Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

In case you missed it: KU coach Charlie Weis joined Keith Olbermann to break down national title game

Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis joined ESPN analyst Keith Olbermann, in studio, last night following the national championship game to break down the big moments and major adjustments delivered by Florida State and Auburn in the final game of the BCS era.

Weis was introduced as the head coach at the University of Kansas and he wore a crimson and blue Jayhawk tie.

These types of things are not necessarily life-altering but they definitely do not hurt the KU program and, believe it or not, can do wonders for recruiting. Weis appeared to be very comfortable breaking down the game that he had just seen live one time and flashed his vast knowledge of offense, schemes and adjustments. He also knew and discussed many players and coaches by name, which showed that he either (a) did his homework or (b) simply knew a lot of these guys to begin with. Perhaps both.

Either way, he definitely represented himself and KU very well.

Among the topics Weis touched on were:

• Halftime adjustments by FSU, which looked shell-shocked in the first half.

• The flag thrown on an FSU player that forced the Seminoles to kick an extra point at 21-19 instead of attempting a two-point conversion to tie.

• Breakdown of Tre Mason's touchdown run that gave Auburn a lead with less than two minutes to play.

• The big pass play from Jameis Winston on the final drive that turned a five-yard slant into a 40-yard gain.

• How Auburn's defense bottled up FSU in the first half and what Winston and the Seminoles did to overcome it.

• His views on the end of the BCS era and the ushering in of a playoff system.

Here's the full video, if you're interested.


Mark Mangino back in the Big 12

According to a report from Bobby LaGesse, of the Ames Tribune, Iowa State is poised to announce the hiring of former Kansas coach Mark Mangino as its new offensive coordinator under head coach Paul Rhoads.

A press conference is set for 4:30 p.m. today.

“I am beyond thrilled to welcome Coach Mangino to the Cyclone football family,” Rhoads said in a press release. “He has an imaginative offensive mind, an ability to play to his players’ strengths, a track record of winning and a tremendous familiarity with the Big 12 Conference. In terms of calling plays and executing a game plan, he is top shelf. He has learned from a ‘Who’s Who’ of college coaches, effectively led his own championship program and is respected throughout the coaching ranks.”

Mangino, who was the head coach at Kansas from 2002-09 and led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory in 2007 while being named national coach of the year, spent the past year working at Youngstown State and has long been rumored to want back into coaching.

His Jayhawk teams were 50-48 overall, played in four bowls and won three. He is the only coach in KU history to win bowls in consecutive seasons (2007 and 2008). Kansas was ranked a school-record 19 straight weeks between 2007-08, set home attendance records five years in a row and produced the top three total offenses in school history.

He left Kansas as the result of an internal investigation into improper treatment of players carried out by former KU athletic director Lew Perkins. He spent three years out of coaching before returning to YSU, his alma mater, for the 2013 season.

Before coaching at KU, Mangino worked on Bob Stoops' staff in Oklahoma and also on the staff of Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Mangino's first year back in the Big 12 also will signal a return to Lawrence as the Cyclones are schedule to play at KU on Nov. 8.

Stay right here for more on the move to bring Mangino back to the Big 12.

The following link takes you back to August, when Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan caught up with Mangino at Youngstown State.


Charlie Strong a rock solid hire for Texas

I have to admit when I first heard the reports that Texas had zeroed in on Louisville's Charlie Strong as its new football coach, I was a little surprised.

Not because I don't think Strong is a fantastic coach, an energetic dude and a great face for any program. He's all of those things and more. My surprise stemmed from the fact that, in comparison to Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Jim Harbaugh, Art Briles and others, Strong's name doesn't carry the weight I would've expected UT to want— perhaps even demand — in a successor to Mack Brown.

Maybe I just can't get the idea out of my head that at one point, not that long ago, Strong was on the list of potential replacements for Mark Mangino. Think about that. In late 2009, Strong, then an assistant at Florida, was on KU's radar and today he's the head coach at Texas. Wild stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Strong was that close to being a finalist for the job that went to Turner Gill — and then Charlie Weis two years later — but he was a hot target at the time and there's no doubt that KU kicked the tires.

In Strong, who went 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville and 23-3 during the past two seasons, UT is getting everything I think KU fans were told they were getting in Gill. A player's coach who would do things the right way. A great recruiter. A man of strong morals and values. An intelligent football mind with the capability of putting together a top notch staff around him.

We all know how that played out with Gill and Kansas but I see no reason at all to think anything close to the same will happen for Strong and Texas.

This seems like a fantastic hire for the Longhorns and an absolute nightmare for the rest of the Big 12. Strong will get players. At Texas they always do. And I believe under his leadership the best of the best will again have UT as an automatic entry on their recruiting lists.

More than that though, Strong will evaluate, develop and motivate those players at a level Texas hasn't seen in quite some time. The man radiates pride, intensity & character all at once. Now that he's taking over a blueblood program he'll get a great opportunity to show just how talented he really is.

There are questions about Strong. He doesn't love dealing with the media and may not be the perfect fit to handle the insane exposure that comes from The Longhorn Network. But in terms of football acumen, Strong is everything you could want.

Credit the UT administration for ultimately understanding that a big-time name was not needed to replace Brown. A big-time coach was. And, in Strong, I think they found exactly that.


KU basketball press conference notes: Jan. 3

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and a couple of KU players will talk to the media at 2:30 p.m. today.

Stay logged in right here for a blow-by-blow account of what Self and the Jayhawks have to say about this weekend's match-up with No. 21 San Diego State — 3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS — and the current state of the program.

Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor will talk before Self....

Ellis up first:

Perry Ellis says KU knows that San Diego State is really solid defensively and that one of the big focal points this week has been on handling the press.

Ellis says that KU will get a lot better defensively itself when the young guys don't worry as much about messing up. He went through that his freshman year and he sympathizes.

Ellis said Naadir Tharpe is so critical to this team as a vocal leader and from the standpoint of getting everyone ready every day, every game. Not a lot of people know that.

Ellis says he's much stronger this year than he was last year. That came from hard work during the summer and he said it has brought more confidence because he feels more explosive.

Ellis is 3-of-6 from three-point range this season. He said he's been working a lot on shooting those, especially as a trailer on the break, but that he's easing into the idea and making sure that he doesn't force them up.

Ellis said the team had some great practices over the break and that they've been playing great defense in practice. He's hoping it carries over to what's next on the schedule.

Ellis said he's still a little numb from the blow to the head he took against Georgetown but he's not worried about it because it doesn't impact how he feels or plays.

Ellis said the non-conference portion of the schedule has gone by incredibly fast but that he's really looking forward to the Big 12 games.

Traylor's turn:

Traylor says the biggest key for KU's defense going to the next level is finishing possessions all the way through the box out and the rebound. No fouls, stay down, work hard and finish.

Traylor said KU should use its energy to inspire the crowd to help them create turnovers by their opponents.

Traylor said the past couple of days of practice haven't focused much on offense at all. All defensive drills and a lot of them. He said the split was 80 percent defense, 20 percent offense. And the 20 percent number might be high.

Traylor said Ellis was in the weight room a lot throughout the offseason. Every time he went to the gym Perry was in there and he thinks that might be why Ellis has been so much more effective at the rim this season.

Traylor said he doesn't guard Joel Embiid much in practice and he doesn't mind that one bit.

Traylor said the versatility of KU's bigs is huge for this team and makes it hard on Self to figure out a way to divvy up the minutes.

Traylor, like Ellis, said a lot of good things about SDSU's defense and said they're really, really athletic.

Traylor said the tough non-conference schedule should pay off now that conference play is here.

Now Self:

Self backs up his players' claims that defense has been the focal point lately but added that defense is always an emphasis.

Self also said getting better on defense is not something that you just decide to do and then go up and make it happen in a day or two. It takes time. It's a process. And he's pleased with how KU has handled the process this season.

Self said the players have not really been out of position during defensive breakdowns, more that their mindset and intensity have allowed opponents to get things easier than they should.

Self said he has not gone to drastic measures like practicing without a ball. He's done that before but not this year. "I figured out practices can be more game-like when you use a ball."

Self said SDSU is one of the premier defensive teams in the country and that's where they hang their hat. Largely because they're athletic and well coached.

Speaking of coaching, Self said the tiff between he and SDSU coach Steve Fisher over the recruitment of Kevin Young is water under the bridge and he has nothing but respect and admiration for Fisher, who he says is an outstanding coach who has proven it for a long time. He added: In recruiting, those things happen. You don't always get what you deserve. And the things that happen to you in a negative way often happen in a positive way at some point down the road. Self thinks that's the case with Fisher but says he understands the disappointment because it always hurts when you lose a kid you put so much time into recruiting.

Self said SDSU's defensive switches will be good prep for Oklahoma, which also switches a ton on defense. Reinforces that non-conference schedule is played to prepare teams for conference play so he loves how the timing worked out with this one. KU opens Big 12 play at OU on Jan. 8.

Self said Perry Ellis' strong season down low is due mostly to him being a year older. He said Ellis is stronger and more aggressive than he was as a freshman but added that he's still not quite as aggressive as they'd like him to be.

As for Ellis from three-point land, Self said he's never told Perry that he does or does not have the green light to shoot those but added that he wouldn't mind seeing Ellis average one or two a game because he's a good shooter.


14 Questions about KU football as we enter 2014

The new year is just a couple of days old, the beginning of football season is still eight months away and college basketball is dominating the thoughts of KU fans at the moment.

But that doesn't mean it's too early to look ahead to the coming year of Kansas football.

The 2014 season will be the third for head coach Charlie Weis at KU and there's no doubt that it's a big year for the program.

A defense that enjoyed drastic improvement during 2013 returns nearly everyone and also figures to get some help in the form of eligible red-shirts and reinforcements. Same goes for the offense, with senior wide receiver Nick Harwell and offensive coordinator John Reagan being the biggest additions.

While the Jayhawks will return several known commodities at key positions, uncertainty remains all over the field. Here's a quick look at the 14 most interesting questions facing KU football in 2014:

1 – Who will play quarterback? Jake Heaps is back for his senior season, Montell Cozart will be a sophomore and UCLA transfer T.J. Millweard will be eligible. This has the makings of a heck of a battle, but I'd give Heaps the nod as the early favorite.

2 – What will the new offense look like? New offensive coordinator John Reagan will be bringing his offense to KU and it figures to look awfully familiar to KU fans who enjoyed the Todd Reesing era. How similar it is remains to be seen, but I think you can expect an up-tempo style that leans heavily on both the running and passing games. Also worth watching closely is how well Reagan works with the offensive line, a major area of concern for KU entering 2014.

3 – How good can Nick Harwell be? The all-time leading receiver in Miami (Ohio) University history has one year of college ball remaining before giving it a go in the NFL. Will his addition be the fix for a passing game that has struggled during the past two seasons? Everything I've heard tells me yes.

4 – Who replaces James Sims? For four seasons, Sims was a staple in the KU backfield and led the team in rushing. Now that he's gone, who will step up as the top back? There are plenty of options, old and new. From returners Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox and Darrian Miller to freshman Traevohn Wrench and Colin Spencer. And don't forget Tony Pierson could still take a handoff or two. Clearly, KU again is expected to enjoy great depth at an important position. I think Cox could be the most Sims-esque player in the bunch.

5 – What happens with the coaching staff? We already know that Tim Grunhard is out and Reagan is in. But will there be any other changes on Weis' staff? The smart money says yes.

6 – What can we expect from defensvie end Andrew Bolton? From the sound of it, quite a bit. Bolton red-shirted the 2013 season to get healthy and, in the process, got bigger and stronger. His presence as a pass-rushing threat would be huge for a KU defense that will not be short on confidence heading into the season.

7 – What can we expect from cornerback Kevin Short? I heard a couple of times last summer that Short was one of the two or three most talented players on KU's roster. NCAA shenanigans kept us from seeing that in 2013 but Short stuck it out, worked on his fundamentals and frame during practice and should be itching to go in 2014. Where he'll play remains to be seen, but expect him to be a fixture in the secondary and also make an impact in the return game.

8 – What can we expect from linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore? Jenkins-Moore's knee injury on the first day of summer workouts in 2013 was a big-time disappointment for both the player and the fan base. He's been out of action for a long time and I haven't heard much about his rehab so I think he's definitely a question mark heading into the 2014 season.

9 – What's this team's leadership look like? In a word, solid. Although Sims is gone, the three other captains from the 2013 campaign will be back. Assuming Ben Heeney, Keon Stowers and Jake Heaps keep their roles and the fourth captain spot goes to an offensive player, I'd look at senior tight end Jimmay Mundine as an early favorite to inherit a leadership role.

10 – Speaking of Mundine, will he be a big part of next season's offense? During the 2013 season, Rice's tight ends accounted for just 15 receptions and 165 yards. A year earlier, however, Vance McDonald, who became a second-round pick in the NFL Draft, caught 36 balls for 458 yards and two touchdowns. Mundine has talent and can become a productive weapon. Remember, even while struggling, he finished 2013 with 229 yards and five TDs on 20 receptions. He just has to catch the football.

11 – How does the 2014 schedule look? Tough as always is the easy answer, but I'll give you a little more than that. Non-conference home games against Southeast Missouri and Central Michigan should give KU a good shot at a nice start. But a road game at Duke, which finished the 2013 season at 10-4, seems much tougher today than it did when the game was scheduled. Duke brings back nearly everyone and proved that it could play with the big boys in 2013. After those three, it's Big 12 Conference time, opening with Texas at home and closing at Kansas State. Unlike last year, KU will have a bye week in the middle of conference play, between road games at Texas Tech and Baylor. Four of the first six games are at home, so playing tough in Memorial Stadium will be huge.

12 – Speaking of Memorial Stadium, will there be any signs of renovations to the old venue in 2014? If there are, it won't be until after the season and even that appears to be a reach right now. Conversations are ongoing and plans are being laid out but I can't see any major moves happening until the money is there. And, right now, it's not there yet.

13 – What streaks are still in tact? The biggest is the road losing streak, which sits at 27 games and dates back to the 2009 season. Thanks to KU's victory over West Virginia on Nov. 16, 2013, the Big 12 and overall losing streaks are both tiny two-gamers, so it's the road streak that will get all of the pub in 2014. KU will get six cracks to snap the skid in 2014 — at Duke, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State. None will be easy, so ending the madness will be big news for the program. In addition to trying to get over the hump away from home, KU also will be looking to snap its streak of five consecutive sub-.500 seasons.

14 – Is there any hope for better days ahead? I said this throughout 2013 and I'll say it again today: If you're an optimist by nature, there are plenty of areas you can point to that make you smile and support the claim that Weis is taking Kansas football in the right direction. At the same time, if you're naturally pessimistic, there are still a few elements of the program that make you look awfully intelligent for doubting the Jayhawks. The way the 2014 season plays out will be huge for KU, both in terms of stability and upward movement. After generally showing patience and understanding during Weis' first two seasons in town, the majority of the fan base figures to be expecting more in 2014. And who can blame them?


Top 10 gifts given to KU fans in 2013

The lights came on around Thanksgiving (if not sooner) and will stay up for another couple of weeks, but after the usual build-up and anticipation, Christmas has come and gone.

Just like that, weeks worth of picking, purchasing and wrapping presents is now a thing of the past – at least for another 300-plus days.

I hope those of you who celebrate the holiday had a wonderful day with friends, family and loved ones and that, sprinkled in there among the gifts, goodies and overeating, you had an opportunity to remember the true meaning of Christmas.

My moment came in the form of a gift from my aunt, who, in honor of my late uncle (who passed away one year ago) paid off the layaway bill for several families in the Denver area. She then wrote a letter to each of us in the family and explained that the families had been taken care of in our honor and through my uncle's inspiration. He once did that for her gift, years ago, and she always said it was one of her favorites.

I now know why.

Anyway, in keeping with the theme of great gifts, here's a quick look back at the top 10 moments given to Jayhawk fans during 2013.

Enjoy! And, once again, Happy Holidays!

1. Women's track and field brings home a national championship — There are tons of good things on this list and most of them drew a lot more attention than this, but it'll be hard to argue with putting this No. 1 because hanging banners is what it's all about. The women's track team, which was loaded with talented athletes and wonderful people, dominated in Oregon last spring and brought home a trophy that inspired a billboard on I-70. Big-time stuff.


2. Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas — Recruiting is no joke around these parts and the day of Wiggins' announcement was full of the usual bag of mixed emotions. Many feared he would pick Florida State, North Carolina or Kentucky. Others were certain he was Kansas-bound. When the time came for Wiggins' announcement, he told a gym full of supporters in Huntington, W.Va., that he would play his one season of college hoops in Kansas. It's been a Beatles-esque run of Wiggins-mania since then and the 6-foot-8, 200-pound Canadian forward currently leads the Jayhawks in scoring at 15.5 points per game. Wiggins was merely the headliner of a class that included Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp and Frank Mason. It also should be pointed out that the recruiting crazies went nuts again in November, when top-five big man Cliff Alexander picked Kansas.


3. Make it 9 straight Big 12 titles for Bill Self — The unprecedented streak of consecutive Big 12 regular season titles continued in 2013, as Self's Jayhawks held off serious charges from Oklahoma State and Kansas State to win it again. Just in case anyone disputed whether the Jayhawks were really the champs, KU went ahead and won the Big 12 conference tournament title, too, dispatching K-State for the third time in the semifinals to put the icing on the cake.


4. KU football snaps conference losing streak — After 27 consecutive losses in Big 12 play, a streak that dated back to the 2010 season, the KU football team finally broke through with a dominating, 31-19 victory over West Virginia at Memorial Stadium in November. The victory set off a wild celebration on the field between the players and the fans in the stands and, as is customary with big wins, the students ripped down the goal posts and sent them swimming in Potter Lake.


5. KU volleyball makes 1st ever Sweet 16 — Inpsired by the disappointment of getting so close and coming up short last season, a senior-heavy KU volleyball team finished second in the Big 12 Conference for the first time ever and followed that up by winning first- and second-round matches at Allen Fieldhouse to advance to the Sweet 16 in Los Angeles. Although the run ended there, this team, which featured All-American Caroline Jarmoc, Big 12 setter of the year Erin McNorton and Big 12 coach of the year Ray Bechard (who won the honor for the second year in a row), will likely be remembered for a long, long time over at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.


6. Sweet 16 times 2 for KU hoops — For the second year in a row, the Kansas basketball programs each reached the Sweet 16, with the men falling to Michigan in a heartbreaker and the women getting back to the Sweet 16 for a second time after being one of the last at-large teams put into the tourney field.


7. Another No. 1 seed for the KU men — Despite their shocking loss to Michigan, the men achieved a heck of an accomplishment at the Big Dance's outset when they earned a No. 1 seed for the 11th time in school history and the fifth time in 10 seasons under Bill Self.


8. Tier-3 TV deal puts KU in more homes — Although it produced some anger locally, KU's partnerships with Time Warner Cable and ESPN3 brought to homes across the country 70 live KU events, more than 600 hours of shoulder programming and several pre- and post-game shows highlight KU sports. “This is the backbone of providing Jayhawk fans with access to all of our sports in a way that they've never experienced before,” athletic director Sheahon Zenger said of the deal.


9. KU football lands more transfers — In May it was Nick Harwell, the all-time leading receiver in Miami (Ohio) history who said yes to KU coach Charlie Weis. And just last week it was Florida tight end Kent Taylor. Weis' experience and coaching pedigree continue to attract big-time talent and, although the ones who have made their way to Lawrence thus far have not been stars, it might just be a matter of time before a few of them pan out.


10. Professional Jayhawks continue to make noise — Whether it's Gary Woodland on the PGA Tour, Chris Harris with the Denver Broncos or a record number of former KU basketball players in the NBA, 2013 was a good year for Jayhawks on the professional map. Woodland won a tournament title again, Harris is a key part of a defense on a team with the best record in the NFL and others like Ben McLemore (Sacramento Kings), Aqib Talib (New England Patriots), Darrell Stuckey (San Diego Chargers), Xavier Henry (Los Angeles Lakers) and many, many more are doing their part to represent their school well at the highest levels.



Bill Self press conference notes: Dec. 20

Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self joined the media on Friday morning to preview KU's upcoming Georgetown game and the winter break.

Here's a blow-by-blow look at Self's comments:

Self says he expects Georgetown to play great on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse (11 a.m. tipoff). Their reputation speaks for itself and they have great tradition. They've added some nice pieces lately and it should be a big-time college basketball game.

Self on Georgetown big man Josh Smith, who transferred from UCLA: I just know he's big. And he's an unbelievable athlete for a man that size. It'll be a good challenge for anybody to go against a player like that, Joel Embiid or whoever.

Self said Andrew Wiggins has had a great week of practice, particularly on the defensive end. The New Mexico game was one of the least effective defensive games for Wiggins, according to Self. He wasn't bad, you're just used to his man never scoring and he was guarding a really good player (Kendall Williams). He's getting it and he's getting better every day.

Overall defensively, Self says there's been a lot of improvement made and he still thinks the team can get to the point where it is excellent defensively.

Self said he did not see a common thread in the games where Perry Ellis doesn't put up as big of numbers as he does in wins. He added, "I know we're a better team when he's playing aggressive and scoring the ball."

Self said team will all head home for winter break Saturday night. They'll reconvene on Dec. 26 and from that point to the first day of classes (mid-January), practice time is unlimited and KU will work on all aspects of the game extensively, film, fundamentals, philosophy, etc. Likely to practice twice a day during that stretch, 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. or something like that.

Self says over Christmas is the toughest time to be a student-athlete because if you're here working, no one else is... no friends, no girlfriends, no classes, no classmates, etc.

Self says "We've always gotten better over Christmas. Last year was the one year we didn't."

Self: Sure there's a role for Tarik Black. We're going to start Joel, but absolutely Tarik still has a role... and an important role.

Self said he thought Wayne Selden was the best newcomer KU had when they first started practicing. Since the Duke game he's been up and down. Big reason for that is his health hasn't been great. Nothing major, but this and that, here and there. Self says Selden is a guy who will really benefit from both the time off and the extra time in the gym.

There have been teams with bigger breaks between games at Allen Fieldhouse (Self challenged our own Gary Bedore to research it, and, yes, Gary did) but Self said outside of the icecapades or a rodeo, there's no reason to go this long without playing home games. Adds, "I'm excited to be back home."

Self says the Big 12 is a darn good league this season, top to bottom. Points out KU's large distance of strength of schedule, but adds that Baylor is No. 2 in the country. Loves seeing so many Big 12 teams in the Top 25 and says that will make it tough to keep the consecutive Big 12 titles streak alive.

Self says he thinks Naadir Tharpe has a great opportunity to keep that starting PG spot for the rest of the season. "We definitely need him to be the quarterback for us."

Self on Embiid: When you think about gifted, with hands and feet and size and all that, I don't think anything really surprises you. Still, you have those moments -- probably once a day -- where you say, "Did he really just do that?" He and Andrew Wiggins both have a lot of those moments.

Self says Embiid's moves are different every time... you can teach him a move but he always has a different way of getting there. Says he's not robotic and that's a good thing and tough for defenses to prepare for him and guard him.


Sunday, Monday night football intros of Jayhawk alums not necessarily a snub toward KU football

I didn't catch it, but more than a few people brought to my attention the fact that former Kansas University offensive lineman Anthony Collins, now a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals, introduced himself with his high school (Central High in Beaumont, Texas) instead of his college during the Bengals' loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday night.

This has become a bit of a trend for former KU players lately and one that has been met by disappointment from KU fans.

Understandably so.

In a world in which every other player on these introductions is from USC, Alabama or “The Ohio State University,” hearing Kansas represented surely would be not only a nice treat for Jayhawk fans but also a huge lift for KU's recruiting.

One of the biggest culprits is New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib, who, for years, has been saying “North Dallas, Texas,” in place of the school he became an All-American. But evidently Collins has joined in on the fun now, too.


It should be noted that, until recently, not many former Jayhawks were in the position of announcing anything during Sunday or Monday night football intros because very few had become starters, so it's not like the list of guys snubbing KU is all that long. In a sense, though, that may be why it stings the fan base in the first place.

Denver defensive back Chris Harris is one former Jayhawk who has been a fixture in these pre-game introductions during the past couple of years and he has continued to say “Kansas University” each time.

I caught up with Harris quickly the other night for a little insight into why the other guys might be choosing to leave out KU and his answer was nothing short of hilarious. “You never know with those cats,” he said of Talib and Collins, his former Orange Bowl teammates.

Short of asking Talib or Collins themselves, I can't really pick out a good answer. But there are a few options.

  1. They truly might just love their high schools. Many guys, especially athletes, are proud of where they come from and enjoy the opportunity to give the school that got them started a little shout-out. Nothing wrong with that.

  2. It's possible they're just trying to be funny. I can't remember who started it, but a few years ago, guys started repping their preschools or their kindergarten teachers. Nothing wrong with that either.

  3. The last thing I can think of may very well be the reason here and it's something that current KU coach Charlie Weis has talked a lot about since he arrived in town a couple of years ago. When reaching out to former KU football players, Weis found that many guys identified themselves with the coaches for whom they played. They were Glen Mason guys, Mark Mangino guys or Terry Allen guys instead of being Jayhawks. Weis has taken steps to eliminate the division and has hopes of getting all former Jayhawks to view themselves as exactly that. It'll take time, though. And maybe, since they don't know Weis or any of the coaches who came after Mark Mangino, those two are doing it as a way of showing their support for the man who was forced out after one of the most successful stints in KU football history. I know there were a lot of guys who played for Mangino who were upset about how his whole departure went down, so that could very easily be a factor, too.

Regardless of the reason, it's definitely nothing to get worked up about, but it is worth pointing out that them changing their tune certainly would not hurt KU in recruiting and would give KU football fans a reason to smile.


KU’s three-point struggles impacting Perry Ellis’ offensive flow

Kansas forward Perry Ellis is covered by the Florida defense during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis is covered by the Florida defense during the first half on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. by Nick Krug

Counting the Jayhawks' two exhibition games, sophomore forward Perry Ellis scored in double figures in six consecutive games to open the season and averaged 16 points per night.

In the past five games (three of them losses) Ellis has reached double digits three times and has averaged just over 10 points per game.

For the season, Ellis is averaging 13.3 points per game in 30 minutes, but it's clear that teams have started to figure out Perry's importance to this Kansas offense.

In KU's three losses, Ellis attempted just 17 shots, including just three in the most recent loss at Florida. That fact would not be quite as alarming if not for the reality that the rest of the Jayhawks — outside of leading scorer Andrew Wiggins (16.4 ppg) — are struggling to put points up around Ellis, who seems to be the most versatile scoring threat on KU's roster.

Given the fact that the Jayhawks have seen so much zone from opposing defenses lately, Ellis' quiet games make sense. The sophomore from Wichita loves to operate in the short corners — the area halfway between the lane and the sideline that is critical to attacking zone defenses — and Ellis mentioned Thursday that he noticed teams were making a concerted effort to keep him away from those spots.

“They try to really keep me out (of there) and try not to let me catch it on the post a lot,” Ellis said. “That's something I've noticed. That's the main thing.”

Fixing that and giving Ellis more of a chance to get back to his favorite spots on the floor is a matter of breaking down the zones. And the easiest way to do that is to have shooters knock down shots. Until they do, teams likely will continue to funnel everything to KU's jump shooters on the outside and, in a sense, tell KU's offense that they would rather live with the Jayhawks shooting three-pointers, where KU is hitting 31 percent, versus letting Ellis catch the ball in the short corners and create easy points.

Of course, there are other factors in play here, as well, most notably the struggles of the KU point guards to (a) get the team into its half-court sets and (b) keep from turning the ball over. But those things will hurt any offensive player anywhere on the floor.

We all know by now that Ellis is as good as it gets at finishing around the rim, but even if he cannot put the ball in the basket, one of the best ways to create points is by getting to the free throw line. Attacking the rim from the short corners has led to a bunch of free throws for Ellis, who has made a team-best 80 percent from the line this season but is just third on the team in free throws attempted.

During the past two games — both losses — Ellis failed to reach the free throw line one time.

While Ellis' stats are trending the wrong way during recent weeks, this, by no means, is a reason to panic. Ellis is a smart and skilled basketball player with a loaded offensive repertoire and he and the KU coaching staff no doubt will figure out a way to put him in position to score even if teams continue to take away the short corner.

But whether that comes from the high post or from attacking the rim more off the dribble, Ellis' recent numbers are just another indicator of how important finding three-point shooting is for this Kansas team.

Perry Ellis game-by-game

• PITT STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 7-10 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 16 — Min: 23
• FORT HAYS STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 3-4 — FT: 7-7 — Pts: 13 — Min: 20
• LOUISIANA MONROE --- FG: 3-5 — FT: 6-8 — Pts: 12 — Min: 29
• DUKE --- FG: 9-13 — FT: 5-6 — Pts: 24 — Min: 35
• IONA --- FG: 9-11 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 21 — Min: 32
• TOWSON --- FG: 4-7 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 10 — Min: 22
• WAKE FOREST --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 9 — Min: 23
• VILLANOVA --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 5-7 — Pts: 11 — Min: 39
• UTEP --- FG: 6-12 — FT: 7-8 — Pts: 19 — Min: 32
• COLORADO --- FG: 5-6 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 10 — Min: 31
• FLORIDA --- FG: 2-3 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 4 — Min: 24


Former Jayhawk Micah Brown provides an inside look at KU football recruiting

Former Kansas University football player and current Steven Spielberg in the making, Micah Brown, was at it again recently on behalf of his alma mater.

Brown, whose video production company, Second Wind Creative, has created some incredible documentary-type projects at schools such as Kansas, Michigan State and Notre Dame, recently released an updated recruiting video for the Jayhawks.

The 5-minute video directly targets KU's recruits, but it also offers a nice inside look at the program and the direction KU coach Charlie Weis and his coaching staff plan to take the task of mining for talent in the coming years.

It's definitely worth a look for KU fans and, production-wise, is probably worth watching for non-KU fans, as well. Micah does great work and he and his company are only going to get bigger.

Here's the video:



My take on why this KU volleyball team has been so much fun to cover

Kansas players celebrate their victory during their second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Creighton, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks downed the Bluejays, 3-1, and with the win, avenged a loss to Creighton earlier in the year.

Kansas players celebrate their victory during their second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Creighton, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks downed the Bluejays, 3-1, and with the win, avenged a loss to Creighton earlier in the year. by John Young

Unless this is your first visit to KUsports.com in the last month, you're surely aware by now that the Kansas University volleyball team has advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history and will take on Washington on Friday in Los Angeles.

It's a great story about a great team and one that cannot be told too many times.

As is the case with any team that gets hot — at any level — we've jumped all-in with this squad and covered them inside and out during the past few months, partly because they're winning and playing at a high level and partly because they're an awesome bunch.

I've been a volleyball fan for a long time. My wife played volleyball in college, Olympic beach volleyball has taken off in recent years and even when I was covering high school sports volleyball was one of my favorites to watch and write about.

As for the Jayhawks, I've been a fan of this team since the middle of the 2012 season, and I figured now was as good a time as any to explain why.

The No. 1 thing I enjoy about Ray Bechard's 16th squad at Kansas is how hard it competes. It never matters who they're playing or how they're feeling, they always bring it. That's the case when they're up two sets to none and are looking to close out the match with a three-set sweep and also the case when they're down two sets to one and need to win the last two sets to win the match.

Kansas' Caroline Jarmoc (9) hits a spike past Wichita State's Ashley Andrade (28) and Katie Reilly (7) during their volleyball match in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks defeated the Shockers, 3-1, and will face Creighton Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

Kansas' Caroline Jarmoc (9) hits a spike past Wichita State's Ashley Andrade (28) and Katie Reilly (7) during their volleyball match in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks defeated the Shockers, 3-1, and will face Creighton Saturday at 6:30 p.m. by John Young

It's not just a couple of players either. It's all of them. I'm sure some of that comes from the fact that they're as close as a team can possibly be — five key players even live together — and I'm sure some of it is just who they are and how they're coached.

“The chemistry on our team is so awesome,” said senior libero Bri Riley. “It's funny, when we talk to other girls at other schools it's, 'I hate so and so and I hate so and so,' and I love everyone on our team. It's hard to be mad at someone who you love so much and I think that really does carry over onto the court.”

Another thing I enjoy about this year's roster is their personalities. These girls have fun out on the floor and they're always smiling, laughing, joking around and messing with each other however and whenever they can. That demeanor has helped keep them loose when things have been at their most intense and helped them plow through the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Allen Fieldhouse last weekend instead of tightening up and letting the moment and opportunity get the best of them.

Beyond their general personalities, this team has all the parts you would want. A jokester or two, a super-focused senior, a bubbly newcomer, an All-American badass and a lot more.

To help illustrate that, I sought the input of a handful of people inside the program for a couple of quick buzzwords about each of the KU regulars. The words they came up with were a perfect representation of what this team is all about and why they've saved their best for last — fun, ferocious and fearing no one.

Here's a quick look at the way some folks inside the program view the girls who will go down in history as some of the most important volleyball players ever to come through Lawrence:

Senior libero Brianne Riley – immature, pretty, tan

Senior setter Erin McNorton – sleepy, "Eeyore," witty

Senior middle blocker Caroline Jarmoc – blunt, engineering phenom

Junior outside hitter Chelsea Albers – ridiculous, inappropriate

Senior outside hitter Catherine Carmichael – animated

Freshman middle blocker Tayler Soucie – gullible, delicate

Sophomore outside hitter Tiana Dockery – social, therapist, popular

Junior outside hitter Sara McClinton – squeaky, baby giraffe

Senior defensive specialist Jaime Mathieu – miniature ginger

Freshman defensive specialist Cassie Wait – buff, apologetic

As you can see, most of those responses came off the cuff and were shared with an eye toward this team's comedic nature. But as the pressure of following up last season — which, until now, had been the best season in KU volleyball history, statistically speaking — landed on their shoulders from Day 1 of the 2013 season, this team's ability to stay loose and laugh helped allow them to dig in when it mattered most and lighten up when needed.

“Over the summer, we were all thinking, 'Can we do it twice,'” Riley admitted. “Can we figure it out and put all the work in and execute to do it a second time?'”

The answer to that question has been a resounding yes, as the Jayhawks are playing deep into the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever and competing with a keen and hard-to-corral mindset that is equal parts relaxed and driven.

“I think we're really good at focusing on the now,” McNorton said. “Coach B always says the next game is the most important game of the year.”

Never has that been more true than today.

Kansas' Cassie Wait (5), Jamie Mathieu (14) and the rest of the Jayhawks wave to fans following Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Creighton, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks downed the Bluejays, 3-1, and with the win, avenged a loss to Creighton earlier in the year.

Kansas' Cassie Wait (5), Jamie Mathieu (14) and the rest of the Jayhawks wave to fans following Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Creighton, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks downed the Bluejays, 3-1, and with the win, avenged a loss to Creighton earlier in the year. by John Young


A quick look at some of KU football’s top recruiting targets in the Class of 2014

With a week remaining until the mid-year transfer signing day (Dec. 18) and the Kansas University football coaches, including new offensive coordinator John Reagan, still out on the road in search of talent, the clock is ticking on KU's 2014 recruiting class.

Unlike a year ago, when KU coach Charlie Weis signed nine junior college players in December, the next couple of weeks figure to be a little more quiet — no top-ranked players, no Dream Team talk, no unusually large haul.

In fact, it's entirely possible that just a couple of mid-year transfers will sign with KU next week, with the rest of the class waiting until national signing day in February to make it official.

High school prospects are not allowed to sign until February so, with eight of the 11 players currently committed to KU coming from the prep ranks, the Jayhawks would have to pick up commitments from the juco ranks in a hurry in order for too many of them to sign on Dec. 18.

Although getting guys on campus in time for spring practice is always a good thing, it's not uncommon to have a small crop of signees during December.

With 11 spots full in a class that theoretically could bring in 14 more players, the Jayhawks are out in full force scouring the country for talent.

Here's a quick look at some of the Jayhawks' top known targets, many of whom have taken or set up visits recently. Not surprisingly, many of them are offensive linemen:

• A.J. Allen, OL, Grossmont C.C. — 6-7, 315
The offensive tackle from El Cajon, Calif., has both Kansas and Kansas State on his long list of finalists and the Jayhawks have thrown California recruiting guru Jeff Blasko at the huge lineman. Some have said that Kansas State is the favorite for Allen, who was scheduled to visit Kansas during Sunflower Showdown weekend. He is a likely December graduate with offers from more than a dozen schools, so he's entering the nitty gritty of decision-making time.

• Matthew Boatang, CB, IMG Academy — 6-0, 180
The native Canadian, who moved to Bradenton, Fla., to get better exposure, has offers from Bowling Green, Indiana, Marshall, Nevada and Villanova. He made an official visit to KU during the weekend in which the Jayhawks snapped their 27-game Big 12 losing streak with a victory over West Virginia, and all indications are that he loved every second of the visit. Other schools, including Baylor, Florida State and Mississippi, are showing interest in the high school senior, but Boateng told JayhawkSlant.com's Jon Kirby that KU would remain near the top of his list.

• Jimmie Gipson, DE, East Mississippi C.C. — 6-0, 255
Gipson, a two-star prospect who fits the mold of KU's Buck position, recently received a visit from Weis and is in the process of wading through two dozen offers, mostly from mid-major programs.

• Craig James, CB, Edwardsville (Ill.) High — 5-11, 170
The coaching staff has been busy with James during the past several days. He had an in-home visit with Reggie Mitchell and Dave Campo late last week and followed it up with an official visit to Lawrence. James currently has scholarship offers from: Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Missouri and Syracuse.

• Kelby Johnson, OL, ASA College — 6-8, 315
The Jayhawks also have jumped in on this offensive lineman who has aspirations of playing after college, something that could favor KU's NFL-experienced coaching staff. Johnson played tackle in junior college and is expected to graduate in May. Rob Ianello is the lead recruiter for Johnson, who also has offers from East Carolina, South Florida and UAB and is receiving interest from several others.

• Dontae Levingston, OL, Santa Monica C.C. — 6-5, 285
The Jayhawks are making a late push for the offensive tackle from Santa Monica, Calif., who visited Lawrence last week for the first time. As expected, the push from KU was playing time and Levingston told Kirby that the opportunity to make an immediate impact was intriguing. He also noted that most of the programs recruiting him are small college towns and, being from Los Angeles, he was just trying to pinpoint which one had the best feel. Levingston is an expected mid-year transfer, who is expected to choose a school before next Wednesday. His list of offers include Kansas State, Memphis, Texas Tech and several others.

• Anthony Olobia, DE, Arizona Western C.C. — 6-5, 230
Olobia, another one of those hybrid, D-End/linebacker types, is headed to Lawrence for an official visit this weekend. The Jayhawks have landed a couple of players from Arizona Western during recent years so their familiarity with the program could help here. The three-star recruit also has offers from Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Utah and he is receiving interest from more than a dozen others.

Class of 2014 Commitments (as of Dec. 11, 2013)
• Jacob Bragg, 6-4, 308, OL, Nacogdoches (Texas) High -- 3-star
• Joe Dineen, 6-2, 197, DB, Free State High -- 3-star
• Bobby Hartzog, 5-11, 182, WR, Westside (Houston) High -- 2-star
• Keyon Haughton, 6-2, 295, OL, Georgia Military
• Damani Mosby, 6-3, 235, DE, Mesa C.C. -- 3-star
• Tyler Patrick, 5-11, 171, WR, The Woodlands (Texas) High -- 2-star
• Austin Stevens, 6-4, 245, DE, Montclair (N.J.) High -- 2-star
• Apa Visinia, 6-5, 380, OL, Grandview (Mo.) High -- 2-star
• Kyron Watson, 6-0, 226, LB, East St. Louis (Ill.) High -- 3-star
• Devon Williams, 6-5, 335, OL, Georgia Military
• Traevohn Wrench, 6-0, 180, RB, Gardner-Edgerton High -- 4-star

• All bio information courtesy Rivals.com.


Despite win total, KU football boasts a handful of All-Big 12-worthy performers

In the coming days, various media organizations that cover college football will be releasing their all-conference teams and a year's worth of hard work, sweat and sacrifice will pay off for a whole bunch of college athletes.

For some, landing on this all-conference team or that one will represent just another accolade in a long list that has been growing since they first started playing the game as teenagers.

For others, the honor will go down as the highlight of their career, the one memory they'll keep talking about until they're old and gray.

Often times, the teams that turn in the best seasons also produce the most all-conference players and that seems logical given the fact that the best players typically produce the best teams. But it's not always the case. And it's a shame when top-tier talent gets overlooked because it plays for a team that struggled to win games.

That's the story with Kansas football, which finished 2013 with a 3-8 record, 1-8 in Big 12 Conference play. Despite those low win totals, the Jayhawks had at least a handful of guys worthy of being placed on the all-Big 12 teams, be it the first, second, third team or honorable mention.

Here's a quick look at the most worthy candidates in order of most likely to least.

• Junior punter Trevor Pardula •
For much of the 2013 season, the first-year punter from De Anza College in California was among the best in the country. His net averages soared well into the 42-44-yard range and his ability to flip the field and pin opponents deep was a bona fide weapon. While Pardula was penalized by the national awards committees because he did not land enough punts inside the 20, it's worth pointing out that the struggles of the KU offense often forced Pardula to punt from deep in his own end, making the task of dropping kicks inside the 20 next to impossible even for NFL punters. By season's end, Pardula finished with a 43.7-yard average. He has a strong case for first-team all-Big 12 honors.

• Sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson •
It's entirely possible that I'm overlooking someone on another Big 12 team, but I think Johnson has as good a case as anyone for the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year award. The former Iowa Western safety started all 12 games during his first season of Div. I football and finished second in the Big 12 in interceptions (5), 21st in tackles (73) and also added three tackles for loss. Johnson was definitely one of the bright spots for the Jayhawks' defense this season, a game-changer, who still has two years of eligibility remaining and should become one of those guys that opponents can't quite believe is "still around."

• Senior running back James Sims •
Although he did not rattle off 100-yard game after 100-yard game during his final season as a Jayhawk, James Sims was every bit as productive as he had ever been, despite running behind an offensive line that experienced its share of growing pains and in an offense that struggled to throw the ball. Sims' 1,110 yards ranked first in the Big 12 and represented a career-high for the fourth consecutive season. In topping the 1,000-yard mark in 2012 and 2013, he became the first running back in KU history to rush for quadruple-digit rushing yards in back-to-back seasons and came within a couple hundred yards of eclipsing June Henley for the top spot on KU's career rushing list. As was the case throughout his career, Sims gained most of his yards against defenses that knew what was coming. The fact that he still was able to churn out productive games and finish with 7 touchdowns and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average speaks to his skill and desire. A strong case could be made for Sims to land on the all-Big 12 first team. I know I'd put him there, but because of KU's win total he could be a second-teamer.

• Junior linebacker Ben Heeney •
If not for a midseason injury that forced him to miss two games, Heeney no doubt would've racked up triple-digit tackles for the second year in a row and kept his spot near the top of the Big 12 tackle list. As it turned out, Heeney still enjoyed a monster season, finishing with 87 tackles in 10 games and 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and three interceptions. But it's more than Heeney's stats that make him a virtual lock for inclusion on one of the all-Big 12 teams. Anyone who watches him play, whether it's opposing coaches, media members or even his own teammates, easily can recognize that Heeney is one of the top players in the Big 12 and plays harder than nearly everybody.

• Junior cornerback Dexter McDonald •
McDonald was one of the top cover corners in the Big 12, especially early in the season. There were several games where opposing quarterbacks chose not even to test the junior-college transfer who returned to KU for a second go-around this season. And his size, speed and physicality made him a tough match-up for opposing wide receivers. McDonald finished with two interceptions and 10 pass break-ups (7th in the Big 12) and also should be given credit for helping JaCorey Shepherd — KU's starter on the other side of the field — develop his corner skills, both from a perspective of showing him the ropes and also from encouraging opponents to attack Shepherd instead.

• Junior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd •
The former wide receiver's 13 pass break-ups and two interceptions put him third in the Big 12 in passes defended, no small feat for a guy who entered fall camp still adjusting to his new position. Last season, Shepherd showed he had the raw skills to hang in the secondary and this season he showed he could play cornerback. Tested on a weekly basis, Shepherd always seemed to be up for the challenge. He may not land on any of the teams but I think he deserves at least honorable mention. Another area he could make an appearance is at kick returner, where he finished fifth in the conference with an average of 22.8 yards per kick return.

• Junior punt returner Connor Embree •
Three guys finished ahead of him in the Big 12 Conference punt return rankings and he wasn't nearly as good late in the season as he was early on, but the former walk-on at least deserves mention as a possible honorable mention candidate for his 11.4-yard average in 16 attempts.

Before we close this one down, here's a little deeper look at the job McDonald and Shepherd did this season at the cornerback position, which, in my eyes, merits both of them spots on the all-conference teams.

The following is a look at the Big 12's top pass catchers, their season averages and how each performed against Kansas:

Player (Receptions-Per-Game, Yards-Per-Game) — vs. Kansas

• Antwan Goodley, Baylor (5.4, 109.5) — 2 catches for 43 yards
• Tyler Lockett, Kansas State (6.5, 104.2) — 3 catches for 43 yards
• Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (8.2, 103.3) — 9 catches for 96 yards
• Mike Davis, Texas (4.6, 70.1) — 1 catch for 5 yards
• Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma (4.6, 55.9) — 4 catches for 47 yards
• Josh Stewart (4.5, 55.5) — 0 catches (left with injury)
• Eric Ward, Texas Tech (6.7, 75.3) — 7 catches for 122 yards and 1 TD
• Jaxon Shipley, Texas (4.7, 51.8) — 6 catches for 77 yards
• Quenton Bundrage, Iowa State (4.0, 56.3) — 3 catches for 63 yards
• Tevin Reese, Baylor (4.1, 103.0) — 4 catches for 110 yards
• Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech (5.4, 64.3) — 7 catches for 92 yards


Bill Self’s decision to start Frank Mason at PG not the end of the road for Naadir Tharpe


Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self said Thursday that freshman guard Frank Mason would start for the Jayhawks in Boulder, Colo., this weekend, when they take on CU.

So, naturally, as president and founder of the #TharpeFanClub, I, once again, caught some flack for KU junior Naadir Tharpe being sent to the bench.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand why fans so much enjoy trashing players on the teams they root for — this happens way more often with KU football than KU hoops — but that's neither here nor there. And, really, to each his own. It's everyone's right as a fan to cheer, criticize and follow the team however they see fit.

As for the move itself, I am a little surprised that Self pulled the trigger so early in the season, but I more than understand why he did it. And I think there are a couple of reasons.

No. 1, I think he's rewarding Mason and I think Mason deserves to be rewarded. He's played beyond his years, been one of the tougher players on the team thus far — if not the toughest — and shown that he brings an extra dynamic to the floor that KU really benefits from at this point in the season.

No. 2, I think Self is making this move now because he believes Tharpe can take it. Remember last year when everyone was saying that Tharpe should be starting ahead of Elijah Johnson later in the season? I think one of the big reasons Self never pulled the trigger was because sending Johnson to the bench might have lost him for the season. In this case, I'm guessing Self believes that Tharpe will be able to keep his head in there and still serve a key role as the team's sixth or seventh man. If that's true, Tharpe deserves credit, not criticism.

When people first began speculating on whether the move would or should be made, my opinion was that it was too soon. My read was this: Mason's a stud. He deserves to play more and he should be out there a ton of minutes. But you don't have to start a guy to make that happen. Remember that old adage... "It's not who starts the game, but who finishes it that matters." Besides, Mason's been great with the role he's been in so why risk changing that by putting the pressure tag of "starter" on him?

That was a couple of weeks ago, though, and things have changed since then. Tharpe's played a couple of poor games, made more than a few bad decisions and not looked like the confident, solid player I've always known him to be.

So, from where I sit, I think the move could benefit KU tremendously. But that's as much because I believe Tharpe can handle it as I believe Mason deserves it. And that's just one of the reasons the #TharpeFanClub exists in the first place.

Turn in your memberships if you want, but don't be surprised if Tharpe delivers plays as the season goes on that make you wish you hadn't.

If Tharpe tanks because of this and becomes a terrible teammate who pouts about playing time and can't be used, I'll eat crow. But I wouldn't bet even a penny that that'll happen. The guy cares, he's all about KU and winning and he'll do whatever is asked of him to help the team succeed.

It should be fun to see how this one plays out.


What’s in store (if anything) for KU football coach Charlie Weis’ staff this offseason?

We already know that offensive line coach Tim Grunhard is leaving the Kansas University football staff, so that's at least one change that KU coach Charlie Weis will make to his coaching staff.

But will there be any more?

Weis was asked that very question following KU's loss to Kansas State in the season finale and he said nothing would be done — if anything at all — until the end of the December recruiting period, which arrives Dec. 14.

Dec. 18 is mid-year transfer signing day and although the Jayhawks won't have a crazy haul of mid-year juco guys signing this year like they had last year, there figure to be at least a couple of guys who make their commitments official on that day.

Getting back to the coaching staff, Weis likely gave the answer he did for two reasons. 1. Recruiting time is precious and it would be a bad move to make a change during that period because it could cost KU valuable time and resources on the recruiting trail. 2. Even if Weis has no plans to make a change himself, you never know which members of his staff could be looking around for other opportunities or which schools might be interested in some of Weis' guys.

We've already seen a report that wide receivers coach Rob Ianello has thrown his name into the hat for the open head coaching gig at the University of North Dakota. And it seems logical to think that whether Ianello gets that job or not, he could be coaching elsewhere in 2014.

As for the rest of the staff, I don't anticipate anyone else leaving. It's difficult, because after a losing season you always assume that at least a couple of guys could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but with Grunhard already out and Ianello potentially on the move, those departures would represent change at KU's two weakest positions last season.

Here's a quick look at a few other coaching staff items of business that are worth keeping an eye on:

• If Ianello leaves, by his choosing or otherwise, not only would KU have to find a wide receivers coach, but it also would need to find a recruiting coordinator since Ianello handles both roles. Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell has done that job before and he would be a likely candidate to inherit that role again, provided he wanted it. If not, Weis could always find a receivers coach who could handle both roles like Ianello, who has been recruiting on KU's behalf during the past several days. The recruiting coordinator role is serious business, though, so if there's a need to fill that position, it won't be taken lightly.

• We learned this season that linebackers coach Clint Bowen had transitioned into the role of acting defensive coordinator, with Dave Campo focusing on his job of coaching the defensive backs. Campo and defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt worked closely with Bowen to put together the game plan each week and the move seemed to work well. The title never changed hands, though, so it'll be interesting to see if that is addressed in the offseason.

• Finally, by now you've probably read our report from last week about Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan being Weis' target to come in to replace Grunhard and become KU's offensive coordinator. The move likely would have already taken place had Rice lost to Tulane last week. But since the Owls won and advanced to the Conference USA title game, Reagan stuck around to coach in that game agaisnt Marshall, which will be played at 11 a.m. Saturday. Reagan to KU could become official any time Saturday after the game or Sunday, so keep an ear out for the confirmation.


A Joyous Occasion: Video of the KU volleyball team’s celebration after learning NCAA Tournament fate

The Kansas University volleyball team learned Sunday night that it would be hosting first- and second-round NCAA Tournament games games at Allen Fieldhouse for the second year in a row next weekend.

Here's a quick video of the reaction when the Jayhawks found out.


Keegan vs. Tait: Week 12 - This one’s for all the marbles

Like Kansas, Keegan and I laid an egg last week. Maybe it's because we both picked the Jayhawks.

So here we head into the final week of the 2013 season, all tied up with five — yep, a season-high FIVE — games different between us.

Can't build the drama any more than that. Here's a look.

Tait: 4-6 in Week 11; 79-31 overall
Keegan: 4-6 in Week 11; 79-31 overall

Kansas State at Kansas
Iowa State at West Viriginia
Baylor at TCU
Notre Dame at Stanford
Ohio State at Michigan
Duke at North Carolina
Alabama at Auburn
Clemson at South Carolina
Texas A&M at Missouri

Question: What, when and where was the first concert you attended and do you remember the warm-up act?

Kansas State 31, Kansas 21
Iowa State 23, West Virginia 20
Baylor 61, TCU 17
Stanford 34, Notre Dame 23
Ohio State 34, Michigan 23
Duke 33, North Carolina 20
Auburn 28, Alabama 27
Clemson 30, South Carolina 28
Missouri 31, Texas A&M 21
USC 35, UCLA 33

Answer: If you don't count the hundreds of times I had a front row seat to see my dad's band play throughout the Rocky Mountain region during my childhood, my first official concert was a doozy. Pink Floyd at Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado, during the summer of 1994. My dad, sister and stepmom were on the floor, about 20 rows back, and me and a buddy were two rows from the top of Mile High. Even though the set list was the same and the chords, lyrics and harmonies all identical, we saw two completely different shows. At age 16, I was just a newbie Floyd fan, and I remember thinking that the beginning of about half of the songs was the beginning of “Money.” I've learned a lot more about the band since then and realize more and more each day what a wild treat it was for that to have been my first true concert. I don't remember an opening act and, if I recall correctly, that's because there wasn't one.

Kansas State 31, Kansas 17
West Virginia 24, Iowa State 14
Baylor 42, TCU 21
Stanford 31, Notre Dame 21
Ohio State 27, Michigan 21
Duke 28, North Carolina 24
Alabama 31, Auburn 21
South Carolina 31, Clemson 28
Texas A&M 31, Missouri 28
UCLA 34, USC 31

Answer: I saw Neil Young and Stephen Stills July 5, 1976, one day after bicentennial celebration. It was the Stills and Young "Long May You Run" tour. Aztec Two Step was the warm-up act. I had been to the War Memorial many times, to see the Rochester Amerks, the Bruins' top farm club, many, many times, and St. Bonaventure once or twice. I had seen the Harlem Globetrotters, the Rochester Zeniths of what now is known as the D-League, I even had seen my brother play in the Sectionals for our high school, Bishop Kearney. But never had the War Memorial smelled the way it did that night. We stopped for pizza on the way home.


James Sims’ last stand: KU senior has one final shot at eclipsing school record


With just one game remaining in his college career — 11 a.m. Saturday vs. Kansas State at Memorial Stadium — senior running back James Sims needs 332 yards rushing to pass June Henley and take over first place on KU's all-time rushing list.

It's a long shot. At best. But given the way Sims has played throughout his incredible KU career, I'm not going to count the guy out until he's played his final snap.

There is precedent for a magical final day by a guy at the top of KU's all-time rushing list. It came in 1991, when senior Tony Sands ran all over Missouri in the season finale and set KU's single game rushing record with 396 yards on a whopping 58 carries.

Sands' monster day established an NCAA record that stood until LaDainian Tomlinson ran for 406 yards for TCU in 1999.

At the time, Sands already had claimed the top spot on KU's rushing list — earlier that season he passed Laverne Smith, who had held the top spot with 3,074 career yards — so while his big day did not vault him into the top spot, it did make it harder for Henley to track down a handful of years later. Sands finished his career with 3,788 rushing yards. Henley passed him in 1996 with 3,841.

Think about it. Back then, who in their wildest dreams would have given Sands a chance to run for nearly 400 yards against a hated rival?

Sims is no Sands in terms of running style, but he's every bit as prolific and he, too, will be facing a hated rival in his swan song.

Don't mistake this blog for me predicting that Sims is going to get the yards he needs. I wouldn't bet a dollar on it. But I thought the way his career is ending juxtaposed against the way Sands' career did 22 years ago was at least interesting enough to say Sims has a chance.

James Sims, though quiet and never flashy, has been one of my favorite athletes to cover at all levels and in any sport. He's one of those rock steady running backs who has simply shown up every day ready to get the most out of his body and give the most to his team.

If we've learned anything throughout his impressive four-year KU career, it seems that the most likely scenario is that Sims will not reach the 332 yards he needs, KU will not beat K-State and one of the greatest running backs the program has ever produced will slip away quietly and live on only in a name in tiny black print on a rushing list that, one day, someone else will try to climb.

For me, though, Sims will be a guy I'll never forget. I wish him nothing but the best in the future and hope he gets the chance he deserves in the NFL, be it with the Denver Broncos or any other team.

Heck, I'm such a big fan of James Sims the person, I'd probably still root for him if he wound up playing for the Raiders, Chargers or Chiefs.

Here's to a heck of a career. And one more for the road.


Weis, Grunhard issue statements on offensive line coach’s upcoming resignation

Late Wednesday evening, Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Tim Grunhard released a joint statement confirming what we reported earlier in the day.

Grunhard is stepping down after Saturday's game against Kansas State following two seasons in Lawrence as the O-Line coach. Below are the statements from Weis and Grunhard, whom sources told the Journal-World will be replaced by Rice offensive coordinator John Reagan in the near future.

According to the source, Reagan will join the Jayhawks as the O-Line coach and offensive coordinator. Read the link above for more, if you haven't already.

Just wanted to make sure you didn't miss these statements.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Charlie Weis
“Tim Grunhard and I had prepared a joint statement concerning his future that we intended to release on Sunday after the Kansas State game. We were trying to avoid being any distraction. Tonight we are releasing the statement.”

“Sunday, Tim Grunhard is stepping down as offensive line coach so he can spend more quality time with his family. We began talking about this a month ago. Next year, all four of his kids will be in the same high school at the same time. Tim and his wife, Sarah, are great parents, but Tim felt it wasn’t fair to put that all on her. We started as friends and that friendship has only grown stronger. I wish Tim and the entire Grunhard family happiness and success.”

Tim Grunhard
“As of Sunday I will be leaving my position as offensive line coach at the University of Kansas. With the time commitment and challenges of major college football, I felt I was being delinquent in my responsibilities to my family. With three kids at Bishop Miege and one more attending next year, the burden was too great for my wife, Sarah, to handle on her own. I would like to thank Coach Weis and the rest of the Kansas football staff for teaching me the valuable lessons of loyalty and due diligence. I plan on continuing my relationship with the KU community that I have grown to love and respect.”

Charlie Weis
“We have already hired a replacement for Tim. When that coach becomes available we will provide more details.”


Charlie Weis press conference notes: Nov. 26

KU football coach just wrapped up his final Tuesday press conference of the 2013 season and, as expected, he spent a lot of time hyping up the fact that "It's K-State week!"

Beyond this week's match-up and what he's learned about the rivalry, Weis talked a little about the immediate future beyond Saturday, which, to no one's surprise, will include a heavy dose of time on the road recruiting reinforcements for the returning roster.

Here's a quick look at most of the topics he discussed:

• The updated depth chart lists Montell Cozart as this week's starting quarterback. Weis said it would've been easy to put Jake Heaps on top but he didn't want to risk Cozart going into the tank heading into the offseason and still likes the different dynamic the freshman brings to the field.

• Weis says Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday because of the significance it holds for being a holiday that allows you to reflect on all of the things you're thankful for and all of the blessings you have in your life. He'll encourage his players to really think about that and is doing that himself, too. Even took time to thank the media for doing jobs and covering the team. Genuine moment.

• Weis said this game — 11 a.m. Saturday vs. K-State — is all that matters right now because it gives KU a chance to end the season with a bang and some momentum heading into the offseason. There is no bowl game. This is it for KU. And that's how they're treating this week.

• Big reason K-State is so important: You're not playing just for football team and football program. Playing for fan base and Kansans and would love nothing more than to give fans a chance to go into work or grocery store on Monday in the position to get the last jba.

• Weis says he was never a part of Mizzou rivalry so he doesn't get that one. All his focus goes toward KSU. Says Notre Dame wanted to treat every game like it was the biggest but there it was always USC.

• Weis on K-State taking in walk-ons: I think that's always a mentality that can work and one he likes to do. He's always liked it and he's trying to get it going here at KU, too. Says the approach works well in Kansas... Having guys in state wanting to go to the state university is a great thing.

• As he's said in the past many times, Weis reiterates that he's tried to emulate, not steal, things from what Bill Snyder has done at Kansas State. Looking at how K-State had done it was one of first things he did and one of the biggest things he noticed was the heavy juco influence on Snyder's rosters. Snyder's been able to fill out his roster/lineup with juco guys — sort of picking his spots — as well as anyone in college football.

• Weis says Snyder does not get enough credit for being a brilliant offensive mind. One of best things he does is mess with O-Line splits. One play it'll be a few inches, the next it could be a few feet. Makes it hard on the defensive linemen and also on coaches to find tendencies in K-State offense. Also says Snyder is as good as anyone at power running game with quarterbacks. Not just zone read type guys who try to get to the edge, more like true running backs.

• With a young guy like Montell Cozart, you love 'em up at the end of a bad game, then you hammer 'em in the next day or two and then you love 'em up again. Weis said they're at the start of the second round of loving him up. Weis says Cozart's bad game at Iowa State would be a learning experience but he'd never

• Weis said Tedarian Johnson has been a pleasant surprise and added that Johnson juco teammate Andrew Bolton, who has red-shirted this year to rehab a knee injury also has made great progress academically. Both are equally important and Weis is encouraged by both.

• When asked about previous teams' success running the ball against K-State, Weis said: I just know we're gonna have to play a heck of a lot better than we have recently to have a chance to win the game. Weis also said the loss of safety Ty Zimmerman is significant for KSU. Said KSU has given up fewer points with Zimmerman in there and more points when he's sat out.

• Weis said he'll head out on the road to recruit first thing Sunday following K-State game and he'll be out there until Friday hitting it hard for Class of 2014 commitments.

• Weis said he'll go after some high profile guys and highly ranked guys (mostly juco) at positions of greatest need. Said that should be obvious, which, most likely, puts wide receiver at the top of the list.

• Weis said Nick Harwell has been as good as could be, both as a wide receiver and also as a teammate and member of the community. Even went as far as to say that he's reached the point where he's stopped worrying about him. Seems very pleased about the maturity Harwell has shown.


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