Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
• Weis says it's important for the players to know that there's something to play for when you play your in-state rival. The goal is to have the governor come congratulate you in your locker room after the game.
• Weis says it's tough for him to say anything negative about KSU coach Bill Snyder. He says he's a great offensive mind and a "helluva" coach. If you're not sound fundamentally on defense, he will expose you.
• In a time when most teams either throw it around all the time or run mostly the read-option, Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein is unique. He is a power runner. If you don't stop him, you don't have much of a chance. He's physical. He's tough. He runs big.
• KSU has no glaring weakness. This is a team that plays sound fundamentally on both sides of the football that feeds off your mistakes. The Wildcats are tough up front as well. K-State is going to smash it down your throat, and you'd better be ready for it.
• It's good for KU to have two weeks to prepare for a team like this. All offseason, KU prepares for spread-like offenses. This is like playing one of the academy schools because it's an offense unlike what KU normally sees.
• KU's players hit each other in practices on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week. Weis did that because he believes his team has to play more physical football. It also needs to play tougher late. Weis also took the red jerseys off the quarterbacks in practice, meaning they were full contact as well.
• During the extra time last week, Weis evaluated each player on Kansas State to help with the scouting report for his players. Usually, he doesn't have the extra time to do that for each player.
• Weis said "absolutely" when asked if his team had a chance to win Saturday. You can't go to a game, saying, "We're 1-3, and they're 4-0. Let's try to keep it close. The fanbase will be happy." Weis said he'd rather lose 100-0.
• Weis says Kansas State is a good role model. KSU is doing a lot of things right. That would be a good place to get to.
• Weis said his team is going to continue to take a bunch of junior-college players. Juco players is one reason KSU's recruiting classes sometimes appear to be ranked lower. Those ratings are high-school ratings. The guys in juco want to go somewhere where they can play against good competition and can play now. KU plays against good competition. There's a great opportunity there for juco players at KU.
• Weis said KU quarterback Dayne Crist's head is a lot better now than it was at 8:15 p.m. last night when he chatted with Weis. Crist wasn't down, but part of Weis' job is to let him know where the team is. All he has to worry about is putting KU in the best position to beat K-State. He can't think about the past. He has to think about the present.
• Weis said it's important for his players to know that the coaches aren't blaming the players for early losses. The players are not going to get over the hump if they think the coaches aren't in their corner. As long as everyone keeps battling together, the switch will flip at some point.
• KU's assistants were on the road Thursday through Saturday of last week recruiting. The assistants then had Sunday off.
• Scrimmaging in practice last week gave guys the chance to be "the guy." For example, it gave Mike Cummings a chance to be the starting quarterback in a practice, even though he's the backup behind Crist. It gave guys the opportunity to have the feel like it's next year when some other players will be graduated.
• Against K-State's defense, the most critical factor is taking care of the football. The second-most important factor is being prepared to nickel-and-dime K-State's defense all game, because it doesn't usually give up big plays.
• Weis says he also used the bye week to self-scout. For example, KU has been poor offensively on third downs this year. Weis thinks he has a better understanding of why now after film study.
• Quarterback Turner Baty will get more time as scout team QB this week, as he's more of a dual-threat quarterback like Klein than KU quarterback Jake Heaps is.
• Weis says he shouldn't have to be Ronald Reagan and give a "Win one for the Gipper" speech this week for the KSU game. The motivation for winning should be obvious.
• Every once in a while in sports there's an opportunity for both the coach and university to win. To Weis, that's what Bill Self's contact extension was. Self is one of the best coaches in America in any sport. To set up a situation where everyone is content ... Weis thinks that's a great thing.
Team: Northern Illinois
Offensively, Northern Illinois' greatest strength so far this season has been its passing game.
Though quarterback Jordan Lynch is quickly gaining the reputation of a dual-threat player (he's averaged 101 rushing yards per game), he's been most impressive hitting deep plays in the air. NIU has 10, 30-plus-yard passing plays already this season (T-10th nationally) and also is averaging 8.8 yards per pass (24th nationally).
NIU also has performed extremely well on third downs, converting 22 of 37 (59 percent, fifth nationally).
Defensively, NIU's strengths are up front and in the secondary. The defensive line has racked up nine sacks in three games, which is even more impressive considering that Army had only four official pass attempts in last week's contest.
The Huskies also bring back five experienced players in their secondary and have broken up or intercepted 14 of 73 passes against them this season ... a strong ratio considering the low number of passes they've had against them.
The Huskies offensive line is about as inexperienced as you can get. In NIU's first game against Iowa, it went out with five brand-new starters on the O-line. Since then, Jared Volk has returned from injury, but even he only had two starts a year ago.
That inexperience hasn't hurt the Huskies too much in the passing game yet (five sacks compared to 72 passing attempts), but it does appear to be affecting NIU's ability to run the ball with its backs. Take away Lynch's rushing numbers, and the rest of the team has 69 carries for 269 yards (3.9 yards/carry). NIU had 28 non-Lynch rushing yards in the opener against Iowa and 48 non-Lynch rushing yards against Army last week, with the Huskies' lead back Leighton Settle rushing just five times for 19 yards last Saturday.
Defensively, NIU has struggled to stop the run against triple-option (Army) and non-triple-option teams.
The Huskies actually have been solid at limiting big plays (they haven't allowed a 30-plus-yard rush all year), but teams have had success grinding it out against them. NIU's opponents have 22, 10-yard rushes against it (T-115th nationally) while averaging 4.1 yards per attempt.
This also shows up in time of possession, as opponents have racked up an average of 37 minutes and 9 seconds of possession time against NIU this season.
Players to Watch
NIU coach Dave Doeren has described quarterback Jordan Lynch (No. 6) as "a linebacker playing quarterback." Lynch will be the main one to watch, as NIU is reliant upon him for almost all the offense. The 6-foot, 216-pound junior has completed 63 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and just two interceptions. He's also shown the ability to make the big play with his feet, as he posted an 88-yard touchdown run against Army last week.
Senior receiver Martel Moore (No. 1) is the one Lynch will look to for almost all of his deep throws. The 6-foot, 183-pounder already has six, 20-plus-yard receptions, which ties him for sixth in the nation. So far, Moore has more than double the receptions (15) of any other NIU receiver while contributing 229 receiving yards and three TDs.
Senior defensive end Alan Baxter (No. 90) has been the most productive player on the defensive line. The 6-foot, 240-pounder has five tackles for loss — including three sacks — while playing against run-heavy opponents so far this year.
Finally, KU quarterback Dayne Crist will have to look out for junior safety Jimmie Ward (No. 15). The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder — in addition to leading the team with 33 tackles — also has broken up five passes (T-sixth nationally) and has intercepted another. That's about as active as a safety can be through three games.
If Weis' gameplan last week was to try to pick on TCU's pass defense (not a bad strategy considering the numbers), then the gameplan should be the exact opposite this week.
KU's best chance to win against Northern Illinois will be to run, run, then run some more against a Huskies rush defense that has shown some flaws.
Not only that, NIU can play to its strengths defensively when it knows a pass is coming. With good pass-rushing ends and a talented secondary, KU will want to avoid third-and-longs as much as possible.
Though a few KUsports.com staff members are picking KU for the upset, I'm not brave enough to predict it. The biggest reason is simply recent history.
You might have already heard this, but the last time KU won a road game, Kale Pick was a quarterback, Toben Opurum was a running back, Bradley McDougald was a receiver and Daymond Patterson was a cornerback. That was a long time ago.
The Jayhawks have played so poorly on the road for so many games, I've been trained to believe that when they go outside Memorial, they're probably just not going to play well.
Also, to me, NIU looks like a better overall team than KU that gets the benefit of being on its home field. That adds up to a 10-point win.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 38, Kansas 28
Hawk to Rock: This seems like a game set up for Taylor Cox's skills. KU will need to set up manageable second- and third-down situations, and Cox has been KU's best back at getting positive gains out of small openings. Based on the matchup, don't be surprised if James Sims jumps right into the mix as well, as he's the same kind of runner. As for Cox, I'll go with 110 yards rushing and a TD against NIU.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
Also, here's the updated depth chart (quite a few changes, including lots of shuffling on the defensive line and in special teams).
• KU offensive lineman Riley Spencer will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Once Gavin Howard settled into right tackle, the KU coaches decided it would be best for Spencer to get his knee fixed through surgery. Spencer should be ready to go for spring ball next year.
• KU running back James Sims has seen the other two running backs play well. He knows he'll have to play well to get snaps. A lot of times when guys get suspended, they come back thinking, "They need me." Sims sat in the stands watching KU's three games wondering if the Jayhawks do need him. He's hungry to show what he can do, and that excites Weis.
• Weis expects Sims to be ready to go this week. He doesn't expect to see any rust.
• Weis said that out of his backs, the most polished receiver is Tony Pierson. That gives you an opportunity to do some things that he's better than the other backs at doing. Weis wasn't going to give away his game-plan for the NIU game, but Pierson's versatility gives KU options.
• The fact that Randall Dent has moved ahead of guys that have played that offensive guard a long time says a lot about him. His progression has been impressive to Weis. The coach kept seeing Dent drive people off the ball when he was on defense. When KU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt would talk about Dent and some of his limitations, Weis would say, "Don't worry, he's going to be an offensive guard eventually." KU will use a three-man rotation on the right side of the line and get Aslam Sterling more snaps along with the starters Dent and Howard.
• The KU coaches have seen flashes in practice of what receiver Andrew Turzilli could do before Saturday's performance. You have to be willing to take an older player's job. He's started to challenge more as opposed to being settled in at the No. 2 spot. He's easier to find for a QB because he's a big target.
• Weis says you have to go by performance when it comes to the depth chart. You can't go by seniority. You have to go by who you think gives you the best chance to win. Someone like D.J. Beshears, who was moved down the depth chart, will still get opportunities to show what he can do. Turzilli is just playing better. That's why he's playing.
• When Weis was told that it didn't look like he was happy with kickoff return last Saturday, he told the reporter that would be an understatement. Weis said if you have other guys you think can do better, you have to give them a chance. It's a coach's job to find answers. You can scheme as part of the answer, and you can also change personnel as the other part of the answer.
• The players will hear several times this week about KU's 13-game road-game losing streak. That will be one of Weis' main messages. Weis said he will use his vintage New Jersey sarcasm when discussing it with the players.
• Weis said long snapper Reilly Jeffers went above and beyond the call of duty. He had never snapped in a high school game before coming to KU. His snaps weren't perfect, but they got the job done. Justin Carnes isn't getting the job handed to him, though Weis thinks Carnes is probably better than Jeffers at long snapper. Carnes is going to have to show that in practice. Weis thinks KU will see the bigger improvement in its short snaps, where Carnes will take over for fill-in Trevor Marrongelli. It's tough to snap when you're taped up to be on the offensive line like Marrongelli was. Snappers want as little wrapping and tape on as possible.
• KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo has been tooting JaCorey Shepherd's horn lately. Earlier, Shepherd was, at best, KU's third-best slot receiver. Campo believed that he could work his way into the two-deep at cornerback, though, and Shepherd has done that. Weis thinks Shepherd would be a fine slot receiver. Shepherd sees himself as having a greater opportunity to move up the ranks on defense, though. He can turn his hips and backpedal well. Not every offensive player can play that position.
• Weis said he would be surprised if receiver Kale Pick doesn't play Saturday against NIU. He looked more normal in practice to Weis on Sunday. Safety Lubbock Smith is a little bit behind Pick. KU's coaches will talk through his status again later today.
• Weis said the best offensive linemen are ones that play with a defensive mentality. If you think about the best offensive linemen, they have a nasty mentality.
• Weis believes KU quarterback Dayne Crist was more comfortable last week, and he believes he will continue to get more comfortable each week. Crist didn't get hit in practices during the spring or summer, so he's just now adjusting again to getting hit.
• Weis said he will use film from last year's Northern Illinois game. He's also already read comments from NIU coach Dave Doeren saying that KU didn't win the game last year, but instead, NIU gave it away. The KU coaches will use that as motivation for the players.
AP rank: 16
ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll rank: 15
It's hard to take too much away from TCU's 56-0 victory over Grambling State last week. When a team goes 17-for-17 passing like the Horned Frogs did (and eight of those passes are from the backup QB), it's pretty safe to assume they weren't challenged.
TCU also was just one of four teams nationally to have a bye during Week 1, which further limits the information we have on this year's team.
Coming into the season, TCU appeared to be a balanced team that would be led by quarterback Casey Pachall.
The 6-foot-5 junior completed 67 percent of his passes in 2011, racking up 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions and 12 sacks. Those numbers put him in the elite category of returning QBs.
TCU also have a great complement of backs returning in senior Matthew Tucker and junior Wayman James. Tucker, at 6-1, 227, picked up most of the carries in the red zone (12 touchdowns), while the 5-8, 203-pound James averaged — averaged — 7.2 yards per carry.
Junior Josh Boyce is Pachall's favorite target, posting 61 catches and 998 yards a year ago.
TCU coach Gary Patterson also has a reputation for building great defenses, and last year, the Horned Frogs' strength was stuffing the run.
TCU allowed just 38 10-yard runs to opponents a year ago, which ranked fifth nationally. Opponents averaged just 3.5 yards per carry while only mustering seven rushing TDs against the Horned Frogs. That tied for the second-lowest number in the nation, behind only Alabama.
TCU lost most of its experience on the offensive line in the offseason, so that unit is still a bit of an unknown.
All-Mountain West first-teamer Blaize Foltz, a native of Rose Hill, is the starter at right guard, while left guard Eric Tausch (one start in 2011) and center James Fry (second year as starter) are the only other players who entered 2012 with starting experience at TCU.
Defensively, TCU appears to still have questions in the secondary after losing five contributors from a year ago.
The Horned Frogs actually struggled some against the pass in 2011, allowing 22 passes of 30 yards or more (tied for 97th nationally).
Junior cornerback Jason Verrett returns after being named All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2011, but besides him and sophomore safety Jonathan Anderson, TCU doesn't have a lot of experience on the back end of its 4-2-5 setup.
Players to Watch
As mentioned, quarterback Casey Pachall (No. 4) is an elite passer, making it onto multiple preseason QB award lists.
"There’s a lot of things to like about this kid," KU coach Charlie Weis said, "but his arm strength and his accuracy stand out for me."
Also, junior receiver Josh Boyce (No. 82) is tied for the most receiving touchdowns all-time at TCU with 17.
"Boyce is a guy, who it wouldn’t make a difference what team he was playing on, he’d be playing," Weis said. "He’s a really, really dynamic receiver and he’s not the only one they have but he’s ... if you have to pick your poison, that’s the first one you better be worrying about, because he’s a very, very good player."
Defensively, junior left end Stansly Maponga (No. 90) is the clear leader. The preseason All-Big 12 selection had nine sacks in 2011 and tied for sixth nationally with five forced fumbles, meaning KU quarterback Dayne Crist would be smart to secure the football if he feels pressure coming.
Just because TCU is new to the conference doesn't mean it's not a powerhouse.
The Horned Frogs have one of the most impressive recent résumés of any Big 12 team, and statistically, they should be just fine this year with a step up in competition.
Not including this season, TCU has lost just three times in its last three seasons. The Horned Frogs have playmakers on offense, defense and a coach that should be considered as one of the best in the conference and nation.
After a loss against Rice last week, I believe KU will play well Saturday. I just don't think it will matter much.
Prediction: TCU 49, Kansas 24
Hawk to Rock: If KU's scoring 24 points, and TCU is strong against the run, then those points are going to have to come from somewhere. Give me quarterback Dayne Crist as this week's Hawk to Rock, with Weis finding creative ways to get receivers open in the passing game. Give me 250 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception or fewer for Crist.
Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas football coach Charlie Weis' comments at his press conference today.
Also, here's the depth chart (not many changes; Brandon Bourbon is no longer at fullback; Jake Love is back in as a backup at SLB; plus, a few minor changes in the secondary).
• Weis confirmed that linebacker Prinz Kande is out for the year with a torn ACL. Weis says Kale Pick, Brandon Bourbon and Lubbock Smith are all day-to-day. If KU was playing today, Weis said those guys probably wouldn't play. Still, KU will put those guys through treatment and see how they feel by the end of the week.
• Weis expects KU to be able to run the ball against TCU. He said KU schemed its running game well against a similar defense to TCU's last week (Weis said Rice's defense is similar schematically to TCU's).
• Weis said he let the team be in the tank Saturday night because he was in it too. The best medicine in sports is to go out there and play again. Once KU gets out there Saturday afternoon, you've already moved on.
• Weis said he is happy with both Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox. Those guys are doing their jobs and doing what they can do.
• Weis would say he isn't happy with the passing game right now. He said that might be an understatement on his part. The passing game has a lot of room for improvement. It had better come on in a hurry, because as opponents improve, you're going to have to score more than 24 points.
• Weis said Aslam Sterling made a lot more mistakes than Randall Dent, so Dent played more at right guard on Saturday against Rice.
• KU is going to play a team this week that is going to try to pound it. That's why Weis shifted some bigger guys like Jake Love onto the depth chart.
• Weis said linebacker Anthony McDonald is ready to play.
• Dayne Crist is going to tell reporters today that he's disappointed. Everyone expects to be more efficient in the passing game. KU made strides from Week 1 to Week 2, but it's going to have play much better to compete with the big boys.
• Weis talked to Crist on Monday night. He told him to just do his job.
• Kande was playing well before he was injured, and he was playing two positions. He was providing decent snaps. It hurts. Weis feels bad for Kande, who was taking advantage of a new chance with a new coaching staff.
• TCU is saying it wants to make a statement with its first Big 12 conference game. But Weis says we should look at this from a practical perspective. TCU is looking at film of KU after losing to Rice. It might be tough for TCU to get motivation for this game. Weis has been on that end as a coach, too. It's tough to get motivated to play games like that.
• Weis says he's laid mousetraps around the locker room when his team has been favored in the past to get the team to focus on a "trap" game. He said if you are the favorite, you use any means necessary to get your team's attention.
• TCU is definitely an upper-level team in the Big 12. Weis has looked at tape of all the teams in the conference, and TCU can hang with the best. TCU is well-coached. Weis says his team could win or lose any game it plays in the Big 12 just based on its preparation. Most people don't think that, but Weis believes that.
• The way the games have played out, it's presented itself in a way that Tony Pierson has been able to go more than 15 touches. Like last week, Rice had a 17-play drive, and Pierson had about 20 minutes on the sideline. Weis joked that he could have taken a nap. Pierson was well-rested, and the game was tied, so Weis decided to go with his best player.
• Weis said he still has confidence in his kicking game. He said he knew he was taking a chance on a 53-yard field-goal attempt. On the 36, a punt might only net 16 yards. He took a chance there. The 40-yarder, though, is one you plan on having. Weis has been known as a guy that goes for it a lot on fourth downs already. If the kicking game does continue to struggle, that might play into his decision-making on fourth down. Weis said he's not at that point yet.
• Weis' conversations with defensive coordinator Dave Campo in the last 48 hours have been more about personnel than about scheme. First the discussion was about KU's personnel, then it was about TCU's personnel. A lot of times the average fan doesn't know that much of coaches' preparation is based on a team's personnel. The personnel is who that team is.
Jeff Sagarin rating: 116
KU's Sagarin rating: 88
Sagarin line: KU favored by 9
Rice had some success both running and throwing the football against UCLA last week, led by quarterback Taylor McHargue, who threw for 172 yards and rushed for 95 more with three combined touchdowns.
McHargue is the key offensively, as not only will he run when passing plays break down, but he also will keep it himself for designed read-option plays.
Defensively, Rice's secondary is considered its strength in its 4-2-5 setup. Sophomore cornerback Bryce Callahan was a Sporting News freshman All-America selection last year after leading all FBS freshmen with six interceptions, while Corey Frazier — son of Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier — also starts at free safety as one of only eight seniors on the roster.
If the game is close, Rice has one of the best kickers in the nation in junior Chris Boswell. He had three field goals of 50 yards or more last season — tying him for the lead nationally — and also booted a 53-yarder against UCLA last week.
Rice's defense has been killed by big plays.
That was the Owls' biggest weakness a year ago, and it showed up again last week. UCLA had three 70-plus-yard runs against Rice. To put that in perspective, no other team in the NCAA gave up more than one last week, and there were only 12 70-plus-yard runs total, meaning the Owls have surrendered 25 percent of the nation's 70-yard runs this year.
Offensively, Rice's inexperienced offensive line struggled to keep McHargue upright. The unit, which returned just 15 combined starts among the five offensive linemen coming into the season, allowed six sacks on 30 total passing attempts against UCLA.
Rice's offense also hasn't shown the ability to be explosive in recent years. In 2011, Rice ranked 89th in 20-plus-yard plays, while last week, the Owls had just one play go for more than 30 yards (a 40-yard run by McHargue).
Rice's special teams have been historically poor at coming up with touchdowns. The Owls have not scored a touchdown on a kickoff return since Nov. 17, 1984, and they also haven't scored a TD on a punt return since Nov. 8, 1997. Both are the longest return streaks without a touchdown in Div. I.
Players to Watch
Senior receiver Sam McGuffie (No. 2) started his career at Michigan and at one time was being recruited by current KU coach Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Though he's only 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, McGuffie's been described by Weis as an athletic player, and he also will be involved in special teams as a kickoff and punt returner.
Senior tight end Luke Willson (No. 82) had a relatively quiet first game with two catches for 18 yards and a touchdown, but his offseason alone should be reason for KU to pay attention to him. Not only was the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder named to four preseason watch lists in the summer, he also was signed as an undrafted free agent for the Toronto Blue Jays before participating in a month's-worth of extended Spring Training drills. While he was with the Blue Jays, he also was selected with the 32nd pick in the Canadian Football League Draft.
Junior linebacker Cameron Nwosu (No. 57) was Rice's leading tackler a year ago and also tied for the team lead with nine tackles against UCLA last week. If his name sounds familiar, it's probably because of his special-teams accomplishment a week ago, as he blocked an NCAA-record three extra-point attempts. Weis has said he believed those kicks might have been a bit low, but KU still will need to account for Nwosu in the middle of its line during kicks.
Senior defensive end Jared Williams (No. 97) was singled out by Weis on Tuesday as "clearly the leader of their defensive line. (Kansas offensive lineman) Tanner (Hawkinson) will have his hands full, because that's where the guy lines up most of the time." The 6-5, 250-pound Williams had a sack and five tackles to go along with a fumble recovery against UCLA last week.
Rice has shown the ability to be competitive ... when it can avoid big plays by the opponent.
Advanced stats suggest that Rice's pass defense in 2011 was much better than the numbers looked, but once again, big gains by opponents skewed the final statistics.
This looks to be a game that could be decided on the lines, and KU should have an advantage up front on both sides. Will the Jayhawks be able to run the ball effectively as others have done in the past against Rice's 4-2-5 setup (UCLA had 37 carrries for 343 yards last week)? Also, will KU be able to get a couple big plays?
If so, the Jayhawks should be able to pull away at home to win this one by a couple possessions.
Prediction: Kansas 34, Rice 21
Hawk to Rock: This week it has to be sophomore running back Tony Pierson, who is clearly KU's home-run threat in the running game. Rice's defenders will need to be especially careful when he's in the game, as they won't be able to catch him from behind if he gets in the open field. I'll go with one long run (40-plus yards) and 140 yards total from Pierson.
Also, here's the updated depth chart (Not many changes this week, with Jake Love being taken off the OR line at linebacker and kicker Nick Prolago being added to the OR column on kickoffs).
• Most of the rushing yards that Rice allowed last Thursday against UCLA were on big plays. Sometimes, that skews the numbers. You have to look at the whole body of evidence. Rice gave up big plays, but it also made some plays as well.
• Weis thinks UCLA's three blocked extra points against Rice last week were all kicked low. Sometimes, the protection gets all the blame, and it's the kicker's responsibility to get the ball up.
• Weis grades players with pluses and minuses that add up to a percentage grade. The coaches grade hard, so Weis said there were "probably not" many guys that graded well after the first game. When you have a clicker in your hand, it's easy to nitpick, because you can see every little thing. With the naked eye, it's sometimes harder to see detail.
• Coming in, Weis knew that Taylor Cox had some shiftiness and shake-and-bake and also that he had some power. Weis said seeing both the shiftiness and power in the same game was encouraging. Weis also said that, after the fumble, Cox was ready to get back out there, and that was a good sign as well.
• No one gets graded harder than the quarterback. Weis joked that Dayne Crist's parents wouldn't have been happy if he'd have brought his grade home.
• Weis says if you bring in a junior-college player, they're probably not coming to sit the bench. Cox wasn't picked as an All-American in junior college for no reason. Weed, Calif., is a tough place to find. The coaches definitely thought he could help KU. Tape doesn't lie. Weis didn't have doubts that he could compete at a higher division. All players can do on film is dominate, whatever the competition is, and that's what Cox did on film. He dominated.
• Weis said it was good for both Tre' Parmalee and Schyler Miles to get their feet wet. Any time young guys get 10 or 20 plays out there, those players start to get their butterflies out of the way. KU is going to need some of these guys later in the season.
• There are so many things you can fix when there is evidence of it on tape. KU is mostly a new team, so game tape is helpful. The more these guys play against opponents, the more significant their improvement should be.
• Guys are much more receptive to coaching after a win than a loss. It's not close. Weis said if you win a game and there are a lot of problems, you can't wait for them to come in. They feel good, then you tell them how bad they stink. That knocks them off their pedestal quickly. Weis said he thought his guys were expecting that. Weis makes a cut-up of good plays and bad plays after each game. When Weis' team wins, he shows the bad plays first. After losses, he shows the good plays first to build them back up and show that everything is not all bad.
• Charles Brooks is a little behind the other tight ends because right now he came in as more of a pass-catching tight end. Weis has been very happy with Jimmay Mundine, Mike Ragone and Trent Smiley. It all starts at the tight-end position. If tight ends get manhandled by defensive ends, then you're going to have a long day at the office. Brooks is catching up, but blocking isn't something he's had to do all that much before.
• Crist gets every play broken down in film. Then he gets it broken down to good plays in the run, good plays in the pass, bad plays in the run, bad plays in the pass. Quarterbacks can get negative plays on runs if they don't carry out fakes. After a day off, Weis looks more big-picture with his QB, like telling him not to press. Weis' biggest concerns with Crist going to be whether he was going to be scared, whether he was going to be looking at the rush and whether if he was composed if things didn't go well. To Weis, Crist hit the trifecta on those three with the first game. Weis says he can help fix the other things. Crist passed those three criteria with flying colors.
• When Weis was a younger coach, after a win, he'd feel miserable. He'd think about all the mistakes and feel awful. As he's gotten older, he's learned to at least celebrate the win 24 hours before looking at corrections.
• Weis says he doesn't single out offensive linemen. You don't, for example, say Tanner Hawkinson played well and someone else didn't. You talk about them as a group. Some guys grade better than others, but that's not the point. They want to be talked about as a unit.
• Weis wants to build some depth on his offensive line. One of the ways you do that is by playing more than five guys. KU would have liked to play nine or 10 on Saturday, but that's not the way the game played out.
• KU has a couple walk-on kickers (Austin Barone and Nick Prolago) that have kicked pretty well in camp. This week, KU will give a look to the walk-ons for kickoffs to see if they can take that one duty from Ron Doherty, who already kicks field goals and punts.
• Weis was happy with his defensive line. He started by jokingly asking a reporter how he thought the D-line looked. After the reporter said, "Better," Weis said, "Thanks" with a smile.
• Quarterback Jake Heaps was the offensive scout team player of the week the first week. Weis said he's not giving him the award any more, telling him that if he's not the best offensive scout team player each week, the two are going to have a problem. On defense, Tyler Holmes was the defensive scout team player of the week.
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.
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."
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
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.”
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
• 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.
• 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here are a few video highlights from the Kansas men's basketball team's 79-60 exhibition loss to AMW Team France on Sunday.
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.
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.
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.