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What caught my eye at Wednesday's practice


Despite the heat and their size the KU defensive linemen have been flat-out getting after it this week.

Despite the heat and their size the KU defensive linemen have been flat-out getting after it this week. by Matt Tait

The hot sun returned to KU football practice for the second day in a row Wednesday, making temperatures on the field soar above 100 degrees and the vibe around practice feel a lot more like the final days of August.

As was the case at Tuesday’s practice, Wednesday’s intensity seemed a notch or two higher than it had been during fall camp. With the season opener now just three days away, it’s clear that these guys are dying to get out there and would do anything to fast-forward to Saturday.

That goes for the coaches, as well, many of whom were seen barking a little louder and encouraging a little higher during everything from stretching to individual drills and team drills.

That same concept carried over to the actions of several players and coaches, as the D-Line continued to work like mad men even during the early portion of practice and the running backs did some heavy one-man work on the sled to kick things off.

Even tight ends coach Jeff Blasko turned up the heat on his pre-practice passes to his tight ends. And offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, who always seems to be fired up, had a little extra juice behind his words as his linemen drilled in front of him. “Power, fast, finish,” Grunhard hollered over and over at each of his linemen. Lot of work going on out there.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko and senior Mike Ragone work through a drill during the early part of Wednesday's practice.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko and senior Mike Ragone work through a drill during the early part of Wednesday's practice. by Matt Tait

Practice began with an unusual song choice, but one that seemed to fit the situation. As “Who Let The Dogs Out” blared over the speakers, several players and even a couple of coaches answered with a little barking of their own.

As has been the case the entire preseason, players and coaches alike truly seemed to be enjoying themselves out there. This team looks ready for what’s ahead — whatever that may be.

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye at Wendesday’s practice:

• Same drill today as it was yesterday for senior linebacker Anthony McDonald. The Notre Dame transfer went through as much of the pre-practice stuff as he could before heading to the exercise bike for a “break.” It seemed as if he got a little deeper into practice today and he looked a little less hobbled. Seems like a good idea to sit him until he can go full speed. It will be interesting to see when he gets to that point.

• Joining McDonald on the bike today was junior fullback Nick Sizemore, who broke his foot during KU’s open practice a couple of weeks ago and will miss some time. The fact that he was out there in uniform and on the bike might indicate that Sizemore will be back at some point this season, but I keep forgetting to ask for an official update on his status. I’ll add it to the list.

• I’m beginning to really enjoy the idea of Ben Heeney and Huldon Tharp playing linebacker for this team. Both guys are tenacious and fearless and both guys look fast and physical. My enjoyment from watching them has caused me to overlook senior Tunde Bakare, but I think that could be a mistake. Bakare’s the man at Sam linebacker for the Jayhawks right now, with only senior Corrigan Powell listed behind him at the spot that seems to be a hybrid between a true linebacker and a nickel back. Bakare has improved a ton in the offseason — especially in the mental aspects of the game — and with more bulk, faster feet and a sharper mind, he could be in line to make a lot of plays for the KU defense this season. We already knew that he was a monster in space, but it now seems as if he can take fewer steps to get where he needs to go and that should make him more efficient and hard to keep off the field. The big thing to watch with him will be in coverage, but he’s done plenty of that in the past couple of years and, if he’s not up to the task, Powell, a true cornerback, could be called upon.

• Want a sure-fire sign that game day is fast approaching? Make a quick drive to campus and check out the hill. Tents for Saturday’s tailgating already are being set up. They’re pretty plain Jane right now, but in just a couple of days they will be packed with people and popping with color.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi.


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