size.”
So far, Long, who chose KU over Ohio State, UCLA and other more reputable programs, has one carry for one yard. But Kansas sure could use another dynamic option on offense as Beaty and company keep building for the future. In his senior year at North Shore, Long carried the ball 200 times, racking up 984 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also passed for 1,785 yards and 16 touchdowns.
During much of Saturday’s game against TCU, the Kansas defense schemed ways to contain multi-dimensional Horned Frogs quarterback Kenny Hill.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior completed a season-low 53.1 percent of his passes (17 of 32) against the Jayhawks, threw three interceptions (Hill only had 5 in his first 224 throws this season) and felt the brunt of KU’s pressure in the form of four sacks.
But all anyone who watched TCU’s 24-23 victory will remember about Hill’s performance is how he produced one of the crazier plays we’re likely to see this college football season.
In the opening minute of the fourth quarter, with Kansas leading 23-14, Hill looked doomed on a third-and-12 pass play. First, KU defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. came at the QB from his right. Then Hill had to maneuver away from a diving Isi Holani. Finally, Hill found enough time to gather on the left side of the field, but that’s when Josh Ehambe charged at him and began the process of bringing the quarterback to the turf. Linebacker Keith Loneker Jr. flew in to finish that final part of the process.
Or so it seemed.
A flag came out as Loneker tackled Hill roughly 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage, because Ehambe had grabbed Hill’s facemask (as captured by our photographer Nick Krug, at top). The ball also ended up on the turf thanks to Ehambe’s pressure.
The thing was, nobody seemed to notice the ball except Hill, who casually walked over to pick it up. Then he just ran before the Jayhawks knew what to do.
It took a while for anybody but Loneker to realize what was going on and Hill rushed 34 yards for a first down to extend the drive.
“I mean, that play that Kenny made — what a good play, man,” Kansas coach David Beaty said after his team fell to 1-4 on the season and 0-2 in conference play. “I mean, what a heads-up play by that kid. I don't think I've ever seen that. I'm not sure anybody in here has ever seen that, either. I asked the officials out there. I said, ‘I don't really know what to say, because I've never seen that.’ And they said, ‘Coach, we don't really, either.’ It was crazy. It was a crazy play, because we grabbed Kenny by his facemask, and the tendency there was to kind of hold up, and the ball came out and there were so many crazy things, but that was a big play in the game. He made a big run out of that.”
Of course, the Frogs (4-2 overall, 2-1 Big 12) would have picked up 15 yards and a first down due to the Ehambe facemask penalty, even if the Jayhawks had pounced on the loose ball themselves, let alone stopped Hill before he picked up any steam with his recovery and scramble.
Still, by reacting quickly the QB got TCU much closer to the end zone. Riding that momentum, two plays later Hill threw to Jaelan Austin for a 25-yard touchdown, giving the Frogs a critical quick-scoring drive (1:35) in a tight game, and cutting KU’s lead to two.
“You know, he made a lot of mistakes today that really kept us in the game at times,” Beaty said of the quarterback he successfully recruited to Texas A & M back before both the coach and player moved on, “but, man, when they needed him, he scored a touchdown (on a second-quarter run), he scrambled to go get that ball down there and get it, and they scored a touchdown off of that. That's what real players do, man. He's a real player.”
It was weird, for sure, but also as crucial a play that happened in the game. For a rebuilding program like Kansas, it’s the kind of thing fans must almost grow to expect. Even on a day when the Jayhawks performed better than almost anyone anticipated, the opponent found ways to sneak out of Lawrence with a win.
The Hill recovery and run didn’t decide the game, of course, but it was one of many examples of Kansas mistakes proving costly in what would’ve been a massive upset — and Beaty’s first victory against a Big 12 or FBS program.
Senior University of Kansas linebacker Courtney Arnick didn’t exactly need extra motivation Saturday in his second start of the season. But Arnick found some anyway before the game when his mother, Carla, joined him and KU’s other captains at the 50-yard line for the pre-game coin toss.
A survivor of breast cancer, Carla seemed the perfect choice to help represent the team on its “Jayhawks for a Cure” day, against TCU. Kansas players incorporated pink accessories into their uniforms for their first game during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Carla wore a pink hat and her T-shirt featured her son’s No. 28 in pink on the back.
“Having my mom with me at the start of the game, I’ve never experienced that before. And I know it meant a lot for her, and on top of that I just lost my godmom (Veronica Harris) to breast cancer not too long ago,” Arnick shared following KU’s 24-23 loss to TCU. “… I just tried to do what I could for ’em.”
In fact, Arnick went out and made a season-high nine total tackles and two tackles for loss as the Jayhawks (1-4 overall, 0-2 Big 12) nearly pulled off the upset.
“I feel like we always play hard, but I feel like it showed up this time,” Arnick replied when asked if the narrow defeat marked KU’s best defensive effort to date this season.
Starting linebackers Marcquis Roberts and Joe Dineen missed the game due to injury, yet Kansas experienced little to no drop-off in defensive intensity. A fifth-year senior from Dallas, Arnick said he, senior defensive end/linebacker Cameron Rosser and sophomore linebacker Keith Loneker Jr., who sat out last season after transferring from Baker, felt no pressure filling in.
“We’re older guys, so it’s kind of expected,” Arnick said. “Kind of just get the juices going on the team, get the energy going and just step up when we need it.”
Arnick, whose 22 total tackles this season now only trail senior safety Fish Smithson’s 24 for the team lead, was just happy to produce on a special day for his family.
“She was pumped up,” he said of his mother, Carla. “My mom is a big college fan. She keeps up with every game, from my game to every Big 12 game, whoever. If I mess up she’s on me about it worse than my coach, so she was pretty energetic about it. I messed with her a little about it, ‘Hey, you can’t mess up. You’re on TV,’ and stuff like that, joking around with her. But it was a pretty big deal for her.”
A third of the way through the season, the Kansas football team’s defense has had its share of slow starts. Though the unit tends to regroup quickly, it also eventually wears down over the course of games as a result of frequent ineffective drives by the offense.
Regardless, coordinator Clint Bowen’s crew truly has been one of the scant bright spots of a 1-3 start.
In fact, in one particular category, KU’s defense has proven just as effective as some of the more recognizable brands in college football. When it comes to tackles for loss, the Jayhawks are operating in the same neighborhood as Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Clemson and Michigan.
In three consecutive games — home versus Ohio, and on the road at Memphis and Texas Tech — Kansas has tackled opponents behind the line of scrimmage at least 10 times.
Oddly enough, the Jayhawks only came away with 5 tackles for loss in a drubbing of FCS opponent Rhode Island in the season opener. Still, their season average of 9.9 tackles for loss a game ranks the squad third in the nation.
TOP 10 TFL TEAMS IN FBS
No. 1 - Miami (FL), 12.0
No. 2 - Texas A&M, 10.0
No. 3 - Kansas, 9.8
No. 4 - Clemson, 9.6
No. 5 - Michigan, 9.4
No. 6 - Illinois, 9.3
No. 7 (tie) - Akron / Southern Miss, 9.2
No. 9 - Ball State, 9.0
No. 10 (tie) - Minnesota / Toledo / Boise State, 8.8
Now with 39 tackles for loss this season, Kansas has posted the most in any four-game stretch for the program since the glory days of 2007, when the eventual Orange Bowl championship team opened the season with 44 TFL’s in its first four games.
In total, 19 different Jayhawks have played a part in KU’s tackles for loss, with the front seven doing most of the damage.
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr. - 6
LB Marcquis Roberts - 5.5
DT Daniel Wise - 4
DE Damani Mosby - 3.5
DE Cameron Rosser - 3
LB Joe Dineen - 3
DB Tevin Shaw - 2.5
LB Courtney Arnick - 2
DT D.J. Williams - 1
DT DeeIsaac Davis - 1
DE Anthony Olobia - 1
DE Isaiah Bean - 1
S Bazie Bates IV - 1
WR Emmanuel Moore - 1 (special teams)
CB Marnez Ogletree - 1
S Tyrone Miller Jr. - 1
S Fish Smithson - 0.5
DB Chevy Graham - 0.5
LB Keith Loneker Jr. - 0.5
Bowen likes to see that type of production out of his defense, and said tackles for loss are a topic of discussion for his group. He has no interest in KU taking a passive, wait-and-see approach against the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12.
“We want to be aggressive, we want to challenge receivers on the outside, we want to move around and bring pressure and do different things on the inside,” Bowen said. “And I think tackles for loss are kind of a byproduct of our kids moving and playing with an aggressive style.”
Obviously the defense is nowhere near perfect — see: opponents average 35.2 points a game (tied for 104th in FBS with Oklahoma) and 432.5 yards of total offense (90th). But effective pressure behind the line of scrimmage is a nice place to start, defensively, while attempting to rebuild within a losing program.
After his Kansas football team lost at Texas Tech last week, head coach David Beaty claimed he had no problem maintaining a two-quarterback approach, and made it clear he’s kind of over people asking him about it.
But the Jayhawks’ second-year coach might have been closer to sticking with one quarterback this past Thursday at Lubbock, Texas, than many realize.
During the first three games of the season fourth-year junior Montell Cozart started for KU, and the Big 12 opener proved no different. However, during the non-conference portion of the schedule a rotation pattern emerged. Cozart played the first two possessions of the game, then sophomore backup (or QB No. 1B, if you prefer) Ryan Wilis entered for the third. Where the rotation went from there varied somewhat from game to game, but the opening offensive strategy remained the same.
That changed, though, in what turned out to be a 55-19 loss to the Red Raiders.
Cozart played the first two series, as usual, then returned to the field for possession Nos. 3 and 4. Willis didn’t take over the offense until the second quarter, on the fifth possession of the game.
Keep in mind this is just a theory, but it sure seemed as if Beaty was prepared to keep Cozart on the field and abandon his swapping in and out approach at Tech. A 14-0 deficit and four consecutive fruitless drives appeared to force Beaty’s hand:
- 1st drive: 3 plays, 1 yard
- 2nd drive: 7 plays, 33 yards
- 3rd drive: 6 plays, 21 yards
- 4th drive: 3 plays, 3 yards
Cozart’s first-quarter struggles — 4-for-13 passing for only 36 yards — meant Beaty would have to be crazy to stick with him at that point, especially after the Jayhawks (1-3 overall, 0-1 Big 12) had so readily used multiple quarterbacks this season.
I asked Beaty during the post-game press conference whether his plan all along was to wait until the second quarter to insert Willis.
After pausing for several seconds, the coach responded:
“I’m not really wanting to talk about our plan. We know what we’re wanting to do with our guys and obviously we have two guys we know right now are very capable to run our offense … run the whole thing. And we’re not unlike a lot of other teams. We’re trying to go off what we see when we get to the game, too. And from that point you’ve got to make the decision based on what’s best to help you move the football.”
This came after Beaty had defended the two-QB scheme, saying the decision to take that route comes from what he and his staff see at practices. This response seemed to shed more light on the process, though, as he referenced evaluating in-game performance. After a quarter full of punting, Kansas had to switch to Willis.
Later in the same session with reporters, Tom Keegan asked Beaty about the upsides and downsides of using two quarterbacks instead of picking just one. KU’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator reiterated his line of thinking that the team lacks a “crystal clear” No. 1 QB. Then Beaty said something else that makes one think he wanted to hand the job to Cozart at Tech, before a lack of production forced the coach to return to what has become the offense’s status quo.
“On our standpoint right now,” Beaty said, “if a guy would get in there and he continued to produce then you would stay with him. But if a guy doesn’t do that then you continue to work and try and continue to find the answer.”
Give the man credit for not stubbornly sticking with Cozart. Willis took over quarterbacking duties at Tech and seemingly would’ve remained behind center until the game was decided had it not been for a small injury scare in the third quarter that forced him to the sideline for part of a series. Oddly enough Cozart came in to lead a touchdown drive.
It turned out neither Kansas quarterback left the Thursday night loss with good numbers. Willis finished 14 of 26 for 142 yards and a touchdown, while Cozart went 9-for-20 for 97 yards, a TD and a late-game interception (with KU trailing by 29 points).
Personally, I don’t think Willis handled sitting the entire first quarter well. The blame for that goes on Beaty as much as the QB. Willis’ throws were off once he finally entered the game, with incompletions on three of his first four attempts. It wasn’t until late in the second quarter that he finally looked comfortable. But even after connecting with freshman receiver Chase Harrell for an 18-yard score, Willis had incompletions on his next four passes.
Who knows at this point whether Willis or Cozart will start this week against TCU. But, as has been stated before, it sure seems as if Willis would benefit from starting a game and being allowed to play through it without fear of being replaced. If the sophomore doesn’t produce, you can always try something else the following week.
Ideally, though, the offense needs to discover some semblance of stability.
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.”
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.
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.
After spending a few weeks in early July playing for the Dallas Mavericks’ NBA Summer League team, former Kansas basketball star Perry Ellis describes how his first few months as a professional have been different than his college experience.
“It’s different, you know,” Ellis says. “Everybody’s fighting for a job. When I got the opportunity, I tried to make the most of it when I was out there…
“It’s just all a process,” Ellis adds. “I just want to keep working and just keep fighting and try to get a place.”
Undrafted out of KU, Ellis, doesn’t have an NBA contract. Nor has he officially received an invitation to be a part of an organization’s training camp.
According to the four-year Kansas standout, he will weigh his options in the weeks ahead. Ellis says one possible path could be playing overseas.
It’s been close to 20 months since JaCorey Shepherd last played in a football game. Yet the former Kansas defensive back feels more prepared than ever as he embarks on the first true season of his professional career.
Poised to start as a rookie nickel corner for Philadelphia last year, Shepherd tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in preseason camp and, instead, spent all of 2015 as an observer.
A 2015 sixth-round draft pick still awaiting to make his NFL debut, Shepherd at least sensed the next portion of his football life inching closer Monday, when the 23-year-old corner reported early to Philadelphia’s training camp.
“I never had to miss a season,” Shepherd told CSNPhilly.com upon arriving with rookies, quarterbacks and other returning players who finished last season on injured reserve. “I never had to really miss a game. Missed two games in college but other than that, I never missed anything.
“Game days were the toughest — sitting on the sideline and I couldn’t do anything,” Shepherd recalled. “Practice was tough, but I got used to it. But games? That was the hardest.”
Still, according to one Eagles veteran, Shepherd found a way to grow as a player while injured. Nolan Carroll told CSNPhilly former head coach Chip Kelly allowed wounded players to watch games on the sidelines and even travel with the team for away games. Carroll said he would leave the field after a series and always notice Shepherd listening closely as the secondary reviewed its performance and made necessary adjustments.
“You could see that he wanted to make the best of his situation,” Carroll shared, “and learn as much as possible, even though he couldn’t play. That’s not always easy for a young guy to do, but JaCorey, you could tell he just wanted to learn as much as possible.”
Although Kelly and Philadelphia parted ways following a 7-9 season, new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson retained defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, who kept Shepherd engaged as an inactive participant on game days.
“The older guys would always question me to make sure I was on my P’s and Q’s,” Shepherd said of Undlin’s approach, which allowed the rookie corner to absorb NFL-level defensive knowledge, “so that way when I got back, I had the mental part down and it was really just a matter of getting my feet down under me, and I’d be ready to go.”
The 5-foot-11 corner, as planned, arrived at preseason training camp knee-brace free. Shepherd told NJ.com he kept training in the brace back home up until the last couple of weeks. Now he feels like he’s back at 100 percent, just in time to fully prepare for the upcoming season.
"I'm just getting my groove back, getting my feet back under me,” Shepherd said. “It's really just learning the playbook. It's kind of different getting out there, making the calls and trying to be consistent.”
Of course, the competitor in Shepherd has him gunning for a No. 1 spot on the depth chart, too. He told The Inquirer he doesn’t want the Eagles to relegate him to a role within specific packages. He aims to win one of the starting spots as an outside cornerback.
"Hell, yeah. It's open, baby," Shepherd told The Inquirer of the competition. "No job is taken yet, and that's the way I'm going to attack it. Regardless of how many [defensive backs] we have in the room, I know I'm going for a starting spot."
Surely the Eagles’ other corners will take the same approach. Along with Carroll, Philadelphia has Leodis McKelvin, Eric Rowe, Ron Brooks, rookie Jalen Mills, Randall Evans, Jaylen Walker and Denzel Rice to consider at corner.
"I pretty much think I can get out there and cover whoever," Shepherd said. "I'm big enough, fast enough. It's just getting thrown out there and playing."
A draft pick from the previous regime, Shepherd told CSNPhilly he can’t afford to worry about Pederson or new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz perhaps holding a different opinion of him than Kelly and other former staff members.
“All I can do is continue to do what I do, and control what I can control,” he said. “You know? That’s the way the game is. There’s always going to be competition. Frankly, I love competition, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve never been worried about competition, and I’m not going to start now…
“If there’s not a job here, there’s a job somewhere else,” Shepherd added. “All I can control is give it my all on every play.”
If nothing else, Shepherd enters his second season in the NFL as a more patient player, thanks to his injury-forced apprenticeship.
“I feel like I’m a lot smarter than last year after sitting on the sideline for a year, having to pay attention and learn,” Shepherd said. “I feel like I’m a better player this year than last year, even though I didn’t play a snap.”
Lawrence native Joe Dineen, who grew up watching Kansas football, represented his hometown program in Dallas at Big 12 Football Media Days this week.
Dineen, a junior linebacker, took pride in wearing a Jayhawk lapel pin on his suit and talking KU football with sports reporters from around the country, with teammates Montell Cozart and Fish Smithson by his side.
“It’s awesome for me,” Dineen said of the experience. “… I grew up (in Lawrence) and to be able to represent the school and my hometown, it’s a lot of fun.”
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Dineen’s Monday at the Omni Dallas Hotel.
Projected as a mid- to late-second-round pick after leaving Kansas a year early to enter the NBA Draft, Wayne Selden Jr. remained mostly silent in the days following what had to be a disappointing night for the 21-year-old guard, who watched from afar as 60 other players realized their dreams of being drafted into the world’s best basketball league.
In perhaps an even more surprising development for the undrafted Selden, no news regarding a free-agent deal or summer league assignment popped up for him after the June 23 draft, while his KU teammates Perry Ellis, Brannen Greene, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson filled out summer rosters for various organizations.
A week after posting a photo on Instagram of what looked to be a shot taken inside the Memphis Grizzlies’ locker room, Selden finally took to Twitter Friday afternoon to share what has been on his mind, as a pro basketball player in limbo.
“You know, I was real frustrated when I didn’t hear my name called on draft night,” Selden wrote in the note he posted, along with the hashtag: TrustTheProcess. “Something I worked my whole life for, something I dreamed of. But I didn’t just work to hear my name called, I worked and continue to work to have a successful NBA career.
“After draft night, I felt like everything I worked for was a waste and got real down,” Selden continued in the note. “But now as I sit back and put everything into perspective, I’m truly blessed to be in this position I’m in. I know there are others out there that would kill to be where I’m at.
“Growing up coming where I’m from, all we wanted was an opportunity, a chance,” Selden added. “And the Memphis Grizzlies did just that by giving me a chance. God bless.”
According to The Commercial Appeal, Selden will be a non-roster player with the Grizzlies, meaning he’ll be a part of their preseason training camp in the fall, and the organization will decide from there how or if they want to move forward with the former KU guard, who averaged 13.6 points and shot 38.3% from 3-point range during his junior season.
Selden is not playing for the Grizzlies’ summer league entry in Las Vegas, a couple months removed from a “small” meniscus tear in his right knee, which kept him from participating in drills and scrimmages at the NBA Draft Combine. So he can’t even use July as a springboard for something bigger a few months from now.
Obviously, this path to the NBA isn’t an easy one. Nor is it what Selden envisioned when he decided to leave Kansas a year early. But if the thoughts highlighted in his note are genuine, he at least now has harnessed the right approach to work toward making that dream come true.
Although, as the Commercial Appeal’s Chris Herrington’s projected Grizzlies depth chart highlights, Selden truly will have to impress Memphis to stick around, because they’re not desperate to add a wing. The Grizzlies already have Tony Allen, Troy Daniels and Jordan Adams at shooting guard, and Chandler Parsons, James Ennis and Vince Carter at small forward.
The process and timeline for Selden reaching the NBA appear to be lengthy. Perhaps now that he understands that, he’ll become even more inspired to make it happen.
Four years worth of work with Kansas basketball wasn’t enough to get Perry Ellis drafted into the NBA. Now the 22-year-old forward has a few days in Las Vegas to secure a spot in the league the hard way.
A free agent playing for the Mavericks’ summer league entry beginning Saturday night, Ellis will try to convince the same coaches and executives who passed on him on draft night that he actually belongs on a regular-season roster.
Right now, the people Ellis needs to impress the most are Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle and owner Mark Cuban. The Mavs’ Vegas team will focus on the development of second-year wing Justin Anderson and second-round draft pick A.J. Hammons, a 7-foot center out of Purdue. However, while speaking to media members earlier this week, Cuban made it sound as if the other summertime Mavericks won’t be an afterthought for the organization.
“We’ve got a bunch of roster spots,” Cuban said Wednesday, in a video posted on the Mavs’ website. “We put our money where our mouth is in cap room, so there’s a lot of spots for guys to make, and they know if they do what we expect them to do, probably three guys, maybe four, from this group are gonna make the team.”
Cuban made that statement as Ellis and other Dallas hopefuls worked behind him. It has to be a strange dynamic for all the players except Anderson and Hammons. The rest are not only trying to play well, but also, in a sense, beat out the guys next to them for a coveted roster spot or training camp invite.
So who is Ellis playing with/competing against? Here’s a look at the rest of the Mavericks’ Vegas lineup, excluding the aforementioned Anderson and Hammons:
Chane Behanan, 6-6 forward from Louisville
Vander Blue, 6-4 guard from Marquette, who has played in 5 NBA games (none since the 2014-15 season)
Kyle Collinsworth, 6-6 guard from BYU
Dorian Finney-Smith, 6-8 forward from Florida
Jonathan Gibson, 6-2 guard from New Mexico
Isaiah Miles, 6-7 forward from St. Joseph’s
McKenzie Moore, 6-6 guard from UTEP
Giovan Oniangue, 6-6 forward from Congo
Satnam Singh, 7-2 center from India (Mavs’ Round 2 pick in 2015)
Jameel Warney, 6-8 forward from Stony Brook
Dallas hasn’t retained undrafted rookies from its summer teams of late, but if what Cuban said is true, this year could be different.
Ellis, a 6-foot-8 All-American who averaged 17 points and shot 53.2% from the field in his senior season at Kansas, surely understands the scope of what he could do for his professional career in the days ahed.
“You know, I’m just going to come out here and play hard,” Ellis told the Mavs’ website. “It’s a great opportunity for me. You know, it’s an honor to be here, and I just want to go out here and just play my game and play with a high energy.”
It sounds as if Dallas expects Ellis to fit in nicely with this makeshift unit that spent the past few days practicing together. The Mavericks’ summer league head coach, Jamahl Mosely, hailed the Jayhawk’s college résumé as a strength that should help Ellis and the Vegas version of the Mavs.
“He’s played a great amount of basketball,” Mosley said on the team’s website. “I mean, he played four years in college, and he’s very experienced. He knows how to play the game, so I think that’s going to be a big key for us. He knows how to play, he’s in the right position, and he makes the simple and easy play.”
Regardless of what transpires on the floor in Vegas, the Mavs likely won’t need any of these free agents to play critical roles in their regular-season rotation. But Cuban appears more inclined to give one or more of them a roster spot than he has in the past.
“We want to have a good crew of young guns that we develop,” the Dallas owner said.
If Ellis fits in as seamlessly as Mosley suggested and goes on scoring tears like he did at KU, the Wichita native just might land a spot in the NBA next season after all. And Ellis knows how significant this business trip to Las Vegas will be for his future. His first game is Saturday night against Miami (9 p.m., NBA TV).
In typical Perry Ellis fashion, he said his main focus for his summer league experience will be to play well and play hard.
“We’ll go from there,” he added, “and see what happens.”
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self has to love bringing in some of the country’s top-ranked freshmen year after year.
Naturally, some first-year players are more exciting than others — even if Self, like a proud father, wouldn’t admit it. As a coach, few recruiting experiences could possibly match the satisfaction of landing the No. 1 overall high school senior.
And the more you hear about Josh Jackson, the top prep in the Class of 2016, the more it seems Self will be gushing about him for years to come.
Self enjoys coaching talented Jayhawks who possess an array of skills, sure, but he also values toughness and competitive drive — perhaps even more than other discernible traits.
Jackson already has drawn comparisons to the likes of Andrew Wiggins. His wingspan stretches 6 feet, 9 inches, and he’s a 6-foot-8 wing who can handle the ball, finish inside and make plays for his teammates.
But there’s more to Jackson than that. By many accounts, he might end up becoming the most passionate competitor Self has coached at KU. You probably read or heard about ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla claiming back in March that Jackson approaches the game with the motor of one of the NBA’s all-time ruthless spirits, Kevin Garnett.
Well, according to a profile written by Marc J. Spears for The Undefeated, Jackson is so cutthroat he trash-talked a hall of famer during a high school game earlier this year.
One of the NBA’s legendary distributors of dis, Gary Payton sat in the bleachers watching Jackson play against his son, Julian Payton. Jackson, so the story goes, gave the elder Payton a look after blocking his son’s shot. And things escalated from there.
“It was crazy,” Jackson recalled, speaking to The Undefeated. “It was real funny. In my years I never thought I would be in a gym talking smack to Gary Payton.”
Jot it down as just another glimpse at what Fraschilla calls Jackson’s “alpha dog mentality,” which should only help his stock during what is expected to be a one-and-done season at Kansas, followed by a spot among the top five picks in the 2017 NBA Draft. Fraschilla said Jackson is as intense a player as he has seen in the past five to 10 seasons.
Where does he get that volatile alter ego? Jackson explained his penchant for basketball gab and vehement behavior to The Undefeated.
“I want to win. I feel like any player, if you play the sport of basketball, on the court you have to be a tough guy no matter what,” said Jackson, who hails from Southfield, Mich. “I don’t care who you are. Off the court, I don’t necessarily need to be that guy. But you do on the court.”
Just how fervent is Jackson? He actually considers Golden State forward Draymond Green “a big brother” of sorts after the two matched up in a pickup game in Detroit a couple years back.
As hardcore a trash-talker and villain as exists in the NBA, Green left the chance encounter a fan of Jackson’s, too.
“He just got that dog in him,” Green told The Undefeated. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he were the No. 1 pick next year.”
And we shouldn’t be surprised if Jackson quickly becomes one of Self’s favorite Jayhawks.
— Read The Undefeated’s entire profile on Josh Jackson: He’s got a game to match his mouth
Kansas basketball fans will have to wait a while to see the team’s newest member, Malik Newman, suit up and contribute for the Jayhawks. NCAA transfer rules dictate Newman, a guard who spent his freshman year with Mississippi State, won’t be eligible to play for KU until the 2017-18 season.
Still, plenty of intrigue surrounds the 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., who Rivals.com ranked the eighth-best player in the Class of 2015.
Considering Newman’s Bulldogs went 14-17 and weren’t exactly on the national radar, now is the perfect time to catch up on what you missed from his freshman season. Playing in 29 games, Newman averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists for MSU, while making 61 of 161 3-pointers (37.9%).
Statistics are a nice starting point for any player, but thanks to the power of YouTube we also can get a glimpse of his strengths and weaknesses after one season of college basketball in the SEC.
One of the first things that jumps out about Newman in his highlight reels is his natural feel for the transition game. He is able to attack and score inside with the ball or space the floor on the fly and drift out to the 3-point line to score from there.
Plus, Newman seems to be a strong finisher against bigs at the rim for someone his size.
At the NBA Draft Combine, the 19-year-old guard had the following measurements: 6-foot-3.5 in shoes, 182 pounds, 6-foot-5.75 wingspan and a 35.5-inch maximum vertical. Honestly, the numbers kind of surprised me, because I thought he might be closer to a Wayne Selden Jr. type. Selden obviously has some years and weight-room experience on Newman, but also some size: Selden measured 6-5.75 in shoes, 232 pounds, with a 6-10.5 wingspan.
But you can see some similarities in their games, so maybe Newman can occupy a Selden-type role when he finally plays for Kansas over a year from now.
One of the coolest things you’ll find on Newman is DraftExpress.com’s breakdown of his one meeting with Kentucky this past season. He put together 14 points, 4 assists, 1 rebound and 1 turnover in 27 minutes of what turned out to be an 80-74 loss at Rupp Arena. Newman shot 1-for-3 inside the arc and 2-for-4 from deep, while going 6-for-6 at the foul line.
The greatest part of this particular clip, though, is that DraftExpress breaks down the positives and negatives of Newman’s game against the Wildcats — remember, Newman was expected to be a one-and-done college player and did test out the draft process before returning and transferring to Kansas.
As detailed in the DraftExpress video (posted below), here is how Newman looked against the SEC’s best program.
Showed the ability to put pressure on a retreating transition defense, and either scored or got to the free-throw line early in the shot clock.
Moved without the ball after penetrating to set himself up for a wide-open 3-pointer.
With time running out in the first half, turned a ball-screen up top into a successful 3-pointer.
On an in-bound set, remained patient when he didn’t have an angle or shot on the catch, then prodded and created a lane to drive for a layup.
Caught a swing pass for what would’ve been a great look at a 3-pointer but blew by the closing out defender instead and exploded to the rim to draw a foul.
Though Newman isn’t a traditional point guard, he made plays to set up teammates .
Threw the ball ahead to a big man running the floor in transition.
Attacked off the dribble to draw the defense’s attention and kicked out a pass for an open 3.
Got to the paint off the bounce and created a passing lane for a post player, who finished inside.
Showed some defensive lapses in the half court, even though Mississippi State was playing a 2-3 zone at the time.
Didn’t prepare himself to properly defend a screen away from the ball, then couldn’t recover to stop his man.
Failed to help defensively as a weak-side defender when a UK player drove in for a layup.
Court vision wasn’t always 20/20, and missed some chances to drive and kick, instead forcing missed layups.
Obviously no player is perfect, but you can see why Bill Self would want to bring in someone with Newman’s skills. Self and his staff will develop Newman behind the scenes next year at KU practices in preparation for what will be Newman’s sophomore season.
By the time Newman finally plays for Kansas, he won’t look like a freshman anymore, and just might play like a junior.
The Malik Newman we just met should be a more complete product by then. And you know he’ll be hungry to get back on the floor and prove he’s good enough to live up to that top-10 ranking he had coming out of high school.
— For more discussion about KU's latest addition, check out our latest Spodcasters episode.