Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

South Dakota State’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

Team: South Dakota State
Jeff Sagarin rating: 125 (KU's Sagarin rating is 85)
Sagarin line: KU favored by 11


South Dakota's biggest strength is its passing game, which ranked No. 1 in the Missouri Valley a year ago (286.7 yards per game).

A lot the credit goes to sophomore quarterback Austin Sumner, who threw for 300 yards or more in five of SDSU's final seven games last year. Sumner set a conference record for passing yards by a freshman in 2011 with 2,382, and he also placed third in the voting for FCS freshman of the year.

Sumner, though, might not play against KU on Saturday. He was held out of practices earlier this week with a thumb injury, and coach John Stiegelmeier listed him as doubtful on Tuesday.

The latest from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's Terry Vandrovec in a chat on Thursday, though, was that Sumner was claiming that he was throwing passes this week.

If Sumner doesn't play, 6-4 redshirt freshman Eric Kline will start for the Jacks. Kline was the 2010 Gatorade Minnesota Football Player of the Year and has more mobility than Sumner.

(1:40 p.m. update Friday: Our beat writer Matt Tait is reporting that Sumner will not play Saturday.)


South Dakota State's defense struggled against both the pass and rush during a 5-6 season in 2011.

The Jacks allowed more than 200 rushing yards per game and also allowed opponents to complete 64.8 percent of their passes a year ago while allowing 33.1 points per game.

SDSU also had an inconsistent running game, averaging a Valley-worst 83.5 rushing yards per game. The Jacks' backs posted just 2.6 yards per carry, which was nearly a full yard worse than any other Missouri Valley team.

Players to Watch

Sophomore quarterback Austin Sumner (No. 6) set a new conference record for passing yards in 2011 despite only starting eight games. He posted 16 touchdowns, nine interceptions and also tied a school record with 37 completions in a 31-14 loss to Northern Iowa.

As mentioned earlier, Sumner might not play because of injury, but if he does, he'll be the one to watch in SDSU's shotgun, quick-throw offense.

Senior receiver Aaron Rollin (No. 5) is the Jacks' big-play threat, posting 61 catches and 906 yards a year ago.

The Lee's Summit, Mo., native had four 100-yard receiving games a year ago and averaged 122 yards receiving yards in the Jacks' final three contests.

"You'd better learn who he is," KU coach Charlie Weis said Tuesday, "because he's a dynamic wide receiver."

Senior Tyrel Kool (No. 2) should spend most of his time at receiver after rushing for a team-high 534 yards last year. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound Kool had 64 receptions for 808 yards as a sophomore in 2010.

"He's a good runner," Weis said. "He provides a lot of versatility to their game and he can play either position, and they can do a lot with him."

Senior defensive tackle Andy Mink (No. 52) has been a productive defensive tackle despite his size (6-2, 270 pounds). An honorable-mention all-conference selection last year, Mink posted team highs in sacks (six) and tackles-for-loss (8.5) while finishing second on the team with 75 tackles.

"Everyone will talk about how undersized Andy Mink is ... but he's a true pain in the butt for whoever is going to go against him," Weis said. "He's a good, solid football player."

Bottom Line

It's hard to know what to expect from both teams with so many unknowns heading into Game One.

Just looking at the numbers, though, KU should have the advantage when its offense goes up against South Dakota State's defense, which had trouble stopping teams in all facets a year ago.

Something tells me that Sumner is going to play in this game, and if he does, we could see both teams moving the ball against defenses that are trying to rebuild after struggling last season.

(1:40 p.m. update Friday: Uh yeah, I was wrong on that call. See update above.)

In the end, though, this is still KU playing an FCS opponent at home, meaning the Jayhawks should be able to score enough to not be threatened in the fourth quarter.

Prediction: Kansas 41, South Dakota State 21


Journey of KU safety Brandon Hawks a story worth sharing

Kansas senior safety Brandon Hawks runs through a secondary drill at practice on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the KU practice fields.

Kansas senior safety Brandon Hawks runs through a secondary drill at practice on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at the KU practice fields. by Jesse Newell

If you walk by the bronze Jayhawk on the south side of Memorial Stadium this week, think about Kansas safety Brandon Hawks.

It was two weeks ago, by that same statue, that he called his mother during one of the best days of his life.

“That’s the first time I’ve cried,” Hawks said, “in a long time.”

Let’s start with this about Hawks: In his fifth year at KU, he’s never played one down for the Jayhawks.

The Oskaloosa native is on KU’s scout team, meaning he helps prepare the starters for the next week’s opponent.

“Brandon Hawks has been tackled more than any guy in the Big 12,” KU defensive backs coach Clint Bowen said. “The guy gets beat to death every day in tackling drills, and that’s his life. And he shows up every day and runs the ball just as hard the next time.”

A 4.0 student the last three semesters and the valedictorian of his high-school class, Hawks — a three-sport star — knew he was going to KU for a while.

His uncle took him to his first KU football game when was 7, and though the Jayhawks lost to Texas A&M, 24-21, on a cold, rainy day in October 1998, Hawks was awestruck.

He attended every KU home game in high school and wasn’t planning on playing football until he contacted Bowen, who was KU’s defensive coordinator at the time.

Bowen visited Oskaloosa High School to see if Hawks might be a fit.

“When you’re in the school, and they say, ‘Who’re you here to talk about?’ ‘Well, Brandon Hawks.’ Ten people go, ‘Oh, that’s the greatest kid in the world,’” Bowen said. “The guy’s had an effect on a lot of people in his hometown.”

KU offered Hawks a walk-on spot, and he showed up a few days before KU’s camp ended in 2008.

Hawks has been on the team ever since.

“I really wanted to be a part of this, and I didn’t want something like money to hold me back,” Hawks said. “I knew it was going to be rough.”

For the most part, it has been.

Without a scholarship, Hawks has had to work to pay for school and rent.

To help with that, Hawks —an education major with an emphasis in math — tutored for the KU athletic department. Many times, that meant tutoring for the same football players he had just practiced with a few hours earlier.

Hawks handled the situation gracefully. When he saw players messing around in the locker room, Hawks would give them a hard time, telling them to be sure to get to class on time and to not be late to their tutoring session.

The schedule, though, was grueling.

Last year during the fall semester, there were times when Hawks would finish with practice in the afternoon, drive to Subway, bring the sandwich back with him, then tutor a teammate while munching on his dinner.

After finishing up at 10 p.m., he would then work on his own homework to keep up his own A’s.

Offensive lineman Gavin Howard had classes with Hawks, and he jokingly calls him “one of the only dudes I would say might be better than I am at math on the team.”

Most nights, Hawks would get between four to six hours of sleep.

“I’d say the best thing was just great time management,” Hawks said. “Being motivated to get stuff done when I had the time to do it.”

The offseasons were just as demanding.

To make additional money, Hawks would tutor from 7-9 a.m. then from 7-10 p.m.

He also would work 12-15 hours a week at Hy-Vee. The duties there included bagging groceries, collecting carts, loading trucks and stocking shelves.

All this to build up money so he could continue to be on a team for which he never played.

“There were some pretty intense conditioning workouts where I was sitting there thinking, ‘Why in the world am I doing this?’” Hawks said. “At the end of the day —after a couple hours — I was like, ‘Yeah, this is where I need to be. I love it.’”

That brings us to two weeks ago when, during a meeting, KU coach Charlie Weis announced that the team had two additional scholarships to give out following some departures in the offseason.

After a pause, Weis said that Shane Smith and Justin Carnes would receive the scholarships.

“I was really excited for them,” Hawks said. “But all along, I was kind of hoping I would get one.”

A few seconds later, Weis had another announcement. The coach said that the team had reserved two more scholarships for players that had earned 4.0 GPAs the previous semester.

Running back Ryan Burton was the first one.

And Hawks was the second.

“I got a little teary-eyed,” Bowen said, “because I know what that kid’s put into it.”

Immediately, Hawks was tackled from behind by one of his teammates in celebration. The room erupted with screaming, and nearly all of his teammates came over to shake his hand.

“The best part was hearing everybody get so excited about it,” Hawks said.

The senior knew he didn’t have much time.

Just before the team’s afternoon practice that Friday, he dressed quickly and made his way outside the complex next to the bronze Jayhawk.

In full football pads, he called his mother, Kim, to tell her that he was officially a scholarship player for the KU football team.

“That was a pretty emotional moment,” Hawks said. “It was unreal. I didn’t accept it as reality for a couple days. It just seemed like it was a dream.”

Hawks, who hopes to one day become a high-school math teacher and football coach, says life will be a whole lot easier with a scholarship (Howard said he couldn’t remember a time during his years at KU when a football player received a scholarship based only on academics).

Hawks is student-teaching sixth-graders at South Junior High this semester, and now he says he can focus more on his work there, which includes teaching exponents to 12-year-olds.

“There’s not as much stress to make sure I am working all the time,” Hawks said. “I can relax and enjoy the college life a little bit more.”

Hawks knows that may or may not include getting on the field at least one time before his final game at KU.

“Of course, I’d love to get in on a play, but I understand that role is on show team right now, and I need to give the best look I can,” Hawks said.

“I just want the team to do well.”


KU football season preview with SB Nation writer and advanced stats specialist Bill Connelly

Before the season, I wanted to be sure to touch base with friend-of-the-blog Bill Connelly, who writes for SB Nation, the SB Nation site Football Study Hall and also the Football Outsiders Almanac.

Connelly, as you might remember, studies the advanced statistics in college football. We've had content from him a few times in the past, and his play-by-play-based calculations continue to lead the way into a new era of college football statistics.

Connelly just completed a massive project of his own as well, providing free, detailed previews on each of the 124 Div. I teams. It's definitely worth checking out if you haven't yet.

For this week, though, I wanted to get Connelly's specific thoughts about the Kansas football team from a statistical perspective (especially since optimism sometimes overflows in August when every team is undefeated).

A transcript of our chat is below.

Jesse Newell: What's a reason/statistic that makes you optimistic about KU football in 2012?

Bill Connelly: In 2012? There isn't much. I like Dayne Crist, and I love Tony Pierson, and on defense, Toben Opurum is solid and Bradley McDougald is a lovely play-maker. But that's four guys. There's no doubt that Charlie Weis has pretty quickly upgraded the talent level, but he did so for a team that was truly awful last year. The goal for 2012 should simply be improvement.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist pulls back to throw on his first play from scrimmage during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field. In back, head coach Charlie Weis looks on.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist pulls back to throw on his first play from scrimmage during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field. In back, head coach Charlie Weis looks on. by Nick Krug

JN: What's a reason/statistic that makes you pessimistic about KU football in 2012?

BC: The offense ranked 107th in Off. F/+ last year, below Rice, Troy, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, UAB, New Mexico State and Army (F/+ is Football Outsiders' official team ranking based on play-by-play and drive statistics). The defense ranked 111th in Def. F/+ last year, below Memphis, New Mexico State (again), Duke, Akron, Tulane and Army (again). There's really no reason to go too far beyond that, right? Even if Weis engineers some strong first-year improvement (which is never a given), that still only moves them back toward competent, not good.

JN: I really enjoyed your article about which defensive statistics are more sustainable and which are more based on luck.

Looking at KU, is there any evidence to suggest that KU's defense was lucky or unlucky in 2011?

BC: Not really. It looks like KU was about +1.2 points per game in terms of turnovers luck. They recovered 16 of their own 27 fumbles, and that should have probably been more like 14; meanwhile, they picked off eight passes and broke up 32, which is just about the right ratio.

JN: In your KU football preview, you talk about the evidence indicating that Charlie Weis might struggle again to be a successful college head coach.

What numbers from Weis' Notre Dame tenure make you pessimistic about his ability to rebuild a program?

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis talks with his son Charlie Weis Jr. during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012.

Kansas head coach Charlie Weis talks with his son Charlie Weis Jr. during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. by Nick Krug

BC: Primarily, what gives me pause is simply that, once the Notre Dame program became truly his in Year Three, it bottomed out. He pieced together a solid offense again after a brutal 2007 season with Jimmy Clausen as a freshman, but the defense really never came around. That's obviously not a great sign.

That said, the Notre Dame and Kansas jobs are incredibly different. Notre Dame has an odd relationship between expectations and the reality of recent history, and while it hasn't been too long since Kansas played at a really high level, it is probably safe to say that he will get more time to figure things out in Lawrence.

JN: Weis was the offensive coordinator at Florida last year. Is there anything we can take away from those numbers that might indicate Weis' strengths/weaknesses as an offensive coordinator in college?

BC: Last year suggested two things: 1) He didn't deal well with the leftovers of previous coordinator Steve Addazio's "hybrids of hybrids of hybrids" approach. His best tight end was a former quarterback, his two best running backs were two of the better wideouts, etc. Florida's offense didn't regress with him pulling the strings, but it didn't even slightly improve either. 2) He still takes a professional approach to the college game, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

The pro-style offense is great if you have better talent than everybody else, but we don't really have any evidence that he is strong in terms of the underdog tactics requisite to turn a roster like Kansas' into a quick winner.

JN: The latest from KU camp is that receiver JaCorey Shepherd has been practicing at defensive back. Considering his impressive numbers at wideout in 2011 (16.3 Adj. yards/target) and KU's lack of a big-play guy at receiver, would you consider this a mistake? Or is 15 catches too small of a sample size to make any grand conclusions?

Kansas receivers Kale Pick (7) and JaCorey Shepherd bump chests after Shepherd's second touchdown of the game against McNeese State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas receivers Kale Pick (7) and JaCorey Shepherd bump chests after Shepherd's second touchdown of the game against McNeese State during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

BC: It's definitely a small sample size, but he looked good when given the opportunity, that's for sure. I think it probably says more about the secondary than anything else. Outside of McDougald, Opurum and maybe Darius Willis, the defense doesn't really have many play-making options either.

Plus, as always, since Shepherd was only targeted 18 times all season on a bad passing offense, there's a chance that either a) he isn't good in practice, b) his route-running is limited or c) he's not a very good blocker. There's always context behind the numbers.

JN: I enjoyed reading the graphs and statistics from the statistical profile you did on KU.

I just wondered, at a quick glance, which numbers stick out to you most when looking over the 2011 Jayhawks?

BC: Honestly, the biggest thing is the complete lack of disruptive stats on the defensive side of the ball.

Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett escapes a sack by Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State quarterback Jared Barnett escapes a sack by Kansas defensive end Toben Opurum during the second quarter on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Just five players had more than two tackles for loss, two players had more than one interception (none more than two), one player defended (interceptions + passes broken up) more than five passes, and nobody forced more than two fumbles.

Obviously going for more big plays leaves you more vulnerable to ALLOWING more big plays, but … Kansas simply has to make more plays on defense. In the Big 12, you're probably going to allow some big plays no matter what; do whatever you can to be more disruptive.

(This should be seen almost as a reason for optimism. Coaching CAN make a different in a defense's level of disruption. It just comes with a trade-off, i.e. the threat of allowing more big gains.)

JN: Looking at the aforementioned statistical profile, I noticed that KU has failed to win a game in the last two years according to your "Adjusted Score" measure. That doesn't seem like a good thing.

BC: No, no it's not.

JN: Since you started tracking play-by-play numbers, has any BCS team had a worse two-year stretch than KU had under Turner Gill in 2010-11?

Kansas university coach Turner Gill watches the jayhawks’ spring game on April 24 at Memorial Stadium. From his previous football experiences, Gill has already developed a sterling reputation in the Big 12 heading into his first year in Lawrence.

Kansas university coach Turner Gill watches the jayhawks’ spring game on April 24 at Memorial Stadium. From his previous football experiences, Gill has already developed a sterling reputation in the Big 12 heading into his first year in Lawrence. by Nick Krug

BC: Washington State actually ranked 120th, dead last, in each of Paul Wulff's first two seasons (2008-09). So there's that.

JN: Finally, my Kansas State buddy thinks I'm way too hard on his Wildcats. But really, going 8-1 in one-possession games shouldn't be repeatable (even with a Hall of Fame coach), should it?

BC: Auburn showed last year that you CAN keep at least some close-game magic going; the Tigers went 7-0 in one-possession games in 2010, then went 3-0 again in 2011. If KSU can keep things close again, they can pull off just enough 3rd-and-3 conversions to win most close games again, especially when you consider that Collin Klein is back.

That said, while Auburn was still pulling out tight wins, they were also losing five games by an average score of 42-14. KSU might still have close-game magic, but they will probably face a few more whippings along the way. Last year was an absolutely incredible run by KSU, but … doing it twice is even more difficult than doing it once.


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 8/28/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted, along with the newest depth chart.

KU has to prepare as if South Dakota State's quarterback Austin Sumner is going to play (even though reports are that he might not play). If it ends up being backup QB Eric Kline, KU will still be ready to go.

Weis thinks bringing back moments from the past are good teaching points. Weis says he's always jabbing his players about a lot of things. He talks about both the North Dakota State loss and the Orange Bowl victory.

• Weis doesn't think his team will be overconfident. "We just lost 100 in a row," he said.

Weis does most of his yelling in practice. Most of his yelling on gamedays is for officials — "because they deserve it" he said with a laugh — and for players who get 15-yard penalties.

Jordan Tavai has been one of KU's best defensive linemen since he got here. Rather than playing him as a backup, KU is going to put its best four guys out there first. KU will play two deep on the D-line, but Tavai is the one player inside that can play outside effortlessly. Weis talks about building depth and versatility, and Tavai allows KU to have that.

Aslam Sterling moved to right guard when Riley Spencer wasn't able to get back on the field after getting banged up. Gavin Howard deserves to be in the starting lineup. Sterling has settled in at right guard.

• Weis isn't going to play conservative this game. KU needs to win this game. He'll worry about Game Two when Game One is over with.

KU linebacker Anthony McDonald is a physical player. When Weis doesn't believe McDonald can turn it loose, he's not going to play him. When McDonald can turn it loose, the depth chart will change. His whole game is physicality. Weis doesn't see him being able to turn it loose now. If this were the last game of the year, McDonald would play this week. But it's the first game of the year.

It's easier for Weis when his quarterback (Dayne Crist) knows his language. Weis can't think of any situation that could have presented itself any better for himself than Crist being here at KU during Weis' first year. If a certain team doesn't want to follow its quarterback, that guy has no chance to succeed. Crist was named a captain a few months after arriving at KU, so he definitely has established himself as a leader and should have a chance to succeed at KU.

Weis has put a lot of pressure on long snapper Reilly Jeffers in practice on Saturday. Even with that, Jeffers' snaps couldn't have been any better.

Weis says he likes having "or" on the backup positions on the depth chart, because that means you like both guys that are there. Linebacker Jake Love is an example. He has athleticism, and you want him to be in the mix for playing on the defense. You want Schyler Miles to play because he has great instincts. You want Love to play because he has athleticism and can play on special teams.

KU will probably have a three-back rotation. Brandon Bourbon will get touches, and Marquis Jackson would be the fourth guy to get touches if KU goes that far.

Tony Pierson can catch the football. He has good hands and has breakaway speed. Weis definitely wants him involved in the passing game. Not every running back has good hands and is elusive in the open field.

KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger, because he's an old football coach, wants to give Weis space. Weis will invite him over to his office every Monday to talk about what happened the previous week. Zenger appreciates the fact that he has invited him over.

Weis puts boards up with 10 goals for offense, defense and special teams. The No. 1 goal for all those boards is winning. For offense, one of the goals is no turnovers. One turnover means the goal has not been met.

• There have been times when Weis has thought, going into the week, that his team was going to lay a whupping on someone, and instead it laid an egg. Weis also has had times when he thought a team wasn't ready, and instead, everything fell right for that team and it played well. Weis is ready to see how his team performs. He expects his team to not look like the Bad New Bears. He expects his players to line up right. His greatest pet peeve on offense is a delay of game penalty. Weis says he gets the calls in quickly enough to avoid delay of games. If it happens in a game, Weis joked he'll take the fall for it in public, but someone else will be ripped for it in private.

Trevor Marrongelli is a good short snapper. Weis is just forcing him to do one more duty now with Justin Carnes out for the first three games because of suspension.

Weis said that Sterling is in way better condition. He's probably dropped 20 pounds since he got to KU. He's spent extra time with strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple. Sterling probably can't go 70 plays, but KU has depth to fill in if needed.

• Weis tries to get to each one of his players in warmups to wish them good luck. Other than that, he tries to stay out of the way. He also points up to his wife in the box after each game.

Weis says his team has done so many things on offense that if someone spied on it and videotaped every practice, it would take them three years to figure it out. Weis isn't worried about people spying.

Receiver Tre' Parmalee is going to play. How much, Weis can't say. The game will dictate how much he plays. Parmalee's been one of the most pleasant surprises, according to Weis.

If KU plays great, people will say, "Well, it was South Dakota State." If KU wins a close game, people will say, "It was South Dakota State." Weis takes every game seriously.

Assistants Clint Bowen and Rod Jones have taught the team an old dance move from back in the day for KU victories. Weis just stands in the back and laughs. Weis joked that he's big on tradition, so the guys will do that after wins.


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 8/21/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

The best thing about tight end Mike Ragone right now is that he's healthy. He's a good blocker at the point of attack. He'll help both the passing and running game.

As of right now, Tony Pierson is at the top of the running back depth chart, and Taylor Cox is second. Brandon Bourbon is a close third, from what Weis has seen so far. Things could change once James Sims completes his three-game suspension.

Most of the position battles are settled. Weis would say over 90 percent of the depth chart is already done. The players don't know the depth chart yet. They're not blind, though. They can watch the tape and see who's playing better and see who's getting the most reps.

Michael Cummings is still ahead of Turner Baty at this point for the backup quarterback position. Weis said that shouldn't matter much, though, as we should be talking about KU's starting quarterback Dayne Crist.

Weis feels good about both the passing and running game equally. He said he probably shouldn't say that coming off a 2-10 season, but he feels that way.

When you're playing at home, there's a lot more versatility with offensive play calls compared to when you're on the road. Crist will have a lot going on regarding play calls right from the start.

Here's the latest on defensive lineman Ty McKinney: The dean in charge of his program at his junior college has been talking to KU's academic people. This looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. That school has to grade all the material from the class before freeing him up for an exam. The dean has been helpful in encouraging the professor to grade the material so McKinney can take the test to get to KU. Weis says KU is in "anyday" mode with McKinney, believing he could be on campus any day now. McKinney is ready for the exam, but he has to get clearance to take the exam. As soon as he takes the exam, he can come to KU. There's a grace period from the NCAA that allows the player to come while the final exam is graded. KU has started classes. Forget about football. KU doesn't want him to get behind in classes here.

Weis coaches quarterbacks hard in practice so that the games are easier. Crist is ready to lead the team and ready to play in games. Once school starts, you go to a 20-hour work week, so the football players are actually happy when school starts, as it reduces their practice hours.

There are a lot of candidates for KU at receiver. Some have been a bit of a surprise. Weis says everyone knows about the three seniors (Kale Pick, Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears), because they had a good camp. Kale Pick had a phenomenal camp. Weis also feels good about Chris Omigie, Andrew Turzilli and Tre' Parmalee. Parmalee hasn't played like a redshirt candidate. He's made plays, both in the passing game and return game. The depth chart doesn't end with those six guys, though.

Patterson is one of the top receivers KU has. He's dependable, gets open and catches with his hands and not his body. He could be a great returner, but Weis isn't sure whether KU should risk injury by putting him there.

Weis thinks his team needs to get off to a fast start or it's going to be a long year. Everyone wants to look at a 12-game schedule; Weis wants to look at a one-game schedule with South Dakota State coming up. He wants to see his guys have fun, make plays and have the fans get into the first game. Weis doesn't want his team to worry about any other team other than SDSU.

Linebacker Anthony McDonald has been hanging out with the bicycles a lot in early practices. He has a track record of being banged up, so coaches want to make sure he's fully ready to go when he does play. He only knows one way to play, and that's hard.

• Linebacker Ben Heeney has a lot of athleticism. Last year, he made a lot of plays on special teams. Usually, making plays in open space are a sign that a player has good athleticism.

Crist really likes it in Lawrence. He hasn't had the best last few years. Just when he gets ready to be "the man," his coach is fired at Notre Dame. At KU, he has some talent at the skill positions; he has a veteran offensive line; and he plays for a team that is expected to be crummy. How can he lose? Weis says this could turn out to be a wonderful story. Weis says he hopes that he sees it, because he's a big fan of Crist as a person.

• Weis says that Crist needs to not try to do too much. In practice the other day, Crist checked to a running play that went for 30 yards. Weis says that's called an "Attaboy." When it works, you say, "Attaboy." If it doesn't work, Weis joked that it's a, "What the hell are you doing?"

Weis says he has given four walk-ons scholarships. He said he took care of a couple kids that are on special teams (Justin Carnes and Shane Smith) and also a couple that have 4.0 GPAs that don't play much and have done everything right (Ryan Burton and Brandon Hawks). Burton and Hawks received the biggest round of applause from their teammates because of their hard work.


‘Pay Heed’ video documents KU men’s basketball trip to Switzerland

Kansas University video coordinator Jeff Forbes has released the first episode of "Pay Heed," a documentary following the KU men's basketball team.

From talking to Forbes in Europe, the hope is for the videos to become a bit like the KU football 'Gridiron' videos from years past.

The first 'Pay Heed' video from the KU athletic department is below, which includes some interesting comments from senior Elijah Johnson talking about how he deals with nerves early in games.

Also included are some highlights from the first game (and the baseline, Perry Ellis move I've been trying to describe in the live-game blog) and some of the sights from Mount Pilatus in Switzerland.


Updated trailer for ‘There’s No Place Like Home’ documentary, which airs Oct. 16 on ESPN

Maggie Vision's Josh Swade, who is in charge of the upcoming ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "There's No Place Like Home," sent me an email over the weekend that included an updated trailer for the film.

An earlier online trailer was taken down, but a newer (and similar) version of that trailer can now be found below.

The film will air at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16 on ESPN.

Those wanting more information on the documentary can check out the "Bring the Rules Home" website or Swade's newly created Facebook fan page.

There will be Lawrence premiere of the film on Saturday, Oct. 13 — the same day the KU football team hosts Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Reservations are now being accepted through KUsports.com.


Game observations: Perry Ellis best Jayhawk in final exhibition

The following is a quick breakdown of each Kansas player following the Jayhawks' 79-60 loss to AMW Team France on Sunday night.

Please note that if a player isn't listed, he did not play.

Naadir Tharpe — Tharpe had another solid game offensively without making shots. He had four assists and one turnover and is the best Jayhawk right now at pushing it in transition. Much like Tyshawn Taylor, when he does make a mistake, it sometimes looks really bad. He had one particular errant post pass that wasn't close and resulted in KU coach Bill Self yelling at him. Still, Tharpe played a team-high 30 minutes, and though it's very early, it looks like he'll have the first opportunity to grab the backup point-guard role. He also went 2-for-4 from three after going 0-for-5 Saturday. He finished with seven points and, like Elijah Johnson the night before, had to create a few times to try to beat the shot clock.

Rio Adams — Though it's early, he appears to be behind the other scholarship guards right now. Adams had another tough game Sunday, posting two points on 1-for-5 shooting in 13 minutes. In this game, he once dribbled it into traffic for a turnover and another time was beaten badly off the dribble, which led to a French bucket. Adams had two highlights: a stickback for two and a steal in the backcourt, though he immediately turned it over on a (questionable) double-dribble after that. He did grab four defensive rebounds but also had three turnovers in his limited minutes.

Andrew White — Up and down game for White. With few scorers on the floor, White once again showed confidence in his shot, scoring 15 points on 3-for-7 shooting from three and 2-for-6 shooting from two. His two consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter pulled KU to within three and was some of the last offense KU would get. White was a bit careless, though, turning it over five times, with many of those giveaways coming on poor passes. Though he gets beat occasionally on the drive, White has shown the ability to stop penetration when he focuses in. He had three of KU's seven steals and will likely be one of KU's first options off the bench in November.

Justin Wesley — I'm surprised that the statsheet shows Wesley with 20 minutes, as it didn't seem like he was out there that long. KU coach Bill Self cited him for good play after the game and praised him a couple times for his defense during the game. That didn't result in much on the statsheet: One point and three defensive rebounds in his 20 minutes.

Evan Manning — He played better in Switzerland than he did in Paris. Manning missed all three of the three-pointers he took and also struggled with a tough matchup defensively, as the guy he was guarding had him by at least three inches and 50 pounds. He turned it over once when he slipped on the court and also was blown by a couple times defensively. He finished with no points and one turnover.

Tyler Self — First time we got to see Tyler, who knocked in a running floater off the glass in the final seconds. That was his only mark in the box score in four minutes.

Niko Roberts — Played nine minutes, but dribbled it once out of bounds and another time forced up a three-pointer early in the shot clock that missed. He did come up with an assist and steal, though he also had two turnovers and missed all three of his field goals.

Christian Garrett — Garrett did some good things, as he tries hard defensively and also was able to get to the free-throw line four times. Two of his foul shots were ugly, but in five minutes, he contributed two points, a rebound and steal with a turnover. He was beaten on the dribble once and also couldn't hold onto a rebound another time, which resulted in a tie-up.

Milt Doyle — Doyle had his best game Sunday. On two transition possessions in the second quarter, he glided into the lane with two big steps and finished a drive with a scoop layup. On another occasion, he used a nice move to get by his man off the dribble before missing a shot in the lane. He forced up a couple bad shots, including a heat-check, stepback three, but he still showed some flashes of potential. He had a bad entry pass over Perry Ellis' head and sometimes isn't the most graceful passer. On defense, he stuck with his man on one occasion, which drew kudos from coaches. The freshman finished with two rebounds and two turnovers in 10 minutes.

Jamari Traylor — He had his best game on the glass, fighting for seven rebounds (four offensive) in 11 minutes. Traylor missed all three of his two-point tries but showed a good stroke at the line in knocking down two free throws. He elevated well for one block and also had an assist to go with two turnovers. Offensively, he had one quick spin move that reminded me a bit of Thomas Robinson as a freshman, as it looked like he was trying to make five moves at once while moving a bit too quickly. He appears to still be in the development stages on the offensive end.

Zach Peters — He was limited to just 11 minutes (probably because he'd already played a lot this trip), but he still managed to grab nine rebounds (five offensive) in that time. He missed a lot of chippies Sunday, going 0-for-5 from the floor, but he remains consistent in his effort and also his ability to shove his way into good rebounding position. He had an assist and a turnover and also needs to be careful about fouls, as he had four in his short time out there.

Landen Lucas — Lucas is a guy that appeared to get more comfortable as the trip went on. He told me after the game he'd been trying to do a lot of things too fast on the court — a problem he hasn't had in the past. He looked more composed Sunday, knocking in a 14-foot baseline jumper and also getting a stickback after muscling for an offensive rebound over NBA player Kevin Seraphin. Lucas still sometimes has problems catching passes in the post, as he lost another one out of bounds Sunday. In 13 minutes, he had six points on 3-for-6 shooting with five rebounds, one assist and two turnovers. Like Peters, he needs to watch his defensive whistles, as he fouled out while mostly going against Seraphin.

Perry Ellis — He was KU's best player Sunday, making his first five shots while also creating to draw five fouls on France. He was most impressive in transition, looking comfortable handling the ball (and passes) in traffic before putting the close shots in. He had a nice bounce pass to Kevin Young for a slam and had a great day on the glass, pulling down 12 rebounds (five offensive) in 24 minutes. The freshman had 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting and also made all four of his free throws. He still is careless at times, turning it over five times, with a few of those coming on deflected passes. Ellis added two assists and a steal, and even though Self wants him to be more aggressive, I have to believe that the freshman will be the favorite heading into the fall for the starting spot beside Jeff Withey.

Kevin Young — Quiet day for Young, though Self said earlier that he was going to play him in different roles on the perimeter Sunday. The senior drew four fouls in 14 minutes, both otherwise contributed three points on 1-for-3 shooting with two rebounds to go with one turnover.


KU video highlights from 79-60 exhibition loss to AMW Team France

Here are a few video highlights from the Kansas men's basketball team's 79-60 exhibition loss to AMW Team France on Sunday.


Video highlights/clips from KU’s 74-73 loss to AMW Team France, plus brief player observations

Here are a collection of video highlights/clips from Kansas' 74-73 loss to AMW Team France on Saturday in Game One. The final three clips are the final three possessions of the game.

As promised, here are some brief observations on each KU player from Saturday's game.

Naadir Tharpe — Probably played worse than his stat line indicated, though nine assists is quite a few. Made a few poor post passes in the first half and also went 0-for-5 from three, with most of those coming on open shots. He had a couple nice shots to beat the shot clock and also has thrived in the three games at pushing the ball in transition.

Rio Adams — Hit a three, but I don't remember much more about his game. Had one turnover and no other marks in the box score.

Andrew White — White stepped out of bounds on an inbounds play in the third quarter, immediately was subbed out and never returned to the game. The freshman did the same thing three times in KU's first game this trip, so my guess is KU coach Bill Self was trying to make a point. White had three points on 1-for-3 three-point shooting in just 10 minutes after leading the Jayhawks in scoring in the first two games of the trip.

Justin Wesley — Don't recall much from his time in. He played five minutes with one rebound and two turnovers.

Jeff Withey — I'm not sure that Self has been happy with him for most of the trip. Withey did finish with eight points and had easily his best post move of the trip (see video), making a back-to-the-basket move before banking in a turnaround. The senior had four rebounds and three turnovers and was subbed out for Zach Peters in the game's final minutes.

Evan Manning — Missed an open three then made an open three. He also had a bad turnover, losing the handle while trying to go around a ball screen from Landen Lucas. Manning played six minutes.

Elijah Johnson — Johnson hasn't shot it well this whole trip, and that continued Saturday, where he made just 2 of 10 field goals. He was good on the defensive glass, pulling down four rebounds, and appears to be KU's most vocal leader while he's in. The shortened shot clock has forced him to take a few extra shots with KU in desperation mode.

Travis Releford — He scored a team-high 10 points on 3-for-5 shooting. It didn't sound like Self was happy with the senior's game, which included three assists and three turnovers in 30 minutes.

Milt Doyle — Swished a three before leaving the game with a dislocated finger. He didn't return after that. The freshman played five minutes and should get more time Sunday.

Jamari Traylor — Showed better offensive game Saturday than he had the two previous contests. Scored four points with two rebounds in eight minutes, though he also was whistled for three seconds in the lane and had trouble catching a couple passes.

Zach Peters — He'd get my vote for best KU player on Saturday. Peters continues to show a solid offensive game and an ability to make moves in the post, which included a drive under the basket for a reverse lay-in. He had six points and a team-high seven rebounds in 22 minutes with two turnovers. Like Traylor, he fumbled a few passes, but he plays aggressively and always seems to be in the right spot for a rebound.

Landen Lucas — He seems to be becoming more comfortable every game with the ball. Without the ball, he had some problems, getting whistled for an obvious illegal screen and also an away-from-the-play offensive foul. Still, he powered his way to the rim once for a layup, and on another occasion, he was blocked before putting the rebound in. He had five points and three rebounds in his seven minutes.

Perry Ellis — The freshman continues to be KU's best scorer when he gets it in the post. Using a few different moves, Ellis racked up eight points in 11 minutes on 4-for-6 shooting. He had no rebounds, though.

Kevin Young — Just like the previous two games, Young did his best work in the fourth quarter, coming up with big baskets and boards down the stretch. He's still inconsistent, though, as he logged just 10 minutes Saturday. He ended with five points on 2-for-5 shooting with five rebounds.

Niko Roberts — Played a couple minutes but didn't appear on the final box score. Showed nice awareness to reach a hand in to force a jump ball on a rebound, then later came away with a defensive rebound.


A few KU video highlights from Game 2 win over Switzerland; plus, observations on each Jayhawk from Wednesday

Following Kansas' 83-79 victory over the Swiss national team in Game Two, I thought I'd share some KU video highlights from Wednesday.

I don't have all the best plays, but these are a few I was able to shoot when I wasn't blogging. The final clip is the Swiss team's offensive possession when trailing, 81-79, with about 20 seconds remaining.

Also, box score is up for those who haven't seen it.

Before I get to player observations, here's a general one: Both teams played much better Wednesday than they did Tuesday. The Swiss were making almost every jump shot between 15 and 18 feet and ended up making 21 of 33 two-pointers (64 percent).

Also, KU won despite an unfavorable whistle. Switzerland made 25 of 38 free throws, while the Jayhawks made 12 of 19. The discrepancy was worse in the first half, when the Swiss shot 20 free throws compared to KU’s four.

The officiating was better after halftime. The Jayhawks were definitely getting a tight whistle early, but in the second half, I don’t think the officiating impacted the game much for either team.

Here are my observations of the 15 players that checked in:

Jeff Withey — He played better in the second half after ending up in Self’s doghouse a bit in the first half. He contributed probably the biggest defensive play of the game, blocking a Swiss player’s shot with the game tied and around 30 seconds to go, which led to Kevin Young’s dunk in transition that gave KU the lead for good. Withey contributed three blocks but wasn’t as active defensively as he was in Game One, partly because the Swiss settled for a lot of jump shots. Withey once again struggled with isolation moves, missing badly when putting up turn-around shots while trying to take his defender in the post. The senior did come through for KU late, knocking down some crucial free throws in the fourth quarter. He finished 6-for-6 from the line and had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Perry Ellis — His first half was better than his second. He scored on a few nifty plays in the post, including a dribble drive on the baseline to a reverse lay-in that looks like his go-to move. Self got on Ellis during one timeout about not communicating defensively, which led to a Swiss three.

Elijah Johnson — Johnson wasn’t afraid to the guy to take most of KU’s shots late when the game was on the line. He didn’t make many of those shots, but he did draw enough attention to allow Young some space to grab offensive rebounds. One of Johnson’s highlights came with the shot clock winding down, as he put on a shake move to create separation before knocking down a stepback three (see video above). Johnson hit a couple threes in the second half and, from his actions and words so far, appears to the leader of this year’s team.

Ben McLemore — Limited to just five minutes because of a nagging groin injury. KU coach Bill Self said after the game that McLemore’s status was unknown for the Jayhawks’ final two games of the trip.

Travis Releford — Not his best game. Tried to force too many passes inside from bad angles. He also picked up four fouls in 22 minutes, though I remember two of them were questionable. Had just two field-goal attempts after playing great in transition during Game One on Tuesday.

Naadir Tharpe — For the second straight game, Self talked after the game about how he was pleased with Tharpe’s play in stretches. The sophomore once again had a couple nice passes in transition that led to baskets and also went 1-for-2 from three. He finished with five points, three assists and one turnover in 22 minutes.

Evan Manning — Got an opportunity to play once again but got the quick hook from Self after getting beat off the dribble before fouling his man while going for a reach-in. Self yelled at Manning, then took him out after just two minutes. The freshman had one defensive rebound.

Rio Adams — Self was frustrated with his defense, yelling at him that he was letting his man catch it wherever he wanted to. Adams also received a quick benching after taking an ill-advised shot: an 18-footer with 21 on the shot clock with no teammates in rebounding position. Adams still played better Wednesday than he did Tuesday, putting in a mid-range jumper for two points with two assists and no turnovers in 10 minutes.

Andrew White — White drew lots of praise from Self after the game, with the coach saying he liked the guard's confidence the most. White didn’t hesitate when putting up jumpers, and he was hitting them Wednesday. The freshman went 2-for-3 from three-point range and 6-for-9 overall, with many of his twos coming in the 15-to-18-foot range. He led KU with 16 points to go with one assist and two turnovers. He’s working hard defensively too, as he came away with three steals and also received lots of positive feedback from KU’s coaches when he was able to stop a Swiss drive by shuffling his feet. Through two games, White has been KU’s best newcomer.

Milt Doyle — Had a quiet five minutes, missing one running floater. Also picked up a personal foul.

Jamari Traylor — Traylor only played five minutes and had a couple highlights, drawing a charge defensively and also finishing an and-one following a nice pass from Zach Peters. Traylor missed the free throw and also another close shot inside. Though he moves well and is a huge body, Traylor still appears to be developing his offensive game, as in the first two games, he’s been mostly a ball-mover on that end.

Zach Peters — Drew positive reviews once again from Self, who said Peters was KU’s best big man in the first half. The freshman showed great instincts after an offensive rebound, using an up-and-under move to get his defender in the air before putting in a bank shot with a foul. Peters also showed nice touch in hitting a fadeaway jumper from about 10 feet on the baseline. His second half wasn’t as good, as he posted three turnovers in a five-possession span. He also seems to get blocked at least once in each game I’ve seen him, though that hasn’t affected his aggressiveness. He finished with seven points (3-for-5 shooting) and five rebounds in 13 minutes.

Landen Lucas — Had a productive six minutes, and on one occasion grabbed an offensive rebound before knocking in a 17-footer from the left elbow. He had two points and two rebounds, though he did foul a Swiss player that resulted in a three-point play. The freshman looked a little more comfortable offensively Wednesday compared to Tuesday.

Justin Wesley — The junior finished one lob from Johnson with a dunk, but on a few occasions, KU’s coaches were frustrated with Wesley regarding his defense. He had two points, two rebounds and a steal in nine minutes.

Kevin Young — For the second straight game, Young played his best in the fourth quarter. He rebounded a Johnson missed free throw for a stickback, grabbed another Johnson miss for a tip-in and also beat everyone down the floor to break the tie with a dunk in the final 15 seconds. All this came after a subpar first half when Young was chewed out for letting a Swiss player around him on a boxout just a few seconds after the KU senior checked in. Young finished with 14 points, making 6 of 7 shots with five rebounds (one offensive), though I know we missed one of his offensive rebounds, as he had two in the final few minutes.


Game 1 observations: Zach Peters, Travis Releford two highlights for KU in win

Before we get started, here's some iPhone video of the final 1.6 seconds in KU's win.

The following is a quick breakdown of each Kansas player following the Jayhawks' 79-76 victory over the Swiss national team on Tuesday night.

Please note that if a player isn't listed, he did not play.

Elijah Johnson — He stood out most on the defensive glass, tying for the team high with six defensive rebounds (with eight rebounds overall). He made a three and also had an impressive move on one second-half drive, using a juke to get by his defender before putting in a contested runner off the glass from about eight feet. Self got after him once in the first half, calling his defense “lazy.”

Jeff Withey — I noticed an interesting sequence in the third quarter for the Swiss team. One big man drove the lane and was about to put up a shot before passing it at the last second to another big. He did the same thing, pump-faking before throwing the ball back to the perimeter. Yep, in two quarters, the Swiss team already knew who Jeff Withey was.

Though Switzerland don’t have a lot of bigs (and had even fewer after an ejection), Withey once again was the anchor of KU’s defense with his shot-blocking ability. Offensively, like last year, he was at his best when finishing off nice passes from his teammates, as most of his points came right under the rim. On two occasions, I can remember him making a conscious effort to take it at his man, and it didn’t turn out well. The first time, a left-handed hook became an airball, and the second time, a right-handed turnaround wasn’t close after Withey made an awkward pivot back into his defender during the shot.

Travis Releford — Along with Withey, Releford was KU’s best defender. He showed his ability to slide and stop dribble penetration again on Tuesday. Offensively, he was one of the highlights, especially in transition. He frequently was one of the first ones down the floor, and he made the most of the opportunities he had. His best play was in the fast break, as he cupped the ball in his right hand, jumped off one foot, and slammed the ball over a defender while getting fouled. When he took off, I didn’t think he was going to get to the rim, but he managed to get all the way there while finishing with contact.

Zach Peters — Self called Peters KU’s second-best big man behind Withey, which was high praise. The freshman seems to have knack for being in the right position underneath for rebounds, and he had a few occasions Tuesday when he used his body well to completely seal off a would-be Swiss rebounder. He wasn’t without mistakes, as Self got on him a couple times, but he had one of the most encouraging games from the newcomers. He also finished a high-low pass from Withey for two points, which gives the KU offense another dimension. Peters was blocked at least once Tuesday, and in the two times I’ve seen him in the last week, it seems like he sometimes has problems getting shots around defenders. Those bad memories haven't affected his aggressiveness, though, which appears to be a good sign.

Ben McLemore — Was best on the defensive glass. He struggled somewhat offensively, turning it over a few times while going 0-for-6 from the floor. He didn’t play much in the second half, which makes me wonder if his sore hip cut into his playing time (Self mentioned after the game a few players were playing through nagging ailments). McLemore played just 16 minutes.

Naadir Tharpe — He was mentioned by Self as one of the guys who had good stretches. Tharpe showed confidence in his shot, draining an 18-footer in transition during the first half when KU was struggling to score. He also was one of KU’s best passers in transition, once zipping a long pass to Releford in stride for a jam and another team weaving into the lane to draw attention before dropping back to Releford for another two. Self called him out for a couple things from the bench, but overall, Tharpe played well and — most importantly for him — under control.

Perry Ellis — He was one of KU’s best finishers around the rim in the halfcourt. One time, he used a nice move on the baseline, wiggling around his defender on the dribble before putting in a reverse layup to avoid getting blocked. Had four rebounds in 12 minutes.

Landen Lucas — His best play came in the first half when he dove for a loose ball to help create a turnover. He also hit two free-throw attempts after getting fouled early. The freshman still looks to be thinking a lot while he’s out there. He picked up three fouls in four minutes, one of which came because of a lack of body control.

Rio Adams — He struggled in his first exhibition game, perhaps because of jitters. He finished with three turnovers and didn’t play most of the second half. Was charged with a double-dribble when he lost control while not being pressured, and right after that, he jumped in the air in the lane without knowing where he was going with the ball. Though he avoided a turnover, I heard Self yell to his bench, “Go get him.” Adams was out soon after that. Self also got after him on one occasion in the first half for not running the correct assignment on an offensive play. He played just seven minutes.

Milton Doyle — Like Adams, he struggled with turnovers (two) and didn't play too many minutes, perhaps because of the giveaways. He logged just five minutes.

Andrew White — White’s highs were pretty high Tuesday. He was KU’s best player in the third quarter when the Jayhawks built their biggest lead. During that time, he put in a three off a screen, put in another jumper and also stuck with his man defensively, which resulted in a KU steal. White also drew frustration from Self offensively, as on three separate occasions, he stepped out of bounds with the ball for an unforced turnover. He finished with five giveaways in all. KU coaches also were on him all game to get out further defensively, as he would lay off his man too far to allow easy catches. White once again was a factor on the offensive glass (three offensive boards) while showing an impressive vertical. A couple of those rebounds were in traffic where he snatched it away from taller players.

Evan Manning — After Self checked him into the game in the second half, Manning came up a steal in his first minute. The freshman played solidly except for one offensive possession when he tried to do too much, as he got fancy with a dribble trying to go around a screen by Lucas and lost control. Don’t count Manning out of a possible spot in the rotation at some point this year. He was on the court during KU's last defensive possession (see video above), and his name was the first that Self mentioned after the game. Remember, the coach hasn’t been afraid to put in walk-ons in the past (Stephen Vinson, Christian Moody, Brady Morningstar) when their play warrants it.

Jamari Traylor — Showed great athleticism on first-half block when he raced down the floor trailing the play before swatting the ball out of bounds. He moved well Tuesday, getting up and down the court in a hurry. I don’t remember much from him offensively, but I get the feeling that energy and defense is what Self wants most from him anyways.

Justin Wesley — I don’t remember much from Wesley’s time out there Tuesday. He played six minutes with no points and a rebound.

Kevin Young — Extremely active on the offensive glass, posting six offensive rebounds. He also had the game's biggest play, a rebound and pass to Jeff Withey for a layup with 25 seconds left that extended KU's lead from two to four. Young admitted after the game he needs to improve his defensive rebounding, and Self has been getting after him hard to do that. Young made his first four shots and finished with nine points on 4-for-6 shooting with eight rebounds in just 13 minutes.


Observations from KU men’s basketball open practice

Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore scrimmages with his KU teammates on Saturday, August 4, 2012, at the Jayhawks’ practice facility near Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore tweaked a hip-flexor early in the practice, but should be ready to play when KU begins its European exhibition on Tuesday.

Kansas University freshman Ben McLemore scrimmages with his KU teammates on Saturday, August 4, 2012, at the Jayhawks’ practice facility near Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore tweaked a hip-flexor early in the practice, but should be ready to play when KU begins its European exhibition on Tuesday. by Richard Gwin

Kansas coach Bill Self opened up his full practice to media members Saturday, as the Jayhawks scrimmaged for about 90 minutes with all the European rules (24-second shot clock, wider lane, 10-minute quarters, international basketball) before spending the last half-hour or so installing plays and going over zone offense.

Here are some of the notes I jotted down about some of the players from the scrimmage:

Jeff Withey — To me, he was the best player in the gym, and it wasn't close. Defensively, he looked just as good as he was a year ago, blocking shots both at the rim and also away from it. On one instance, with time running down in the third quarter, he blocked Kevin Young's shot about 18 feet from the basket. Young retrieved the ball quickly and put up another shot, and Withey quickly bounded up to block that shot as well. The defensive effort even drew kudos from Self.

Offensively, Withey is trying to assert himself more, as he knows he'll be relied upon to score this year. Though he went after defenders when he received the ball in the post, I didn't see him attempt too many jump shots. His offensive game is still developing and isn't a finished product just yet.

Elijah Johnson — Nothing much to report with Johnson. He had a steal and dunk in transition and hit a few outside jumpers. It was basically what you'd expect from him.

Perry Ellis — Ellis this was the newcomer who impressed me the most. Offensively, he's further along than any other KU freshman. What he does with the basketball just appears instinctual. When he gets it in the low post, he knows what he's going to do and does it. He also has an ability to get by his defender off the dribble. Nothing about his game appears mechanical, and the game never appears to be going to fast for him. He also had a highlight throwing a high-low pass from the top of the key to Withey. Ellis spotted him, then threw a lob pass that was a bit to Withey's back shoulder, though Withey was still able to lay it in easily. Afterwards, though his team had just scored, Ellis still apologized to Withey for the pass. Ellis also looked comfortable shooting mid-range jumpers in the 15-to-18-foot range, making quite a few of them.

Naadir Tharpe — The sophomore looks to be making an effort to become more of a floor leader. He was one of the loudest encouragers on the floor and also a guy that was trying to help out younger players. He had one nice pass in the lane that drew a "Way to play" from Self. Still, there were moments where Tharpe — everyone at practice called him "Na" — was reckless. During one transition, he sprinted all the way under the rim before jumping in the air next to two defenders. Facing away from the goal, he forced up a blind scoop shot over his head that wasn't close. He was one of the primary ball-handlers, though, and on this team, that should earn him minutes.

Andrew White — I thought White was the second-best freshman after Ellis. Much like Ellis, White didn't appear to be affected by the speed of the game. For the most part, he made good decisions and smart passes. He also has good size at 6-foot-6. His best play came in the second quarter, when he went way above the rim for an offensive rebound. Though White is known as more of a shooter, it looks like he could provide KU a boost on the offensive glass as well. About that shooting ... White missed every three-pointer I saw him take — and he probably took around 10, with most of them coming from the right corner. Remember, it's just one practice in August, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised that he didn't make one.

Rio Adams — The freshman struggled Saturday. Many of his issues came from trying to make difficult passes in traffic, which resulted in turnovers. One time, while driving, he also tried to get through a group of defenders by attempting a behind-the-back dribble, which resulted in an opponent steal. His shot was off Saturday as well, as one of his three-point tries bounced off the backboard, and he also was briefly in Self's doghouse for not hustling onto the court during an offensive drill. The one thing Adams does have going for him is that, during the scrimmage, he was trying hard. On one loose ball, he was the first to dive on the floor, earning praise from the KU assistant coaches. Adams also picked Johnson's pocket once in the backcourt, which stood out as the highlight of his day.

Milt Doyle — Like Adams, Doyle appears to be struggling with the quickness of the game. He tried to force too many passes into traffic, which many times resulted in turnovers. Doyle did show flashes of offensive skill Saturday, taking a couple dribbles before hitting an 18-foot pull-up jumper on one possession and later draining a three from the corner.

Zach Peters — The freshman doesn't look timid. He's not afraid to throw his body around and bang with the bigs inside. He also didn't look fazed even after getting blocked by Withey a couple times, which I thought was a good sign. One concern for him this year could be fouls, as he struggled to play defense without drawing a whistle.

Landen Lucas — He knocked down an 18-footer, but overall, it was a quiet day for him. He appears to be another guy still getting adjusted to college basketball, as coaches were on him a few times to go full speed up and down the court.

Kevin Young — Young was silent for the first half then really good in the second half, which reminded me a bit of what we saw from him last year. He appears to be a bit more athletic this year, skying high for an offensive rebound that I'm not sure he could have gotten to a year ago. He also showed nice touch in the post, spinning to a left-handed hook from about eight feet that went straight through. Young also routinely was one of the first players down the floor on offense, which resulted in at least one easy bucket for him. It looks like KU will rely on him more for rebounds this year with Thomas Robinson out of the lineup.

Ben McLemore — I missed the first quarter because of another assignment, so I didn't get to see McLemore, who didn't play past the second quarter because of a minor hip ailment. When I first walked in, I asked who was looking good, and McLemore's name was the first mentioned by Journal-World beat writer Gary Bedore. McLemore hit two threes and an inside shot in 10 minutes. Also, with McLemore in, the blue team outscored the red, 30-15, in the first quarter.

One other note I found interesting: Self stopped practice at one point to instruct the guys on inbounding the basketball.

It sounds like a tiny thing, but really, it's not. The person inbounding the ball has to call a play and make sure that everyone hears them.

Self told his guys to call that play while still standing on the court. The reason? If the player goes out of bounds to call the play, many times an official will hand him the ball, and the five-second count starts before the team's play is called. If a player calls the play from on the court, then there is no danger of the official handing him the ball and starting the count.

I thought it was a pretty interesting example of Self's attention to detail on something that many of us would never even think about.

Be sure to check back to KUsports.com over the next week and a half for coverage of the KU men's basketball team's exhibition games in Europe, as I'll be heading to Switzerland on Sunday.

The plan is to live blog each of the games from the arenas, starting with Tuesday's noon CST game against the Swiss national team.


Cliff’s Notes: Dave Campo press conference, 8/2/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas defensive coordinator Dave Campo's comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

Campo says the coaches have a better feel for the guys that have been here. The fall will be more about fitting guys into roles. There are a lot of new guys competing for positions. KU needs a two-deep because of the fast pace of the offenses in this league. The coaches still need to look at guys this fall — especially new guys — while also implementing different things into the defense.

The Big 12 is unique in that it has a lot of teams that play with the spread offense. That's different among major conferences. Campo's had to make some changes to his defense to adapt.

• The coaches love safety Tevin Shaw. It was difficult to get guys with his kind of athleticism at the point that the new coaching staff came to KU. He's a versatile athlete, and he's smart. After one day of meetings, it looks like he picks up things quickly. He's one of the guys in the next two weeks that, if you were a betting man, you'd say he'd have a chance to play. But the coaches will have to see his instincts out there at safety.

• Campo says that he hopes by two weeks into practices, he has his guys picked out so he can start to prepare for the first opponent.

Campo wants his players to play from snap to whistle no matter what the situation. KU is talented enough to stop some offenses if it does that. Campo thinks his team made progress in the spring with its fourth-quarter attitude.

• Campo feels like the secondary starters are strong. Now, KU has to find some backups there. On the defensive line, KU feels like it has to play two groups, because those guys are going to get winded if they play all-out like KU's coaches want them to play. If the new guys up front are who the coaches think they are, the coaches think they can line up two groups and not lose much when either unit is out there.

Toben Opurum is rocked up now. The strength guys did a great job with a lot of the KU players. Toben is one of those guys. He has fast-twitch ability. He has quickness off the ball. He can play down or standing up, which makes him versatile. He's a good football player. Campo's more impressed with him now after seeing what he did in the offseason.

• Campo was impressed by the players with the conditioning drills this morning. He was pleased watching the guys today. He thinks the guys are in shape.

Linebacker Anthony McDonald is a good football player. He's had some injury issues, and that might determine how far he goes. He's got experience, and it's a plus to have an experienced guy at middle linebacker.

• Right now, South Dakota State has no idea what KU is going to do, because Campo has played four or five defenses in the last few years. Campo would describe his defense as multiple. It's versatile. If KU has three linemen that are warriors, then the team will play three linemen. If KU has four linemen that are warriors, they'll play four. KU will match the defense with its personnel.

Campo says he would have rated KU last in the Big 12 if he would have looked at it. If you go a couple years and don't win, the general perception is that you have guys that can't win. Campo would disagree with that. Now it's time to stop talking and to go out and perform.


Cliff’s Notes: Charlie Weis press conference, 8/1/12

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.

In case you missed it, here's the depth chart released by Weis today.

Full audio has been posted.

Weis says part of the reason that some of the newcomers are so high on the depth chart is because he's had the spring to evaluate what he has and he figures those new guys will compete at their positions based on the knowledge he has.

Weis says you start by judging a team by wins and losses. Did you win all the games you were supposed to win, and did you win some of the games you weren't supposed to win?

Weis says he was disappointed going back to tape of last year and seeing how many games the Jayhawks "got the crap kicked out of them." He said he knows there are sometimes talent discrepancies, but there were too many games last year where games got away from KU way too early. He said that if he were a KU fan last year, he would have probably left at halftime and not come back in certain games.

• Weis joked tight end Mike Ragone is a legend in his own mind. Weis said he'll be a great interview. He's a hungry young man, as he knows this is his last shot. This is as healthy as he's been in a long time.

The players will go through a conditioning test at 6 a.m. Thursday, and there will be a penalty if players don't reach a certain mark. The test is based on stamina, and the time needed is based on a player's position.

Weis says he can't see why anyone would rank KU football anything but last in the Big 12. KU has hired a new coach, has a new staff and has changed things to match up with the personality of the new coach. KU has to go out and prove it is better than that. That's why you play the games.

Weis says offensive lineman Aslam Sterling is competing for first team mostly based on his size. Weis joked he's about a cheeseburger short of 400 pounds.

Right now, Toben Opurum is a rush end. But if teams try to mismatch you in games and get bigger on you, then Opurum becomes a linebacker, and KU will put another defensive end on the field.

Weis says he's more motivated than he's ever been to make this program successful. There might be more unknowns, but he has the same obligation to get this team as good as it possibly can be as quickly as possible. Fans are fans. Alumni are alumni, whether you are at KU or Notre Dame. Weis is here to make this program successful.


Video: Dayne Crist, Toben Opurum give their reasons for optimism in 2012

With everything going on at Big 12 media days, there's not always enough time to get every video downloaded and posted into the live blog.

With that in mind, here are five more short video responses from KU players and coach Charlie Weis that we weren't able to get up Tuesday.

If you missed any of our videos from Tuesday, you can check out our live blog from that day or go to the KUsportsTV YouTube channel.

KU senior defensive end/linebacker Toben Opurum explains specific instances where he's already seen leadership from new quarterback Dayne Crist.

Speaking of Crist, I asked him which players he thought might surprise fans in 2012. He actually came up with five.

During his time on stage, Weis made a few reporters laugh when he referred to Notre Dame transfer linebacker Anthony McDonald and tight end Mike Ragone as 'my blockheads.' Weis explains what he meant by the nickname here.

Opurum talks here why he's optimistic about this season, hinting perhaps that this offseason has been different from past years at KU.

And finally, Crist also talks about why he's optimistic for 2012, saying he can sense a desire from KU's players to win and improve.


Lunch links: Bill Self video welcomes West Virginia; behind the scenes with Mario Chalmers in New York

A few summer links in case you missed them ...

While doing some research on West Virginia's football team, I stumbled onto this video, which was displayed on the WVU football athletics site. Basically, it's KU coach Bill Self introducing KU (and Kansas) to West Virginia.

Which made me wonder: What's the first thing I would tell West Virginia fans about Kansas if they knew nothing about it?

I came up with two things:

  1. Not everyone here wears cowboy hats.

  2. Every single person here has already seen a "You're not in Kansas any more" sign in an opposing Big 12 arena or stadium. Therefore, if you make one, it will not be seen as funny and/or clever, so try to be a bit more creative.

I'm guessing there'll still be at least one of those during KU's first trip to Morgantown for basketball.

• Former Kansas guard Mario Chalmers made his way back to Lawrence last week for his annual golf tournament, but before that, he was in New York City to do multiple interviews after winning an NBA championship.

This video from The Daily gives an interesting, behind-the-scenes look at his day in NYC, which includes more wardrobe changes than I would have expected.

For those folks interested in memorabilia ... a 1915 KU basketball jersey is being auctioned off online.

The suggested value for it: $30,000. Though right now, if the price holds, it looks like someone could get a steal for under $10K.

Last week, CBSsports.com's Matt Norlander recorded a podcast with longtime announcer Verne Lundquist.

During the chat, Lundquist brought up this year's KU-Missouri game at Allen Fieldhouse. (He starts talking about it at the 26:35 mark.)

"That's one of the great games I've ever seen, and more because of the setting, Matt," Lundquist said. "Allen Fieldhouse, if I had to pick my favorite college basketball arena, that would probably be it."

That's pretty high praise from a guy that has seen a lot of arenas and college basketball over the years.

Producer Kevin Willmott and former Kansas basketball player Scot Pollard are continuing to ask for KickStarter donations for their proposed independent film, "Jayhawkers," which would examine the story of KU coach Phog Allen, how he recruited Wilt Chamberlain and how that changed Lawrence.

For more information on the project, check out the video below.

• And finally, the Kansas City Chiefs are having a contest to determine the National Anthem singer for their Aug. 24 preseason game against Seattle, and one of the potential singers has deep KU ties.

Ron Gutierrez attended KU and also has performed the National Anthem at KU basketball games.

Here's his official tryout video from his audition at Arrowhead, and those who want to vote for him can do so at the same link.

Another of the five finalists, Mandy Peck, also lists a connection to KU in her bio, saying she has performed the National Anthem at Jayhawk events.


Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey unlikely to assume same offensive roles as Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson

With eight new scholarship freshmen on the roster, it's hard to predict exactly how the Kansas men's basketball team's offensive roles will establish themselves for the 2012-13 season.

If history is any indication, though, KU fans shouldn't expect seniors Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to do the same heavy lifting offensively that departed players Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson did in 2011-12.

Elijah Johnson (15) along with from left, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, and Travis Releford, laugh during a huddle in the second-half of the Jayhawks 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012...

Elijah Johnson (15) along with from left, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, and Travis Releford, laugh during a huddle in the second-half of the Jayhawks 60-57 win over North Carolina State in St. Louis Friday, March 16, 2012... by Mike Yoder

The reason for this is a 2007 study from Ken Pomeroy that attempted to look at players' offensive roles from one year to the next.

For this study, he used possession percentage, which is the percentage of possessions a player ends by making or missing a shot or creating a turnover with a few adjustments made for offensive rebounds and assists (20 percent is average).

After looking at possession percentages of players one year to the next, Pomeroy came to the following conclusion in his study:

"Players do jump from being decoys to go-to guys in one season, and some even regress the other way. Those are the exceptions. By and large, a player's role on his team in one season is a good indicator of his role the following season."

One of the examples he used from the time was Duke's Josh McRoberts. After playing his freshman year with J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, most Blue Devils fans expected him to carry the load offensively during his sophomore season.

There was only one problem: McRoberts played passively his freshman year (17.1 percent possession percentage), and it's hard for a player to dramatically shift his role from one year to the next.

Though McRoberts' possession percentage went up to 21.9 percent his sophomore year, Pomeroy said the forward still received criticism for not taking over games.

Let's take a look at last year. Did Taylor and Robinson have the offensive profiles to suggest they could become go-to guys?

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, top, hugs teammate Tyshawn Taylor after Taylor's feed to Robinson for a dunk against South Florida during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, top, hugs teammate Tyshawn Taylor after Taylor's feed to Robinson for a dunk against South Florida during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Here are both of their possession percentages from the past two seasons, according to KenPom.com:

2010-11 — Taylor 21.2 percent, Robinson 26.7 percent
2011-12 — Taylor 27.7 percent, Robinson 29.7 percent

Taylor's jump in offensive involvement was significant — according to Pomeroy's study, only about 1 in 20 players will experience a usage increase this large from one season to the next. Still, Taylor was an above-average offensive contributor his junior year, so a jump to 26.7 percent wasn't completely crazy.

Robinson, meanwhile, was a high-usage guy even when he wasn't the focal point of the offense his sophomore year. It shouldn't have come as any surprise that he could handle a go-to guy role for KU last season.

So what about Johnson and Withey, the two guys who are being expected to produce the most offensively for KU next season?

Here's a look at their possession percentages from a year ago:

Johnson — 17.5 percent
Withey — 18.0 percent

At times last year, both players drew criticism for being too passive offensively. For Johnson, this was mostly focused on his lack of aggressiveness with penetration, as he had just 46 free-throw attempts while hoisting up 64 more three-pointers than two-pointers.

Withey also rarely looked for his own shot, with many of his attempts coming off open looks created by assists (before the Final Four games, a whopping 79.7 percent of his "close twos" were assisted last year).

So what does this all mean?

Well, if Pomeroy's study holds true today (he told me that it should with the amount of data he used), KU fans shouldn't expect Johnson and Withey to immediately step in and become the offensive contributors that Taylor and Robinson were a year ago.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, center, jokingly pushes center Jeff Withey away from his golf cart as the players prepare to be shuttled to interviews on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. At left is KU guard Elijah Johnson.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, center, jokingly pushes center Jeff Withey away from his golf cart as the players prepare to be shuttled to interviews on Saturday, March 24, 2012 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. At left is KU guard Elijah Johnson. by Nick Krug

Though Pomeroy told me it's not impossible for players to make possession percentage leaps from the teens into the high-20s, more than likely, both players will end up in the 20-24 percent range.

That would leave a lot of possessions unclaimed for KU.

So who might pick those up?

Kevin Young is a possibility (19.3 percent), though he needs to improve his defense and reduce his fouls to pick up increased minutes.

Travis Releford, meanwhile, seems unlikely to take on a huge role, as he posted the second-lowest possession percentage of KU's regulars last season (13.9 percent).

It appears, then, that there is an opportunity for freshmen Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis (and potentially Anrio Adams and Andrew White) to make a big offensive impact for KU in their first years.

In all likelihood, KU's offense will be more balanced in 2012-13, with the Jayhawks needing a few good freshmen to immediately step into scoring roles.


A note about recent changes

You may have noticed that our sites look a bit different this morning. That's because our content management system has been updated to allow for new and improved features.

I'll talk a bit about those in a moment, but first you should know that, as with any major change, we're experiencing some bugs. So we've been troubleshooting, identifying problem areas and compiling issues so that our Web development team can fix them.

Some of the issues we've experienced so far are: - missing comments; - inaccurate comment counts; - problems with the mobile site of ljworld.com; - email editions are not going out; - problems reading private messages

We apologize for these issues, and we're working to fix them.

Now, for the good news. Our upgraded system has a number of new features that we're excited about.

Social networking

You can now sign into LJWorld.com, KUsports.com and Lawrence.com. using your Twitter, Google or OpenID accounts.

In comments

  • Users can now edit posts; you have a several-minute window to make changes;
  • An updated "reply" function that makes threaded comments easier to follow;
  • A thumbs-up button that lets users like a comment, as you might on Facebook.
  • Links to photos and videos will now show in the comments section, and users can upload photos with a caption; remember, with great power comes great responsibility


If you're tired of trying to navigate our sites on your phone, you'll be pleased to know that the sites now automatically redirect to stripped-down mobile versions, which are easier to read. We're still working out some kinks, but we're especially excited about this. If you liked reading the regular site on your mobile device, there's a "view full site" button at the bottom of the page, which loads the normal site. This feature is not yet available for the mobile versions of KUsports.com and Lawrence.com.

We anticipate more features rolling out in the near future. If you're experiencing any of our growing pains, please be patient as we work out the kinks.

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More links: Audio from Missouri representative who is really opposed to KU license plates; T-Rob labeled ‘jackpot’ player

A few more links in case you missed them ...

I heard this audio on the radio Wednesday and it's too crazy not to share.

Missourinet.com downloaded the full audio of Missouri Rep. Stephen Webber's impassioned speech to the Missouri House earlier this week, saying the state should not allow KU-themed license plates.

I would try to describe the speech, but whatever I say won't do it justice. Just give the link a click and be sure to sit down for the whole 3 1/2 minutes.

ESPN's Jason King posted three KU-related pieces Wednesday.

The first was a well-written feature on KU strength coach Andrea Hudy with lots of cool anecdotes from her life.

There's also a video with Self and a Coaches' Corner Q&A that includes many of the responses from Self in the video in text form, just in case you can't watch videos at work.

This is an ESPN Insider story, so a subscription is required, but ESPN Recruiting Nation gives KU's 2012 men's basketball recruiting class an "A," saying KU coach Bill Self's five signings "should be able to keep Kansas near the top of the Big 12."

SI.com's Sam Amick rates former KU forward Thomas Robinson as one of the four "jackpot" picks in this year's NBA Draft.

Amick labels a "jackpot" player as one whose "talent is immense and the upside is as trustworthy as there is in the draft."

The other three Jackpot players, according to Amick, are Kentucky's Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Florida's Bradley Beal.

• And finally, the NCAA sent out a release Wednesday regarding the sites of the 2013 NCAA men's basketball tournament, and Kansas City is included as a second-/third-round site.

The Missouri Valley Conference will serve as the host for the games, meaning all Big 12 schools are eligible to play at Sprint Center.

The closest Sweet 16/Elite Eight regional to KU, if you were wondering, is in Arlington, Texas. The Final Four will be played in Atlanta.