Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas”

Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 8, QB Carter Stanley

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley (9) throws during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.

It’s unclear at this juncture just how much Carter Stanley will be called upon this coming season within new coordinator Doug Meacham’s offense. But we know he’s going to play — either as a backup to Peyton Bender or a starter.

The great news for David Beaty is that Stanley, even if he ends up No. 2 on the depth chart, qualifies as a better option than anyone the head coach put on the field at QB in Week 1 of 2015 or 2016.

Stanley began his redshirt freshman season as a third-stringer, but progressed enough behind the scenes to develop into a starter for KU’s final three games, and in those contests the Jayhawks beat Texas in overtime and looked far more competent and competitive than they had most of the season.

In his three starts, Stanley completed 71 of 124 passes (57.3 percent) for 693 yards, with three touchdowns and four interceptions, but he showed toughness and leadership, as well as flashes of his ability to extend plays with his feet.

That characteristic, more than anything else, tends to be the first thing referenced in KU’s QB debate when it comes to differences between Stanley and Bender.

A 6-foot-2 redshirt sophomore from Vero Beach, Fla., Stanley said the longer he’s been at KU the more comfortable he has become in making plays on the move.

via GIPHY

“I think that’s something I’ve always had as part of my game. In high school I think I was able to stay in the pocket a little bit more,” Stanley said. “I think I’ve been able to add skills to my game when I roll out since I’ve been here at KU. The coaches do a great job. We do a scramble drill at least once a week in practice. So the receivers know where to go when the quarterbacks do roll out of the pocket. I definitely think under these coaches I’ve been able to grow in that aspect.”

So is Stanley better throwing on the run, or just tucking the ball and taking off for a first down and/or a chunk-yardage play?

“I think both are there just because the coaches, they teach us about making calculating decisions and making the right decision,” Stanley said. “We’ll watch that on film sometimes and just make sure you make the right decision.”

As Beaty will tell you, most teams need to have two quarterbacks, because staying healthy for all 12 games is no guarantee. So even if Stanley doesn’t end up entering the season as a starter, he will likely still have a significant impact.

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

16 - Derrick Neal

15 - Khalil Herbert

14 - Charles Baldwin

13 - Shakial Taylor

12 - Chase Harrell

11 - Joe Dineen

10 - Hasan Defense

9 - Mesa Ribordy

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KU linebackers bigger, faster than in 2016

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

Beyond Joe Dineen and Keith Loneker, Kansas doesn’t have a great deal of experience at linebacker, but linebackers coach Todd Bradford expressed optimism about improving depth at the position.

“We’re more athletic than we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Bradford said. “That’s been an emphasis of ours in recruiting as well as down in the weight room with coach (Zac) Woodfin and all the things we’re doing because of the league we play in.”

The position needed to become more than just faster.

“We’re also packing a little bit more weight than we played with last year,” Bradford said. “We say that we’re in a league that is spread out and going all over the place, but there still are a few teams that are going to try to pound it down your throat. They might do it out of spread-out formation and going fast, but we needed to carry that weight into the season, too, which we’ve been able to do through camp as well because guys have been able to hold their weight they put on over the summer time. So I think we’re getting better and we’ve improved in both speed and size.”

The five linebackers in line for the most snaps, listed in order of their weight, from lightest to heaviest: true freshman Kyron Johnson (210 pounds), redshirt freshman Dru Prox (215), junior Osaze Ogbebor (220), junior Keith Loneker (225) and junior Joe Dineen (230).

Ogbebor and Loneker are in a battle for the starting linebacker spot opposite Dineen in KU's 4-2-5 base defense.

Bradford explained how the extra weight will help Dineen.

“The one thing that he can’t do at linebacker is this league gets you in a tendency to be running sideways and just kind of putting your hands on blocks and that’s the whole thing that they want you to do is just be running sideways,” Bradford said. “We need to be able to come downhill and punch those blocks and stop the line of scrimmage from going sideways so the ball has to change direction, and then we can put guys in gaps to make tackles. Joe has really worked hard at that and is getting better every day.”

Dineen is big, fast and experienced, so Bradord demands a lot out of him on a daily basis.

“I think the one thing Joe has really worked hard on and I’ve put a lot of pressure on is making plays. Don’t just fit the play right, that’s not the point of football,” Bradford said. “The point of football is tackling the guy with the ball. Don’t just fit the play right.”

Dineen is responding to that instruction, according to his position coach.

“The last few scrimmages he’s been involved in a lot more plays,” Bradford said. “The very first play of (Friday’s) scrimmage he made a tackle for a loss. Those are the things we need him to do. He’s big and fast and kids depend on him from a leadership standpoint. And it’s always better if your leader is getting guys on the ground a lot.”

Bradford cited Ogbebor as a linebacker who “has had a really good camp. His strength, his summer work, has been good. I’d still like to see him put on some more weight, but he’s been able to be more physical at the point of attack.”

Bradford said he also has seen stronger play from Prox and Loneker.

“Both of those guys have had good summers where they’re able to knock guys back,” Bradford said. “Prox runs very well. He’ll make a lot of plays for us.”

Among KU's linebackers, Johnson has the most speed.

“He’s a really great athlete, probably one of the fastest guys on our defense. He can really, really run,” Bradford said.

As with any true freshman, getting Johnson to run to the right spot remains a challenge. Johnson graduated high school early to enroll at the semester and participate in spring football.

“He’s good enough to play. He’s physical enough to play. We need to get him ready to play,” Bradford said. “We need to do whatever we have to do to get him ready to play.”

Spring football helps a player new to college football, but it doesn’t make him a sophomore, Bradford said.

“When you have them here for spring of their high school year you stop treating them like freshmen for fall camp, but really he’s a freshman," Bradford said. "He’s never seen anything like this for fall camp, so you have to kind of catch yourself. He’s not a wily veteran. This is what, his 25th practice of college football in his life? He’s made some good strides and I think he’ll be ready to go by the time it’s time for us to put him in.”

Junior Denzel Feaster gained enough playing time during the Big 12 portion of the schedule last season to make eight tackles, force a fumble and recover one, but has missed time because of injuries during fall camp.

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Kansas football top 25 difference-makers: No. 9, Mesa Ribordy

Kansas offensive lineman Mesa Ribordy moves to block a defender during practice on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at the practice fields west of Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas offensive lineman Mesa Ribordy moves to block a defender during practice on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at the practice fields west of Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Big 12 offensive linemen who start for four years in the Big 12, rare though they are, do exist. They tend to leave high school weighing 300 pounds with four or five stars next to their names and a special place on a wall of fame at perennial Texas high school football powerhouse.

They tend not to come as walk-ons from Kansas 4-A schools with a 3-6 record. The story of Kansas starting center Mesa Ribordy, a 245-pound tight end as a senior in high school, is as atypical as it is inspiring.

If he can stay healthy for the rest of his career — always a consideration for any college football player — he will leave Kansas as a four-year starter and as a model of the importance of building a strong walk-on program. He earned a scholarship after his redshirt season.

Gene Wier, the football program’s director of high school relations, identified Ribordy as a player worth recruiting and Clint Bowen visited him at Louisburg High to seal the deal.

Ribordy, in his third year in the program, and left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, are not only KU’s most talented offensive linemen and have three seasons of eligibility remaining, they also happen to be coaches’ dreams.

“Hakeem wants to be the best O-linemen and he lives his life like that,” offensive line coach Zach Yenser said. “But it doesn’t take away from what he does on academics either. I have a couple of guys like that. Mesa’s the same way. Mesa’s a bright kid. Mesa’s changed his body. This is Mesa’s third year of ever playing offensive line in his whole life. I think he has an opportunity to be a really good one, too.”

Ribordy was listed at 270 during his redshirt season, at 290 last season, and at 305 this season.

More than just added muscle mass fuels Ribordy’s confidence.

“The biggest move that I think (strength) coach (Zach) Woodfin has brought is that he really focuses a lot more on our flexibility,” Ribordy said. “I think that’s going to help me a lot with my speed and flexibitly on the field and what I can do with my body as far as in space and making those key blocks on secondary players.”

Third-year sophomore Hunter Saulsbury, who spent his first two seasons as a walk-on before earning a scholarship, and Jacob Bragg, a fourth-year junior, provide depth at the position.

"I learned my lesson at Cal, only having two centers, having both of them go down and having to train guys to snap," KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser said.

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Maciah Long dismissed from Kansas football program

Kansas defensive end Maciah Long hits a pad as he runs through a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas defensive end Maciah Long hits a pad as he runs through a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Sophomore defensive end Maciah Long was dismissed from the program Monday morning, the announcement coming in a KU Athletics news release a little more than 15 hours after he was arrested in Lawrence shortly before 8 p.m.

Long was being held without bond on charges of possession of marijuana, criminal damage to property and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, per Journal-World reporter Sarah Shepherd’s story.

The news release sent out by KU Athletics attributed the dismissal to “a violation of team rules.”

Long was recruited to Kansas from Houston as a linebacker after playing quarterback in high school. He quickly was moved to offense, where he worked out at tight end and fullback and even appeared as a quarterback in the wildcat formation.

Long appeared to find a home in spring football as a defensive end who was being groomed to to play a role similar to the one filled last season by Cameron Rosser, who was a pass-rush specialist.

In high school, Long led North Shore High to a Texas Class 6A state title as a senior and was named Offensive MVP of the state title game.

Long is the second player dismissed in recent weeks, joining wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez.

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Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 10, CB Hasan Defense

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense backpedals while covering cornerback Antonio Cole during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense backpedals while covering cornerback Antonio Cole during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.

Every February on National Signing Day, Kansas football coach David Beaty likes to play a little game with his assistants after all those letters of intent become official, and ask them who they think the “dark horse” of the class will turn out to be.

In 2017, when Beaty conducted his survey on the matter, the name that popped up most often belonged to cornerback Hasan Defense.

A Jacksonville, Fla., native who spent his first college football season at the juco level, with Kilgore College (Texas), Defense wasn’t a highly touted high school recruit, but if he produces the way KU coaches think he has the potential to, the 5-foot-11 corner might end up being the most important newcomer on the roster this fall.

Cornerback qualified as the position with the biggest questions heading into the offseason, because KU wasn’t returning anyone of note at the spot. The sophomore with an appropriate last name, Defense enrolled at Kansas in the spring semester, and soon began showing some of the skills that have him in position to start in his Kansas debut.

“This guy's a talented dude,” Beaty said. “We hope that great things are in store for him, and I know he's going to compete like crazy.”

After going through spring ball and offseason training, Defense became one of the players to stand out in the secondary during preseason camp practices, according to defensive coordinator Clint Bowen.

Ask KU’s top returning receiver, Steven Sims Jr., though, and he’ll tell you Defense began making his case to coaches during spring practices. The Jayhawks’ receiving corps might possess the deepest pool of talent on the roster in 2017, so cornerbacks had to step up or be embarrassed by the likes of Sims, Daylon Charlot, Chase Harrell, Ryan Schadler, Kerr Johnson Jr., Jeremiah Booker and others.

“It helps them,” Sims said. “Coach (Kenny) Perry always tells us that we’re making them better and they’re making us better. So it’s just, you get a lot of different type of corners. Hasan’s kind of a bigger corner. He’s more physical than some of the other guys.”

According to Charlot, the former Alabama wideout, Defense was the defensive back who gave him the most trouble throughout offseason practices and workouts.

“He makes me work every play,” Charlot said, echoing Sims’ assessment that Defense plays the position with a physical edge. “I make him work, too. … Whenever we’re about to run a route, he knows he has to be on his A-game or Coach Perry’s going to chew him out.”

Defense doesn’t get to take any reps off at practices, and it could help him become a consistent producer in KU’s secondary in his first season with the Jayhawks.

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

16 - Derrick Neal

15 - Khalil Herbert

14 - Charles Baldwin

13 - Shakial Taylor

12 - Chase Harrell

11 - Joe Dineen

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Jayhawks reveal biggest players and plays after Friday scrimmage

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley gives a flying bump to running back Kendall Morris, obscured, as the Jayhawks gear up for practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas quarterback Carter Stanley gives a flying bump to running back Kendall Morris, obscured, as the Jayhawks gear up for practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

When David Beaty leaves a preseason practice, it’s difficult for the upbeat Kansas football coach to limit the best plays he saw to one or two.

So when asked Friday morning following the Jayhawks’ scrimmage what stood out on both sides of the Ball, Beaty proceeded to identify more than a dozen players who pleased him with their contributions.

Beaty said KU emphasized a lot of situational work during the morning session, and highlighted the following athletes as standouts from his perspective.

Travis Jordan, fr. WR: “Stuck out to me a lot. He had several targets that came at him and he had some health issues early in camp, and he’s coming back off that and he made several plays today, which were really nice plays — required strong hands and powerful attempts at the ball with guys hanging all over him. That was impressive.”

J.J. Holmes, jr. DT: “Made a couple really nice plays in there today.”

KU’s defense as a whole: “We were down on the goal line a few times today, and watching Joe Dineen, Mike Lee, Osaze Ogbebor, (Keith) Loneker … Daniel Wise made a couple great plays today. Those guys up front, it seems like the tighter we got down the better they played.”

Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor watches from the sidelines during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas cornerback Shakial Taylor watches from the sidelines during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

KU’s secondary: “Defensively, we’ve got to get more turnovers. But Shak Taylor still continues to show out to me, and Tyrone Miller was running around knocking people out today. Enjoyed watching him play.”

Taylor Martin, jr. RB: “Has played really well over the last week-and-a-half. He’s been explosive. He had a couple of unbelievable runs today. Another one in that stable of backs that really is doing a good job for us.”

KU quarterbacks: “I thought all three quarterbacks played pretty good today, made good decisions. We’ve had one interception in the last three scrimmages, and it was by a brand-new guy. It wasn’t by Peyton (Bender) or Carter (Stanley). So they’re taking care of the ball, which is something (offensive coordinator Doug Meacham) has done a great job of stressing.”

Kansas receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. pulls in a catch during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. pulls in a catch during practice on Friday, Aug. 18, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Kerr Johnson Jr., jr. WR: “Everything gets quiet and the next thing you know he’s making a play.”

Quan Hampton, fr. WR: “Just the little Mighty Mouse. Number six, Quan Hampton. That dude is fast,” Beaty said, mid-chuckle, “as all get-out. He is quick and he is strong. I saw him stiff-arm somebody — I’m not going to mention him, because they’ll wear him out over it. But that little dude is strong. He is really fun to watch, man. I’m excited to see what Coach Meacham does with that guy.”

Steven Sims Jr., jr. WR: “Another one. Really good, talented guy.”

Dom Williams, fr. RB: “Man, he had a couple of really good runs today. He’s hard to tackle now. … It was early in the scrimmage and I basically put a big challenge in front of our defense about, ‘Are you gonna be able to get this guy down? Really. I mean, he’s a freshman. Can you get him down?’ And they hit him later,” Beaty said, with a laugh. “They got him one good time, knocked the breath out of him. But that dude, he can run.”

Players’ scrimmage perspective

After Beaty spoke, a few KU players offered their thoughts on the most memorable plays from the morning’s scrimmage.

Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr. DE

“The big stops in the red zone,” the Big 12’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year said. “The offense was at the five-yard line or closer and then we would come out with two or three stops like that. I think that was the most impressive thing.”

As Beaty alluded to, Armstrong thinks the defense has a tendency to respond when the players’ backs are against the wall.

“I think that’s how we’ve been for a while,” Armstrong added. “We need it to be like that every down — not just in the red zone. I like how we’ve come together. We’re like a brick wall, nothing gets through us.”

Peyton Bender, jr. QB

“There was a third down in the red zone where we just had four verticals called,” Bender shared, “and we converted that. That kind of stood out to me that everyone was dialed in, and it was good converting on third.”

On the vertical, Bender hit redshirt sophomore Chase Harrell, listed at 6-foot-4.

“It was Cover-2 and he got a good release,” Bender said. “Hit him at about the three-yard line and he just kind of reached out his arm and got it in.”

According to the junior transfer QB, Meacham called more rushing plays than usual Friday morning, to involve running backs.

“Taylor (Martin) had a really nice run on an inside zone that he took for probably 45 or 50 yards,” Bender revealed. “So I’d say out of all the plays those two kind of stood out to me.”

Carter Stanley, soph. QB

“I haven’t watched the film yet so I can’t think of one in particular, but we had some great situations,” Stanley began. “We had our first four-minute situation of camp today, which is when the offense is up and you’re just trying to run out the clock at that point and win the game.”

In that period, Stanley said he was encouraged by the consistency of the offensive linemen in front of him.

“I don’t think we had any busts up front,” the QB explained. “We ran the ball and we converted on third down, which is nice. Got the ball out to Bobby Hartzog for some first downs, so that extended the drive.”

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Kansas football top 25 difference-makers: No. 11, LB Joe Dineen

A newly-mustachioed Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen laughs with his teammates during practice on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at the practice fields west of Hoglund Ballpark.

A newly-mustachioed Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen laughs with his teammates during practice on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at the practice fields west of Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Kansas junior linebacker Joe Dineen knows enough football that the quantity of tackles a player makes isn’t always as important as the quality. He has identified making more stops closer to the line of scrimmage and in the backfield one of his main goals heading into his junior season.

As much as he loves to be on the field, he also knows it’s not the quantity of plays for him that will be as important as the quality. To that end, Dineen said he thinks the team’s improved depth at linebacker will help him to stay fresh enough to be at his best.

“Toward the end of my sophomore year I was playing full games and I liked it because you can get in a rhythm,” Dineen said. “But you really do get exhausted going against teams that go fast, fast, fast. It just happens. Sometimes, the offense goes three and out and you have to go right back on the field and you don’t get that break. That’s why depth in the Big 12 is one of the most important things.”

Dineen is convinced the Jayhawks have it at linebacker, even if most of the players there lack significant experience.

“We have a ton of (linebacker) depth,” Dineen said. “Denzel (Feaster), Keith (Loneker), Osaze (Ogbebor), Dru Prox. And Kyron Johnson, he goes to be good for us.”

A true freshman, Johnson participated in spring practice and exhibited impressive agility and speed.

“He’s going to be good for us,” Dineen said. “He’s a freshman. he’s got some learning to do and he needs to put weight on, but he’s ahead of where most freshmen are at this point. He’s fast. He can move, athletic.”

A 6-foot-1, 210-pound native of Arlington, Texas, Johnson weighs what Dineen did two years ago. Dineen has put on 20 pounds since then and said he doesn’t think it has slowed him down any. Prox, a 6-1, 215, redshirt freshman is “another guy who needs to put a little bit of weight on, but he can fly.”

Dineen has one starter spot locked up and Loneker appears to lead Ogbebor in a close race for the other starting spot.

“That’s a huge part of winning,” Dineen said, “if you can get depth so that when your starter goes out your backup goes in there and there isn’t any ground lost.”

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KU women celebrate 50 years of athletics

Kansas freshman midfielder Grace Hagan makes a move in the open field to shake North Dakota State junior midfielder Natalie Fenske (16) during their exhibition soccer match Sunday at Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks and the Bison played to a 2-2 tie. The Jayhawks start the season on the road with four straight away games beginning in Lincoln, Neb. against Nebraska on Friday, Aug. 21. Kansas then returns to Rock Chalk Park to host Santa Clara in its home opener on Friday, Sept. 4, at 5 p.m.

Kansas freshman midfielder Grace Hagan makes a move in the open field to shake North Dakota State junior midfielder Natalie Fenske (16) during their exhibition soccer match Sunday at Rock Chalk Park. The Jayhawks and the Bison played to a 2-2 tie. The Jayhawks start the season on the road with four straight away games beginning in Lincoln, Neb. against Nebraska on Friday, Aug. 21. Kansas then returns to Rock Chalk Park to host Santa Clara in its home opener on Friday, Sept. 4, at 5 p.m. by John Young

My initial reaction when informed that women’s athletics at the University of Kansas turn 50 this school year was, “Only 50?”

Yes, only 50.

In 1968, KU women’s athletics started with basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, softball, swimming and volleyball.

Marlene Mawson started the women’s program with an annual budget of $2,000 to cover equipment and travel, according to a release put out by the athletic department.

KU has no shortage of superstar athletes to call attention to the anniversary this fall.

Volleyball seniors Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili, the leaders of KU’s 2015 Final Four team, are two-time All-Americans. Cross country junior Sharon Lokedi won the Big 12 championship last season and placed a KU-best fifth at the 2016 NCAA championships in cross country.

KU’s soccer team was picked to finish second behind West Virginia in the preseason Big 12 soccer poll.

No Kansas player made the 11-deep preseason All-Big 12 team, which included a record six players from West Virginia.

Grace Hagan earned All-Big 12 honors in soccer last season, when she ranked fifth in the conference with seven goals and 18 points, but surprisingly didn’t earn preseason honors.

KU opens its soccer season Friday night against Nebraska at Rock Chalk Park, first touch 7 p.m. The KU players will wear during pregame warmup a commemorative T-shirt to honor 50 years of women’s sports. All KU female athletes will wear the T-shirts during warmups this season.

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Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 12, WR Chase Harrell

Kansas wide receiver Chase Harrell (3) is tackled by cornerback Kyle Mayberry (16) after a catch during the spring game on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Chase Harrell (3) is tackled by cornerback Kyle Mayberry (16) after a catch during the spring game on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.

From the day Kansas signed receiver Chase Harrell as a long, wiry receiver out of Huffman, Texas, head coach David Beaty hasn’t shied away from hyping up his potential.

In fact, on a number of occasions Beaty has told reporters Harrell reminds him of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Mike Evans, a Pro Bowl wideout whom Beaty coached as an assistant at Texas A&M.

Harrell redshirted during his first season at Kansas, and in 2016 only made spot appearances while totaling five receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown in 12 games.

Now a redshirt sophomore, though, Harrell (according to his head coach) is closer to 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds than his 6-4, 215 listing in the spring. And this fall is shaping up to be a breakout season for Harrell.

Teammates rave about Harrell’s size and the extra work he put in during the offseason. If the ball is thrown up, they say, Harrell will do everything in his power to come down with it in his possession.

Harrell gave a preview of his third-year ability during KU’s spring game, when he caught three passes for 51 yards, including an incredible snag near the sideline — prompting veteran Steven Sims Jr. to think Harrell was one of the scrimmage’s MVPs.

via GIPHY

New KU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham considers Harrell not only a big target in his Air Raid scheme, but also the type of receiver whose presence forces defenses to adjust. When Meacham sends Harrell deep, he said that will benefit the Jayhawks’ running backs, too, because defenses can’t afford to leave Harrell in single-coverage down the field.

“He’s just a long fade guy. You’ve got to kind of double him or we’ll just throw the fade to him,” Meacham said of Harrell, whose size gives Kansas a different look than top receivers Sims (5-10) and Daylon Charlot (6-0). “Just having that type of body gets you a high safety, which helps you run the football to his side. There’s one less support player. It helps you in a lot of different areas. Plus, if they ever seam him up you just throw it up. That’s what we do. It’s no secret.”

Harrell recently said the start of preseason practices had him fired up for the quickly approaching campaign.

“I can tell other people are, too, because tension’s getting a little higher. You can tell testosterone’s kicking up,” Harrell said. “I know I’m ready.”

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

16 - Derrick Neal

15 - Khalil Herbert

14 - Charles Baldwin

13 - Shakial Taylor

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Kansas football top 25 difference-makers: No. 13, CB Shakial Taylor

Kansas junior cornerback Shakial Taylor runs forward during a drill in preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Kansas junior cornerback Shakial Taylor runs forward during a drill in preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. by Mike Yoder

Kansas had a couple of advantages over other schools recruiting junior-college cornerback Shakial Taylor.

For one thing, one of his happiest football memories came in Lawrence. He played for South Dakota State, an FCS school that defeated KU, 41-38, in the 2015 season-opener at Memorial Stadium, David Beaty’s debut as a college head coach, Taylor’s as a college football player.

“I really was thinking we were going to lose, but once the game got going, I felt like we had that edge and we could win,” Taylor said. “It was just an amazing experience, being at a D-I Double-A playing against a power-five school, crazy experience.”

KU coaches had easy access to video from that game and took advantage of it.

“During the recruiting process they actually went back and watched all the plays I played against them, so that was great,” Taylor said. “They said I had a good game. I was a young guy so I had a couple of errors as well. I actually had a big play in that game. They tried to throw a fade ball to the tight end and it was incomplete. That was a big play on my end as a true freshman.”

Going over those plays gave KU’s coaches a feel for Taylor’s knowledge of the position he plays.

KU also had the advantage of available playing time, since both starting cornerbacks had exhausted their eligibility.

Linebackers coach Todd Bradford was the first to watch Taylor at a junior-college practice and cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry quickly became involved in recruiting him.

Taylor transferred to Kansas at semester break but an injury sidelined him from most of spring practice.

Dangerously inexperienced at corner, Kansas will need a healthy season from Taylor and fellow juco transfer Hasan Defense.

This will be the third school in three years for Taylor, who spent last season at Mesa Community College. Changing addresses won’t intimidate him. He made it work at a much younger age.

Taylor said he didn’t like the direction his life was heading at the age of 16 — for one thing, he had stopped playing football — so he took up his uncle, Robert Nelson, on his invitation to come live with him in Tempe, Ariz.

It was a generous offer by Nelson, given all that he already had on his plate as a junior on the Arizona State football team. A cornerback for the Houston Texans, Nelson is entering his fourth NFL season.

“I was 16, 17 and he was 21, 22,” Taylor said. “He had to take care of two grown men, so it was definitely a struggle, but at the end of the day it definitely paid off.”

Taylor said he went to Arizona State’s home games and accompanied his uncle when he went to ASU’s practice facilities to work on drills on off days. He said he also met all of Arizona State’s coaches and attended pro day to watch his uncle perform for NFL scouts.

“He showed me a lot of things at a young age so now that I’m at this platform I know what to expect and what to do,” Taylor said. “He told me how to use my eyes and what to study in the film room. He said studying receivers on film is how you make a lot of money. Film, film, film. I’m studying how our receivers run their routes. Say they line up with right foot like this, they run that route, they run with their left foot like that, they’ll run that certain route. Stuff like that.”

Taylor stayed with and trained with his uncle in Arizona during the break between the end of school and beginning of summer conditioning.

“This past summer, we had a break and I was going to work out here, but he told me to come to Dallas because he'd be out there training with other NFL guys,” Taylor said. “I got some work in with him.”

For the next two years, Taylor will call Lawrence home and is determined to send visitors home in a lousier mood than and he and teammates were in for their bus ride back to Brookings, S.D.

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Meacham has lesson KU’s offense can learn from Clemson’s national championship

Kansas offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham watches over a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark.

Kansas offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham watches over a drill during practice on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017 at the grass fields adjacent to Hoglund Ballpark. by Nick Krug

Kansas offensive coordinator Doug Meacham isn’t asking quarterbacks Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley to be Deshaun Watson, or receivers Daylon Charlot and Steven Sims Jr. to be Mike Williams. But the man in charge of KU’s offense would like to see all of his Jayhawks embody some of the characteristics displayed by Clemson’s best players during the 2017 national title game.

Before the Tigers rallied to beat Alabama for the championship, Clemson trailed 14-0 in the second quarter. Watson and company’s first five drives resulted in a turnover on downs, three punts and a lost fumble. The eventual champs moved the ball no farther than 26 yards on any of those series.

“They did some things early on that weren’t very good. You never saw them panic,” Meacham said. “You never saw anyone’s head drop. You saw them just keep with it and it was business as usual, and eventually it’ll come.”

That’s the type of patience and confidence Meacham wants to instill in the Jayhawks’ skill players and offensive linemen in his first year with the program.

And during a scrimmage this past week, the coordinator even saw some of that out of his group. The first-string offense opened the practice with a three-and-out. Then the second unit did the same.

But from that point on?

“Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom, boom, boom. We start hitting plays, things start happening,” Meacham reported. “It was a great teaching tool for those guys to just listen. Trust the system, effort’s there, it’s gonna happen. We’re gonna take care of the football and eventually were gonna break through and we’re gonna move the ball.”

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. by Mike Yoder

The Jayhawks’ offense was the antithesis of Clemson’s a year ago, when KU averaged a measly 20.3 points a game (120th nationally) and lost 36 turnovers (worst in the nation). Meacham thinks the 2017 Jayhawks, which also feature improved personnel, can make up a lot of ground in the production department by trusting the offense and believing the next big play is just a snap away.

“I think some places — or maybe here in the past — a couple bad things happen and you get the head drop, you get the body language, the blah, blah, blah. I don’t feel that from these guys right now and that was an indicator (at the scrimmage),” Meacham said. “Start off slow and then once we started getting into it we started moving the ball. You just see a demeanor out there with those guys that’s good.”

It will be up to Bender or Stanley — whomever wins the starting job — to make sure the offense carries itself with poise this fall. And at times, the QB should be able to do so without even completing a pass. Meacham said both candidates during preseason practices have had a knack for making smart plays.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot has a pass broken up by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot has a pass broken up by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

“Pleased with the quarterbacks in terms of throwing it away or just eating it. They’ve done well with that, because we’ll just punt it out here,” Meacham said. “We’re not turning the ball over. We’ll punt it. We’ll throw it away. It’s OK. We just punt it and we’ll play the next set.”

On average last year, Cole Moos punted 6.1 times a game for Kansas. Obviously that’s not what Meacham wants. But he does aspire to get to a point where the offense can have a bad series or two and walk off the field trusting a scoring drive is coming as soon as KU gets the ball back.

An August scrimmage isn’t anything like a Big 12 game, of course, but Meacham is satisfied with the early intangible signs from his offense.

“When things aren’t going well, they still have their heads up,” he said. “That’s big. That’s huge.”

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Kansas loses versatile volleyball player Patricia Montero for season with knee injury

Kansas' Patricia Montero (13) hits a kill past Texas' Morgan Johnson (12) and Chloe Collins (21) during a match at Gregory Gym in Austin, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016.

Kansas' Patricia Montero (13) hits a kill past Texas' Morgan Johnson (12) and Chloe Collins (21) during a match at Gregory Gym in Austin, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016. by Stephen Spillman/Special to the Journal-World

The Kansas volleyball team, ranked eighth in the nation in the preseason poll, coming off its first conference title in school history and armed with key seniors who as sophomores played in the Final Four, caught a tough break this week.

Sophomore outside hitter Patricia Montero from Ponce, Puerto Rico, suffered an ACL injury and will be lost for the season, coach Ray Bechard revealed Wednesday. Bechard said the versatile Montero had been performing as well as anyone on the roster during preseason practices. Montero was one of five players who played in all 30 matches for the Jayhawks last season and started in half of them.

“She’s somebody who can do a little bit of everything,” Bechard said. “She has a nice jump serve, she plays the back row well, she could attack, passes well, blocks well. She’s a six-rotation player and those are very difficult to find in volleyball.”

Despite the loss of Montero, the Jayhawks, led by All-Americans Kelsie Payne and Ainise Havili, will remain a fashionable pick to reach the Final Four, which will be in Sprint Center in Kansas City this Dec. 14-16.

"There are 25 teams in the country who think they can get there," Bechard said. "Now we have to (focus on) 'What is it about us that we can do on a daily basis to be one of the teams that gets there?'"

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A peek inside of KU football’s latest preseason practice

Entering the third week of preseason fall camp, the Kansas football team continues to ramp up its practices in preparation for the team's season opener on Sept. 2 against SEMO.

During the first 20 minutes of Monday's practice, the Jayhawks split into their usual position groups and worked on several individual drills. Running backs worked on ball security and keeping their eyes up field, while offensive linemen practiced blocking in space. Quarterbacks and receivers went through their usual passing routes, including some time in the red zone.

On defense, the KU secondary had a chance to work on defending the ball, while defensive linemen used the sleds to practice using their hands to shed blocks.

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Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 14, RT Charles Baldwin

Kansas junior offensive tackle Charles Baldwin stands during a drill in preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Kansas junior offensive tackle Charles Baldwin stands during a drill in preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. by Mike Yoder

Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.

The yearlong wait is nearly over. When Kansas opens its season Sept. 2 against Southeast Missouri State, KU’s coaches, players and fans finally will get to see what kind of impact former Alabama tackle Charles Baldwin could have for the Jayhawks.

Since the 6-foot-5, 305-pound right tackle joined the program in Aug. 2016, the five-star junior college prospect (at ASA College, in New York) has seemed to possess the size, strength and talent to turn KU’s offensive line from a defect to an advantage.

As his Kansas debut gets closer, the intensity at preseason practices has picked up, which Baldwin considers a good thing.

“I feel like the farther we go the more comfortable you get, just because you’re learning the plays, you’re knowing where you’ve got to be and how,” said Baldwin, who is battling sophomore Antione Frazier for a starting spot at right tackle. “We build chemistry. The longer time we spend together on the practice field the more chemistry we get. So as time goes on it doesn’t get harder. It gets easier because we’re on the same page.”

Third-year KU head coach David Beaty recently said “youngins" such as Baldwin might be athletically ready when they get to campus, but much more goes into being fully prepared for their first encounter with FBS-level football.

KU offensive line coach Zach Yenser said Baldwin, dismissed at Alabama in 2016 after participating in spring football, knows he has to keep working in order to reach his potential — especially with the 6-4, 285-pound Frazier challenging him on the depth chart.

“Athletically, both those guys at right tackle are what you want,” Yenser said. “Their feet, their strength, their length, all that stuff.”

According to Yenser, Baldwin has to continue to get the reps to understand the offense fully, because that also will enable him to play faster. The O-line coach said Baldwin learns by coming in and getting one-on-one video review, owing to the fact that he absorbs more in that setting than in position group meetings.

“You’ve just got to taylor to each one of your guys,” Yenser said. “It doesn’t matter what I know. I’ve got to get them to know it.”

Since Baldwin went from practice player during his sit-out transfer season to eligible, Yenser has stayed on the potential standout, same as he would any of his players.

Yenser’s advice to his big junior tackle, as outsiders speculate on his talent and/or past?

“Make the main thing the main thing. None of the other stuff even freaking matters,” Yenser tells Baldwin. “What matters is you getting a degree, you being a great teammate and all that stuff will lead to you being a great football player. Because you’re talented. Focus on what matters. It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks. Who cares?”

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

16 - Derrick Neal

15 - Khalil Herbert

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Anthony Collins, Aqib Talib going up on Ring of Honor and into KU Athletic Hall of Fame with Mark Mangino

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is congratulated by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius after winning the MVP trophy.

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is congratulated by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius after winning the MVP trophy. by Nick Krug

First-team All-Americans Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins will go up on the KU Ring of Honor and they and former head coach Mark Mangino will be inducted as individuals into the University of Kansas athletic Hall of Fame, the school announced this morning. The entire 2007 team that won the Orange Bowl will go into the Hall as well and the team is being honored during the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. Southeast Missouri State.

Kansas went 12-1 and defeated Virginia Tech, 24-21, in the Orange Bowl.

Collins and Talib join Nolan Cromwell, Bobby Douglass, Ray Evans, John Hadl, David Jaynes, Bruce Kallmeyer, Curtis McClinton, Mike McCormack, George Mrkonic, Willie Pless, Gil Reich, John Riggins, Gale Sayers, Otto Schnellbacher, Oliver Spencer and John Zook on the Ring of Honor.

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Kansas football top 25 difference-makers: No. 15, RB Khalil Herbert

Kansas running back Khalil Herbert (10) gets around the Memphis line for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.

Kansas running back Khalil Herbert (10) gets around the Memphis line for a touchdown during the second quarter on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016 at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. by Nick Krug

If not for a toe injury that sidelined him for four games in the middle of the season, Khalil Herbert might have made a bigger impact as a true freshman in 2016. As it was, Herbert left a positive impression. He showed his break-away speed on a 66-yard touchdown run at Memphis and generally had the look of a running back who has a natural feel for how to use his blockers.

As frequently as Kansas is expected to pass under new offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, the running backs who can pass-protect and develop into receiving threats stand the best chance to make it onto the field. Herbert has strong potential in both areas.

"I've seen him on film," Meacham said. "He looks like this just tiny dude, but he's actually a rocked-up guy, a bigger, thicker guy. For some reason, he puts pads on and he looks smaller."

A sophomore out of Coral Gables, Fla., Herbert stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 200 pounds. His ability to run with pads low to the ground could be a factor in him looking smaller on film. Plus, it makes him a smaller target and gains him extra yards because when he's brought down, he falls forward. His speed is just one factor that gives him a chance to develop into a productive pass-catcher out of the backfield.

"Khalil has such smooth hands," head coach David Beaty said. "He could play receiver if he needed to."

In trying to guess which running back will lead the team in rushing yards, Herbert certainly deserves high mention in that conversation, along with Taylor Martin, and if he can get up to speed on all the responsibilities that come with the position and prove he's not a ball-security risk, Dom Williams could force his way into the conversation as well.

"Khalil continues to improve," Beaty said. "Great vision, smooth feet, very patient, getting even more patient, which is good."

Said Meacham: "He's just a guy you can trust. You put him in and he's going to do it right and he's going to do it full speed."

Herbert averaged 4.3 yards per carry last season and stood out in the classroom, earning Academic All-Big 12 Rookie Team honors.

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Highlights: Jayhawks work on special teams in camp practice

At the beginning of Friday's preseason practice, before a scrimmage, the Kansas football team worked on its special team units including punt return, kick return and field goals.

The Jayhawks had several returners practice fielding punts including receivers Quan Hampton, Steven Sims and Kerr Johnson.

After a couple of field goal attempts from various spots on the field, KU players shifted into their kickoff and kick return units and went live for a few repetitions, an area that coach David Beaty said needs to improve this upcoming season.

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Gary Woodland has his game in shape at PGA Championship

Gary Woodland was tied for third after the first round of the PGA championship. (AP photo).

Gary Woodland was tied for third after the first round of the PGA championship. (AP photo).

Gary Woodland’s work with Butch Harmon has enabled him to tame his driver this season to the extent he’s confident using it on more holes than he was in the past. Harmon also has helped Woodland find dial in precise distances for shots into the green. This season has marked a step forward for Woodland in every area but his putting.

Woodland might have won the Canadian Open in a playoff had he finished his fourth round better with his putter. On the final two holes he missed a 6-footer and 5-footer and fell two strokes shy of a playoff. The average PGA tour player makes 65 percent of his 6-footers and 75 percent from 5 feet. That calculates to 49 percent of the players making both, 42 percent making one and missing one and 9 percent missing both. That’s taking into account all putts, not just high-pressure ones, so the numbers probably go down under the sort of pressure Woodland faced. Either way, it was a tough outcome for a player who was striking the ball so well under pressure.

In 2011, when Woodland had as hot a putting streak as he’s had in his career he was working with noted putter Brad Faxon. Woodland called Faxon earlier this week to talk putting and he sought out Steve Stricker on Tuesday at the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. Smart move. Woodland stroked just 25 putts on his way to a 3-under 68 in Thursday’s opening round.

“You could have made a lot of money betting that Jordan Spieth would drive the ball better than Sergio Garcia and Gary Wooldand would putt better than Spieth,” Brandel Chamblee said during the Golf Channel’s terrific coverage of the fourth major. “Those were the two biggest surprises of the day.”

Woodland entered today tied for third place. He tees off for the second round right … now.

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Kansas football’s top 25 difference-makers: No. 16, NB Derrick Neal

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

Tom Keegan and I collaborated on a list of 25 potential difference-makers for the Kansas football team in 2017 and will release one each weekday leading up to the Sept. 2 season-opener vs. SEMO, at Memorial Stadium. We will list them in reverse order of how indispensable/potentially impactful they are for KU's hopes of having a more competitive season.

When coordinator Clint Bowen evaluates individual defensive players during and after Kansas football practices he likes to break it down by a player’s field presence and understanding.

Bowen says there are three phases for a college football defender:

No. 1: Know your assignment for each called formation.

No. 2: Get enough reps to make proper reads and reactions.

No. 3: All of it is second nature, enabling you to dissect an offensive call before the ball is in the quarterback’s hands.

A former KU receiver, nickelback Derrick Neal has progressed to the point where the secondary finally feels like home when he steps on the field

“Last year I couldn’t really tell what the offense was trying to do to the defense or do to me, from where I’m standing at, what position I’m at,” Neal, a senior from Dallas admitted. “But now I feel like I can read the offense: ‘They’re gonna do this play. He’s gonna run this. He’s gonna crack block.’”

As the senior continues his preseason camp battle for starting nickel duties with sophomore Kyle Mayberry, Neal said he and KU’s safeties, such as Mike Lee, Bryce Torneden and Tyrone Miller Jr., regularly call out pre-snap reads for the defense — a responsibility the nickels and safeties share.

“If you know what you’re doing,” Neal said, “you speak up and let your teammates know what’s this and what’s that.”

It’s quite a different feel for Neal, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back, from 2016, his first full season at the position. Playing as a backup in 11 games, Neal totaled 15 tackles and broke up two passes.

He’s expecting much more out of himself this coming fall, because his knowledge is finally catching up with the rest of his body when he is out in space defending receivers. Neal says his biggest strengths are his speed and feet, and it’s starting to show.

“I can cover anybody on the field,” Neal said.

Miller said earlier this summer during an interview on KLWN Neal’s quickness makes him an asset for KU’s secondary.

“He’s just got cat instincts. You see a receiver break left or break right, he’s on it, exactly like that,” Miller said, adding Neal rarely got beat on one-on-ones or deep, because he possesses the speed to make an interception or knock a pass away, even on the rare occasions he’s trailing a receiver.

Neal always had the athleticism to make an impact in the secondary, but now, as a senior, everything is coming together.

“I feel like this definitely is going to be my year,” Neal said of his personal expectations. “This is my money season. I definitely gotta eat. I’m willing to do what I’ve gotta do to be successful on the field.”

KU football's top 25 difference-makers

25 - Quan Hampton

24 - Ryan Schadler

23 - Taylor Martin

22 - Ben Johnson

21 - Isaiah Bean

20 - Josh Ehambe

19 - Bryce Torneden

18 - Keith Loneker Jr.

17 - Dom Williams

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Seven-plus months of competition hasn’t worn on Kansas QBs Bender and Stanley

Kansas redshirt sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley (center) throws during the Jayhawks' Aug. 1 preseason practice. Redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks (left) follows through on a throw next to Stanley, as junior Peyton Bender watches.

Kansas redshirt sophomore quarterback Carter Stanley (center) throws during the Jayhawks' Aug. 1 preseason practice. Redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks (left) follows through on a throw next to Stanley, as junior Peyton Bender watches. by Mike Yoder

Now in the eighth month of their competition to become the Kansas football team’s starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley and junior transfer Peyton Bender haven’t allowed the stress or length of the process get to them.

One of these days (or weeks) one of them will be named the team’s starter and the other will become a backup. Still, both say their similar personalities have allowed them to push and challenge each other on the field while also coexisting peaceably — under the same roof, no less.

Both Stanley and Bender were prep quarterbacks in Florida, and similar interests helped strengthen their bond over the past several months. Bender said they’re both into water sports and KU linebacker Joe Dineen took them and other teammates out on his boat this summer.

It’s not that the two KU quarterbacks disparage competition. Even video game sessions at their house can turn fierce. They simply both know when to turn it on and when to tone it down.

“I think when it comes to football time, as far as practice and seven-on-seven and those sort of things, we’re all-out competing,” Bender said. “We’re going head-to-head. But off the field we have similar interests and like similar things. I think that just created a friendship. And we know on the field we’re competing, but off the field we can still be friends.”

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender fires a pass during a preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. by Mike Yoder

That friendship, Stanley added, allows them to work well together on and off the field as they pursue the same end goal.

“We definitely work hard together and encourage each other to improve, because we know whoever it is — who knows, shoot, it might be both of us — but just for the betterment of the team we have to be at our best so this team can be at its best,” Stanley said.

Kansas quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley doesn’t know that their sound working relationship impacts the competition positively or negatively, but he sees them out at preseason practices constantly challenging each other. Plus, their position coach is pleased to see them taking on a team-first mentality above all.

“You would think maybe it’s unnatural for them to be as close as they are. But I think we talked about it a bunch in our room and job number one is to make everybody else around you better,” Riley said. “Job number two is being a great teammate. That’s in our position room and that’s with the rest of the team, and I think they’ve really embraced that and kind of bonded off the field socially.”

The quarterbacks, of course, feel their battle intensifying of late.

Said Stanley: “I think it’s amplified a little bit, just being fall camp, just knowing you’re that much closer to the season and the potential of a decision being made.”

According to Bender their competition has been escalating since the team returned from a brief July 4 holiday.

“There’s no more breaks. We’re here until the season’s over,” Bender said, explaining that’s it hit him last month that the Sept. 2 opener versus Southeast Missouri State is right around the corner. “It’s really time to start getting serious and really get down to business.”

Their head coach has noticed at August practices both quarterbacks doing all they can to reach the top of the depth chart. David Beaty said during live segments of camp both handled game-like situations well.

“Watching those guys have to play out there by themselves with blitzes coming, and understanding, recognizing coverages, different fronts that were getting thrown at them, I thought they did a really nice job of getting into the correct checks when they needed to,” Beaty said, “getting us into the right calls, and just quite honestly taking what the defense was giving you.”

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