Entries from blogs tagged with “football”

Signs of life: Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.

Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

No one who watched Kansas football the previous two years would characterize the team’s running back production or depth as a strength. That could change this fall.

Before spring football began, it seemed reasonable to think KU’s starting running back might not even be on campus this semester. The headliner of Beaty’s 2017 high school recruiting class, after all, is four-star running back Dom Williams. The 5-foot-9 dynamo from Frisco, Texas, won’t report to Lawrence until the summer. What’s more, three-star junior college running back Octavius Matthews will officially join the roster at the same time.

This past fall, neither Taylor Martin (91 carries, 324 yards, four touchdowns) nor Khalil Herbert (44 carries, 189 yards, three touchdowns) showed enough to prove they should enter 2017 at the top of the depth chart. However, this spring both looked far more intriguing, exhibiting flashes as players who need to touch the ball and make an impact on offense.

During KU’s spring game, Herbert, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, displayed the speed and power he rarely got to show off as a true freshman due to a toe injury that slowed him down. On one fourth-and-1 play early on, Herbert made a slight, swift cut to avoid a head-on tackle and his muscular frame powered him through the contact for nine yards and a first down.

Herbert also helped create one of the more impressive offensive plays of the open scrimmage that Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Lined up to the left of quarterback Peyton Bender in the backfield, the promising back from Coral Springs, Fla., took a screen pass in the right flat, with center Hunter Saulsbury and right guard Larry Hughes hustling out in space to block for him.

As an aside: KU’s offensive linemen actually look more like Big 12 O-linemen now. Big guys with the ability to move their feet and execute blocks. Saulsbury (filling in for banged-up Mesa Ribordy) and Hughes did a nice job on this play, as they teamed up with tackles Hakeem Adeniji and Charles Baldwin and sophomore left guard Malik Clark.

Back to Herbert. Bender’s pass was a little high due to some QB pressure from All-Big 12 defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., but Herbert made the grab look simple and then used key blocks from Saulsbury and Hughes to create a 26-yard gain. Going right-to-left off the blocks, he shot out of the running lane after a great cutback.

Team KU running back Taylor Martin (24) looks to make a move during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU running back Taylor Martin (24) looks to make a move during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Speaking of impressive reads and reactions on the run, Martin, a speedy 5-10 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, made one early on in the spring game, too. Martin was headed right out of the backfield and could see the defensive line penetrating at the point he planned to attack. With one cut to the left Martin re-routed and sped ahead for a nine-yard gain.

In the past, Martin got himself and the offense into trouble by trying to make too many jukes and cuts rather than utilizing his sprinter’s speed on straight-away paths. During the second quarter of the spring game Martin proved he has made strides to address those habits that he used to get away with in high school.

On one carry, Martin made the slightest cut left in the backfield to avoid a bunch of snarled linemen, only to tear ahead, spin off a would-be tackler and go eight more yards for a 12-yard pick-up. He got the offense half-way to another first down on the very next play by surveying his blocks and jetting through them after one necessary left-to-right juke to put himself in position.

On his longest carry of the scrimmage, Martin didn’t need to cut, spin, leap or zigzag. He just followed the O-line as it shifted to the right, creating a lane for him to show off his track speed, which Martin harnessed to reach the secondary level of the defense on a 13-yard carry. In particular, senior left guard Jayson Rhodes stood out as a blocker, getting over quickly to seal the left side of Martin’s running-lane chute to a first down.

It was only a spring game, and neither Herbert (six carries, 27 yards) nor Martin (seven rushes, 43 yards) dominated by any means in KU’s Air Raid offense. But they both looked like Big 12 backs capable of playing at a starting level this fall.

The competition between Bender and Carter Stanley to become KU’s starting quarterback has the most attention. But with Herbert, Martin, Williams and Matthews all vying to reach the top of the running backs depth chart, that will be an even more challenging battle.

Regardless of who emerges as the starter, KU looks to have its best stable of running backs in some time, and the Jayhawks should have no problem out-performing their 119.1 rushing yards a game from a year ago, which ranked ninth in the Big 12 and more than 40 yards a game behind eighth-place Iowa State.

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A look at 21st-century Jayhawks selected in NFL draft

Kansas University 310-pound offensive lineman Anthony Collins (78) jumps in the arms of 190-pound running back Jake Sharp (1) after Sharp's touchdown run in the second quarter against Baylor. Sharp rushed for 110 yards in the Jayhawks' 58-10 rout of the Bears on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas University 310-pound offensive lineman Anthony Collins (78) jumps in the arms of 190-pound running back Jake Sharp (1) after Sharp's touchdown run in the second quarter against Baylor. Sharp rushed for 110 yards in the Jayhawks' 58-10 rout of the Bears on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. by thad-allender

The NFL draft starts Thursday night and concludes Saturday, by which time it is likely that for the seventh time in the 21st century, no Kansas player will be selected, unless safety Fish Smithson is snagged with a late-round pick.

Sixteen Jayhawks have been selected this century. By position: Offensive line (four), cornerback (three), wide receiver (three), defensive line (two), linebacker (one), running back (one), safety (one) tight end (one). By round: first (one), second (none), third (none), fourth (six), fifth (four), sixth (four), seventh (one).

A complete list of 21st-century selections from Kansas, with position NFL team, round and overall selection:

2001: Moran Norris RB Saints (4/115);

2002: Nate Dwyer DL Cardinals (4/113), Justin Hartwig OL Titans (6/187);

2003: None.

2004: Adrian Jones OL Jets (4/132);

2005: David McMillan DL Browns (5/139);

2006: None;

2007: None;

2008: Aqib Talib CB Buccaneers (1/20), Anthony Collins OL Bengals (4/112), Derek Fine TE Bills (4/132), Marcus Henry WR Jets (6/174);

2009: None;

2010: Darrell Stuckey S Chargers (4/110), Kerry Meier WR Falcons (5/165), Dezmon Briscoe WR Bengals (6/191);

2011: None;

2012: Tanner Hawkinson OL Bengals (5/156);

2013: None;

2014: None;

2015: Ben Heeney LB Raiders (5/140), JaCorey Shepherd CB Eagles (6/191), Dexter McDonald CB Raiders (7/242);

2016: None.

Interestingly, 7 of 16 selections played in KU’s 24-21 Orange Bowl victory vs. Virginia Tech. Six were starters. Meier caught two passes as a reserve. Henry, Briscoe and Dexton Fields were KU's three starting receivers.

That team also featured undrafted, record-breaking quarterback Todd Reesing. All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris was a freshman starter in the Orange Bowl and was bypassed in the draft after three more seasons at KU.

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4-star WR Devonta Jason — committed to KU — now has 27 offers

None by Whop

It’s been less than three months since four-star high school receiver Devonta Jason — one of the top 25 juniors in the nation according to Rivals — shocked the football recruiting world by committing to Kansas, along with his Louisiana prep teammate Corione Harris, a four-star cornerback.

While the news helped introduce KU fans to the term “Louisianimals” and doubled as a sign of associate head coach Tony Hull’s strength as a recruiter, Jason’s verbal commitment doesn’t mean he will definitely play for the Jayhawks in 2018. That won’t become official until he and other members of a Kansas recruiting class that currently ranks 14th in the nation sign their national letters of intent.

As of this week, Jason, a 6-foot-3 receiver now playing at more than 200 pounds, has received 27 scholarship offers — coming from programs in each of the Power Five conferences. The most recent two came Monday, from an old Kansas rival, Missouri, and the Pac-12’s Arizona.

Initially an LSU commit, Jason has much to ponder ahead of his senior season at Landry-Walker High, in New Orleans — the same school from which KU safety Mike Lee graduated early before turning into an impact freshman in the Big 12.

Earlier this month, Jason told SEC Country he is on pace to graduate from high school in December, and enroll at the university of his choice (possibly Kansas) for the 2018 spring semester.

That has to qualify as good news for KU head coach David Beaty and Louisiana recruiting guru Hull. The less time powerhouse programs have to try to sway Jason away, the better the chances for Kansas to get Rivals’ No. 25 player in the nation on the field in Lawrence. National Signing Day isn’t until Feb. 7, 2018. But if Jason graduates in December, the Jayhawks could already have him on campus by then — similar to what the staff did a few months back, with freshman linebacker Kyron Johnson, a three-star prospect from Arlington, Texas.

Open about his ongoing recruitment in interviews since committing to Kansas, Jason told SECCountry.com all the programs going after him have a chance.

“I’m going to be fair about it. I’m committed to Kansas, but LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are all tied in second,” Jason said a few weeks ago.

According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, Jason is the highest-rated receiver ever to commit to KU.

It’s not a done deal now. Not even close. But just the idea of a wideout as talented as Jason one day suiting up for the Jayhawks and operating in the Air Raid offense should be enough to get an at times disinterested fan base excited about what Beaty, Hull and company are doing.

In the meantime, we’ll have to watch from afar and see if even more offers come in for the coveted receiver. One thing is certain: coaches from far more renowned programs will continue to do everything they can to get Jason to back out of his KU commitment.

Below is a timeline of Jason’s college recruitment.

2015

- Nov. 4: Commits to LSU

2016

  • April 9: Offer from Mississippi State

  • April 29: Offer from Kansas

  • May 2: Offer from West Virginia

  • May 4: Offer from Georgia

  • May 5: Offer from Nicholls State

  • May 6: Offer from Florida

  • May 11: Offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss

  • May 13: Offer from Jackson State

  • May 14: Offer from Delta State

  • May 17: Offer from Alabama

  • June 24: Offer from Miami (Fla.)

- July 9: De-commits from LSUas does Landry-Walker teammate Corione Harris

  • July 13: Offer from Tennessee

  • Dec. 12: Offers from Auburn, Arkansas State and Memphis

2017

  • Jan. 2: Offer from Texas A&M

  • Jan. 12: Offer from Florida State

  • Jan. 17: Offer from Oklahoma

  • Jan. 18: Offer from Iowa State

  • Jan. 21: Offer from Indiana

- Feb. 4: Commits to Kansasas does Landry-Walker teammate Harris

  • Feb. 9: Offers from TCU and Louisiana-Lafayette

  • Feb. 21: Offer from Tulane

  • April 24: Offers from Arizona and Missouri

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Jayhawks lack power, speed, defense, experience and stand alone in fourth place in Big 12 baseball

Kansas University starter Jackson Goddard and catcher Michael Tinsley talk during the third inning as the Texas Tech runs begin to pile up on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas University starter Jackson Goddard and catcher Michael Tinsley talk during the third inning as the Texas Tech runs begin to pile up on Saturday, May 7, 2016 at Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

No hitter ranked in the top 10 in Big 12 play in on-base percentage or slugging percentage. Last in the conference by a long shot with three home runs and last with four stolen bases.

Also, last in the Big 12 with a .963 fielding percentage.

So the Jayhawks aren’t particularly good at hitting, hitting with power, fielding or running. No wonder they were a safe pick to extend their streak of last-place finishes to three years. An 11-13 finish in non-conference play did nothing to change anybody’s opinion.

Yet, a look at the standings shows Kansas alone in fourth place in the nine-team league with an 8-7 record.

How is that possible?

For one thing, young players are getting better, even as the competition stiffens. Second baseman James Cosentino, named Big 12 co-newcomer of the week a week ago, is batting .389 in Big 12 play to raise his overall average to .273.

For another, the pitching has come on, led by power pitcher Jackson Goddard’s move to the starting rotation.

Goddard, the Saturday starter, has two walks and 20 strikeouts in 13 innings in his past two starts. KU is 4-1 in his Big 12 starts. He had a 7.60 ERA last season, 4.61 and shrinking so far this season.

Maybe the biggest factor in KU having a winning record in conference play has been playing well in close games, a clutch quality.

Until losing a late lead Sunday and falling 7-6 to Oklahoma in Norman, KU had been 4-0 in one-run conference games.

Stephen Villines, second-team all-conference as a junior, didn’t protect the lead in that one, but has been a reliable closer. He has 11 saves, five in Big 12 play, and on the season has four walks and 40 strikeouts.

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The Jayhawks who stood out most to coaches during spring football

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

After five weeks and 15 practices, one of the most crucial stretches of the Kansas football team’s offseason has come to a conclusion.

Spring ball is over, and the Jayhawks won’t reconvene for full team drills in helmets and pads with David Beaty and his position coaches again until August. It’s all strength and conditioning work with new assistant Zac Woodfin until then.

So who among KU’s many talented returning players had the most productive spring? Coaches don’t typically like to shower their pupils with too much praise, because they don’t want any individual thinking he’s in a position to ease up and stop improving.

But Kansas staff members over the past several weeks did give out player of the day honors for the team’s practice sessions, shouting out a representative from offense, defense and special teams.

The parameters for the acknowledgments, one can assume, are based around focus, consistency, effort and on-the-field impact. But you also can bet there was a classic Beaty “earn it” element to those practice awards, too. Veterans who have been around the program longer and established themselves as reliable and trustworthy tended to have their names and faces pop up on KU football’s Instagram account, the team’s vehicle for announcing the awards. For example: neither of the program’s transfers from Alabama, receiver Daylon Charlot and offensive lineman Charles Baldwin, picked up a player of the day nod.

Using the coaches’ public awards platform, we can get a sense of which players pleased KU coaches the most this spring. In total, 11 different Jayhawks won multiple practice distinctions, but the unofficial player of the spring distinction for Kansas goes to linebacker Joe Dineen, the only player to pick up the award three times.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Dineen missed most of the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury, but the good news for KU is he looked as fast and effective as ever this spring. What’s more, Dineen still has two years of eligibility remaining, thanks to receiving a medical redshirt for this past year.

As strong as KU’s defensive line projects to be in 2017, Clint Bowen’s defense needs play-makers behind the biggest Jayhawks up front to keep the program on its upward trajectory. Dineen is capable of being one at linebacker, with sophomore safety Mike Lee leading the secondary behind him.

Ten other Jayhawks won player of the day on two occasions: sophomore tackle Hakeem Adeniji, junior All-Big 12 defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., junior receiver Jeremiah Booker, sophomore cornerback Hasan Defense, junior defensive end Josh Ehambe, sophomore receiver Chase Harrell, senior receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr., senior tight end BenJohnson, junior running back Taylor Martin and senior kicker Gabriel Rui.

The names that stand out most from that group are Defense and Harrell, because they’re un-tested underclassmen.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry needs Defense, who played his freshman season at Kilgore College (Texas), to play like a starting Big 12 defensive back immediately, because KU lost two starters at the position. A solid spring is an ideal jumping-off point for the aptly named Defense as he continues his offseason. If he stood out against KU’s receivers, that’s an excellent sign.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017. by Nick Krug

Conversely, offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham is in charge of the unit’s most talented position group. The man calling plays for Kansas already has Steven Sims Jr., Daylon Charlot, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Ryan Schadler at his disposal. But none of those targets have Harrell’s size. The redshirt sophomore from Huffman, Texas, is 6-foot-4, strong and proved in KU’s spring game he can get up high and make spectacular catches. Harrell seems on target to have a breakthrough season and KU’s offense needs all the weapons it can get while it continues to play catch-up with the rest of the Big 12.

These standouts and others have more chances ahead of them to improve over the course of football’s lengthy offseason, but it’s interesting to see which Jayhawks the coaching staff chose to commend during the spring.

KU football’s spring players of the day

Practice No. 1

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Derrick Neal, sr., CB

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 2

  • Offense: Hunter Saulsbury, so., OL

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

Practice No. 3

  • Offense: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

Practice No. 4

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE

  • Defense: Keith Loneker Jr., jr., LB

  • Special teams: Tyler Patrick, jr., WR

Practice No. 5

  • Offense: Reese Randall, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Kyle Mayberry, so., CB

Practice No. 6

  • Offense: Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Osaze Ogbebor, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Bryce Torneden, so., S

Practice No. 7

  • Offense: Ryan Schadler, jr., WR

  • Defense: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 8

  • Offense: Evan Fairs, so., WR / Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Maciah Long, so., DE

  • Special teams: Ryan Renick, RS-fr., TE

Practice No. 9

  • Offense: Steven Sims Jr., jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

Practice No. 10

  • Offense: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

  • Defense: Daniel Wise, jr., DT

  • Special teams: J.J. Holmes, jr., DT

Practice No. 11

  • Offense: Chase Harrell, so., WR

  • Defense: Isi Holani, sr., DT

  • Special teams: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

Practice No. 12

(Walk-through day before spring game — no awards given)

Practice No. 13 — spring game

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE / Peyton Bender, jr., QB

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Cole Moos, sr., P

Practice No. 14

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Chase Harrell, so., WR

Practice No. 15

(Results not available)

Player of the Day Standings

Dineen (3)

Adeniji (2)

Armstrong (2)

Booker (2)

Defense (2)

Ehambe (2)

Harrell (2)

Hartzog (2)

B. Johnson (2)

Martin (2)

Rui (2)

Bender

Fairs

Holani

Holmes

Loneker

Long

Mayberry

Moos

Neal

Ogbebor

Patrick

Randall

Renick

Saulsbury

Schadler

Sims

Torneden

Wise

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Kansas OC/WR coach Doug Meacham explains the traits of each letter in the receiver alphabet

Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham works with the receivers during practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2017.

Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham works with the receivers during practice on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. by Nick Krug

The ability to communicate in terms that are easy to understand is a trait successful coaches in all sports share.

First-year Kansas offensive coordinator/receivers coach Doug Meacham does a nice job of sifting through the alphabet soup that comes with spread offenses favored by so many college football coaches to explain the ideal traits of players at each of the four receiver positions.

Outside receivers are X and Z and inside receivers are H and Y.

“X is your super fast, post guy,” Meacham said. “H is your punt return (type), quick-twitchy guy. Y is the other inside guy. He’s your bigger, more physical, bang off 'backers, safeties guy and Z is probably your best overall, do everything guy: (Texas Tech's) Michael Crabtree, Justin Blackmon and Dez Bryant (both Oklahoma State), (TCU's) Josh Doctson.”

By the end of the spring, the top of the Kansas depth chart had Steven Sims at X, LaQuvionte Gonzalez at H, Ryan Schadler at Y and Daylon Charlot at Z. Gonzalez, by the way, spent much of the spring working with third-stringers but worked his way back to the top.

Typically, when a tight end or second running back is on the field, one of the inside receivers comes out of the game.

Does playing receiver in the Air Raid offense require a higher football IQ than in other offenses?

“Not if you’re really fast,” Meacham said.

Good point.

“The inside guys, there are a lot more little details of it. Outside guys, it’s a little simpler because you’re just dealing with corners pretty much all day long,” Meacham said. “The inside guys, it can be a nickel, it can be a safety rolling down on you, it can be a linebacker. There are a lot of different variations and looks you can get in there and you have to see a lot more of the rotation of the coverage than just routes.”

Tyler Patrick had a solid spring and supplies depth as an inside receiver.

Meacham explained what it takes to be an outside receiver.

“It’s not quite as stringent mentally, probably, but you have to be longer and you have to be a fast guy who when you get single coverage, you can throw the fade and score. You have to have those kinds of guys somewhere.”

Long, fast Chase Harrell had an impressive spring game and could be on the verge of a break-through season at outside receiver.

"Usually, what it comes down to is your best receiver catches the most balls," Meacham said. "I've had an H receiver that's had 100-plus catches. I've had a Z that's had 120-some catches in a year. I've had Ys that caught over a hundred a year."

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Twelve AP All-Americans in nine seasons for Kansas basketball

Kansas teammates Tyshawn Taylor (10) and Thomas Robinson get airborn as they celebrate the Jayhawks' 80-67 win over North Carolina to advance to the Final Four on Sunday,  March 25, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Kansas teammates Tyshawn Taylor (10) and Thomas Robinson get airborn as they celebrate the Jayhawks' 80-67 win over North Carolina to advance to the Final Four on Sunday, March 25, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. by Nick Krug

The Bill Self statement that resonated most loudly at the team banquet came in reference to Malik Newman, who practiced with Kansas last season after transferring from Mississippi State.

“I’ll be disappointed if Malik’s not an all-league or All-American player next year,” Self said.

The KU coach ought to know an All-American when he sees one.

Kansas has had a remarkable run of Associated Press All-Americans since Sherron Collins became Self’s first Kansas recruit to earn the distinction with third-team honors in 2009.

That started a run of 12 All-Americans in the past nine seasons, a run in which at least one Jayhawk was named first, second or third-team All-American by AP in every season except 2015.

Devonte’ Graham also has the potential to land on an All-American team as a senior.

Of the 12 Self Kansas recruits honored by the AP, five were seniors (Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Jeff Withey, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason), four juniors (Collins, Cole Aldrich, Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson), three freshmen (Ben McLemore, Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson).

A year-by-year breakdown of All-Americans in Self’s 14 seasons:

2017: Mason, first team; Jackson, third team.

2016: Ellis, second team.

2015: None.

2014: Wiggins, second team.

2013: McLemore, second team; Withey, third team.

2012: Robinson, first team; Taylor, third team.

2011: Marcus Morris, second team.

2010: Collins, second team; Aldrich, third team.

2009: Collins, third team.

2008: None.

2007: None.

2006: None.

2005: Wayne Simien, first team.

2004: Simien, third team.

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Keith Loneker Jr. shapes up as key to stopping the run

Kansas' Keith Loneker Jr. lines up across from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele and running back D'Onta Foreman during the first quarter of the Jayhawks' 24-21 win over the Longhorns on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas' Keith Loneker Jr. lines up across from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele and running back D'Onta Foreman during the first quarter of the Jayhawks' 24-21 win over the Longhorns on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Sophomore safety Mike Lee is the lone returner in the five-man secondary, so opponents will look to shred Kansas with the pass.

Or will they?

The Jayhawks have allowed higher than a five-yards-per-carry average and ranked outside the top 100 among 128 FBS schools in that statistical category. So unless the Kansas linebackers can do a better job of shedding guards with big size advantages, teams might try to hammer away with the run, rather than have quarterbacks under duress from a strong pass rush exploit an inexperienced secondary.

The emergence of 6-foot-2, 225-pound Keith Loneker, Jr., who came on late last season as a sophomore and had a strong spring, should help. Loneker played a huge role in the 24-21, overtime victory against Texas and looked faster and more impressive in pass coverage during the spring game. He has that fearless trait necessary to play linebacker and it comes in handy against the run.

Coming out of Lawrence Free State High, where he excelled as both a receiver and linebacker, Loneker graded out as either too small or not quite fast enough to merit a Big 12 scholarship, just the sort of football player his father's coach, Glen Mason, relied on heavily during his successful tenure at Kansas. Rather than walk on at Kansas, Loneker attended Baker University in nearby Baldwin City, earned freshman All-American honors, and then transferred to KU, paying his own way his first season and earning a scholarship for the next two

The fast, 6-1, 230-pound junior Joe Dineen, Loneker’s high school teammate, joins him as a first-team linebacker. Dineen missed enough of last season to maintain the year of eligibility and heads into junior season two years older than his last full season, when KU allowed 5.67 yards per carry, ranking 106th. The added experience and weight should enable Dineen to do a better job of shedding tacklers and making more stops closer to the line of scrimmage.

Lee (six unassisted) and Dineen and Loneker (each with three unassisted and two assisted tackles) led the team in stops during the spring game.

The Jayhawks did improve by half a yard and 17 spots in the national rankings in yards-per-carry allowed, but must do better than that this coming season, especially considering the defensive line projects to be among the best, if not the best, in the Big 12.

Based on the spring game, Osaze Ogbebor, a 6-1, 220-pound junior from Lorton, Va., and 6-1, 215-pound redshirt freshman Dru Prox from Kaufman, Texas, are the first linebackers supplying depth. Maciah Long has moved from linebacker to defensive end.

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Stock watch: Josh Jackson’s versatility makes him best small forward in NBA Draft

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Still almost a month away from the May 16 NBA Draft Lottery and some real clarity about where one-and-done Kansas star Josh Jackson could land in the NBA, one factor in his stock is discernible: Jackson is the best small forward available.

For months, experts have raved about the 2017 draft class and its point guards, and Jackson’s name often comes up after Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in terms of most-coveted prospects. But even with the buzz increasing around Duke freshman small forward Jason Tatum’s stock, Jackson’s versatile game and defensive approach make him the primary target for a team looking to add a wing.

A 6-foot-8 20-year-old from Detroit who finally officially turned pro earlier this week, Jackson’s name takes the No. 1 position on a big board of small forwards, according to a feature David Aldridge wrote for NBA.com.

Jackson, who averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists for Bill Self’s Jayhawks during his one season, ranked ahead of the aforementioned Tatum (easily his biggest non-point guard competition for a top spot in the draft), Florida State freshman Jonathan Issac and Indiana sophomore O.G. Anunoby.

In compiling the list, Aldridge, a veteran NBA reporter, ranked the college and foreign players based on who, in theory, would be best suited to step onto an NBA floor tonight and make the most significant impact. To do so, he used intel from general managers and coaches around The Association, as well as college coaches.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) floats in for a bucket over Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) floats in for a bucket over Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

While discussing who Jackson might be comparable to, Aldridge’s conversations led him to the names of two NBA Finals MVPs: all-league San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and Golden State veteran Andre Iguodala.

“I freaking love him,” an executive of a team likely to have a high lottery pick told Aldridge. “This guy’s getting better as he goes, so I can’t see how he can’t be Iguodala — a guy who can defend and pass, and who’s becoming a better shooter. I know the Kansas people, and in terms of work and all that stuff … they were absolutely in love with him as a kid — not a little bit, a lot. He has (Andrew) Wiggins’ athleticism with character off the chain.”

Since Jackson decided to play at Kansas we’ve heard the Wiggins comparisons, but the Iguodala one is unique and intriguing. Casual fans may know the 6-foot-6 wing, now 33, as a phenomenal veteran role player for Golden State. But earlier in his career Iguodala gave his teams in Philadelphia and Denver those intangibles and so much more. Iguodala averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 2009-10 — arguably his best stat-stuffing season — for the Sixers.

The fascinating aspect of Jackson’s potential is that the Iguodala comparison is only the baseline. Jackson could turn into an even more devastating version of Iguodala, and that’s likely why someone invoked the name of MVP candidate Leonard. No one saw the Spurs’ 6-7 small forward turning into one of the best players on the planet before the 2011 draft, but evaluators look at Jackson’s skill set and competitive nature and envision greatness.

Leonard didn’t enter the league as a player anyone feared as a 3-point shooter, yet he has turned himself into a threat. During his just-completed sixth regular season, the former San Diego State stud shot 38.1% from long range while setting career-highs in makes (147) and attempts (386).

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

In order to one day become an all-league type of talent Jackson will need to follow a similar path. He arrived at KU with questions about his jump shot, but steadily improved throughout the season to finish at 37.8% on 3-pointers, after making less than 30% in both November and December.

Aldridge reported some wonder how the NBA’s deeper 3-point arc will impact Jackson’s shot-making from deep, but one Pacific Division executive didn’t seem too worried about it.

“There’s a lot less of a concern now than there was in the early part of the season, maybe the middle of the season,” the executive said. “He shot 40 percent the last month, month and a half of the year (Jackson shot 48.1 percent, 25 of 52, behind the arc the last seven weeks of the season). He’s been the best player in his class. He has that kind of pedigree. If he can consistently shoot from NBA range, he does so many other things well he’s going to be a good NBA player.”

— See David Aldridge’s SF big board for the 2017 NBA Draft: Kansas’ Josh Jackson sure thing in small forward group full of surprises

Team’s chances of winning the lottery

Boston (from Brooklyn) - 25%

Phoenix - 19.9%

L.A. Lakers - 15.6%

Philadelphia - 11.9%

Orlando - 8.8%

Minnesota - 5.3%

New York - 5.3%

Sacramento - 2.8%

Dallas - 1.7%

New Orleans - 1.1%

Charlotte - 0.8%

Detroit - 0.7%

Denver - 0.6%

Miami - 0.5%

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So far so good for Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender

Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Competing quarterbacks Team Jayhawk quarterback Peyton Bender (7) and Team KU quarterback Carter Stanley (9) shake hands after the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Not particularly tall, broad or mobile, Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender doesn’t need to be any taller, broader or more mobile to become the best prospect the Jayhawks have had standing in the shotgun since Todd Reesing.

Bender need do no more than he did in Saturday’s spring game to clear that bar. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns and didn’t throw an interception.

“I thought I did fine,” Bender said afterward. “I did what I was supposed to do. We kept the play-calling pretty simple.”

Bender looked comfortable and in charge.

As for how his spring has gone in general, Bender said, “I’ve been pleased. There’s room for improvement. There are plenty of mistakes I’ve made. I just have to continue on the learning process of the offense but so far I think it’s going pretty well.”

Bender ran an Air Raid offense in high school in Florida, during a redshirt season and his redshirt freshman year at Washington State and as a sophomore for Itawamba Community College in Mississippi.

Every version of the Air Raid is a little different, including the one offensive coordinator Doug Meacham installed this spring.

“The Air Raid offense tends to be a little bit easier on the quarterback,” Bender said. “It’s fairly simple, but it’s a more complicated version of the Air Raid than I’ve run in any other system. It’s been a little bit more on my plate, but I think I’ve handled it well. I’m definitely learning it.”

Both Bender and redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley get snaps with the first string offense during practice and head coach David Beaty has not named a starter.

Still, I would be surprised if Bender doesn’t win the starting job, which would make Stanley the best backup Kansas has had at quarterback in many, many years.

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Ryan Schadler sums up Doug Meacham offense in three words: go, go, go

Kansas kick returner Ryan Schadler (33) runs back a 91-yard touchdown after a kickoff during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas kick returner Ryan Schadler (33) runs back a 91-yard touchdown after a kickoff during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Kansas sophomore Ryan Schadler started his collegiate athletic career as a sprinter for Wichita State and even he is taken aback at the amount of sprinting demanded of receivers in Doug Meacham’s offense.

“The first couple of spring practices I was like, ‘Man, this isn’t running back anymore,’ ” Schadler said after catching three passes for 37 yards for the winning side in Saturday’s spring game. “I’m running a lot of 40-yard sprints over and over and over. It’s good. In high school I was always a guy who played offense, defense, special teams, never coming off the field. It’s been a while since I’ve been running like that and I really love it.”

Schadler appears to love everything about playing football for Kansas and he has done a little bit of everything to utilize his speed. He scored on a 91-yard kickoff return in his Kansas debut in 2015 and he also appeared at running back.

He missed last season after being diagnosed with a birth defect involving the malrotation of his small and large intestines and appendix, which required surgery.

Fully recovered, he converted to slot receiver in advance of spring practices, a move initiated by Meacham.

“The biggest thing for me is getting in shape,” Schadler said. “Meach has said a receiver will run five, six miles at practice.”

The need for speed isn’t limited to running pass patterns.

“He always want to go faster,” Schadler said. “Lining up fast is more important than anything. If we can line up fast while the defense is trying to figure everything out, we have an advantage.

“With this Air Raid you’ve got to be able to just go, go, go. We wear the defense down in practice all the time just because we’re going and going and going and going. If we can be the fastest team in the Big 12 in that category, I think we’ll be OK because you can catch defenses off guard.”

Schadler has been the first-team “Y” receiver, fellow inside receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez the “H,” Daylon Charlot the “Z” and Steven Sims the “X.”

“Meach is so good in that video room and the meeting rooms,” Schadler said. “If you look at our film from Day 1 to now, we’ve come a long way. Our route-running and identifying coverages have come a long way.”

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Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise could only have so much fun at KU spring game

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. signs autographs following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. signs autographs following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Spring football games are not real football games. And no one understands that better than Kansas defensive stalwarts Dorance Armstrong Jr., and Daniel Wise.

Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium was about letting the fans get a peek at the 2017 Jayhawks, not giving away too many secrets or play-calling wrinkles along the way and keeping quarterbacks Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender healthy.

So juniors Armstrong and Wise, two of the program’s most marketable talents, who also happen to be massive defensive linemen, didn’t get to unleash their full array of skills.

The quarterbacks, receivers such as Daylon Charlot and Steven Sims Jr., running backs Taylor Martin and Khalil Herbert, defensive backs such as Mike Lee, Kyle Mayberry, Derrick Neal and Bryce Torneden, and linebackers Joe Dineen and Keith Loneker Jr., got to experience a lively, enjoyable afternoon scrimmage.

It just felt a little different for the big guys who hope to make a living in the NFL by chasing and demolishing QBs.

A 6-foot-4, 246-pound pass-rusher extraordinaire from Houston, Armstrong was credited with four total tackles and one sack. Wise, a 6-3, 290-pound versatile defensive lineman, had two tackles for loss and a sack. Not bad numbers, for sure, but also not true snapshots of how impactful they will be for David Beaty’s third Kansas football team, either.

It must have been difficult for them to exert their typical full game-day effort knowing they would have to pump the brakes if they created themselves a path to a QB, right? Sophomore safety Lee, who spoke with reporters after the open practice, confirmed as much.

“On the sideline, Dorance was really mad,” a grinning Lee reported. “He was like, ‘They keep holdin’ me! I can’t even get a sack!’ He was like, ‘I wish it was a real game, because I’d have a bunch of sacks.’ And D-Wise was just laughin’ at him, like, ‘It’s just the spring game, son.’”

The picture Lee painted gives you an idea of part of what makes Armstrong great: that competitive fire. But neither Armstrong nor Wise could show off at the spring game in the way Lee (six tackles and two crushing hits on receiver Ryan Schadler) or other defenders were able to do.

None by Zaldy Doyungan

None by Benton Smith

“It really was a defensive back game, because it’s the spring game,” Lee said. “They can’t touch the quarterback. The ball was being thrown a lot.”

Obviously the last thing any coach or player wants is to lose a quarterback due to a contact injury during a practice or scrimmage — it was only two years ago that a freak play at KU’s spring game prematurely ended Michael Cummings’ career. You’ve got to have those QBs in red jerseys and safe.

And, when you think about it, that’s probably what makes Saturdays in the fall so rewarding for standout defensive linemen like Armstrong and Wise. After months of not being able to do what you were born to do, you get to release those frustrations on an opposing quarterback.

Here’s an early bet that Armstrong and Wise this fall will improve upon their combined 13 sacks and 30 tackles for loss from 2016.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise shoots a selfie of himself and his team after being selected as the fourth-overall pick during a spring game player draft on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the Anderson Family Football Complex.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise shoots a selfie of himself and his team after being selected as the fourth-overall pick during a spring game player draft on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the Anderson Family Football Complex. by Nick Krug

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Derrick Neal finding home at nickel, his twin specializing in dimes

Kansas cornerback Derrick Neal (7) disrupts a pass to Memphis wide receiver Phil Mayhue (89) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas cornerback Derrick Neal (7) disrupts a pass to Memphis wide receiver Phil Mayhue (89) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

Nickel back, the football position in the secondary, not the widely mocked band, sometimes is filled by hybrid linebacker/safety, other times by a cornerback/safety hybrid. Tevin Shaw fell into the former category for Kansas the past couple of years.

Looking to field a quicker unit, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen sought someone with better coverage skills to fill the spot for 2017. He found his man in senior Derrick Neal.

Used in the past as a wide receiver, a kick returner and a cornerback, Neal has worked his way onto the first team as a nickel and he sounds as if he's convinced he has found a home.

"I think nickel’s the best spot for me because I’m always by the ball," Neal said. "I love to be by the ball. I’m a ball hawk. If I have a chance to get to the ball, that’s what I’m going to do.”

All Big 12 squads have one or two jets filling the slot receiver spot, which was why Bowen wanted to get quicker, more agile at the position.

"I can cover the the inside receivers," Neal said. "I’m a quicker guy and we need more cover guys on the field.”

That means Neal often finds himself matched up against LaQuvionte "Speedy" Gonzalez in practice.

“He’s one of the fastest dudes in the Big 12, so if I’m guarding him every day I feel like I’ll be ready for the season," Neal said. foot

He originally made a verbal commitment to play basketball with his twin, Erick, at UT-Arlington, but changed his mind and committed to play football for Kansas. Erick Neal has one year of eligibility remaining and already can be found in several places in the UTA basketball career statistics leaders, including in third place in assists and seventh in steals and made 3-pointers. He produced the school's first triple-double (27 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists) as a sophomore and earned second-team All-Sun Belt honors as a junior.

Derrick summed up his twin's game in one short sentence: "He's nice."

Yes, he is.

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Hosannas for Hasan Defense

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Injuries and lack of experience have made cornerback the position with the least depth during Kansas’ spring football practice, which has made a productive spring from junior college transfer Hasan Defense all the more important.

Defense, a 5-11, 180-pound sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., spent one season at Kilgore College and has three remaining years of eligibility. He was chosen sixth overall when assistant coaches Tony Hull and Kenny Perry chose sides for Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium, 1 p.m. kickoff, free admission.

“It definitely feels pretty good,” Defense said of being chosen that high. “It makes me feel that my hard work and dedication are being recognized, so that’s always good to hear.”

Defense shared what he thought earned him the honor of going so high in the spring draft.

“I’ve shown I’ve been able to make plays, whether it’s on defense or on special teams,” he said.

Only the first 10 selections were made public. Wide receiver Daylon Charlot was not among the first 10 picks, but Defense cautioned not to read too much into that.

“He’s given me the most trouble,” Defense said. “He’s a really good receiver. Coming from ’Bama, he has a lot of things that most receivers don’t have and a lot of ways that he beats me, and that teaches me to make my game better.”

Such as?

“He uses his hands very quickly and efficiently to get away from the DB and that teaches me to use my hands better,” Defense said.

Defense won't be matched up against either Charlot or big-time playmaker Steven Sims, the No. 1 overall selection of the spring draft. All three are playing for Team Jayhawks, coached by Hull. Peyton Bender will be throwing to Charlot and Sims.

Las Vegas casinos don't carry betting lines on the Kansas spring football exhibition, but if they did, the guess here is Team Jayhawks would be favored over Perry's Team KU.

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K.J. Lawson issues apology for vulgar video clip toward former coach Tubby Smith

After a vulgar Snapchat video circulated through social media Thursday, incoming Kansas transfer K.J. Lawson issued an apology through Twitter.

Lawson, a 6-foot-7 forward, made disparaging comments toward Memphis head coach Tubby Smith, his former coach, in a three-second clip. Lawson and his older brother, Dedric, announced their intention to transfer to play for the Jayhawks earlier this week.

“This is what we do when we leave Tubby,” Lawson said on the undated video, “(expletive) Tubby.”

Lawson expressed his dissatisfaction with his former school when he announced his intention to transfer earlier this month. Lawson quoted a song from Drake, which mentioned, “two middle fingers as I make an exit,” in a tweet that he later deleted.

“On behalf of my family and myself I would like to issue an apology to Coach Tubby Smith and Tiger Nation,” Lawson wrote Thursday night. “Despite my frustrations of this past year, my words and actions at the time were immature, thoughtless, and not becoming of who I am as a person or how my family raised me. Memphis will forever be my home and I wish Coach Tubby Smith and Tiger Nation the best moving forward.”

Lawson captioned his apologetic tweet: “This momentary (indiscretion) can jeopardize the most important thing in my life. I apologize for my inexcusable behavior.”

Lawson averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Tigers this season in 33.7 minutes per game, earning American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors.

None by Keelon Lawson

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Say What? Smith talks KU spring game, QB competition on 810 WHB’s Between the Lines

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Easily head football coach David Beaty’s best Kansas spring

Kansas cornerback Derrick Neal (7) disrupts a pass to Memphis wide receiver Phil Mayhue (89) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas cornerback Derrick Neal (7) disrupts a pass to Memphis wide receiver Phil Mayhue (89) during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

For the first time in David Beaty’s tenure as head football coach at Kansas, the spring exhibition will be played and scored like a game. That’s good news because it stands as evidence of greater depth in the program than during his first two springs.

The next thing to study is whether the Jayhawks have more star-power. One way to do that is to look at the first five selections from each team in Wednesday’s draft between Tony Hull-coached Team Jayhawks and Kenny Perry-led Team KU and then guess at what names would have been selected two years ago if the top picks were from the same positions.

Team Jayhawks (possible pick from the spring of 2015):

1 - Steven Sims, wide receiver (Rodriguez Coleman): Long and fast, Coleman didn’t last into the fall and finished his KU career with 11 catches in two seasons.

2 - Hakeem Adeniji, left tackle (Larry Mazyck): Big Physique eventually played his way out of the lineup, starting just four games as a senior.

3 - Hasan Defense, cornerback (Greg Allen): Moved to safety and had a solid career, mostly as a second-teamer.

4 - Ryan Schadler, wide receiver (Tre’ Parmalee): Parmalee led KU receivers in catches (41) yards (599) and touchdowns (three).

5 - Derrick Neal, nickel back (Tevin Shaw): Contrast in these two players shows the different ways the position can be used. Shaw was a strong tackler, but didn’t have Neal’s coverage ability because he wasn’t as fast, quick or agile.

Team KU (possible pick from the spring of 2015):

1 - Dorance Armstrong, defensive end (Ben Goodman): Armstrong was KU’s first unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection last season. Goodman was one of the better players on the 2015 team and earned conference honorable mention.

2 - Daniel Wise, defensive tackle (Daniel Wise): A 260-pound prospect who had not yet played a game two springs ago, Wise was chosen second-team All-Big 12 by the Associated Press in 2016 and checks in at 290 pounds.

3 - Mike Lee, safety (Isaiah Jonson): Taking advantage of the graduate-transfer rule, Johnson left after that spring and spent his final season as a starter at South Carolina.

4 - Ben Johnson, tight end (Kent Taylor): Johnson will be used as a tight end and blocking back. Taylor had good speed for a tight end but never got the hang of blocking.

5 - Taylor Martin, running back (Corey Avery): After losing the trust of teammates, Avery was dismissed from the program.

Michael Cummings, blasted into retirement on a spring-game tackle that shredded his knee, and Montell Cozart were the top two quarterbacks on that team, Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley on this one.

No way of knowing what motivational factors played a part in the 10 players chosen with the first selections in Wednesday’s draft. Were some players rewarded for giving maximum effort and making improvements and others omitted as a way of showing that effort and attention to detail win the day? Probably, but it was a fun, well-executed exercise.

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Multi-millionaire in the making Udoka Azubuike packs ton of potential

Injured Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk at the end of the Jayhawks' practice on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Injured Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) delivers a dunk at the end of the Jayhawks' practice on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

He played in just 11 games, went scoreless in two and scored in double figures in just one, yet even at that, Udoka Azubuike left no doubt that he will have a lengthy NBA future and earn tens of millions of dollars playing basketball.

If I had my choice of skimming 1 percent of career earnings from any player eligible to compete in games next season for Kansas, I would choose Azubuike, even ahead of guard Malik Newman.

The pool of 7-foot, 280-pound athletes with nimble feet, pretty sure hands and a zest for punishing rims is quite shallow.

Speaking at the program’s annual banquet, KU's Hall of Fame coach Bill Self called Azubuike, “probably the most talented big guy that we’ve had here in a long, long time, other than Joel (Embiid).”

Self added that Azubuike’s trajectory “is off the charts,” reminding the audience that the big man won’t turn 18 until next Sept. 17.

“When he was hurt, we thought that was a huge blow because he’s going to be so darn good,” Self said.

Azubuike totaled six points and 12 rebounds in 15 minutes vs. Duke, overpowered a short UNC-Asheville with 17 points in 23 minutes, and in 11 games blocked 18 shots in 142 minutes.

More often than not, he dunked, and hadn’t developed enough shooting skill to do any better than .379 from the free-throw line. The good side of that coin is that he hangs out close to the basket and doesn’t entertain any guard fantasies.

Azubuike showed great potential and raw edges during his 11 games, but it's not as if he's been playing video games all year without learning anything that will help him next season.

"From him sitting through every scouting report and making him a part of everything that's going on, I think he definitely understands the game better than he did, without question," Self said.

If Azubuike can become a respectable free-throw shooter, eliminating Hack-A-Dok as a defensive strategy, he'll be extremely difficult to guard and quickly become more than just a shot-blocking, rebounding force. He's a very exciting prospect.

If he continues to struggle mightily from the line, Azubuike ought to consider shooting free throws underhanded. Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry, two Hall of Fame perennial All-Stars, weren't too proud to do it.

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Which KU football player should go No. 1 in the spring game draft?

Monday marked the first spring practice for the Kansas football team, including quarterbacks (from left) Carter Stanley, Peyton Bender and Tyriek Starks. The Jayhawks began preparation for head coach David Beaty's third season inside Anschutz Pavilion, on March 13, 2017.

Monday marked the first spring practice for the Kansas football team, including quarterbacks (from left) Carter Stanley, Peyton Bender and Tyriek Starks. The Jayhawks began preparation for head coach David Beaty's third season inside Anschutz Pavilion, on March 13, 2017. by Mike Yoder

The Kansas football team is going all in on building up hype for this Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium (1 p.m. kickoff).

David Beaty and company started off the week Monday by announcing the two sides for the scrimmage — Team Jayhawks and Team KU — and the coaches in charge of each. It will be Kansas associate head coach and running backs coach Tony Hull (Jayhawks) on one sideline and cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry (KU) on the other, with Beaty observing the action in more of a neutral capacity.

How will the rosters be split up for the spring game? Well, that will be determined Wednesday afternoon with a draft.

Hull — who will be assisted by defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley and offensive line coach Zach Yenser — won the right to the No. 1 pick on Monday, when Perry — working with linebackers coach Todd Bradford, offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and defensive line coach Jesse Williams — lost a coin toss by picking tails.

None by Kansas Football

Second-year assistant Hull had the opportunity to take either the swagged-out home KU locker room or the No. 1 pick in the spring draft by winning the coin flip, and he rightfully went with the draft rights.

None by Coach Tony Hull

So who should Hull pick for this weekend’s family-friendly affair? We got together some of our KUsports.com staff members to find out which Jayhawk they think Hull will select — and who they would take No. 1 overall.

Let us know your picks in the comments section below.

Benton Smith’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Since Mr. Louisianimal himself landed the top choice, I think he will want an impact guy from “The Boot” to build his team around.

Kansas receiver Daylon Charlot runs back to the line after catching a pass during spring football practice on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Kansas receiver Daylon Charlot runs back to the line after catching a pass during spring football practice on Thursday, March 30, 2017. by Nick Krug

That means Hull will go with perhaps the most intriguing talent on the roster, former Alabama wide receiver Daylon Charlot, from Patterson, La. A 6-foot, 195-pound pass-catching and return threat, Charlot walked away from Nick Saban at Alabama when the most prominent head coach in all of college football tried to convince him to stay.

Teammates and coaches rave about Charlot’s athletic ability and how he can break open a play in the open field or with a deep catch. Charlot has been looking forward to playing for months after sitting out and he’ll want to make a splash in his unofficial KU debut.

Who I would take: He won’t have the same flash or fan attention as Charlot or one of KU’s top quarterbacks, but I’m taking a big man who can not only give my QB some time to make his reads, but also get out and create holes for the running backs (or speedy receivers on end arounds).

A transfer from Alabama, offensive lineman Charles Baldwin sat out the 2016 season at Kansas. This spring, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior right tackle finally gets to practice with the first-stringers on offense, as the Jayhawks begin preparation for the 2017 season.

A transfer from Alabama, offensive lineman Charles Baldwin sat out the 2016 season at Kansas. This spring, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior right tackle finally gets to practice with the first-stringers on offense, as the Jayhawks begin preparation for the 2017 season. by Mike Yoder

The pick is another Alabama transfer, junior offensive lineman Charles Baldwin.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound right tackle, like Charlot, will be eager to play after sitting out 2016 as a transfer. And he has the power and athleticism to try and limit the likes of Dorance Armstrong Jr. and/or Daniel Wise, should they end up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

Even if QB’s won’t be hit in the scrimmage, it would be nice to have a beast like Baldwin on your side as a starting point.

Matt Tait’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Junior DE Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates with Kansas wide receiver Jeremiah Booker (88) after Armstrong forced a fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates with Kansas wide receiver Jeremiah Booker (88) after Armstrong forced a fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

For my money, Armstrong is the best player on the Kansas football team. As he showed last season, he’s a big-time pass-rusher at the Power 5 level and he’s only getting better.

Because it’s a spring game and the KU quarterbacks will be wearing red jerseys, you won’t see any of the bone-crushing hits that Armstrong is capable of delivering. But you might see him wreak havoc on KU’s offensive line, which, in a game that features players getting credited with sacks for just touching the quarterback, could make for a long day for the KU offense, especially if Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley aren’t getting the ball out quickly.
 Hull coaches offense so it won’t surprise me if he’s leaning toward picking a player from that side of the ball. For what it’s worth, I can’t see it being a running back. But with enough quality players at other positions available down his draft board, Hull can scoop those up later and take the difference-maker with the No. 1 overall selection.

Who I would take: Junior WR Steven Sims Jr.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) gets near  the end zone after a catch late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) gets near the end zone after a catch late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Spring games have been known to showcase offensive firepower, and, at Kansas, wide receivers often have been the beneficiaries of that fact.

From Christian Matthews on a couple of occasions back in the day to LaQuvionte Gonzalez last season, the guys on the outside typically get a lot of space to work with and often can take advantage of being put in position to use their speed to score quickly and often, because they don’t have to worry about their teammates lighting them up. Once they catch the ball, especially in space, it becomes a foot race to the end zone and Sims, along with most of KU's wideouts, is faster than many of the defensive backs on this team and, perhaps most importantly, far more experienced. 


Sims has been KU’s most consistent wide receiver during the past two seasons and I think he’s ready for an even bigger role now that he’s an upperclassman. I think that role begins Saturday and I'd gladly welcome him onto my team if I had the No. 1 pick. 


He catches everything, knows how to get open and has proven to be a favorite target of quarterbacks because of his reliable hands and precise route running.

Give me Sims to start my team and I’ll build around him.

Bobby Nightengale’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Joe Dineen.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

When a coach or front office is making a pick at the top of the draft, it’s always important to consider all of the intangibles. That’s why I think Hull is going to pick junior middle linebacker Dineen, aka Local Boy, with his first pick. 

Perhaps no player will be more excited to step on the field Saturday than Dineen, who missed nearly all of last season with a right hamstring injury. The 6-2, 230-pound linebacker was a captain for the defense and is essentially another coach on the field. People know what to expect out of him — a run-stopper capable of running sideline to sideline, and a good pass-rusher on blitzes. 

Who I would take: Mike Lee.

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

With a young, inexperienced secondary, Kansas sophomore-to-be safety Lee stands out because of his talented freshman campaign. The 5-foot-11, 176-pounder proved that he’s a threat to stop rushing attacks  (70 solo tackles last year) and his big hits make receivers think twice on balls floating over the middle. 

In the spring game, the key to slowing either quarterback, Stanley or Bender, will be strong coverage against top receivers Sims, Gonzalez, Charlot and others. Surrounded by young cornerbacks, Lee is the best weapon in the Jayhawks’ secondary and can provide leadership through his experience. 

Plus, as a bonus, Lee isn’t going to shy away from the top moments. His interception in overtime against Texas helped seal Beaty’s first Big 12 victory in November, providing momentum into the offseason. 

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Bill Self’s first Kansas NBA All-Star will be …

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) dunks during the first half of the NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) dunks during the first half of the NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Memphis transfer Dedric Lawson became the 20th McDonald’s All-American recruited to Kansas by Bill Self.

That’s a big number for a coach entering his 15th season, but the favorite to become Self’s first Kansas recruit to earn the honor of selection to play in the NBA All-Star game was not a McDonald’s honoree.

A look at the players with the best chance to become Self’s first All-Star Jayhawk:

1 - Joel Embiid: He has played just 31 games in three seasons since leaving Kansas, where he played 28 games and averaged 23.1 minutes.

Embiid played in 31 games for the Philadelphia 76ers this season before shutting it down to have a torn meniscus in his left knee repaired.

After missing two seasons with a career-threatening foot injury, Embiid was put on a minutes restriction and still managed to produce All-Star-caliber numbers for the Sixers.

Embiid averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game.

Even if the Sixers continue to watch his minutes next season, he has a strong shot to become an All-Star.

2 - Josh Jackson: Rookies seldom make a big enough splash to earn All-Star status and it likely will take Jackson a few years to reach that level of recognition, but he’s such a nasty competitor and versatile performer that it’s easy to project him quickly becoming an NBA star.

3 - Andrew Wiggins: Averaging 23.7 points per game, Wiggins loves to shoot, but doesn’t seem terribly interested in rebounding (4.1 per game) or passing (2.2 assists). Heading into the season finale vs. Oklahoma City, Wiggins is shooting .454 and has a chance to finish a season with more assists (182) than turnovers (181).

It takes more than scoring a lot of points for a bad team to earn All-Star recognition, so unless Wiggins expands his game, even if that means shrinking his scoring average, he’s not likely to become Self’s first Kansas All-Star.

4 - The rest: The Morris twins are productive, versatile NBA players, but haven’t quite played to the level they merit consideration for the honor. Markieff has started 242 of 448 NBA games, including all 76 games this season with the Washington Wizards. Marcus has started 218 of 416, including all 159 in his two seasons with the Detroit Pistons.

Malik Newman? Dedric Lawson? If they develop into pros of that caliber, someone else likely will have beaten them to All-Star status.

McDonald’s All-Americans recruited to Kansas by Self:

Cole Aldrich, Cliff Alexander, Darrell Arthur, Udoka Azubuike, Carlton Bragg, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Cheick Diallo, Micah Downs, Perry Ellis, Xavier Henry, Josh Jackson, Newman, Kelly Oubre, Billy Preston, Josh Selby, Wayne Selden, Wiggins, Julian Wright.

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