Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
Welcome to the second edition of KUsports.com’s latest blog feature: Around the Web in Seven Days.
Each week this season, we’ll take a look around the world to find out what others out there are saying about the Jayhawks and their game that week.
For the most part, our focus will be on the papers and web sites that cover that week’s opponent, however, every once in a while I’m sure KU — and its opponents — will pop into the national spotlight for better or for worse.
The goal here is to bring you a slightly different perspective on the week’s game and allow you to better understand what’s coming up on Saturday (or Thursday, or Friday, as the case will be in 2010).
This week, our journey takes us mostly to Georgia, where several local papers have been analyzing the ins and outs of the No. 15 ranked Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Tech knocked off South Carolina State, 41-10, in its season opener last weekend, but, in doing so, did not look quite as sharp as head coach Paul Johnson would have liked.
There’s plenty about that below. But there’s also a couple of good features on quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, a Heisman Trophy candidate, as well as wide receiver Stephen Hill, who, in Georgia Tech’s offense, might not get a ton of opportunities but seems to have the skills to be a big-time playmaker.
Enjoy the linkage and be sure to check back with KUsports.com throughout the week — including gameday — for the latest information and breakdowns of this week’s contest.
Week 1: Kansas Jayhawks (0-1) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0):
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson warns his team that the Jayhawks could be more dangerous than last week’s result indicates, from The USA Today.
Georgia Tech offense comfortable against Carl Torbush led defense, from The Macon Telegraph.
Several Yellow Jackets could miss the KU game, writes Coley Harvey of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
GT quarterback Joshua Nesbitt has made a name for himself as a dangerous running QB, from ESPN.com.
Can WR Stephen Hill be the next great wide receiver at Georgia Tech? The Atlanta Journal Constitution evaluates that possibility.
Speaking of the AJC, columnist Jeff Schultz takes a look back at Tech’s opening win in his latest blog entry.
This one, titled "A Model of Patience," covers Jerrard Tarrant's GT career and comes from the Times-Georgian.
Well, nobody expected that. At least, nobody around here.
But it happened and there’s nothing anybody can do about it but put it in the past and move on.
That’s the goal of this blog. For better or for worse, each Monday I’ll provide a quick look back at the game that was — its highs and lows, pluses and minuses — before moving on to a look at what’s ahead.
In this case, with nationally ranked Georgia Tech looming, I had assumed it would be better — more enjoyable, anyway — to spend as much time looking back as possible. And let’s face it, heading into last Saturday it sure seemed as if there would be plenty to be proud about throughout the rest of the weekend.
Essentially none of what we were expecting actually happened, though, so this one figures to be the shortest of them all.
First, I’ll start with the positives. And please understand, I, like so many of you, realize that there weren’t very many positives in this one.
However, the No. 1 thing that I liked from Saturday’s game was that the KU coaching staff at least appears to have successfully identified who its top offensive players are. Their names are Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears, they both play wide receiver and return kicks and they both should get the ball as often as humanly possible every Saturday, Thursday, Friday or any other day. The two combined for 147 of KU’s 293 yards of total offense and, together, they provided a little spark in the kick-return game as well. The offense may not have clicked the way people were hoping it would — or at all, really — but at least these two guys were the ones who seemed to be getting the most chances. That can only bode well for the Jayhawks in the future.
The only other thing that you can even remotely consider positive from Saturday’s embarrassment was the defense. KU coach Turner Gill said the defense played outstanding. I won’t go quite that far. I think they played well. What’s more, I think they did what they were supposed to do — limit NDSU to under 200 yards, hold the Bison to six points and, it must be pointed out, that the D did get the ball back for the offense twice in the final five minutes. It’s a good start. I’m not throwing a parade, but here’s guessing that the unit walked away with at least a little confidence after that showing.
OK, now on to the negatives. And I won’t spend a lot of time harping on these, as many of you already have done that in the comments sections and message boards in the moments that followed Saturday’s debacle.
I could sit here and write for days about how the Jayhawks looked unprepared, played tight, made too many mental mistakes and had absolutely no swagger whatsoever. I could also wonder aloud about some of the play-calling — though I hesitate to do too much of that since I’m not a coach and have never been one.
What I do know, though, is that Kale Pick got a raw deal. He may not have been an all-conference QB clone in the first three quarters Saturday, but was he really that bad? Was he really bad enough to justify putting him on the bench with a victory still within reach and his team out there left to fend for itself? I don’t think so. And I think he should’ve gotten a few more chances.
The coaches named Pick their starting QB for a reason. The decision may have been based only on what they saw in practices, but if they take him out of a game before the final gun, how are they going to truly evaluate what he’s capable of doing? His numbers were OK — 13-for-22 for 138 yards — and, considering the fact that the offensive line and the running game gave him no help, I thought he carried himself well, too.
This isn’t a vote against Jordan Webb. I like both guys. I think both guys can play. But the KU staff chose Pick as its starter and then yanked him before giving him a full chance to prove whether he deserved it or not. If Pick had stayed in, maybe things would have clicked in the fourth. Maybe the coaches would then have seen that they have a quarterback who’s capable of responding to the challenge of trailing late in the game. But he didn’t. So now they don’t know.
I wasn’t even that opposed to them going to Webb in search of a spark. What confused me more was how, after naming Pick the starter 15 days before the opening game, they spent the week leading up to the game talking about how much Webb would or would not play. To me, that seemed like a recipe for disaster from the get-go and, clearly, it did not help.
KU coach Turner Gill said Sunday night and again Monday morning that he and his staff were evaluating the quarterback position and searching for the right guy. Here’s hoping they stick with whichever QB they pick this time, for better or for worse.
Switching back and forth and having uncertainty at the game’s most visible position won’t do anything to help bring the offensive rhythm that this team is searching for.
As for my final thought, I'm not sure whether this one falls into the positive or negative category so I'll just tack it on here at the end.
I know it's nuts to think that this loss could be good for the Jayhawks. But the way things unfolded Saturday night, would a 10-6 victory really have been that much better? It still would've been a slight embarrassment and we still would have plenty of questions for the coaches and players to answer.
I know the victory would've made the fans a little happier, but how much would it — if it had come via a furious two-minute rally in the fourth quarter — have really helped the team?
There's an old saying in sports that teams often get more out of losses than they do from wins. Could this be one of those times? Is it possible that the anger, embarrassment and frustration that the Jayhawks felt Saturday — and surely still feel today — will be the kick in the butt they need to get things moving in the right direction?
I’ve seen my fair share of Kansas football so far this preseason and talked a lot to several different members of this year’s team. Because of that, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of what’s going on with this year’s team.
But instead of taking my word for it, why not listen to what someone who played with most of these guys has to say about this year’s team.
This summer, after catching up with former safety Darrell Stuckey, now a member of the San Diego Chargers, I asked Stuckey what he thought about the 2010 Jayhawks.
Here are some of the highlights of Stuckey’s thoughts followed by my game-by-game predictions:
“KU, from this point on, is still going to be climbing that mountain,” he said. “We started up it and we never made it to the top. People might argue that we went to the Orange Bowl and that we reached the top. I don’t want to believe that. We went to the Orange Bowl, yes, but that wasn’t the peak of what we can do here. That wasn’t the peak of the mountain. You’re telling me the Insight Bowl was the downslope on the other side? No, it wasn’t at all.”
“I think these guys have a chance to do something that’s great, to still finish what guys started when coach (Mark) Mangino first got here.”
“There’s still a lot of work to be done but as soon as that’s understood and leadership steps in and takes over then they can be great. And I’m not talking about the (leadership of the) coaches, I’m talking about the players.”
“They definitely have the talent and they’re very balanced. They just have to find an identity and believe in themselves. The biggest barrier is going to be confidence, them knowing that they can do it with what they’ve got.”
“A lot of times last year we lost ourselves putting too much faith in a few of our players. Whether it was me, Kerry (Meier), Todd (Reesing), (Dezmon) Briscoe, Jake (Sharp), we got caught up in those moments sometimes. But they’re balanced enough now to where they can spread that pressure out and there’s no one in particular who’s going to be looked at to have to make a play. Now it’s going to be wherever the ball goes, that person has to make a play.”
There’s no way I could’ve said it any better, and there’s no question that I certainly don’t know it as well as Stuckey.
Having said that, here’s my game-by-game prediction for the 2010 season, a season that is now one day away from beginning.
Sept. 4 vs. North Dakota State — Win (1-0) — Gill era gets off to a great start at home, with KU’s superior size, strength and athleticism overpowering a pesky NDSU team in front of a rockin’ crowd at Memorial Stadium.
Sept. 11 vs. Georgia Tech — Loss (1-1) — Jayhawks fall to Top 20 team in Week 2 despite being able to move the ball a little bit. G-Tech’s funky offense proves to be too much for KU to handle, particularly on the ground, where quarterback Josh Nesbitt operates like a magician in leading the Yellow Jackets to victory.
Sept. 17 at Southern Miss — Win (2-1) — Southern Miss is a quality team and they’ll be playing at home. But effort will be the deciding factor in this one and few teams will give effort like Gill’s Jayhawks in 2010. KU defense contains NFL prospect DeAndre Brown (6-6, 239-pound WR) in the passing game and shows the benefit of emphasizing of a strong running game.
Sept. 25 vs. New Mexico State — Win (3-1) — Jayhawks return home with an opportunity to move to 3-1 in the non-conference and pound NMSU. Offense clicks like never before and Jayhawks light up the scoreboard en route to the easy victory.
Oct. 2 at Baylor — Loss (3-2) — Non-con bubble bursts with tough loss to Baylor. BU quarterback Robert Griffin creates a long day for the KU defense, keeping the Jayhawks off balance with his ability to run and throw. Offense looks good but can’t keep up with the Bears all day.
Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State — Win (4-2) — Thursday night, under the lights, against your in-state rival at home. Managers throughout the city should be prepared for employees to call in sick on Friday as the inspired KU defense contains K-State back Daniel Thomas and punishes KSU quarterback Carson Coffman. Many think the winner of this one will go to a bowl this season while the other sits home for the holidays. Good news for KU.
Oct. 23 vs. Texas A&M — Loss (4-3) — Feeling good about their 4-2 start, KU realizes quickly that they’re not quite ready to compete with the real contenders in the Big 12. Led by All-American candidate Jerrod Johnson, A&M steps on the gas and never lets up. Offense struggles, defense stays on the field all day and wears down by the second half.
Oct. 30 at Iowa State — Loss (4-4) — Iowa State’s schedule resembles KU’s from 2009 and because of that, the Cyclones are ecstatic to see KU stroll into town during Halloween weekend. It will go down as a game KU should have won, but ISU makes more plays at crucial moments to even KU’s record at 4-4.
Nov. 6 vs. Colorado — Win (5-4) — Jayhawks respond to tough road loss with most complete game of the season. Defense frustrates Colorado offense all day, offense scores in every way imaginable and Jayhawks get revenge for last year’s loss in Boulder that sent the ’09 season on its slide south. Late loss all but guarantees that CU coach Dan Hawkins is done at Colorado.
Nov. 13 at Nebraska — Loss (5-5) — The Nebraska D — perhaps the best in the nation — is way too tough on this day and the Huskers bottle up a KU offense riding high from its performance against Colorado. KU defense again helps keep the Jayhawks in the game, but the offense never gets going. Gill's first -- and maybe last? -- trip north to coach against his alma mater doesn't go so well.
Nov. 20 vs. Oklahoma State — Win (6-5) — Needing a win in one of their final two games to become bowl eligible, the Jayhawks don’t waste any time. KU defense flies all over the field and punishes and confuses OSU quarterback Brandon Weeden all night. KU ground game again seals the deal, as three different running backs score touchdowns in the victory.
Nov. 27 vs. Missouri — Loss (6-6) — Another wild game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., comes down to the fourth quarter yet again. For the second year in a row, Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert leads the Tigers on a game-winning drive, this one capped by a touchdown run from Gabbert in the waning moments.
Welcome to one of KUsports.com’s latest blog features: Around the Web in 7 Days.
Each week this season, we’ll take a look around the world to find out what others out there are saying about the Jayhawks and their game that week.
For the most part, our focus will be on the papers and web sites that cover that week’s opponent, however, every once in a while I’m sure KU — and its opponents — will pop into the national spotlight for better or for worse. The goal here is to bring you a slightly different perspective on the week’s game and allow you to better understand what’s coming up on Saturday (or Thursday, or Friday, as the case will be in 2010).
In addition to the links I provide, please feel free to add any that I may have missed in the comments section below.
Some weeks, this feature will be easier than others. When Big 12 play starts that will certainly help and, of course, any ranked teams the Jayhawks come up against likely will get plenty of press.
This week, our journey takes us mostly to Fargo, N.D., where the local papers have been busy previewing Saturday’s opener between the Jayhawks and the North Dakota State Bison.
Enjoy the linkage and be sure to check back with KUsports.com throughout the week — including gameday — for the latest information and breakdowns of this week’s contest.
Week 1: Kansas Jayhawks (0-0) vs. North Dakota State Bison (0-0):
Former walk-on to start at wide receiver for NDSU in opener, from The Dickinson Press
NDSU coach Bohl anxious to match up with Gill and the Jayhawks, from The Fargo-Moorhead News
Noseguard snubbed by big-name schools making noise at NDSU, from The Fargo-Moorhead News
NDSU football in ‘big win’ drought, from The Bismarck Tribune
Freshmen to play big roles for Bison, from The Dickinson Press
I’m not much of a reader. Because I spend so much time writing and re-reading my own stuff, as well as dozens of other sports articles each day, I tend to prefer to get away from the written word during my down time.
When I do read, I find myself gravitating toward non-fiction stuff. I’ve never really liked to read fiction. Seems like that’s best served on the big screen. My favorite topic is books about The Beatles, of which I’ve read probably a couple dozen different titles.
Last week, though, a copy of Todd Reesing’s recently released book, “Rising to New Heights: Inside the Jayhawks Huddle,” made its way to my desk and on Sunday night I decided to start flipping through it. By Wednesday I was finished. http://www2.kusports.com/photos/2007/sep/01/131046/
Now, the Reesing book certainly fits the non-fiction flavor that I prefer, as it is packed full of real memories and wonderful moments that are sure to make even casual Jayhawk fans beam with pride. But beyond that, it truly was a joy to read.
I think the best part about the book was that it was written in a style that seemed true to Reesing. He didn’t sugarcoat anything and didn’t try to write above his means. He writes like he speaks and the words bounce off the page.
The book — like all good sports stories — opens with a bang as Reesing jumps right in to KU’s appearance in the 2008 Orange Bowl and shares some of his thoughts and memories from gameday, the contest itself and the celebration that followed.
With the book off to a rolling start, he picks up steam with a chapter about the three Border War games he played in during his time at KU. Although KU lost two of those three games to Missouri, you’d never know it from reading this chapter. Of course, the one win in that group which came on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Reesing to Kerry Meier in the snow at Arrowhead Stadium, gets plenty of play in the 237 pages of this one. As well it should.
In addition to those thrilling subjects, Reesing also sheds some light on the injury that slowed him down throughout the second half of the 2009 season, his “benching” against Texas Tech and his take on the investigation of former KU coach Mark Mangino that ultimately led to the removal of the man who gave Reesing a chance.
The book also is full of other thoughts about Reesing — the man, the quarterback, the friend, the Jayhawk — from those who know him best — teammates, childhood friends, family members and coaches and admirers.
Another chapter takes the reader through a year in the life of a college football player. Reesing guides you on a journey that includes a look at what each week during the season was like (day by day) as well as what goes on in the offseason, the summer, with classes and even the social scene.
Other engaging subjects in the book include:
• The recruiting process that took him through Manhattan, Kan., en route to KU, complete with some pretty candid thoughts from K-State coach Bill Snyder
• The moment in the locker room at halftime of the Colorado game in 2006, when coach Mark Mangino told him he’d be starting the second half — his first appearance in a game at KU.
• A list of the most memorable plays of No. 5’s career from both Reesing’s friends and family and Reesing himself.
• What Reesing’s future might hold, including his hopes for a professional football career, what he might do if football doesn’t pan out and his thoughts on the current KU team, including new KU coach Turner Gill.
Someone asked me the other day how a guy in his early 20’s, like Reesing, could write a book about his life. At the time, the inquiry made sense. But after reading Reesing’s book, it’s obvious that this guy has enough to share to fill two books. Maybe someday it’ll come to that. But for now, there’s this one, a must-read for everyone who ever saw Reesing play and a pure delight for KU fans.
It’s a quick read with some colorful language and wonderful memories. The book, like Reesing’s career, will have you buzzing.
Thursday, 15 days before the first game of the 2010 season, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill tapped sophomore Kale Pick as his starting quarterback.
The choice did not come without thought. Weeks of evaluation by Gill and his coaching staff — particularly offensive coordinator Chuck Long — led to the decision to name Pick the starter.
Now that he’s done so, Gill and the Jayhawks can move on and start preparing for the season opener Sept. 4.
Let the fun begin. Every day from here on out will be different for the Jayhawks. Pick is now their unquestioned leader. Although seniors Sal Capra, Chris Harris, Jake Laptad, Angus Quigley and Justin Springer officially were named captains on Wednesday, Pick’s leadership ability will go the furthest in determining how the Jayhawks fare this season.
That’s good news for Kansas fans because that’s the main reason Pick won the job. Throughout the weeks that he battled with red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb, Pick carried himself with more confidence and, in many ways, seemed to be a natural leader.
I spent quite a lot of time around both guys during those weeks and, although I grew to like Webb a lot — classy, kind, down-to-earth, a genuine joy to talk with — I always came away feeling as if Pick was right guy for the job.
Call it the it factor, call it whatever you want, but Pick has it. It just seems as if he was born to inherit this job, be it at Kansas or on some other college campus.
Make no mistake, though, Pick did not simply inherit the job. He earned it. And he earned it by winning a battle against a very capable opponent.
It’s no secret by now that Webb has the better arm of the two. High school highlight videos reveal that Webb also has the ability to improvise when plays break down, sort of the same thing that Todd Reesing brought to the table, albeit in a less effective manner thus far. Webb also used his intelligence and desire to soak up the offense like a sponge to benefit him in the competition.
That’s what makes Pick’s victory all the more impressive. The coaches never said it (nor would they), but you almost got the sense that, because of his arm strength, they wanted to give Webb every opportunity to win the quarterback job. Play-calling becomes a lot easier when you’ve got a guy who can stretch the field with a flick of his wrist.
That’s why the battle went into the third week of preseason camp. Ultimately, though, Pick’s skillset — he’s very good at a little bit of everything — and his demeanor won him the job. As I mentioned before, it just seems as if the guy was born to be a college quarterback. He’s got the look, he’s got the name (if Kale Pick weren’t good enough already Johnny Quarterback would suffice), he’s got the confidence and he’s got the ability.
Now he just needs to show it in games. And there’s no doubt in my mind that he will. With a plethora of capable running backs and dangerous wideouts — not to mention tight end Tim Biere — surrounding him, Pick will have his, well, pick of options on just about every play. And because his physical attributes — strong and decisive in the pocket, good arm, good instincts and willingness to scoot forward for positive yardage with his feet — will allow him to find ways to get the ball in the right hands, he should do very well in running KU’s offense into the new era.
I asked Pick on Thursday if he saw himself in the same mold as Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson, former NFL quarterbacks known as “game managers,” who led their respective teams to Super Bowl titles.
Pick’s answer shows exactly why he was chosen to be the KU leader.
“I wouldn’t put myself in the same category as those quarterbacks,” he said. “Probably more than that.”
Asked further if he expected the job to be a breeze because of all of the capable bodies around him, Pick gave a nod to his teammates.
“I don’t know about easy, it’s pretty tough playing quarterback,” he said. “But it helps. We have good weapons out here, for sure, and they do make it easier on me. If I throw a short pass to Daymond (Patterson) and he takes it to the house for about 50 yards, that’s definitely easy. We have a lot of talent and it does help me out.”
Now, with the guessing and speculating done, the Jayhawks have 15 days to put that talent together in a manner that will win games.
With the opening game of the 2010 season now a little more than two weeks away, it seems like as good a time as any to offer up some predictions for the coming year.
Although we’re still formulating opinions about how the Kansas University football team will finish during its first season under the direction of new head coach Turner Gill, those of us here at KUsports.com who cover the team have our own opinions about which players will dominate the headlines for the Jayhawks this fall.
Outside of a very vanilla spring game, which took place after just 15 practices in the spring — which were conducted without many key players — we haven’t been able to nail down a prediction for wins and losses for 2010, largely because we haven’t been given an opportunity to see this team in action much.
So the following predictions were made with a bit of a projector’s eye. Some of them were based on what we know about guys who are returning from seasons past. Others were based on what we’ve heard, seen or been told about new guys from those who have been around them.
With that in mind, here’s our best guess at some players to watch in 2010.
— MATT TAIT, KU FOOTBALL BEAT WRITER —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. Replacing Todd Reesing shouldn’t be nearly as easy as Pick will make it look. Strong, skilled and supremely confident, the gunslinger from Dodge City will be wise enough to use all of his weapons this season, keeping opposing defenses guessing and the Jayhawks rolling. Won’t put up the individual numbers we’re used to from the KU QB, but will put up points on the scoreboard.
Defensive MVP: Kevin Young. If the Jayhawks struggle on defense this season, it won’t be Young’s fault. With opponents focused on neutralizing Jake Laptad, Young will face one-on-one blocking on the other side. He’ll eat that for lunch and make a second home in opposing backfields, leading the Jayhawks in sacks, hurries and QB pressures.
Special Teams MVP: Daymond Patterson. He’ll be a big-time factor at receiver, as well, but the more reps the shifty slot receiver gets on offense the more dangerous he’ll be on special teams, where he’ll bring a take-it-to-the-house mentality every time he touches the ball.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Christian Matthews. Though the Jayhawks are deep at receiver, Gill and Co. will have a hard time keeping this guy off the field. His skill set is raw but his athleticism may be the best on the team.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Steven Johnson. Lost in the shuffle because of the presence of some pretty big names at linebacker during the past few seasons, Johnson will emerge as a monster whom Jayhawk fans will be thrilled to have back in 2011.
Freshman of the Year: Christian Matthews. Coaches and teammates have talked about his ability all offseason. My guess is, before long, we’ll know why.
Best Win of 2010: Sept. 17 at Southern Miss. This will be the game that determines if the Jayhawks go bowling. After playing Georgia Tech tough at home on Sept. 11, the Jayhawks will take that toughness to the bayou to knock off Larry Fedora’s club with nasty defense and a clock-crunching ground attack.
Worst Loss of 2010: Nov. 13 at Nebraska. Gill’s return to Lincoln, Neb., won’t be one he’ll want to remember. Distractions — both from Gill’s return and NU’s departure to the Big 10 — will make this one a circus. Nebraska’s defense will play the role of the clown while KU plays the part of Kramer from Seinfeld.
— TOM KEEGAN, SPORTS EDITOR —
Offensive MVP: Daymond Patterson. Get him the ball and he'll take care of the rest.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. Kill the quarterback, Jake.
Special Teams MVP: Jacob Branstetter. Tackling prowess overshadows kicking talent.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Tim Biere. Tight end will be used more in new offense and Biere has looked great through spring and fall camps.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Justin Springer. Recovered from knee injury, he's ready to dominate.
Freshman of the Year: Kevin Young. There is a reason Nebraska wanted him. He's got talent.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State: Home crowd might be thin for some games, but not this one.
Worst Loss of 2010: Oct. 2 at Baylor. Dual-threat QB Robert Griffin is back, which makes Baylor much better.
— JESSE NEWELL, KUSPORTS.COM ONLINE EDITOR —
Offensive MVP: Angus Quigley. No one can say I played it safe. This would be a remarkable story if true. I think the RB job is his to lose at this point.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. If he's healthy, he's the best player on the Jayhawks defense.
Special Teams MVP: Alonso Rojas. No one's really talking about it, but he'll have a shot to make an NFL roster in 2011.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Tim Biere. Turner Gill and Chuck Long love utilizing the tight end. That hasn't always been the case at KU.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Calvin Rubles. KU cornerbacks coach Vic Shealy loves Rubles' size and athleticism. Give me five INTs for the breakout senior.
Freshman of the Year: Deshaun Sands. KU desperately needs a running back that can break free for a big run. Sands will be that guy this year.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 23 vs. Texas A&M. The Aggies have star power, but their defense is still suspect. I'll say the Jayhawks pull this one out in Lawrence.
Worst Loss of 2010: Nov. 27 vs. Missouri. This might not be the worst loss, but it will be the one that hurts the most for KU fans. The Arrowhead games always seem to come down to the end, but the Jayhawks aren't at the same level talent-wise as the Tigers this year.
— ERIC SORRENTINO, CONFERENCE CHATTER BLOGGER —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. With an experienced offensive line, I expect the dual-threat quarterback to have a solid season. If the line holds up in protection, Pick will be able to find a group of receivers that could surprise some people this year.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. The defensive end had seven sacks in 2008 and 6.5 in 2009. To be an elite end in the Big 12, Laptad will likely need to crack the double-digit plateau in his senior season. I expect he'll at least flirt with the number.
Special Teams MVP: Jacob Branstetter. Led the team in scoring with 81 points last year.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Daymond Patterson. Moving from cornerback to wide receiver, his natural position, should help the junior showcase his breakaway speed. Patterson will operate from the slot and should have the chance to scamper for plenty of yards after the catch.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Kevin Young. The defensive end from Olathe should have a chance to start in his freshman season. He was listed as a starting end on the post-spring, two-deep depth chart.
Freshman of the year: Chris Omigie. Haven't seen the guy play yet, but I've heard so much about the ability of the Arlington, Texas, native to get down the field and win the jump ball. He has great size at 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds. Omigie may receive limited opportunities in 2010, but I'm ready for him to display flashes of his potential.
Best Win of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State. I'm not particularly sold on the Wildcats being serious North contenders this season. I could see the Jayhawks getting revenge from last year's KSU victory. The home team has won the Sunflower Showdown six of the past seven years.
Worst loss of 2010: Sept. 17 at Southern Miss. It may take a few games for the Jayhawks to get comfortable under the new scheme of first-year coach Turner Gill. An early game like this against Southern Miss — KU's third game of the season and its first on the road — could be particularly challenging. Southern Miss has played in a bowl game for the past eight years.
— ANDREW BAKER, 6 NEWS SPORTS ANCHOR —
Offensive MVP: Toben Opurum. He has the best opportunity to make the biggest impact since Turner Gill has announced that he plans to be more committed to the run than Mark Mangino. If the offensive line can hold up, Opurum should excel.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. This is an easy one and the sack leader from 2009 will continue to lead this defense in 2010.
Special Teams MVP: Daymond Patterson. His speed and ability to make defenders miss should lead to some breakout opportunities for the junior.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Bradley McDougald. The sophomore wide receiver has big play ability, and by the time the year is over his numbers will be better than Jonathan Wilson's.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Chris Harris. This could be a little bit of a stretch but Harris has the ability to cause havoc to his opposition, he just hasn't had that year when he can put it all together. He's been a regular starter for Kansas however — I think this is the season Harris finally controls one side of the field.
Freshman of the Year: Kevin Young. Learning from Jake Laptad will help this freshman disrupt play in the backfield
Best Win of 2010: Nov. 6 vs. Colorado. This KU team is obviously down from a season ago and I think wins will be few and far between.
Worst Loss of 2010: Oct. 14 vs. Kansas State. A game that KU should win since it is at home — however the Sunflower Showdown debut for Turner Gill will not be a good one.
— KEVIN ROMARY, 6 NEWS SPORTS DIRECTOR —
Offensive MVP: Kale Pick. Let's hope there is one. I fear that the offense could struggle big time with so many new parts.
Defensive MVP: Jake Laptad. It's gotta be Jake or Justin, right?
Special Teams MVP: Alonso Rojas. The KU offense can't be as good with the three greatest offensive players in school history gone. Zo will have to be extremely valuable.
Offensive Breakout Player of the Year: Daymond Patterson. He dazzled for a few games as a freshman and now returns to the position he loves.
Defensive Breakout Player of the Year: Calvin Rubles. Guy was a stud in JUCO. Now needs to prove that the hype was real.
Freshman of the Year: James Sims. Everything is bigger in Texas.
Best Win of 2010: Kansas State. KU was better last year and lost on the road. KSU may be better this year but will lose on the road.
Worst Loss of 2010: Texas A&M. By worst loss, I assume you mean margin of defeat. I fear the powerful Ags "O" could score 50 at Memorial.
Kansas University football coach Turner Gill, on Monday, made no secret about the way he feels about his wide receivers.
“We have a solid receiving corps, I can say that,” Gill told the media during KU’s annual media day at the Anderson Family Strength and Conditioning Center.
From there, Gill went on to name names and, initially, I thought he might give us a glimpse at the two or three guys who had stood out the most at the position during his 20 or so practices with the team.
First mentioned was senior Johnathan Wilson. Then came junior Daymond Patterson, followed by sophomore Bradley McDougald. Finally, I thought to myself, we’re going to start getting some info about which players have taken the lead during training camp battles.
But then came Chris Omigie’s name and the names Erick McGriff and Christian Matthews followed. By the time Gill was finished — slot receiver D.J. Beshears was the last wideout he mentioned by name — Gill had listed off enough receivers to make up a couple of solid receiving units.
When I asked him how he might go about fitting that many players into some kind of a rotation, Gill said the coaching staff was still evaluating that and that, like most other positions, this group of guys would continue to battle it out on the practice field, with the most consistent guys — not necessarily the most talented — gaining the lion’s share of the reps this fall.
Though he’s been here just a short time, that, we’ve learned, is the Turner Gill way — everybody competes and consistency pays. Not a bad way to run a program, if you ask me.
But what if a position like wide receiver pops up and you’ve got six or seven guys who deserve to be on the field when the balls are flying on Saturdays? What happens then?
I’m sure Gill will figure that out in time. But I thought I’d take a crack at it before he does.
This is just a hunch, but I’d bet, with all things being equal, Gill will reward the older players first. Seniority and loyalty seem to mean a great deal to him. The other thing that means a great deal? Winning ballgames. So, seniority aside, if it’s a true freshman who puts the Jayhawks in the best position to win a game, you can bet Gill will send the rookie out onto the field.
For now, though, let’s examine which receivers might make the most grabs this fall.
- Johnathan Wilson, senior, 6-2, 190
The outlook: Partly because he’s the most experienced receiver in the bunch and partly because his name keeps coming up around the KU camp as a guy who has stood out, Wilson deserves the first crack at being this team’s go-to guy. This summer, receivers coach Darrell Wyatt told me that a clear-cut No. 1 receiver was the one thing that this unit lacks. With Sept. 4 drawing closer each day, it’s time for someone to establish himself as that guy. Wilson will get the first shot. Gill said he was impressed by Wilson’s route-running, demeanor and focus and the fact that he’s shown more maturity as a senior. Wilson doesn’t have top end speed but he is fearless and won’t be afraid to go after balls in traffic.
My take: I think Wilson will make a lot of plays for the Jayhawks this season and I think he’ll be among the leading receivers. However, something tells me that if he’s the guy who leads this team in yards and catches, that won’t be a very good sign for the Jayhawks. Consider him a solid No. 2 and hope for better.
- Daymond Patterson, junior, 5-9, 173
The outlook: Back to his natural position, Patterson finally gets the chance to resume his role as a playmaker. Lightning quick and blessed with breakaway speed, Patterson showed glimpses of what he was capable of as a true freshman. Now, two years more mature and polished, Patterson will get the chance to show that he belongs in the conversation about the most exciting players in the Big 12. If the Jayhawks were asked to vote, Patterson would be voted most likely to electrify. He’s shifty, has good vision and seems stuck on taking every reception to the house. Though his size won’t make him much of a threat over the middle, it seems ideal for his role in the slot.
My take: Look for Patterson to catch a lot of balls this season and look for him to rack up the yards-after-catch stat. Gill has emphasized getting the ball to his playmakers. I’m guessing we’ll see Patterson get the ball in just about every way imaginable this season. Short passes, deep balls, reverses, direct snaps, heck, maybe even out of the backfield. The sky’s the limit for this guy this year.
- Bradley McDougald, sophomore, 6-1, 195
The outlook: McDougald was a pleasant surprise in 2009. As a true freshman he caught 33 balls and benefited greatly from KU’s pass-heavy offense as well as the presence of future NFL draft picks Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. McDougald is one of those guys who seems to make everything he does look smooth and, because of that, he’s not always the most exciting player on the field. He is productive, though, and his mix of good hands, good speed and toughness should translate into another solid season.
My take: If there’s any receiver on the roster who’s ready to inherit the Kerry Meier role, it’s McDougald. Sure hands, ultra reliable and smart enough to sit into the holes the defense allows. The potential’s there for McDougald to lead the Jayhawks in receiving this year. What remains to be seen is if the opportunity to do so is.
So there you have it, my best guess at the top three guys who will see the most balls thrown their way during the 2010 season. The good news about this year’s receiving corps is that it’s deep and talented, though, so at any moment any one of those other guys could jump into the mix.
Before we wrap up, a quick word about the rest of the top seven.
Chris Omigie, red-shirt freshman, 6-4, 194: What he did in the spring game (4 catches for 95 yards and a TD) definitely got people excited. The key for Chris will be to do that with consistency. You gotta like his size, especially down the field, and the way he attacks the ball when it’s in the air.
Christian Matthews, red-shirt freshman, 6-1, 186: A star in the making. Matthews also had a memorable spring game (caught a 37-yard game-winning TD from Kale Pick for the blue squad) and has opened eyes within the program. The former QB is pretty raw but he’s getting better and more comfortable at his new position every day and appears to be on a path to greatness. He’ll make catches this season but next year will be his big year.
D.J. Beshears, sophomore, 5-8, 174: Plays like Patterson and does it nearly as well. Quick, shifty and a natural playmaker, the only thing holding Beshears back will be opportunities. Red-shirting would not be the worst idea.
Erick McGriff, red-shirt freshman, 6-3, 209: Has the size you like but hasn’t been able to get completely healthy just yet. A natural at the position, McGriff’s size alone could end up leading to key receptions this season, should Chuck Long and the KU offense find a way to exploit opponents down the field.
A colleague and I had a little discussion the other day about which Jayhawks we could include on our Big 12 Preseason Football Media Ballots without making a mockery of the process.
It was a pretty long discussion for such a short list.
There have to be a few all-conference-type players on KU’s roster. There’s no doubt in my mind. Each year during the past decade or so, KU has had at least a couple of guys who you could have made a case for on this team. The problem with those players was the overwhelming competition they faced from players at the 11 other schools.
The problem with this year’s group is that they’re largely a bunch of unknowns. Is it possible to envision a postseason all-Big 12 team that has two or three Jayhawks on it? Absolutely. Is it easy to pinpoint who those players are or might be and, furthermore, is it even conceivable to put them on the preseason squad? Not exactly.
Take Chris Harris for example. Harris has three things going for him entering the 2010 season. He’s a senior, he’s experienced and he’s had plenty of big games in the past while wearing a KU uniform. Isn’t it possible, then, to see how Harris, should he have the best year of his career, could wind up on the all-Big 12 squad when December rolls around? Sure. Think 80+ tackles, six or seven picks and a surprise season from the Jayhawks, say 7-5 or 8-4. If Harris has those type of stats on that type of team, he could be an all-conference pick. But I just can’t justify putting him on there until he does it. And I can’t imagine many other media members will be able to either.
As for the Jayhawks I could see putting on the preseason team — and just might before Friday’s deadline — here’s the list of the guys we came up with. Feel free to add to the list if you’ve got a compelling case for someone we left out.
Tanner Hawkinson, left tackle: Hawkinson may very well be the player voted most-likely-to-make-an-NFL-roster on this year’s team. He’s got great size and physical tools, is a superb athlete with good feet and has yet to fully realize his potential as an offensive lineman. But he did a great job of protecting Todd Reesing’s blind side and will be counted on to take even better care of the new KU QB, whoever it is. This league — in particular OU and Texas — has some serious talent at the offensive line position, so cracking the Top 5 is tough, but Hawkinson’s in the conversation.
Jake Laptad, defensive end: Honorable mention all-Big 12 during the last two seasons, Laptad has the potential to be a disruptive force on KU’s defensive line. He won’t be able to do it without some help, though. Unless the Jayhawks find at least a couple of other defensive linemen capable of putting pressure on opposing QBs, Laptad will face a lot of double teams this year and that will neutralize the player who recorded 6.5 sacks and 6 QB hurries in 2009 and has 13.5 sacks in the past two seasons combined.
Tim Biere, tight end: After a productive spring, Biere appears to be poised for a breakout season, especially when considering that he’ll be playing in a brand-new, tight-end-friendly offense. Biere’s a good pick here because he’s got good skills, is reliable and fearless and benefits from a lack of talent at the position throughout the rest of the league.
Daymond Patterson, punt returner: DP has the skills to be among the best in the league. The problem with putting him on the team is, (a) we don’t know for sure if he’ll get a shot to return punts and (b) he may become too valuable at wide receiver for the Jayhawks to allow him to.
Surprised by the recent flurry of offensive linemen to give oral commitments to the Kansas University football program?
You’re not alone. Analysts and experts throughout the region have expressed varying degrees of shock regarding KU’s most recent crop of commitments, which has included verbal pledges from four offensive linemen from the Class of 2011 in the past six days and a total of five in the past two and a half weeks.
It all began with 6-foot-5, 295-pound Travis Bodenstein, of Springdale, Ark., who committed to KU on June 12. Little did we know, Bodenstein’s act would be the one that led to KU filling the cupboard at the position.
Bryan Peters (6-5, 305 from La Mirada, Calif.) was next, followed by juco transfer Nick Johnson (6-3, 290, Navarro College), Damon Martin (6-5, 265, Arlington, Texas) and finally Luke Luhrsen (6-5, 275, Wheaton, Ill.).
That fivesome, should they stick to their words, represents KU’s largest offensive line class since 2003, when former KU coach Mark Mangino inked six offensive linemen, two of which were juco transfers and two more, Cesar Rodriguez and Joe Vaughn, who went on to have a big impact at the position.
KU’s 2006 Class eventually included six linemen, but only four at the time. Sal Capra came in as a linebacker and Brad Thorson signed with Wisconsin before transferring to KU. Both are projected starters on this year’s squad.
There’s been talk that the current KU staff would have no problem bumping its number of linemen from five to six should Bishop Miege standout Phil Ford — 6-6, 342 — choose to commit to Kansas. KU offered a scholarship to the Miege monster last week and Ford and his mother, Michelle Walker, are expected to take another visit to the KU campus this afternoon.
A little perspective for those fans concerned about the fact that all of these guys are of the two- and three-star variety... Since 2002, KU has received just one commitment from a four-star offensive lineman. His name was Nathan D’Cuhna, in 2008, and he never played a single snap for the Jayhawks.
In fact, the top six linemen on this year’s unit all were either two- or three-star guys out of high school and two of them entered the KU program at different positions.
Sal Capra — 2-star — Class of 2006 — linebacker
Brad Thorson — 2-star — Class of 2006 (Wisconsin) — offensive lineman
Jeremiah Hatch — 3-star — Class of 2007 — offensive lineman
Jeff Spikes — 2-star — Class of 2007 — offensive lineman
Tanner Hawkinson — 3-star — Class of 2008 — tight end
Trevor Marrongelli — 2-star — Class of 2008 — offensive lineman
Say what you will about the success of the KU offensive line during the past seven or eight seasons, but make sure to recognize that this year’s group — on paper — did not look like anything to write home about but could become one of the top units to play at KU in quite some time.
Hawkinson is a legitimate NFL prospect and likely would’ve been a two-star lineman (at best) out of high school. Hatch and Spikes, based on size alone, have the potential to dominate. And Thorson, a two-star guy who transferred from Wisconsin, has emerged as a solid anchor on the O-Line, much like Ryan Cantrell, a two-star guy in his own right, who became a three-year starter at Kansas. Capra and Marrongelli are out of that same mold — solid but not spectacular.
The thing that the linemen in the Class of 2011 have that many that came before them did not is natural size. Most of these guys are monsters already. Imagine what they could become after a couple of years with the KU strength staff.
As the saying goes, “You can’t teach size.” Size alone does not make this class a bunch of can’t-miss O-Line prospects. As you can see from the list below there have been plenty of two- and three-star linemen who never panned out. Still, just because they’re not of the four-star variety does not mean that this latest group of linemen can’t become something special. Just look at the Class of 2004, which includes a familiar name: Anthony Collins. Collins came to KU as a two-star defensive end and left as a fourth-round NFL Draft pick.
KU’s Offensive Linemen Classes since 2002:
Chad Kolumber — 2-star
Gavin Howard — 3-star
Tom Mabry — 2-star
Riley Spencer — 2-star
Nathan D’Cuhna — 4-star
Ben Lueken — 3-star
Trevor Marrongelli — 3-star
John Williams — 3-star
Tanner Hawkinson — 3-star TE
Chet Hartley — 3-star
Jeremiah Hatch — 3-star
Jeff Spikes — 2-star
Carl Wilson — 3-star
John Marshall — 2-star
Rameses Arceo — 3-star
Ian Wolfe — 3-star
Sal Capra — 2-star LB
Brad Thorson — 2-star (Wisconsin signee)
Marcus Anderson — 3-star
Jake Cox — 3-star
Jose Rodriguez — 3-star
Adam Melty — 3-star
Ryan Cantrell — 2-star
Anthony Collins — 2-star DE
Matt Darton — 2-star
Todd Haselhorst — 3-star
Scott Haverkamp — 2-star
Richard Estrella — 3-star
Zack Hood — 2-star
Reid Kirby — 2-star
Cesar Rodriguez — 2-star
Johnny Urrutia — 3-star
Joe Vaughn — 2-star
Travis Dambach — 2-star
David Ochoa — 3-star
Skye Peterson — 3-star
Bob Whitaker — 3-star
Before I go any further, let me say one thing: It’s way too early to start freaking out about conference realignment in the NCAA, but I’m going to do it anyway.
OK, good. Now that we’re clear, let’s get to it.
Unless you’ve been living without electricity or in outer space instead of cyber space, you’re surely aware by now that the hottest topic in college athletics is the potential realignment of the major conferences into pods that have been termed mega or super conferences.
My short answer to this development? Get used to it, embrace it, learn to love it. It’s going to happen sooner rather than later.
My longer answer, however, will take us a little deeper into the issue, one that is as exciting as it is scary, as full of good as it is rooted in bad.
From where I sit, the bottom line for KU fans is this: As long as the Jayhawks aren’t left out in the cold, their fan base is going to accept whatever happens.
For years, the Big Eight was the greatest thing going. Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Oklahoma; All were classic universities with outstanding athletics and sound academics. Then the Big 12 came along and things got even better. Although many Big Eight purists initially rejected the adoption of the Texas schools, many eventually learned to love it, particularly during bowl season or when March Madness rolled around. Having four more teams meant more chances to represent in the postseason. That, of course, provided KU backers more reason to brag about their school’s supremacy.
Remember, though, before there was the Big 12 and even before the Big Eight, fans of the Big 7 and the Big 6 probably felt the same way. Heck, I’m guessing that fans of the old SWC, where the Texas schools came from in the first place, felt that way about their conference. But, be honest, before this blog, when was the last time you even heard the SWC mentioned?
I’m not going to spend a lot of time speculating about what’s going to happen — at least not in this blog. I don’t know which teams will land where and nobody around here is talking much about it — at least not on the record.
Here’s the gist of what’s possible, though.
Nebraska and Missouri have been linked to the Big Ten. It’s possible that one, or both, could join the conference in the near future. Notre Dame is another major player on the Big Ten’s radar and the Golden Domers likely would be the Big Ten’s first choice. That’s if they just wanted to expand to 12. Expanding to 16, and therein forming a super conference, is a real possibility and that’s where the two Big 12 schools — and possibly even KU — come into play a little more.
Heading the other direction, Colorado has been linked — yet again — to the Pac 10. The rumors out of Boulder are saying that if the Buffs are given an invitation, they’ll jump on it in a matter of seconds. Again, I don’t know much here, but I’m betting this one is going to happen.
So, for argument’s sake, let’s say Nebraska and Mizzou go to the Big Ten and Colorado goes to the Pac 10. That leaves nine teams struggling for survival and puts the Big 12 in a tough position. Does the Big 12 then invite teams like TCU, Utah, BYU or Arkansas into the mix or does it implode completely with Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State looking to bolt for the SEC? Add those four to the SEC’s current lineup and you’re looking at another super conference.
People are saying that the survival of the Big 12 is tied directly to Texas. Tell us something we don’t already know. But, in this case, it could be more true than ever. If the Longhorns want to stick it out in the Big 12, which would be very much in their favor as it has been all along, then the conference would survive. If not, it’s every man for himself and it leaves KU, K-State, Iowa State, Baylor and Texas Tech scrambling for their lives.
Of course, a big reason that some of these schools are exploring the option of leaving in the first place is because they believe things are slanted towards Texas in the first place and they’re tired of dealing with it.
As far as Kansas goes, KU will probably be OK no matter what happens. The basketball program is a national draw and any conference out there — super or otherwise — would love to add that kind of program to their league. K-State, because it has been on the rise in recent years and is linked to Kansas in so many natural ways, also would probably be OK.
There has been talk about KU and K-State joining the Pac-10 in an attempt at making a super conference. Sounds crazy, I know, but there certainly are worse alternatives. In addition, rumors are flying around that the Jayhawks have been linked to the Big 10, as well. Whether this is in place of Missouri or Nebraska or in addition to them is still not known.
I don’t know what’s going to happen with all of this and I’m not sure anyone else does either. Are we going to have four 16-team power conferences or will this end up being like that earthquake that was supposed to hit Lawrence back in 1989? Your guess is as good as mine there. And, for now, it’s not really my job to figure that out.
I do know this, though. Change is coming. And, although it might be tough to accept at first, it could be in KU’s best interest.
In the days since last weekend’s 2010 NFL Draft, one of the biggest questions I’ve heard concerning the Kansas University football program was in reference to former wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe.
How could Briscoe have fallen to the sixth round when many believed him to be a first- or second-round talent and a likely second- or third-round pick?
There are a ton of answers here, but let’s focus on the main ones.
First, and quite probably most important, was the fact that Briscoe’s name was attached to the one phrase that can drop a guy faster than anything in these types of drafts: off-the-field issues. Although Briscoe was largely a good dude during his career at KU, he had a handful of incidents on his resume that caused NFL GMs to throw up the red flag.
For starters, there was a charge for shoplifting in 2007 followed by problems attending class and a suspension or two for violating team rules. No big deal at the time and certainly nothing that stood in the way of him becoming a record-setting wide receiver and one of the best the school ever had seen.
But just because your coaches and teammates can move past those issues doesn’t mean they disappear. It’s kind of like that speeding ticket you got several months ago. You haven’t sped since — or at least haven’t been pulled over for it — but that doesn’t mean you’re not still paying for it via the old insurance bill.
In today’s NFL, one which new commissioner Roger Goodell rules with an iron fist and an unforgiving mind, those things just aren’t worth the gamble. Why would a team pick a player with character questions when other, sometimes equally qualified players project a better image for the franchise?
Just look at the latest line of “characters” that have felt Goodell’s wrath: Pacman Jones, suspended for an entire season; Brandon Marshall, suspended for several games and under review multiple times; Ben Roethlisberger, not even convicted of a crime yet still suspended six games by the league and facing his possible departure from Pittsburgh.
Goodell’s message has been spelled out in no uncertain terms. The recent draft, with the fall of guys like Briscoe and Dez Bryant and the rise of guys like Tim Tebow, illustrates that the message is being received by NFL franchises loud and clear.
Besides that, many of you may remember that Briscoe didn’t exactly do himself any favors during the pre-draft workouts. He struggled at the combine with speed and strength and did a less-than-stellar job of marketing himself, which is what it takes these days — like it or not.
I was around Briscoe on and off for the past two years and I always enjoyed my encounters with him. He was fun to talk to, a little on the quiet side but pretty pleasant once you got him going. He always respected the media and rarely seemed annoyed with any of the questions he was asked, no matter how ridiculous. That’s when he was there.
Briscoe also routinely skipped out on the weekly media sessions and was next to impossible to get ahold of the week of the draft, including draft day. So was his agent. It’s my belief that these things cost Briscoe more than either one of them probably thought they would.
I know Briscoe is confident in his abilities. And he should be. But when things turn from game to business it takes a lot more than catching everything that comes your way and scoring touchdowns on a regular basis to make it. It takes charisma, it takes compromise and it takes the understanding that a little give here — even if it’s phony — can go a long way later.
Maybe all this will work out in Briscoe’s favor. I mean, he is going to the Cincinnati Bengals, who have a franchise QB, Carson Palmer, and an incredible veteran receiver in Chad Ochocinco for the Dallas native to learn from. If Briscoe were taken in the second round he may have entered the league with a little too much swagger and expected things to be easy, to be handed to him because of his status as an early-round pick. But now, as a sixth-rounder, he’s going to have to earn everything he gets.
Briscoe’s always been best when driven by a little adversity. Even though a little song and dance along the way might have moved him up the draft board, falling to 191st overall could be the best thing to have happened to him.
Former teammate Kerry Meier said it best, when asked to size up his former teammate a little more than a month ago: “Any time you can get him involved with and around football, you’re going to find good things,” Meier said. “He just needs to stay around football and ultimately stay focused on the task at hand and concentrate on being the best football player he can be.”
9:15 p.m. Update
Saturday figures to be one of the busiest football days in the history of Kansas University. Three, perhaps even four, former players could be drafted in the NFL Draft; one or two more could ink free agent contracts when the draft is finished; new head coach Turner Gill and his 2010 team will take the field at Memorial Stadium for the annual spring game; and there are rumors out there about a couple of 2011 commitments coming.
Either way, it's time for some rest so we can get after it again tomorrow.
9:10 p.m. Update
This one's in the books. Color me surprised. I really thought that at least one of the two Jayhawks - Stuckey or Briscoe - would be drafted in the top three rounds.
But the final pick of Rd. 3 was just made and all of the Jayhawks are still on the board.
96. CB Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest, to Cincinnati
97. LB Rennis Curran, Georgia, to Tennessee
98. OG Mike Johnson, Alabama, to Atlanta
9:03 p.m. Update
Nope. The Saints pass on Stuckey and go with TE Jimmy Graham, of Miami (Fla.), with the 95th overall pick.
The final pick of the third round belongs to Cincinnati and then we'll do two compensatory picks to close out the evening, Tennessee and Atlanta.
8:55 p.m. Update
The Chiefs trade up to 93 but pass on the two players from down the road to take tight end Tony Moeaki from Iowa.
Time is running out tonight...
Here's the thing to remember, though. Just because these Jayhawks are "falling" a little bit doesn't mean they won't be drafted. Whether they're done for tonight or not, both Briscoe and Stuckey will be selected before the seven rounds are finished and, by KU standards, that's still a heck of an accomplishment.
Interesting.... The Saints trade up two spots to get to 95. They were rumored to be interested in Stuckey. Is there a connection?
92. OG Shawn Lauvao, Arizona State, to Cleveland
94. CB Kevin Thomas, USC, to Indianapolis
8:48 p.m. Update
Wow. Two more receivers go and no Briscoe. This is interesting. Gotta wonder if the so-called "character issues" are coming into play here. Seven picks remain in tonight's portion of the draft.
89. WR Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State, to Carolina
90. WR Taylor Price, Ohio, to New England
91. LB Navorro Bowman, Penn State, to San Francisco
8:44 p.m. Update
The sting of the night just came for Dezmon Briscoe when Arizona drafted Andre Roberts of The Citadel with the 88th pick overall. Briscoe has made no secret about the fact that he'd love to play with and learn from Larry Fitzgerald. But instead of taking him the Cardinals take another player at his position, a relative unknown from The Citadel.
The farther these Jayhawks drop, the more I can't help but think that some team(s) is going to get a couple of steals.
86. DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Washington, to Philadelphia
87. WR Eric Decker, Minnesota, to Denver
8:32 p.m. Update
Getting late now and Texas WR Jordan Shipley just went at No. 84 overall to Cincy. That one had to sting a little for the Briscoe camp.
Another interesting pass came from Pittsburgh, who liked Stuckey a lot but passed on him at No. 82 and took SMU wideout Emmanuel Sanders.
And there goes UT QB Colt McCoy, 85th overall to Cleveland. Good for him. He'll do well as the man in Cleveland, especially with Mike Holmgren in town now. Amazing that Cleveland, who needed a QB, waits til the middle of the third round to land a guy like Colt McCoy. In a word, he's a winner.
79. LB Donald Butler, Washington, to San Diego
80. C J.D. Walton, Baylor, to Denver
81. DT Earl Mitchell, Arizona, to Houston
82. WR Emmanuel Sanders, SMU, to Pittsburgh
83. DT Corey Peters, Kentucky, to Atlanta
8:15 p.m. Update
After back-to-back safeties go to Chicago and Green Bay, Tennessee and Carolina answer by taking back-to-back wide receivers. If this continues, Briscoe could sneak into the end of the third round before the night's over.
77. WR Damian Williams, USC, to Tennessee
78. WR Brandon LaFell, LSU, to Carolina
8:08 p.m. Update
One pick later, another safety goes to the New York Giants. LSU's Chad Jones goes at No. 76 overall. Wow.
8:06 p.m. Update
Four picks after Burnett goes to Green Bay, the Chicago Bears answer their division rival by picking safety Major Wright of Florida at No. 75.
At this point, you have to start to wonder how many more safeties will be selected tonight.
73. OG John Jerry, Ole Miss, to Miami
74. DT D’Anthony Smith, Louisiana Tech, to Jacksonville
7:55 p.m. Update
At No. 71 overall (6th pick of the third round) the Green Bay Packers traded up to get safety Morgan Burnett of Georgia Tech.
Yet another safety off the board, which brings us another step closer to hearing Stuckey's name. However, with just 25 picks remaining tonight, it's still up in the air whether he'll be a third round guy or a third day guy. Despite moving his way up the board at his position, Stuckey still has not cracked draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s "Best Available" Top 10 list.
The Bills just picked Alex Carrington, DE Arkansas State, with the 72nd pick. Miami's up.
66. CB Amari Spievey, Iowa, to Detroit
67. CB Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt, to Tampa Bay
68. OG Jon Asamoah, Illinois, to Kansas City
69. OT Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale, to Oakland
70. TE Ed Dickson, Oregon, to Baltimore
7:34 p.m. Update
Notre Dame's Golden Tate goes to the Seattle Seahawks at pick No. 60 and offensive tackle Charles Brown goes to New Orleans at 64 to conclude the second round.
There are still several wide receivers on the board and it will be interesting to see if Briscoe goes in the third round. But the safety position remains thin. At this point, it looks better for Stuckey in the next 32 picks than it does for Briscoe. Of course, they both still could go or they both still could have to wait until tomorrow.
The third round begins with St. Louis selecting South Florida cornerback Jerome Murphy at No. 65 overall. Here's a look at the end of the second round:
57. DT Terrence Cody, Alabama, to Baltimore
58. RB Ben Tate, Auburn, to Houston
59. RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee, to Cleveland
60. WR Golden Tate, Notre Dame, to Seattle
61. OG Vladimir Ducasse, UMass, to NY Jets
62. LB Brandon Spikes, Florida, to New England
63. LB Patrick Angerer, Iowa, to Indianapolis
64. OT Charles Brown, USC, to New Orleans
6:52 p.m. Update
Not a lot new in the last 20 or so minutes. A few big names were selected but none that impact the standing of Briscoe or Stuckey. Here's a look:
50. CB Javier Arenas, Alabama, to Kansas City
51. RB Toby Gerhart, Stanford, to Minnesota
52. LB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech, to Pittsburgh
53. LB Jermaine Cunningham, Florida, to New England
54. DE Carlos Dunlap, Florida, to Cincinnati
55. LB Sean Lee, Penn State, to Dallas
56. DT Mike Neal, Purdue, to Green Bay
6:28 p.m. Update
There goes another safety, as USC standout Taylor Mays goes No. 49 to San Francisco. Mays is a big-time talent, a player many believed could have wound up in the first round, and the Niners got a player with big-time ability and potential here.
Now that Mays is gone, Stuckey has to be first or second at the position on just about every team's draft boards. If anyone else is looking for a safety tonight — a likely prospect — Stuckey should be taken before the end of the evening.
One other pick of note in this bunch is the Carolina Panthers taking Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen at No. 49. One second-round mock draft had the Panthers taking Briscoe there but, obviously, that did not play out. Wide receivers aren't going fast and Briscoe could be waiting a while still.
46. DT Linval Joseph, E. Carolina, to NY Giants
47. LB Daryl Washington, TCU, to Arizona
48. QB Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame to Carolina
6:10 p.m. Update
A couple of Texas Longhorns go back-to-back at 43 and 44, and the first receiver of the night was taken at No. 39 by Tampa Bay, who traded up to get into that spot.
The longer the draft goes on, the more likely it becomes that the next name we hear could be Briscoe's or Stuckey's.
One other note of interest: Several picks in this round have been announced by former NFL greats and alums of the teams on the clock. Notable names who have stepped to the podium so far include: Dan Marino, Ray Lewis and Jim Brown.
39. WR Arrelious Benn, Illinoi, to Tampa Bay
40. OLB Koa Misi, Utah, to Miami
41. DT Torell Troupe, Central Florida, to Buffalo
42. TE Rob Gronkowski, Arizona, to New England
43. LB Sergio Kindle, Texas, to Baltimore
44. DT Lamarr Houston, Texas, to Oakland
45. OG Zane Beadles, Utah, to Denver
5:42 p.m. Update
First KU sighting of the night comes in the form of a highlight for South Florida safety Nate Allen, who went to Philadelphia with pick No. 37. In the highlight Allen was shown intercepting KU QB Todd Reesing during the Jayhawks loss to USF in 2008.
The other interesting thing about this pick is that it takes another safety off the board. With Stuckey being grouped in the top five or six safeties available, the more that go in front of him, the higher his value goes.
Another safety, junior T.J. Ward from Oregon, goes No. 38 to Cleveland.
5:30 p.m. Update
Local pick of note, the Kansas City Chiefs select Dexter McCluster, RB, Ole Miss. This is a very interesting pick considering the fact that the Chiefs already have Jamal Charles and recently signed Thomas Jones. It could be an insurance pick with an eye toward helping the Chiefs' return game.
The picks that came before him were:
34. CB Chris Cook, Virginia, to Minnesota
35. DT David Price, UCLA, to Tampa Bay
Neither pick makes much of an impact on the status of Stuckey or Briscoe.
OK, with the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft out of the way, KU fans can start to pay attention.
Although nothing's guaranteed, it's very possible that both or either Dezmon Briscoe and Darrell Stuckey could be selected before night's end.
Both are potential late-second round or third round picks, but both could be bypassed altogether and have to wait until Saturday to hear their name called.
We'll be here throughout the night, periodically keeping track of what's happening in New York City. We won't comment on every pick, but we will keep an eye on how things are going to see if we can guesstimate what that might mean for Briscoe and Stuckey's chances.
Day 2 just kicked off officially with the St. Louis Rams taking OT Rodger Saffold of Indiana. Not a real sexy pick, but he may very well have been the highest remaining player on the Rams' draft board, especially considering that their main priority after Thursday night became protecting former OU quarterback and No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford.
Check back often for our thoughts on what's happening and feel free to chime in with your analysis.
The Minnesota Vikings are on the clock.
We all know that NFL teams make their draft picks based on size, speed, personality and potential.
But there’s another element that has as much to do with shaping the NFL Draft — which runs Thursday through Saturday in New York City — as any of those other traits. This one has a name. It’s called the Wonderlic Personnel Test and it’s taken by all draft prospects during the NFL’s four or five months of evaluations that lead up to the draft.
Ever wondered how you would score on the famed Wonderlic test? Keep scrolling and you’ll get your chance to find out.
Surely you’ve heard of the test. It’s 50 questions, most are multiple choice or true/false and it’s given during a set time limit. For the sample test below, you’ll get five minutes to answer 14 questions so be sure to use your time wisely. Remember, not getting to a question is the same as getting it wrong.
Before we get to the sample test, here’s a little history about the Wonderlic.
Although it has existed for decades, the Wonderlic test was made famous by former University of Texas quarterback Vince Young and his well-documented struggles in 2006, when he was reported to have scored a six out of 50. That was on the first try. VY took the test again — evidently, you’re allowed to take it as many times as you like — and scored a more-respectable 15.
A score of 20 projects average intelligence and it is believed that former Cincinnati Bengals punter Pat McInally (1976-85) is the only player ever to register a verified perfect score.
Buffalo Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick — who like McInally graduated from Harvard — also was rumored to have registered a perfect score, but it was reported that Fitzpatrick denied that, claiming he left at least one of the 50 questions blank. Perhaps the more amazing part about Fitzpatrick’s test is that he was done in just nine minutes. That claim was verified by The Wall Street Journal, which later reported that Fitzpatrick’s actual score was a 48.
Here are some interesting facts about past Wonderlic scores.
The following is the average score by position:
Offensive Tackle – 26
Center – 25
Quarterback – 24
Guard – 23
Tight End – 22
Safety – 19
Linebacker – 19
Cornerback – 18
Wide Receiver – 17
Fullback – 17
Halfback – 16
More interestingly, here’s a look at the average score by occupation:
Chemist – 32
Programmer – 29
Journalist – 26
Sales – 24
Bank Teller – 22
Clerical Worker – 21
Security Guard – 17
Warehouse – 15
OK, with that behind us, here’s your chance to take the test, courtesy of WPT™ Sample Questions. Remember, set your clock for five minutes and don’t be tempted to peek at the answers below.
1. Look at the row of numbers below. What number should come next?
8, 4, 2, 1, one-half, one-fourth, ???
2. Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one:
3. not certain?
The boy plays baseball. All baseball players wear hats. The boy wears a hat.
3. Paper sells for 21 cents per pad. What will four pads cost?
4. How many of the five pairs of items listed below are exact duplicates?
5. RESENT and RESERVE — Do these words:
1. have similar meanings
2. have contradictory meanings
3. mean neither the same nor opposite?
6. A train travels 20 feet in 1/5 second. At this same speed, how many feet will it travel in three seconds?
7. When rope is selling at $0.10 a foot, how many feet can you buy for sixty cents?
8. The ninth month of the year is:
9. Which number in the following group of numbers represents the smallest amount?
10. In printing an article of 48,000 words, a printer decides to use two sizes of type. Using the larger type, a printed page contains 1,800 words. Using smaller type, a page contains 2,400 words. The article is allotted 21 full pages in a magazine. How many pages must be in smaller type?
11. The hours of daylight and darkness in SEPTEMBER are nearest equal to the hours of daylight and darkness in:
12. Three individuals form a partnership and agree to divide the profits equally. X invests $9,000, Y invests $7,000, Z invests $4,000. If the profits are $4,800, how much less does X receive than if the profits were divided in proportion to the amount invested?
13. Assume the first two statements are true. Is the final one:
3. not certain
Tom greeted Beth. Beth greeted Dawn. Tom did not greet Dawn.
14. A boy is 17 years old and his sister is twice as old. When the boy is 23 years old, what will be the age of his sister?
For the answers...
... ... ... ... ... ...
3. 84 cents
6. 300 feet
7. 6 feet
13. not certain
14. 40 years old
In the interest of full disclosure, I correctly answered 12 of the 14 questions. I missed No. 12 and elected to skip past No. 10 after it began to take too long to figure out.
The previous questions and answers are sample test questions intended for demonstration only. The Wonderlic Personnel Test is published by Wonderlic, Inc.
It seems that if you’re going to compare former Kansas University wide receiver Kerry Meier to an NFL player, you’re going to first have to decide if you want to compare him to a tight end or a wide receiver.
Although there are a few receivers out there who share Meier’s size — 6-foot-3, 220 pounds — there aren’t many that have the same combination of steady hands and brute toughness like Meier. At the same, the tight ends that possess those traits are far bigger than Meier and, therefore, not quite as athletic or sure-handed.
Though he probably won’t be drafted before the fourth round in this week’s NFL Draft (Thursday through Saturday in New York City), Meier is one of the most intriguing players available in this year’s draft class, simply because he can be so versatile.
Consider this: Depending on which team drafts him, Meier could be in line to play one of five different positions in the pros. And that’s not counting special teams.
Wide receiver? Obviously. That’s what he’ll be drafted as and that’s where he’ll get his first shot.
Tight end? Sure. If he added 15-20 pounds of muscle (easier said than done) and became obsessed with becoming more physical and a better blocker, Meier could be the first of a new breed of NFL tight ends.
Quarterback? Why not? He was a star in high school at the position and had a pretty good freshman season at KU before making the switch. What’s more, he never stopped working as a QB — serving as Todd Reesing’s back-up despite becoming a starting receiver — and it was his quarterback’s eye and understanding that helped him excel as a wideout. It’s not likely, but if he ends up with a team like Cleveland or Oakland, they might give him a look under center when all other options fail.
Safety? Maybe. He certainly has the build and the knowledge of how the secondary works. And his speed, though not blazing, might be good enough to make him a decent strong safety. The big question here would be if he could all of a sudden learn how to become a punishing hitter. I wouldn’t bet against it.
Linebacker? Doubtful. But, again, if he added 20-30 pounds of muscle and developed a mean streak, I bet there’s at least one NFL GM or head coach who could see Meier manning the middle. Again, though, this one is the least likely of them all.
But isn’t that the point. Doesn’t this exercise at least illustrate just how valuable Meier could become for an NFL club? I mean, he might not be the hottest wide receiver prospect out there, but he is an athlete. And a great one at that. He’s already shown a willingness to try a new position and, more importantly, he’s already shown that he can succeed at a new spot if given the chance.
Some NFL team is going to draft Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and do whatever it takes to turn him into a pro-style QB. Tebow’s athletic prowess alone guarantees that. The catch is, whoever snags him might have to do it in the first round.
Four or five rounds later, however, a team will take a gamble on a guy named Kerry Meier for the very same reasons. Like Tebow, Meier possesses all of the physical attributes you look for in an athlete. The thing that gives the team taking Meier the advantage over the team that takes Tebow? They won’t have to waste a first-round pick on him and they might be able to try him out at more than one position.
NFL WRs with Kerry Meier type size
Marques Colston, New Orleans, 6-4, 225
Anquan Boldin, Baltimore, 6-1, 217
Roy Williams, Dallas, 6-3, 215
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City, 6-2, 221
Terrell Owens, Free Agent, 6-3, 224
NFL TEs with Kerry Meier type skills
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis, 6-3, 252
Kellen Winslow Jr., Tampa Bay, 6-4, 240
Dustin Keller, New York Jets, 6-2, 248
Tony Scheffler, Denver, 6-5, 255
Brent Celek, Philadelphia, 6-4, 255
Think back for a minute, to the last time we saw Dezmon Briscoe in a Kansas University football uniform.
November 28, 2009. There was Briscoe, decked out in a red jersey, blue pants and a blue helmet, torching the Missouri Tigers for 242 yards and 2 TDs on 14 receptions.
What we saw that day was a playmaker, a guy who, no matter how fast he ran or how well he measured, simply found a way to get the ball and then knew what to do with it.
That is the Dezmon Briscoe that will be drafted into the NFL next week, the guy who some team will decide to take a chance on and be very happy they did.
For the past several weeks, Briscoe has been talked about by NFL analysts more for what he lacks than what he has. Sure, he might not have blazing speed. And no, he’s not the strongest wide receiver available in this year’s draft. But isn’t the wide receiver position the one spot where size and speed don’t necessarily make the player?
Isn’t the NFL a place where guys like the slower Brandon Stokley, the undersized Steve Smith and the slight Marvin Harrison became stars?
So why not Briscoe?
The key to Briscoe’s success in the NFL will be landing with the right team. He’s not the kind of player who teams will take if they’re in need of a No. 1 receiver. He’s probably not even the kind of player a team will take if it needs a solid No. 2 to start opposite their big-time playmaker. But he has No. 3 wide receiver written all over him and could benefit greatly from playing in the shadows of two more proven, more professional wideouts for a couple of seasons before becoming a starter.
Throughout his time at KU, Briscoe often talked about how Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald was his favorite receiver in the league. He likes Fitzgerald’s demeanor, he likes Fitzgerald’s confidence and he marvels — as we all do — about Fitzgerald’s willingness to do whatever it takes to come down with a ball that’s hanging in the air. Briscoe wants to be that guy. What better player to learn from than Fitzgerald himself?
In fact, in the four-round analysis of the upcoming draft done by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. on Wednesday, he had Briscoe going to Arizona with the 58th pick overall.
For my money, that would be the ideal situation for Briscoe. He’d receive second-round money, he’d play with and learn from arguably the greatest receiver in the game today and he’d do so without pressure because of the presence of Arizona WR Steve Breaston, who likely will start opposite Fitzgerald now that Anquan Boldin has left the desert. That puts Briscoe at No. 3 and from there he can learn and adapt to the NFL game while still seeing plenty of playing time.
I’ve followed enough of these drafts to know that things don’t usually pan out the way I see them going. There’s a reason for that. I’m a sports writer, not a General Manager. But Briscoe to Arizona seems to be a perfect plan and, for Dez’s sake, I’d love to see it happen.
Of course, there are a few other teams who could benefit from Briscoe’s services. The Denver Broncos just parted ways with superstar Brandon Marshall and surely will be looking to add a receiver. With Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney penciled in as Denver’s likely starters, Briscoe could be a nice addition in the Mile High City. The New England Patriots also are looking to add receiver depth and so, too, are the Seattle Seahawks. Any and all of these teams could pass on the top guys and snag a steal in Briscoe, perhaps as late as the third round.
Any guesses on what type of player Briscoe, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, will be at the next level? The other day we talked about Darrell Stuckey being a Brian Dawkins type of safety.
I see Briscoe becoming a T.J. Houshmandzadeh (6-2, 203) type of wideout — a big target with reliable hands, decent speed and the ability to become an ideal No. 2 receiver at some point in his career.
Any other names come to mind?
Ronnie Lott. Troy Polamalu. Ed Reed. Bob Sanders.
When you start thinking about some of the best safeties ever to play in the NFL, these are the names that have to come to mind.
Like a lot of positions, the changing of the guard at safety can happen quickly in the NFL, as older, wiser, once-great veterans are replaced and upstaged by a bigger, faster and stronger group nearly every year.
This year is no different, as the players available at the safety position in this year’s NFL Draft — April 22-24 — make up one of the deepest and most talented groups on the board.
Consider this: USC’s Taylor Mays, all 6-foot-3, 235 blazing-fast pounds of him, is listed by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. as the third best safety available. According to Kiper, Mays sits behind Tennessee’s Eric Berry (5-11, 203 and a likely Top 5 pick) and Texas’ Earl Thomas (5-10, 197), who also should go in the top half of the first round.
Rounding out Kiper’s Top 5 at the position are: Morgan Burnett (6-1, 210), of Georgia Tech, and Nate Allen (6-2, 206) of South Florida.
In order to land one of these high-profile studs, teams are going to have to invest a top pick and some serious cash. However, a little farther down the board sits a safety who just might be one of the best bargains available in this year’s draft, regardless of position.
His name is Darrell Stuckey.
At 6-1, 205, Stuckey has similar size to the Top 5 players at his position. What many don’t realize, however, is that he also possesses similar speed (4.49-second 40 time, which tied for third at the NFL combine at the position), strength (17 reps at 225 pounds in the bench press) and athleticism (39.5-inch vertical leap also tied for third at the combine). What’s more, Stuckey also has above-average smarts. In a nutshell, the team that lands Stuckey next week will be getting a steal, no matter where he’s selected.
If he’s taken in the second round, a team will be getting first-round talent — and more importantly first-round work ethic — with a second-round pick. If he’s taken in the third round or later, the team who snags him will be getting a guy who potentially could start right away for next to nothing by NFL standards.
No matter how you measure it, Stuckey is the total package. He’s strong enough to support the run, fast and athletic enough to play the pass and smart enough to know what’s going on in front of him and behind him at all times.
With that in mind, what kind of NFL player do you see Stuckey becoming? Will he be the Ronnie Lott type who takes pride in punishing people when they come into his area? Will he be a player like Polamalu, who seeks to destroy ball carriers and quarterbacks near the line of scrimmage? Or will he be like Bob Sanders, a playmaker capable of changing a game at any moment?
Stuckey himself is not too worried about the comparisons. Like any college player on the brink of realizing a childhood dream, the Kansas City, Kan., native just wants a chance to shine.
When pressed recently for his answer about the kind of player he might be at then next level, Stuckey, as expected, shot for the moon.
“I would like to be an Ed Reed type,” he said. “He’s a phenomenal player, he’s one of the best in the league right now. But I don’t hear too much at all (about who I compare to). I think the biggest thing (about making it in the NFL) is gaining confidence in yourself and knowing that you’re just as good as the person next to you.”
>>> Check back soon for more pre-draft profiles about the Jayhawks available in this year’s NFL Draft. Day One of the draft will begin at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 22. The first day will take us through the first round. Day Two (5 p.m., Friday, April 23) will feature rounds two and three, and Day Three (9 a.m., Saturday, April 24) will wrap things up with rounds four, five, six and seven.
Monday, reporters had their first chance to chat with the Kansas University quarterbacks vying for the starting job this spring.
Gone is Todd Reesing, the most productive offensive player in KU history, and in to replace him is an assortment of unknowns and an offense that’s new to each of them.
Any time a team has a QB battle on its hands, it can be fun to speculate about who will win the job or who has the better set of skills. But in this case, where there are at least three or four guys with a legitimate shot at the job, it can be tough to keep it all straight.
The following is our quarterback-by-quarterback attempt at putting things in order.
No. 2 JORDAN WEBB
Who he is: 6-foot, 210-pound red-shirt freshman from Union High in Missouri.
What he’s done: Somewhat under the radar entering the spring, the former highly-touted high school star has worked his way toward the top of the leaderboard and into the good graces of KU coach Turner Gill. Probably has the best arm of the bunch and has impressed coaches with his velocity and accuracy thus far. Gill said at Monday’s practice that Webb was one of a few players who stood out on offense during the first week of spring ball. The reason? Command in the huddle, confidence and positive body language and solid football skills.
What it means: After Gill’s vote of confidence you have to think that Webb is in Position A right now in the race to replace Reesing. The job might not be his to lose but he seems to be leading the pack for now.
No. 7 KALE PICK
Who he is: 6-1, 208-pound red-shirt sophomore from Dodge City High.
What he’s done: Known as the running quarterback who played behind Reesing in 2009, Pick entered camp as the favorite simply because he was the guy with the experience. He appeared in seven games in ’09, was 4-for-5 for 22 yards passing and also recorded 167 yards rushing on 14 carries. Even as a red-shirt freshman with no experience, Pick was an extremely confident football player. That’s probably because he’s the most naturally-gifted athlete of the bunch and is the stronger, faster runner.
What it means: With Webb receiving a lot of the early hype, Pick could be in for a dog fight. The good thing here is, there’s nothing about this guy that says he expected the job to be handed to him. While Webb has caught the coach’s eye early, Pick has not been far behind. Expect him to be in the thick of the battle until the very end.
No. 12 CHRISTIAN MATTHEWS
Who he is: 6-1, 186-pound red-shirt freshman from Arlington, Tex.
What he’s done: Undersized and without an opportunity, Matthews sat out 2009 and watched Reesing, Pick and Kerry Meier work ahead of him. That didn’t stop him from getting a grasp on the college game, though. During the week leading up to KU’s victory against Duke, Matthews was named the offensive scout team player of the week. Monday, Matthews was one of three QBs that Gill said would get the most reps. Is it possible a “slash” type player is being crafted here?
What it means: Now that the old offense has been scrapped, Matthews’ scout-team experience could pay dividends. In 2009 he was forced to “learn” a new style from week to week and expected to play it well enough to give the Kansas defense a stout test. Now, he’s learning his own team’s new offense and apparently doing it well enough to be kept in the QB mix.
No. 8 QUINN MECHAM
Who he is: 6-2, 207-pound junior-college transfer from Snow College in Utah.
What he’s done: At the junior college level, Mecham was a star. In 2009, Mecham led Snow to a 10-2 record, a top-five national ranking and threw for 3,091 yards and 40 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. He came to KU with little national fanfare and appears to be struggling to adjust to the Div. I level. Monday, when Gill talked about his quarterbacks, Mecham’s was the only name he did not mention.
What it means: For Mecham himself, there’s no need to panic. It’s still early, he’s only been in a KU uniform for five practices and he still has some physical tools that could serve him well. That said, falling down the depth chart at such a crowded position could be tough to overcome.
No. 16 JACOB MORSE
Who he is: 6-3, 195-pound red-shirt junior from Columbia, Mo.
What he’s done: Like Webb and Matthews, Morse sat out 2009 but still had the luxury of watching and learning from the best QB in school history on a daily basis. Also like Matthews, Morse was named the offensive scout team player of the week when KU prepared to take on Oklahoma. If Morse can pick up Bob Stoops’ offense in a week, couldn’t he have a shot here?
What it means: Morse is the most unknown of the six guys in the battle and it’s probably going to stay that way. At this point, with Webb, Pick and Matthews ahead of him, the reps probably won’t be there for Morse to make an impact.
No. 9 CONNER TEAHAN
Who he is: 6-5, 215-pound KU basketball player who played QB at Rockhurst High in K.C., Mo.
What he’s done: Not a lot in the last three years. The last time Teahan played a meaningful snap was during his senior season at Rockhurst High. Granted, he was a pretty legit high school QB and he received a lot of interest and a Div. I offer to play football (from Tulsa), but it’s hard to imagine that the layoff won’t hurt him in his quest to make the KU roster. Not only has he not played football in three years, he also joined the Jayhawks two days late this spring. Still, Teahan is serious about this endeavor. He wants to make the team and he wants to contribute. He’s not doing this for the headlines.
What it means: In terms of physical tools, Teahan has the best size of the bunch. Peyton Manning stands 6-5, 230 and Teahan is just 15 pounds behind that. In addition, because of his stint with the hoops team, he’s in excellent shape and probably is strong enough to compete. How long will it take for the rust to come off and how quickly will he pick up the offense? Those questions will determine how long he wears a KU helmet.
The last three seasons of KU football may have been about shattering the school’s passing records, but the next three could begin the assault on the rushing records.
Toben Opurum is the top returning rusher, Rell Lewis showed some things in the 2009 finale against Mizzou, Deshaun Sands was the scout team offensive player of the year and Angus Quigley is moving back to running back.
Beyond that, the team still has a couple of unknowns at the position and the incoming Class of 2010 features four-star stud Brandon Bourbon of Potosi, Mo., Hutch High standout Josh Smith, who plans to walk on, and James Sims, a 6-foot, 205-pound three-star back from Irving, Texas.
Wait, there’s more.
Although it’s still early, KU has received two official commitments from the Class of 2011 — Darrian Miller, a running back (go figure) from Blue Springs, Mo., and Dreamius Smith, a 6-foot, 205 pound option-style back from Wichita Heights.
There’s no doubt that new KU coach Turner Gill will need to find an immediate replacement for outgoing senior Jake Sharp — both in terms of carries and pure speed — but the latest developments seem to show that he won’t be short on choices.
What these signings — five running backs in two classes — also illustrate is that Gill’s offense will rely heavily on the ground game: specifically, fast, powerful backs that can run you over on one play and run away from you on the next.
Since arriving at KU, Gill has been fairly quiet about the specifics of what his offense will entail. He said initially that people should expect more balance than the Jayhawk teams of the past few years and also emphasized — in no uncertain terms — that speed would be king.
Although the guys on the current roster aren’t known to be blazers, almost every back that he has targeted in 2010 or 2011 has 4.5 speed or better.
It’s my guess that by “more balanced,” Gill’s actually saying more ground-oriented. In fact, Tuesday, during a segment on a Kansas City sports talk radio show, Gill indicated that his ideal offense would have a 60-40 split in favor of the ground game.
Whether Gill and Co. will reach his ideal vision as soon as this year or not remains to be seen. For now, check out Jesse Newell’s “The Mad Geek” blog for a deeper look at how often KU has gone through a season with such a heavy emphasis on the ground game.
Easy as it might have been for Kansas University football coach Turner Gill to want to move mountains on the opening day of spring drills Sunday, Gill — as those who know him best surely would have expected — chose to flash poise and patience throughout practice.
“It’s going to be an ongoing process,” Gill said, “as we go through every single practice and find out what we’re doing and what we need to do.”
Accepting that is no easy task for a man with as many hopes and expectations as Gill, who fully believes he will have KU competing for Big 12 and national championships someday.
But it is the right way to go about things and the only way to build a bridge between the culture of old and the new way of doing things.
So, with a bounce in his step and a swagger that you can’t help but like, Gill ran his new team through drills for the first time on Sunday.
He spoke with confidence, moved with purpose and showed everyone who cared to notice that he was equal parts demanding and delightful.
His players got the message. Afterwards, four returning Jayhawks were made available to the media and, to a man, each raved about how impressed he was with the new environment.
Senior-to-be Chris Harris, who somehow managed to flash his wide smile even during the toughest times in 2009, grinned a little larger on Sunday. He was the picture of a young man who just got done enjoying playing college football.
As he spoke, he did so with that sort of “Aw, shucks, this is awesome” demeanor. Partly because of his experience, but also because of his passion for KU and football, Harris is expected to be one of the team leaders this season. His boyish enthusiasm for the game is one of the reasons. It’s also contagious, much like the way his coach carries himself.
Quickly, here are a few things we learned about Gill on opening day:
• Though he has a sound football mind and is extremely passionate about the game, Gill is aware of other things going on in the world. As he strolled up to greet a pack of 20-30 media members before practice, he said something to the effect of being surprised that so many were there, indicating instead that he thought we’d be watching Tennessee and Michigan State play in the Elite Eight.
“I thought you’d all be watching basketball or something,” he said with a laugh. Small detail. But nice to see.
• Gill loves competition, looks forward to watching the battles at different positions unfold and said he’d even go as far as to create competition if he felt it necessary.
• The most important aspect Gill looks for in a leader is whether that player raises the level of play of those around him. This goes for the quarterbacks and seniors to the reserve linemen and freshmen.
• He believes in his assistant coaches and was serious in December when he said at his introductory news conference that his staff would be “second to none.” His plan is to “let my coaches coach,” while staying involved with all areas of the team. “I’m an offensive-minded guy,” Gill said. “So I’ll probably spend most of my time on the offensive side of it, but I’ll definitely be involved on both sides of the ball and I’ll be involved in special teams a little more with the return guys.”
The Jayhawks will hit the practice field again today at 3:30 p.m. and again at the same time Wednesday. Players and coaches will be made available to the media on Wednesday so be sure to check back with KUSports.com throughout the week for more.