Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

Another 2017 O-Lineman de-commits from KU Football

Kansas University football recruiting

Kansas University football recruiting

Back in January, as the Kansas football coaching staff was racing to finalize its 2016 recruiting class, David Beaty and company picked up a couple of commitments from 2017 offensive linemen within hours of one another.

Today, neither lineman remains committed to Kansas.

Grant Polley (6-5, 275, Denton (Texas) High) de-committed almost exactly a month ago, and, on Tuesday, Jared Hocker (6-5, 290, North Richland Hills, Texas) followed Polley's lead. The two situations are unrelated other than the fact that both committed very early and soon found that interest from other schools with winning pedigrees was headed their way.

Hocker explained via Twitter on Tuesday.

"After a long period of deliberation, I have decided to de-commit from the Jayhawks and reopen my recruiting. When I received my offer from KU, I wasn't familiar with the recruiting process and, in hindsight, I made a premature decision. There is a great deal I like, even love, about KU not the least of which is the coaching staff. Coaches Beaty, (Zach) Yenser and (Kenny) Perry have all been wonderful to me and it is with the deepest regret that I feel I must re-examine my options. Please respect my privacy with no interviews due to my decision. Thank you."

Although the loss of both linemen certainly qualifies as a disappointment for the Jayhawks, it also comes as no surprise. Any time players of their caliber — or, really, any caliber — commit as early as they did to a place like KU, it's always a challenge for the Jayhawks to hang on to them.

That's not to say it can't be done, but when bigger and better programs come calling, it often can be tough for these players to stick with Kansas. That's human nature in many ways and understandable, as well.

With Hocker specifically, recent visits to Texas A&M and Texas Tech illustrate the point perfectly.

So it's back to the drawing board for Kansas, which will continue to seek offensive linemen in the 2017 class and is in on some pretty solid secondary options, including a couple of in-state linemen.

With Hocker now off the list, KU has oral commitments from six players in the Class of 2017 and room to add somewhere in the range of 15 more, depending on how many additions to the current roster wind up counting forward to the 2017 class via the blue shirt rule.

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If you could change the outcome of one KU game in history, which would you pick?

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

I recently saw something on Deadspin that seemed like it might be a good idea to bring to Jayhawk Nation.

The article, which ran last Thursday and was inspired by a Tweet from Grantland writer @SheaSerrano, was short and sweet and asked one simple question: If You Could Change Any Championship Outcome, Which Would It Be?

For KU fans, this might be easy, but there are more than a few options:

• The 1940 or 1953 title-game losses to Indiana

• Wilt's triple-OT loss to Carolina in 1957

• The 1991 loss to Duke in Roy Williams’ third season at KU

• The 2003 loss to Syracuse in Roy’s final game

• The 2012 loss to a stacked Kentucky squad in New Orleans

And that’s just basketball.

You might even throw a football game or two in there, most notably the 2007 loss to Missouri at Arrowhead that cost the Jayhawks the Big 12 North title and a spot in the Big 12 title game but wound up working out just fine.

And, if you want to take this a step farther and include games outside of just championship-type contests, the list expands big time.

What about Mark Mangino’s final game as KU’s coach at Arrowhead against the Tigers? Could Lew Perkins really have forced him out if Mangino had just knocked off Mizzou to secure a third straight bowl berth for the Jayhawks?

How about the loss to VCU in the 2011 Elite Eight? The road to Bill Self’s second title had opened up that year and the Jayhawks were loaded.

Heck, even last year’s loss to Villanova might be the choice of some of you.

Either way, I thought it was an interesting exercise and figured it would be fun to narrow it to just Kansas athletics and bring it to KUsports.com.

So what say you? Which KU game — in any sport — would you reverse the outcome of if you had a magic wand for one day?

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Arkansas RB transferring to KU?

The Kansas University football program’s continued efforts to add depth and talent to its suddenly thin backfield ventured into SEC territory recently and may have found something of value.

According to the Twitter accounts of both his brother and his girlfriend, Arkansas running back Denzel Evans is transferring to Kansas.

Evans, a 5-foot-11, 217-pound junior-to-be, was a three-star prospect coming out of Houston’s Bellaire High when he signed with the Razorbacks out of high school in 2013. At the time, Evans also held offers from Arizona State, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, Michigan State, Minnesota and SMU.

Nothing official has come out of KU on the possible addition of Evans, but if he were to be added to the KU backfield, he would be the second running back rumored to join the Jayhawks this spring, with former Colorado State running back Deron Thompson (a likely walk-on) also choosing to come to Lawrence.

The Jayhawks certainly could use all the help they can get at the running back position. What, for years, was one of the deepest positions on the team, has become one of the least experienced, with only returning starter Ke’aun Kinner having seen any legitimate game.

Sophomores Taylor Martin and Ryan Schadler, both have game experience, but neither received much work at running back last season. Last weekend, freshman Khalil Herbert, a two-star back from Plantation, Florida, was expected to report to campus in time for summer workouts and his addition, also would give the Jayhawks depth at a spot in which teams cannot have too much.

Last season at Arkansas, Evans played in six games and logged six carries for 48 yards with a long of 31. As was the case with Thompson at CSU, Evans found himself in a crowded backfield and began looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Ironically, that elsewhere might wind up being the very spot where Arkansas running backs coach Reggie Mitchell just worked.

Evans is close to graduating from Arkansas and is attempting to finish up his class requirements this summer. If he is able to, he would be immediately eligible to play at Kansas during the upcoming 2016 season.

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Ranking KU basketball’s 2016-17 non-conference games

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Duke won 90-60. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015. Duke won 90-60. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Now that the schedule has been released and we know that KU fans only have to wait 151 more days until the exhibition opener for the 2016-17 men’s basketball season — Nov. 1 vs. Washburn at Allen Fieldhouse — let’s dive into the non-con portion of the schedule a little deeper.

As expected — and as always — the non-Big 12 portion of KU’s 2016-17 schedule is loaded with big names and potentially tough games. KU coach Bill Self always has preferred it to be this way because of the challenge the tough schedule poses and the potential for more rapid sink-or-swim type growth that it brings his team.

Every once in a while we get that season when Self says he may have been too aggressive and ambitious with the schedule and wishes he would have pulled back a little, but even then, he rarely eases up the following year. Call it a habit, part of the guy’s DNA, something that just wouldn’t seem right otherwise.

With that in mind, Self and the KU scheduling gurus were back at it again for 2016-17 and now that we know the identity of all of the opponents, we can rank the games from most difficult to easiest.

Keep in mind, many of the non-con games are played in Allen Fieldhouse, giving the Jayhawks a huge advantage right off the bat.

1. vs. Duke, Champions Classic – Even with some other marquee programs on the schedule, I don’t think there’s any debating this selection. The Blue Devils are the likely preseason No. 1 and should enter the 2016-17 season as the favorite to win it all, with their fantastic blend of talented experience and dynamic newcomers. There’s no doubting that Coach K will have this team rolling next season. The question left to answer for Kansas fans is this: Will he have the Blue Devils rolling when they face the Jayhawks in NYC? Either way, this game will be a monster.

2. at Kentucky, SEC/Big 12 Challenge – As usual, the Wildcats will be loaded — they’re bringing in three of the Top 10 players in the Class of 2016 — and, this time, they’ll have revenge on their minds when the Jayhawks come to Rupp Arena in late January. Kansas will have the more experienced team and should not be intimidated in the least to go into that type of environment. But it’ll be hopping and the buzz surrounding Big Blue Nation will make it a tough game.

3. vs. Indiana, Armed Forces Classic – Yogi Ferrell may be gone, but the Hoosiers welcome back sophomore big man Thomas Bryant and guard James Blackmon Jr., who should provide a nice 1-2 punch for a team learning to play a different brand of basketball without the tiny floor general Ferrell leading the charge. KU’s biggest strength, its backcourt, versus an Indiana backcourt trying to find itself early in the season should give the Jayhawks a huge advantage in this one. But the Hoosiers proved during last season’s run to the Sweet 16 that they were more than just Yogi and crew. If this game came later in the season and the UK game was earlier, those two games easily would flip-flop on this list.

4. vs. George Washington, CBE Classic – The defending postseason NIT champions return a deep and big lineup as well as leading scorer Tyler Cavanaugh for what can only be described as an NCAA-Tournament-or-bust type of season for the Colonials. The Jayhawks are not guaranteed to play GW in the CBE Event in Kansas City, but are likely to do so.

5. at UNLV – One of just a couple pre-Big 12 true road games, the Jayhawks will have to not only contend with a UNLV squad led by new head coach Marvin Menzies, but also manage the hype and excitement that comes with playing a game in Sin City.

6. vs. Georgia, CBE Classic – Georgia coach Mark Fox will not be bringing his best team to Kansas City, but he does have athletes and a group that is used to seeing top-level basketball against teams like Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and others in the SEC. Electric forward Yante Maten made huge strides during his second year in the program, jumping from 5 points and 4.3 rebounds in Year 1 to 16.5 points and 8 rebounds per game a year ago. He’ll be the cornerstone of the young UGA squad that also features the return of senior guard J.J. Frazier, who led the team with 5 assists per game. KU will either play George Washington or Georgia in the CBE Classic but not both.

7. vs. Nebraska – Cornhuskers coach Tim Miles has always been a huge fan of Kansas basketball, so you can bet he’ll take the opportunity to coach in Allen Fieldhouse very seriously and won’t want his team to embarrass the game by bringing sub-par effort. In addition to that, the ‘Huskers will bring to Lawrence a veteran team that features former KU sharp-shooter Andrew White III, who, no doubt, will want to put on a show in his return to his former home.

8. vs. Long Beach State – Long and athletic, with eight returners standing between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-9, the 49ers team that missed an NCAA Tournament berth by four points in last season’s Big West final — and averaged 102 ppg on the season — will be much more experienced and hungry to make a statement with a strong showing against one of college basketball’s blue bloods.

9. vs. Davidson, Jayhawk Classic – He may not have Steph Curry on his roster any longer, but Davidson coach Bob McKillop is still a heck of a leader and he’ll have his team ready to play in a game that the Jayhawks sometimes struggle to get up for, mid-December in Kansas City. In fact, it was a McKillop-led Davidson club that handed the 2012 national runner-up Jayhawks a December loss at Sprint Center in this very event. And, even though both rosters have been completely remade, you can bet the Wildcats’ coach will draw on that experience when getting ready for this one.

10. vs. UNC Asheville – An NCAA Tournament team a season ago, Asheville returns all but two players from last year’s roster, including leading scorer Dylan Smith, a sophomore guard, who, as a freshman, led the Bulldogs with averages of 14 points and 5 assists per game.

11. vs. Stanford – The Cardnial may now be led by former Jayhawk Jerod Haase, but there’s a reason he got the job — last year’s team was not very good. With just a couple of players remaining from the team that upset KU in the NCAA Tournament in 2014 (role players at that) Stanford will be in full rebuilding mode and will be forced to deal with their Pac-12 membership status helping ensure Kansas will get up for the game.

12. vs. UAB, CBE Classic – UAB enjoyed a terrific 26-7 season, Conference USA regular season title and No. 81 ranking in the final RPI poll, but also lost its coach (now current Stanford coach Jerod Haase) in the offseason. That transition, along with the loss of some key players should bring the Blazers back to Earth a little bit. Like George Washington and Georgia, KU is not guaranteed to play UAB in the November event.

13. vs. Siena – The Saints finished the 2015-16 season ranked 123rd in the RPI and eight games above .500 at 21-13. Siena will bring to Lawrence several players who gained valuable experience a year ago and their recent history of playing games at Wisconsin and at Duke will make it easier for them to come into a hostile environment like Allen Fieldhouse than it is for most teams. But the Saints lack size and also said goodbye to one of their key leaders in guard Ryan Oliver.

14. vs. UMKC – The Roos were a wreck a season ago, finishing with an RPI rating of 288 and a 12-19 record while playing in the WAC. UMKC has brought some tough teams into Allen Fieldhouse in the past, but this won’t be one of them.

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Big 12 summer meetings not likely to produce major headlines but still big nonetheless

There are a thousand reasons why but only one way to say it — this is a big week for the Big 12 Conference.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting the Big 12 presidents, ADs and other brass to emerge from this week’s meetings in Dallas with everything figured out and an announcement to share. But they don’t have to find a solution to the number of serious issues that loom to make this a big week. Just getting together to discuss things makes it big enough.

And, boy are there things to discuss.

None of them are new, of course. And, despite what you might read on message boards or social media, there really is not that much buzz surrounding any of them inside the walls of the conference room. In fact, when I recently asked a member of the KU administration if I should make the trip down to Dallas to stalk the hotel hallways and wait outside the conference room doors for news — remember those good ol’ days of conference realignment chaos just down the road at the Country Club Plaza in KCMO? — I was told simply that it most likely would be a waste of a trip.

But people are going to notice and pay attention any time you can put a group together to talk expansion, a television network, ongoing discussions about bringing back a conference championship game in football and high drama like what just went down at Baylor with Art Briles and AD Ian McCaw. And how can you blame them? Any of those issues alone would make for an interesting week. But adding them all together just multiplies the interest and intensity.

One thing worth noting here: I saw Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News recently Tweet that at least six conference schools — and possibly as many as eight, which is the number required in a vote — are now in favor of expansion.

Having said that, I’m actually expecting a rather quiet week. It sounds as if the overwhelming vibe within the Big 12 right now is that too many people have been talking too much — particularly recently — and it’s time to put a stop to all of the rogue and random chatter and get down to business together.

If the all-for-one-and-one-for-all vibe is tough for you to buy coming from this cast of characters, I don’t blame you. But it does seem like even some of the most outspoken voices in the Big 12 Conference actually understand that all of the extracurricular chatter is not helping.

The bottom line is this: There are still eight years remaining on the Big 12’s grant of rights agreement and no huge rush by ESPN of FOX — the league’s two main television partners — to offer up more money for the addition of any of the universities that are deemed available or downright campaigning for a spot. Those facts pretty much squash any thoughts of a Big 12 network or expansion, unless, of course, there is some major revelation this week. Say, for example, all 10 schools and their representatives all of a sudden decide that it’s time to be bold and want to become the first conference to 16. That won’t happen, but if the Tex-Mex or a particularly good batch of margaritas get these folks feeling frisky, then anything is back on the table.

Don’t count on it, though.

There will be headlines and soundbites and story lines that are deemed “interesting,” perhaps even downright “exciting.” But more than likely, this big week for the Big 12 will come and go without the conference making any major moves or any major changes or decisions.

And the way this motley crew has been going at it these past five years, that might actually wind up being good news in the end.

Time will tell. But be sure to stay tuned. You know, just in case... We'll be tracking things the rest of the week.

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Monday Morning QB writer goes one-on-one with Chris Harris

I know there are dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of you out there who always have wondered how well you'd fare against a professional athlete in your chosen sport.

Well, so did Monday Morning Quarterback writer Andy Benoit, a 29-year-old who recently challenged for Kansas University cornerback to a round of one-on-ones in Bixby, Oklahoma, at Harris' youth camp.

Benoit, who seemed to be a decent athlete in his own right, wrote a nice recap of his afternoon matching up with one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and he also included the following video, which makes for some serious entertainment.

You can see that Harris, ever the professional, took it serious enough to keep his reputation in tact but also did not bring anywhere near the noise that he brings snap after snap on Sundays with the Broncos. The reason? He didn't exactly have to.

Either way, it's a good read and a fun video. Props to Harris for accepting Benoit's challenge and to Benoit for giving it a shot.

From the article, here's how Benoit found himself on the field with Harris...

"I told my bosses, Peter King and editor Mark Mravic, that I wanted to play wide receiver one-on-one against an NFL cornerback and write about it. Peter and Mark became the first in a long line of people who would laugh at me. After convincing them I was serious, Peter said I could do it if I found a superstar to face. Perhaps this was Peter’s polite, backdoor method of discouraging the idea—like how you might tell a kid he can get his own house if his lemonade sales raise enough funds. My pool of prospects went from 130 corners to less than 10. But to my surprise, the man at the top of my list, Denver Broncos star Chris Harris, immediately said yes, almost no questions asked. In our business, that’s like finding a holy grail filled with winning scratch tickets."

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KU football locker room renovations under way

An artist's rendering of the new-look KU football locker room, coming this summer. Illustration courtesy of Kansas Athletics.

An artist's rendering of the new-look KU football locker room, coming this summer. Illustration courtesy of Kansas Athletics. by Matt Tait

You may have read a couple of weeks ago about the $2-2.5 million Anderson Family Football Complex upgrades planned for the Kansas University football program.

A new-look locker room, new players lounge and updated Mrkonic Auditorium film and meeting room were the cornerstones of the project and the goal was for the upgrades to be finished in time for preseason camp and the 2016 season.

Now, thanks to KU staff member Tyler Olker, we have visual evidence that the project is 100 percent under way.

Olker, KU's director of recruiting, posted to Twitter four pics of the early stages of the locker room makeover and you can see that construction crews are wasting no time getting going.

In case you forgot, the photo at the top of the blog is an artist's rendering of what the finished locker room will look like. Below are Olker's four photos of the initial progress.

Stay tuned for more...

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker

Locker Room renovation photo, courtesy of @TylerOlker by Matt Tait

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100 days out from another KU football opener & why you should care

Well, here we are, 100 days away from the start of yet another college football season.

And, as much as that’s a national holiday for the rest of the country, it often is a day to dread for Kansas fans. Not only is the interest in this program at an all-time low — and you can say that by any number of measures from season ticket sales to message board traffic and everything in between — but the idea of actually attending a football game and, heaven forbid actually staying to watch it, seems to have become something people get mocked for around here.

That only makes a hard job harder for second-year coach David Beaty and his Jayhawks, who, like every other college football team in America, have been working their butts off since the end of the 2015 season in hopes that the work they put in during the down months will pay off in the fall.

Knowing that it’s going to take more than the abstract promise of continued improvement to get KU fans fired up for another football season, let’s look at six reasons to get excited about the arrival of game day, exactly 100 days from today.

1. Game 1 is winnable. Big time. Not only should the Jayhawks be favored to beat Rhode Island in the opener, they should do it. It’s been a long time since KU put a hurting on an opponent in a season opener and there’s no better way to get the fan base jacked than by putting up a big number and rolling to a comfortable rout during Week 1. During the final four seasons under Mark Mangino, KU won its opener by an average of 38 points. In the six seasons — and three head coaches — since Mangino left town, KU has won four openers by an average of 14 points and lost two. Nothing would be more helpful toward getting things turned around than an old-fashioned butt-kicking on Sept. 3 at Memorial Stadium.

2. New offenses can be fun. Especially when they’re Air Raid offenses designed to get the ball to playmakers in space and operate at a pace that puts the defense on its heels. Forget about what you saw last year and consider KU’s 2015 offense the bridge between Charlie Weis’ pro style packages and what Beaty believes KU can run. If you show up on Sept. 3 and see more of the same, head back to the car and take that cooler full of cold beverages to the pool or the lake. But at least show up and check it out. Who knows? Even though KU does not have the talent it had during the Todd Reesing era, this new-look offense might remind you a little of that and you just might like it.

3. KU’s defense figures to be much improved. We saw evidence of this in the spring, when the KU defense most often got the better of the offense during scrimmages and the spring game. And I’ve heard some chatter about defensive coordinator Clint Bowen really getting his crew to buy in to what he wants to do. Some of the credit for that goes to experience. Some of it goes to the leaders like Fish Smithson, Joe Dineen, Marcquis Roberts and Brandon Stewart. And some of it goes to the addition of linebackers coach Todd Bradford and his ability to work well with Bowen and the other defensive assistants. Time will tell just how good this group actually can be, but you can expect to see a confident crew that takes the field with some bounce and swagger on Sept. 3.

4. Time to meet the new faces. By the time Sept. 3 rolls around, you’ll have read plenty about cornerback Kyle Mayberry, defensive linemen DeeIsaac Davis and Isi Holani, linebacker Maciah Long, cornerback Stephan Robinson and defensive end Isaiah Bean. But this will be your first chance to actually see them play. You never know when KU’s coaching staff is going to land that player or pack of players that might be responsible for jump-starting a turn-around. Could he be on the list of names above?

5. The weather should be gorgeous. I know it’s a long ways away still and weathermen and women don’t normally forecast 100 days out, but if history tells us anything the opener should be very nice. According to usclimatedata.com, September is one of just two months each year in which the average high temperature in Lawrence is in the 70s. And they don’t play football around here in May, so why not take advantage of that?

6. Tailgating, man. My esteemed colleague Gary Bedore has called KU’s tailgating atmosphere one of the best decisions the athletic department ever made. Remember, there was a time not that long ago when fans were not allowed to consume adult beverages and enjoy one of the best parts about college football anywhere near Memorial Stadium. That changed back in 2001, and today, even when the likelihood of KU winning a game inside the stadium is low, the buzz outside the stadium is high, both from a participation perspective and the way the whole scene makes the areas surrounding Memorial Stadium, from the hill to the parking lots, look like a big time college football environment.

In the next 99 days, we'll have all kinds of info and analysis of the season ahead, but hopefully what you just read will whet your appetite just a little for that season opener against Rhode Island that is closer than you think.

In case it didn't, here are a few recent comments from Beaty on the opener...

"We gotta win some games. And that starts with one. We are focused on going 1-0 against Rhode Island I honestly don’t even know who else is on our schedule. I am focused on that game. And our kids are too.”

“It’s the most important game in the history of our program because it’s the next one. Period.”

“We’re gonna focus on winning one game at a time and putting a premium on winning. Winning is important. So we’re not gonna sugarcoat it. We came here to win and these kids want to win. We’ve worked our (butt) off and the kids have too. They deserve it. So we just gotta keep earning it.”

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Tinsley Tracker: Following KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s chase for .400

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here.

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here. by Matt Tait

KU catcher Michael Tinsley's quest to become the first Jayhawk since 1997 to finish a season hitting above .400 is over.

Tinsley, who was red hot in the month of April but cooled off in the middle of May, went 1-for-4 in both games of a double header at Oklahoma State on Friday night — both KU losses — and now has just one game remaining in his season given that the losses eliminated KU (20-34-1 overall, 6-16 Big 12) from postseason play.

Tinsley, a junior who is likely to be selected in this summer's MLB draft, was vying to become the seventh Jayhawk since 1971 to accomplish the magical feat of eclipsing the .400 mark in a single season.

As it stands, he figures to finish with the highest batting average since Brian Heere hit .393 in 2010 and Tony Thompson hit .389 during his triple crown season of 2009. In addition, Tinsley will become the fourth Jayhawk since 1988 to finish a season above .370.

It was a heck of a run and very cool to see him climb above .400 so late in the season. He peaked at .402 on May 8. But his inability to stay there is just further testament to the strong pitching the Big 12 Conference throws out there night in and night out.

Let's take a look, one more time...

Updated Batting Average: .381

Name: Michael Tinsley
Year: Junior
Position: Catcher
Measurables: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Multi-hit games: 25

Most recent outing: Doubleheader ---> 1-for-4 in 4-3 road loss and 1-for-4 in 9-2 road loss at Oklahoma State on Tuesday, May 20.

Details: Tinsley managed just one hit in each of KU's Friday losses, but one of those hits was a 2-RBI shot down the left field line. Tinsley did not walk or strikeout in either game and watched his average drop from .386 entering Friday to .381 at the end of the night. He is now 80 for 210 this season, with one game to play. A 4-for-4 showing in today's season finale would push Tinsley back to .393 and make him just the fourth Jayhawk since 1987 to finish above .390. A 3-for-4 effort would land him at .388, while 2-for-4 would result in .383, 1-for-4 would drop him to .379 and a hitless finale would leave him at .374.

Up next: 3 p.m. today at Oklahoma State.

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Rankings place KU football dead last in Big 12 in 6 of 8 position groups

ESPN.com recently wrapped up its annual look at the post-spring position rankings among Big 12 football teams and, to no one’s surprise, Kansas finished at the bottom.

There is good news here, though, KU fans — the Jayhawks did not rank dead last at every position. And let’s face it; it would have been real easy for the Big 12 bloggers at ESPN to pencil in the Jayhawks at 10 each time and move on from there.

Good for them for not taking the lazy approach, something that surely was made particularly more challenging given the fact that, because of the current state of the KU program, those guys aren’t around KU enough to really know what the program looks like top to bottom and inside and out.

The Jayhawks ranked dead last at six of the eight positions ESPN.com examined, all four spots on offense (QB, RB, WR, OL) as well as defensive line and special teams.

The Kansas linebackers, led by returning starters Joe Dineen and Marcquis Roberts, ranked 8th out of 10 and the KU secondary, which features second-team all-Big 12 pick Fish Smithson and a host of young talent, ranked 9th out of 10, giving KU an average ranking of 9.6 over all eight positions.

It’s hard to argue with any of their rankings. As you know, the Big 12 is a dynamic quarterback league and neither Ryan Willis nor Montell Cozart have shown enough to be ranked above any of their counterparts at this point. KU’s running back corps lacks depth and proven talent and the receivers, though talented and packed with potential, remain largely a work in progress.

KU’s offensive line was the worst in the league last season by a long shot and will have to prove that all of that talk we’ve heard about that group getting stronger and making one of the biggest leaps this offseason is warranted.

As has been examined a lot on this site during the past few weeks, KU’s special teams ranked at the bottom of just about every important category in the third phase of the game last year, making its placement at the bottom as easy as any of the rankings in the entire exercise.

I applaud them for giving KU’s linebackers the love they deserve — it wouldn’t surprise me for a second if this group actually performs close to the Top 5 than the bottom when the season plays out — and I also think bumping KU up a spot from dead last to ninth in the secondary was kind given that the secondary features a bunch of young and still unproven bodies.

If there’s one area that could — and I strongly emphasize could here — be wrongly ranked at the bottom, it might be the defensive line. The KU D-Line still has to prove it and has a long way to go, but the addition of a couple of key juco transfers (Isi Holani and DeeIsaac Davis), the growth of edge rushers like Dorance Armstrong, Damani Mosby and Anthony Olobia, and the junkyard dog play of Daniel Wise, Jacky Dezir and D.J. Williams could give KU its best set of run stoppers and pass rushers in the trenches in years.

It should be noted that even if KU’s D-Line makes a jump and delivers a great season, the absolute highest it could probably climb in one year is 8th. Remember, this is the Big 12 and the conference routinely cranks out NFL Draft picks from that position.

Overall, I thought the ESPN.com positional rankings were a fair representation of where KU currently sits and those guys did a nice job of continually pointing out that it looks as if the talent and depth within the KU program is being upgraded, slowly but surely.

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Tinsley Tracker: Following KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s chase for .400

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here.

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here. by Matt Tait

Junior catcher Michael Tinsley's chase for .400 took a pretty big hit on Tuesday night, when he finished 0-for-3 during the Jayhawks' 7-6 loss at Wichita State.

Tinsley, who has been in a bit of a mini-slump since watching his average climb above .400 in the final game of KU's series with Texas Tech, struck out twice and also scored a run in the loss to the Shockers.

He now will need to finish the season on a major hot streak if he's going to get back above the magic number.

KU, which sits a game and a half behind the Wildcats and Baylor Bears for the eighth and final spot in the conference tourney, now has three conference games remaining in the regular season (Thursday through Saturday at Oklahoma State), giving Tinsley just three more guaranteed games to attempt to finish at or above .400.

We won’t be there for all of Tinsley’s at-bats, but we will track his chase for .400 in this blog right here, as he attempts to become the first Jayhawk since Joe DeMarco in 1997 (.439) to finish a season above .400 and just the seventh Jayhawk to accomplish the feat since 1971.

Let's take a look...

Updated Batting Average: .386

Name: Michael Tinsley
Year: Junior
Position: Catcher
Measurables: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Multi-hit games: 25

Most recent outing: 0-for-3 in 7-6 road loss at Wichita State on Tuesday, May 17.

Details: Tinsley scored a run in the loss, but also struck out twice during his hard-luck night. As has been the case throughout his recent cool stretch, Tinsley hit a couple of balls right on the sweet spot but also right at WSU defenders. He clearly continues to see the ball well but needs to see the ball start finding some gaps again if he's going to make a run at .400.

Up next: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Oklahoma State.

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Is a new, red, Jayhawk-themed helmet in the works for KU football?

New KU commitment Jay Dineen, a senior-to-be at Free State High, poses with a new-look KU football helmet during a visit to campus before committing to the Jayhawks.

New KU commitment Jay Dineen, a senior-to-be at Free State High, poses with a new-look KU football helmet during a visit to campus before committing to the Jayhawks. by Matt Tait

Recruiting news, be it on the basketball front or the football trail, always seems to drum up serious interest from fans of Kansas University athletics.

And this week certainly has provided plenty of excitement. Second-year KU football coach David Beaty and company landed three oral commitments from athletes in the 2017 recruiting class, including local standout Jay Dineen, the younger brother of current KU linebacker Joe Dineen and a senior-to-be at Free State High in Lawrence.

Wide receivers Kaltuve Williams, of New Orleans, and Reggie Roberson, of Dallas, rounded out the commitments — thus far — bringing KU’s total in the class of 2017 to six, four of which are three-star prospects according to Rivals.com.

While all of the accolades and numbers associated with these players certainly speak for themselves, one of the more subtle moments of the aftermath of their commitments might be just as interesting to KU fans.

A couple of hours after Dineen committed to Kansas on Monday night, his mother, Jodi, a former KU volleyball player herself, posted a photo of Dineen at KU’s Anderson Family Football Complex, presumably during one of his visits to campus.

In it, Dineen is sporting his Free State letter jacket and holding a football helmet that features a wild design representing the Kansas mascot — big blue eye, shiny red sheen, gold facemask.

Could this be the unofficial unveiling of a new KU football helmet for the 2016 season and beyond? It obviously won’t be KU’s permanent helmet, but maybe it’ll be used for one of those throwback or gimmick games, when the team wears something out of the ordinary to get the players and fans fired up and, of course, sell more merchandise.

Over the years I’ve seen a bunch of fan mock ups of what KU’s football helmets should look like. Some have been pretty slick and others have fallen just short of horrendous.

This helmet that Dineen is showing off, at least to me, lies somewhere in between the two and I wouldn’t mind for a second seeing the Jayhawks take the field for a game or two wearing these bad boys.

I tried to get ahold of a couple of people in the football office who might be able to provide more details, but they were out. Beaty and a few others are in Tulsa tonight talking to KU supporters in the Sooner State so it’s possible they were en route as I wrote this.

I'm guessing it's just one of those one or two-of-a-kind helmets they make up for recruiting purposes and won't actually be used on game day. I know KU and pretty much every other major college football program likes to create these types of things to get the recruits jacked up when they come tour campus.

I’ll jump back on here with an update if/when I get some kind of answer. For now, enjoy imagining what 100 of these helmets might look like lining the west sideline at Memorial Stadium.

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Break time: KU basketball irrelevant in NBA Draft lottery for first time since 2009

Think back for a minute, if you will, to the summer of 2009, when Barack Obama was in his first year in the White House, the swine flu was causing a panic throughout the United States, the world said goodbye to Michael Jackson and the Kansas basketball program was irrelevant in the NBA Draft lottery.

That’s right. What has become somewhat of an annual ritual around here in the years since — and several years before it — was almost completely irrelevant during the summer of 2009, when KU fans had absolutely no reason to tune in to the NBA Draft.

Matt Kleinmann and Brennan Bechard were the only seniors on that 2008-09 team, junior Sherron Collins made a no-brainer choice to return to school and sophomore Cole Aldrich and freshmen Makieff and Marcus Morris still were coming into their own as future NBA lottery picks.

That makes this summer the first since that ‘09 draft that KU will not have some kind of presence in the lottery.

I realize that neither Cliff Alexander nor Kelly Oubre wound up being selected in the Draft lottery (Top 14 picks) a year ago, but Oubre was a fringe pick throughout the months leading up to the draft and was included in the lottery in just as many mock drafts as those that had him on the outside looking in. Ultimately, Oubre was drafted 15th by Washington, one spot out of lottery and Alexander went undrafted.

With former Jayhawks Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, Cheick Diallo and Brannen Greene all eligible, KU figures to have at least a couple of alums drafted in this year’s draft. But none of those names figure to pop in the Top 14 — possibly not even in the first round — thus ending KU’s stretch of six consecutive years of lottery relevance.

During the five-year period from 2010-14, the Jayhawks had a total of eight players drafted in the lottery, including No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins in the 2014 draft.

Only Kentucky, which has had a total of 13 former Wildcats drafted in the past six lotteries — and figures to make that seven straight in June, with Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere both going in the top 10 in most mock drafts — can boast a bigger number and a longer streak.

Go figure.

Bill Self and John Calipari certainly have dominated the draft lottery in recent years, not only by putting players in the pros in that prestigious spot, but also by landing some of the best talent on the recruiting trail year after year.

The Jayhawks may be forced to sit this one out, but you can bet that KU’s time away from the lottery won’t last long. Incoming freshman Josh Jackson already is being touted as the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and, even if Jackson doesn’t live up to that lofty expectation, it’s all but certain that as long as he enters the draft he’ll be selected in the lottery. In addition to Jackson, sophomore-to-be Carlton Bragg certainly could be a lottery pick after the 2016-17 college basketball season if he continues to develop at the rate he has been and shines in his expanded role. And a case could even be made for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to be a lottery pick, should he have a strong junior season.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at some of the other regulars in the draft lottery from 2009-15. As you can see, Self and the Jayhawks are right there at the top of the list, just as they are in so many other relevant college basketball categories.

As for this year and the 2016 NBA Draft, don’t worry too much about the Jayhawks not being represented. With the Philadelphia 76ers getting the No. 1 overall pick — the order was determined Tuesday night — you can bet former KU big man Joel Embiid, he of Twitter fame and mastery, will have plenty to say about what his team will do and who his team will pick.

School Total Lottery Picks 2009-15 Longest Streak
Kentucky 13 6 years
Kansas 8 5 years
Duke 6 2 years
North Carolina 5 2 years
Syracuse 4 2 years
UConn 4 2 years
Arizona 3 2 years
Indiana 3 2 years
Louisville 2 1 year
Ohio State 2 1 year
Texas 2 1 year
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Tinsley Tracker: Following KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s chase for .400

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here.

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here. by Matt Tait

One day after going hitless for just the second time since April 5, KU catcher Michael Tinsley returned to the hit column in KU's series finale at Kansas State.

Tinsley, who actually made four plate appearances in Sunday's 8-5, rubber-match loss to the Wildcats, recorded an RBI sacrifice fly in the third inning to give KU a 4-0 lead. He also scored a run in the loss.

Tinsley was back behind the plate after being removed from Saturday's lopsided 12-2 loss late in the game in order to give the Jayhawks' top hitter a little extra rest.

KU, which fell a game and a half behind the Wildcats and Baylor Bears for the eighth and final spot in the conference tourney, now has three conference games remaining in the regular season (Thursday through Saturday at Oklahoma State) and a single non-conference match-up with Wichita State, giving Tinsley four more guaranteed games to attempt to finish at or above .400.

We won’t be there for all of Tinsley’s at-bats, but we will track his chase for .400 in this blog right here, as he attempts to become the first Jayhawk since Joe DeMarco in 1997 (.439) to finish a season above .400 and just the seventh Jayhawk to accomplish the feat since 1971.

Let's take a look...

Updated Batting Average: .392

Name: Michael Tinsley
Year: Junior
Position: Catcher
Measurables: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Multi-hit games: 25

Most recent outing: 1-for-3 in 8-5 road loss at K-State on Sunday, May 15.

Details: Tinsley's up and down day at the plate included a walk in the first inning on a full count, the RBI sac fly in the third, a fly-out to center field in the fifth and a bunt single on the first pitch of his at-bat in the Top of the 7th inning. Later, with the leadoff batter reaching first base after a walk in the Top of the 9th with KU trailing 8-5, Tinsley grounded into a 1-6-3 double play to all but put an end to KU's hopes of a late rally. From here, if Tinsley were to average four at-bats per game during the final four games of KU's regular season, he would need to record eight or more hits down the stretch to bring his average back above .400.

Up next: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday night at Wichita State.

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Tinsley Tracker: Following KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s chase for .400

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here.

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here. by Matt Tait

KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s quest to finish the season above .400 took a blow and a break on Saturday in Manhattan.

Tinsley, who was removed late in the game for some extra rest heading into Sunday’s huge series finale, was part of a KU offense that struggled for most of the night in a 12-2 loss at Kansas State.

Outside of freshman outfielder Devin Foyle, who had three of KU’s six hits in the game, the Jayhawks were shut down and never really threatened to pick up a victory that would have been both huge for the weekend and the Jayhawks’ chances for qualifying for the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City.

KU, which fell back to a half game behind the Wildcats for the eighth and final spot in the conference tourney, now has four conference games remaining in the regular season and one match-up with Wichita State, giving Tinsley five more guaranteed games to finish at or above .400.

We won’t be there for all of Tinsley’s at-bats, but we will track his chase for .400 in this blog right here, as he attempts to become the first Jayhawk since Joe DeMarco in 1997 (.439) to finish a season above .400 and just the seventh Jayhawk to accomplish the feat since 1971.

Let's take a look...

Updated Batting Average: .393

Name: Michael Tinsley
Year: Junior
Position: Catcher
Measurables: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Multi-hit games: 25

Most recent outing: 0-for-3 in 12-2 road loss at K-State on Saturday, May 14.

Details: The Wildcats held Tinsley hitless for just the 10th time all season and only the second time since April 5. He grounded out twice and flied out once before being replaced behind the plate by sophomore Tanner Gragg. Tinsley now needs a 3-for-4 effort in today’s series finale to pull his average back up to .400.

Up next: Game 3 of the Sunflower Showdown, 1 p.m. today at Kansas State.

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Tinsley Tracker: Following KU catcher Michael Tinsley’s chase for .400

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here.

Kansas catcher Michael Tinsley is chasing that magic mark of .400 at the plate and we'll track his sprint to the finish right here. by Matt Tait

The Kansas baseball team picked up a huuuuuuge Game 1 victory at Kansas State on Friday night, riding the strong pitching of senior ace Ben Krauth to victory.

Junior catcher Michael Tinsley managed one hit in four official at-bats and helped the KU offense do just enough to bring home the victory.

The win improved KU to 6-12 in Big 12 play and dropped the Wildcats to 6-13, giving Kansas a half-game lead in the race for the final spot in the Big 12 tournament later this month.

KU now has five conference games remaining in the regular season and one match-up with Wichita State, giving Tinsley six more guaranteed games to finish at or above .400.

We won’t be there for all of Tinsley’s at-bats, but we will track his chase for .400 in this blog right here, as he attempts to become the first Jayhawk since Joe DeMarco in 1997 (.439) to finish a season above .400 and just the seventh Jayhawk to accomplish the feat since 1971.

Let's take a look...

Updated Batting Average: .399

Name: Michael Tinsley
Year: Junior
Position: Catcher
Measurables: 6-foot, 194 pounds
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Multi-hit games: 25

Most recent outing: 1-for-4 in 4-1 road win at K-State on Friday, May 13.

Details: KU's red-hot catcher stepped into the box five times in the victory over K-State and hit the ball hard three times but managed just one hit. As is expected when a player is swinging the bat as well as Tinsley has been, he was intentionally walked in the 7th inning, a move that helped produce a two-run 7th for the Jayhawks that padded their lead to 4-1. His lone hit came in the fifth when he singled through the right side on a 1-2 count to drive in Joe Moroney.

Up next: Game 2 of the Sunflower Showdown, 6:30 p.m. tonight at Kansas State.

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OU president David Boren taps the brakes on Big 12 expansion talk

Leave it to Oklahoma president David Boren, to date the loudest and most adamant opinion sharer in the Big 12 expansion saga, to flip this thing on its head the other direction.

Talking with reporters on Thursday in Norman, Oklahoma, Boren gave a very feet-on-the-ground, rooted-in-reality indication of exactly where the Big 12 Conference stands — at least through his eyes — concerning the idea of expansion.

His message, in short: "I think we kind got out ahead of ourselves," Boren told reporters. "Somehow, the speculation got out ahead of the reality."

CBSsports.com’s Dennis Dodd wrote this terrific recap of Boren’s meeting with the media, and, although the OU president’s comments don’t by any means put an end to the idea of expansion, they certainly bring things back a level or two and further promote the idea that nothing, perhaps other than more discussion, is imminent.

During the past week or so you’ve read a lot about the universities who have done the most “campaigning” for a spot in an expanded Big 12. ESPN.com revealed that representatives from Memphis, Colorado State, Houston and Central Florida all recently contacted leaders in the Big 12 about the idea of joining the conference and went out of their way to explain what they could offer the Big 12 if selected.

However, one of the most interesting aspects of Boren’s Thursday briefing was his claim that as many as 25 universities have contacted the Big 12 in some way, shape or form to make known their interest in joining the conference in the future.

For a conference that so many claim is so vulnerable, that’s an awful lot of interest. Sure, all of those schools currently reside outside of the Power 5 — at least I presume that’s the case — but it’s clear that all of them see great value in the Big 12. Even if many of them also are reaching out to the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and ACC, it at least has to be considered a good sign that the Big 12 is still seen from the outside to be on the same level as those other conferences. And why wouldn’t it be? Uncertain future or not, the Big 12 still includes some serious power players in college athletics and has growing television deals worth big bucks with the nation’s biggest networks.

Just as Boren’s comments about the need to expand did not make it happen overnight, his most recent words of caution about putting the cart before the horse do not mean that expansion talk is going away.

What those words do mean, however, is that, before this thing is all said and done the Big 12 may actually wind up stronger than ever before.

There’s still a lot of work to be done and plenty of wrinkles to smooth out before getting to that point — expansion still looms, the Longhorn Network/Big 12 Network issue is very real and talk of bringing back a Big 12 title game in football doesn't figure to go away quietly — but if a guy like Boren can come around like this in a relatively short period of time, there’s no reason to think the Big 12 Conference’s other most pressing issues can’t be taken care of as well.

"This is the kind of decision that has to be reached by consensus," Boren said of expansion. "It's not the kind of thing you say, "OK, by a vote of 8-2, we're going to do this.’”

Bingo.

I know the 80 percent vote, though a lot, is all it would take to get certain items crossed off of the Big 12's potential to-do or want-to-do list. But, if you ask me, it would be a wonderful show of solidarity if the conference demanded — either in writing or otherwise — that all issues up for a vote require unanimous support to pass.

That not only would ensure that any changes would be of an all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality, but also would put the conference on more stable footing than ever heading into the future.

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Five Jayhawks who helped themselves the most during spring football

Team wide receiver Keegan Brewer (17) puts a move on cornerback Colin Spencer (26) and cornerback Nathan Miller (47) after a catch during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Team wide receiver Keegan Brewer (17) puts a move on cornerback Colin Spencer (26) and cornerback Nathan Miller (47) after a catch during the Spring Game on Saturday, April 9, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

It’s been a few weeks since the end of Kansas football coach David Beaty’s second round of spring football, but there’s still plenty to sort through in terms of what we heard and learned from the players and coaches this spring.

As the years have gone on, I’ve grasped a better understanding of the fact that we really don’t learn that much about a program during spring ball. Yeah, you might get to see a new addition to the program or check out the infant stages of a new offense or defense, but, for the most part, the hard work and the serious movement comes over the summer and during preseason camp.

Spring ball is just a time to jump back in, work on some fundamentals and see how much players retained from what you wanted to do last season.

That does not, however, mean that players don’t make themselves noticed and, from time to time, enjoy some serious strides in the spring.

Here’s a short list — in alphabetical order — of a few Jayhawks who did just that, at least the way it looked through my eyes.

• Jacob Bragg, sophomore Offensive Lineman

The third-year sophomore may very well have found a home on the offensive line and he spent most of the spring running with the first unit at that position. That’s good news both for the player and the program, because after his first couple of years in Lawrence, the once-highly-touted center was in danger of being passed over at his position of choice and falling into the category of another promising player who never panned out. With three years of eligibility still remaining and a home at his new spot (right guard), Bragg has a chance to more than pan out. Bragg played in 10 games a year ago and spent some of that time at both right and left guard, but he was not on the two-deep depth chart heading into the final game of 2015 and, with 10 extra pounds and much better mobility now appears ready to compete up front.

• Keegan Brewer, freshman Wide Receiver

I know I wrote about him a little this spring, but I don’t think you can say enough about the impact this Texan made. He’s lightning quick and also fast and appears to have great command of his routes and good hands. Beyond that, he also is extremely elusive. He plays at a deep position, but, with all of that talk last year about the Air Raid Offense using 8 or 9 receivers each game, you can’t convince me for a second that this newcomer is not one of KU’s Top 8 or 9 receivers. He’s going to play and I think he’ll be one of the more pleasant surprises in 2016.

• Tyrone Miller, sophomore Free Safety

For the most part, Miller is the same player he was a year ago. Like many Jayhawks, he added some muscle and improved in several areas in the weight room, but it’s not as if he suddenly grew four inches or switched sides of the ball. What he did do, however, is return to his natural position of safety, a move that should help both Miller and the KU secondary. Whether it’s Miller or senior Bazie Bates IV who starts alongside Fish Smithson at safety, the Jayhawks have upgraded the position — either through depth or a first-string stud — with a quality athlete who can compete with the athletes many other Big 12 programs send streaking down the field 60-70 times a game.

• Mesa Ribordy, red-shirt freshman Center

I remember Beaty first talking to me about Ribordy as an under-the-radar guy to watch this offseason. Evidently the offensive lineman who came to KU as a walk-on is very much on the radar these days. Everything I heard from a handful of people I talked to said that the 6-foot-4, 300-pound athlete was one of the better offensive linemen in the program this spring. He’s pushing for reps at center and also is versatile enough to play guard. His development is just one piece of good news at a position of major need with this team. And whether he winds up starting or provides quality depth at three different positions, Ribordy figures to be an important part of KU’s future and may be a factor as soon as 2016.

• Jace Sternberger, red-shirt freshman Tight End

Like a bunch of players in the program, Sternberger added some serious weight/muscle this offseason and now, at 6-foot-4, 236 pounds (up 11 from last year’s roster) looks like an absolute beast. The best part about the Oklahoma native’s new look is that it did not appear to do anything to his mobility, quickness and speed. Remember, this was a guy who also played D-End in high school and he is very strong and has some very good feet. We did not get to see much in terms of the way he was used in scrimmages this spring, but what little we did see showed a guy who I believe will be very active in this offense. He also looks like a dream to coach. During every drill I saw, when he was not the one running the drill, he was right there by the coach, waiting and taking instruction. What’s more, when they did show some live offense, he never strayed too far from Beaty’s side and Beaty always seemed to be looking for him. He’s not a true tight end in the way that Ben Johnson is so there’s room for both of them on the field and I think they’ll use Sternberger more like a hybrid H-Back/Tight End, which could be quite a weapon if the O-Line can protect the QB and those fast receivers can clear some room.

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TV sets, as much football programs, fueling Big 12 expansion talk

Let’s face it. By now we all know that any talk about Big 12 expansion or even conference realignment as a whole throughout college athletics is focused on one thing — football.

Taking that one step further, however, leads to the conclusion that, really, this whole thing is about television dollars and a relationship that can be formed between a conference and its television partners.

If it weren’t, and it were truly just about football, a program like Boise State would be a red-hot commodity, drawing attention from at least the Big 12 and Pac-12. But because Boise and the surrounding areas don't deliver a ton of TV sets, the Broncos can’t get so much as a sniff from anyone.

As it stands today in its 10-team form, the Big 12 Conference already has a pretty good television deal. Last year, the 10 members split more than $250 million in TV dollars, giving each athletic department a pretty nice chunk of change. And that number is expected to rise steadily through the end of the grant of rights agreement in 2025.

So when it comes to the idea of the Big 12 expanding — and whether it should or shouldn’t — the argument goes something like this: No way are we going to add a couple of teams and split the pie 12 ways instead of 10. That just doesn’t make good business sense.

Well, neither does self-destruction or, worse yet, extinction.

Reports have indicated that the Big 12’s TV partners have said that they would be willing to renegotiate their current deals in the event of expansion. But, as common sense would suggest, the more attractive the addition, the more likely the dollar amount is to go up. And, right now, there just aren’t enough ultra-attractive schools out there that would command a big increase in television dollars.

That’s why, if it’s me in charge, I look seriously at becoming the first to jump to 16 instead of just getting back to 12. We’ve seen in the past that 12 is vulnerable and making the jump all the way to 16 would show, at least on some level, that the Big 12 learned from its mistakes and would like to move forward as a more aggressive and pro-active conference.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the markets of the handful of schools that seem to come up most often in the chatter about Big 12 expansion. All population numbers are courtesy of the 2010 Census.

BYU

One of the most popular picks to be included if the Big 12 were to go from 10 to 12, BYU brings a national following because of its Mormon roots, but also just the 33rd best television market (Salt Lake City) according to stationindex.com. Still, with interest in the Cougars spreading from coast to coast and the opportunity to jump back into the Rocky Mountain region, it’s easy to see why BYU makes sense. Enrollment: 29,672. Population: No. 124, 186,440

Cincinnati

Believe it or not, Cincinnati actually ranks below Salt Lake City at 34th nationally. The Bearcats bring respectable football of late, a historically solid basketball program and inroads into a strong football recruiting base. Beyond that, the geographic advantage that comes with being close to West Virginia (308 miles) also helps Cincy’s cause. Enrollment: 43,691. Population: No. 65, 296,943

Memphis

Memphis is interesting in so many ways — solid basketball, football program on the rise, good geographic location, high-dollar support from FedEx — but only brings the 48th best television market to the table. That, along with the loss of red hot football coach Justin Fuente following the 2015 season (Virginia Tech), could put the Tigers on the outside looking in. But it sure sounds like Memphis is still a very viable option. Enrollment: 20,585. Population: No. 45, 646,889.

Colorado State

I spent some of my time growing up in Fort Collins and I’ll admit it; I just don’t see the Rams being the Big 12’s choice. For one, Colorado as a whole is just not that big of a college sports state and, with so many other things to do in terms of outdoor recreational activities, I’m not sure that’s changing any time soon. The talk is that CSU would deliver the Denver market, which comes in at 18th on the stationindex.com list. And it certainly wouldn’t hurt. But, even when Colorado was in the Big 12 the Buffs didn’t really deliver Denver. Colorado State is in a great college town and has made some serious strides to improve its facilities, including breaking ground on a brand new football stadium. It wouldn’t be the worst pick, but if TVs and travel partners for WVU are important, I can’t see the Big 12 going this direction. Enrollment: 32,236. Population: No. 159, 143,986.

Central Florida

UCF may not be the sexiest addition on paper, but it does get the Big 12 into Florida, which both puts the conference in one of the country’s biggest states population wise and most fertile football recruiting grounds, and infiltrates ACC and SEC territory. It also brings big time eyeballs and bodies. The Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne market ranks 19th nationally. Making the move into Orlando would be more of a bet on UCF’s future than a sure-fire victory today. Of course, with this round, are there any sure-fire victories? Enrollment: 60,767. Population: No. 73, 238,300.

Houston

If it’s bodies and televisions you want, Houston is an absolute home run. The issue here is that it’s known largely as a commuter school — an image it is trying to change — and it resides in Texas, where the folks in Austin who bleed burnt orange already are saying their beloved Longhorns carry enough of the Houston market. That may be true. But you can’t argue with Houston’s size and recent show of serious commitment to football. The Houston market ranks 10th on the stationindex list and, obviously, the school would be a fit geographically. Enrollment: 42,704. Population: No. 4, 2.1 million.

SMU

SMU is a little like Houston without all of the enormous upside. The Mustangs have some decent history in both basketball and football and appear to be serious about getting their football program going strong again. The problem is, SMU resides in Dallas, which is home to the Big 12 headquarters, and while that might seem like a big time advantage, it actually hurts SMU because the Big 12 does not gain much by furthering its presence in a city it already calls home. Enrollment: 11,643. Population: No. 9, 1.2 million.

UConn

While the Huskies deliver a couple of things that are important in this whole deal — expansion east, a big name and recent football success — the biggest thing they claim to deliver might be a reach. New York City. There’s no denying that the Big Apple has its share of UConn backers. And, with Storrs being just 140 miles northeast of NYC, the proximity claim is legit. But let’s be realistic here. Even if there’s something to be gained in NYC by adding UConn, it’s not as if the Huskies can claim that they’re bringing the entire New York market with them. That’s what makes this one tough to gauge. Heck, Boston, which sits just 85 miles northeast of Storrs, is closer than NYC but you don’t hear a ton of talk about a UConn addition delivering Bean town. There’s some intrigue here. And getting into the New England areas is not the worst idea (even if it is still 524 miles from West Virginia). But UConn is far from a slam dunk. Enrollment: 31,119. Population: If we’re counting New York, it ranks No. 1 at 8.2 million. Boston ranks No. 24 at 617,594. But I'm not sure UConn truly delivers either.

South Florida

USF is in a great city and is a school on the rise, but it would likely only gain consideration if the Big 12 were to go beyond 12. Would you believe, though, that Wichita actually is larger than Tampa? (Remember that if/when we ever get to the point where we’re talking about where KU might land in a world where the Big 12 no longer exists). That said, according to stationindex.com, Tampa is a far better television market, ranking 13th in the country. Pairing South Florida with Central Florida (the 13th and 19th best TV markets in the country) might give you a decent shot at laying a serious claim to TV sets in Florida and, from there, anything is possible, especially when you consider what joining a Power 5 Conference could do for the growth of both schools. Enrollment: 48,793. Population: No. 53, 335,709.

For comparison’s sake, the average enrollment of the Big 12’s 10 current schools is 28,554, with Texas (50,950) and Texas Tech (35,893) holding down the top end and TCU (10,323) and Baylor (16,787) sitting at the bottom. Kansas (27,983) and Kansas State (24,766) are right around the average and in the middle of the pack.

It should be noted, however, that nearly every Big 12 school resides in a true college town, which merely adds another wrinkle to the idea of expansion. Would the conference want to keep with that and expand only into other smaller, college towns or is now the time to branch out and start bringing some major metropolitan areas into the conference?

Yet again, the answer likely comes down to television dollars and little else.

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Thunder fans show off college atmosphere vibe

Remember those times during the past few years when KU basketball coach Bill Self was asked about jumping to the NBA and responded with something about the situation in Oklahoma City, with their beloved Thunder, being as close as there is to a college atmosphere in the NBA?

Well, the Thunder fans were at it again on Tuesday night. And after a road game, no less.

Playing Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Spurs in San Antonio, the Thunder gritted out a 95-91 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. All-world point guard Russell Westbrook went off for 35 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists and fellow member of the all-world squad — and former Longhorn — Kevin Durant touched the Spurs for 23, 6 and 5.

The come-from-behind triumph was a huge victory and put the Thunder in position to close out the series at home on Thursday night.

But it was when the Thunder returned home, after the short flight from San Antonio to OKC, where the Thunder fans started showing off their college spirit. Hundreds of energized Oklahoma City fans showed up to greet the team at the airport and several members of the Thunder roster documented the scene on social media.

This kind of thing is all but unheard of in the NBA and it happens every year in college, particularly in March after teams make good or deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

To see it happen at the NBA level was incredible and merely added credence to Self's claim about OKC being as close to a college environment as there is in the league.

Cool stuff.

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