Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”

Five-star Kansas commit Devonta Jason praised for talent and character

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Class of 2018 wide receiver Devonta Jason became the most discussed prospect in recent Kansas football memory when the New Orleans native verbally committed to David Beaty’s program in February.

Despite some skepticism on whether Jason, rated the No. 22 prep senior in the nation and a five-star talent by Rivals, will indeed end up playing at KU because commitments are non-binding, the athletic, 6-foot-3 receiver coveted by LSU and a number of other high-profile programs remains on board some five months away from his anticipated December graduation and the NCAA’s new early-signing period.

Associate head coach Tony Hull, responsible for recruiting Jason and other Louisiana standouts, such as KU sophomore safety Mike Lee (also an early Landry-Walker grad), might deserve another raise if Jason and his high school teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris, actually end up at Kansas and aren’t stolen away by a more successful program before they sign their letters of intent.

In a new video feature for NOLA.com, recruiting analyst Jimmy Smith explains why Jason is so intriguing for Kansas and the many other programs from which he has received offers, such as Alabama, Georgia and Florida.

“He’s 6-3, 205 pounds and he has the leaping ability of most NBA guards,” Smith says of Jason. “His athleticism, explosiveness, leaping ability — I mean, the kid’s been impressive from Day 1 of his prep career and he’s been a dominant force throughout high school.”

The way Smith, who first watched Jason as a freshman, describes the KU pledge, the receiver has the character to succeed, as well.

“Devonta has a desire to be great, and so he’s got that work ethic and that drive, and that will help propel him through his future. He’s doing it for a lot more than just himself,” Smith says. “He puts his family on his back, his community on his back.

Jason told NOLA.com the drug scene and violence he has witnessed in his community while growing up served as a form of inspiration.

“It just keeps me going,” Jason says in the video. “I don’t want to be in that predicament. To not put my life in danger.”

He began playing football at 11 as an offensive lineman, Jason reveals, but his athleticism and hands made him a natural at receiver. Not to mention his competitive nature.

What kind of play does he enjoy most, while trying to beat a defensive back (or backs) in coverage?

“Most times I like to go up top and make them feel like even less of a DB,” Jason says.

The prep star showed off some of those skills this past weekend at the USA Football 7v7 National Championship Series Tournament, in Frisco, Texas. In a highlight video from the event produced by Scout.com, Jason displays his open-field speed and footwork, as well as his ability to out-muscle or out-leap his defender to make a play.

He’s a long way from officially becoming a Jayhawk, but Jason could be a program-altering recruit for Beaty and his staff.

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David Beaty learns less sometimes more for head football coach

Kansas football coach David Beaty offers instructions to his offense, including LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1), during Saturday's game against Iowa State on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016.

Kansas football coach David Beaty offers instructions to his offense, including LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1), during Saturday's game against Iowa State on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. by Mike Yoder

New Oklahoma head football coach Lincoln Riley received advice from, among others, David Beaty on how to make the transition from assistant coach to top dog.

“The phrase I shared with him was these next few days will be like drinking from a fire hose,” Beaty said. “If you’re not careful, you’ll drown. So you do have to go be a normal person. I know you’ve got a lot to do right now, but believe it or not, you’ll be better with less if you’ll go and grant yourself that vacation because the time just won’t be there.”

It’s not the only area where Beaty learned during his first two seasons that less can mean more. He’s also applying that philosophy to his involvement with the offense.

In his first season as head coach, Beaty was very involved in trying to get offensive coordinator Rob Likens to implement his version of the Air Raid offense. It never happened, so Beaty demoted Likens and took over OC and quarterback coaching duties and then also took on coaching the punt return team early in his second season on the job.

Now that veteran OC Doug Meacham is on board, Beaty said his days as a helicopter hovering over the offense have ended.

“One of the positives about bringing Meach here it allows me to do more of the head-coaching stuff rather than having to do both,” Beaty said. “Now, it’s being done throughout the country and it’s being done at a high level. Ideally, though, if you have a guy who knows what you want to do and he knows it as well as he knows it, then that’s ideal. And he just happens to be one of the best in the world at what he does. So it’s a big-time bonus for us.”

Beaty has done a terrific job at promoting the program, developing relationships with key boosters and in general spreading good will, all important facets of a head coach’s job as face of a major rebuilding project.

“My schedule will change a little bit in that I’m not going to hover over him,” Beaty said. “I don’t have to. I mean, Doug Meacham has done it. I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that I know more and am better than Doug. Offensively, his record and the things that he’s done speak for themselves. Why wouldn’t I trust that man?”

Beaty’s not the only Big 12 head coach surrendering play-calling duties this season. Seventh-year West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen won’t be calling plays for the first time. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, back on Holgorsen’s staff for the first time since 2012 when he was quarterbacks coach, takes over that responsibility.

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With Jimmy Butler’s help, Andrew Wiggins could finally reach full defensive potential

FILE — Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Andrew Wiggins, right, looks to a pass as Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler guards during overtime of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Chicago. The Timberwolves acquired Butler via trade this summer and now the two are teammates. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

FILE — Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Andrew Wiggins, right, looks to a pass as Chicago Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler guards during overtime of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Chicago. The Timberwolves acquired Butler via trade this summer and now the two are teammates. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

For all the points he has put up and all the wicked dunks he has thrown down since entering the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Andrew Wiggins still has ample room to grow in terms of the impact he can make for Minnesota.

In his three professional seasons since leaving Kansas, Wiggins’ scoring average has climbed each year, and he produced 23.6 points per game (16th in the league) in 2016-17. However, his 6-foot-8 frame, 7-foot wingspan and elite athletic ability haven’t helped the young wing become the defensive stopper many envisioned.

Wiggins’ new teammate, Jimmy Butler, plans to change that.

During Butler’s appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Wiggins’ reputation came up as Simmons and Butler discussed Minnesota’s roster. The host referenced Wiggins’ below-average defense, as recently detailed at FiveThirtyEight.com.

In a feature titled “The NBA Haters’ Ball,” FiveThirtyEight identified Wiggins as the league’s “Least Defensive Player.” That unwanted label got thrust upon Wiggins after some player-tracking data examined shots defended by individuals during the 2016-17 season and the results of said attempts.

“Possession by possession, there are a few defenders who are as bad as Wiggins,” Kyle Wagner wrote. “When Wiggins contests a shot, opponents have a 56.1 effective field goal percentage; when they are unguarded, they have a 56.4 eFG percentage. Fundamentally, getting a shot up against Andrew Wiggins is the same as getting an open shot.”

According to the evaluation, Wiggins’ liabilities included a lack of full effort and ball-watching.

“He defended the 10th-most shots in the league, by far the most by a below-average defender,” Wagner added at FiveThirtyEight. “Most teams do their best to hide their weak defenders, but opponents seek Wiggins out like no other defender in the league.”

A three-time second-team All-Defensive team selection, Butler expects he can mold Wiggins into a far more competitive and potent player on the defensive end of the court.

“He has all the tools to be a terrific defender, by the way,” Butler said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. “But it’s different when somebody’s just telling you something all the time and somebody’s showing you: This is what playing both sides of the floor can get you.”

When Wiggins joined Minnesota three years ago, he had no savvy multi-time all-star to show him the NBA ropes. The Timberwolves have been somewhere between mediocre and awful throughout their current 13-year playoff drought, but finally appear to have a postseason-worthy roster thanks to the summer additions of Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague, to go with Wiggins and star big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

Minnesota acquired Wiggins with the idea that he would one day become an all-star wing such as Butler. Now the 22-year-old Canadian prodigy has a chance to learn every day from one of the league’s best all-around perimeter players long before entering the prime of his career.

“He is extremely talented on the offensive end,” Butler said of Wiggins. “And I think he’s going to be just that talented on the defensive end, as well, as long as you lock into it. I think he has that will and he wants to be great, so he’s going to want to do it. And I’m excited to get with him, just because I know how passionate he is about the game — his drive and his work ethic and how he wants to win. When you have that as a young guy, you have it. You can’t really teach that; you just have it.”

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David Beaty shares how he talks Kansas football with recruits

Kansas football head coach David Beaty gives the rundown on his incoming players during a Signing Day news conference at Mrkonic Auditorium in the Anderson Family Football Complex.

Kansas football head coach David Beaty gives the rundown on his incoming players during a Signing Day news conference at Mrkonic Auditorium in the Anderson Family Football Complex. by Nick Krug

Asked at Big 12 Media Days to share his recruiting pitch, Kansas head football coach David Beaty called an audible on the question and then answered it.

"Well, there's no pitch, there's a relationship," Beaty said. "There's no cliche there. We're going to get to know you. We're going to make sure that you're a Kansas-type guy. And then we're going to show you everything that's great about this great university. And we're going to start with what it means to be a Jayhawk. We say it all the time: When you sign here and you spend any amount of time here, that bird goes straight through your shirt and right to your heart. And it happens. It happens all the time."

It sounded like a recruiting pitch. Beaty explained why he does not consider it one.

"The thing for us," he said, "we don't pitch anything. We tell you the truth. Whether it's good, bad or indifferent, you're going to get the truth. We don't promise things. There's no, 'You're going to start.' We don't ever say that. You're going to get what you earn. And there is going to be competition. You're only going to be as good as your next, but we're going to push you to be the best man you can possibly be and when you leave here, you're going to be a better man, father, husband, productive member of society. And the byproduct of all of that is going to be championships for you on the field and off. So basically we talk a lot about what it means to be a great Jayhawk. So that's where our relationship starts. And if you don't want that, it's no big deal. You just can't come here."

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David Beaty hopes prep recruits utilize new 3-day December signing period

Kansas head football coach David Beaty listens to a reporter's question during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kansas head football coach David Beaty listens to a reporter's question during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Frisco, Texas — National Signing Day could look significantly different this year for the college football coaches eagerly waiting to see their recruits’ names on official NCAA documentation. Whether that’s a positive or negative, Kansas football coach David Beaty said, remains to be determined.

It used to be prep football talents couldn’t sign with their college programs of choice until February. But the NCAA is introducing this year an earlier option, in late December, lasting just 72 hours.

Asked at Big 12 Media Days about how the new early signing period for high school prospects could change the way Beaty and his staff approach the uber-competitive world of recruiting, the third-year Kansas coach had to take a wait-and-see stance.

“I don’t know that we’ll know the answer to that for a couple years,” Beaty admitted Monday at Ford Center, while speaking with a group of reporters. “I’d like to say that the research we’ve done is going to be accurate, but the truth is when you get major rule changes like that it usually takes a few years for all the things to shake out.”

High school football seniors this winter will have the option of signing with a university between Dec. 20-22 — also the first three days of the mid-year signing period for junior college players. If they don’t make their commitments official then, the prospects still can do so on Feb. 7, 2018.

“One of the most interesting things for me,” Beaty said, “is when kids are committed and that first period comes around how many of them actually sign and how many don’t, because if they don’t sign then, they’re not committed.”

KU’s 2018 recruiting class has the potential to be the most significant in program history, thanks to the non-binding verbal commitments Beaty and his staff already have received from five-star New Orleans receiver Devonta Jason and his Landry-Walker High teammate, four-star cornerback Corione Harris.

Jason has stated in previous interviews he is on pace to graduate high school early and enroll at the university of his choice for the 2018 spring semester to get a head start on his college football preparation. So Beaty and associate head coach Tony Hull, who recruited the first five-star commit in program history, might have known Jason’s status by December even if the new signing period had not been implemented. But the recruiting rule change still holds importance for the rest of KU’s targets. Beaty indicated he would like to get as much of the 2018 signing class officially on board as soon as possible.

“Now, they still may sign on that second one,” the coach added, referencing the later February date. “But if there’s a paper available and they don’t sign it, that’ll be very interesting for me to see how many kids actually open their recruiting back up at that point, which I think that there will be some.”

As of Tuesday, Rivals ranked KU’s 2018 class 28th in the nation, thanks to the presence of Jason and Harris. The Jayhawks’ list of commitments currently stands at 13 players, nine of whom have been assessed a three-star ranking.

An oral commitment from a recruit never has provided college coaches with much certainty. Beaty said those in his profession will keep refining their sales pitches and doing all they can to get players signed. Three days in December now provide them with a new wrinkle in those endeavors.

“But for the most part if you do the studies and you look at basically signing trends, the majority of the kids still sign with the guys that they’re committed to and they don’t switch very often,” Beaty added. “I think (switching is) becoming a little more prevalent, but I think that’s where it comes down to coaches and their talent, in terms of how well they continue to recruit. Because make no mistake it’s not done with them there (when players commit).”

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Kansas coach David Beaty expecting big sophomore season from safety 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

Frisco, Texas — Kansas sophomore safety Mike Lee not only made the biggest play of the 2016 season for Kansas, a game-clinching interception in overtime in the 24-21 victory against Texas, he also was chosen by the coaching staff as defensive player of the week against Oklahoma and Iowa State. Rivals included him on its freshman All-American team. And if a national award had been handed out for hardest hit on a teammate during a spring football game, he would have been runaway winner for tagging receiver Ryan Schadler.

All that becomes more impressive considering Lee graduated high school a year early to start his college career and was playing mostly on instinct, according to Kansas coach David Beaty, who shared at Big 12 Media Day just how raw Lee was last year.

“Mike Lee returning is a big deal. He’s already so much better a player. Not fair to play a freshman," Beaty said at Big 12 Media Day. "Sometimes it’s just not fair. This kid made so many plays for us last year, and for the first half of the season all he knew was he better find Tevin Shaw. It was basically, 'If you can find Tevin, just go where he is and then we’ll teach you a few more things and let you just go use your ability.' Well, now he actually knows the calls. I mean, if you can be that good only finding Tevin . . . that’s what we’re excited about, that some of those youthful players have experience.”

Junior Tyrone Miller, projected starter at the other safety, impressed coaches with a strong spring, as did reserve Bryce Torneden.

Beaty, who went 2-22 in his first two seasons, isn't running from higher expectations for his team. He used Lee as an example of how he thinks KU has improved.

“We have people who have experience and have done it on the Big 12 level and played against the best the Big 12 has to offer," Beaty said. "Now they have experience. We can’t use that as an excuse not to be successful.”

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KU Sports Extra: KU football players look up to size

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Behind the scenes with KU football players at Big 12 media days

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KU Sports Extra: Time to meet Big 12 football coaches

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Teammates, opponents break down Dorance Armstrong’s strengths on the defensive line

Kansas football players weren't surprised when junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. was recently named the Big 12's preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

The Jayhawks, and opponents across the conference, saw Armstrong's ability to disrupt plays throughout the 2016 season and they expect him to only improve this fall.

"First of all, his work ethic is crazy," KU linebacker Joe Dineen said. "Nothing he's got is just because it fell in his lap. He's worked for everything that he has gotten. But he's got speed, strength, all of the moves you need. He's legit D-end and he's going to find himself in NFL one day getting paid to do that."

Armstrong finished his sophomore season with 10 sacks, the most by a KU player since 2008, and 79 total tackles. He was one of three unanimous preseason all-Big 12 selections, and the only unanimous choice on the defense.

"He's got really long arms, really good size," said Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown, a unanimous preseason all-Big 12 pick. "His first step is really good. He's a guy in college that you very rarely see."

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Doug Meacham addition to Kansas coaching staff brings credibility in Big 12 country

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

Frisco, Texas — If Big 12 Media Day questions are good indicators, then the hiring of offensive coordinator Doug Meacham rates as the most significant offseason addition to the Kansas football program.

David Beaty's rebuilding project picked up credibility with the addition of Meacham and Beaty was more than happy to talk about the impact the former TCU co-offensive coordinator already has made.

“This game of football, it’s tough on these guys, a day-to-day grind for these guys. It’s a lot more than what a lot of people know. It’s very difficult," Beaty said. "I just believe you’ve got to have a little fun throughout that process. Doug has done such a great job of making sure that we have fun every day. He’s a guy who is infectious, and you just want to be around him. He’s one of those people. I love the fact that our kids want to be around him because it’s not always that you have coaches that they want to be around. They may be there, but they don’t want to be around him. They love being around Doug Meacham because he is so much fun and he’s really good at what he’s done.”

Now that they're on the same side, Beaty's getting a better look at the Air Raid wrinkles Meacham puts on the offense.

"Watching him put his spin on this Air Raid offense has been so much fun,” Beaty said. “It’s going to be really fun watching him put his personality into it. The concepts are all pretty similar, but like all of the guys who live in this offense, everyone has their own little personality and twist on it. It’s been fun watching him instill that. We’ve had some position moves. We’ve had guys move to new spots that I wouldn’t have thought to do that.”

Beaty cited Ryan Schadler’s move from running back to receiver as an example.

“Doug has done so many things to really focus on the individual skill sets of each player, to really utilize them correctly," Beaty said. "It’s been really fun to watch, and it’s just been fun to really just kind of be around him and to just soak up the knowledge that he’s brought to the room.”

Meacham and Sonny Cumbie shared the co-offensive coordinator title at TCU and Cumbie's role in play-calling was going to expand at the expense of Meacham before Meacham's move to Kansas.

Patterson was asked what impact he thought Cumbie calling the plays is going to have.

"Not much," Patterson said. "I mean, Sonny's been part of, you know, our offense, the way we do it, it's everybody's all in as far as the ideas and how we do things. So I don't see that. I think what we have to be able to do is we have to do what we need to do to move the football."

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David Beaty outlines long process it will take to turn KU football into a winning program

Kansas head coach David Beaty takes his seat before speaking to reporters during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Kansas head coach David Beaty takes his seat before speaking to reporters during the Big 12 NCAA college football media day in Frisco, Texas, Monday, July 17, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Frisco, Texas — David Beaty didn’t accept the head football coaching job at the University of Kansas to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings every year. But Beaty made it clear Monday morning at the Ford Center, during the conference’s annual media days, he understands the program has quite a way to go before it’s humming along in the manner he envisions.

In Beaty’s first two seasons, KU has gone 2-22. It’s a difficult to convince people the program is on a successful path without the tangible evidence of victories. Asked during his press conference how he and his staff judge success and what benchmarks they try to hit season to season, Beaty laid out his philosophy on slowly building toward an on-field product in which the fan base can take some pride.

“Before we look at the benchmarks we’ve got to look at how we’re going to get there,” Beaty began. “And the benchmarks are not going to be any different, really, for us than they are for other programs.”

As far as Beaty is concerned, Kansas should have some big-picture goals that aren’t necessarily immediately attainable.

“We want to win championships. We want to play in bowl games,” the third-year KU coach said. “We want to produce productive men, who are good for our society — and that is what is going to cause the byproduct of winning championships.”

That’s the most challenging part of Beaty’s massive reclamation project. He and his staff have to notice and take pride in the small gains made behind the scenes, with the idea that those will one day pay off in the form of wins in front of fans at Memorial Stadium. And they have to help the players value those baby steps.

“We say it at all the time. We talk to our kids daily about every day we need you to wake up and be the best man you can possibly be, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed,” Beaty said. “And the byproduct of that day will be something you, we, our program can all be proud of — and it will be called production.”

The message Beaty hammered throughout his Q&A was no different from what he has said since taking over. He hit some of his favorite talking points, including the phrase: It’s a process; not an event. The always-positive coach said players and staff have to get wrapped up in that concept.

“Our championship hopes and dreams are going to hinge on us continuing to understand that it will be a byproduct of the work and what it means to be a good man every day, because that really encompasses what it means to be committed to a program and doing the things necessary to win championships,” Beaty said. “People want to talk about championships. Not a lot of people want to do what it takes to get one.”

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A look inside of a KU basketball summer practice

Preparing to play four exhibition games in Italy next month, the Kansas men's basketball team is conducting two practices per week.

With several newcomers, the practices are an early opportunity for the Jayhawks to learn how to play alongside each other.

"I'm not saying this is going to help us win one more game," Kansas coach Bill Self said, "but you would think if you do something in the summer, you should be probably a week or two ahead when games start in November. But that's probably about the extent of this.”

The Jayhawks are allowed 10 practices ahead of their trip to Italy.

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Gary Woodland looking to regain early season form in time for British Open

Gary Woodland watches his tee shot on the second hole of the South Course during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Gary Woodland watches his tee shot on the second hole of the South Course during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Gary Woodland heads across the pond Saturday and will arrive in England on Sunday, early enough to get adjusted to the time change and log a few days of work with instructor Butch Harmon.

After taking a break for the birth of his and wife Gabby’s son Jaxon, Woodland returned to competition last weekend and encountered mixed results at the Greenbrier Classic.

He did his best work on the back nine of the second round. Standing a few strokes on the wrong side of the projected cut line with seven holes left, Woodland caught fire, carding birdies on three of the next four holes, then making par the rest of the way in to survive the cut.

He finished 57th at 1-under par and has been trying to regain the form he showed early in the 2016-17 season, when he placed in the top six in 4 of 7 events from early Nov. to late February.

“I was feeling as good as I’ve ever felt on the golf course, just excited to play,” Woodland said during a recent interview at Twin Oaks in Eudora. “And that happens when you play well. When you see shots, and you see certain golf courses that usually aren’t set up great for you and you just get out there and feel like this golf course is made for you, that’s the feeling you want every week, trying to make every course your home course.”

He’ll try to make Royal Birkdale Golf Club in North West England his home course next week in the British Open, even though he never has played it.

“I hear it’s great,” Woodland said. “I hear from talking to Butch that it’s a great golf course for me. He’s obviously been there numerous times. I’m excited to get over there and get some work in.”

Woodland never has been one to be shy about working on his golf game. Golfers at Eagle Bend last month had to pinch themselves to make sure they weren’t dreaming when they saw the man who currently ranks 26th on the PGA money list hitting shot after shot out of the tallest fescue he could find in preparation for the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.

Woodland talked about what he has been working on lately.

“We’ve really got the golf swing right, so we’re trying to focus on driver, focus on timing, trying to get rid of some of that lag that I’ve had for so long, trying to slow that down a little to drive the ball straighter, drive the golf ball in play so I can hit more drivers,” Woodland said.

Armed with one of the fastest swing speeds in the world, driving it straight is a tough task because the slightest glitch exaggerates his misses.

“Obviously, when I’m driving it in play I’m playing a game that a lot of guys aren’t playing,” he said. “You’ve seen it with Dustin Johnson the last two years. He focused on driver for a long time. Now he’s one of the best drivers we’ve seen."

Johnson is tied with Brandon Hagy and Luke List for first on tour with an average driving distance of 312.1 yards. Woodland ranks 18th with an average drive of 304.5 yards.

The straighter Woodland can hit his driver, the more wedges that puts in his hands for second shots. Woodland’s wedge game has come a long, long way.

“That’s been a huge emphasis,” he said. “We ended up buying a Trac Man so I could work on distances. The whole deal is distances, distance control. So I’ve hit more wedges this year than I ever have. I can tell when I don’t do it for a week (during his break as a new dad).”

His improvement in wedge play has been easy to spot.

“We’re amazed now in how good my misses have been,” Woodland said. “Obviously, every time I hit one well I can get it close, but my misses now are giving me a chance to still make putts and still make birdies.”

As a putter, Woodland has gone through hot streaks and cold ones. Based on the shooting touch on display on Youtube from his high school basketball days, Woodland has the touch to become a terrific putter — the skills are related, regardless of what anyone might tell you — it’s just a matter of finding the right key to getting that touch to bubble to the surface the way he did when he won the Transitions in 2011.

Woodland said he plans to pick the brain of Harmon and veterans in the field about the nuances of Royal Birkdale.

As Brooks Koepka showed in the U.S. Open, when a big hitter drives them straight and gets hot with the putter, look out! Watching Koepka destroy the field in the U.S. Open reminded me of watching Woodland when he’s on top of his game.

“Very similar,” Woodland agreed. “We both hit it a long way. When we putt well we seem to play well. We both like to play aggressive. When he gets in grooves like he is right now he’s obviously playing some good golf. You could see it coming. He played well a couple of weeks before that as well. It’s all confidence out here. We can all play. Once you get that confidence rolling, you’re pretty hard to beat.”

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Kansas primed for three football victories

Kansas head coach David Beaty gets a hug from Kansas volleyball head coach Ray Bechard following the Jayhawks' 24-21 overtime upset of Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. Saturday's victory was Beaty's first Big 12 coaching win. Bechard's volleyball team clinched a share of the Big 12 conference title with a win against Iowa State earlier in the day.

Kansas head coach David Beaty gets a hug from Kansas volleyball head coach Ray Bechard following the Jayhawks' 24-21 overtime upset of Texas on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. Saturday's victory was Beaty's first Big 12 coaching win. Bechard's volleyball team clinched a share of the Big 12 conference title with a win against Iowa State earlier in the day. by Nick Krug

Once Las Vegas sets a line on “college football win totals” for those wishing to wage a guess as to how many games a particular college football team will win in a given season: Guess the over, guess the under, abstain.

In 2015, I advised guessing the under when Las Vegas set KU’s total at 1.5 and the Jayhawks went 0-12. In 2016, I advised abstaining when Vegas kept the total at 1.5. The come-from-behind, upset victory against Texas sent the “over” guessers home winners, giving me a 1-0-1 mark in two seasons of guessing.

Vegas has set the number at 2.5 for Kansas. Take the over, even against an extremely difficult schedule. The beauty of such a guess is that you don’t have to correctly pick which games, just the total.

The season-opener against Southeast Missouri State should not be in question. The Redhawks went 3-8 last season, their only victories coming against Murray State, Eastern Illinois and Austin Peay. Although SEMO remained competitive in every game, its biggest margin of defeat coming at the hands of Memphis, 35-17, in Week 1, KU should be beyond stumbling against a so-so FCS foe.

Week 2, provides the next-best chance at a victory. Central Michigan must replace Cooper Rush, a four-year starter at quarterback. Michigan transfer Shane Morris is a candidate for the job.

The Chippewas won’t lack confidence against Kansas in Lawrence, having defeated Oklahoma State, 30-27, in Stillwater last season and riding a two-year streak of making it to bowl games.

Even so, Kansas should be a slight favorite, maybe as much as a field goal, if impressive enough against SEMO.

Finding a third victory on the schedule is where it gets a little sticky. Then again, a year ago not many would have picked Kansas to score its first victory against Texas since 1938.

Week 3, a road game against Ohio, offers a decent shot at victory, but I’ll skip to Week 4 in guessing at the opponent for the third victory: Texas Tech.

Nic Shimonek threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns on a night Patrick Mahomes also threw for four touchdowns against the Kansas defense and Shimonek will have a whole game to see what he can do against the Jayhawks in Lawrence, a scary proposition.

Kansas didn’t have what it took to get into a shootout with the Red Raiders last season and punted on its first six possessions against a defense most of the rest of the Big 12 shredded.

KU has more playmakers and Tech's defense won't be any better, maybe even a little worse.

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Bill Self talks about summer practices, upcoming trip to Italy

After two summer practices in preparation for the team's exhibition games in Italy, Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self gave an update on the team's progress.

Off of the court, he's seen senior point guard Devonte Graham take the top leadership role and he believes the summer practices help set a tone for younger players entering the program.

"This is Devonte's team," Self said. "We want other guys to be leaders and all those things, but everyone is going to look to Devonte."

Self said he plans to play everyone during the exhibition games in Italy in August, but will likely play eligible players together and transfers together.

Despite losing national player of the year Frank Mason III, star freshman Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas, Self believes the Jayhawks have the pieces for another strong season.

"Udoka being healthy, Billy Preston is a talent, Devonte and Malik together is a little different than Frank and Devonte, but still I think there's a chance this team could be pretty good," he said.

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Malik Newman discusses lessons learned from Mason, Graham in redshirt season

Expected to become one of the team's leading scorers in the upcoming season, Kansas sophomore guard Malik Newman did his best to learn from his teammates last year.

That included picking up things from national player of the year Frank Mason III and returning senior Devonte Graham during practices. As a transfer from Mississippi State, Newman was ineligible to play last year.

"Just being able to control the pace of the game; toughness," Newman said. "Just the leadership that those guys brought and the respect that they had."

In addition to what he learned, he spent extra time working on his ball handling. He had a chance to bring the ball up the court in various scrimmages last month, and plans to help Graham at point guard when the team plays in Italy in August.

"I always play with the ball in my hand and I've always been comfortable with it," Newman said. "But I think last year I took a bigger step as far as playing with the ball in my hands."

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Big passing numbers follow Kansas OC Doug Meacham everywhere he goes

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

Doug Meacham comes to Kansas after spending the past four seasons with the title co-offensive coordinator. He spent 2013 at Houston and the next three seasons at TCU.

During that four-year stretch, the offenses with which he worked never finished worst than 29th in the nation in passing.

True, an offensive coordinator is only as good as his quarterback, receivers, offensive line and running backs and Meacham worked with some good ones.

At Houston, true freshman John O'Korn was his quarterback for most of the season. The Cougars finished 26th in the nation with 280.5 yards per game, threw 30 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. The next season, when Meacham was at TCU, O'Korn was replaced as starter in midseason and transferred to Michigan. His performance wasn't as good once Meacham left.

In 2014, Trevone Boykin became one of the nation's most improved players and TCU finished seventh in the nation in passing offense (326.2 yards per game) and the Horned Frogs threw for 37 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. More of the same in 2015 with Boykin at the controls (eighth in nation, 347.5 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, 15 interceptions).

Last season, the Horned Frogs slipped to 29th (268.2, 18 TDs, 14 picks) with Kenny Hill at quarterback.

Neither Peyton Bender nor Carter Stanley is Trevone Boykin, but the winner of the KU QB competition might be better than Hill.

The Meacham acquisition was a big one and it will start paying off immediately for a Kansas offense that has been embarrassingly bad for several seasons in a row.

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Dedric Lawson looking forward to pushing teammates in practice, trip to Italy

Kansas junior forward Dedric Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, isn't eligible to play during the upcoming 2017-18 season, but he has plenty of motivation to bring his best to practice each day.

Lawson is one of three KU transfers — along with his brother KJ Lawson and point guard Charlie Moore — who will sit out all of next year because of the NCAA transfer rule.

"You have to push the players that are playing this year," Lawson said Tuesday before the team conducted one of its practices in preparation for exhibition games in Italy. "That's what me, my brother and the other guys, like Charlie Moore, we've been doing. Just competing with them, making them guys get better every day. Just giving them a better look."

Last year, the 6-foot-9, 230-pound Lawson averaged 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds during his sophomore season at Memphis.

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Self comments on not resuming rivalry games against Missouri

Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self responded to comments from Missouri's ex-chancellor R. Bowen Loftin on Tuesday, which cited Self as the main reason for the lack of Border War rivalry games.

"I'm shocked that he would think I would be involved in a football negotiating deal to try to play a game in Arrowhead," Self said. "He may have got me confused with the football coach."

The Border War, once known as the longest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi River, ended in 2012 when Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.

"I still feel the same way that I have," Self said. "Nothing has changed in my regard. I'm sure there will be a time where Kansas and Missouri play again. I don't know when that time will be."

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