Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

What caught my eye at Day 20 of Fall Practice

JaCorey Shepherd (89) waits for his turn during defensive back drills as the beginning of Wednesday's practice.

JaCorey Shepherd (89) waits for his turn during defensive back drills as the beginning of Wednesday's practice. by Matt Tait

10:31 p.m. Update:

As promised, here are some of the comments from KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo regarding WR/CB JaCorey Shepherd:

“It’s not a permanent thing,” Campo said of Shepherd’s switch. “We’re trying to develop some depth at a lot of different positions. When you’ve got young guys as back-ups, you never know how things are gonna work out. We just wanted to get a good look at him.”

“He was definitely one of those (offensive) guys (I had my eye on),” Campo said of Shepherd. “He’s a very quick athlete. One thing with a corner is quick-twitch, the ability to plant and drive. He doesn’t know a lot right now about playing over there, but athletically he fits the mold of a guy that has a chance.”

“He’s still playing some offense,” Campo said. “He’s both right now. The kid’s a good athlete.”

Original Post:

My eyes did not deceive me. KU sophomore JaCorey Shepherd once again was wearing white on Wednesday and working with the defensive backs in practice.

I first noticed the move on Tuesday, when Shepherd was not working out with the wideouts. We get to talk to defensive coordinator Dave Campo after tonight’s practice, so I’ll be sure to update this with Campo’s thoughts on Shepherd as a D-Back.

No word yet if this is a full-time switch or just something they’re trying out, but it seems to be an obvious indicator that Shepherd is not in the immediate mix at wide receiver.

As for how he looks as a DB, I was impressed. He’s got good, quick feet, gets into and out of his breaks with ease and obviously has the speed and athletic ability to hang back there. This could wind up being a good thing for him and the team. We’ll see.

One thing I did like was that he still seemed to be having fun over there. I didn’t see a lot of pouting or moping, which could very easily be the direction he took it. Instead, he was having fun with his teammates and working hard when his turn was up.

More on that in a while.

As for the rest, here are a couple of other things that caught my eye Wednesday:

• I did not see Darius Willis working with the linebackers today, at least not during the first part of practice. Willis, who started all 12 games last season at middle linebacker started the 2012 preseason in a battle with true freshman Schyler Miles for the No. 2 spot at the same position. Both were behind Notre Dame transfer Anthony McDonald, but, with Miles coming along slowly but surely and sophomore Ben Heeney emerging as another option at MLB, Willis seems to have fallen down the depth chart. I’m not exactly sure what his absence Wednesday means. Could mean nothing. He could have been excused for one reason or another. But I definitely did not see him out there during the time we were watching. Worth keeping an eye on.

• Tuesday, I mentioned a new player on the Jayhawks’ offensive line, and, thanks to the solid effort put forth by a couple of loyal readers, we were able to pinpoint the mystery man’s name. Alex Beglinger, a 6-foot-8, 320-pound guard who was a teammate of new KU quarterback Turner Baty last season at City College of San Francisco, evidently has joined the squad as a walk-on. Here’s a look at Beglinger’s bio from Rivals.com: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/player-Alexander-Beglinger-140364

It should be noted that Beglinger, No. 78, is not the only new face out there these days. Several walk-ons have come and gone during the past couple of practices and a handful of them will probably still be out there next week when the season starts for real. I’ve been told they’ll be added to the roster at that point, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.

Ty McKinney was not at today’s practice. Still no word. McKinney Watch rages on. Stay tuned...

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. This was definitely one of the more popular Coach Weis camp songs, as I even heard a handful of players singing along with the classic anthem during warm-ups.

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What caught my eye at Day 19 of Fall Practice

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Tuesday afternoon provided the ultimate return on making the trek to Kansas University football practice day after day during the preseason.

As the team broke into position groups to work on individual drills, I found myself watching the wide receivers. Specifically, I had my eye on freshman Tre' Parmalee, who was praised by KU coach Charlie Weis earlier in the day. Watching Parmalee, who has put himself in position to play a lot this fall, got me thinking about which receivers we weren’t hearing much about.

The immediate name that came to mind was sophomore JaCorey Shepherd, last year’s fourth-leading receiver who tied for the team lead with three touchdowns.

Shepherd has been pretty quiet this offseason. So quiet, in fact, that now he’s playing a new position.

Tuesday, while all of KU’s wideouts worked out with assistant coach Rob Ianello, Shepherd was on the other field — in a white jersey instead of blue — working out with the defensive backs.

Shepherd still wore No. 89, and there has not yet been any kind of announcement about him switching positions permanently. But he was definitely working with the D-Backs on Tuesday and he might be staying there.

Stay tuned...

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye on Tuesday:

• Senior linebacker Anthony McDonald was back on the exercise bike after a brief moment away from it at the start of practice.

Earlier in the day, Weis told us that part of the reason McDonald spent so much time on the bike was because they were trying to make sure he would be full-go for the season. McDonald has a history of injuries and, according to Weis, knows only one way to play the game.

“He’s one of those guys, tackle to tackle, hit you as hard as he can possibly hit ya,” Weis said. “That’s the only game he knows. There’s no passive game in how he plays.”

• There’s a new player in camp — and, no, it’s not Ty McKinney — but I’m not sure who he is yet. He wears No. 78, works out with the offensive linemen and his last name begins with the letter B. That’s all I could make out in the brief time we were up there and no one by that name, or that number, is listed on KU’s official roster. I’ll check into it more and let you know. Know this, though, the guy caught my eye because he’s huge. Looks to be about 6-foot-6, 310-320. Stay tuned...

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “For You” by Bruce Springsteen. I probably won’t tell Weis this, but I must admit, the only version of the song I had ever heard was the cover job by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I like both versions.

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What caught my eye at Day 17 of Fall Practice

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads his group onto the field during Saturday morning's walk-through.

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads his group onto the field during Saturday morning's walk-through. by Matt Tait

After two days of closed practices, we were back out there on Saturday morning. The practice — open to KU students with a valid student ID from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and to the media from 10:20-11:00 — was a lot less like an actual practice and a lot more like a dress rehearsal.

With the season opener now just two weeks away, KU coach Charlie Weis took time out to treat the beginning of Saturday’s practice as if it were gameday.

With the music blaring and the stands yet to fill up, the kickers hit the field first and began their warm-ups. Kickoffs, punts, field goal attempts, everything was done just as it would be on a Saturday during the season.

About 15 minutes after the kickers hit the field, KU quarterback Dayne Crist led the quarterbacks and a group of specialists onto the field. Ten or so minutes after that another wave of players came out and so on and so on.

Although this kind of thing is not ground-breaking, it is critical, especially when you’re talking about a program that has a new coaching staff. Why wait until Sept. 1 to give these guys a feel for what things will be like on gamedays? Emotions run high, adrenaline is pumping and it can be tough to focus when kickoff is an hour or so away. That’s why they did the Saturday walk-through and, like everything else with Weis, the goal was for repetition and discipline now to make things run more smoothly when they count for real.

Beyond that, we didn’t see a whole lot on Saturday. By the time we left, a few students were starting to file in, but I would definitely be interested in hearing how many showed up, especially in the wake of Weis’ comedic comments from last night’s pep rally about leaving games early.

“If you’re leaving at halftime,” Weis told the large crowd at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, “You and I are going to get into a fistfight.”

Here are a few other things that caught my eye during Saturday’s walk-through.

• Several different players were working on punt and kickoff returns. Could have just been a thing for today or could be a sign that there is competition at that position, too. Veterans Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears and Bradley McDougald were joined by newcomers Tre Parmalee, Tyree Williams and Greg Allen. The first depth chart of the season — which we received on Aug. 1 — did not include returners, so, right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be handling those duties in two weeks.

• No Ty McKinney once again. According to several people, the junior-college transfer from Trinity Valley CC in Texas is going crazy while wait for his classwork to be finalized. He has done the work and turned it in, it’s just waiting to be graded. At this point you have to feel for this guy. All he wants to do is play football and, with each day that passes, it becomes more and more unlikely that he’ll be able to play a big role on the KU defense early in the season. That’s not to say he can’t get out there, but this was a guy who had starter potential. McKinney Watch continues. Stay tuned...

• With McKinney still not on campus, a few veterans are benefiting from extra reps in practice. One guy who appears to be taking full advantage of it is Kevin Young, 6-3, 285-pound junior defensive tackle from Olathe. During drills on Saturday, Young worked with the likely first team, as defensive ends Toben Opurum and Josh Williams lined up on the outside and Keba Agostinho and Young lined up inside. The second unit also featured some quality names, which gives a great indication that the talent and depth on the D-Line is much improved. Jordan Tavai and Ben Goodman were the defensive ends who ran second and Keon Stowers and John Williams were the interior linemen. Again, this was just a drill, so it does not necessarily reflect what the depth chart looks like. But, right now, those eight guys appear to be your first two waves on the D-Line.

• Speaking of absences, a few guys were on the exercise bikes again and one guy was not at practice at all. Linebacker Anthony McDonald and safety Brian Maura were back on the bike, and they were joined by wide receiver Christian Matthews. Tight end Jimmay Mundine, who was at team pictures on Saturday morning, was not on the field for the first 40 minutes of practice. It sounds like Mundine is just dealing with some kind of flu or something and he should be fine.

• A familiar face showed up for practice on Saturday, as former KU linebacker James Holt was on hand to watch his former team. Holt, who played on KU’s Orange Bowl championship team and later with the San Diego Chargers, was a second-team all-Big 12 selection in 2008 and an honorable mention all-Big 12 pick in 2007.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “10th Avenue Freezeout” by Bruce Springsteen.

The KU football team runs through pre-game stretches just as it would on Saturdays this fall. The season opener is now just two weeks away.

The KU football team runs through pre-game stretches just as it would on Saturdays this fall. The season opener is now just two weeks away. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 14 of Fall Practice

KU's first-string offense simulates a snap against the sled during Wednesday's morning practice.

KU's first-string offense simulates a snap against the sled during Wednesday's morning practice. by Matt Tait

Wednesday marked the final day of two-a-day practices for the Kansas University football team, and that appeared to be on the minds of the players during the morning session.

It certainly was on the minds of the coaches, who, continually implored their guys to go harder and stop going through the motions. After each time, the different position groups would respond with a few good reps, but it definitely seemed as if these guys were ready for camp life to be over.

That’s not a knock on the players at all. It’s been a grueling camp and, according to the feedback from the coaches, it’s been a good one. It seems to be human nature for the light at the end of the tunnel to bring on these types of practices. And, like in anything, you can’t hit a home run every time out.

For the second time this week, another media member and I got an extended look at practice because of the low turnout. But even at that, we only saw the first 45 minutes, so for all I know the rest of practice could have been much better and filled with intensity. Same goes for this afternoon’s session.

Enough about that, though, here are a couple of things that caught my eye during Wednesday morning’s practice:

• Still no Ty McKinney. He might be here later today, he might be here next week. KU coach Charlie Weis made it very clear on Monday that he did not know for sure when McKinney would arrive and also made it clear that McKinney was still coming and had done the work he needed to do to get here. He simply was waiting on that work to be graded so he could take the final. It’s a bit of a raw deal and Weis said it has been tough on McKinney, but a few months from now, we probably won’t even remember he was late.

• Shortly after stretching, the same group of first-stringers that it has been for the past week or so jumped on the sled. They were: RT - Howard, RG - Dent, C - Marrongelli, LG - Zlatnik, LT - Hawkinson, TE - Ragone, TE/FB - Smiley, QB - Crist, RB - Pierson, WR - Pick, WR - Patterson. This time, however, I got a good look at the No. 2s and they were: RT - Aslam Sterling, RG - Luke Luhrsen, C - Dylan Admire, LG - Damon Martin, LT - Lewandowski, TE - Jordan Smith, TE - Charles Brooks, QB - Michael Cummings, RB Taylor Cox, WR - Chris Omigie, WR - D.J. Beshears. I thought it was interesting that both Brooks and Smith were running with the second team here. Could just be for that drill, but it could also be indicative of their play. Weis said the other day that he had four tight ends that were all interchangeable, and, with Jimmay Mundine, riding the bike for the start of practice, it made sense that Brooks and Smith were out there. Cox, we know, has the lead for the back-up role to Pierson and Cummings, we also know, has the lead over Baty for the back-up role to Crist. No big surprises there. Nothing settled yet, either.

• Speaking of the bike, Mundine was joined by the same two guys who had spent a good chunk of the week riding the stationary bikes, linebacker Anthony McDonald and safety Brian Maura. All three appear to be day-to-day.

KU linebacker Prinz Kande was working with the first string LBs on Wednesday morning.

KU linebacker Prinz Kande was working with the first string LBs on Wednesday morning. by Matt Tait

• Spent a fair amount of time with the linebackers today and I noticed a couple of things immediately. First, Prinz Kande was working with the ones, along side Ben Heeney (Mike) and Huldon Tharp (Will). Kande looks bigger and has always had good speed. He could factor in here. The No. 2s, at least during the drills I watched were: Courtney Arnick (Will), Schyler Miles (Mike) and Tunde Bakare (Sam). Nothing set in stone there, either, but if Kande’s playing with the ones in practice, he’ll probably at least get some snaps this fall.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Prove It All Night” by Springsteen. Could just have been next up in the Springsteen playlist, or, it could have been a subtle message from Weis and the coaching staff to the players, who have to continue to prove themselves in order to earn their spots. Even though camp’s about over, the season’s still a couple of weeks away and the depth chart could see a lot of movement in that time.

KU safety Bradley McDougald (24) back-pedals and tries to fire up his teammates for the start of Wednesday's first practice on a gorgeous morning.

KU safety Bradley McDougald (24) back-pedals and tries to fire up his teammates for the start of Wednesday's first practice on a gorgeous morning. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 13 of Fall Practice

KU D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt encourages D-Lineman Jordan Tavai to finish the drill with a "burst" at Tuesday's practice.

KU D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt encourages D-Lineman Jordan Tavai to finish the drill with a "burst" at Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

Jordan Tavai in pads and no Ty McKinney.

Those were the two things that jumped out at me from Tuesday’s KU football practice.

The McKinney news was at least mildly surprising, considering he had been telling people for days on Twitter that he would be here today. At the same time, that is Twitter and it’s hardly written in stone.

So maybe tomorrow. Or maybe not.

As for Tavai, he has been here but today was our first look at him in full pads. He definitely looks athletic and appears to have long arms, but you can also see evidence that he has not gone through Scott Holsopple’s offseason conditioning program. He’ll get there, though. And he’ll play.

As the defensive line did various drills, D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt and others seemed to really stress “burst” with Tavai. Makes sense, considering he’s a tad bit behind the other guys in terms of football shape. But he looks to have good feet and good strength. Give him a couple of weeks and he’ll start to look like the others.

The Jayhawks go through Tuesday's stretching session on what turned out to be a warm and sunny afternoon.

The Jayhawks go through Tuesday's stretching session on what turned out to be a warm and sunny afternoon. by Matt Tait

Here are a few other things that caught my eye Tuesday:

• Defensive end Josh Williams is a beast. I know that not because he made a bunch of plays on Tuesday or knocked somebody out but because he warms up like a monster, too. After the team was done stretching, as the players ran to their position drills, Williams barked like a madman and yelled, “Bring your guns out D. Bring your guns out D.” They’ve said he was a leader and now I see why.

• There’s been some talk of offensive tackle Aslam Sterling making good progress and that continues to be the case. Tuesday, Sterling got a lot of work with the first team O-Line, but not without a wake-up call from one of the KU coaches. “Aslam! You’re getting reps with the first team today. Pick it up,” the coach yelled. Or something like that, anyway.

• Linebacker Anthony McDonald and defensive back Brian Maura remained on the exercise bikes and both continue to be day-to-day, according to KU coach Charlie Weis. Every day they sit out brings an advantage for someone else at their position. That’s not a huge surprise for Maura, who moved from receiver in the offseason and is pretty far down on the depth chart as it is. But that’s potentially big news for McDonald, whose absence has opened the door for Ben Heeney and Schyler Miles to get more reps at middle linebacker. Heeney has been working with the first team linebackers for the past couple of practices.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Lay Your Hands On Me” by Bon Jovi. Great song for the KU linemen, but not such a good idea for the defensive backs.

KU QBs (from left) Dayne Crist, Turner Baty and Blake Jablonski warm-up together during Tuesday's practice.

KU QBs (from left) Dayne Crist, Turner Baty and Blake Jablonski warm-up together during Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 12 of Fall Practice

KU's wide receivers (clockwise from left, Chris Omigie, Ricki Herod, Kale Pick and Omigie) work on catching fade routes in the end zone during Monday's practice.

KU's wide receivers (clockwise from left, Chris Omigie, Ricki Herod, Kale Pick and Omigie) work on catching fade routes in the end zone during Monday's practice. by Matt Tait

Blocking took on an extra emphasis at this morning’s Kansas football practice, the first of two sessions today.

Not only did all of the position groups spend a little extra time working on the skill, but the team’s most important blockers — the offensive linemen — worked out with a little different look.

Junior tackle Riley Spencer was not on the field this morning. No word on why, but I have heard that he’s dealing with some kind of a knee injury. We get a chance to meet with Coach Weis around noon, so we’ll get the scoop then.

With Spencer out of the lineup, for now, junior Gavin Howard slid over to right tackle and defensive-lineman-turned-offensive-lineman Randall Dent worked with the first team at right guard.

Dent looks good. Like Aslam Sterling, he’s moving well for a man his size (6-4, 300) and he looks to be in much better shape than he has been during the past couple of seasons when he was on the defensive line.

Offensive guard Randall Dent (64) has spent the past couple of practices working with the first team.

Offensive guard Randall Dent (64) has spent the past couple of practices working with the first team. by Matt Tait

There certainly still is time for Sterling (6-5, 360) to make his way onto the first string, but, whether Spencer is out for a little while or a long while, getting Dent some meaningful reps with those first-teamers should benefit KU’s depth in a big way.

I also think it shows you a lot about Howard, a guy who, just a few weeks ago, was a major question mark but now appears to be creeping into that category with Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli as guys you would label steady and solid.

I watched Howard a lot today and the one thing that stood out to me that I hadn’t noticed before is his strength. He’s got a good frame (6-4, 300) but he also appears to have some muscle behind it.

Perhaps because we all had the day off yesterday, the media turnout at today’s practice was pretty low. So low, in fact, that Coach Weis noticed and actually made it a point to reward those of us who did show up with 20 extra minutes of practice watching. That gave me time to focus on more than just the O-Line, so here’s what else caught my eye at Day 12 of fall practice.

• While Spencer was not even on the field this morning, two Jayhawks were busy riding the bikes. D-Back Brian Maura and linebacker Anthony McDonald spent the first 40 or so minutes of practice on the exercise bikes in the southwest corner of the practice fields. As I mentioned, we’ll try to get an update on all of KU’s injuries a little later today.

KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard leans over to instruct some of his linemen during stretching on Monday.

KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard leans over to instruct some of his linemen during stretching on Monday. by Matt Tait

• With a good chunk of my time focused on the O-Line, I thought it was really interesting to see O-Line coach Tim Grunhard coaching his guys even during stretches. He walked up and down the line and reminded each one about gaps and assignments. This coaching staff really stresses the mental side of the game as much as the physical, so I’m guessing this was part of hammering that point home. Cool to see a guy using every minute he gets to coach, though.

• I know it’s different in practice than it is during live action, but this offensive line really looks like it has a chance to be a solid run-blocking unit. Of course, it’s going to be just important, if not more so, for these guys to pass protect, but they all look really physical driving blockers downfield. As I mentioned earlier, the running backs spent a good chunk of the early portion working on downfield blocking and the wide receivers and tight ends worked on the same thing. I know you’ve all heard this a lot, but this is the kind of thing that makes those of us in the media continually say that this team will line up right, execute better and look like it knows what it’s doing out there. It’s the little things.

• During the sled drill that followed stretching, KU flashed a look at most of its first-string guys. Depending on what happens with Dent, Spencer and Sterling, and depending on what kind of package they’re running, the first unit looked like this: RT - Howard, RG - Dent, C - Marrongelli, LG - Zlatnik, LT - Hawkinson, TE - Ragone, TE/FB - Smiley, QB - Crist, RB - Pierson, WR - Pick, WR - Patterson.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Born to Be My Baby” by Bon Jovi. This is the kind of tune that proves you’re a die-hard Bon Jovi fan.

• We’ve got our next press conference with Weis around noon today and we’ll also get interviews with a few offensive players at that time, so keep an eye out for audio clips a little later.

Offensive linemen Aslam Sterling (rear) and Gavin Howard (70) work on a driving blockers down the field as OL coach Tim Grunhard looks on.

Offensive linemen Aslam Sterling (rear) and Gavin Howard (70) work on a driving blockers down the field as OL coach Tim Grunhard looks on. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 10 of Fall Practice

The KU football team opened up practice to the public on Saturday, on a beautiful day at Memorial Stadium.

The KU football team opened up practice to the public on Saturday, on a beautiful day at Memorial Stadium. by Matt Tait

The media — and the rest of the free world — had the chance to check out an entire practice Saturday morning, and the longer look at the KU football team gave us a chance to see a little more than stretching and position drills.

We watched live hitting, all five quarterbacks in action and plenty of situational stuff. What’s more, the coaches operated as if no one else was in the building, ripping guys when they needed to be ripped and praising guys when they made good plays.

It’s still tough to tell too much from what we watched, but there were a few things that stood out.

Here's a look at Saturday's practice schedule.

Here's a look at Saturday's practice schedule. by Matt Tait

Here’s a look:

• The drop-off from QB Dayne Crist to the next two quarterbacks (Michael Cummings and Turner Baty) is pretty noticeable, understandably so. During the 7-on-7 portion of the scrimmage, Crist handled 12 plays and completed 11 of 12 passes. The one that was incomplete was a drop by Andrew Turzilli, who alligator-armed the throw despite being open. KU coach Charlie Weis let him hear about it and also used the opportunity to remind the rest of the receivers how to do things. Cummings completed 3 of 6 passes and Baty completed 3 of 6. Both threw some good balls and both made some bad choices. Two TDs were converted during the drill, one from Crist to D.J. Beshears on a deep ball and the other from Baty to Tre Parmalee on a wide receiver screen.

• Speaking of Parmalee, Weis said last week that he was competing for playing time and that catch and run showed why. After looking the ball into his hands, Parmalee made one move and took off. No dancing, no fancy jukes, just cut and go. Parmalee also later scored on a kickoff return and a punt return during a special teams scrimmage. Keep an eye on him.

• One of my favorite drills of the day was the tight end drill in which TEs coach Jeff Blasko stands 10 yards away and fires passes to the middle of two lines. One tight end comes from the right and is the intended receiver and another comes from the left, in front, and tries to serve as a distraction. Mostly catches during this drill, including a one-handed stab by Charles Brooks — on a high throw — who had just been called out a couple of times in a row. It wasn’t just ripping for Brooks, though, on Saturday. A couple of drills later, Blasko praised his footwork, calling it, “Clinic tape.”

KU tight ends coach Jeff Blasko watches tight ends Jimmay Mundine (41) and Adam Novak (46) work the distraction drill.

KU tight ends coach Jeff Blasko watches tight ends Jimmay Mundine (41) and Adam Novak (46) work the distraction drill. by Matt Tait

• Spent quite a bit of time watching the wideouts on Saturday. Here’s a quick run-down. Remember, though, this is just one day and one opinion, so it’s by no means the end-all, be-all read of this position. Quickets routes: Kale Pick, Josh Ford, D.J. Beshears. Best target: Ricki Herod, Andrew Turzilli, Kale Pick. Best hands: Kale Pick, JaCorey Shepherd, D.J. Beshears, Daymond Patterson, Chris Omigie. I’ll try to track this the rest of camp to see if it changes or anyone else jumps out.

• We saw a fair amount of one-on-ones between the receivers and the cornerbacks, and, on this day, the receivers dominated. So much so that defensive coordinator Dave Campo, on more than one occasion, talked about the drill being a waste of time. One thing I thought was interesting was Campo emphasizing the deep ball to his guys. “W’re not gonna get beat deep,” Campo said. It didn’t work every play as Pick and Omigie both vicitimized the DBs for deep balls, but there was marked improvement shown in that department throughout the course of the drill. One of the coolest parts of this drill was the live refereeing, which came complete with boos from the few hundred fans who showed up to watch.

• One other cool moment came when all five QBs — Crist, Baty, Cummings, Blake Jablonski and Jake Heaps — threw, side-by-side, the different routes of the route tree. Deep, intermediate, flat, out... they were all there and it was wild to see this within such a small space.

• Saturday’s action also featured a look at live running plays. Brandon Bourbon looked really sharp, running with great power and Taylor Cox was right behind him. James Sims also looked good with his reps and Tony Pierson got a few touches, as well. Just as they’ll do during the season, though, they appear to be making sure Pierson doesn’t take too much of a pounding.

• Practice wrapped with 30 minutes of special teams drills, including live returns and the do-or-die field goal that determined how much running the team did. One thing I really liked about the special teams drills is that all of the coaches remained very actively involved, especially Campo, who stayed right in the thick of things the entire time. Pretty impressive stuff from a former NFL head coach who could easily have a different attitude.

• Here’s one more good line from special teams coordinator Clint Bowen, who was trying to fire up his guys on a kickoff drills: “Coach is cheating you today, man. You guys only get two tries. Let’s make ‘em count.” Hey, whatever it takes. Gotta find any angle you can to get guys motivated.

Overall, it’s a much different picture than we’ve seen around here during the past couple of years. Guys are working their butts off and are held accountable on almost every play. I can’t tell you how many times I heard a coach say the words, “You’re too soft,” or something of the like. They don’t want these guys thinking they’re going to play just by being on the team. They want them thinking they have to work for it — at all times — and I think that’s why the effort seems so much better and the intensity so much higher.

As practice wrapped, the fans gave these guys a nice hand. People are hungry for football to be a winner around here, and, even though it might take some time, it appears as if KU is once again headed in that direction.

KU fans line up to get autographs from KU football coach Charlie Weis, who posed for pictures, cracked jokes and signed all kinds of memorabilia.

KU fans line up to get autographs from KU football coach Charlie Weis, who posed for pictures, cracked jokes and signed all kinds of memorabilia. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 9 of Fall Practice

Friday's practice took place at Memorial Stadium, where newcomer Jordan Tavai (bottom two photos) made his first official appearance as a Jayhawk.

Friday's practice took place at Memorial Stadium, where newcomer Jordan Tavai (bottom two photos) made his first official appearance as a Jayhawk. by Matt Tait

It might as well have been called Jordan Tavai Day at Kansas University football practice on Friday, as the arrival of the big man from El Camino CC in California, was the only thing on the minds of most media members.

Tavai, who arrived late because he was busy finishing up classes in California, dressed out in shorts and a helmet on his first day. Because of NCAA rules, he'll have to go through two practices like that and two more in just a helmet and shoulder pads before he'll be able to suit up in full pads.

Didn't matter. Just seeing Tavai out there was good news for the Jayhawks, and, even though he'll be playing catch up for the first couple of weeks, it does not take much effort to see how much he'll impact the program.

For starters, Tavai is thick. He's listed on the roster 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, and he looks every bit of that. What’s more, like offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (6-5, 360), who also arrived late, Tavai moves pretty well for a man his size.

The KU coaching staff has said that Tavai has the skill set and versatility to play either defensive tackle or defensive end. They’ll make that decision based on what the other guys around him show this preseason. From looking at him, I could see him playing either, but I have to tell you that, to me, he looks like a defensive tackle all the way. I like the idea of his athleticism at that size causing problems in the middle for opposing offensive lines.

That’s just one opinion from one day of watching the guy for 20 minutes. And, knowing my analysis works, he’ll probably wind up a D-End for sure now. It sure is going to be fun to watch how it plays out though.

A couple of other things that stood out about Tavai: He looks explosive, he uses his hands very well and he appears to be in pretty good shape.

Although Tavai was the main attraction at Friday’s practice, here are a couple of other quick things that caught my attention:

• As you can probably tell from the photos, today’s practice took place in Memorial Stadium. Could be because the coaching staff wanted those guys to get used to what’s coming up tomorrow — Fan Appreciation Day, 8:45-10:45 a.m. at Memorial Stadium — by letting them run around out there today. Maybe it was just the day or the change in location, but today’s practice seemed a lot livelier than some of the others.

• That was true at just about every position, but the three that stood out the most to me were: Offensive line, Defensive backs, Tight ends. Go figure, those groups are led by Tim Grunhard, Clint Bowen/Dave Campo and Jeff Blasko, four of the most intense coaches in the program. Saw some real good hitting out of the D-Backs during a one-on-one drill.

• Speaking of the secondary, safety Brian Maura was on the bike again for the start of practice. I’ll be sure to find out what’s up with him the next time we get coach Weis.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Bruce Springsteen. It’s a great song, and, despite its heavy vibe, it has a little “edge” to it that I could see getting some guys fired up to hit.

See everyone at open practice tomorrow morning!

”Can’t wait!”

KU's defensive line works in the north end zone on the far side of the field during Friday's practice.

KU's defensive line works in the north end zone on the far side of the field during Friday's practice. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 8 of Fall Practice

Rays of sunshine creep onto the KU practice fields during the early stages of the first of two Thursday practices for the KU football team.

Rays of sunshine creep onto the KU practice fields during the early stages of the first of two Thursday practices for the KU football team. by Matt Tait

Thursday morning brought with it the beginning of the second day of two-a-day practices for the Kansas University football team.

And there were a couple of good things about it for the Jayhawks.

First, it was not too early. Practice did not begin until just after 9 a.m. Second, it was not too hot, as the morning temperature hung around 70 degrees before the sun started climbing and heating things up.

Pretty much business as usual in terms of what we were able to see today, but my focus took me to the offensive line, where I was impressed by a lot of what I saw.

Several members of the KU offensive line push the sled during Thursday morning warm-ups prior to the start of practice.

Several members of the KU offensive line push the sled during Thursday morning warm-ups prior to the start of practice. by Matt Tait

First, as a whole, these guys look to be in very good cardio shape. Even after doing back-to-back-to-back-to-back drills with O-Line coach Tim Grunhard bearing down on them, you could hardly see them taking a breath.

As expected, projected starters Duane Zlatnik, Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Gavin Howard led off most of the drills, but the other guys are right there with them working their butts off.

Here are a couple of tidbits I saw from observing the O-Line:

Aslam Sterling gets a little extra attention during stretching from assistant strength coach Justin Springer. Springer, remember, is a big man himself, standing around 6-3, 240. That gives you a better idea of just how massive the 6-5, 360-pound Sterling really is.

Aslam Sterling gets a little extra attention during stretching from assistant strength coach Justin Springer. Springer, remember, is a big man himself, standing around 6-3, 240. That gives you a better idea of just how massive the 6-5, 360-pound Sterling really is. by Matt Tait

• While newcomer Aslam Sterling moves great on his feet for a man his size (6-5, 360), he has some work to do in the conditioning area. That’s no big secret and head coach Charlie Weis even made mention to the fact that the coaches were going to ease Sterling into things before they made him take the full conditioning test that the rest of team had to take on Day 1.

• Former D-Lineman Pat Lewandowski is the ultimate chameleon. I mean, he’s been with the offensive linemen for what, a few weeks now, and he already looks the part. Long, lean and in solid shape, the weight Lewandowski has added to bulk up for the O-Line appears to have been good weight and he looks like he could play tackle today.

Defensive lineman turned offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski.

Defensive lineman turned offensive lineman Pat Lewandowski. by Matt Tait

• I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again. It’s so impressive to watch Grunhard coach these guys. There’s not a single minute where he’s not coaching or yelling or screaming “faster, faster, faster” at his group. That’s far from it, though. The former NFL veteran is not afraid to break into a stance and show proper technique if he thinks his guys need to see it. I said it earlier in the week, but, again, KU is very fortunate to have this guy on the coaching staff.

• Nothing else really stood out to me today. I was able to get confirmation that the exercise bike routine at the start of practice is used to get guys loose and not to punish them. Makes sense, since something tells me any punishment would be a lot worse than riding a stationary bike. D-Back Brian Maura was back on the bike today, but it seems like that’s just to get loose since he rode the bike yesterday but looked fine during drills.

• Today’s Coach Weis song of the day was “Out in the Street” by Bruce Springsteen, but it was hardly the only song that popped. Right out of the gate, “Still Not a Player” by Big Pun and, right after The Boss, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” had KU players and coaches alike bouncing around a little more.

The sled sits just beyond the end zone, shortly after KU's O-Line, rotating in, pushed the thing more than 50 yards during a pre-practice drill Thursday morning. That big box behind the sled? That's the new sound system.

The sled sits just beyond the end zone, shortly after KU's O-Line, rotating in, pushed the thing more than 50 yards during a pre-practice drill Thursday morning. That big box behind the sled? That's the new sound system. by Matt Tait

KU coach Charlie Weis huddles with a few scouts from the NFL's Arizona Cardinals before the beginning of Thursday's practice. The presence of NFL scouts has been a regular thing at every KU practice so far this season.

KU coach Charlie Weis huddles with a few scouts from the NFL's Arizona Cardinals before the beginning of Thursday's practice. The presence of NFL scouts has been a regular thing at every KU practice so far this season. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 7 of Fall Practice

KU strength coach Scott Holsopple stalks the Jayhawks during pre-practice stretching Wednesday.

KU strength coach Scott Holsopple stalks the Jayhawks during pre-practice stretching Wednesday. by Matt Tait

Call me crazy, call me an optimist or call me accurate, either way, I’m telling you that I’m starting to notice some improvement in this year’s Kansas University football team.

My football mind is not sharp enough to know the ins and outs of position-by-position techniques, nor is our allowed time at practice long enough to actually see any drastic improvements in terms of picking up the playbook or fixing something that was broken the day before.

But in terms of the little things like footwork, quickness, number of reps it takes to get a drill right and those types of things, I have seen improvement. This is particularly true with the defensive backs, who looked much, much quicker during a variety of drills today than they did a week ago.

There may be a couple of explanations:

  1. They may have gotten quicker.

  2. They may just look quicker because they’re more confident and more accustomed to what a Charlie Weis practice is like.

  3. They may have been working particularly hard today because, as defensive coordinator Dave Campo told us this morning, last night’s practice was not a good one.

Whatever the reason, it was cool to see and certainly a good sign for KU fans.

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my mind at Wednesday’s practice:

With the bucket hat to block the sun, linebackers coach DeMontie Cross definitely looks like one of the most comfortable coaches on the practice field. He also looks like he could still play.

With the bucket hat to block the sun, linebackers coach DeMontie Cross definitely looks like one of the most comfortable coaches on the practice field. He also looks like he could still play. by Matt Tait

• Earlier today, linebackers coach DeMontie Cross praised senior linebacker Tunde Bakare’s for his recent improvement and, after watching Bakare a little more closely today in practice, I can see what he’s talking about. Bakare has always been the kind of guy who plays all-out, but that relentless style now looks like it has more purpose. He takes fewer steps to get places yet still goes 100 percent on every rep. If he can keep that up, it’s going to be hard for the coaches to keep Bakare on the bench, especially in the Big 12 against all of those spread offenses.

Senior linebacker Tunde Bakare.

Senior linebacker Tunde Bakare. by Matt Tait

• Speaking of the linebackers, I watched an interception drill for about five minutes in which they hop over bags in varying manners and then try to catch the ball as Cross rips it there way. They didn’t catch them all, but, overall, I think this unit has pretty good hands. It’s different in a game, of course, but it all starts in practice. The best hands I saw — at least today — belonged to Darius Willis and Prinz Kande.

KU linebackers coach zips a pass toward freshman Dom Bickus during an interception drill.

KU linebackers coach zips a pass toward freshman Dom Bickus during an interception drill. by Matt Tait

• Another player spent the early portion of practice riding the stationary bike in the southwest corner of the practice fields today. This time it was receiver-turned-safety Brian Maura. It’s still hard for me to tell if this is an injury thing or a discipline thing, but, again, it doesn’t look too serious either way.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day — and, by far, the weakest effort to date — was “We Weren’t Born To Follow” by Bon Jovi. It’s a 2009 song, which might explain things a little bit since most of Bon Jovi’s best stuff came a little earlier than that. It was followed by Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” though, and, I’m told, that was for Weis, too. Not only does that seem like a fitting song for a football practice soundtrack, it also helped make up for the Bon Jovi selection.

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What caught my eye at Day 6 of Fall Practice

Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell and the KU ball carriers work on ball security during Tuesday's practice.

Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell and the KU ball carriers work on ball security during Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

The Kansas University football program’s first day of two-a-days arrived this morning, with the beats at the practice fields blaring by 9 a.m.

The 9 a.m. start was the first of two practice sessions that will take place today, but it did not seem as if anyone was dreading it. Credit that to the music that livens up every practice and probably could make these guys look hype if they were in their pajamas.

A couple of things crossed my mind as I watched today’s practice.

The first was that I should probably point out that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows at these things. Partly because of my nature and partly because of the job I have, it’s easy for me to highlight the positives at practice. This newcomer looks great. These guys worked hard in this drill or that one. And, while all of that stuff is true, it’s not the only thing that goes on at practice.

Trust me, there is plenty of barking and plenty of bad steps and bad reps. That’s part of the game, though, and part of the reason they practice. So whether it’s offensive line coach Tim Grunhard asking his group what the heck they were doing or receivers coach Rob Ianello imploring his athletes to do it right, there are plenty of instances in which these guys are being hammered by the coaches. The biggest thing that’s important to point out about it, though, is that nobody’s crying about it. The players use it as motivation and strive to bounce back with a better rep the next time. The coaches move on and don’t dwell on it or hang on to the negative.

Most of what I write in these practice updates has been and will be flattering, but I thought it was important to point out that there is more than enough grinding going on out there, too.

All right, on to what caught my eye today.

• First, I made it a point to take a closer look at linebacker Schyler Miles today and I gotta tell ya, you just don’t see true freshmen come in looking like him very often. Physically, he’s already ready to contribute and it’s quite clear that there’s still room to grow. Mentally, he works hard. That’s not to say that most of these guys don’t, but Miles really looks like a football machine out there who has just two things on his mind. Playing football and getting better. I’ll look forward to seeing him at Saturday’s open practice when we can see him run a little bit and see what kind of instincts he has.

The KU defense gets warmed up on a pleasant Tuesday morning on the first day of two-a-days.

The KU defense gets warmed up on a pleasant Tuesday morning on the first day of two-a-days. by Matt Tait

• I also spent a lot of time watching D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt today and he, perhaps better than anyone out there, best illustrates the major difference between this season and the two before it. Wyatt’s out there walking around, having fun, clowning around with guys and seeming to genuinely enjoy himself. Why? To me, it looks like he gets to be himself again and he gets to love coaching football. No more scripted catch phrases, no more “no cussing” policy. Just a football coach doing his job and pushing his guys to be better. That’s the general vibe of the entire practice, which has much better energy and tempo than we saw during the past couple of seasons.

• One reason for that — though I doubt it — could be the presence of pro scouts. I know they came up to practice a few times during the past couple of seasons, but I also know they weren’t there multiple times during the first week. They have been this year. Today’s rep was from the 49ers (and that was just the morning session) and I’ve seen several others from other franchises throughout the first six practices. Part of that is because there’s more pro-level talent to watch now, but another part of it has to be the influence of Charlie Weis and Dave Campo. Talk about an opportunity.

• I also spent a little time over by the running backs and other than being impressed by the way Charlie Weis Jr. handles himself out there, Brandon Bourbon's health and physical presence really stood out. He looks good.

• Finally, this blog probably won’t be complete each day without the song of the day update, so for those keeping track, today’s Coach Weis dedication was “Runaway” by Bon Jovi. I know Bon Jovi and The Boss have plenty of hits to keep this thing moving along, but it’s going to be interesting to see when we get to the first Coach Weis song that’s written by somebody other than those two guys.

Stay tuned...

The KU kickers and specialists head from warm-ups at the practice fields to Memorial Stadium for their day's work.

The KU kickers and specialists head from warm-ups at the practice fields to Memorial Stadium for their day's work. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 5 of Fall Practice

KU coach Charlie Weis huddles with a group of referees who attended Monday's practice.

KU coach Charlie Weis huddles with a group of referees who attended Monday's practice. by Matt Tait

Monday marked the first day in full pads for the Kansas University football team and you know what that means — time to get more physical.

Although most of what we saw during the opening portion of practice was limited to position drills, most of the players hit a little harder in the pads.

This was particularly true with the tight ends, who worked non-stop on blocking techniques, while tight ends coach Jeff Blasko turned up the tempo nearby.

A lot has been made about how KU’s deep group of tight ends could factor into the passing game this year, but I gotta tell ya, seeing these drills today reminded me just how much of a weapon these guys could be as blockers.

Mike Ragone looked great, but Jimmay Mundine held his own and newcomers Charles Brooks and Jordan Smith also looked very physical. Obviously, this is great news for the likes of Tony Pierson, Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox and James Sims, as well as quarterback Dayne Crist, of course.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko (back turned) watches tight ends Jimmay Mundine (41) and Mike Ragone (84) lock horns during a blocking drill Monday.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko (back turned) watches tight ends Jimmay Mundine (41) and Mike Ragone (84) lock horns during a blocking drill Monday. by Matt Tait

Here’s a quick look at the rest of Monday’s practice:

• A small pack of referees showed up to Monday’s action, most of them there to get in a little work of their own. While his team was stretching, KU coach Charlie Weis huddled with the refs to talk about the plan for the day. KU officials told me that the Jayhawks do not change their practice routine when the refs show up, but they do use them. Any time there are live drills where it’s 11-on-11, the refs will jump in and officiate as if it were a game-type situation.

• Today’s interviews were with the defensive line, so, naturally, that’s where my eyes wandered during practice. We’ve already talked about the physical make-up of guys like Keba Agostinho, John Williams, Josh Williams, Keon Stowers and others, but one thing that stood out today was how all of that depth on the D-Line has changed how hard these guys practice. Because there are plenty of reps to go around, the guys who are in the drills go all-out and then rush back to the back of the line. D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt said earlier Monday that Stowers was as hard a working player as he had ever coached and it shows in practice.

• Speaking of the D-Line, there are a couple of real leaders on this unit, as co-captain Toben Opurum and fifth-year transfer Josh Williams appear to be the guys that lead the charge most days. Both are very vocal throughout practice, and Wyatt said he thought that Williams’ vocal nature had inspired Opurum to become a better vocal leader, as well.

• Quick reminder: Two-a-days begin tomorrow, when the Jayhawks will practice once in the mid-morning and again in the early evening.

• Finally, today’s song dedicated to Coach Weis: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” No word on whether that was a subtle hint to the players or not.

KU defensive linemen Keba Agostinho (96) and Josh Williams (95) lead their unit in stretching drills during Monday's practice.

KU defensive linemen Keba Agostinho (96) and Josh Williams (95) lead their unit in stretching drills during Monday's practice. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 4 of Fall Practice

KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus works with his QBs, while wideouts (from top to bottom), Tre Parmalee, Kale Pick and JaCorey Shepherd run through drills at Sunday's practice.

KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus works with his QBs, while wideouts (from top to bottom), Tre Parmalee, Kale Pick and JaCorey Shepherd run through drills at Sunday's practice. by Matt Tait

Sunday was the second day of practice in shoulder pads for the Kansas University football team and, with it, came a little different look at this year’s squad.

I’ve heard from football coaches for years that guys who look great in shorts and helmets don’t always necessarily transfer that over when they’re suited up in pads. Although we won’t see full pads until Monday — because of NCAA practice rules — we can tell a little something by looking at them with shoulder pads on.

So that was the theme of what I tried to keep an eye on today — especially with the newcomers. Obviously, we’ve all seen what Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears and Tony Pierson can do in pads. But what about some of the new guys, both on offense and defense?

Here’s what I saw:

• Freshman cornerback Greg Allen looks like he could be a beast. For starters, he’s incredibly athletic, but he also has great size. At 5-11, 204, that should be big enough to compete with most receivers in the Big 12 right away. Especially at cornerback. Putting on shoulder pads only made his frame stand out more.

• Same story for freshman safety Tevin Shaw. Both of these guys have great size for true freshmen. And several of the coaches already have talked about how they are physically ready to compete. You figured they would have to be to land on the depth chart before even putting on a uniform.

• Another newcomer who looked good in pads was freshman wide receiver Tre Parmalee. His name came up earlier in the day when wide receivers coach Rob Ianello talked with the media about his group and Parmalee, who was the top receiver in the Kansas City area last season at Bishop Miege, looks every bit as athletic and quick in shoulder pads as he does without. That position is so deep and there is so much competition there that it’s hard to tell if Parmalee can crack the lineup right away. If he doesn’t, though, it won’t be because he’s not ready.

• Speaking of receivers, I mentioned Saturday that D.J. Beshears was riding the bike at the beginning of practice. He jumped into things full speed on Sunday and looked fine.

• As I stationed myself between the DBs and WRs for most of today’s session, I noticed something that I thought was pretty cool. We all know that these two groups like to talk trash on one another when they’re battling it out, but did you know that it extends to drills, too? Shortly after senior safety Bradley McDougald finished an interception drill on the south end of the fields, he shouted toward the receivers on his way back to the safeties line. It’s possible that his words could have been those of encouragement, but the tone with which they were said and the history between the two positions suggest that McDougald was trying to light a fire under his team’s wideouts.

• Finally, another quick note on the music that kicks off each practice. Other than remaining as loud as can be, I learned a little something about the order of the songs that are played. At every practice the second song of the day belongs to head coach Charlie Weis. He doesn’t necessarily pick it, but the crew that is in charge of the music knows his favorites and they make sure to sprinkle one in early in the day. Based on the first four days of practice, it appears that Weis’ top two favorites are Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Big surprise, right? Sunday’s tune: Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine.” Good stuff.

• One more quick music note: I was particularly entertained when senior tight end Mike Ragone did his best American Idol audition to the Jay-Z and Kayne West song that we'll just call, "Ball So Hard."

• Finally, I should pass along this statement from Charlie Weis regarding the passing of Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid:

“I just heard the tragic news of the passing of Garrett Reid. Andy has been a close friend of mine for many years and my thoughts and prayers go out to Andy, Tammy and the kids.”

KU's running backs run the gauntlet during the opening portion of Sunday's practice.

KU's running backs run the gauntlet during the opening portion of Sunday's practice. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 3 of Fall Practice

KU's new QB trio: Dayne Crist, Turner Baty and Jake Heaps.

KU's new QB trio: Dayne Crist, Turner Baty and Jake Heaps. by Matt Tait

I spent most of my time at today’s practice watching the quarterbacks. I know that’s a little cliche, but, because it is, I often forget to look at them at all.

I know we all know that Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps are former five-star guys, big-time talents, a huge upgrade for KU, yada, yada, yada, but it really never gets old watching them work.

They’re so focused, such natural leaders and have such live arms.

Although Heaps, Turner Baty, Michael Cummings and Blake Jablonski all have their share of talent, it just continues to become more and more obvious how important Crist will be to this year’s team. The biggest reason? He’s huge. KU’s offensive line will fight like crazy to keep him from taking hits, but even if he does, I think he’ll be able to hold his own.

Anyway, here are a few other things that caught my eye today.

• Crist, Heaps and Baty all throw great balls. Baty’s motion and delivery resembles Crist’s a lot. The only difference is, since he’s 6-2 — compared to Crist’s 6-4 — the release point is a little different. Heaps, I’m told, has the best technical release of all of the QBs and it shows during warm-ups. He releases it high, it stays tight and it gets there in a hurry.

• One area that Baty really stands out to me is in the learning department. The guy is like a sponge out there, always watching the other QBs and listening to any and all direction from whoever is talking. I’ve seen him on more than one occasion run over to a coach who was trying to instruct him. Cool to see. Should help him a lot.

• During our early interview session today, senior safety Bradley McDougald tipped his cap to senior corner Corrigan Powell for renewed focus and intensity. It shows. Powell really digs in during practice and appears interested in making his final season at KU one that will included his name more than a couple of times. Not only does the arrival of all these new, young corners help push the starters, but it also can push guys like Powell, who, if they don’t step up their games, could get passed over for good.

• It’s always easy for the new guys to stand out in these types of settings because we haven’t seen them before. It happened again today when I caught a glimpse of freshman defensive end Tyler Holmes. Physically, Holmes looks ready to play right now. With Toben Opurum and Michael Reynolds working in at Sam linebacker and a couple of those other defensive linemen arriving late, Holmes could be an under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on. I remember talking to him before he got to campus and his goals there were very clear — come in and play right away. On the most recent depth chart, Holmes is listed in a battle with red-shirt freshman Ben Goodman for the second-string spot behind transfer Josh Williams. I know there are a lot of battles worth keeping an eye on, but the Holmes-Goodman showdown should be intense.

• One other quick note from today’s practice... senior wide receiver D.J. Beshears spent the early portion of the day riding an exercise bike in the corner. Initially, I wondered if it were an injury thing, but it looked less and less like that as practice went on. A few minutes before we had to leave, I noticed strength coach Scott Holsopple standing next to Beshears as the senior wideout did crunches. No telling what it was, but regardless of the reason, it did not appear to be serious.

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads the Jayhawks through warm-ups at Saturday's practice.

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads the Jayhawks through warm-ups at Saturday's practice. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Day 2 of Fall Practice

KU assistant Clint Bowen runs sophomore Victor Simmons through a defensive backs drill at Friday's practice.

KU assistant Clint Bowen runs sophomore Victor Simmons through a defensive backs drill at Friday's practice. by Matt Tait

Another day, another practice for the KU football team.

While their physical appearance continues to be something many media members marvel at, we’re starting to get used to the bigger bodies and more fit look.

With that in mind, here’s what stood out to me on Day 2.

• A lot has been made about the increased bulk of returning defensive linemen Keba Agostinho and John Williams. I got my first good look at both of them today and they are definitely noticeably bigger. Keba has added overall bulk and looks like he belongs in the middle of the D-Line and Williams looks a lot trimmer overall but also bulkier up top.

• Speaking of defensive linemen.... Kevin Young once again looks like the athlete he was recruited to be. During his first couple of seasons in town, Young was sent some mixed messages about what he would be and how he would be used. That forced his weight to fluctuate and caused some confusion. He looks athletic again now and the former Nebraska commitment could provide great depth for KU’s D-Line.

• I spent some extended time over by the defensive backs today and a couple of things jumped out over there. First, transformed wide receiver Brian Maura’s size (6-3.5, 205) puts him a head above all others in the defensive backfield. Judging by the depth chart — he’s not on it — I’m sure he’s still got some work to do to, but if he ever gets it, that size could be very helpful.

• One general comment about the D-backs.... Even without looking at the numbers, I think you’d be able to tell who the freshmen are and who the veterans are. The main reason? Footwork. The vets have much quicker feet in most of the drills. That’s not a knock on the new guys, just a look at what experience can do for you. It also should be pointed out that just because the footwork is different in drills does not mean that would carry over to the field. Some guys are just gamers. We’ll see if any of these new D-backs are. Greg Allen looks very put together, while Nas Moore and Tyree Williams look crazy athletic and capable of playing right away.

• One more note for one of the newcomers, Williams apparently has just one gear — all out. Williams continually ran so hard through the finish of each drill that he slammed into the fence just off the field.

• As for the D-Line, it’s looking better and better all the time. I talked yesterday about some of the newcomers helping there, but today I saw some more from a couple of returners. Toben Opurum and Josh Williams led off most of the drills — no surprise, considering last week, in Dallas, Opurum said Williams had been a great leader all summer — and both looked as if they were trying to set the tone for the rest of the group. Ben Goodman and Michael Reynolds also looked good, especially in the quickness department. Quick feet, explosive movements. Should be fun to see what both guys bring this year.

• Finally, I don’t think this would be complete without mentioning how hard the coaches are working. It’s not yelling, it’s not screaming, it’s instructing. They’re flat-out working their butts off to teach these guys, which, I’m sure, makes it that much easier for these guys to want to learn.

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August access to KU players plentiful, but on a strict schedule

Head coach Charlie Weis walks past as quarterback Dayne Crist pulls the offense into the huddle during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.

Head coach Charlie Weis walks past as quarterback Dayne Crist pulls the offense into the huddle during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012. by Nick Krug

Even though the months and weeks have flown by, it’s been a long summer in terms of KU football coverage.

As most of you probably know, access to the players and coaches was pretty limited throughout the months of June and July, which meant that I had to look elsewhere for story ideas.

Although that can be difficult some days, it can also lead to fun and unique stories on other days.

But that’s not a problem any longer. Football season officially has started and, with it, comes some of the most incredible access to a KU football team that I can remember seeing. (And that’s to say nothing about what kind of access most other schools offer up during fall camp).

Former KU coaches Mark Mangino and Turner Gill never gave us the kind of schedule that first-year coach Charlie Weis has laid out for the next few weeks and, because of that, we’re planning to use our entire staff to get out there to cover some football.

Just so you know, here’s the way it will break down. For the next nine days in a row, we’ll get access to a different position group and assistant coach before they head out to practice.

The way the folks at KU billed it, every single player or assistant coach that is requested will be made available at least once during fall camp. And some will be made available more than that. In addition, we will continue to be allowed to attend the first 20 minutes of practices and, therefore, I will continue to bring you my quick-hitter thoughts about what I see.

Most of the time they're doing basic stretching or drills, but you can still pick up some insight into what's going on and who's looking good. So look for that in addition to our regular lineup of stories.

Rather than it being a crap shoot of who to request and when, Weis and company have broken it down by position, by day.

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Today: Tim Grunhard and Offensive linemen
Saturday: Clint Bowen and Defensive backs
Sunday: Rob Ianello and Wide receivers
Monday: Buddy Wyatt and Defensive linemen
Tuesday: Charlie Weis
Tuesday: Reggie Mitchell and Running backs
Wednesday: Dave Campo
Wednesday: DeMontie Cross and Linebackers
Thursday: Jeff Blasko and Tight ends
Thursday: Ron Powlus and Quarterbacks
Friday: All other staff
Aug. 11: Open practice (fans and media invited from 8:45-10:45 a.m.)

So, as you can see, there will be no shortage of opportunities to get good info from a team that is made up of a ton of new faces.

While it might be tough to wait on some of these days to get here — for instance, all we keep hearing is that we’re “gonna love” new tight end Mike Ragone, yet we have to wait until next Thursday to talk to him — there will be plenty to keep us busy and plenty of opportunities to listen and learn about this team.

Because of limited space and time, I obviously won’t be able to do feature stories on all of the players this preseason. But I’ll try to hit the highlights and get to as many newcomers as I can.

Freshmen won’t be available until Aug. 15, but, after that, they’ll be treated as a regular part of the team and will be available to the media as often as we request them — as long as Weis approves the request, of course.

From the sound of things, he will at least 90 percent of the time.

There have been and will continue to be moments where Weis will prefer to keep some things inside the walls of the program. It’s understandable and part of the gig. But he’s a pro and he gets that we have a job to do and seems to be willing to do whatever he can to help us do it.

But enough about that. I’ve got more interviews to get to.

Now you know the schedule, so you whether it’s Ragone you’re waiting to hear from or linebackers Schyler Miles and Anthony McDonald or even some of the returning guys, now you know why we won’t be able to get to them until their day arrives.

After that, the season will be here and we’ll turn up our coverage even more.

Game on!

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What caught my eye at Day 1 of Fall Practice

The first official of the 2012 season kicked off Thursday afternoon.

The first official of the 2012 season kicked off Thursday afternoon. by Matt Tait

It began with conditioning tests at 6 a.m. this morning and was followed by team and position meetings not long after.

But now, in the 100-plus degree heat on a sunny August afternoon, the 2012 Jayhawks are on the field.

The first official practice of the season began around 2:30 p.m. today, and will continue until the temperatures finally start to climb down.

As has been the case during the past few seasons, the media was invited out to the first 20 minutes of practice, and, although that’s not long enough to make solid conclusions about anything we see, it’s plenty long enough to snag a couple of first impressions.

Here are mine:

• Juco offensive lineman Aslam Sterling was at practice, though not participating because he just arrived today. Didn’t matter. Seeing him out of pads gave me a chance to see just how big this guy is. He’s huge. In fact, at one point during the practice, KU coach Charlie Weis strolled my way and said, ‘Did I tell ya he was a big boy or what?’ He is. In terms of upper body, Sterling has the typical look of an offensive lineman Where he stands out, however, is closer to the ground. His legs are build like tree trunks, from the floor to his waist. This guy’s going to be a huge factor in the KU offense.

• It may seem silly, and maybe it’s a little unnecessary to point out, but even in the warm-up session, where the team does something between a sprint and a job for 10-20 yards, the players looked leaner and lighter on their feet. We’ve heard over and over that the offseason conditioning program went well, but I now can confirm it with my own eyes.

• Keep an eye on freshman offensive lineman Sean Connolly. He’s a big kid, but he’s way more athletic looking than I expected him to be. Impressive.

• As we mentioned during spring drills, the Jayhawks now begin their practices to music. Different mixes of rap and rock n’ roll fill the air and add to the envirnoment. But what we saw in the spring was like a cello concert compared to what was out there today. Somewhere along the line, a brand new — and rather enormous — sound system was placed on the practice fields and watching these guys go through warm-ups was like being at a live concert. I literally had to shout so the guy next to me could hear what I was saying.

• Short and sweet: Nebraska transfer Josh Williams looks like the real deal. He’s much taller than I expected and thick, too. He’ll be a force.

• The first string offense and defense were reflective of the depth chart that was released yesterday. No surprise there, but you never know, you know?

• Rookie safety Tevin Shaw looks pretty well put together, but he’s a little smaller than I expected. He kind of looks like KU running back Tony Pierson, except he has braids popping out of the back of his helmet. Makes sense considering Pierson is listed at 5-10.5, 170 and Shaw at 5-11, 185.

• Junior linebacker Huldon Tharp led most of the linebacker drills. Senior transfer Mike Ragone led most of the tight end drills. Speaking of linebackers, Schyler Miles looks like he belongs, Anthony McDonald looks exactly the way you would expect a fifth-year senior transfer from Notre Dame to look and freshman Courtney Arnick, who is known for his wheels, looks a little smaller than the rest and probably is a pretty safe red-shirt candidate.

I’ll be out there for the first 20 minutes of most of the next couple of weeks worth of practices, so keep an eye out for this feature in my blog.

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My last stab at predicting the depth chart

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist pulls his offense together in the huddle during the second half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field.

Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist pulls his offense together in the huddle during the second half of the Spring Game on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

Sometime around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis will hand out his first updated depth chart since before spring practice and, as Weis has promised, a lot of the names written on it figure to be different.

Throughout the offseason — from Weis being hired to Dayne Crist committing to the spring game in April — I’ve done my best to track the movement that I believed would help shape KU’s initial fall depth chart, from first-string guys all the way down to the players who will back them up.

I took my first shot at it back in early June, and I’m happy to report that I’m sticking with a lot of what I wrote on that one. But here we are, one day away from the end of the offseason, and that means I get one last chance at predicting what KU’s depth chart will look like for the Sept. 1 season opener.

I could pass. I could say there are too many new players and there has been too much movement for me to make an informed guess. But it’s my job to be informed. Besides, what’s the fun in passing?

So here it goes, one more stab at it before players report to camp on Wednesday and practice begins on Thursday.

It’s football season, folks!

Offense
WR Kale Pick (Sr.) Josh Ford (Jr.)
WR Daymond Patterson (Sr.) JaCorey Shepherd (Soph.)
WR D.J. Beshears (Sr.) Christian Matthews (Jr.)
LT Tanner Hawkinson (Sr.) Riley Spencer (Jr.)
LG Duane Zlatnik (Sr.) Damon Martin (RSFr.)
C Trevor Marrongelli (Sr.) Dylan Admire (RSFr.)
RG Gavin Howard (Jr.) Randall Dent (Jr.)
RT Aslam Sterling (Jr.) Pat Lewandowski (Soph.)
TE Mike Ragone (Sr.) Charles Brooks (Jr.)
QB Dayne Crist (Sr.) Turner Baty (Soph.)
HB Tony Pierson (Soph.) Brandon Bourbon (Soph.)

Defense
DE Josh Williams (Sr.) Keba Agostinho (Jr.)
DT Jordan Tavai (Jr.) John Williams (Jr.)
NT Ty McKinney (Jr.) Keon Stowers (Jr.)
DE Michael Reynolds (Soph.) Ben Goodman (RSFr.)
SLB Toben Opurum (Sr.) Tunde Bakare (Sr.)
MLB Schyler Miles (Fr.) Anthony McDonald (Sr.)
WLB Huldon Tharp (Jr.) Ben Heeney (Soph.)
CB Greg Brown (Sr.) Nas Moore (Jr.)
CB Tyler Patmon (Jr.) Greg Allen (Fr.)
SS Lubbock Smith (Sr.) Tevin Shaw (Fr.)
FS Bradley McDougald (Sr.) Victor Simmons (Soph.)

Special Teams
K Ron Doherty (Jr.) Austin Barone (Fr.)
P Ron Doherty (Jr.)
KR D.J. Beshears (Sr.) Bradley McDougald (Sr.)
PR Daymond Patterson (Sr.) D.J. Beshears (Sr.)

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Big 12 Media Days 2012, The Day After: What others are saying about Kansas football

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2012/07/24/AP829439690878.jpg

One of the most interesting things about coming home from an event like Big 12 Media Days is logging onto the Internet the following day and doing a simple search for all of the stories about Kansas.

Although there are times and places built into the media days schedule for reporters to gather a little exclusive information, the majority of the week is spent with the same several hundred reporters hearing the same soundbites from the same coaches.

Depending on your angle — and your agenda — different things stand out to different people and what’s written typically falls in line with that concept.

Take this week’s KU team, for example. While many wanted to chronicle their first encounter with new KU coach Charlie Weis, others focused on quarterback Dayne Crist and still others on the low times that have plagued the Jayhawks in recent years.

Many of the topics the local media has written about for months is fresh meat for the rest of the reporters who cover the Big 12, so, with nearly five hours of interview opportunities packed into a single day for each team, there’s plenty to go around.

Being the local beat guy, it was my goal to track how KU was received this year, while also making sure to pick out whatever newsy items might have popped up.

During the past couple of years, because of the way the things have played out on the field, the rest of the working press generally regarded KU as a joke. Sure, they listened and, yeah, they were courteous, but the Jayhawks did not make the top of anyone’s priority list.

That wasn’t the case this year, a likely sign of what’s to come as the fall arrives and the wins and losses start mounting.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look around the web at some of the initial reactions to the new-look Jayhawks.

Here’s the Associated Press’ KU story from Tuesday’s Big 12 media days:
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/ncaa/07/24/big-12-media-days-notebook.ap/index.html

Here’s ESPN.com blogger David Ubben’s quick-hit wrap up of Day 2 of Media Days in Dallas, which includes a couple of KU mentions:
http://espn.go.com/blog/big12/post/_/id/52199/best-of-big-12-media-days-day-2

KU grad Mac Engel, who blogs for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, had this reaction:
http://sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/mac-engel/2012/07/add-kansas-coach-charlie-weis-to-the-list-of-coaches-i-dont-believe.html

John Hoover, columnist for the Tulsa World, was disturbed by Weis linking KU and Notre Dame:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/blogs/sportspost.aspx?Weis_Kansas_football_is_virtually_the_same_as_Notre_Dame/54-16188

Hoover’s colleague, Guerin Emig, appreciated Weis’ forthcoming nature:
http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/article.aspx?subjectid=231&articleid=20120724_231_0_DALLAS224211

Those are just a few of the stories that were out there, and, again, since the Jayhawks are picked to finish last in the league this season, it’s not as if every reporter there was racing to file his or her story on Kansas.

There surely will be some more that come out during the next couple of weeks, but, by then, we’ll have moved on and will be tracking the changes to the depth chart and the daily happenings around Memorial Stadium.

Ready or not, it’s football season, folks!

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KU football finishes dead last in Big 12 media’s preseason poll

In what likely came as a surprise to absolutely no one, the Kansas University football team was picked to finish last in the Big 12 Conference this season by the media members who cover the league.

Oklahoma, which garnered 32 first-place votes and 396 total points, was picked to win the league and the Jayhawks, who finished with 46 points, were picked to finish dead last.

Not only was KU picked last, it was picked last by a wide margin. Ninth-place Texas Tech, which is led by third-year coach Tommy Tuberville, received 116 points and eighth-place Iowa State finished with 121.

Below is the complete preseason poll. We'll have more on this a little later.

2012 Big 12 Football Media Preseason Poll
1. Oklahoma (32) 396
2. West Virginia (7) 339
3. Texas 291
4. Oklahoma State 267
5. TCU (1) 260
6. Kansas State (1) 257
7. Baylor 162
8. Iowa State 121
9. Texas Tech 116
10. Kansas 46
first-place votes in parentheses

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