Entries from blogs tagged with “Kansas”

Signs of life: Peyton Bender showing why David Beaty had so much confidence in him

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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

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

Since Todd Reesing’s college eligibility ran out at the conclusion of the 2009 season, various Kansas football coaches have hoped the quarterback they put on the field could breathe some life into the offense and the program. In the seven seasons since Reesing’s final snap at KU, the Jayhawks have averaged just two victories a year.

Finally, in 2017, it appears Kansas should have a Big 12-level QB lining up behind center, giving the beleaguered program an offense capable of — at the very least — arousing the interest of the fan base and making David Beaty’s Jayhawks more consistently competitive.

We don’t know yet if the title of QB1 will go next to the name Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley, but whomever wins the job in August has a chance to be remembered as the first functional Kansas quarterback in close to a decade.

For the purposes of this entry, we’ll focus on Bender (and take a look at Stanley in a blog to come).

It’s out of character for Beaty to set aside his “earn it” mentality and label someone as a potential starter before that player has even arrived on campus. But that’s what the third-year coach did with Bender, saying the day the former Washington State QB signed with the Jayhawks he expected Bender to come in and compete with Stanley for the most visible job on the team.

A 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior who spent 2016 averaging 304 passing yards a game for Itawamba Community College (Miss.), Bender made his first Memorial Stadium appearance as KU’s quarterback at the spring game and orchestrated two of the three scoring drives during the open scrimmage.

His first TD pass in Lawrence not thrown behind the closed gates of a practice session came in the second quarter of the exhibition on a simple play. With KU’s top receiver, Steven Sims Jr., lined up on the left side 11 yards away from the end zone, Bender spotted soft coverage and took a couple steps back upon receiving the snap, while watching for slot receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez to position himself as a soon-to-be blocker.

Perfectly in rhythm, Sims caught Bender’s pass and Gonzalez set him up for some yards after catch by blocking cornerback DeAnte Ford. Sims swiftly cut back to the right to make safety Mike Lee miss and KU had its first Bender-to-Sims touchdown.

Quick reads and timing, staples of the Air Raid, played a part in Bender’s success on other occasions, too. And a later Sims reception during the scrimmage played out in similar fashion, with Bender getting the ball in his receiver’s hands just in time for Gonzalez to block, setting up an eight-yard gain.

One of Bender’s longest completions during his 11-for-15 outing (143 yards, two touchdowns) came in the fourth quarter with the scrimmage tied. Lined up at the 30-yard line on a second-and-two, the QB gave a little play-fake in the backfield before beginning to survey the field, with his eyes focused on the left side. Bender then turned his head to the middle of the field, where he saw receiver Ryan Schadler breaking open between the 20- and 15-yard-lines.

It might have been a little bit easier than in a game-day situation to stand in the pocket and make the throw with a defensive lineman closing in, knowing the spring game rules revolve around not getting a QB injured, but Bender put the ball on target. He threw it over the reaching arms of linebacker Osaze Ogbebor and into Schadler’s bread basket for a 25-yard completion before Lee had a chance at breaking up the play in the secondary.

Two plays later, out of the pistol, Bender went with another play-fake before making a scrimmage-winning TD throw to Daylon Charlot on a slant. The QB wasted no time on the connection, and got Charlot the ball coming toward the middle of the field before Lee could get into the throwing lane or make a play at knocking the pass to the turf.

via GIPHY

KU spent most of the 2016 season without a quarterback suited to run the offense successfully. Now that Bender is on campus and Stanley has important game experience to go with his two seasons in the offense and growing confidence, the Jayhawks should head into the fall with a QB who can extend drives and direct the offense into the end zone.

Kansas only averaged 359.5 yards a game (last in the Big 12) a year ago and scored just 27 touchdowns on offense during a 2-10 season. Whether it’s Bender or Stanley taking the snaps, the Jayhawks should easily beat those woeful bottom-of-the-league numbers in 2017, leading to at least a couple more victories and far more Saturdays of competitive football.

More signs of life:

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Six defensive ends go in first round of NFL draft, a reminder of Dorance Armstrong’s NFL potential

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

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

All the intrigue centered on quarterbacks in Thursday’s compelling first round of the NFL draft, with the Chiefs trading up to select project Patrick Mahomes II, two picks before the Texans moved up to take born winner Deshaun Watson.

That carried the day, but on the undercard was an undeniable theme: NFL teams greatly value defensive ends blessed with the sort of speed that enables them to get into the backfield to blow up plays.

Six defensive ends were selected in the first round:

1 - Myles Garrett (Texas A&M), 6-4, 272

3 - Solomon Thomas (Stanford) 6-3, 273

14 - Derek Barnett (Tennessee) 6-3, 259

17 - Jonathan Allen (Alabama) 6-3, 286

26 - Takkarist McKinley (UCLA) 6-2, 250

28 - Charlton Taco (Michigan) 6-6, 277

Kansas State’s Jordan Willis, 6-4, 255, defensive player of the year in the Big 12, did not go in the first round.

It’s possible that Dorance Armstrong, listed at 6-4, 246, will generate enough of a buzz during his junior season that he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

Armstrong handles that question the way he does all others, with an answer that shows his focus is where it should be and one that reveals how excited he is for the upcoming season.

“I’m not really thinking about that right now,” Armstrong said. “I want to actually experience what winning in college feels like. That’s what I’m looking at right now.”

He honestly believes Kansas is ready to go bowling.

“I really do,” Armstrong said.

He has felt that way since, “before the Texas game,” he said.

“We didn’t put the pieces all together that we needed to,” Armstrong said. “Now that that season’s over we’re all on the same page in knowing what we didn’t do last season and what we need to do this season in order to win games, so I’m pretty confident on that.”

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Signs of life: Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised for KU

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

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

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

If you watched the Kansas football spring game, you could see it. Sure, KU’s coaches had downplayed his standing within the offense, citing new receiver Daylon Charlot’s lack of repetitions in an Air Raid offense or describing his ability as raw because the former Alabama skill player has yet to prove anything on Saturdays in the fall.

But even in a scrimmage designed to spread the ball around and only showcase the blandest play calls, Charlot’s ability was undeniable.

The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore who sat out as a transfer this past fall at KU looked the part of an impact receiver — even if his coaches rightfully will hold off on showering him with their praises, because it’s their job to keep complacency out of their players’ systems.

During the T.V. broadcast of the spring game, Charlot drew comparisons to former South Carolina and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. While Jeffery has four inches on Charlot, the idea that KU’s newest passing-game weapon could go up and make plays in the air like a larger target proved true.

A four-star prospect out of Patterson, La., who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and others in 2015, Charlot made his unofficial debut as a Jayhawk at the spring game and announced his presence in spectacular fashion.

Early in the second quarter, with the offense approaching midfield, KU football fans at Memorial Stadium experienced their first “wow” play from the receiver. Of course, Charlot couldn’t have made it happen without the help of his teammates. Offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Malik Clark, Hunter Saulsbury, Larry Hughes and Charles Baldwin provided great protection for another touted newcomer, junior quarterback Peyton Bender, who had roughly five seconds to survey the field before pressure came and he looked down the right sideline for the deep threat wearing a No. 2 jersey.

Charlot parked near the 29-yard line as corner Julian Chandler broke toward him and the approaching throw. Then the athletic receiver exploded up, met the ball high with two hands and got his right foot down in bounds as Chandler shoved him out of play. Charlot's strength showed up on the play, too, as he maintained possession through a backward summersault on the turf, finishing a 28-yard completion.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Two snaps later, Charlot was back at it, picking up 12 more yards and another first down. This time, Bender had to backpedal away from the pressure of junior defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, leading to a hurried throw. No problem for Charlot. He reached low and to his right to bring in the pass and extended his arms outward for extra yardage before being tackled.

The third and final reception for KU’s newest play-maker won the spring game for his team, with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-goal at the 5-yard line, with the ball placed on the left hash, Charlot flanked out to the right side. With running back Khalil Herbert lined up behind Bender in a pistol formation, a play-fake up the middle set up a one-on-one for Charlot as he made a break toward the goal line, getting inside position on Chandler.

When Bender’s pass met Charlot’s hands, the sophomore receiver out-muscled his defender to come away with the score on a slant.

via GIPHY

A year ago, Kansas finished ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense (240 yards a game) in large part because of its quarterback troubles. But having only Steven Sims Jr. (72 receptions, 859 yards) and LaQuvionte Gonzalez (62 catches, 729 yards) as consistent targets played a role, too. Sims’ overall talent and Gonzalez’s speed in space only could do so much when defenses keyed on them as the obvious top choices within the passing attack.

This fall, opposing defensive backs won’t be able to load up on Sims, Gonzalez or Charlot without leaving one of them or some other capable KU receiver in a favorable situation.

Spring games are only games in name. Had offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and company actually been out there at the glorified practice with the full offense at their disposal and playing in an actual game with a regular-season victory on the line, we would have seen even more of Charlot.

Instead, we will have to wait until September to get a true sense of just how substantial an impact the former Alabama receiver will make. At least we also know, thanks to spring ball, we can anticipate Charlot living up to his hype and his own expectations.

More signs of life

- Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

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The worse the conditions the better for KU’s gritty golfers

Chase Hanna

Chase Hanna

Many who never took up golf cling to the false notion that it takes no toughness to play it. Some even maintain it’s not a sport because it doesn’t feature contact with other humans.

Anyone who thinks that should watch the best Kansas golf team since 2000 compete. These guys aren’t just golfers, they’re grinders. If they had their druthers, they would play the NCAA regionals in Siberia. Unfortunately, there isn’t a regional there so they’ll prepare to go where the NCAA sends them when the field is announced next Thursday.

Wind and cold made Prairie Dunes, a tough golf course under the best of conditions, a severe test of mental toughness during the Big 12 Championships played Monday through Wednesday in Hutchinson.

Kansas coach Jamie Bermel loved hearing what senior Chase Hanna, who by the way would not be intimidated by putting on Siberian ice, said as he walked off the course after the third round on his way to dinner: “I hope it’s blowing 40 tomorrow.” Half of Hanna’s wish was granted. Winds reached 20 mph and the senior from Shawnee Mission East High birdied four of five holes from 13 through 17 to become the school’s first conference champion since 1995.

Slade Adams, who died last October, was Big Eight tri-champion in 1995. Adams made the cut at the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. Matt Gogel, retired from the PGA tour, on which he won an event and now is an announcer, won the outright Big Eight title in 1991.

Hanna has an impressive trophy case. He won three Sunflower League titles, the Kansas Junior Amateur and the Missouri Junior Amateur. He became the first amateur to win the Tom Watson Challenge, defeating Watson in the summer of 2015, and won the prestigious Kansas Amateur.

“I’d put this at the top,” Hanna said, “because I was competing for Kansas.” Spoken like a true third-generation Jayhawk.

In college golf tournaments, five golfers compete and only the four best scores count toward the team total. Nobody shot worst than a 75 for Kansas on the final day. Texas won the conference championship and had an 83 tossed out the final day. Oklahoma State finished second by a stroke, 1,168-1,169, and had a 78 tossed out the final round. Kansas finished four strokes behind Teas.

Hanna and freshman Andy Spencer were high school teammates. Danie Hudson’s from LaGrange, Ill. Daniel Sutton’s from Birmingham, England, and Charlie Hillier’s from Te Puke, New Zealand.

“These guys are all used to playing in the wind and cold,” Bermel said. “Those were good conditions for us.”

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Nick Collison not ready to retire just yet

Oklahoma City Thunder's Enes Kanter, left, of Turkey, and Nick Collison confer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday, April 11, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Oklahoma City Thunder's Enes Kanter, left, of Turkey, and Nick Collison confer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Tuesday, April 11, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Thirteen-year NBA veteran Nick Collison isn’t going anywhere. Well, at least he doesn’t plan to call it a career just yet.

The former Kansas star said Wednesday, less than 24 hours removed from Oklahoma City’s first-round playoff loss to Houston, he doesn’t intend to retire — a scenario he previously said he at least would consider.

“I plan to play for sure. I wasn't sure going into the season how I would feel at the end of the year, but I still enjoy playing, and I enjoy being around the group. I enjoy being on the team, and I still think I have something to offer,” the 36-year-old post player said during exit interviews with Oklahoma media.

Now more of an unofficial assistant coach for the Thunder than a member of the rotation, Collison played in a career-low 20 games this season, leading to more uncharted small averages, such as 6.4 minutes, 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds.

Every season as a rugged role player, Collison has suited up for the same organization, playing for the Seattle Super Sonics before the franchise relocated to OKC. His current deal expires this summer, but the veteran who mentors young bigs such as Steven Adams, Enes Kanter and Domantas Sabonis for the Thunder indicated he’d like to continue his run of loyalty with the franchise.

“I’ve been treated great here, and I've had great experiences here, and it's been the best basketball years of my life, for sure, playing here,” Collison said. “… There's no answers today. Everyone has been focusing on this season, these playoffs, and today is the first day we start thinking about what comes next.”

As much as the 6-foot-10 reserve has experienced in the NBA since being selected 12th overall in 2003, uncertainty isn’t exactly an area of expertise. Collision said he knew before high school he would play for Iowa Falls and knew before college he would play for the Jayhawks, but the only other time he didn’t know what would come next was when he graduated from Kansas and had no way of predicting which team would take him in the rookie draft.

“It's a little different,” he said of the coming offseason. “I think about it, but I've got really good relationships with all the people here, so I think it'll be honest and fair, and we'll just — I think both sides just have to find the best thing, and we'll figure it out.”

It won’t be too long before the big man’s playing days are completely through. Collison said he has considered what he will do as a young retiree, but didn’t dive into the specifics or whether he would transition into a coaching or front-office position of some sort.

“I think I said it last year, things change a lot in a short amount of time, and people's mindset, my mindset changes over time, so I think it's best to just look at it as what's the next thing,” Collison said, “and I think that's always helped me as a player, to just say what's the next thing, and I'm going to keep doing that.”

Per Game Table
Season Age Tm G GS MP FG FGA FG% 3P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB TRB AST STL BLK PTS
2004-0524SEA82417.02.34.3.537.000.5371.01.4.7031.94.60.40.40.65.6
2005-0625SEA662721.93.16.0.525.000.5251.21.7.6992.25.61.10.30.57.5
2006-0726SEA825629.03.97.8.500.000.5001.92.4.7742.88.11.00.60.89.6
2007-0827SEA783528.54.18.2.502.000.5021.62.1.7373.39.41.40.60.89.8
2008-0928OKC714025.83.46.0.568.000.5681.41.9.7212.56.90.90.70.78.2
2009-1029OKC75520.82.44.1.589.250.5911.01.4.6922.05.10.50.50.65.9
2010-1130OKC71221.51.93.4.566.5660.81.0.7531.74.51.00.60.44.6
2011-1231OKC63020.71.93.2.597.000.5970.71.0.7101.94.31.30.50.44.5
2012-1332OKC81219.52.23.7.595.000.5950.71.0.7691.54.11.50.60.45.1
2013-1433OKC81016.71.73.0.556.235.5640.81.1.7101.43.61.30.40.34.2
2014-1534OKC66216.71.63.8.419.267.4510.71.0.6921.43.81.40.50.44.1
2015-1635OKC59411.80.81.8.459.000.4590.40.6.6971.22.90.90.30.32.1
2016-1736OKC2006.40.71.2.609.000.6090.30.4.6250.51.50.60.10.11.7
Career89517720.72.54.6.533.208.5351.01.4.7262.05.21.00.50.56.0
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/26/2017.
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Signs of life: Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2003: None.

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

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

2006: None;

2007: None;

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

2009: None;

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

2011: None;

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

2013: None;

2014: None;

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

2016: None.

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

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

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

None by Whop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is a timeline of Jason’s college recruitment.

2015

- Nov. 4: Commits to LSU

2016

  • April 9: Offer from Mississippi State

  • April 29: Offer from Kansas

  • May 2: Offer from West Virginia

  • May 4: Offer from Georgia

  • May 5: Offer from Nicholls State

  • May 6: Offer from Florida

  • May 11: Offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss

  • May 13: Offer from Jackson State

  • May 14: Offer from Delta State

  • May 17: Offer from Alabama

  • June 24: Offer from Miami (Fla.)

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

  • July 13: Offer from Tennessee

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

2017

  • Jan. 2: Offer from Texas A&M

  • Jan. 12: Offer from Florida State

  • Jan. 17: Offer from Oklahoma

  • Jan. 18: Offer from Iowa State

  • Jan. 21: Offer from Indiana

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

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

  • Feb. 21: Offer from Tulane

  • April 24: Offers from Arizona and Missouri

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How is that possible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Crown jewel’ of 76ers, recovering Joel Embiid argues he was Rookie of Year

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 30, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Joel Embiid would like it if you forgot the number 31. And 51 for that matter.

Do the former Kansas center a favor, and don’t remember that he played in 31 games as a rookie for Philadelphia — and missed 51 in total, due to both his injury history and a new knee setback.

When picking the NBA’s Rookie of the Year, Embiid hopes those who voted exercised selective recall — overlooking those aforementioned numerals in favor of others attached with his first season in the NBA. Such as: 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game.

The 23-year-old phenom, whose past several years have been plagued with foot, back and knee damage, recently told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan he should win the award.

"I know people are saying about me, 'Oh, he only played 31 games.' But look at what I did in those 31 games — averaging the amount of points I did in just 25 minutes,” Embiid argued for his case.

Neither of the other candidates for the award, his Sixers teammate Dario Saric and Milwaukee guard Malcolm Brogdon, dominated in the fashion Embiid did. But they did play the bulk of the 82-game schedule, so voters will not as much reward them for that as count Embiid’s relative lack of appearances against him.

Per Game Table
Player G MP FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT FTA FT% ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS
Joel Embiid3125.46.513.8.4661.23.2.367.5086.27.9.7832.05.97.82.10.92.53.83.620.2
Dario Saric8126.34.711.4.4111.34.2.311.4682.12.7.7821.45.06.32.20.70.42.32.012.8
Malcolm Brogdon7526.43.98.5.4571.02.6.404.5181.51.7.8650.62.22.84.21.10.21.51.910.2
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/24/2017.

Had Embiid come along in another year, under the same circumstances, it would be easy to select some other promising rookie ahead of him. But because there was no Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns type making his NBA debut in 2016-17, Embiid is likely to still get some love as the top rookie. If there were a category for mesmerizing on-court moments, Embiid would blow away the competition —Saric, Brogdon and the rest of the rookie class combined. Some who voted for the award must have come back to that while processing their decision.

The votes are in. A rookie of the year already has been selected. We just won’t know the results until, June 26, when it’s announced at the league’s inaugural NBA Awards Show.

Embiid told MacMullan his production when healthy should count for something.

“Even going back to the All-Star Game, I didn't get chosen for that, and people were killing me because I didn't play 30 minutes a game,” Embiid said. “But here's what I don't understand: If I put up those numbers in less time than another guy, what's the difference? Doesn't it mean I did more in less time? Wait until I play as many minutes as those guys, then you will see what I do.”

Of course, we’ll have to sit tight until next season to see more of Embiid. At least early reports on his health are promising. Before the 76ers shut down their franchise center for the season, the team feared he had fully torn the meniscus in his left knee. However, Embiid was flexing his surgically-repaired leg with no pain during his interview with ESPN.

“It really turned out to be nothing,” he said, “just a small, little thing. So that's very good."

Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, even went as far as to predict playing on back-to-back nights won’t be an issue for Embiid next season.

None by Keith Pompey

Currently in the early stages of rehabbing, Embiid said his summer plans revolve around strengthening both legs, so he holds up better over the course of his second year of playing.

"I realize I have to take better care of myself," the big man from Cameroon said. "I didn't realize how good I could be. Especially seeing what I accomplished this year ... I want to keep on getting better."

Sixers head coach Brett Brown, like many, looks forward to the day when Embiid can just exist as a regular player, in terms of his availability. Brown recently spoke with The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski about the challenges associated with his most talented player only functioning in limited stints.

“I always felt that he was on lend. We couldn’t really practice him, he had multiple minute restrictions, he couldn’t play sometimes back-to-backs,” Brown said, before commending Embiid for handling it all relatively well.

“Because he is so highly competitive — it’s the single quality of Joel Embiid that I’m most attracted to; he is just fiercely competitive — then that became a challenge,” the coach explained. “He didn’t want to hear it. He wants to play.”

Ultimately, the flashes of greatness their center displayed, Brown said, made it clear he was the type of talent who could turn around the struggling franchise.

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid in action during an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid in action during an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As an example, the coach pointed to an early possession in what proved to be Embiid’s final game of his shortened season. The center had just missed a week before returning to the lineup. Playing with an injured left knee, Embiid had a chance out of a pick-and-pop versus Houston to either shoot a 3-pointer — he made 36-for-98 (36.7%) on the year — or drive it.

Brown recalled the savage result following one dribble on the catch-and-go move by Embiid:

“Truly violent. He could’ve ripped the backboard down. And you step back and you say, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ It’s a reminder just how he thinks and plays. There is zero backdown to Joel Embiid. Now wrap that up in 7-foot-2 and a skill package as we’ve seen at 275 pounds, well, you’ve got something quite unique.”

Now that Embiid and the Sixers organization have seen exactly what he’s capable of producing when in the lineup, figuring out the best strategies for keeping him healthy remain critical.

“That is the crown jewel,” Brown said. “That is our difference-maker. He is completely unique. And even in those borrowed-time moments, he gave enough example for all of us to recognize that he’s extremely special.”

Maybe voters remembered those 31 games and counted the 51 missed against Embiid. But the true hope is a Rookie of the Year Award — whether won by him for being the most impressive first-year player, or someone else by default — will long be forgotten by the end of a lengthy, prolific career.

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The Jayhawks who stood out most to coaches during spring football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KU football’s spring players of the day

Practice No. 1

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Derrick Neal, sr., CB

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 2

  • Offense: Hunter Saulsbury, so., OL

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

Practice No. 3

  • Offense: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

Practice No. 4

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE

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

  • Special teams: Tyler Patrick, jr., WR

Practice No. 5

  • Offense: Reese Randall, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Kyle Mayberry, so., CB

Practice No. 6

  • Offense: Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Osaze Ogbebor, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Bryce Torneden, so., S

Practice No. 7

  • Offense: Ryan Schadler, jr., WR

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

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 8

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

  • Defense: Maciah Long, so., DE

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

Practice No. 9

  • Offense: Steven Sims Jr., jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

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

Practice No. 10

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

  • Defense: Daniel Wise, jr., DT

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

Practice No. 11

  • Offense: Chase Harrell, so., WR

  • Defense: Isi Holani, sr., DT

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

Practice No. 12

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

Practice No. 13 — spring game

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

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Cole Moos, sr., P

Practice No. 14

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Chase Harrell, so., WR

Practice No. 15

(Results not available)

Player of the Day Standings

Dineen (3)

Adeniji (2)

Armstrong (2)

Booker (2)

Defense (2)

Ehambe (2)

Harrell (2)

Hartzog (2)

B. Johnson (2)

Martin (2)

Rui (2)

Bender

Fairs

Holani

Holmes

Loneker

Long

Mayberry

Moos

Neal

Ogbebor

Patrick

Randall

Renick

Saulsbury

Schadler

Sims

Torneden

Wise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good point.

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

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

Meacham explained what it takes to be an outside receiver.

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

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

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

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Twelve AP All-Americans in nine seasons for Kansas basketball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016: Ellis, second team.

2015: None.

2014: Wiggins, second team.

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

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

2011: Marcus Morris, second team.

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

2009: Collins, third team.

2008: None.

2007: None.

2006: None.

2005: Wayne Simien, first team.

2004: Simien, third team.

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Wayne Selden Jr. comes through with highlight jam in Memphis playoff victory

San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol, left, passes the ball over Memphis Grizzlies guard Wayne Selden Jr., center, and forward Zach Randolph (50) during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

San Antonio Spurs center Pau Gasol, left, passes the ball over Memphis Grizzlies guard Wayne Selden Jr., center, and forward Zach Randolph (50) during the second half of Game 3 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Thursday, April 20, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Wayne Selden Jr., only experienced 14 regular-season games as an un-drafted rookie, but the former Kansas guard on Thursday night didn’t let a much larger stage keep him from delivering his first NBA Playoffs moment.

With Memphis on its way to putting away Western Conference juggernaut San Antonio in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Selden came through with an electrifying slam reminiscent of his days with the Jayhawks.

A late-season addition for the Grizzlies, Selden’s duties on offense typically involve hanging out in either corner, behind the 3-point line as his veteran teammates such as Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph go to work. But the 6-foot-5 wing saw his chance late versus the Spurs to prove he could be more than a warm body and defender.

After catching the ball on the left wing with Memphis up 20 and well on its way to cutting the Spurs’ series lead to 2-1, Selden looked to throw an entry pass to Randolph before realizing that would be a bad idea. With Z-Bo occupying his post defender, Selden went to work on his man, Kyle Anderson.

Selden drove hard toward the left baseline, getting an angle on Anderson. Once he had his man beat, the rookie rose up for a wicked, one-handed slam.

None by Memphis Grizzlies

In just his 17th NBA game — third postseason affair — Selden gave the Grizzlies, playing without injured Tony Allen, 10 points, 2 boards and an assist. He shot 4-for-9 from the floor, 2-for-4 on 3-pointers and didn’t turn the ball over.

In his first two playoff games combined, both at San Antonio, Selden totaled just two successful field goals on 10 tries while playing as a fill-in starter for Allen.

The 22-year-old newbie felt much better about his Game 3 showing, particularly the highlight slam.

“Yeah, it was fun,” Selden said in a postgame interview with FOX Sports Southeast. “It’s that boost for the team, gets the team going, pumps energy into the crowd. It’s just good for the team.”

None by Memphis Grizzlies

Though he didn’t start at Memphis Thursday, Selden played 28 minutes off the bench and provided the home team with a spark.

“We just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Selden said following a 105-94 win. “Whoever was out there had to play their minutes hard. You get tired, somebody else comes in.”

Considering he spent most of the season in the D-League and made his NBA debut with New Orleans, Selden’s contributions — while not massive — are rather remarkable. He made his Memphis debut March 18 and now he’s finding spots to make an impact in the playoffs.

Game 4 of Spurs-Grizzlies is Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN).

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

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

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

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

Or will they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team’s chances of winning the lottery

Boston (from Brooklyn) - 25%

Phoenix - 19.9%

L.A. Lakers - 15.6%

Philadelphia - 11.9%

Orlando - 8.8%

Minnesota - 5.3%

New York - 5.3%

Sacramento - 2.8%

Dallas - 1.7%

New Orleans - 1.1%

Charlotte - 0.8%

Detroit - 0.7%

Denver - 0.6%

Miami - 0.5%

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So far so good for Kansas quarterback Peyton Bender

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

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

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

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

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

Bender looked comfortable and in charge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None by Zaldy Doyungan

None by Benton Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, he is.

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