Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
Now that quarterback Jake Heaps' transfer out of the Kansas University football program is official, it's time to put the finishing touches on the former top-rated high school prospect's time at Kansas.
If there's one wish I could grant Heaps before his college career is over, it would be for him to finish his career by having fun again. The guy deserves it.
By all accounts, Heaps, who came to KU from BYU and sat out the 2012 season before becoming the Jayhawks' starter in 2013, was a fantastic teammate while at Kansas and a great leader both in terms of being that veteran presence the younger guys could look up to and a lead-by-example kind of guy both on the field and in the weight room.
Never one to say too much or over-promise in any area, Heaps simply showed up, worked his butt off and did the best he could while in a KU uniform. He always had something positive to say and remained upbeat and optimistic even while the losses mounted and his own game struggled to get going.
I've done a lot of thinking about what went wrong with Heaps while at Kansas and, outside of the obvious ways in which his skill set did not fit what the Jayhawks had on the roster — inexperienced offensive line, unreliable receivers, offense that could not stay on the filed — I came to a conclusion that speaks more to the big picture of college football and less to Heaps' shortcomings.
In many ways, Jake Heaps was a victim of his era. Ten years ago, a guy like Heaps would have been just about every offensive coordinator's dream — big arm, poised, intelligent and ultra-competitive. But in today's college game, those traits do not mean quite as much as the one Heaps lacks — mobility.
I'll be honest, I always thought Heaps was a little more mobile and agile than he proved to be on Saturdays. Maybe I was comparing him too much to Dayne Crist or maybe I put too much stock into his first spring game when he ran around and made plays but did so while wearing a red, no-contact jersey.
Once he became KU's starter, and as the offensive line broke down around him, Heaps simply did not have enough escapability to avoid trouble and keep plays alive. To be fair, half the time he didn't have much of a chance, but that's perhaps the biggest reason that sophomore Montell Cozart beat him out for the 2014 starting job this spring and also why Cozart started the final three games of 2013 as a true freshman.
Coming out of high school, Heaps was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 pro-style passer in the country. In just about any other era, the top-ranked pocket passer in the country would have been a lock as a Top 10 guy overall. Not Heaps, though. Heaps ranked 63rd on Rivals.com's Top 100 during his senior season of high school, and, although hindsight is 20/20, it seems that we should have been onto something back then.
Not that Heaps was not good enough. I still don't believe that's the case. More, though, that pro-style passers, particularly those trying to play in the Big 12, would simply not be en vogue a few years down the road.
That time has arrived and it's not hard to see. Whether you're talking Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel or any number of other quarterbacks like them, the dual-threat option has become the preferred choice in college football and appears to be the direction the Jayhawks are headed under new offensive coordinator John Reagan and Cozart.
Cozart's emergence spelled the end of Heaps at Kansas and although no one made him transfer — think about this, by the way; when is the last time you can remember a major Div. I school losing its senior-to-be point guard and senior-to-be quarterback in the same offseason? — he felt it was in his best interest to find another school that might give him a chance to start. I can't blame the guy. And I hope it works out for him.
I know Heaps still has NFL aspirations. But he's also a very grounded dude and I'm sure somewhere in his head he realizes that 2014 could be his final chance to play the game he's loved since childhood. If that's the way it shakes out, I'm sure the idea of sitting behind Cozart and only taking meaningful snaps in practice was not the way Heaps envisioned his career ending and that's why he's moving on.
Provided he finishes his requirements for graduation this month — and there's no reason to think he won't — Heaps will be eligible to play immediately at Miami, which seems to have a need for a guy just like Heaps, a one-year player who has some experience and can help the three freshmen QBs on the roster learn the ropes of college football.
Either way, here's hoping Heaps gets the chance to play and, perhaps more to the point, hoping that his next stop has the kind of offensive line that will allow him to showcase his skills one final time.
It was just one scrimmage and there were no coaches involved and not many sets run, but since when has that stopped any of us from sharing some observations about KU basketball?
Wednesday's scrimmage, which mostly boiled down to the returners in blue against the alums and newcomers in red (give or take a couple of exceptions) provided a good first look at a few of the new guys that KU coach Bill Self picked up in the offseason and an opportunity to see what improvements some of the returners made to their games since March.
The Blue squad led start to finish and won by a dozen, which, when you think about it, made perfect sense because most of those guys have played together plenty in the past while many of the red squad, even the alums, hadn't logged as many minutes together.
More than anything, that was what stood out to me on Wednesday. Don't get me wrong, I think Cliff Alexander, Devonte' Graham and Kelly Oubre are going to be big-time players at Kansas and probably will reach that status during the upcoming season, but they're not there yet. Far from it. The raw skills, size and athleticism are easy to see in all three, but they still need to learn to play at this level.
Each guy looked a step slow — both mentally and physically — and flashed inexperience, which was easy to spot out there next to the returning guys and former Jayhawks. As they get into the swing of the season and the coaches can start working them, that will change quickly, especially because all three appear eager to learn.
While their newcomer status jumped out to me on Wednesday, it really was not a knock on them. If anything, it said more about where the veterans are and why last year was a bit of a struggle by Kansas standards. For all that talent on last year's roster, those guys were young and inexperienced. And there's something to be said for knowing how things go at the college level, feeling comfortable in Bill Self's system and understanding what it takes to compete with guys equally as talented.
Even though former KU greats Ben McLemore and Cole Aldrich never played together as Jayhawks, they showed good chemistry during the scrimmage and made it look like they were old teammates. That's experience at work. And even though talent is a wonderful thing to have, there's really no substitute for having been there, which is just one of the reasons KU fans should be looking forward to the 2014-15 season.
Before we cut out, here are a few more quick thoughts from the Wednesday scrimmage at Self's camp:
• Sophomore Brannen Greene appears to be playing with a ton of confidence and looks poised for a breakout year. He shot the ball well in the scrimmage and that led to him being the leading scorer, but we already knew the guy could shoot. What impressed me most was how in rhythm everything looked. Last year, he looked to be thinking a lot and on Wednesday there wasn't too much of that. Instead, it was a lot of catch and go, catch and fire, dig in and defend. Greene said after the scrimmage that he's much more confident now that he's been through a year with the program and it definitely showed on Wednesday.
• By now, you've surely all heard about sophomore Wayne Selden getting his explosiveness back after offseason knee surgery. But it wasn't his bounce that impressed me most on Wednesday, though that was on full display. What caught my eye was Selden's intensity. After deciding to return for a second season a few months ago, Selden cited unfinished business as a big reason for his wanting to come back. Even in a fun and friendly team scrimmage in front of a bunch campers, Selden played with that kind of chip on his shoulder. When he does that and stays aggressive, he looks pretty tough to handle.
• Sophomore guard Frank Mason also had a nice day on Wednesday and a big reason for it was his jump shot. Mason made more than his share of big shots a season ago, but his release was slow at times and he often seemed to want to make sure to gather himself before going up. Not Wednesday. He let go of it much quicker and knocked down a few three-pointers in rhythm and over an extended hand. Don't worry, Mason still showed that bulldog ability to get to the rim, too.
• Junior forward Jamari Traylor has been working on his jump shot a lot this offseason and, although he didn't unleash it a ton during the scrimmage, he did step out to about 14 feet along the baseline and knock one down. If he hits that with any consistency, his whole world could change.
• Sophomore guard Conner Frankamp didn't hit for a great percentage, but he did knock down a couple of deep threes and also looked much more aggressive in looking for his shot than he did throughout most of last season. I also thought Frankamp's upper body looked noticeably bigger.
• Finally, my quick initial read on each of the freshmen in 12 words or fewer.... PF Cliff Alexander – He's a load but some time with Hudy will serve him well; PG Devonte' Graham – Has the look of a guard who likes playing defense; SF Kelly Oubre – Seems to play better when he's a little ticked off.
5:59 p.m. Update:
Here's the audio from Jamari Traylor and Brannen Greene talking after Wednesday's camp scrimmage:
And here's the Nick Krug photo gallery:
4:16 p.m. Update: FINAL: Blue 79, Red 67
The Blue squad led from start to finish. Here are a few unofficial totals.
Brannen Greene led all scorers with 23, Selden had 17 and Mason had 16 to lead the Blue squad.
For the Red team, McLemore finished with 16, Aldrich 14, Frankamp had 13, Reed had 9, Oubre had 7 and Alexander had 6. Devonte' Graham did not score.
More to come, including photos and audio so check back throughout the afternoon...
4:13 p.m. Update: Blue 77, Red 62
A bucket by Reed trimmed the lead to 10, but Ellis, who has been quiet, answered, with a runner on the other end and Mason fired an alley-oop pass to Selden who showed those hops have come back by soaring high into the air and throwing it down with one hand.
That play probably drew the loudest reaction of the afternoon.
Mason with another three-pointer from the top of the key gives him 16 and puts the Blue squad back up 15.
4:08 p.m. Update: Blue 68, Red 56
Greene now with 21 points and Selden with 15 to lead the Blue squad. Both guys have looked very strong today, as has Frank Mason, who has 11.
Frankamp has been looking to force the issue with his shot a little more here in the second half.
McLemore just flew high for a one-handed flush over Greene to cut the lead to 14 but an alley-oop from Selden to Traylor answered it.
4:06 p.m. Update: Blue 57, Red 47
After misfiring on most of his early three-point tries (short), Oubre knocked one down from teh wing to pull the Red squad to within 12. Perry Ellis answered on the other end though to keep the lead from shrinking.
A nice pick-and-roll by McLemore and Aldrich and a tip-in by Alexander and a break-away dunk by Oubre cut the Blue lead to 10.
4:03 p.m. Update Blue 51, Red 38
Greene switches ends but doesn't cool down. He knocks another three-pointer to keep Blue's lead at double digits.
4:00 p.m. Update: Blue 48, Red 34
McLemore and Selden checking each other has been a pretty entertaining match-up. Most of the young guys have shown their youth while trying to hang out there.
A step slow here, a missed cut or seal there. Nothing they won't improve upon, it just really shows you what experience means.
Traylor just showed a little outside shooting touch and knocked down an open 15 footer on the baseline.
3:56 p.m. Update, HALFTIME: Blue 36, Red 27
Noticed a couple of minutes ago that Sherron Collins is here, too... But he is not playing. He did, however, have a nice moment with fellow-Chicago boy Cliff Alexander just before halftime.
Greene leads the Blue team with 16 points at halftime.
McLemore and Reed lead the Red team with 7 apiece.
3:52 p.m. Update, Blue 33, Red 23
Greene with another three-pointer. He's been the standout so far and by far.
Wesley with a follow-dunk pulls red to within eight but Selden followed it up with an athletic take to the rim on the other end.
Not very much energy in the gym overall. Last year's game, which featured the first appearance as a Jayhawk by Andrew Wiggins, had much more buzz.
3:50 p.m. Update, Blue 24, Red 17
Selden and Reed exchange long-range jumpers and Traylor throws one in with his left hand on a nice drive to the bucket.
The pace is still kind of slow but both teams are playing more cleanly at the moment.
3:46 p.m. Update, Blue 17, Red 9
Frankamp hits a three on his second attempt of the game to pull red close and the Blue team answered on the other end with a three pointer from Selden.
Jamari Traylor then flushed a nasty dunk with his right hand over Kelly Oubre, who simply ducked out of the way as the rim was still rattling.
3:41 p.m. Update, Blue 11, Red 2
Slow start to the scrimmage so far. Sloppy play on the red end. McLemore tried for a highlight reel dunk and came up short and Cole Aldrich followed that up a couple of possessions later with an easy dunk to put the Red Team on the board.
Brannen Green is off to a hot start shooting the ball.
3:38 p.m. Update:
Red Team (with alums):
Kelly Oubre, Devonte' Graham, Cliff Alexander, Conner Frankamp, Ben McLemore, Justin Wesley, Tyrel Reed and Cole Aldrich.
Perry Ellis, Jamari, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Evan Manning, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Hunter Mickelson.
Landen Lucas and Tyler Self are not playing today.
3:32 p.m. Update:
Warm-up time now that intros are finished. Remember, Self has to leave the gym when the scrimmage is going on, so he won't get to see what he's got just yet.
I think he's got a pretty good idea, though.
3:24 p.m. Update
The campers beat the counselors in a tight one and KU coach Bill Self is now introducing next year's team to the campers in the stands... Lots of cheers, as you might imagine.
As for the alums, the only guys I've seen out there so far, wearing red, are:
Not a bad group if they can find a point guard.
We'll add to the list if/when more guys show up but it's possible the alumni team might need to pick up a few of the current guys, which is pretty typical.
3:08 p.m. Update
The campers, youngest to oldest, are scrimmaging a few managers right now in what has become an annual tradition.
They'll do a few 8-minute quarters of this and then the KU guys will take the floor.
Check back often because they've been known to wind the clock and skip ahead here and there during this one.
As you might already have noticed, it's that time of year again, time for the annual Bill Self basketball camps to dominate Lawrence's hoops scene for a few weeks.
Every summer, Self, with the help of current and former Jayhawks, welcomes hundreds of young hoopers to town for several days of instruction, entertainment and, of course, autographs.
In addition to featuring the fundamentals of basketball and some of the ins and outs of what goes on within the KU program, the camps often include some of the more entertaining alumni games in college basketball.
Today, sometime after 3 p.m., will be the first such game and its lineup figures to be as impressive as any we've seen in a while thanks to its proximity to the Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, which is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at Lawrence High.
Each year that game, which, in the past, has included a ton of big names from KU history, treats fans to a fun night of good memories and laughable moments. With a lot of those guys being in town for that game tomorrow night, it ought to be interesting to see how many of them make it to today's camp game, which usually pits the alums against the current crew.
That means an extended look at newcomers Cliff Alexander, Devonte' Graham and Kelly Oubre, which we'll document right here and have plenty more on after the scrimmage. Ukrainian sensation Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is not yet in town, but those three other guys also figure to be key members of next year's team and it will be interesting to see both how they mesh with KU's returning roster as well as how well they hold their own against some crafty veterans from the past.
We'll be up there to keep you updated on who made it to camp and I'll also be doing a live blog of the camp scrimmage while Gary Bedore tracks down as many past greats as possible for interviews and our photography staff tries to capture all of the action.
Check back right here throughout the afternoon.
A couple of quick notes and newsy items while we continue to wait for the outcome of senior quarterback Jake Heaps' decision whether to stay at Kansas or go play elsewhere...
• It's been pretty quiet on the Heaps front for the past few weeks but the more people I've talked to about the situation, the more I'm believing Heaps will in fact leave KU.
A couple of schools that were rumored to be his next landing spot when reports of his potential transfer first came out have been crossed off the list for various reasons, but at least a couple remain, with the University of Miami, Fla., being, by far, the biggest name and a couple of other smaller schools maybe still in the running.
Heaps, a senior-to-be who is within striking distance of graduating this summer, would be eligible to play immediately at his new school if he chooses to leave Kansas because of the same senior-transfer rule that brought Dayne Crist and others to KU during the past couple of seasons.
Heaps has to graduate before becoming eligible immediately, however, so it's likely that that's the hold-up in this whole deal.
There's still an outside shot that he could remain at KU and battle to be an incredibly valuable back-up to sophomore starter Montell Cozart, but provided some other school and coach out there is willing to give him an opportunity to compete to be a starter, I'd be surprised if he stayed.
• I saw on Twitter last week that former KU wide receiver Ishmael Hyman is transferring to James Madison University and will be eligible to play immediately because of JMU's status as an FCS program.
Its official after deciding to transfer from KU, I will be attending and playing football for JMU this upcoming season! #GoDukes 🐶👑— Ish Hyman (@HollyWood_Ish13) June 3, 2014
Hyman's departure from KU caught many fans by surprise and disappointed several people who had high hopes for the 6-foot, 170-pound receiver from Manalapan, N.J.
Hyman has talent and is sort of a natural play-maker, but it seems like the situation at JMU, which is located in Harrisonburg, Va., fits him much better than KU did. He red-shirted in 2013 and was removed from the Kansas roster just before spring practices a couple of months ago.
• This weekend figures to be a big weekend for KU's Class of 2015 recruiting efforts.
Thus far, KU has just one commitment in the class (Bishop Miege quarterback Ryan Willis) but that could change in a hurry after this weekend.
Somewhere around a half dozen junior-college prospects are expected to make their official visits to KU over the weekend — a move that's allowed under the new recruiting rules — and a couple of them seem to be just waiting to see campus and the football facilities before making their decisions official.
Defensive tackle Jacky Dezir (6-foot-3, 305 pounds from the College of DuPage) and offensive tackle Jarek Smalley (6-6, 315, Garden City C.C.) both are very high on KU and could be in line to pick the Jayhawks by the end of the weekend.
• Speaking of recruiting, there's been plenty of message board activity during recent weeks about KU potentially adding a couple of late pick-ups to the roster in time for the 2014 season. I don't have a clue who those players might be, if they exist at all, but it would not surprise me for a second if KU coach Charlie Weis found a couple of diamonds in the rough somewhere and brought them to Kansas for the upcoming season.
You know the deal with Weis by now.... He's always on the lookout for talent and the bottom line with this kind of thing is this: If Weis believes a guy can help the program and can make a positive impact on the field right away, he'll search high and low for a way to bring that guy to Lawrence.
We'll see if anything materializes, but, if it does, my best guess is that any newcomers might play wide receiver or on the offensive line.
• Former KU wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt is out at Texas, a coaching casualty of the Mack Brown movement in the offseason.
Wyatt, who enjoyed two stints at KU before spending the past three years at Texas as the Longhorns' wide receivers coach, is rumored to be in line to become a candidate for the offensive coordinator opening at North Carolina. Wyatt previously served as the offensive coordinator for current UNC head coach Larry Fedora, when the two were together at Southern Miss in 2008-09.
• And, finally, in case you missed it yesterday or earlier today, offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a former walk-on from Rockhurst High who red-shirted in 2013, was given a scholarship for the 2014 season on Monday afternoon.
College football analyst and magazine guru Phil Steele released his preseason all-Big 12 teams earlier today and the Jayhawks, believe it or not, were fairly well represented.
Now, it's not as if KU landed as many guys on Steele's four preseason teams as Baylor, K-State or Oklahoma, but Charlie Weis' squad was given a fair amount of respect.
Here's a quick look.
For starters, putting senior Ben Heeney as one of the top linebackers in the conference was pretty obvious and, had Steele not had him, the whole list would have been suspect.
Heeney has been one of the top tacklers and the leader of the KU defense for the past two seasons and there's no reason to think he'll be anything but that in 2014 as well. If anything, seeing how it's his last season at KU, one might make a strong case for Heeney having his best season yet.
Newcomer Nick Harwell earned the nod here, with Steele putting the Miami (Ohio) transfer just behind Baylor's Antwan Goodley, K-State's Tyler Lockett and Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant. Not going to argue with any of those.
Given Harwell's past performance and his importance to KU's offense, it seems to make sense for Steele to put him here. He's got the talent to move into that first tier by season's end but Montell Cozart and the offensive line are going to have to have big seasons for that to happen.
Senior Jimmay Mundine also earned a second-team nod at tight end, a position that is wide open in the Big 12 this season. Iowa State's E.J. Bibbs earned first-team honors, but, again, if that KU offense shows up this season, Mundine could be productive enough to earn a promotion by December.
Senior offensive guard Ngalu Fusimalohi, the lone lineman to start all 12 games at the same position in 2013, landed on Steele's second-team O-Line, largely based on last year's performance and his reputation as KU's most reliable and proven returning lineman.
Two KU defenders also made the second team, with last year's defensive newcomer of the year, Isaiah Johnson, holding down one safety spot and senior Dexter McDonald picked as one of the two second-team cornerbacks. Can't argue with either choice, as both guys have a ton of talent and have proven themselves in Big 12 play before.
Defensive End/Buck Michael Reynolds landed on Steele's third team, a testament to both his performance last season and development and maturity since arriving on campus, and he was joined by senior punter Trevor Pardula, who spent time as one of the top punters in the nation last season before coming back to Earth a little bit toward the end of the season.
All in all, it's a pretty good showing for the Jayhawks, who, if things go well, easily could have a couple of other guys crack the all-Big 12 lists by the end of 2014.
The omitted names most likely to show up on similar lists in the postseason include: senior wide receiver Tony Pierson, defensive backs Kevin Short and JaCorey Shepherd, right tackle Damon Martin and defensive tackle Keon Stowers.
In order for any of them to make the leap, though, they're going to have to turn in monster seasons and, perhaps more importantly, KU is going to have to win games.
Here's a complete look at Phil Steele's 2014 preseason all-Big 12 teams.
Tuesday was head shot day for the Kansas University football program and 81 Jayhawks paraded through the photo shoot decked out in their Sunday best to pose for pictures that will appear in this year's media guide and other promotional materials for the upcoming season.
Most years, it's a snooze fest. Guys show up, throw on a suit jacket and tie, choose whether they want to smile that nice smile that mom would be proud of or give one of those tough, football-player glares and then head back to the basement of the Anderson Family Football Complex to hit the weights.
Generally speaking, it always looks something like this:
However, this year's photo session came with a twist — quite literally.
Instead of regular suits and ties, the Jayhawks donned bow ties and were allowed to wear their choice of five different crimson-and-blue-themed tuxedo toppers.
Most guys were OK with the change, a few were extremely excited, a handful didn't like the idea until they saw themselves in them and a couple started and stayed steadfastly against the whole idea.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly who was responsible for the change-up, but, even though KU coach Charlie Weis almost certainly had to approve the idea, he probably was not the one who came up with it.
After all, Weis maintained throughout the 2013 season that he had absolutely no say in what uniform combination the Jayhawks went with on game days. If he didn't care about that, I can't imagine he cared much about this.
Personally, I think it's a nice touch. It's not something you see every day and it adds something unique to the same old mug shots that show up in the same old media guides. It also adds a hint of what the fun-loving attitude many on this team are known for and, who knows, maybe that whole "look good, feel good, play good" mantra might come into play, as well.
After the session wrapped, several Jayhawks threw their bow-tie looks onto various social media sites, but before we get to the photos, here are a couple more facts I learned about the new endeavor.
• None of the bow ties used in the photo shoot were of the clip-on variety.
• At the same time, not a single Jayhawk actually tied the bow tie himself.
• The most popular choices among the players photographed thus far — more newcomers will get their photos snapped later this summer — were the striped options (shown below on Keon Stowers, Mike Smithburg, Bobby Hartzog and Jimmay Mundine).
• It is believed that of all the thousands and thousands of head shots taken for KU media guides during KU photographer Jeff Jacobsen's time at KU, this was the first time that any KU team has gone with the bow-tie look.
Here's a look at a few of the best dressed Jayhawks from Tuesday's photo day:
Now that the first wave of the Class of 2014 has made its way to campus and started summer school — a little more than half of the 20 guys left to report in the incoming class are here and all but a couple of them should be here by July — there is one thing worth remembering as fans start to analyze how well Charlie Weis and company did this time around.
The Class of 2013 is the Class of 2014's best friend.
There's no question that some of the guys in the incoming class leave a little to be desired, be it because they have low star ratings, were late commitments or have offer lists made up of smaller schools. But after making a splash with several guys in last year's recruiting endeavor, the Jayhawks appear to have bypassed the hype and sought out the best fits at positions of need.
Six of the 23 commitments are on the defensive line. Four are guys who figure to play in the secondary and the Jayhawks also added four offensive linemen and three wide receivers, both areas of need.
The reason searching for guys with the mentality and make-up the coaching staff desires can work is because several of those guys figure to be given the time they need to develop. Why? Because there are still a bunch of players in the Class of 2013 who have yet to put their stamp on the program and will be counted on during the 2014 season.
Think about it: At least eight guys from last year's class did not play a down in 2013 (15 players in the class, or about half, played significant snaps) but will be expected to be contributors in 2014, some as potential difference makers.
• Defensive end Andrew Bolton, a juco transfer who red-shirted last season and spent the year rehabbing and injury while also getting bigger, stronger and better acclimated to Div. I grind.
• Defensive back Kevin Short, a juco transfer who was forced to sit out the 2013 season because of academic confusion, which only made one of the top talents on the roster even more hungry than he was already.
• Wide receiver Nick Harwell, who sat out after transferring from Miami (Ohio) and is expected to step in as the Jayhawks' much-needed No. 1 option in the passing game immediately.
• Tight end Ben Johnson, a true freshman about whom whispers surfaced last summer that said no one had a better preseason in terms of physical improvement and on-the-field performance.
• Offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a red-shirt freshman who came to KU as a walk-on and battled juco newcomer Keyon Haughton all spring for the starting spot at center. Haughton seemed to emerge from spring ball with the lead, but Gibson is well liked and, at the very least, could help spell Haughton from time to time if needed.
• Offensive tackle Brian Beckmann, a sophomore now in his third season who has great potential and figures to start 2014 as a valuable back-up at either tackle spot.
• Linebacker Colton Goeas, who came with the reputation as a big hitter and spent his first year in town adding size and speed and working on his game rather than worrying about opponents.
• Buck Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a juco transfer who came to town with all kinds of hype and speed but injured his knee shortly after arriving on campus and missed the season.
When you consider that four of those players call the defensive side of the ball home and will be plugged into a defense that returns nine starters from its 2013 Week 12 depth chart, it's clear that KU will need very few of the defensive players it signs in 2014 to play right away. If any.
That's good news because it figures to give all of the new guys time to work on their minds and bodies with strength coach Scott Holsopple without the stress and pressure of being asked to deliver on Saturdays, too.
For a program in the position Kansas finds itself in today, having the luxury of allowing guys to develop is almost unheard of. And it's also key to sustained success in the rebuilding process.
The intent of this blog is not to say that none of the guys in the Class of 2014 are capable of playing right away. There are several guys who could — and probably will — work their way onto the field immediately. And, if they do, that won't be a bad thing for the Jayhawks.
But if they don't, be it because they're not ready or because they're not needed, slapping a red-shirt on them and letting them fortify whatever the Class of 2015 recruiting haul looks like can only add depth and stability to the program in the years to come.
For your amusement, here are a couple of links to KU's most recent recruiting classes:
A more in-depth look at the DeBruce Center, which will house James Naismith’s original ‘Rules of Basket Ball’
A few weeks ago, administrators and coaches at Kansas University joined the DeBruce family and members of the community and officially broke ground on the forthcoming $18 million facility just north of Allen Fieldhouse that will house James Naismith's original rules of basketball.
In addition to being the permanent home of the rules, which Naismith penned in 1891, the new 32,000-square-foot facility, also will serve as a student activity center built to accommodate seating for 320 that includes retail dining, café seating, a new training table setting for both the KU men's and women's basketball teams and a catered event space.
The DeBruce Center, which also will support future KU basketball exhibits, will be directly connected to Allen Fieldhouse through the second-floor concourse, which will provide access to the Booth Hall of Athletics.
This week, Gould Evans, the architectural firm in charge of designing the building released a dozen artistic renderings that provide a sneak peek at what the DeBruce Center will look like. Construction is expected to begin this summer and the target date for completion is the beginning of the 2015-16 basketball season.
Big 12 spring meetings under way in Dallas; not surprisingly, expansion not among topics being discussed
Every year, right around the time when the weather reaches the point where it's just too uncomfortable to don long pants and a dress shirt and walk across the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., an alarm clock goes off inside my head.
That ring-a-ding-ding sounded loudly the other day, when, after a Memorial Day spent tracking the KU baseball team's draw in the NCAA Tournament, I wondered when the Big 12 Conference's spring meetings were coming to KC.
The answer? They're not. They're in Dallas this year, Irving, Texas, to be exact, and they kicked off Wednesday, with athletic directors from all 10 conference schools and various league reps joining together to talk about all of the issues and items of interest currently impacting the conference and college athletics.
On the outside, everyone wants this year's meetings to be about the recent rumors regarding BYU's interest in joining the Big 12. But that won't be anywhere near the agenda and there certainly won't be any kind of formal discussions about adding BYU or any other team for that matter. The Big 12, as you surely know by now, is happy with its 10-school membership. Adding more would simply force the conference to share its annual revenue from television and other deals with another university. And at this point in time, who would vote in favor of giving up cash?
The reason BYU and expansion is on the mind of anyone who chooses to follow these meetings is simply because before the whole conference realignment craze hit a few years back, no one even knew that these meetings took place. Sure, media members in charge of covering the conference were acutely aware of the business conducted at such annual get-togethers. But outside of that, nobody cared. The reason? Historically speaking, what always had taken place at these deals prior to the realignment frenzy was pretty boring. Consultations with lawyers here, an amendment of conference bylaws there and so on and so forth. Yawwwwn.
When realignment hit and media members, including yours truly, began stalking hotel conference rooms and parking garages hoping to get some sort of comment relating to the goings on from the sports world's equivalent of As the World Turns, the public began to take notice. And who could blame them? Even though Big 12 ADs and commissioners did their best to say that everything was fine and that nobody was going anywhere, we all knew what really was happening and, even if we didn't at the time, we all know by now that four teams left the Big 12 (Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri and Texas A&M) and two others (TCU and West Virginia) joined.
In many ways, the increased interest in these types of annual meetings has fallen in line with the overexposed sports world we know and love. With the 24-hour-a-day news cycle and social media networks like Twitter and others shining a much brighter light on even the smallest issues, it's almost impossible not to care if you're at all passionate about college athletics.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at some of the more interesting notes and quotes, taken mostly from Twitter, that came up on Day 1 of the Big 12 spring meetings.
• As they've done for a few years now, Big 12 officials continued to bang the drum for the round-robin scheduling format in football and double-round-robin in men's and women's basketball being the best way to crown a true conference champion.
This is particularly interesting given the SEC's recent fight to keep its football schedule flexible and avoid playing every team in the conference each year.
• Various reports from the media in Dallas indicated that the NCAA's new rule allowing universities to provide student-athletes with unlimited meals — which goes into effect Aug. 1 — could cost each institution between $700,000 and $2 million annually. I've talked to some people at KU recently about this very topic and they estimate that KU's number could be right around $1 million.
While that's obviously a lot of money, it pales in comparison to what each school would be on the hook for if paying players were allowed and certainly seems like a good move given that these athletes are required to burn so much energy to represent their chosen schools at practices and during games.
• Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby was asked about the upcoming college football playoff system, which will pit the nation's top four teams, as chosen by a selection committee, against one another in what's essentially a plus-one format, with the 1 seed playing the 4 and the 2 seed playing the 3, with the winners meeting for the national title. Not long after the playoff system put an end to the BCS era, people began clamoring for the format to expand from four teams to eight or even 16. Bowlsby said Wednesday he did not see that happening any time soon, saying doing so would decimate the existing bowl system.
• Scheduling, in general, was another big topic on Wednesday, and several Big 12 representatives were more than happy to point out that the Big 12, in all sports, would not be afraid to play and/or schedule any program from any conference in the country.
This comes, most likely, in reaction to the recent moves by the ACC and SEC to dictate which teams its schools play during the non-conference portion of the season. In the near future, programs in those leagues will be required to schedule more schools from the so-called “Big Five” conferences (Big 12, Big Ten, ACC, SEC and Pac-12) as non-conference foes, a move that directly led to some of the speculation about mid-major program BYU becoming more desperate to hitch its wagon to one of the big conferences.
• Speaking of the power conferences, Fox Sports Southwest's David Ubben noted on Twitter that nearly everyone who spoke Wednesday took great care to make sure they referred to such a grouping as “high visibility conferences” and not “Big Five.”
Nothing major there, but, much like we saw with conference realignment where even the smallest words or details wound up playing major roles, it seems the Big 12 is being careful not to create too much of a power play regarding the ongoing speculation that the nation's biggest, richest and most powerful conferences may be moving closer and closer to gaining autonomy from the NCAA and functioning more as its own governing body.
• K-State athletic director John Currie, whose turn it is to serve as the chair of the Big 12 ADs, said he did not envision the Big 12 pushing for an early signing day in football like the SEC wants.
• Another strong soundbite from Currie on Wednesday came in support of the Big 12's coaches: “Top to bottom, 1 to 10, we have the strongest group of (football and men's basketball) coaches of any league in the country,” he said.
• Other topics that were addressed Wednesday and will continue to be discussed today and Friday include: a closer look at the fifth-year senior transfer rule that has become wildly popular across the country; discussion about pending lawsuits against the NCAA which may have a major impact on the future of college athletics; returning the conference's postseason men's and women's basketball tournaments to the same city in the near future; and full disclosure of the financial gains made under the Big 12's newest television deals, which, though solid at $198 million in 2012-13, ranked behind the recently reported totals of the Pac-12 ($334 million, not all of which was distributed to its members), Big Ten ($318.4 million) and SEC ($315.4 million) in total haul. However, because the Big 12 is splitting its revenues just 10 ways, the longstanding conference schools still brought home about as much as the rest of the schools in the other Big Five conferences. Only TCU and West Virginia, which are still in the process of being eased into the conference, earned less than the $22 million the eight other programs earned. (These revenues do not include gains from third-tier rights deals) TCU and West Virginia brought home a 50 percent share of the conference earnings from 2012-13 and that percentage will go up to 67 percent this coming year and 84 percent for 2014-15 before becoming equal in 2015-16.
With rumors and speculation that Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps is looking to transfer still unsolved, I thought I'd take a quick stab at clearing up a couple of things while we wait to see what happens.
First of all, it definitely seems possible that Heaps could transfer. It was the first thing that crossed my mind when KU named sophomore Montell Cozart the starter at the end of spring practices and seems logical for him to at least consider it.
But there probably is more to the decision facing Heaps than just Cozart being named the starter.
As you might have guessed, I've talked to KU coach Charlie Weis a lot during the past few years about transfers — both in and out — and the one thing he's always said about the topic is that players typically transfer for one of two reasons.
If the writing on the wall (or the depth chart) shows that playing time could be tough to come by, some guys look around for better opportunities and other places to play. That seems to be what Heaps is doing now and is the same thing he did when he left BYU to come to Kansas a couple of years ago. It doesn't mean he wasn't good enough to play at BYU or that he's not good enough to play here, just that the situation has changed to give others in front of him the first shot.
But transferring is not always that simple and it's not always about football or whether these guys are good enough to play at their current schools. A lot of good players transfer every year at all levels. But rarely do those types of guys leave because of football.
They leave programs because of philosophical changes, coaching changes or situations in their personal lives that make a change of scenery desired and even necessary. All of that could be contributing to Heaps' decision at the moment. But current KU wide receiver Nick Harwell is a perfect example of one such player.
Harwell left Miami (Ohio) prior to last season not because he wasn't good enough to play there — they surely would have loved to have his talent around for one more season — but because he was looking for a fresh start. He got it with Weis and Kansas and now is poised to be the top receiving option on a team that plays in a better conference and in front of many more eyes of NFL scouts on a weekly basis. That can only help Harwell's professional future and, from all accounts, the move to Kansas has done wonders personally for Harwell, who has been a model teammate, student, leader and hard worker since he arrived.
Heaps is going to do what he believes is best for him, as well he should. That may mean moving on and that may mean sticking around to close out his college career with a bunch of guys he's gotten close with and bled and cried and sweat with during the past couple of seasons.
According to a couple of people I've talked with about the Heaps situation, the whole thing could be over quickly or could drag on into the summer. I haven't talked with Jake about it — players are pretty much off limits in the summer — but I'm sure he's not taking this decision lightly and I'm sure the reason it has gone on this long is because he's doing his homework and thinking long and hard about what he wants to do and what the right thing is for him. Only he can make that decision.
But I think it's important to remember, even if Heaps does leave, that it's not because he wasn't good enough to play here or wasn't welcome. He might not be the starter, but seeing how KU has played multiple quarterbacks during three of the four post-Todd Reesing era seasons, such designation does not exactly mean he's not playing either.
We'll keep an eye on what happens and surely have more as the story continues to unfold.
Earlier this week, a report from USA Today brought up that old story about Notre Dame paying Charlie Weis more in 2012 than it paid current Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
I'm not sure I get it.
For one, four seasons have passed since Weis last coached at Notre Dame and during each of the years a report like this has surfaced. We get it. Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame. A lot. But that's the way it's been and will continue to be until the end of their agreement. Everyone knows that. So why does it make headlines on it year after year?
For two, I'm not sure the report tells the entire story.
I remember talking to Weis about the details surrounding his departure from Notre Dame and the situation regarding his contract shortly after he arrived in Lawrence. At the time, it seemed like big news to me and I wanted to make sure I understood it fully — or at least as best I could.
Here's a brief summary of what my notes from those conversations included:
Because Notre Dame is a private institution, it does not have to make public all of the payments made to its head coaches. There is a number that goes down as reportable income for tax purposes, but that number is always a significant amount of money lower than the head football coach's total compensation. It's just that because Notre Dame is private it can pay its coaches in a different manner than a school like Kansas can and does.
Here, Weis receives an annual salary ($2.5 million) and brings home a monthly pay check. Although just $230,000 of that is considered his “base salary” all of it comes directly from Kansas Athletics, Inc., and is reported on KAI's federal taxes. According to Weis' contract with KU, the remaining $2,270,000 per year is for “professional services rendered” and is referenced in the contract at “Guaranteed Net Income.”
At Notre Dame, Weis said he received a relatively modest base salary directly from Notre Dame while the majority of his compensation came from other vendors tied to the athletic department — think payments for his TV show, radio show, clothing deals and money from any partnerships with companies like Nike, adidas, Under Armor or the like.
The biggest reason Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame at all is because the lawyer representing the university failed to include an offset clause in Weis' contract when the school hired him in 2005.
An offset clause, which is pretty common when it comes to coaching contracts at major universities, is a way for the university to save or recover at least part of what they owe a coach after he or she is fired.
In this case, in 2010, Weis took a job with the Kansas City Chiefs after being fired by Notre Dame in 2009. As outlined in the agreement between the two parties after his firing, Weis was scheduled to be paid $2.05 million annually from Notre Dame through 2015. Had an offset clause been included in that initial contract, the total amount given to Weis by Notre Dame from 2010-15 would have been drastically lower.
Let's say Weis made $1 million as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2010. Instead of owing him $2.05 million for that year, Notre Dame would have owed him only the difference — $1.05 million. Furthermore, by the time he was hired at KU, where he brings home $2.5 million annually, an offset clause would have eliminated Notre Dame's payments to Weis altogether.
At the time, many people believed that former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who hired Weis and now holds the same position at Duke, was responsible for botching the deal and creating a situation where the university owed Weis so much money for such a long period of time. In reality, it was the lawyer's failure to include the offset clause that cost Notre Dame the most.
Beyond that, the guy who really came out smelling like a rose in this whole deal was Weis' agent. He arranged and executed the deal of the century.
So what does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it's as simple as this: Despite what the reports and headlines might lead you to believe, Kelly did not receive less money in 2012 to be Notre Dame's football coach than Weis did not to be.
Yes, the money Weis received from Notre Dame ($2.05 million) was higher than Kelly's direct payment from the university ($1.46 million). But when you factor in Kelly's other compensation during the season that included an appearance in the BCS championship game Kelly's total haul was probably in the $3-4 million range.
From now probably until the rest of time, any reported dollar amount paid to a Notre Dame football coach is likely to be merely a portion of what the head coach brought home. According to the recent USA Today and Associated Press reports, which cited federal tax returns as the source, Kelly's base salary for the 2012 season was $698,140. Add to that more than $600,000 in performance and academic-based bonuses, which also were reported, and that's where the money changing hands directly between Kelly and Notre Dame stops. But it's hard to say that the other money does not count when you consider that Kelly only earned the rest because of his position as the Fighting Irish football coach.
If any of this interests you or matters in your world, you might as well just commit it to memory because the same story is going to pop up around this time next year and the year after that, as well, just as it has for the past four years. Why, I'm not sure.
It's been happening in the NBA for the past dozen or so years and now seems to have trickled its way down to college basketball, as well.
Foreign-born players making an impact in the NBA and college basketball certainly is nothing new. But holding such players to the ridiculous standards established by some of Europe's biggest success stories has become tired and trite and simply is not necessary.
Such is the situation currently facing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the 6-foot-6, Ukrainian standout who committed to play his college ball at Kansas University on Wednesday.
It's not merely good enough for Mykhailiuk to be regarded as a quality player with a ton of potential. Fans and analysts alike have taken it upon themselves to make him the next great thing to come out of Europe. He's already been called the best European prospect since Ricky Rubio — Rubio, by the way, was selected No. 5 overall by Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft as a 19-year-old Spanish star — and the buzz surrounding him seems to be gaining steam by the hour.
Signing with a school like Kansas will do that for just about any prospect, but did we not learn anything from Andrew Wiggins? By every measure, Wiggins had a fantastic freshman season at KU, but because he was hyped up to the moon and back, with some even daring to utter the name “LeBron James” during comparisons, many were disappointed by Wiggins' production throughout his time with the Jayhawks.
Hype did that. Not Wiggins.
The whole concept is nothing new. For years, people have been searching for the next Michael Jordan. Thankfully, that ghost chase finally seems to be finished. For whatever reason, it seems to have become a bit of an obsession to immediately start looking for the next great thing rather than just enjoying these wildly talented players when they come along. Maybe that's a product of the world we live in these days. Maybe that's just human nature.
Either way, the whole charade, like the game of basketball itself, has recently gone global, with countless NBA franchises chasing “The next Dirk Nowitzki” for the past decade or so.
To my knowledge, no one has found him yet. And maybe that's the reason.
There's a chance that guys like Andrea Bargnani (No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006), Darko Milicic (No. 2 overall in 2003) or Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5 overall in 2002) would have been regarded as top-notch talents with promise and been given the time to properly develop had they not been compared to or measured against what Dirk did. So let's hope that Mykhailiuk is allowed to become who he is and not constantly held up against some of the college game's most recent foreign phenoms.
I've already heard Michigan guard Nik Stauskas' name thrown out as a comparison for Mykhailiuk, and while that clearly does not carry the same kind of pressure as being compared to King James, it's still worth pointing out that Mykhailiuk will be very fortunate if his college career goes the way of Stauskas', who is a projected lottery pick in most mock drafts.
I'm all for comparisons and buzz and excitement. But I also think we've reached the point where some of these things have gotten way out of hand and do nothing but set up talented players to fall short of unrealistic expectations.
I don't doubt for a second that Mykhailiuk will be a solid player at Kansas and believe he could make a big-time impact right away. But I'm also good with waiting to see him play in a KU uniform before crowning him king of the Euros.
By now, you've surely heard the news that Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a 16-year-old Ukrainian basketball standout, chose Kansas and will join the Jayhawks this fall.
And thanks to the magical world of the Internet, we don't have to wait until Late Night to see him play.
Here's a quick look at a few of the highlight films out there on the Jayhawks' newest wing player, who sounds like he comes with a ton of potential and versatility.
KU coach Bill Self called him an immediate impact guy, which, when combined with the additions of Devonte' Graham, Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, means the Jayhawks are adding four immediate impact guys in the Class of 2014 and saying good bye to two, in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.
Not a bad ratio.
Anyway, here are the highlights of the young man who wishes to be called Svi (Svee) and whose name in English sounds like: Sviat-is-slov Meh-kai-luke.
The Big 12 blogging crew over at ESPN.com has been awfully busy lately wrapping up its spring football coverage with a bunch of different looks at each of the 10 teams in the Big 12 Conference.
They've done everything from a quick look at each team's most indispensable players to a full-on, 22-round draft of the top football players in the Big 12 and everything in between.
Although the Jayhawks have not been regarded in the exercises as a sleeper team for the upcoming season or anything like that, they have been given a little bit of love.
Here's a quick look at just how much.
Most Indispensable Player
First, we'll start with the most recent entry, which identified KU's most indispensable player. Not surprisingly, they picked senior linebacker Ben Heeney and it's hard to argue with that pick.
When Heeney was out last season, the KU defense was not quite the same. Not only is he the most accomplished and decorated player on KU's ever-improving defense, but Heeney also sets the tone for the way the entire unit plays. Rough, tough and relentless, Heeney has never shied away from contact or throwing himself in harm's way to make a play. Slowly but surely during the past couple of seasons, that mentality has rubbed off on those around him and toughened up KU's defense as a whole.
Of Heeney, ESPN.com's Brandon Chatmon wrote:
Heeney is the best and most productive player on the team and provides peace of mind for the coaching staff.... Without Heeney, the Jayhawks would have to replace a major hole in the middle of their defense. His experience, consistent play and attacking style make him one of the Big 12’s top linebackers. And his leadership is evolving heading into his final season with the Jayhawks.
Imaginary Big 12 Draft
Last week, the ESPN.com trio of Chatmon, Jake Trotter and Max Olson, ripped off a 22-round draft of the Big 12's top talent designed to fill out a starting 11 on both offense and defense.
In all, just three Jayhawks were picked in the 66-man draft, and, somewhat surprisingly, senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was the first KU player taken. Chatmon took Shepherd in the 13th round.
A couple of rounds later, Trotter snatched up senior linebacker Ben Heeney. And in the 19th round Chatmon swiped senior wide receiver Tony Pierson.
In a league with as much talent as the Big 12, it's not all that surprising that only a few Jayhawks were chosen. However, I was a little surprised that both cornerback Dexter McDonald and safety Isaiah Johnson went undrafted. Most within the KU program thought that McDonald was the better of KU's two cornerbacks last season and Johnson is the reigning Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year.
It would be interesting to see these guys do this draft again at the end of next season, or perhaps midway through, as newcomers like Kevin Short and Nick Harwell, along with a couple of other returning talents might be able to crack the draft with strong seasons.
Here's a link to the results of the complete imaginary player draft.
Strong and Weak
Finally, Chatmon was charged with taking a quick look at the Jayhawks' strongest and weakest positions.
To almost no one's surprise, his take was right in line with what most people believe to be true about the Jayhawks heading into 2014.
Strongest position: Secondary.
The Jayhawks have arguably the best returning cornerback duo in the Big 12 with JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald.... KU’s safeties (Isaiah Johnson and Cassius Sendish) are just as productive... Add cornerbacks Kevin Short and Greg Allen, who looked ready to contribute during the spring, and the Jayhawks secondary brings experience, production and depth to the field, three traits several other Big 12 teams wish they had on their rosters.
Weakest position: Offensive line.
The Jayhawks return a league-worst 34 career starts along the offensive line, with All-Big 12 honorable mention guard Ngalu Fusimalohi as the lone returnee with double-digit starts (12).... If KU has any hope of John Reagan’s offense taking off during his first season as offensive coordinator, the offensive line will have to reach new heights.
Now that we know the order of this year's NBA Draft Lottery, we can take a little closer look at where we think former Jayhawks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid might be drafted in late June.
It seems safe to say that both will be top 3 picks. That's been the consensus opinion of NBA gurus, executives and analysts since the two announced their intentions to leave Kansas and Tuesday's unveiling of the lottery order did nothing to change that.
For those who might have missed it or don't care enough about the NBA to pay attention, here's the lotto order (complete with any applicable trades), which, inexplicably, once again was won by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Orlando Magic
- Utah Jazz
- Boston Celtics
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Sacramento Kings
- Charlotte Hornets
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Denver Nuggets
- Orlando Magic
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Phoenix Suns
OK, now that we've settled all of that, let's take a look at how Embiid and Wiggins fit with the existing rosters of the top three teams in this year's draft.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
Top players: PG Kyrie Irving, SF Luol Deng, PF Anderson Varejao, SG Dion Waiters
Top needs: Scoring. The Cavs have a serviceable group of big men who can play defense and rebound, but they don't have a go-to offensive option in the post. Add to that the fact that so much of the scoring burden constantly falls on Irving and you might be looking at a team that simply wants to take the guy who can best put points on the board.
Wildcard: The big question here is whether the Cavs believe they can or will resign Deng. If they do, he locks up their starting small forward position and opens the door for adding Embiid. If they don't keep Deng, then I think you've got a situation where Wiggins and Embiid is decided by a coin flip. Of course, there also exists the possibility that Cleveland's former favorite son, LeBron James, could be eyeing a return and if that's even close to possible, the Cavs wouldn't want to invest in Wiggins at LeBron's position.
Wiggins or Embiid? — Embiid.
2. MILWAUKEE BUCKS
Top players: PG Brandon Knight, PF John Henson, SF Khris Middleton, SG Ramon Sessions
Top needs: Everything. Knight's a solid but unspectacular point guard, but outside of that, the Bucks are hurting. Milwaukee not only could use a serious boost in talent, but could also use an extremely marketable player who could become the immediate face of the franchise. Embiid's got the more marketable personality in that he likes to tell stories about slaying a lion and is a practical joker with a million-dollar smile, but Wiggins might be easier to sell as a future elite-level all-star because of the position he plays and the fact that his skill set includes physical feats that can blow people's minds.
Wildcard: Might the Bucks look to trade the pick in an attempt to turn it into 2 or 3 guys who could make an immediate impact instead of just one? That'll get sorted out in the next four weeks, but, with this team, anything is possible.
Wiggins or Embiid? — Wiggins.
3. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS
Top players: PG Michael Carter-Williams, PF Thaddeus Young, C Nerlens Noel, SF Jason Richardson
Top needs: The Sixers ranked near the bottom of the NBA in many defensive categories last season, but were dead last in offensive efficiency, a reality that would make the Embiid or Wiggins decision an interesting call. However, it's one they're likely to avoid seeing how they landed the No. 3 pick. The draft lottery probably fell perfectly for Philly, which very well might be “forced” to take Duke's Jabari Parker, a player who probably fits their greatest need. Not that the Sixers wouldn't take Embiid or Wiggins, but many believe Parker is the more polished scorer of the top options and is the kind of guy who is ready to contribute and help carry the scoring load right away.
Wildcard: It's all about Parker. If he were to go in the top two, ahead of either Embiid or Wiggins, Philly would no doubt jump on whichever former Jayhawk remained, both because of the way either could help their roster and the way either could inject some life into the franchise. Parker's probably the guy they end up with, but since we're asking about the KU guys for this blog, we'll still answer the question... You know, just in case.
Wiggins or Embiid? — Wiggins.
Now that spring football has come and gone and the Kansas University athletes eagerly looking for to the 2014 season have shifted into full off-season mode, it's time to look back at the biggest winners from spring ball.
The list of guys who helped themselves and their standing on the team with solid springs is long, but here's a look at the five guys who made the biggest move toward landing a big-time role this fall during the past five weeks.
• Greg Allen – Seemingly overnight, Allen transformed from a guy that didn't really make much of an impact on the field into a guy who played like he was a returning starter. The sophomore nickel back oozed confidence throughout the spring and used his size, speed and athleticism to make sure his sharpened mental game delivered plays on defense. Allen played for both sides in the spring game and KU coach Charlie Weis said in the postgame news conference that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound defensive back was making a strong push to be included with the first unit.
• Montell Cozart – Cozart's solid spring game is what most people will remember, but it was his development and surge that came before the glorified scrimmage that put him in position to head into the summer as the guy to beat in the Jayhawks' quarterback race. No longer just an athletic guy with the ability to hurt you with his feet, Cozart looks like a much more polished and comfortable passer and seems to be playing with the kind of poise and confidence of a guy who wants to prove he's a complete quarterback, not just a dynamic runner.
• Kevin Short – Weis said at the start of spring ball that passing either of last year's starting cornerbacks (Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd) on the depth chart would be a serious challenge. And then Short went out and did it. Tall, long, athletic and a blessed with the coverage instincts of tin foil, Short showed enough this spring to earn a promotion to first-team cornerback, which also allowed KU to slide the versatile Shepherd into the nickel back position.
• Damon Martin – Martin entered the spring with 13 games on his resume and just five starts. All of those came at guard. But this spring, under the tutelage of new offensive line coach John Reagan, the junior lineman widely known as the strongest of KU's big bodies up front, showed enough consistency, improvement and understanding of the Jayhawks' new offense to play every first-string snap at right tackle.
• Rodriguez Coleman – He was quiet during the spring game, but his spring as a whole was lights out. The junior deep threat not only was one of the most popular answers to the questions about which guys looked the best during spring practices, but he also elevated himself from big-time question mark to near-lock status for one of KU's three first-team wide receiver spots.
If you've been watching any of the NBA Playoff series between Portland and San Antonio — particularly Monday night's game — you might have had a moment or two where you thought you went back in time to the 2010-11 Kansas University basketball season.
That was the year before Thomas Robinson became an All-American and automatic double-double — the year when the sophomore's minutes were limited because of the stacked crop of big men who played ahead of him but his impact, minute-for-minute and pound-for-pound, was nearly as meaningful as anyone else's on the team.
The reason? Energy. Pure, unrestrained, wild and relentless energy.
The colors on his jersey might be different these days, but Robinson today looks and plays an awful lot like Robinson as a sophomore at Kansas.
That year, Robinson averaged just 14.6 minutes per game and had trouble staying on the floor because of consistent foul trouble — largely because of all that unbridled energy — and the presence of Marcus and Markieff Morris dominating big man touches and minutes.
This year, for Portland, Robinson is averaging 12.5 minutes per game, which is a smaller percentage of the game (26 percent with Portland vs. 37 percent as a sophomore at KU) but about the same amount of time to do what he does, which is raise the energy level of everyone in a Trailblazers uniform by flying around, pursuing every rebound and loose ball with reckless abandon and playing generally like a mad man possessed.
Robinson, in case you haven't been watching, still owns that passion and raw emotion that he flashed for three seasons at Allen Fieldhouse. He celebrates demonstratively after a big bucket or play, winces in pain after a tough call and communicates with his teammates in a number of different ways throughout his time on the floor.
Most nights, that's a good thing and it brings a lift to the entire Portland bench. Monday night, it definitely was, as Robinson scored 9 points and grabbed 5 boards, 1 steal and 1 block in 24 minutes while helping Portland extend their season by cutting the Spurs' lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1.
When he checked out of the game for the last time with just over five minutes to play, Robinson, who already is on his third NBA team, got a standing ovation from the Portland crowd, which might have had Robinson himself flashing back to his days at KU.
Just for grins, here's a quick look at some of Robinson's numbers from then (2010-11) and now (2013-14), which show that, although his game has come a long way from when he first stepped foot on campus at KU, Robinson is still valued most for his energy and effort during the short stints he's on the floor.
Minutes per game:
2010-11 – 14.6
2013-14 – 12.5
Points per game:
2010-11 – 7.3
2013-14 – 4.9
Rebounds per game:
2010-11 – 6.4
2013-14 – 4.4
Field goal percentage:
2010-11 – 60.1
2013-14 – 48.1
Fouls per 40 minutes:
2010-11 – 5.6
2013-14 – 6.1
It started earlier last week with Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel proclaiming that one of the main reasons the Border War rivalry between Kansas and Missouri had not been renewed since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC two years ago was because, “there's some pouting going on still.”
During an end of spring football Google hangout on GaryPinkel.com, Pinkel was asked about the rivalry and if he and the Tigers missed it.
That brought up the quotes. But isn't it funny how Pinkel always seems to get about this? I mean, it's been two years. Most people have moved on.
And, to Pinkel's credit, I think he has too. Sure he'd love to see the rivalry restored. There are a ton of people in that same boat. But it's not as if he can just ignore the question when he's asked about it.
Anyway, here's the full run of quotes from Pinkel, which merely served as the appetizer for some trash talk headed KU's way from the Tigers last week:
"We want to play Kansas again,” he said. “It was a great rivalry we had all those years," Pinkel said. "It’s been an open invitation. There’s some pouting going on still. It’s unfortunate, but it will happen again someday. It will. It would be great for our fans. In every sport, it would be good. We’ll see what happens."
Now.... let's move on to the main course.
That came late Sunday night, when a member of Missouri's softball program had no problem sharing her thoughts about KU's desire to avoid Mizzou on its schedule ever since the Tigers bolted the Big 12.
Shortly after learning that the Tigers and Jayhawks would both be in Columbia, Mo., this weekend for one of the NCAA softball tournament regionals, MU junior Corrin Genovese grabbed the mic and went wild.
"I'm sure you guys heard us cheering," Genovese told Gabe DeArmond of Rivals.com site PowerMizzou.com. "The whole rivalry with KU, it's just exciting to keep it going. I know they're kind of scared to play us in football and basketball, so it's good that we can keep tradition going and hopefully let them know who's boss and who will always be better in the rivalry."
"We wanted to keep the tradition going. They backed out, they felt disrespected. But for us to be the first team to play them after that went down, I think it's a big statement game. KU's done everything they can to avoid us the last couple years playing so they might lose the first round, you never know."
To be fair, MU coach Ehren Earleywine offered a much softer response to a possible meeting between the two Border War foes.
"It would be a packed house," Earleywine said. "Hopefully we win our first game and they win their first game and we can make that happen."
Earleywine also said MU has tried to schedule Kansas since leaving the Big 12 but to no avail.
"We contacted them and they responded pretty quick and said that wasn't gonna be a possibility," Earleywine told DeArmond. "I don't think it's something that the softball coaches decided. I think it was handed down from the administration."
While the intense nature of Genovese's trash talk certainly brings this issue back to the forefront, none of this is really news.
We know the Tigers would love to play the Jayhawks again and we know the Jayhawks aren't interested. It's been that way since the day Mizzou left the Big 12 and it'll probably be that way for years to come.
We've also always known that the only way the two could face each other again, at least right now, is by meeting in the postseason. That hasn't happened yet, but it could happen this weekend in Columbia. If it does, it figures to be quite a show, just like all of the KU-MU showdowns that came before it during the past 100-plus years.
The story of the night concerning Round 1 of the NFL Draft on Thursday was not No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, the rapid rise of a surprise prospect or the New York Jets fans booing the daylights out of their team's pick.
Instead, it was the saga surrounding polarizing Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, as it probably would have been no matter where he was selected.
Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner and one of the most impressive and exciting quarterbacks to hit college football in years, sat in the green room for 2 hours and 43 minutes while waiting for his name to be called, which it finally was when Cleveland traded up to get him after passing on him at No. 4 (via trade) and No. 8 when the Browns chose Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert instead.
I thought Johnny Football handled himself very well throughout the night. He held it together while waiting, was classy during the brief, on-stage interview that followed the pick and seemed at peace with how the whole thing played out.
The guy's got a ton of talent. And he's a passionate dude. Now he'll have a little bigger chip on his shoulder than ever before and that should be interesting to watch. In Cleveland, no less.
At the end of the night, Manziel was one of three quarterbacks taken in the first round. Central Florida's Blake Bortles went No. 3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater was the final pick of the first round (No. 32) when Minnesota traded up to get him.
Earlier Thursday, KU football coach Charlie Weis was one of the featured guests on 610 sports radio's "The Drive" and Weis, a 16-year veteran of NFL sidelines, was asked a ton about the draft in general as well as this year's crop of quarterbacks.
“There's an unusually large, eclectic group of quarterbacks this year,” Weis said. “And it'll be interesting to see where they all fall. I think it's gonna be what flavor ice cream you like, because I think they all bring something different to the table. What are you looking for? That's what it's gonna come down to.”
That thought, though relevant to all of them, came in a conversation about Manziel, about whom Weis had a lot to say prior to the first round getting under way.
“There's some people that'll like Manziel the most and others that wouldn't touch him with a 10-foot pole,” Weis said.
So where would Weis fall in that wide range of the love-him-or-hate-him game?
“I would have a tough time coaching him, personally,” Weis said. “He's an exceptional talent. He's either gonna be a Brett Favre star in the league or a loose cannon. I don't know enough about him personally. I haven't watched him play enough games. But I have watched him play really well in big games.”
The reason Weis would be concerned about coaching him has nothing to do with Manziel's skill set.
“Personality wise,” Weis said when asked what issues he might have. “I'm used to, 'We do things a certain way,' and he looks to be quite the free spirit. In my career, I haven't been around that free spirit mentality at quarterback. You have 'em at receiver, you have 'em at DB but there aren't too many of them at quarterback. There's some organizations that really need to take Johnny Manziel. He's a lightning rod and he could very quickly become a face of a franchise. And if he turns 'em into a winner, you hit a grand slam, you don't just hit a home run.”
Cleveland, which continually has struck out in its attempt to find a franchise quarterback likely was one of those teams to which Weis was referring and it should be very interesting to see how it all plays out when Johnny Football invades Cleveland.
Despite his comments about coaching him, which obviously will never matter, Weis said he was pulling for Manziel.
“I hope the kid's successful,” he said. “He was a great college player. That's why all the gurus who have spent a lot more time than me analyzing these guys are hot and cold on him because they're not really sure how this is gonna pan out.... You can't win without a quarterback. That is the bottom line. You look at every team in the league, if they don't have a quarterback they really don't have a chance.”
With tonight marking Round 1 of the 2014 NFL Draft and the Kansas University football program's only draft hopefuls being sixth or seventh round possibilities at best, let's take a quick look back at all of the Jayhawks first-round picks throughout the years.
Whether you're talking NFL Drafts or AFL Drafts, the Jayhawks have had their share of first-round selections.
The most recent, of course, came in 2008 when 2008 Orange Bowl MVP Aqib Talib, a cornerback, was picked 20th overall by Tampa Bay. Talib had some solid years in Tampa before moving on to the New England Patriots, where he played the 2012 and 2013 seasons. This offseason, Talib signed a monster free agent deal with the Denver Broncos that will pay him $57 million over the next six years.
Although the draft has taken on many different looks during the past several decades, it has held steady in its current seven-round format since 1994. Some of the earlier NFL Drafts had as many as 30 rounds and that number diminished little by little throughout the years.
Here's a quick look at the other former Jayhawks who joined Talib as first-round talent:
RAY EVANS – 1944 Draft, Pick No. 9, Chicago Bears
This draft had 29 rounds total but the first round included just nine picks. Evans, one of the greatest all-around athletes ever to come through KU, never played for the Bears and saw his professional career span just one season (1948) with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Interesting fact: Evans also was selected by the New York Knicks basketball franchise in the 1947 BAA Draft.
JOHN HADL – 1962 Draft, Pick No. 10, Detroit Lions
This draft had 20 rounds and Hadl, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play at Kansas, also never played for the team that drafted him. He made his NFL debut in 1962 playing for the San Diego Chargers, where he starred until 1972. Hadl was a four-time AFL All-Star, a two-time pro bowl selection (1972 and 1973), the NFC player of the year in 1973 and was inducted into the Chargers' Hall of Fame.
GALE SAYERS – 1965 Draft, Pick No. 7, Chicago Bears
This draft also had 20 rounds and Sayers had the rare distinction of being a first-round selection in both the NFL and AFL drafts (Kansas City picked him in Round 1 in the 1965 AFL Draft). Sayers went on to become one of the greatest running backs the NFL has ever known and owner of several NFL records. He was a four-time pro bowl selection, a five-time AP first-team all pro, a two-time NFL rushing champion and, later, became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and had his No. 40 retired by the Bears.
JOHN RIGGINS – 1971 Draft, Pick No. 6, New York Jets
This draft had 17 rounds and the wild and crazy Riggins led the Jets in both rushing and receiving as a rookie. He played five seasons with the Jets before moving on to finish his career with the Washington Redskins, where he became an NFL MVP, a Super Bowl champion and MVP of Super Bowl XVII. Riggins also is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
DON GOODE – 1974 Draft, Pick No. 15, San Diego Chargers
This draft also had 17 rounds and Goode, a linebacker and Houston native, went on to play six seasons with the Chargers before finishing his career by playing his final two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
MIKE BUTLER – 1977 Draft, Pick No. 9, Green Bay Packers
This draft had 12 rounds and Butler, who played defensive end, was taken in the top 10 by a team he spent the next six seasons playing for. After leaving the NFL following the 1982 season, Goode joined the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL for the 1984 and 1985 seasons. He then returned to the NFL and the Packers in 1985 for his final professional season.
DAVID VERSER – 1981 Draft, Pick No. 10, Cincinnati Bengals
This draft also had 12 rounds and included a native Kansan taken in the top 10. Verser, a wide receiver and kick returner, played four seasons with the Bengals, joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the '85 season and finished his career with Cleveland in 1987. He played in the 1982 Super Bowl, which the Bengals lost, 26-21, to the San Francisco 49ers.
DANA STUBBLEFIELD – 1993 Draft, Pick No. 26, San Francisco 49ers
By 1993, the draft was down to eight rounds and Stubblefield, one of the most disruptive and dominant defensive players to come through Kansas, was taken in the final few picks of the first round. Stubblefield played for four teams during his NFL career but the bulk of his time was spent with San Francisco, where he was a three-time pro bowl selection, NFL defensive rookie of the year in 1993 and NFL defensive player of the year in 1997. Stubblefield was a member of the 49ers Super Bowl XXIX championship team.