Entries from blogs tagged with “roll”
Nobody believed it could be done, saying something nice about Kansas football for 25 weeks in a row, but this is the 25th installment of the blog that will continue at least for 52 weeks.
So far, the funniest line was typed by Matt Herrera in Week 1 on May 9: “The funnel cakes are consistently on point.”
It might be difficult to top that in the sarcasm department, but I’m still seeking someone to weigh in with the most insightful remark that will inject genuine optimism in the direction of the program. It’s not an easy challenge, but somebody surely is up to the task.
My contribution this week centers on a name that has appeared here in past weeks: Daylon Charlot.
A 6-foot, 195-pound transfer from Alabama, Charlot will have three seasons of eligibility for Kansas, which will use him at wide receiver and possibly in the return game.
“Daylon Charlot’s a talented guy, I mean a talented guy,” head coach David Beaty said. “We wish he was playing this year. He’s not, but we’re excited he’ll be here next year.”
A four-star recruit out of Patterson, La., Charlot made a verbal commitment to Alabama, decommitted and then signed with the Crimson Tide. He picked 'Bama over scholarship offers from, among others, Arizona, Arizona State, LSU and Notre Dame.
He played sparingly as a freshman at Alabama and caught two passes for nine yards.
Rollbamaroll.com — possibly the coolest website name ever — reported on signing day, 2005, that Charlot had a 4.35 40 time and a 40-inch vertical leap.
Nobody who has seen him practice for Kansas is surprised at those numbers.
“He can fly,” junior quarterback Montell Cozart said of Charlot. “He’s one of those guys who’s a little bit of a posession receiver, too, so he can go up and go get the ball too. So it’s going be nice to have him.”
When Kansas has running back Taylor Martin and receivers Steven Sims, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Charlot on the field at the same time, Sims will be the fourth-fastest Jayhawk. That’s a lot of speed. Of course, if the blocks aren’t there and the passes aren’t delivered on target, on time, it won’t matter how much speed is on the field. Oops, that wasn’t nice. I'll neutralize that remark by pointing out that Cozart looks as if he's throwing the deep ball with far more accuracy than in earlier years when he overthrew everything but the government. Plus, the offensive line had its best game vs. legitimate competition in Saturday's 44-20 loss to Oklahoma State.
There you have it. I have made it 25 weeks in a row saying something nice about Kansas football.
Your turn. Make me believe that the program is headed in the right direction. Failing that, see if you can clear the sarcasm bar set so high by Herrera. Either way, say something nice about Kansas football.
Kansas football coach David Beaty tipped his hand as to how he believes the team's three quarterbacks who have played this season — Montell Cozart, Ryan Willis and Carter Stanley — are imperfect fits for his offense.
Beaty did so when he pointed out that red-shirting New Orleans recruit Tyriek Starks was the first quarterback recruited to fit the current offense, although Stanley was recruited out of high school and Deondre Ford out of junior college after Beaty took the Kansas job.
Recruiting a quarterback from the graduate-transfer pool or from a junior college In the event Starks is not ready to run the offense by next season is a tempting thought, but doing so would deny the coaching staff the chance to recruit a high school player at another position who could be developed for four or five years.
Kansas already will need to go that route at cornerback, a position at which Kansas will be thin next season.
When talking about how fortunate the program is to have Murphy Grant in charge of supervising the rehabilitation of injured players, Beaty mentioned how well "the ACL guys" are progressing. Two of those he referenced play cornerback.
"They're all off their crutches and looking good," Beaty said. "Shola (Ayinde) looks amazing. I can't believe he just had surgery not too long ago. (Long snapper John) Wirtel, (walk-on cornerback) Justin Williams had ACL surgery last week."
Beaty marveled at modern medicine.
"Murph is so good with them," Beaty said. "Those guys, they’re under anesthesia walking around in our facility the day they get out of that, which is amazing because they used to sit in a bed for weeks. I mean, Murph is so good at what he does with those guys. You would not believe those guys have just had ACL surgery."
Ayinde, who red-shirted in 2015 as a freshman, should be ready to play next season, but even with all the medical advancements athletes still tend to perform better in their second year after ACL surgery than the first.
Marnez Ogletree and Brandon Stewart are seniors, so recruiting a juco corner is a must, a bigger priority than bringing in another quarterback.
Once Big 12 expansion talk lost momentum in recent months on the way to its official end Monday night, part of me was disappointed because the nine-game conference schedule makes it even more difficult for the Kansas football program to reverse course.
But the truth is Kansas football is in such a deep hole that the only path out must be one that comes from within. One more winnable game on the schedule wasn’t going to make bowl eligibility any more realistic in the foreseeable future.
No outside circumstances can be blamed for the current state of Kansas football and no outside forces will do anything to lend a hand up.
The SEC’s dominance and the addition of Texas A&M has made recruiting Texas a tougher deal for almost every Big 12 program, Kansas included.
Head coach David Beaty and cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry have strong ties to several high school coaches, which will benefit Kansas. But so many programs with winning traditions mine the same talent.
Give Beaty credit for putting New Orleans high school coach Tony Hull on the staff and it’s already paying dividends with commitments.
More pro-active work on the Kansas walk-on front, much of it done by Gene Wier, director of high school relations, is beginning to gain momentum.
Once more walk-ons from Kansas high schools bring home positive reviews of the student-athlete experience that extend beyond the weekly final score, more scholarship players from the state will consider the state’s flagship university.
The subtle gains won’t translate to victories until an adequate offensive line can be built through recruiting and development, the slowest, toughest area of a football team to improve.
Evaluating quarterbacks, never easy, becomes so much tougher when an offensive line doesn’t block well enough to establish a running game and give the quarterback time to run through his progressions.
It remains to be seen if Kansas has upgraded its recruiting of offensive linemen — tough to judge that position until the player has been in the program two or three years — but some gains elsewhere are evident.
Sophomore defensive end Dorance Armstrong could be the most talented, productive high school recruit at his position Kansas has had this century. Isaiah Bean, a freshman at the same position from the same city (Houston), shows promise as well. True freshman running back Khalil Herbert shows speed, sharp cutting ability and toughness. He looks like a terrific prospect whose talent will result in production if the line develops.
Steven Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez have upgraded the wide receiver position and Chase Harrell looks like a solid prospect. Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot will make a difference as a receiver and return man when he is eligible next season.
Still, the biggest key remains developing an offensive line, which at the very least would enable a truer evaluation of quarterbacks.
Sure, a 12-team conference would have meant having two-year pockets without having to play Oklahoma and other powers from the South, but until Kansas can become competitive vs. schools from outside the Power Five, it’s a moot point.
The solutions, which must include avoiding the temptation of chasing quick-fix approaches, must come from within.
Say something nice about Kansas football: Avoiding longest losing road losing streak in history a possibility
The Kansas football program’s official road losing streak reached 38 games with Saturday’s 49-7 loss to Baylor in Waco, where Bears coach Jim Grobe showed great mercy by resting his starters after taking a 42-0 lead into halftime.
The record does not count three losses to Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium because those were played on a neutral field. So even though KU has lost its last 41 games played outside of Lawrence, the official streak stands at 38.
If Kansas can’t win away from home the rest of this season and in any of its first four road contests of 2017, Western State’s (Gunnison, Col.) record road losing streak of 44 will fall.
Three road games remain this season: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State. Looking at the past two outcomes in Norman, Morgantown and Manhattan doesn’t inspire confidence that the streak won’t be carried into next season. In its last three trips to those cities, the combined scores have been 96-14 vs. Oklahoma, 92-24 vs. West Virginia and 107-29 against K-State.
In all likelihood, the streak will stand at 41 heading into the 2017 season. Kansas has a realistic shot to end it, Sep. 16 in Athens, Ohio, against an Ohio Bobcats squad that won in Lawrence, 37-21, in the second game of this season.
Potential areas of improvement that need to be realized for Kansas to gain signifcant ground on Ohio:
Offensive line: Charles Baldwin was ranked No. 1 among junior-college offensive linemen, signed with Alabama and participated in the program last spring He was dismissed from the team by coach Nick Saban for violating a team rule. If Baldwin matures enough, gains enough discipline to avoid repeating whatever mistake it was that led to his ejection from the nation’s top program, he could nail down left tackle and enable whatever guard would have been used there to play his natural position. D’Andre Banks is the only senior starting on the offensive line so it doesn’t require a great leap of faith to believe the rest of the line will improve as well.
Quarterback: A better line equates to better play at quarterback. One more candidate will join the mix that already includes current starter Ryan Willis, former starter Montell Cozart and backup Carter Stanley. Tyriek Starks, a fast, strong-armed recruit from New Orleans,. is redshirting this season. Considered raw coming out of college, Starks will compete for the job in the spring.
Wide receiver: Daylon Charlot, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound sprinter from Patterson, La., was frustrated with his lack of playing time as a true freshman at Alabama and transferred to Kansas. Coaches are excited with what they have seen from Charlot in practice. Put him on the field with fellow burner LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Steven Sims and big target Chase Harrell, who is developing steadily, mix in tight end Ben Johnson, and there will be no shortage of capable pass-catchers.
The defense will lose six starters, but if the staff on that side of the ball stays together, they’ll figure out how to field a competitive unit.
Waco, Texas — Carrying a 37-game road losing streak and facing a bigger, faster, more experienced opponent, it can't be easy for the Kansas football team to find reasons to be confident the streak will end today at McLane Stadium.
Here's a small one: Baylor's huge weight advantage at offensive line, where the starting five blockers average 313 pounds, might have shrunk the tiniest bit.
Most FBS teams spend the night before home games at hotels. Baylor was staying at the same hotel as the broadcasting crew headed by Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman for today's game. Members of the crew said that as many as eight Baylor offensive linemen were stuck in the hotel elevator for about an hour and after emerged on the sweaty side.
They might have sweated away a few pounds, but it's not as if quarterback Seth Russell is sweating about his line not getting the job done. The Bears' blockers consistently know how to rise up to protect the quarterback and blow open holes for running backs Shock Linwood and Terence Williams.
This is not the first time a group of massive football players ignored the posted weight capacity and brought the elevator to a lengthy halt. It also happened last spring to USC linemen.
Not even halfway into his sophomore season, Steven Sims already has as many touchdown receptions as any Kansas pass-catcher in the years since record-breaking quarterback Todd Reesing headed back to his home state of Texas.
Sims has five TD receptions with seven games remaining, matching wide receiver Nick Harwell’s total in 2014 and tight end Jimmay Mundine’s in 2013.
Sims has more touchdown receptions this season than all Kansas wide receivers had in 2012 (zero) and 2013 (three) combined (three).
A case could be made that the most productive player on the offense and the defense are in the same class and come from the same city. Defensive end Dorance Armstrong also is a sophomore from Houston.
Credit head coach David Beaty with sound talent judgment for pursuing a wide receiver no other Big 12 school deemed worthy of a scholarship.
Among Big 12 receivers, only Texas Tech’s Jonathan Giles (seven TD’s) and James Washington (six) have more scoring catches than Sims, who ranks seventh in the conference with 82.6 yards per game.
When Sims catches his next scores on a catch he will have the most touchdowns in a season by a Kansas receiver since Dezmon Briscoe had nine in 2009.
TCU invades Memorial Stadium on Saturday as, at the moment at least, more than a four-touchdown favorite.
The biggest reason centers on the bigger, older, more experienced bodies that the Horned Frogs line up in front of their quarterback and running backs.
At offensive line, TCU starts five blockers who tip the scales at 300 pounds or higher. Kansas starts two whose weight starts with a 3.
The Horned Frogs average 318 pounds up front, the Jayhawks 291 pounds.
TCU starts one O-linemen with five years in the program, three with four, one with three.
Kansas starts one O-linemen with four years in the program (center Joe Gibson), one with three years (right guard Jacob Bragg), two with two (left tackle De’Andre Banks and left guard Mesa Ribordy), one with one (right tackle Hakeem Adeniji).
Banks, ideally suited to play guard, has been the team’s most valuable O-lineman and has moved to left tackle for lack of a better option.
Projected starting left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith was forced into giving up the game because of concussions, a smart move on his part.
Searching for the right combinations, coupled with injuries, has made it difficult to develop chemistry, another issue stalling the line’s development.
Senior Ke’aun Kinner and freshman Khalil Herbert, a pair of talented running backs, have break-away speed, but haven’t been given the holes to use it.
Consequently, Kansas ranks 124th among 128 FBS schools with 91 rushing yards per game and 115th with 3.34 yards per carry.
Head coach David Beaty has entrusted offensive line coach Zach Yenser with evaluating the position and deciding which recruits to offer scholarships. Yenser passed on Lawrence High’s Trey Georgie, a freshman at Illinois State. It will be interesting to track his career to see whether FBS schools properly evaluated him in passing on him.
Before the current coaching staff arrived, Kansas had not done well in recent years recruiting local offensive linemen.
Nebraska’s 6-foot-5, 300-pound redshirt freshman Christian Gaylord of Baldwin High is listed second on the Cornhuskers’ depth chart at left tackle.
Scott Frantz, 6-5, 293, a redshirt freshman out of Free State High, opened the season as Kansas State’s starting left tackle.
J.R. Hensley, a 6-5, 310-pound red-shirt freshman at Hawaii, played his youth football in Lawrence before the family moved to Edmond, Okla. Brother of New York Yankees pitching prospect Ty Hensley, a 2012 first-round draft choice, the younger Hensley was disappointed Kansas did not offer him a scholarship and is looking forward to making his first college start Saturday for the Rainbows.
Beaty and Yenser hope that they have a starting tackle in waiting in redshirting Charles Baldwin, recruited out of junior college by powerhouse Alabama, participated in spring football but was dismissed from the team by coach Nick Saban last May for an undisclosed rules violation.
If Baldwin has matured since breaking ‘Bama’s rules, he could help, but the long-term solution lies in Kansas identifying the right high school players to recruit and landing its fair share.
As many problems as Kansas has had at the quarterback position in recent years, it ranks no higher than the second-biggest cause of the program’s prolonged slide.
Teammates with younger, less developed football minds, physiques and skills than Kansas tight end Ben Johnson must wait their turns as Johnson plays his way into all-conference consideration.
But those younger teammates have something that makes Johnson envious. They are members of a recruiting class that will grow together and help each other up from stumbles along the way.
Johnson? He is one of four players still on the roster from Charlie Weis’ recruiting class of 2013, joining quarterback Montell Cozart and reserve defensive players Kellen Ash and Colin Spencer.
That class had 16 junior-college recruits. Ten of them either never played a down at Kansas or left with eligibility remaining. Four of the eight high school recruits left the program.
“I’m happy there are more (high school recruits)coming in because when I came here with coach Weis it was way different,” Johnson said. “It was 20, 23-year-olds coming in because it was all jucos. It’s cool to see them come in and bond as a class.”
Second-year Kansas head coach David Beaty referred to Johnson as MVP of fall camp on a couple of occasions and the tight end is living up to the hype. Not all of KU’s offensive formations call for a tight end, but when he’s on the field, Johnson has shown a knack for getting open and catching passes thrown his way.
He had five receptions for 86 yards, both career highs, in Thursday night’s 55-19 loss at Texas Tech.
Johnson (eight receptions, 107 yards, one touchdown) and Oklahoma State’s Blake Jarwin (seven receptions, 82 yards) are the lone Big 12 tight ends on the John Mackey Award watch list.
“I’m just glad to be on the field,” Johnson said. “I’m happy that I’m getting opportunities now and I’m confident in myself that anybody that lines up over me I can beat them and I’m confident my teammates can help me out and get me in a position to win and make plays.”
Among the other four high school recruits from the Class of 2013, only wide receiver Ishmael Hyman plays college football. His first reception of the season for James Madison University, a gain of three yards, came Saturday.
Linebacker Colton Goeas transferred to Hawaii but has not played football there. Reserve offensive lineman Joey Bloomfield retired from football after suffering concussions. Quarterback Jordan Darling was at the bottom of the depth chart, tried practicing at offensive line briefly and then left the program.
Saying that Beaty started from scratch isn't far from the truth, although the coach is grateful Johnson stayed in the program.
SEC schools, other football programs with national cachet and whatever school hires Les Miles have a better shot, but it’s not impossible that Kansas could end up snagging one or two of the recruits verbally committed to LSU who decide to reopen the recruiting process.
It’s a long shot, sure, but a few factors make it worth dreaming about, whereas in past years it would have amounted to a waste of time.
Factor No. 1: Daylon Charlot.
Kansas landing the Alabama transfer and Louisiana native made anything possible. Nick Saban was sorry to see the fleet wide receiver grow impatient and leave the program. Watching him run at KU’s practices, it’s easy to see why Saban had long-term plans for him.
Factor No. 2: Tony Hull.
KU’s running backs coach. A native of New Orleans and former high school head coach there, Hull already has gained commitments from three players from Louisiana high schools: receiver Takulve Williams, defensive end Troy James and athlete Travis Jordan.
Hull also was the high school coach of red-shirting Kansas quarterback Tyriek Starks, who committed to Kansas before Hull was hired to replace Reggie Mitchell.
Six of LSU’s 20 commitments are from Louisiana.
Factor No. 3: KU’s state-of-the-art, second-to-none new locker room.
Anyone who doesn’t think it was worth the fund-raising effort needs to consider what linebacker recruit Jarvis Russell told Jon Kirby of Rivals: “Words can’t describe how nice the locker room is. Their locker room is top of the line and I think I could live in there for the rest of my life.”
A linebacker from Grenada, Miss., Russell visited Kansas during the weekend the Jayhawks lost to Ohio. He originally had committed to Mississippi State but decided to open up his recruitment. So any LSU recruit to do the same would not be the first from the mighty SEC to make Kansas one of his visits.
Also, LSU transfer wide receiver Tyron Johnson was pursued by Kansas beore choosing Oklahoma State.
Playing quarterback for Kansas against a brutal schedule requires making the right decision when the best-laid plans break down.
For example, take a look at three screen shots taken from ESPN's telecast, all from the biggest play of KU's 43-7 loss at Memphis, defensive tackle Jonathan Wilson's interception return for a touchdown.
The first shows guard Jayson Rhodes falling to the ground after he let a defender blow past him.
The second shows quarterback Montell Cozart getting tackled by the defender Rhodes missed. In this one, Rhodes is on his back as the football sails over his head.
The the third screen grab, the best available but just a tick too late for a true representation, shows that if the block had been made, Cozart very well could have found tight end Ben Johnson for a big gain. We'll never know for sure, of course, but do know that if the Jayhawks could have scored on that possession instead of delivering a touchdown in the other direction, the game would not have been over by halftime. In reality, Memphis took a 33-7 lead into the second half.
The broken play doesn't change that Cozart made a bad decision, it just illustrates that the offense's problems start before the quarterback pulls the trigger.
Don't look now, but Kansas has the ninth-ranked passing defense in the nation, allowing just 135 passing yards per game and 4.8 yards per pass attempt.
The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.
Big 12 offenses know how to shred secondaries every year, so it’s not realistic for Kansas to maintain its current national ranking, but if the Jayhawks can pressure the quarterback on a regular basis the way the hounded Memphis’ Riley Ferguson they can slow down pass-happy offenses looking to run up the score on them.
“We fed off of each other’s energy, that’s what we do,” sophomore Dorance Armstrong said of the heat the the Jayhawks put on Ferguson.
Clearly, Memphis came into the game determined to keep defensive tackle Daniel Wise from getting into the backfield to slam ballcarriers to the turf the way he did in the first two weeks of the season.
Every move Wise made was greeted with a pair of blockers double-teaming him. He didn’t make any tackles until the second half and finished with three, none behind the line of scrimmage.
It was imperative that the rest of the D-line take advantage of all the extra attention being paid to Wise or other teams would have no qualms about doing the same. Wise’s mates up front delivered, combining for four of the team's five sacks, three for 19 yards from Armstrong and one apiece from junior DeeIsaac Davis and senior Damani Mosby.
“We can do better,” Armstrong vowed. “We came into the game with zero sacks and we just had to make sure to come out with a sack early. As a defense, to go two games in a row with no sacks, that’s not our standard.”
Actually, Kansas did have one sack coming into the Memphis game, but none from the defensive line. Linebacker Courtney Arnick had one sack for five yards coming into the game.
The D-line will need to continue to bring the heat for Kansas to maintain what has been the strongest aspect of the team, its pass defense.
One week from Thursday, Kansas faces the No. 1-ranked passing offense in the nation.
Patrick Mahomes leads the country with 497.7 passing yards per game and has thrown 14 touchdown passes and two interceptions.
A more encouraging way of looking at it than focusing on the Red Raiders’ passing ranking is to consider that Mahomes is facing the nation’s ninth-ranked passing defense.
During my two-and-a-half years as co-host of a show on ESPN Radio in New York City, Mondays after a Jets loss required the least preparation. Throw out the phone number and listen to the apoplectic voices break it all down to help themselves avoid a breakdown.
When the stressed-out voices were firing the offensive or defensive coordinator, they often offered as proof the lack of adjustments made at halftime.
Kansas created plenty of fodder for griping in Saturday’s 37-21 loss to Ohio (University, not State), but accusations of a lack of halftime adjustments could not be aimed at the coaching staff.
The halftime adjustments the offensive staff made, albeit way too late, certainly worked given that the same Jayhawks offense that produced 21 total yards in the first half totaled 190 in the third quarter.
Defensive adjustments worked as well. Ohio (University, not State) amassed 359 total yards in the first half, 66 yards with a turnover in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter, most of it played without injured quarterback Montell Cozart, didn’t go as well. As was the case in the first half, Kansas couldn’t stop the run and OU (Ohio, not Oklahoma) ate 10 minutes of clock with an 18-play, 81-yard drive that ended in a field goal.
Still, give the KU defense credit for allowing just nine second-half points on three field goals. Before that game-clinching drive, here’s how Ohio’s second-half possessions went: Three plays, five yards, punt; three plays, two yards, field goal; four plays, 13 yards, punt; eight plays, 36 yards, interception by Fish Smithson; three plays, zero yards, field goal.
The halftime adjustments worked. The plan coming into the game did not.
Even one week against one of the five least talented teams of Div. I football, FBS and FCS combined, can reveal obvious traits about a squad coming off an 0-12 season.
For Kansas, which ended a 15-game losing streak with a 55-6 thrashing of Rhode Island, two factors leaped off the replay: 1. The Jayhawks, as suspected, have far more speed than a year ago. 2. The offensive line — still too young, too at a disadvantage because of not having as many combined years in a college weight room as most college blockers — will have trouble getting much push for runs up the middle.
In contrast, Ohio has a ton of experience up front on both sides of the ball. Kansas has talent at defensive line, so matching the Bobcats’ massive O-line is a possibility. The other matchup doesn’t figure to go as well for Kansas, with Ohio’s experienced D-line having the big strength edge. So Kansas will need to turn speed and creativity into big plays Saturday in order to emerge with its first two-game winning streak since two weeks into the 2011 season.
A look at a handful of Jayhawks with the capability of making game-turning plays:
1 - LaQuvionte Gonzalez: He consistently used his speed and quickness to get open and looked like a threat to pop one nearly every time he touched it as a kick and punt returner. By reaching around the defensive back and somehow coming away with the ball for a touchdown, Gonzalez provided a highlight that figures to be shown for years, maybe forever. The defense must account for him at all times and still he finds ways to get open.
2 - Montell Cozart: Sure, it wasn’t his first big day against FCS competition, but Cozart looked so much more decisive, more accurate and even looked as if he has strengthened his arm. David Beaty’s version of the Air Raid offense just might suit Cozart ideally. An easy man for whom to root because of his thick skin and positive personality, Cozart has the potential to make Beaty look wise for resisting the temptation to turn him into a wide receiver.
3 - Taylor Martin: He and Gonzalez are the two fastest players on the team. That speed makes Martin a threat running on the edge and getting behind the defense on pass patterns. Cozart barely overthrew him on a long pass down the sideline or he might have gone ... all ... the ... way.
4 - Dorance Armstrong: I had forgotten that Armstrong changed to No. 2 for his sophomore season and on one of the first plays of the replay I watched on ESPN3, I wondered who that player flying toward the sideline was, figuring he must be a safety. He’s a defensive end and he plays with equal parts speed and intensity.
5 - Daniel Wise: Emerged as a team leader during offseason conditioning and looked like a man on a search-and-destroy-the-quarterback mission in the opener. He has the potential to deliver a strip-sack at a pivotal point in the game. The D-tackle's most important work will come in doing his job against the run.
6 - Kyle Mayberry: The true freshman cornerback from Tulsa did not have the uncertain, shaky look so common among athletes competing in a college game for the first time. He’s blurry fast, seems to love the spotlight and has the sort of confidence that could enable him to take a chance and deliver a pick six.
7 - Beaty, the offensive coordinator: Again, it helped that Rhode Island was the opponent, but Beaty certainly seemed to have a winning touch for what play to call when. The Rams’ defensive line was pushing back the Kansas blockers — not a good sign — and getting more aggressive by the play. So Beaty called a play that baited that aggressiveness and resulted in tight end Ben Johnson standing alone in the end zone for an easy touchdown reception from Cozart.
Not all football games are won and lost in the trenches. Sometimes they are won with big plays, which very likely will be what Kansas needs if it is going to defeat Ohio.
NOTE: Las Vegas oddsmakers set the opening line at Ohio minus-9, which means Ohio was a nine-point favorite. In slightly more than 24 hours, the legal-betting public had moved the line an amazing 12 points, making the Jayhawks a three-point favorite, which was where the line stood as of Tuesday morning.
Kansas, seeking to move two games above the break-even point for the first time since improving to 2-0 in 2011 with a victory at home against Northern Illinois in Turner Gill’s second and final season on the job, has a few factors going for it Saturday when Ohio visits Memorial Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff.
First, Kansas should be able to draw more from Ohio’s Week 1 game tape than vice versa because the Bobcats were in a tight game, one they lost to Texas State, 56-54 in three overtimes, so they couldn’t hold back anything from the playbook.
In contrast, KU could afford to treat much of its 55-6 victory against Rhode Island almost like an NFL team approaches an exhibition game. The Jayhawks spread the ball around to multiple players, giving Ohio so much to prepare for and so little on any one player.
Nine different Jayhawks caught a pass and three different quarterbacks combined for six touchdown passes, Montell Cozart throwing three, Ryan Willis two and Carter Stanley one. Ohio must prepare for both Cozart and Willis. Four different running backs rushed the football anywhere from four to nine times.
The second factor involves KU’s Week 1 strength, the passing attack, matching up with Ohio’s Week 1 weakness, defending the pass. Kansas passed for 399 yards vs. Rhode Island and Ohio surrendered 440 yards and five touchdowns at home vs. Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference.
The third factor, the biggest one considering the extent to which emotion sways football performances in general and in the college game in particular, involves respect.
Oddsmakers made a loud statement that in their opinion KU’s 49-point victory said far more about the quality of its opponent than about the Jayhawks. Visiting Ohio opened as a nine-point favorite. What happened in Lawrence stayed in Lawrence in terms of national respect. Acting quickly, bettors put so much money down on KU that the Jayhawks became favorites in slightly more than 24 hours. As of Tuesday morning, Kansas was favored by three points, a remarkable swing.
If second-year head coach David Beaty can parlay the original lack of belief in his team among outsiders into an emotional outburst that fuels players to perform out of their minds, Kansas could score a victory and make believers out of Las Vegas oddsmakers who set the point spreads, and more important, out of a fan base that can be enticed back in droves at the first unqualified sign of legitimate progress.
Big game Saturday.
I won’t pretend that I can say something nice about the Kansas football depth chart having three names listed as possible first-stringers with the season-opener days away.
Best-case scenario would have had one of the three quarterbacks blowing away the competition by now.
Instead, I’ll reach into the issue and find something nice to say.
The size of the crowd for Saturday’s Rhode Island game has the potential to turn faces red, so I’ll use this week’s blog to examine whether head coach David Beaty’s attempt to keep his starting quarterback a secret until the 6 p.m. kickoff will increase the size of the crowd or decrease it.
Since URI, 1-10 in the Football Championship Subdivision last season, doesn’t have the talent to create scoreboard suspense, uncertainty regarding the starting QB, provided it doesn’t leak before game night, adds a little intrigue, creates a potentially powerful moment.
If Beaty really can pull it off and keep the secret, fans will explode in support of whichever quarterback sprints off the sideline. Cool moment, one that might motivate someone on the fence to buy a ticket and head to Memorial Stadium. So in that sense, it should increase attendance.
The potential for it backfiring at the gate exists. Here’s how: Fans wanting to believe the team will improve significantly from last season’s 0-12 finish might fear that Beaty keeping the secret in order to give his team an edge means the Jayhawks are weak enough to need an edge to defeat a team that went 1-10 in a lower division. Most thinking that way will get off the fence and makes plans for a Saturday night out on the town or in the den watching multiple games.
My guess is fans curious to experience suspense at Memorial Stadium, not that common a feeling in recent years, will outnumber those bummed that the coach thinks his team needs the edge against the Rams.
Humans tend toward optimism, particularly in regards to a team that has not yet lost a game.
Will it be Ryan Willis, Montell Cozart or Carter Stanley to take the first snap of the 2016 season? My guess is it will be Willis, but it’s only a guess. The only way to know for sure is to show up before Saturday’s 6 p.m. kickoff.
Every time a walk-on football player makes his way onto the Kansas depth chart it becomes that much easier for a high school player considering joining the Jayhawks without the benefit of a scholarship for the start of his career.
Red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Mesa Ribordy had to pay his own way this season and last. He had enough faith in his ability to believe that he will be on scholarship his final three years in the program.
Ribordy is on track to make that happen. Players who spend two years as walk-ons and then earn scholarships only count against the overall scholarship limit of 85 per Football Bowl Subdivision school. They don’t count against the single-year limit of 25.
In order to get back to a competitive level, Kansas will need to take advantage of several players in that category, which makes Ribordy a very valuable recruit.
A 6-foot-4, 290-pound graduate of Louisburg High, Ribordy is pushing for time at both right guard and center and has a strong chance of becoming one of the eight blockers who account for the majority of snaps at the five offensive-line positions.
Other players from Kansas high schools who have joined the program as walk-ons since David Beaty became head coach and hired Gene Wier as director of high schoo relations include: sophomore transfers Keith Loneker Jr. (Baker University, Free State) and Ryan Schadler (Wichita State track, Heeston), junior transfer Deron Thompson (RB Colorado State, Wichita Northwest); sophomore Reese Randall (RB Baldwin); red-shirt freshmen Mazin Aql (DE Blue Valley), Jackson Jenkins (OL Bishop Meige), Beau Lawrence (OL Blue Valley Southwest), Nathan Miller (CB Washburn Rural), Hunter Saulsbury (OL Blue Valley Southwest); freshman Tate Vang (WR, Goddard).
Kansas State has dominated in-state, walk-on recruiting and Kansas is coming from behind, but it’s important the coaches stay committed to bringing depth to the program through this method in hopes of eventually closing the gap on the Wildcats.
Kansas head football coach David Beaty’s media policy makes freshmen off-limits for interviews, but that didn’t keep teammates and Beaty himself from talking about running back Khalil Herbert during Monday's media session.
Clearly, Herbert has made a strong first impression.
“I saw him make some really good cuts, stuff that a typical freshman can’t really do,” tight end Ben Johnson said of Herbert’s performance in a Saturday scrimmage in which the South Florida native carried the ball three times for 93 yards and a touchdown. “That kind of stood out to me and I was pretty impressed. He’s just a natural ballplayer. There are things you can coach and things you can’t coach. He’s kind of one of those guys who just has natural instincts.”
Quarterback Ryan Willis shared what it does for him to see that sort of an effort from a freshman: “It fires me up. ... The key to this offense is getting it to our playmakers. Our playmakers right now are our running backs.”
Texas A&M transfer LaQuvionte Gonzalez is the top playmaker at wide receiver and his face lit up Monday at the mention of Herbert’s name.
“I love that kid,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, he can really run the ball. I like that kid. He’s got pretty soft hands. He can catch like a receiver. He’s an all-purpose back. He can do everything.”
Herbert, a 5-foot-9, 195-pound burner, comes to Kansas from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., where he played for former NFL defensive back Mike Rumph, now cornerbacks coach for University of Miami.
As did Gonzalez, Beaty gave Herbert points for more than his ability to run the football.
“He’s a dominant guy,” Beaty said. “He’s fast. He actually pass-blocks pretty good. Smart kid. Great kid. He showed some real burst on Saturday. Avoided some tackles, avoided a tackle in the backfield and took it for a long run, something I haven’t seen in a while.”
Beaty also praised the work of first-string senior back Ke’aun Kinner, sophomore sprinter Taylor Martin and the short-yardage contributions of Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans.
Say something nice about Kansas football: Improved depth eliminates need to rush freshmen onto field
True freshmen Larry Hughes and Clyde McCauley combined to start nine games at offensive tackle for Kansas last season and classmate Tyrone Miller started the first seven games of the season at cornerback.
If the same players were true freshmen this season, they would combine to start zero games at those positions.
That demonstrates the improved depth, most of it through upgraded recruiting, that already is taking place in the major rebuilding job.
“They were not strong enough to compete in this league,” strength and conditioning coach Je’Ney Jackson said of Hughes and McCauley. “They weren’t, and it was evident when they played.”
That’s why true freshmen linemen redshirt in all but rare circumstances.
Hughes and McCauley aren’t as strong as they will be two years from now, but they are a great deal stronger than a year ago.
“I’ve put on 25 pounds since when I first got here,” McCauley said. “I’m way stronger. My clean shot up about 50 pounds. My bench shot up about 90.”
He shouldn’t have had to face future NFL defensive linemen before those gains were made, but the ranks were so thin last season, he and Hughes were pressed into duty.
In contrast, incoming freshman O-linemen Hakeem Adeniiji (6-foot4, 265 pounds, Garland, Texas) and Antoine Frazier (6-4, 260, Huffman, Texas) have the luxury of red-shirting, which doesn’t necessarily mean they will.
Jackson said they both arrived on campus stronger than some of the veterans were when Jackson rejoined the Kansas football program in Jan., 2015.
“Those kids are both 260 pounds and they’re bench-pressing over 315 pounds,” Jackson said. “Young guys who are able to do it, it’s a great foundation to be able to build on.”
There is no masking a lack of strength up front or a lack of speed in the back of the defense.
Miller does not and will not ever have the speed to play cornerback in the Big 12. But the coaches didn’t know where else to turn, so they played a true freshman safety at cornerback and it showed.
Now if the Jayhawks need to call on a true freshman at cornerback, they can choose from a pair of speedy players born to play cornerback in Kyle Mayberry from Tulsa and Mike Lee from New Orleans. If they aren’t ready, it won’t be because they are playing out of position or don’t have the speed to keep up.
As for Miller, his confidence will grow instead of shrink now that he’s playing a position that suits his talents.
At linebacker, true freshman Maciah Long (6-2, 240) is more physically ready for Big 12 play than most freshman, but he played quarterback in high school and is new to the position. No need to rush him into action and burn his redshirt with experienced reserve linebackers Courtney Arnick, Kendall Duckworth, Keith Loneker Jr. and Osaze Ogbebore on hand.
Je’Ney Jackson’s non-stop search for how to make Kansas football players faster even takes him elsewhere in the athletic department at times. Jackson said he consults friends Stanley Redwine, KU’s head track and field coach, and sprints and hurdles coach Elisha Brewer.
“I’ll ask coach Brewer, ‘What things are you doing with your indoor sprinters?’ I pick her brain to see what I can steal.’ ... If you have an extremely slow team it’s going to be very hard to compete in this league,” Jackson said.
That’s been part of KU’s problem in recent seasons. Jackson is convinced it’s much less of a problem now and said that 42 players in the program were hand-timed at 4.59 seconds or faster at 40 yards. (He said just three returning players in the spring of 2015 met that standard.)
Asked to name the Jayhawks’ five fastest players, Jackson obliged: “Taylor Martin, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Brandon Stewart, probably Kyle Mayberry, and I’d say Bobby Hartzog.”
A moment later, another image popped into Jackson’s head and he expanded the list by a name.
“And you know who I forgot is Ke’aun Kinner,” Jackson said. “He is definitely in that mix. Ke’aun Kinner. He is definitely in the top five. Here’s what’s nice: I have to think about it. It’s not, ‘OK, we only have five guys who can really run fast.’ ”
Every day during summer conditioning season, Jackson pitted fast runners against each other in races, believing the competition makes them train faster and in turn become faster.
Martin had the fastest unofficial 40 time, so I thought I’d ask him for his top 5. First, I asked him to name the toughest guy to beat in a race.
“Me, LaQuvionte Gonzalez, Ke’aun Kinner, (Colin) Spencer and T-Pat, Tyler Patrick,” Martin said.
Jackson and Martin mentioned eight players between them: Three cornerbacks (Stewart, Mayberry and Spencer), two running backs (Martin and Kinner) and three receivers (Gonzalez, Hartzog and Patrick).
Martin said Gonzalez is the toughest one for him to beat in a race.
Kansas definitely is getting faster.
Now it’s your turn to say something nice about Kansas football. Anybody out there?
Dallas Skyline point guard Marcus Garrett, who on Monday made a verbal commitment to attend Kansas, wears No. 6 for the red team in the first video below.
Garrett, a 6-foot-5, 180-pound point guard who has the size to play the other two perimeter positions as well, is shown in the video below playing against Texas A&M three-star recruit T.J. Starks, a 6-foot pure point guard who led Dallas Lancaster to the state title last season.
Rivals does not include Starks in its top 150 for the Class of 2017.
In the next video, Garrett is wearing No. 23 in blue and Irving MacArthur point guard Andrew Jones wears No. 10 in white. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound, five-star shooting guard, committed to Texas to play for Shaka Smart. Rivals ranks him No. 22 in the Class of 2017.
It won't take long for the Kansas coaching staff to turn Garrett into a much more intense defender. Other coaches will have a tougher time trying to figure out how to defend a long guard with a quick first step and a touch so soft the net barely moves.