Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
For the most part, it seems that fans of Kansas University basketball are a pretty superstitious bunch.
Whether that's derived from the great tradition at the school that dates back decades or the recent success, it seems that “signs” are everywhere and can be taken from just about anything, especially during March.
There are, of course, reasons behind many of the superstitions and they seem to straddle both sides of the fence. Some fans like when KU gets a No. 1 seed and is considered one of the favorites. Others prefer the Jayhawks to be the under-the-radar bunch with less attention and therefore less pressure placed on them.
And then, of course, you've got the thousands of fans who wear the same gameday shirts, sit in the same seats or watch the games at the same establishments, all in the name of keeping the peace.
With that in mind, I couldn't help but wonder how being picked by the experts to reach the Final Four makes most KU fans feel. Nervous? Excited? Proud? Satisfied?
Earlier today, I saw an ESPN.com Insider column titled “Experts Final Four Picks” and naturally I was compelled to click on it. It's always fun to see who other people are picking and why, regardless of whether they're named Dick Vitale and Digger Phelps or Donald Duck and Dave Grohl.
It's not that I'm searching for the answers. I'm a firm believer that nobody out there has even the slightest clue how things are going to go, and that's what makes the Big Dance so wonderful and so captivating every year no matter where it's played or which teams are playing. Besides, I've got my own bracket, thank you very much, and I feel pretty good about how it looks — at least today.
But, still, it's interesting to see what others are thinking and saying about the four teams who will advance to Atlanta. Here's a quick rundown of the “Experts Picks” from ESPN.com.
As you can see, two of the five included Kansas. My question to you is this: Does that make you feel better, worse or the same about the Jayhawks' chances?
(PS: I'm still searching the web for more “expert picks” and will add them to the bottom of this list as I find them so check back often.)
Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, VCU, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, Kansas, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Final Four: Louisville, Gonzaga, Kansas, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Final Four: Louisville, Gonzaga, Florida, Miami
Title: Louisville over Florida
Final Four: Louisville, New Mexico, Florida, Miami
Title: Florida over Louisville
Final Four: Louisville, Wisconsin, VCU, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana
Title: Ohio State over Michigan
Final Four: Louisville, Gonzaga, Florida, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Final Four: Louisville, New Mexico, Georgetown, Miami
Title: Louisville over Miami
Final Four: Louisville, Gonzaga, Georgetown, Miami
Title: Louisville over Miami
Final Four: Louisville, Ohio State, Georgetown, Indiana
Title: Louisville over Indiana
Having trouble filling out your bracket?
Maybe this can help. I stumbled upon it the other day via Twitter — where else? — and I've probably tried it four or five different times since discovering it.
In a word, it's awesome. But in greater detail, it's the Wall Street Journal's Blind Bracket exercise. To the best of my understanding, it's an actual bracket pool, with prizes available and the whole bit. I haven't actually entered it yet, but it seems like an interesting way to increase your odds of winning something this March.
Here's how it works:
Just as you do in a normal bracket, you pick each round, game by game, but instead of knowing the identity of the teams you're picking, you're simply given two profiles and asked to pick one. The profiles, which come complete with fake names such as “Boom Boxes” or “The Ice Cube Trays,” include six categories, a brief summary, seed and RPI ranges and vague conference affiliation, such as mid-major or high major.
Values are assigned to each of the six categories — basically, the 1-5 star system, with five being the best — and that's how you determine which team you're picking.
You go through blindly the entire way, picking 32 games in Round 2, 16 games in Round 3, 8 games in Round 4, 4 games in Round 5, 2 games in Round 6 and, of course, the title game.
After it's all over, your picks are recorded and the site spits out the completed bracket.
The first one I did yielded the following results: Final Four – Duke, Gonzaga, Florida and Indiana, with Duke topping Florida in the title game. I'm not crazy about those picks, considering none of them are in my actual bracket picks, but maybe that's a sign that I should reconsider before making it official. As for KU, I picked the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight in my blind bracket and had them losing to Florida. Not bad.
Anyway, if you want to try your luck, here's the link. Enjoy!
Friday is a big day for several former Kansas University football players hoping to make a name for themselves with pro scouts.
The Jayhawks annual Pro Timing Day will run from 10:30 a.m. to about 1 p.m. and will feature all of the same types of drills that took place at the NFL Combine last month.
Two Jayhawks who participated at the Combine — Tanner Hawkinson and Bradley McDougald — are expected to go through a few of the drills to try to enhance their Combine numbers. The rest of the Jayhawks expected to compete are guys who are hoping to enhance their draft stock and/or prove that they're worthy of free agent contracts following April's draft.
During the past few years, this event typically has drawn representatives from 6-12 different NFL teams. However, because of the fact that longtime NFL assistant coach Charlie Weis is now KU's head coach — not to mention longtime NFL coach Dave Campo as the defensive coordinator — this year's pro day is expected to draw interest from nearly twice that many teams, perhaps more.
A good showing Friday in the 40-yard dash or the bench press or vertical jump test does not guarantee these guys anything. Many of them already are on the radar of NFL teams because of their postseason all-star game performances. Others are hoping Friday is the day they wow the scouts. After all, it only takes one team to like you, as former Jayhawks and undrafted free agents Chris Harris (now a starter with the Denver Broncos) and Steven Johnson (a special teams regular with Denver) have proven.
Here's a quick glance at the guys who will participate:
Tunde Bakare, LB
Skinny: Hard-charging linebacker determined to make it in honor of his brother, Omani, who passed away a few years ago.
Top skills: Speed. Physicality. Determination.
Prediction: Bakare's mix of speed, power and drive should earn him an invitation to a camp as an undrafted free agent.
D.J. Beshears, WR
Skinny: Undersized wide receiver who made a living using his power and speed to roll through and by defenders.
Top skills: Speed. Toughness.
Prediction: If he tests well, Beshears may get a look as a kick returner but is most likely destined to seek playing time in another league, perhaps the Arena League or the Canadian Football League.
Greg Brown, CB
Skinny: “Lockdown Brown” never quite lived up to that nickname in college but it wasn't for lack of opportunity. Faced the Big 12's best week-in and week-out for two straight years and that should him ready for what's ahead.
Top skills: Closing speed. Athleticism. Vision.
Prediction: I like Brown's chances to make a roster and think he'll have to do it the same way his good friend Chris Harris did — as an undrafted free agent.
Dayne Crist, QB
Skinny: Crist's trouble at KU are well-documented, but just because he struggled during his second senior season does not mean he's out of the mix to make an NFL roster. He did well in postseason all-star games and if he tests well, which I fully expect he will, someone may be intrigued enough to give him a shot.
Top skills: Size. Arm strength. Football IQ.
Prediction: I think Crist's skill set along with an endorsement from Charlie Weis allow him to catch on somewhere. He won't be drafted, he might not make a team, but I think he'll get a shot and I could see him being a practice squad guy with the potential to move up.
Tanner Hawkinson, OL
Skinny: Four-year starter at tackle has a solid mix of size and athleticism and is very much on the NFL radar.
Top skills: Footwork. Consistency. Athleticism. Versatility. Intelligence.
Prediction: If Hawkinson were just a bit stronger, he'd be a second- or third-round pick. As it stands, I think he'll go in the fourth or fifth round. The scouts I've talked to like what he brings to the table.
Trevor Marrongelli, OL
Skinny: Anchor of KU's line last season at center, who also has experience playing guard. Undersized by NFL standards, but a tireless worker who'll give it everything he has.
Top skills: Intelligence. Versatility. Work ethic.
Prediction: Great dude, but my guess here is that Marrongelli ends up being just another solid college player and puts his degree to work.
Bradley McDougald, S
Skinny: The move from wide receiver to safety changed McDougald's future. As a receiver, he would've had, at best, an outside shot at getting picked up by an NFL team. As a safety, he's a likely draft pick.
Top skills: Athleticism. Strength. Power. Hands.
Prediction: It's hard to say if McDougald will be selected in April's draft before or after Hawkinson, but I definitely believe he'll be picked. And I also believe he'll go on to have a solid NFL career.
Toben Opurum, DL
Skinny: Still relatively new to defense, but has good strength and plays at a high speed.
Top skills: Versatility. Intelligence. Motor.
Prediction: Opurum may not have a true position on defense in the NFL, but there still exists the possibility that the former KU running back could catch on as an NFL fullback.
Daymond Patterson, WR
Skinny: Electric play-maker in the open field who uses speed and quickness to make up for what he lacks in the way of size.
Top skills: Elusiveness. Speed. Confidence.
Prediction: Patterson may get a look as a punt or kickoff return specialist.
Kale Pick, WR
Skinny: All-around good athlete who was one of the hardest working guys on the team throughout his college career and benefits as a WR from previous QB experience.
Top skills: Intelligence. Hands.
Prediction: Pick could be viewed as an intriguing prospect because he is so reliable.
Mike Ragone, TE
Skinny: Former Notre Dame player who played one season at KU and stayed healthy for the first time in ages.
Top skills: Blocking. Toughness. Heart.
Prediction: Ragone will give it all he has but his body may not be where it needs to be to land a roster spot.
Lubbock Smith, S
Skinny: Longtime contributor in KU's secondary battled injuries throughout his career but always kept battling.
Top skills: Physical. Relentless. Versatile.
Prediction: Smith's a better athlete than he's given credit for but whether that translates to the NFL is another question.
Josh Williams, DE
Skinny: Former Nebraska defensive end started every game during his lone season in Lawrence.
Top skills: Size. Intelligence.
Prediction: Williams figures to be invited to training camp.
Duane Zlatnik, OL
Skinny: Widely regarded as one of the strongest players on KU's roster, Zlatnik was flat-out dominant at times during his junior and senior seasons.
Top skills: Strength. Mean streak.
Prediction: Size, strength and experience alone should get him a look.
The Cincinnati Bearcats officially broke them in for the rest of the world to see earlier Wednesday during their 61-44 victory over Providence in the Big East Tournament, and the expectation is that the Kansas University men's basketball team will do the same during its opening game of the Big 12 Championship on Thursday.
We're talking the uniforms that sent the college basketball world into a frenzy a few weeks ago, of course, as the odd and somewhat bold pattern dreamed up by the folks at adidas certainly has changed the way college basketball teams look on the floor.
As the top seed in this year's Big 12 tourney, the Jayhawks will wear the white version of the wild look. According to most — fans I spoke with, Twitter-dwellers and other writers — the white uniform is the less outlandish of the two, with the blue version bearing the brunt of most of the criticism.
While the initial fan reaction, at least according to Twitter, seemed to reveal that the new look was universally despised by KU fans, a couple of quick phone calls on Wednesday painted a much different picture.
First, I called Jock's Nitch in Downtown Lawrence to find out just how well the uniforms had been received by the public. What I was told surprised me. According to general manager, Ryan Owens, the store sold out of all of its shorts — both white and blue — and even sold more than a few of the jerseys.
Wait. There's more. Somewhere around 15-20 folks even put their name down to snag dibs on the first batch of shorts in Owens' second order. One of them was someone many of you might know — Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers, through Twitter, asked Owens to hold a pair of the white shorts for him.
Overall, Owens said he believed the younger generation liked the look a lot more than most, but also said that he was surprised by the reaction to the blue uniform when people saw it in the store.
“They're different, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “It's definitely something out of the box. But when people get into the store, they actually wind up liking the blue more.”
Rather than stopping there, I thought I'd make a quick call to KU, too, to find out how the new duds had been received on campus. It turns out the reaction was nearly the same. The KU Store, which is connected to Allen Fieldhouse, sold through all of its shorts, both colors, and has made a dent in the re-order, as well. KU Store also sold most of its youth jerseys in both blue and white.
According to the people at adidas, the motivation behind unveiling the wild look was to shake things up during the most fun time of year for college basketball.
After dabbling with something different during last year's postseason with the fluorescent colors worn by schools like Baylor and Louisville, adidas simply wanted to be make another splash in the market and show off something fun on a huge stage.
One person I talked to at KU said they had heard that this specific style of uniform had been selling like crazy across the country, too, with Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Baylor, UCLA and Louisville — all adidas schools — joining the Jayhawks in wearing the wild look this postseason.
The whole thing is part of a huge marketing campaign by adidas, complete with mannequins in the windows of Dick's Sporting Goods stores as well as spreads in the East Bay retail magazine as well as Slam Magazine.
KU coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks' plans were to wear them for one game and that he didn't think it would go beyond that. He did leave the door open for an encore performance, though, by saying that it depended on how well they played in them.
It did seem pretty certain that KU would not be wearing them in the NCAA Tournament.
KU will open postseason play tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Kansas City, Mo., against the winner of tonight's West Virginia-Texas Tech game.
Because last Saturday was my first chance to get a quick glance at KU's new-look football program, my "What caught my eye" feature ran a little long.
So here's the second part of a list of things that stood out to me as I took in about an hour of KU's third practice of the spring — and first with pads.
If you missed my video from last Saturday's Hannah & Friends clinic, be sure to check that out. The Jayhawks and participants really seemed to have a great time. Many of them are still talking about it today. Also, if you missed Part I of what caught my eye, go take a look at that, too.
If you're all caught up, here's Part II:
• Got my first look at the newly formed offensive line and I liked a lot of what I saw. One thing that really struck me was the fact that while the current starting five was working its way through drills — Pat Lewandowski, Mike Smithburg, Dylan Admire, Ngalu Fusimalohi and Aslam Sterling — four guys with starting experience (Randall Dent, Gavin Howard, Damon Martin and Riley Spencer) were standing by watching them. There's a lot to be determined still with this group, but I like its potential and depth.
• Speaking of Lewandowski, I think he could be a real surprise this season. It looks like he's got great feet — perhaps even better than last year's left tackle, Tanner Hawkinson — and he's a fierce competitor. The only thing holding him back from being truly ready in the past was his size. But now that he's up to 290 pounds, he appears to be coming along nicely.
• Freshman running back Colin Spencer was involved in the offensive sets the Jayhawks ran during Saturday's practice and I think that's a sign of things to come. I wouldn't make too much of it, but I also wouldn't dismiss it. It's a crowded backfield and there's a ton of talent in front of him, but Spencer's a solid athlete with big-time speed. If he can pick up what they're throwing at him, I think he'll have a role in the offense.
• Long snapper John Wirtel, who announced on signing day that he was walking-on at KU next season, was in attendance watching practice with his family. Seemed like nice people and I was impressed more than once by the way Wirtel's eyes were wide open while taking in what was unfolding in front of him. Recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello came over to the family during a break to welcome them. That was cool to see, too.
• There was no “Coach Weis Song of the Day” on Saturday, but there was a different familiar sign from last season — the exercise bike. Saturday, defensive back Tyree Williams and linebacker Schyler Miles were logging miles on the bike. Miles we knew about, Williams was new.
• JaCorey Shepherd, the junior wide receiver turned defensive back who wore No. 25 last season, has switched over to No. 24 this year.
• It was nice to see former Jayhawks, Maxwell Onyegbule (player) and Louie Matsakis (coach) back in crimson and blue, too.
Before I get into the specifics of what I saw at Saturday's KU football practice, let me explain one thing.
We were told before the spring began that the media would get one day to go out and watch practice but we don't know yet when that day will be. Saturday, those of us who attended KU's Hannah & Friends football clinic at Anschutz Sports Pavilion were lucky enough to observe an hour of KU's third practice of the spring, the team's first in pads.
The clinic itself was great. It was really cool to see so many of these players get into working with the people with special needs. Lots of smiles, lots of laughs, lots of fun. That made the hour of practice a bonus, but it definitely was great to get a look at some of the new guys, which was where I spent most of my time during the practice session.
I just wanted to get that explanation out of the way so you would know that the “What Caught My Eye” feature would not be as regular of a thing this spring. But I hope for it to return full bore in August.
For now, here's what caught my eye from Saturday's action:
• Junior college transfer Tedarian Johnson is a freaking truck. Most recruiting services had him listed at 260 pounds throughout his recruitment, but the guy is a legit 290. And he moves well. I don't know how he'll fit into KU's plans on its suddenly-deep defensive line, but his size definitely caught me by surprise.
• All of that talk about junior defensive tackle Keon Stowers as a leader seems legit. You could see it even during the clinic with the Special Olympians but it really showed up during drills in practice. I think part of the reason Stowers has emerged, seemingly out of nowhere, is that (a) he battled injuries last year and could not play to his potential, (b) he didn't want to overstep his bounds and wanted to be respectful of last year's seniors and c) KU really needs leaders on defense. Stowers is one of the real good dudes on this team and it's cool to see him stepping up.
• KU coach Charlie Weis was not afraid to get after these guys — none of the coaches were. I heard a lot of yelling and sensed a lot of urgency from the staff during individual drills. I think they're trying to set the tone for the season early and, by doing that, are reminding these guys that losing is not acceptable. I didn't hear names or see numbers, but at one point I even heard Weis yell, “He's gonna take your job.” Nothing like some good, ol' competition.
• Although limited, Saturday's practice gave me my first extended look since last year's spring game at how QB Jake Heaps works. And even that was not that great of a representation of who he is and how he operates since we all knew then that he could not play in 2012. I really like his demeanor. He's a natural leader, carries himself with confidence and crispness and seems to be a really easy guy to want to follow. We didn't see a ton of throws so that'll have to wait for another day, but there's no question that this is his team and his offense.
Here's a quick video I put together from today's KU football clinic with about 100 Special Olympians. The event, which was organized by Hannah & Friends, the not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with different abilities founded by KU coach Charlie Weis and his wife Maura, included the team and its participants running through 10 different skills stations and an hour-and-a-half of drills, laughs and smiles.
The new KU student group, Hannah & Jayhawk Friends, which, Maura Weis said is the fastest growing organization on campus, also helped make Saturday's fun happen.
After the clinic was over, I got to stick around for an hour of the Jayhawks actual practice and saw some new looks and new faces, so I'll have more thoughts from that later today.
For now, enjoy the video from a great event!
At this time last year, many of the coaches and even a few of the players in the Kansas University football locker room were new to Lawrence and new to the KU fan base.
Hard to believe, isn't it?
It sure doesn't that seem that way. Maybe it's just the desire to be the debacle that was the Turner Gill Era in the past or maybe it's the personality and presence that the new crew possesses. Either way, it seems as if head coach Charlie Weis and company have been in town for a lot longer than 15 months. And I'm not the only one that feels that way.
“It does a little bit,” said KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus when I asked him if it felt like he'd been around longer than one season. “Because we've invested so much here. And not just in this building but my family and being in town. I mean, we love being a part of this community and this campus.”
Therein lies one of the biggest reasons that even though the record looked worse the first year of the Weis era was an absolute success. Never did Gill truly seem like a part of the community. Never did he seem to have genuine pride in KU or the program. That's not a knock. It's the truth. And it's not that way for Weis.
Weis, a man with homes, ties and connections in many different areas of the country, already has made it clear that Lawrence and KU are important to him and his family. He brought his son with him and moved his annual Hannah & Friends golf tournament to nearby Firekeeper Golf Course just months after arriving in town — that's scheduled for late June and should be a blast, by the way. In addition, when he's not out recruiting, Weis is a regular at KU basketball games. And he's not just there. He's into it. He puts off the same vibe about KU's other sports through his Twitter feed by routinely commenting on and congratulating the women's basketball, volleyball and track and field teams.
When it comes to football, Weis' staff routinely follows his lead down whatever path he sees fit. So maybe that's one of the biggest reasons that the beginning of Year 2 feels more like the beginning of Year 5. Either way, these guys are comfortable here and that can only help the program move forward.
“I do feel like I've been here (a while) but it becomes obvious that I haven't when I don't know a lot of people yet,” Powlus said. “We're still learning people and meeting people and it's great. It's a welcoming community, both on campus in athletics and in the community. We feel like we've been here forever and we'd love to stay here forever.”
Although March tends to be all and only about basketball around these parts, there is some decent-sized football news from Allen Fieldhouse today.
I just learned that Gardner-Edgerton running back Traevohn Wrench is in the building today and has orally committed to the Jayhawks.
Wrench, a junior and four-star prospect according to Rivals.com, was one of the top backs in the state of Kansas last season.
During a four-game stretch late in the 2012 season the 6-foot, 191-pound bruiser ran for 1,277 yards and 17 touchdowns, sometimes logging as many as 40 or 50 carries in a single game.
Here's the story our prep writer Benton Smith did on Wrench in advance of GEHS's meeting with Lawrence High in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs last fall.
We'll have more on the commitment in the near future. This is a big pick-up for the Jayhawks, as Wrench would come in at a time when the Jayhawks would be losing James Sims and Taylor Cox to graduation.
OK, for this week's final set-the-scene-for-spring-football blog, we'll dive into sleepers.
Rather than just pick a few and speculate how they might fit in or what roles they may play, I'll go position-by-position and give you one player whom I could see making a splash that people may not be expecting.
Now bear in mind that this is being written before the start of spring drills and that time, let alone preseason camp, could change things drastically. But, for now, here are the guys I could see stepping up in some way, shape or form this season.
*Disclaimer: Just because they make this list does not mean I'm saying they will make a huge impact.*
Quarterback: Tough one. I'll go Jordan Darling. Jake Heaps looks like the man and Michael Cummings is a known name as his back-up. I don't expect Darling or fellow-freshman Montell Cozart to play, but one of them figures to get a leg up on the other through scout team reps and if Darling can put up the high school numbers he did while moving to a new school each year, I think he could contribute in a positive way as the show team QB in 2013.
Running back: Freshman Colin Spencer. Weis recruited this guy as an athlete/defensive back and already has moved him to running back. That was partially to cover his butt in terms of depth but more so because Spencer can play. I fully expect him to factor into the offense in some manner right away.
Wide receiver: Ishmael Hyman. Remember how Tre' Parmalee played a much bigger role than anyone expected last season? That's what I keep thinking of when Hyman's name pops up.
Tight end: Trent Smiley. I've long been a fan of Smiley's ability to block. He may be as good as anyone on the team. And because of that, you know he's gonna be out there. Playing time leads to production and even though Smiley won't be asked to do much more than block, I wouldn't be surprised if he came away with three or four touchdowns by default this season.
Offensive line: Let's go with Joey Bloomfield. True freshmen rarely do much on the offensive line at KU, but there's something about Bloomfield (probably his 6-6, 305 size) that makes me scratch my head and wonder if he might be ready for some kind of role a little earlier than most we've seen in recent years.
Defensive line: Keon Stowers. Did not make the splash I thought he would last season, but did participate in plenty of snaps and seemed to improve as the season went along. I've heard his name mentioned more than a few times when it comes to offseason workouts and leadership, and, at 6-3, 290 and athletic, Stowers has the make-up to be a pest in the middle.
Linebacker: Victor Simmons. As a true freshman, I had Simmons pegged as a future star at safety. But then the coaching change happened, he moved positions and my prediction fell flat on its face. Simmons is a big-time athlete who can run and during the past two seasons has bulked up nicely to 6-2, 206 pounds. I doubt he plays much, but if he gets a shot, that speed and his physicality could become a factor much in the way Prinz Kande's was before a knee injury cut his season short last year. (Kande was another good option here, by the way, but you never know how a guy's gonna respond to a serious injury like that).
Cornerback: JaCorey Shepherd. I'm going with Shepherd as a sleeper here only because he's still new to the position and I think he's going to be very good one day. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has raved about the former wide receiver since Day 1 and we saw flashes of what he could do last season. Coming off a full offseason devoted to defense, I think Shepherd has a chance to be a terrific corner.
Safety: Dexter Linton. Linton fared well when thrust into action because of injuries last season and seems to be the most proven safety among KU's returners. We may have seen his ceiling in those games and the guys Weis & Co. brought in during the offseason may have more talent, but it would not surprise me if Linton played a decent-sized role this season.
Specialist: Ron Doherty. One kicker (Trevor Pardula) was given a scholarship to help eliminate KU's problems in the kicking game and another (Michael Mesh) was encouraged to walk-on with the idea that he could compete for starting place kicking duties right away. I know Doherty has been strictly average during the past couple of seasons, but what if those moves (and getting past an injury that plagued him for most of 2012) are exactly what the senior with experience needs to deliver a breakout season?
The wait and speculation are finally over. Mark Mangino is back in coaching.
The former KU boss, who led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 season and Orange Bowl championship in 2007, has been hired by Youngstown State as assistant head coach and tight ends coach. Mangino also will serve as the Penguins' recruiting coordinator.
During the past several months — and, really, the past couple of years — Mangino has been linked to jobs of all kinds all across the country, from a possible answer for head coaching vacancies to a return to Oklahoma as an assistant and all things in between.
It appears Mangino, a YSU graduate, took the Youngstown State job because of his familiarity with the program and the region.
"This is a homecoming for me," Mangino said in the school's official release announcing the hire. "I'm delighted to be at a great school with a great football tradition with a team and coach poised to do great things. Every coaching job I have ever taken was a rebuilding project, but this program is not rebuilding. This program has the potential to have a very good year and that's a credit to Eric Wolford, his staff and his team."
Also in the release, Mangino elaborated about his respect for Wolford, who played for Mangino at Kansas State and coached with him at KSU when Wolford was a graduate assistant working with the offensive line.
"I am a big believer in Coach Wolford's 'no shortcuts' approach that focuses on getting results on and off the field,” he said. “This school is near and dear to my heart and I'll work very hard with Coach Wolford to get the job done."
Mangino resigned from his post at KU following the 2009 season after compiling an eight-year record of 50-48 and earning consensus national coach of the year honors in 2007.
He guided the Jayhawks to one-third of their all-time bowl appearances (four out of 12 in 125 seasons); led KU to bowl games in consecutive years for the first time ever; posted three consecutive bowl victories for first time in school history; had eight-win seasons in consecutive years for the first time since 1908-09; had six wins in four straight seasons for the first time since 1903-06; won 20 games in a two-year period, the most in school history; brought the program into the national polls for the first time in 11 campaigns and saw the passion for KU football explode as the school set home attendance average records in a four-year span.
Prior to his arrival in Lawrence, Mangino played a key role in the rebuilding process at both Oklahoma (1999-2001) and Kansas State (1991-98).
On Wednesday, we jumped into the pre-spring position-by-position breakdown with a quick look at the Kansas University football program's three strongest position groups.
Today, it's time to look at the top three positions of concern.
When coming up with this list, I couldn't help but think back to my thoughts at this time last year, when it looked like the offense would be a well-oiled machine and the defense would be the biggest concern.
It didn't turn out that way, of course. The offense struggled — largely because of the passing game — and the defense, though not statistically lights out, performed well above the level I expected and kept KU in a lot of games throughout the season.
We'll see if something similar plays out this year or if both units improve and stick a little closer to one another. According to this list, if you're picking one or the other to worry about this time around, it looks like the offense may be the bigger concern.
1. Offensive Line
This is the one position tied to KU's hopes for success more than any other this season and all the Jayhawks are asked to do is replace three multi-year starters, two of which have a legitimate shot to play professional football.
Putting the O-Line on the concerns list does not mean that the Jayhawks don't have pieces in place to cobble together a solid line, but doing so is far from a certainty and that's why the position is No. 1 on this list. Not only is quality play on the offensive line crucial for KU to keep its potent running game going, but it also is a must if the Jayhawks hope to get improved play out of the quarterback position.
There is a nice mixture of returners and newcomers on the line heading into the spring, so the potential for a solid unit is certainly there. But it won't show up overnight and at a position that requires five individuals functioning as one entity, that's a major concern. At least for now.
KU coach Charlie Weis appears to be satisfied with the things he has done to upgrade KU's woeful kicking game in the offseason. He handed out a scholarship to juco transfer Trevor Pardula and enticed Hutchinson C.C. standout Michael Mesh to walk on. Both should compete with returning dual-threat guy Ron Doherty for starting jobs right away.
But neither of the newcomers has done it at this level yet and until they do — and until they do it with some consistency and regularity — KU fans likely will continue to cringe when it's fourth-and-four at the opponent's 25-yard line.
3. Wide Receiver
The fact that this group is a concern says more about last year than this year because KU got very little from its receivers in 2012 and most of the top pass-catching threats graduated. The cupboard is not bare, though, and there are plenty of new (and a few old) faces who could step up and instantly erase the painful memories of not being able to throw the ball in 2012.
As you all surely know by now, KU went the entire season without throwing a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. That's a freaky stat. Flat-out unreal. I don't think that will happen again this season — for starters because I think Heaps will be solid and, beyond that because I think there's some talent in this unit — but until we get into spring ball a little bit and, really, until we see these guys do it in September and beyond, you have to wonder exactly what you have here.
Returning threats Andrew Turzilli and Tre' Parmalee appear to be two of the more solid options here, and the arrival of newcomers Rod Coleman, Mark Thomas and Ishmael Hyman (along with Justin McCay finally being eligible) make me think this group could be decent. But again, until they actually get out there and deliver you have to wonder what will become of a position that seems to be a strength at nearly every other Big 12 university.
For those of you who may have missed this week's daily pre-spring blogging, here's a look back at the previous entries:
Monday: Talking red-shirts: A look back at the guys who sat out in 2012 and what's in store for their futures.
Tuesday: Top KU football story lines as we head into spring football: No, seriously, spring.
Yesterday, we looked at some of the story lines surrounding the Kansas University football program that figure to make spring practice — which begins Tuesday — interesting and exciting for a number of reasons.
Today, let's dive in a little deeper and begin our look at KU's strengths and weaknesses by position.
We'll start with the three positions in which KU appears to be in the best shape and follow it up on Thursday with the three positions that carry the biggest concern.
If a position doesn't make either list, figure it's in decent shape — not great but not a major problem either.
All right, let's get to it.
1. Running Back
I'm sure this comes as absolutely no surprise. Not only did the Jayhawks have one of the best running attacks in the Big 12 last season, but they also are bringing back their top three ball carriers and still have some pretty incredible depth.
Senior James Sims headlines the list and will look to lead the team in rushing for the fourth straight season. The two guys who carried the load while Sims served his suspension last season — junior Tony Pierson and senior Taylor Cox — bring talent and versatility, along with even more experience, to the position. And then you still have junior Brandon Bourbon and freshman Colin Spencer. It remains to be seen if Bourbon can break his way into the rotation and there's already talk of Spencer having some kind of role due to his dynamic speed and athleticism.
A lot of this unit's success will depend on what KU gets from its revamped offensive line (spoiler alert for Thursday's blog!!!) but between this group of talent and KU coach Charlie Weis' ability to disguise and tweak the run game, the Jayhawks appear to be ready for another big year on the ground.
KU's best defensive player from 2012, Ben Heeney, returns to lead a group of linebackers that all of a sudden looks pretty stout.
Juco transfers Marcus Jenkins-Moore and Samson Faifili have the look of instant starters and if that trio makes up KU's first string, the second unit that backs them up will have a good mix of talent, toughness and experience. Schyler Miles, Jake Love and Huldon Tharp are the most notable names on that list, with veterans Darius Willis (yeah, he's back to linebacker), Prinz Kande and Victor Simmons, along with speedy rookies Courtney Arnick and Kellen Ash, backing them up.
I know it can be dangerous to count too much on transfers, but Jenkins-Moore and Faifili appear to be bad dudes and their addition significantly upgrades the position. What's more, this group seems to have some of the best depth of any on the team.
3. Defensive Line
It seems crazy to be writing this when the defensive line was without question the biggest weakness on the team just two seasons ago, but Weis and company have made it a point to upgrade the D-Line during the past couple of offseasons and, although we won't be able to fully evaluate the group until September, it appears they have done just that.
Tackles Marquel Combs and Ty McKinney appear to be big-time, disruptive forces in the middle and ends Chris Martin and Andrew Bolton may very well bring a dimension of nasty pass-rushing off the edge that has been missing around here for quite some time.
It's not just the new faces that make this position one of strength. Returners Jordan Tavai and Keon Stowers have another offseason with strength coach Scott Holsopple under their belts and there still exist a couple of up-and-comers in Ben Goodman and Michael Reynolds, who could explode onto the scene at any minute.
This group also gets depth, experience and leadership from veterans Kevin Young and Keba Agostinho and also still has a couple of potential diamonds in the rough in red-shirt freshman Tyler Holmes and newcomer Tedarian Johnson. For my money, it's the depth here and number of quality options that pushes this position into the top three.
Competition for starting spots and playing time may be more intense on the D-Line than anywhere else. Should be fun to watch.
All right. Now that we got past the Kansas University football players who didn't get into the action last year, let's take a quick look at what we should watch for from them and the guys who did.
Here's a glance at the top five story lines heading into spring drills, which begin one week from today, snow or no snow.
1. What's up with the quarterback position?
Here we are, three full seasons removed from Todd Reesing's final game as a Jayhawk and we're still searching for a suitable replacement. Jordan Webb, Quinn Mecham and Kale Pick all got their turns during 2010 and 2011, and Dayne Crist and Michael Cummings each had a crack in 2012. While those guys collectively had a couple of decent moments, none of them proved to be the answer or even anything close to it. So now the focus turns to Jake Heaps, the BYU transfer who sat out last season and appears to be the favorite to be the guy this year. Making a complete read on Heaps — good or bad — based on what he does this spring would be foolish, but it will at least be the first meaningful evaluation we get to make.
2. What role will familiarity play for the Jayhawks?
I asked KU coach Charlie Weis in December if Year 2 would more closely resemble Year 1.5 because of the crazy amount of turnover and long list of potential new starters on both sides of the ball, some of whom already are here and others who will arrive in June. His answer was a clear no, which led me to believe that he felt pretty good about what his players learned and retained from his first season in town. Coaching transitions are never easy and the second year is almost always better and smoother than the first. The players know what to expect both in terms of coaching style and schemes and the coaches benefit from a having a full year of relationships with their new guys under their belts.
3. Which player becomes “the next big thing?”
Each spring, somebody steps to the forefront and becomes the hot name on offense, defense or both. Last spring, it was Michael Reynolds, who was a monster in the spring game but parlayed that into only minimal success during the season. The year before it was Christian Matthews, who, despite stacking back-to-back solid spring games on top of each other, made next to no impact as a receiver (though he did play a key role as a Wildcat QB). So who will be the guy (or guys) that step up this spring? Always fun to watch, awfully tough to predict.
4. Roster/position changes?
It happens just about every year and we've already heard about one move — incoming freshman Colin Spencer will start at RB instead of DB — but Weis promised that more moves are on the way. In fact, the word he used to describe how many tweaks had taken place was “several.” My best guess is that means all kinds of things — a few guys have left the program, others have changed positions and others may even be looking into new roles while playing the same position. The only clue he gave us was that nobody had jumped from offense to defense or defense to offense. I'm sure this topic will be among the first things he addresses at his pre-spring news conference next Monday, but even after that it will be interesting to see how the changes impact the program and develop throughout the spring.
A quick look at the most updated roster revealed the following changes:
• Dexter Linton has moved from safety to cornerback
• Keba Agostinho is listed at defensive end
• Place kicker Nick Prolago is no longer on the roster
• Punter Sean Huddleston is no longer on the roster
• Long snapper Justin Carnes is no longer on the roster
• Despite rumors about his departure, Huldon Tharp remains on the roster
5. Will the coaching shuffle have any impact?
Linebackers coach DeMontie Cross left for TCU this offseason and stepping in to replace him is longtime Jayhawk Clint Bowen. Bowen knows his stuff and, more importantly, he knows the players. So it seems safe to conclude that the loss of Cross will not hurt the defense much at all. Beyond that, though, there are a handful of other new faces in new places throughout the coaching staff and it'll be interesting to see how quickly those guys can settle in and earn the respect of the players. Many of them are familiar faces simply shuffled into new roles, so that will help. But spring is where it will start.
Talking red-shirts: A look back at the guys who sat out in 2012 and what’s in store for their futures
With Kansas University's spring football set to begin one week from tomorrow — crazy, isn't it? — I figured now was as good a time as any to jump into a week's worth of blogs that serve as a bridge from 2012 to 2013.
For starters, the week-long fun will be a good refresher for those of you who may have forgotten exactly how last year went — either by choice or because of the passage of time.
Beyond that, it'll be a good way to show you that now that the end of February has arrived, I'm ready to rev things up and tackle the double-duty that lies ahead of covering the hoops team's run to March Madness and the football team's next new beginning.
I was on vacation last week — Cabo San Lucas; it was awesome! — so things were a little slow in the football department. They won't be any more.
As many of you may already know, last year's spring football began in late March, with the spring game taking place April 28 and the first weeks of spring drills coming at the tail end of KU's run to the national title game on the basketball court.
This year, the two will overlap unlike anything I can remember — with the 2013 spring game taking place on April 13 — and my challenge is to make football's preseason at least almost as relevant as basketball's postseason. There are plenty of story lines that will help make that happen and we'll also benefit from the football squad taking a week off for spring break while the basketball team eyes the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament, almost assuredly in Kansas City, Mo.
Anyway, enough about what's coming up. I just thought it would be a good idea to set the scene.
For today's entry, we'll look back, oh so briefly, at the players who did not play in 2012 — guys who red-shirted and saved a year of eligibility while also learning the ropes and getting bigger, faster and stronger with the rest of the squad. Just because these guys did not play during head coach Charlie Weis' first season in Lawrence does not mean they're yesterday's news. A few of them could represent hope for tomorrow. Finding out which ones will be the tricky part.
So to give you at least a fighting chance of figuring it out, here's the list of relevant 2012 red-shirts along with a quick blurb about each.
• Greg Allen, 5-11, 204-pound cornerback: There's been a lot of talk about the incoming juco class of defensive backs, but I still have extremely high hopes for Allen, a natural, who has the frame to play safety (should they elect to go that way) and the skills to play corner.
• Courtney Arnick, 6-2, 195-pound linebacker: Arnick possesses the one thing that can get you playing time on a Dave Campo defense faster than any other — speed. The last time I saw Arnick, I remember thinking to myself that he looked a little bigger than I remembered. He's still undersized, but on this defense and in this conference, there's a place for that.
• Brian Beckmann, 6-6, 300-pound offensive lineman: Beckmann's tough and he worked his butt off for absolutely no playing time as a true freshman. That'll go a long way toward earning him the respect of his teammates and coaches and I think this guy could be solid if/when he gets the opportunity.
• Sean Connolly, 6-7, 287-pound offensive lineman: Hurt for nearly all of 2012, I saw Connolly do more work on the stationary bike than anything else. Jury's still out, but he's definitely behind.
• Tyler Holmes, 6-3, 286-pound defensive lineman: I don't know much about Holmes, but I do remember this: He was determined to play as a true freshman and I doubt his hunger has died down. Looks good in pads but plays a very crowded position.
• Neal Page, 6-4, 230-pound defensive end/linebacker: A late pick-up in the Class of 2012, Page seems, to me, to be built from the same mold as Ben Heeney and Jake Love — tough, fearless and doesn't care a lick about his own well-being when he's out there. Those are great traits for football players to have. Whether they benefit Page remains to be seen.
• Tevin Shaw, 5-11, 185-pound safety: I loved what I saw from Shaw during preseason camp last August. He's pretty well put together, moves smoothly and has a lot of natural football instincts. My guess is the red-shirt year was used to add size and it'll be interesting to see (a) if that happened and (b) what that did to his fluid movement.
• Jordan Smith, 6-5, 230-pound tight end: Big target who has good hands and models his game after Dallas Cowboys great Jason Witten. Smith was buried behind a couple of older guys last year but with no truly proven tight ends in front of him any longer, he has a shot to make some noise. Even if that doesn't happen this year, I like the look of Smith's future.
That's a quick look at this year's red-shirt freshman. Now for the other guys who sat out last season but could be in line to make an impact in 2013:
• Jake Heaps, 6-1, 208-pound, junior, quarterback: Sat out after transferring from BYU and did everything he could to connect with teammates and learn the offense. The one question I get asked more than any other is: Can the Heaps kid play? My answer is always: I think you'll like what you see.
• Eric Kahn, 6-1, 185-pound, sophomore, kicker: Transferred to KU from Mid-America Nazarene University and found his way into the conversation for his ability to bomb kickoffs. With two new kickers (Trevor Pardula and Michael Mesh) added to the roster through recruiting and senior Ron Doherty returning, it'll be interesting to see if Kahn's still relevant.
• Justin McCay, 6-2, 215-pound, junior, wide receiver: Transferred to KU from Oklahoma and sat out after having a waiver request and appeal denied by the NCAA. It might have been the best thing to ever happen to him. Sitting out allowed the Bishop Miege grad to develop a rapport with Heaps on the scout team and also work his way through the trials and tribulations of leaving OU and returning home. McCay has a chance to be a big-time receiver but he'll only be as good as the effort he puts in. At this point, I expect him to be a legit contributor. Just don't expect him to be Calvin Johnson.
• Nas Moore, 6-1, 170-pound, junior, cornerback: Still pretty raw after only recently moving from wide receiver to cornerback. Seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit. Still a nice looking athlete with speed.
All right, now that the signing day dust has settled and the most recent recruiting class has become an official part of Kansas football, let's take a quick look at what this all means for the Jayhawks in 2013.
I'll have plenty more reaction and analysis of this class and signing day itself throughout the day and in the coming days — including a probable podcast later this afternoon — but I wanted to get it all started with a fun and informal look at what I think this class can bring to KU.
So let's break it down into a handful of three-player categories and follow it up with a quick and crude look at what I think the first first-string might look this fall.
Three biggest impact players:
1. Marquel Combs, DT
2. Marcus Jenkins-Moore, LB
3. Isaiah Johnson, S
Three most needed players:
1. Andrew Bolton, DE
2. Chris Martin, DE
3. Cassius Sendish, CB
Three most electric players:
1. Ishmael Hyman, WR
2. Colin Spencer, RB
3. Kevin Short, DB
Three biggest dark horse contributors:
1. Mike Smithburg, OL
2. Dexter McDonald, DB
3. Ngalu Fusimalohi, OL
Three guys who need time:
1. Jordan Darling, QB
2. Montell Cozart, QB
3. Ben Johnson, TE
Three hardest hitters:
1. Samson Faifili, LB
2. Andrew Bolton, DE
3. Chris Martin, DE
Three fastest fliers:
1. Ishmael Hyman, WR
2. Rod Coleman, WR
3. Kellen Ash, LB
Three guys I liked more after Weis' presser
1. Mark Thomas, WR
2. Zach Fondal, OL
3. Tedarian Johnson, DL
Where this class ranks nationally:
25th – The Sporting News
45th – Rivals.com (7th in the Big 12)
50th – 24/7 Sports.com (8th in the Big 12)
55th – ESPN.com
My way-too-early look at 2013 first-stringers:
QB – Jake Heaps
RB – James Sims
RB – Tony Pierson
WR – Justin McCay
WR – Rod Coleman
TE – Jimmay Mundine
LT – Zach Fondal
LG – Damon Martin
C – Mike Smithburg
RG – Ngalu Fusimalohi
RT – Aslam Sterling
DE – Andrew Bolton
DT – Ty McKinney
DT – Marquel Combs
DE – Chris Martin
LB – Marcus Jenkins-Moore
LB – Ben Heeney
LB – Samson Faifili
CB – Cassius Sendish
CB – JaCorey Shepherd
SS – Isaiah Johnson
FS – Kevin Short
Stay tuned for much, much more throughout the day and the rest of the week and check back a little later for a podcast with our impressions and reactions from signing day.
3:34 p.m. Update:
Hey folks, just got back from KU coach Charlie Weis' signing day news conference and have posted Weis' full audio.
A lot of insightful stuff in there, so check it out if you haven't.
Here are my first reactions from what Weis said. I posted most of these to Twitter so please bear with me. Trying to get audio posted and stories written so you can have more analysis. So hopefully this will work for now.
• Weis definitely believes he has a good class coming in and it sounds like a lot of these guys are gonna play right away...
• After listening to Weis talk about the signees, I feel much better about being bold in predicting so many starters. Especially on D
• It should be noted that RB Marquis Jackson is done playing (health reasons) and newcomer Colin Spencer will move to RB
• Really got the sense that Weis (new to juco recruiting) is a big fan of bringing juco guys in. Likes maturity, age, toughness, etc.
• Weis said Marquel Combs & Zach Fondal are not here yet but he didn't sound worried. Could be June, could be sooner. Probably June.
• Weis said today that he laid out a three-year recruiting plan for every position with his staff recently. Guy's a builder.
• Weis also said one benefit of easy day & getting letters so early (most in by 10 am) was that staff could watch film on 2014 class.
Finally, one more signing day photo, this one courtesy of Chad Rader of 810 WHB.
11:31 a.m. Update:
It looks like Colton Goeas has signed and faxed his letter from Hawaii. That rounds out the list of expected signees, as all 14 guys who were supposed to sign today did in fact sign.
That's always good news for any program but certainly good news for KU's coaches, who like this class and feel good about the potential of the players they're bringing in.
From this point on, any news regarding KU pick-ups would certainly qualify as a surprise.
We'll have plenty more reaction and analysis throughout the day, including audio and reaction from KU coach Charlie Weis' 1 p.m. news conference.
For now, here's a quick look at Goeas and then I'm off to grab some lunch and get ready for the presser. Thanks for checking out the blog throughout the morning and be sure to check back this afternoon for much, much more.
• COLTON GOEAS, LB
Bio: 6-2, 245-pound linebacker from St. Louis High in Honolulu,. High school teammate of former KU target Reeve Koehler (offensive lineman who chose Arkansas) who packs a punch and plays a physical style. Chose Kansas over offers from Hawaii, Tennessee, UCLA and Washington State.
Most resembles: Joe Mortensen. Goeas is a physical player who lacks great foot speed but makes up for it with effort and ferocious energy. He might not come with the meanstreak and crazy look that Jo-Mo possessed, but it's not because of a lack of trying.
Potential impact: Think about guys like Ben Heeney and Jake Love. Both found their way onto the field and into key roles because of the way they sacrificed their bodies and played at one speed and without regard for their bodies. If Goeas can work himself into that kind of player and improve his speed, he'll have a chance to surprise in a year or two.
10:46 a.m. Update:
Just got a text from linebacker Marcus Jenkins-Moore, who said he was about to fax his letter to KU.
MJM sent a follow-up text that simply read, "All smiles, man. All smiles." The guy has been looking forward to this day and this point in his life for a long time.
As soon as Jenkins-Moore becomes official, that will leave just Honolulu's Colton Goeas as the only committed member of the Class of 2013 still left to sign. With the time difference, Goeas should be coming up a little later, but I'm sure it'll be well before 1:00 p.m. because that's when KU coach Charlie Weis has scheduled his signing day press conference and I wouldn't think he would've set it for then if he thought he might not be able to talk about one of his signees.
Sit tight and we'll let you know as soon as Goeas' letter arrives.
Until then, here's more on Jenkins-Moore, my pick for the guy most likely to become a fast fan favorite in this group.
• MARCUS JENKINS-MOORE, LB
Bio: 6-3, 210-pound linebacker from Pierce C.C. in Woodland Hills, Calif., who describes his game as “relentless” and chose KU over offers from a dozen other BCS-conference schools including K-State, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech.
Most resembles: No one. There have been a lot of good linebackers come through KU during the past 5-10 years, but none of them have the skill set that MJM brings to the table. He's a tenacious and physical presence who can play in space and run as well as any running back KU's had lately.
Potential impact: Huge. Has the look of an immediate starter and should significantly upgrade KU's speed and physicality at linebacker.
10:04 a.m. Update:
Linebacker Samson Faifili's letter of intent has been received by KU.
Faifili was definitely one of the more excited guys to sign that I talked to. Here's what he had to say a couple of days ago when asked about the anticipation of his big day.
"I am too excited. This is a big moment of my life and my career. I've been waiting for this exact moment for six years. The biggest and most important thing for me is that I can tell my mom and dad that they don't have to pay for school anymore. I cannot wait to have my name on the back of my jersey. And I can't wait to get things started at KU!"
Here's more on Faifili:
• SAMSON FAIFILI, LB
Bio: 5-11, 240-pound linebacker from American River C.C. in Sacramento, Calif., committed to Kansas in mid-November, choosing KU over Hawaii, Iowa State, Nevada and Oregon State.
Most resembles: Steven Johnson. Faifili's one of those big boppers who plays with unparalleled passion and energy. Johnson, though not necessarily always known as a big hitter, could lay the wood and led the Jayhawks in tackles as a junior and senior merely off of effort alone.
Potential impact: Huge. Faifili is the type of linebacker who plays downhill and likes to hit. There's always room for a player like that. He should contribute immediately and could be a huge part of KU's defense as soon as 2013.
9:53 a.m. Update:
Should be about 10 minutes out from Marcus Jenkins-Moore making it official, but I thought I'd pass along word that I just received about Spencer.
He will not be signing a letter of intent today but not because he has changed his mind or anything like that. It's merely a situation where, since he graduated early and enrolled at a four-year school, he's not allowed to sign a national letter of intent because he's no longer considered a prospect. He did, however, sign a financial aid agreement in December and, of course, is a member of the team and is already on campus.
Just more of a clarification than anything else. I didn't want people (like myself) sitting around waiting for Spencer to sign all day when he won't. Early graduates actually never end up singing letters of intent. It's just one of those weird and quirk rules but it does nothing to his chances of being on the team or playing.
Just for the heck of it (and because I already did it), here's a quick look at Spencer:
• COLIN SPENCER, ATHLETE
Bio: 5-10, 179-pound athlete from Woodrow Wilson High in Dallas. Played cornerback, wide receiver and quarterback in high school. May graduate early and enroll at KU in time for spring football.
Most resembles: Jake Sharp. Has great speed, is one of the strongest dudes his size in his class and has the ability and versatility to play a number of different positions. Also a very confident football player.
Potential impact: Serious. Spencer's just a true freshman but he already is on campus and will go through spring ball, which typically increases the chances for immediate playing time tremendously for freshmen. Rumor has it that KU's coaches would like to see Spencer on offense more than defense and that could mean slot receiver and/or running back.
Prediction: Solid offensive contributor.
Back to waiting...
9:36 a.m. Update:
Cross two more off the list or add them to it if that's how you roll.
Jon Kirby reporting that he confirmed fax sendings with juco wide receivers Rodriguez Coleman and Mark Thomas.
Here's a quick look at both guys, as well as the updated list:
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• Isaiah Johnson
• Kellen Ash
• Jordan Darling
• Andrew Bolton
• Montell Cozart
• Kevin Short
• Rodriguez Coleman
• Mark Thomas
Of the players who were previously committed to KU, we're now down to Marcus Jenkins-Moore, Colton Goeas, Samson Faifili and Colin Spencer. And I can't see any of those four hitting a snag along the way.
• RODRIGUEZ COLEMAN, WR
Bio: 6-3, 195-pound wide receiver from Garden City C.C., who chose KU over Cincinnati and led the Jayhawk Conference with 64 receptions and 973 yards last season.
Most resembles: Dezmon Briscoe. Now, don't take that to mean that Coleman is going to be an all-Big 12 performer and an automatic NFL draft pick. He could be. But that's an awfully high ceiling. This comparison is merely based on their style of play. Coleman's a very fluid receiver who can make plays down the field and also has similar size to Briscoe.
Potential impact: Huge. It's hard to imagine him not having a role somewhere. He led the Jayhawk Conference in yards and receptions last season and that experience and his proven ability to make plays should give him a leg up on a lot of KU's receivers.
Prediction: Second or third WR.
• MARK THOMAS, WR
Bio: 6-2, 210-pound wide receiver from Nassau C.C. in New York. Solid, physical wideout chose KU over UConn and Marshall.
Most resembles: Johnathan Wilson. There's nothing that flashy about Thomas but when surrounded by good talent he fits in, much the way Wilson did as the third receiver on the teams with Briscoe and Kerry Meier.
Potential impact: Given KU's need for quality bodies at the position, Thomas could work his way into a decent role quickly. Not getting to campus until June won't help his cause, but the opportunity to slide in as a rotation receiver this fall certainly figures to be there.
Prediction: Battling for a spot in the regular rotation.
9:17 a.m. Update:
And with that comes a big sigh of relief... Fort Scott Community College defensive back Kevin Short, who created a bit of a scare on Tuesday by flirting with New Mexico late, has signed and faxed his letter of intent and is now, officially, a member of the KU football program.
Short was definitely the biggest question mark heading into today, so getting this one locked up early is great news for the Jayhawks.
Here's a quick look at Short:
• KEVIN SHORT, DB
Bio: 6-2, 185-pound cornerback from Fort Scott C.C. Earned first-team NJCAA All-American honors last season and chose Kansas over multiple offers from BCS programs. Tuesday flirtations with New Mexico appeared to be much ado about nothing.
Most resembles: Bradley McDougald. Athletic, good ball skills and a ton of confidence. Short can play corner, safety and return kicks. He'll have to go to work in the weight room to become as productive as McDougald, but the potential certainly is there.
Potential impact: Solid. Again, there are all kinds of openings in that KU secondary and Short should be a guy who competes for regular playing time somewhere back there.
Prediction: On the field a lot, with KU playing nickel and dime coverages.
9:09 a.m. Update:
Cozart's letter is in, which brings the total to eight. May hit a little lull here for the next hour as we wait on those guys out west to join the party.
Marcus Jenkins-Moore should be next. Told me he was signing at 8 a.m. Cali. time, which would be 10 a.m. here.
Here's the updated list:
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• Isaiah Johnson
• Kellen Ash
• Jordan Darling
• Andrew Bolton
• Montell Cozart
8:57 a.m. Update:
Gotta figure we're getting close for Bishop Miege QB Montell Cozart. He told me the other day that he would have a signing party around 3 p.m. today but also said that he would be faxing his letter well before that.
I'm checking on his status right now.
Here's a quick look at Cozart, another local kid with tremendous talent and potential.
• MONTELL COZART, QB
Bio: 6-2, 180-pound quarterback from Bishop Miege High in Kansas City. Played high school football under current KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard.
Most resembles: Mark Williams. Like Williams, who was the man for KU's 10-2 team in 1995, Cozart is tall, lean, athletic and a true quarterback. He does a little bit of everything really well.
Potential impact: Many people have speculated that Cozart is a position change waiting to happen, but it sure seems like he'll get every opportunity to show he can play quarterback first. Most of his reps early in his career figure to be with the scout team, but any reps are better than no reps and a year or two of working with Scott Holsopple could do wonders for Cozart's chances.
Prediction: Red-shirt, unless he can beat out Darling for that third-string spot, which is certainly within the realm of possibility.
8:39 a.m. Update:
This may have made its way around already, but I'm also seeing reports that John Wirtel, one of the nation's top long snappers, will join Whitfield in becoming a preferred walk-on at KU.
Wirtel, who stands 6-3, 207, has performed well at many of those specialists camps and appears to be a very solid pick up.
Still waiting for more letters...
8:21 a.m. Update:
Looks like monster defensive end Andrew Bolton can be added to the official list. This never seemed in doubt, but getting it done is huge for KU. I've heard nothing but great things about this guy and many I've talked to have described him as an absolute beast.
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• Isaiah Johnson
• Kellen Ash
• Jordan Darling
• Andrew Bolton
• ANDREW BOLTON, DE
Bio: 6-3, 280-pound defensive end from Hinds C.C. in Raymond, Miss. Clocked at 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, Bolton also had offers from Iowa, LSU and Mississippi State.
Most resembles: No one. Not Jake Laptad, not Josh Williams, not Toben Opurum, not even Charlton Keith. Bolton plays at a speed and with a physical passion that few recent KU players have had.
Potential impact: Huge. Bolton has the look of an immediate starter and should significantly upgrade KU's ability to rush the quarterback. Even if he's not a starter, he'll play early and often.
Prediction: Starting strongside defensive end.
8:05 a.m. Update:
Jon Kirby over at JayhawkSlant.com is reporting that SM East QB Jordan Darling also has faxed in his letter, bringing this morning's total to six.
Never had much luck getting ahold of Darling.
Here's a quick look at the big, athletic Sunflower League QB.
• JORDAN DARLING, QB
Bio: 6-4, 226-pound quarterback from Shawnee Mission East High in Kansas City. Dominated summer camps and picked the Jayhawks over Kansas State.
Most resembles: Adam Barmann. Like Barmann when he arrived, Darling brings good size and great athleticism. His senior season at SM East left a little to be desired, but don't let that fool you. This kid has prototypical size, a big arm and huge upside.
Potential impact: It took both Michael Cummings and Turner Baty a while to get Weis' offense down last season, and those were two guys who already had been through the college football grind for a season. Darling's future is bright, but his impact seems to be a couple years out.
Prediction: Third-string QB who, like Turner Baty last year, will red-shirt if no one in front of him gets injured.
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• Isaiah Johnson
• Kellen Ash
• Jordan Darling
7:57 a.m. Update:
--- SURPRISE ALERT ---
Each year on signing day people ask about possible surprises. Naturally, fan bases at all schools would love to see one of those Top 10 guys who are still undecided pick their school and make it feel like they hit the jackpot.
At Kansas, the ceiling for such surprises is obviously a little lower, but the Jayhawks may have landed a guy who qualifies as a very pleasant surprised.
Michael Whitfield, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound “athlete” out of Marian High in Mishawaka, Ind., has Tweeted out the following message: “Next year. Lawrence.”
I haven't heard too much about Whitfield until today, but a little digging revealed that he went to the same school as KU long snapper Reilly Jeffers and he may be in line to join the program as a preferred walk-on.
The guy has good size, is regarded as a great athlete and earned all-conference honors as a running back as a senior.
Here's what his coach had to say about him before the start of the season:
"He's fast and he's very elusive," Marian coach Reggie Glon said. "Michael has put on some weight where he was minus a little bit on the inside run game, he's developed that. He's a dual threat running and catching the football."
Again, I realize this isn't the home run pick-up that all fans dream up, but this kid has some upside and, as we've seen, the coaching staff is simply doing all it can to add athletes, guys who can run and play in space. Whitfield appears to be one of those guys. It'll be interesting to see if he makes it here and, if he does, how he develops.
Here are some highlights:
7:41 a.m. Update:
Also hearing that LB Kellen Ash has faxed in, bringing the official total (so far) to five:
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• Isaiah Johnson
• Kellen Ash
Here's a quick look at Ash:
• KELLEN ASH, LB
Bio: 6-3, 194-pound linebacker from Parkway South High in Missouri. A three-star prospect, who committed to KU last April.
Most resembles: Courtney Arnick. I know we haven't seen Arnick play a down at KU yet, but we have seen film. And, like Arnick, Ash is one of those undersized linebackers who can fly.
Potential impact: KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo often talks about adding guys who can run and play in space. That, Campo says, is what it takes to compete in the Big 12. Ash certainly has the chance to be one of those guys, but he's also probably a year or two away.
7:32 a.m. Update:
Just got a text from Iowa Western DB Isaiah Johnson, who said he's getting ready to sign. Here's a look at Johnson, who I think has a chance to be one of the bigger impact guys in this class.
• ISAIAH JOHNSON, DB
Bio: 6-1, 210-pound safety from Iowa Western C.C. Helped lead IWCC to a juco national title while leading the team with eight interceptions. Was named an NJCAA honorable mention All-American.
Most resembles: Justin Thornton. Thornton was a great athlete who had a natural ability to make plays when the ball was in the air. Johnson's the same type of player and, to KU's benefit, plays a little bigger than Thornton, who made it to the final cut with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent and had one of the more underrated KU careers in recent memory.
Potential impact: Enormous. Not only does Johnson have big-time ability and solid experience, but he also comes in at a time when jobs in the KU secondary are up for grabs.
7:27 a.m. Update:
New Jersey prep star Ishmael Hyman, a 6-foot, 169-pound wideout who played in the International Bowl in Austin, Texas, last night is the latest to send his letter in.
Hyman signed and faxed from Austin, where he and several others who played in last night's all-star game were treated to a signing day breakfast by the International Bowl folks.
Here's a look at Hyman, who brings the total number of letters in to three:
Signed, sealed and delivered:
• Joey Bloomfield
• Ben Johnson
• Ishmael Hyman
• ISHMAEL HYMAN, WR
Bio: 6-foot, 169-pound wide receiver from St. Vianney High in Holmdel, N.J. Lightning quick playmaker who earned MVP honors at the Chesapeake Bowl in December chose KU over offers from Boston College, Purdue, Rutgers, Syracuse and others.
Most resembles: Charles Gordon/Daymond Patterson.
Potential impact: With the departure of Patterson and D.J. Beshears, there certainly seems to be an opening for a playmaker in the slot. Hyman has great wheels and is explosive. The only question will be if the guys who are here before him (think Tre' Parmalee, Colin Spencer) put enough distance between themselves and the dynmaic wideout before he gets to town.
Prediction: Seems like a good red-shirt candidate. But then again, so did Tre' Parmalee last year.
7:17 a.m. Update:
Ben Johnson video from YouTube.
7:08 a.m. Update:
Just for fun, as we wait for some of these central time zone guys to get started, here's what my signing day war room set up looked like not so bright but oh so early this morning.
Nothing fancy, but room to work. Thanks for checking out the blog!
7:01 a.m. Update:
Up next, I'm expecting to see something from local prospect Ben Johnson, a tight end from Basehor-Linwood High.
Johnson was the first in the class to commit to KU, way back in the February of 2012.
With that in mind, signing day has taken longer to arrive for Johnson than most. That's why he's so pumped about it finally being here.
"I will be signing as early as i can on Wednesday," Johnson told me recently. "I'm really excited to finally sign the paper and get this thing started. I committed over a year ago and I've been waiting for what feels like forever.. I just thank god for the opportunity he has put in front of me and am glad I get to play for the Jayhawks! "
Here's a quick look at Johnson:
• BEN JOHNSON, TE
Bio: 6-5, 230-pound tight end from Basehor-Linwood High near Kansas City, Kan., was one of the first players in the class to commit.
Most resembles: Jordan Smith. Physically, Johnson, like Smith a season ago, looks ready to compete. He's big, athletic and can run and catch.
Potential impact: With a lot of experience ahead of him, Johnson faces and uphill battle to get immediate reps, but he provides KU with good depth and a pleasant future at the position.
6:46 a.m. Update:
Just got the above photo from Bloomfield. Looks sharp in that suit and cap. On to the next one, which should come in around 7 a.m.
The fun's just beginning!
6:16 a.m. Update:
Bloomfield, like many of these other guys, will be hosting a signing ceremony at his school around 3:15 p.m. this afternoon in the Fine Arts Center at his high school. But the official part should be over with any minute now.
Here's a nice YouTube feature from last summer on Bloomfield with a few highlights.
Original post, 6:01 a.m.
Good morning KU football fans. I hope you've got your coffee handy, maybe a nice pastry and are ready to hammer away at that refresh button. We're certainly going to keep you busy this morning.
It's hard to believe that another signing day already is upon us. It seems like not that long ago that we were sitting in Mrkonic Auditorium listening to KU coach Charlie Weis talk about the “new guys” he was bringing in and now we're already on to a second — perhaps even third, depending on your perspective — set of “new guys.”
This year's class figures to be one of the most entertaining to follow in recent memory. Who knows how many of these guys will pan out or become big-time players for KU, but the hype is certainly there and, it's safe to say that the group as a whole certainly does not lack confidence.
This morning, we'll be tracking the letters of intent of 15 KU commitments. Ten others already signed in December and many of them are on campus, taking classes and preparing for spring ball, which, by the way, is now less than a month out. Crazy!
As for the 15 guys who we're tracking this morning, it seems like things should be pretty straight forward for nearly all of them (famous last words, right?).
We already experienced a bit of a wildcard on Tuesday, when Fort Scott C.C. defensive back Kevin Short took to Twitter to announced he was switching his commitment, only to rethink it and stick with KU in the long run. If that's the only so-called “wrinkle” the Jayhawks experience during this year's signing day madness, that's not bad.
There, of course, is always something wild and crazy that pops up, be it a late commitment, a totally new name out of the blue or something unforeseen altogether. So, as we try to keep tabs on the guys we know are signing, I'll also be keeping an eye, ear and nose out for any other potential goings on.
With it just now hitting 7:00 a.m. on the east coast, some of the first letters could be on their way to the fax machines any minute. So, let's get after it.
By my calculations, Louisville, Kent., offensive lineman Joey Bloomfield, of Ballard High, should be one of the first members of the Class of 2013 to send his letter in to the football office.
Here's a quick look at Bloomfield. We'll have similar capsules on all of the signees throughout the morning, as well as quotes, photos and reaction from their big days. In addition, Weis is hosting a press conference at 1:00 p.m. CST.
Here we go!
• JOEY BLOOMFIELD, OL
Bio: 6-6, 305-pound offensive tackle from Ballard High in Louisville, Ky., who chose KU over offers from Air Force, Colorado, Houston, Kansas State, San Diego State and Wyoming.
Most resembles: Riley Spencer. KU has not brought to campus too many high school lineman with the kind of size and athleticism that Bloomfield possesses. Spencer, who could be one of KU's starting tackles this fall, came in at 6-6, 270, and Bloomfield has 35 pounds on him.
Potential impact: It's rare for a true freshman offensive lineman to contribute right away, but with all kinds of openings on KU's offensive line, at both first- and second-string spots, there's a chance that Bloomfield, with a killer camp, could make his way into the mix. He's most likely a very promising piece for 2014 and beyond.
4:12 p.m. Update:
Just heard back from Kevin Short, who informed me — in all caps — that he was "GOING TO KU FOR SURE."
Short said he simply felt uneasy about what he was being brought in to do and wanted to talk with Charlie Weis and Clint Bowen about his role.
No harm, no foul, I guess.
I'd like to thank Kevin for getting me sharp before tomorrow's big day. I'm ready.
See you all in the morning.
3:38 p.m. Update:
In light of the whole Manti Te'o fiasco, it's certainly worth noting that it's hard to trust anything that doesn't come from the horse's mouth, so that's why it seems like a smart move to say that KU may still have a shot at Short.
The latest post to his Twitter account backed that thought:
just got off the Phone with the head man Weis we talked about the situation 2marr i will make it known #RockChalk shawty
That's all we know for today. I'm still trying to reach Kevin, but, either way, it's all about tomorrow and the letter and the fax. We'll know then.
I don't think KU's out of this yet.
On the eve of national signing day, the Kansas University football program learned that Fort Scott Community College cornerback Kevin Short, a first-team All-American last season, has switched his commitment to New Mexico.
At around 2 p.m. today, Short posted on Twitter the following message: "I will be signing my NLI to the University of NewMexico i appreciate the long hard support from everybody but I have to do what I have t ..."
There is very little information out there at this point about why Short changed his mind but the possibilities seem to range from everything to academic concerns to a simple change of heart.
As of last Friday, the 6-2, 185-pound cornerback told me that he had been under a lot of pressure but that he was still planning to sign with KU.
I checked in with defensive tackle Marquel Combs, the unofficial leader of KU's "Dream Team 2013" movement to see if he had heard anything from Short today and Combs told me that Short had not been texting him back.
Efforts to reach Short myself, so far, have also proven unsuccessful.
We'll see how this whole thing develops, but it looks, for now, like KU has lost a pretty solid target and that the number of players expected to sign tomorrow has dropped from 15 to 14. If that holds, KU would have three spots remaining in the Class of 2013, should it choose to fill them.
Stay in touch with KUSports.com today for more on Short if anything becomes available and, as always, wake up with us bright and early tomorrow for my annual signing day blog that tracks the progress of KU's commitments all morning.
With national signing day now less than 24 hours away, all kinds of stories about signing days past make their way to the forefront of people's minds.
From famous tales about fax machine fiascos to power classes and last-minute shockers, the stories are always a favorite of mine, even if I've heard many of them before.
Although most (maybe all) of them had nothing to do with KU, they're still interesting reads for die-hard football fans who can't get enough gridiron action in the offseason.
With that in mind, here are a few quick links to some of the more entertaining flashbacks as well as a couple of interesting stories about the cost of recruiting and how rankings tend to pan out.
Enjoy, and make sure you're back here bright and early Wednesday for this year's edition of our live signing day blog. I'll be up and at 'em with the earliest signees and will be tracking the fun all morning as I wait to head up to KU coach Charlie Weis' signing day press conference at 1 p.m.
KU's current class, which includes 25 commitments — 10 of which already have signed — figures to be pretty straight forward. I've talked to most of the guys and they all seem to be planning to sign as early as possible on Wednesday. The coaching staff still has two spots remaining so there's always a chance that an additional name or two could pop up tomorrow, but I'm not expecting that.
I think they'll be smart and hang on to those spots in case something surprising pops up elsewhere in the next couple of weeks. Always a good idea. And a smart bet, considering Weis said when he first got here that he would not sign guys just for the sake of adding bodies.
Here we go...
• National Signing Day's craziest stories from Athlon Sports:
• Alabama, which has a fan base that follows signing day like storm chasers follow the weather, actually put a live camera on its fax machine and, at times, has even tossed in a little spice, super model style:
• Top 10 recruiting battles of all-time from ESPN Insider:
• Here's another good read from SI.com, regarding the predictability of determining a team's success based on recruiting rankings:
• This is also pretty cool from ESPN, a look at how much each Div. I program spent on recruiting during the past two years. Kansas, which, according to the report, spent about $80,000 more on recruiting in 2011 than 2010 also was toward the top of the list nationally in terms of how much it spent:
Kansas University commitment Marcus Jenkins-Moore caused quite a stir late Wednesday afternoon, when he posted on both his Facebook page and his Twitter account that he had plans to take an official visit to Louisville.
Jenkins-Moore, one of the biggest KU supporters in the current recruiting class, hails from Louisville and the news spread quickly. Fans took to message boards and Twitter in search of answers, some going as far as to say their hearts dropped or that their days were ruined.
In the end, it all turned out to be much ado about nothing.
When reached by phone by the Journal-World, Jenkins-Moore said he was just “bored” and simply was “playin' around.”
Later, on the social media sites, he said he simply floated the fake message out there to see if KU fans would notice.
They did. And so did he.
Later, he returned to the popular sites to post the following soothing statements:
“I was just playin,” he wrote on Facebook. “It's Rock Chalk til the death of me!”
As for Twitter, the Pierce Community College linebacker was busy responding to numerous KU fans but also fit in the following: “Just playin around a lil bit! No worries #Kansas ! There's only gonna be one hat present in 7 days! Cracked a joke on my #KU family! Forgive me.”
Jenkins-Moore more is one of 15 players expected to sign national letters of intent next Wednesday, the first day of the regular football signing period.
Jenkins-Moore said he could not wait to make it official and that he had started a countdown for his arrival on campus.
As for his partner in crime, Pierce defensive tackle Marquel Combs, who was not believed to be in on the Twitter/Facebook prank, Jenkins-Moore said he thought Combs would be returning to Pierce for the spring semester to finish up classes that did not transfer and the two of them would report to Lawrence in June.
That was just his read on the situation, though, and by no means is official. Combs signed with KU in December and had planned to arrive on campus in time for the start of the spring semester but has not yet reported.
We'll keep an eye on that situation as well as Twitter, but don't expect any more jokes from Jenkins-Moore before next Wednesday.