LJWorld.com weblogs Tale of the Tait
With hoops season over, it's time to move on
I realize that nobody wants to talk about it. And why would you? It happened. It hurt. It’s over.
The good news, though, is that we’ve got plenty more to talk about regarding Kansas University athletics, not the least of which is the unofficial beginning of football season.
It might not create the same kind of buzz as going for a second national hoops title in three seasons. But, at this point in time, it’s still a pretty big deal around here.
So let’s get to it, shall we.
For starters, when the Jayhawks hit the field for the first day of spring drills on Saturday, they’ll be doing so for the first time under the direction of new head coach Turner Gill. Gill and his staff have been running the team through morning drills for the past few weeks, but Saturday, they will have nearly the entire team on the field in front of them for the first time. Note: The only players who won’t be present are the guys who signed with KU in February but still have to finish their senior years of high school.
There are plenty of reasons that the moment could be significant for the history of Kansas football. But we won’t know if any of those will hold up for several years. So let’s focus on why the start of spring drills will be significant for the 2010 team.
First, we’ll get a quick look at the way Gill works. We’ll see the command he has over his team. We’ll see the way he carries himself in a football setting. We’ll see if his inspiring nature is as contagious on turf as it is in front of a group of people. To this point, there’s no reason to believe it won’t be. But the other aspects of the equation — the elements that will determine whether Gill will be successful in Lawrence — certainly will be worth watching.
Beyond that, we’ll also get our first look at new era of Kansas football. And by “new era” I’m not talking about the post-Mangino days. I’m talking about life after guys named Todd, Kerry, Dezmon, Darrell and Jake. Coaches come and coaches go. But for the past three or four seasons, these players have been fixtures in the KU huddle. No matter who the opponent or how dire the situation, KU fans always believed in Reesing, Meier, Briscoe, Stuckey and Sharp. Who will the Jayhawks believe in now?
The easy answer would be the new quarterback. One problem. We don’t yet know who that will be. Returning back-up Kale Pick has a shot at the starting spot. So, too, do junior college transfer Quinn Meacham and Jordan Webb. How these three perform during spring drills could be the first step toward answering the quarterback question. Don’t be surprised, however, if Gill’s not ready to name a starter until this summer.
Speaking of Meier and Briscoe, these guys caught 186 passes for 2,300+ yards and 17 touchdowns during 2009. They left Kansas as the top two receivers in school history. With that in mind, the question of who might fill their void is not an insignificant one. The good news for the Jayhawks is that there are a couple of returning wideouts who are expected to step into those roles. Senior-to-be Johnathan Wilson caught 35 balls for 449 yards as a junior and freshman phenom Bradley McDougald also emerged as a viable option in the passing game, finishing his first season with 33 receptions and 318 yards. Those two won’t be able to do the job alone, though. KU will need two or three other wideouts to step up. This spring, we’ll get an early look at which ones — Erick McGriff, Chris Omigie, Isiah Barfield, Tertavian Ingram or even Daymond Patterson or someone else — might be ready to do so.
We might not learn much about the running back position this spring but we probably will learn just how important the ground game will be in the offense that Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long want to run. We know that returning sophomore Toben Opurum was a beast during his first season in Lawrence. It’s expected that he’ll pick up where he left off. But who will join him in the KU backfield? Will it be senior-to-be Rell Lewis, who flashed some impressive stuff in the finale against Mizzou? Will red-shirt freshman Deshaun Sands, the team’s offensive scout team player of the year, compete for carries? Will Angus Quigley finally fit in at his natural position? Or will we have to wait for the arrival of Brandon Bourbon, the four-star back from Potosi, Mo., before this question can be answered?
These questions, and so many more, will be under the microscope during the four weeks of practices that lead up to the annual spring game on April 24.
We might not get all of the answers. We might not get any. But we should inch closer to figuring some of them out. Regardless of what KU’s 2010 depth chart looks like coming out of spring drills, we’ll finally know what the team will look like with Gill in charge. We’ll have an indication of what type of offense he’ll run. We’ll know what his defense will hang its hat on.
And only then, when it’s all over and the countdown to August is on, can we begin to speculate about how successful the Jayhawks will be during Gill’s first season.