As hard as it is to believe it's already here, the Kansas University football program's fall camp wrapped up Friday and the Jayhawks are now headed into full preparation mode for the 2013 season.
What that entails are two different weeks of preparation for Week 1, Sept. 7 vs. South Dakota at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.
The first week, Sunday through Friday, will be what KU coach Charlie Weis called “a dress rehearsal.” The Jayhawks will go through the entire week as if they were playing a game on Saturday. That way, the newcomers will get a feel for what it's like and the veterans will get a quick refresher. The goal is that both will dial up their focus that little bit extra.
After that it will actually be game week. Most of the college football world opens next weekend, but the Jayhawks have an opening-week bye this year. Their other bye is in late September between the non-conference and Big 12 portions of their schedule, but, if you ask me, they got lucky having the first week off. It gives Weis and his staff just a little more time to get all of these new faces ready for what's ahead.
With that in mind, I figured now was as good a time as any to throw up my best guess at the post-camp, two-deep depth chart for this year's Jayhawks. I was out at practice whenever they allowed us to be this month, which proved to be a very helpful tool in predicting the depth chart. In addition to seeing the players live and up close, I also saw two full practices, which gave me a better look at who was competing where, who was playing hardest and how the reps were divided up.
I'm sure some of this is incorrect, but, based on what I've seen and been able to gather from talking with the players and coaches, here's how I see things shaping up two weeks away from the season opener.
Weis will release the real version on Sept. 3, which, if how fast August flew by is any indication, will be here before we know it.
– OFFENSE –
Darrian Miller/Taylor Cox
- DEFENSE –
– SPECIAL TEAMS –
Just a couple of quick notes explaining some of my thinking:
• Weis said on Friday that Combs was not yet a starter, that's why I put him second team on the inside.
• I didn't see a ton of kick return drills during the past few weeks and Weis said they're still looking over things there, so those guesses may be way off.
• Sendish at nickel is the preferred position for him, but if they needed to I don't think the staff would hesitate to slide him in at safety.
• Assistant DBs coach Scott Vestal told me recently that Brandon Hollomon was gonna play a lot and that he's one of the top flat-out competitors on the roster.
• Cummings gets the nod over Cozart behind Heaps because we heard he had a solid camp and he has the experience edge. But Weis raved about Cozart during his press conference on Friday so he may still be in the mix in some way, shape or form.
• Even though I've got Faifili ahead of Love at Will LB, I think both will play a ton.
• So many of these positions have solid rotations in place, particularly on defense, which is good considering Dave Campo recently said that, when you're facing offenses that play 90-plus snaps in a single game, you can't just play two corners or two linebackers the whole game, you've gotta have depth. And it looks like KU has more of it now than at any point during the past three or four seasons.
Friday morning marked the start of the final day of fall camp and the final day of media access to practice for the 2013 season.
With that in mind, I tried to treat the 20 minutes I was out there as more of a retrospective session and did my best to try to remember what guys looked like on Day 1 of camp on Aug. 8 and what they look like today.
Everything was on the table for this exercise, as I tried to examine who changed physically as well as who changed mentally. Because so many of these guys came into camp in excellent shape, dissecting the physical aspect was tougher, but there were a couple of guys that stood out nonetheless.
• One of the biggest gainers, in my opinion, was right tackle Zach Fondal. Fondal not only looks to be in better physical condition than when he got here, but he also looks much more comfortable in his surroundings – almost like a veteran in some ways. I've heard that Fondal's a pretty straight forward kind of guy, so his progress is not all that surprising and definitely a good sign. At least from what I saw, he worked with the ones throughout camp and I think it's important to remember — as everyone wonders about the future of Pearce Slater — that Fondal is a juco guy himself and has played his share of football. If he is the starting right tackle, it's not like they're plugging in a freshman over there. Still, though, there's a lot of time remaining between now and the first game to sort that all out.
• Another guy is one who has not received much mention this month — safety Tevin Shaw. I remember being wildly impressed by Shaw's physical make-up last year at this time and although he does not look much bigger, he looks much more toned and cut and seems to be a lot more confident out there in everything from footwork to running through the drills. It'll be interesting to see what his role is this year. Remember, this was a guy who moved over from running back after committing to KU. Probably a good move.
• Juco transfer Isaiah Johnson seems so solid and so polished in so many ways that I almost failed to mention him during this camp. Luckily, he caught my eye today. He has great size, seems very confident and puts off the vibe that he knows what he's doing at all times. But the biggest thing I noticed about him today is his burst. He goes from 0-60 in a hurry. One minute he can be jogging and the next he'll be at top speed. Pretty impressive. And certainly something I would think coaches would want from their safeties.
• In all, I made it out there for every open practice this month and was able to watch two entire sessions, last Friday during an open practice for the media and last Saturday during fan appreciation day. Although many of the things we saw were the same each day — stretching, individual and positional drills, etc. — the opportunity to see these guys not only up close and personal but also for a consistent and extended period of time really gave me a good feel for who can do what physically and which guys were all-business, better leaders, class clowns, etc. I tried to bring you as much of that as I could throughout the month and am sure that having that information stored somewhere in my brain will aid me in my coverage of this team this season.
• My final camp thoughts are this: It's easy for guys to say they're working harder than any other college football team in the country and I'm sure at least 90 percent of the teams out there think that's true. But it's another thing altogether to go out there and back that up. It didn't matter if it was bright and early at 9 a.m. or in the hot sun of the afternoon, these guys, for the most part, went out there and busted their butts every day. Part of the credit for that goes to Charlie Weis and his coaching staff and strength coach Scott Holsopple, and part of the credit goes to the players themselves who seem to realize that playing college football is a privelege and a rare opportunity that most people don't get. I did not see many of them — if any — taking it for granted and I really get the sense that these guys are tired of the losing and want to do whatever their bodies will allow to get things turned around. How that attitude translates into performance and wins on the field remains to be seen. But fans of the program should know that their guys flat-out worked this offseason.
KU will practice again this afternoon and then continue practice next week before jumping into full game-prep mode for South Dakota the following week. Because of that, I won't be out there like I have been this month but I will still be at every possible media opportunity and our entire KUsports.com staff will bring you the best coverage possible throughout the upcoming season.
It was business as usual on the practice field for the Kansas University football team this morning.
But a person standing on the sidelines watching made this morning's session unique.
T.J. Millweard, a red-shirt freshman quarterback at UCLA who has decided to leave southern California, was in town on an unofficial visit and appears to be considering Kansas as his next destination.
According to reports, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound former three-star QB who ranked as the 23rd best quarterback in the country in the 2012 recruiting class, has decided to leave UCLA to finish his career at a school closer to his hometown. Millweard went to high school in Fort Worth, Texas, but also lived in Kansas City for some of his life and has family members with ties to this area.
Millweard sat out the 2012 season and will have to sit out the 2013 season after transferring. Wherever he ends up, he'll have three years of eligibility remaining following the transfer year.
Here are a couple of recent updates on his decision to leave UCLA:
Here's a look at the rest of what caught my eye at Wednesday morning's practice:
• Found myself looking over the offensive line again and, although we've talked a lot about Pearce Slater and Zach Fondal, I want to give Brian Beckmann and Joey Bloomfield their due, as well. Those two young guys have legit size and look to be in very good shape. It's hard to know how much they will impact the O-Line in 2013, but you can bet that both are a big part of KU's suddenly bright future on the offensive line.
• I noticed that newly named scholarship athlete Connor Embree, a wide receiver last season and in the mix for kick return duties this season, spent most of the morning working with the running backs. Embree is listed with the third string at the F position behind Tony Pierson and Brandon Bourbon, so it makes sense that he would be over there working with Bourbon, who continues to look really sharp as camp comes to a close.
• Both the running backs and wide receivers spent some significant time working on getting off of press coverage at the line of scrimmage today. Guys were beat up with pads as they broke out of their stances and were taught to use their arms to keep defenders' bodies, hands and arms off of them as they tried to get into their routes.
• With just one more practice session to view remaining before KU goes into preparation for the upcoming season mode, I thought it would be wrong if I didn't point out how much I enjoy how many of these coaches get down and work with their players during drills. Clint Bowen, Buddy Wyatt, Scott Holsopple, Ron Powlus, Scott Vestal, Jeff Blasko and several others, put all they've got into making these guys better every day. Sometimes, especially with Bowen, it looks like they could still be out there playing. It remains to be seen how much all of this work will pay off but there's no question that this football team and the entire coaching staff have worked their butts off this offseason to try to get things turned around.
No media availability tomorrow, as that's faculty appreciation day. Then, we'll wrap things up Friday morning with one more look at the team on the field. After that, the countdown to Sept. 7 can officially begin.
He may not have been wearing full pads like the rest of his KU teammates, but cornerback Kevin Short was at today's practice.
Short, a juco transfer from Fort Scott C.C., has been waiting all summer to get to Lawrence and doing a solid job of keeping people updated on his progress through Twitter.
He arrived in Lawrence on Monday night and went through his first practice Tuesday afternoon. He'll be in shells for the next two days and then will suit up in full pads starting Friday.
Although he did not go full speed and full contact in everything he did on Tuesday, Short still showed plenty in the way of athleticism to get a decent read on what type of player he is.
First of all, he's one of those guys who just looks like a natural athlete. Long, lean, with long arms and a solid frame, he looks to me like the kind of guy who could be a difference maker. I watched him in some individual drills, too, and those revealed that he's got quick feet, moves his hips and changes direction well and looks pretty effortless while doing it.
It'll be interesting to see how quickly he can get up to speed on the KU defense and what kind of role he can have when the season opener rolls around in a little over two weeks.
Here's a quick look at the rest of what caught my eye at Tuesday's practice:
• Chalk this up in the good news category, juco offensive lineman Zach Fondal looks like a different player than he did when he arrived a few weeks ago. In addition to continuing to work with the first team O-Line at right tackle, Fondal has trimmed down and toned up and is starting to look more and more athletic and comfortable each day.
• Speaking of the O-Line, it's just pre-practice drills, but the same five guys have been running those together for the past several practices. It may be too soon to tell if any of those battles have been won but it would not surprise me if they had. From left to right, it goes: LT Aslam Sterling, LG Ngalu Fusimalohi, C Pat Lewandowski; RG Mike Smithburg, RT Zach Fondal. The group running immediately behind those guys includes: LT Gavin Howard, LG Randall Dent, C Dylan Admire, RG Bryan Peters and RT Brian Beckmann.
• Christian Matthews and Josh Ford ran early drills with the No. 1 offense again on Tuesday, with Justin McCay and Tre' Parmalee running with the second team. Ford is a good athlete with great size who could be an interesting option at the X spot for KU this season, whether he's with the first team or second team.
• One local note to point out, offensive lineman Jamal Brown, a Lawrence High graduate and the son of former KU great Gilbert Brown, has dropped a few pounds throughout camp and continues to work hard. Brown still has a ways to go to get to the point where he could be in the mix, but the mere fact that he's still out there working is cool to see. He's probably dropped 10-15 pounds during camp.
• Finally, a musical note to send you off with. While the team was stretching, with the music blaring over the loud speaker, a song came on that popped linebacker Samson Faifili out of his stance and into scream and bounce mode. The song, “Let's Do It Again” by J Boog had a very island flavor to it and got both Faifili and Fusimalohi pretty fired up. Always cool to see the human, non-football side of these guys.
*Note: Day 11 of fall camp was Sunday but it was not open to the media, that's why this blog skips from Day 10 to Day 12.*
It looked like Medicine Ball Monday out at the KU practice fields this morning, as three different position groups used different sizes of medicine balls during pre-practice drills.
The offensive linemen used them to practiced what appeared to be cut blocks; the defensive backs used them to simulate getting off blockers and scooping up fumbles; and the linebackers used them for what looked like some kind of footwork drill.
This morning marked the start of Day 4 of five scheduled two-a-day practices and it was another incredibly pleasant morning weather-wise. With temperatures expected to climb back into the 90s throughout the week, these guys are going to have their hands full in terms of dealing with the heat. Some years 90s would sound good in August but this year that's going to seem like the 100s since we've been working with 70s and 80s throughout the month.
Today also begins the final week of fall camp, with the Jayhawks scheduled to finish up camp on Friday and then move into heavier preparation for the upcoming season, which is now less than three weeks away. As most of you surely know, the Jayhawks have one of their two byes on the opening weekend of college football, so while many teams are preparing for Aug. 31 openers, Kansas is getting an extra week.
Hard to believe how soon that will be here.
Enough about that, though, here's a quick look at a couple of things that caught my eye this morning. Coach Charlie Weis has his final fall camp press conference at 11:45 a.m. today so check back throughout the day for all kinds of updates and information. I'm not sure and I'm certainly not holding my breath but it's possible that we'll get an updated version of the depth chart today.
• There was no music at this morning's practice. Instead, Coach Weis got on the players about bringing the energy themselves. It sounded like there was some kind of reason for keeping the hip-hop/rap lyrics out of the air waves this morning but I didn't quite catch it. Either way, the guys responded to their coach's instructions with some chanting, screaming and singing of their own. Offensive lineman Gavin Howard broke into “Hakuna Matata” (and this isn't the first time I've heard him do that) and O-Line coach Tim Grunhard fired up the group with his version of “Do-Wa-Ditty.” The linebackers even did a little barking back and forth between the players and their coaches. It wasn't quite the same as Jay Z or 2 Chainz but it seemed like they made it work.
• Offensive lineman Pearce Slater was not out there while I was in attendance. Slater missed this weekend's scrimmage because he had to return to California for a family emergency of some sort. There have been all kinds of rumors and concerns about his departure, but all I can tell you is we'll ask Coach Weis what's up today and I'm sure he'll answer as best he can.
• No Kevin Short sighting today either. Short's missed a lot of fall camp already and there's no doubt that his absence will make it tough for him to get up to speed on the KU defense. But this is where the extra week off at the start of the season could really pay off. The guy's crazy talented and if he reports in good shape, they should be able to crank around the clock to get him to the point where he can go out there and play using some pretty basic understandings and concepts. As has been the case all along, he could arrive any day.
• I continue to be intrigued by the tight end position, mostly because I think KU will play as many as three or four of these guys this season. If work in practice has anything to do with it, freshman Ben Johnson will definitely be one. The guy is relentless in every drill and he's incredibly physical with good hands, too.
• Finally, we keep talking about the Buck position and every time I take a look over there I notice that Darius Willis looks bigger than before. Willis, you'll remember, started as a middle linebacker and then moved to D-End before being moved back to MLB in the spring. It looks like he's added a little bit of bulk — but not too much — and he could really used those skills he picked up while working on the D-Line to help him in the hybrid position. Should be interesting to see how he does this season.
That's it for now, but, as I mentioned, we'll have all kinds of updates throughout the day, including the expected announcement of KU's captains. I believe the team voted for them this weekend. I can't imagine any scenario that has anyone other than Ben Heeney and Jake Heaps getting the nod, but you never know. If those two guys aren't eligible for the prediction game, I think James Sims and Keon Stowers would be two good picks, too. But I'll be shocked if it's not Heeney and Heaps.
For the second day in a row we got to check out some extended KU football practice action. This time it came in the form of a 100-play scrimmage that featured all four KU QBs taking a handful of drives against the first- second- and third-string defenses.
For the most part, the day went to the offense again, as QB Jake Heaps led back-to-back scoring drives to kick things off and spread the ball around in an efficient manner.
The first TD came on a 49-yard pass to Jimmay Mundine and the second in the form of a 62-yard TD run from James Sims.
Heaps also later added a 27-yard TD pass to Brandon Bourbon on a third-and-three play.
Heaps finished the day 12-for-16 for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Second-string QB Michael Cummings struggled at times — particularly when he worked with the first team offense against the first team defense late — and finished the day 6-for-13 for 53 yards.
Third-string QB Montell Cozart had a nice showing in his three drives, completing 6 of 9 passes for 100 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown to Andrew Turzili.
As far as rushing goes, James Sims finished with 9 carries for 82 yards, Brandon Bourbon added three carries for 35 yards, Taylor Cox carried 9 times for 51 yards and Darrian Miller chipped in with 10 carries for 17 yards.
In the receiving game, Christian Matthews led the way with 6 catches for 77 yards, Justin McCay added two catches for 17 yards and Charles Brooks added three catches for 29 yards. Fourteen different Jayhawks caught passes during Saturday's scrimmage.
Defensively, juco transfer Brandon Hollomon had a nice day at cornerback, recording three pass break-ups, two of them on deep balls. Michael Reynolds played the run extremely well, stuffing three different KU ball carriers in the backfield for losses.
Ty McKinney picked up a pair of sacks. Ben Goodman also had three sacks and looked very good off the edge, sometimes even against starting left tackle Aslam Sterling, who had an up-and-down day. Keon Stowers also added a sack. And defensive end Andrew Bolton picked up a sack and an interception (off of a tipped pass by Jordan Darling) on the same drive.
Here's a quick look back at the 15 drives, which were capped off by a 37-yard field goal from Matthew Wyman that prompted the team to rush the field and celebrate as if it were the game-winner.
Drive 1: Jake Heaps at QB: 4 plays, 70 yards, 49-yard touchdown pass to Jimmay Mundine
Drive 2: Jake Heaps at QB: 3 plays, 70 yards, 62-yard James Sims touchdown run
Drive 3: Jake Heaps at QB: Resulted in 55-yard missed FG try by Trevor Pardula (wide right)
Drive 4: Michael Cummings at QB vs. 1st-team D: Stalled after one first down.
Drive 5: Michael Cummings at QB vs. 1st-team D: Stalled at the other 22-yard line.
Drive 6: Jake Heaps at QB: Resulted in 43-yard missed FG by Matthew Wyman (wide right)
Drive 7: Jake Heaps at QB: 9 plays, 70 yards, 27-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Bourbon.
Drive 8: Montell Cozart at QB: Cozart goes 4-for-5 through the air and leads team to a 28-yard Wyman field goal.
Drives 9-11: Jordan Darling at QB: Darling-led Jayhawks gained one first down and the final drive resulted in an Andrew Bolton interception on a tipped ball.
Drives 12-14: Michael Cummings with the 1st-team offense against the 1st-team defense: Two three-and-outs and a missed field goal by Pardula, short and wide right.
Drive 15: Montell Cozart at QB: Resulted in a 54-yard TD pass to Andrew Turzili, many of those yards came after the catch.
Drive 16: Montell Cozart at QB: Produced one first down and stalled at the 40-yard line.
Drives 17-18: Jordan Darling at QB: Three-and-out on the first two and did not cross midfield on the third.
Major props to KU coach Charlie Weis for opening up Friday's entire practice to the media.
It offered a great opportunity to see a lot of what's going on with this team heading into its third week of camp. Remember, Saturday is the day Weis said would be the drop-dead day for the depth chart. Translation: If you're not in the mix for first- or second-string reps by Saturday, you're probably not in the immediate plans for the upcoming season.
With that in mind, I'm looking forward to today's Fan Appreciation Day open scrimmage in Memorial Stadium, which runs from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and will feature a 100-play scrimmage complete with officials and live hitting. Should be fun.
Speaking of live hitting, here are a few of the highlights from today's 2-hour-plus practice. There was a ton to take in out there so this will just mostly be quick-hit bullet points.
• I spent quite a bit of time watching the linebackers today and noticed that Jake Love has really gotten quicker. He looks light on his feet and moves really well. He's battling with Samson Faifili for that Will linebacker spot and, from how things looked today, Faifili may be slightly ahead in the battle, but Love also is working at Mike linebacker and is going to be on the field plenty this fall. He's too good not to put out there.
• We know about the main players handling the Buck role: Ben Goodman, Darius Willis and Michael Reynolds, perhaps in that order. But I noticed that Neal Page and true freshman Kellen Ash also are working there today.
• One cool moment came near the end of practice before the special teams portion of things got going, when holder Blake Jablonski was told by Weis, in front of the entire team, that he had earned a scholarship. The team went nuts with joy and jumped on him as soon as the announcement came. Starting QB Jake Heaps could be heard saying, “Yes! That's what I'm talking about.” And another teammate jokingly told Jablonski that the pressure was now on. Good moment for a guy who has worked hard throughout the past few years for very little glory.
• During defensive drills, the first team D shaped up like this: Marquel Combs, Keba Agostinho, Keon Stowers and Ben Goodman on the line; Ben Heeney and Samson Faifili at the linebacker spots; Cassius Sendish at nickel back and JaCorey Shepherd, Dexter McDonald, Isaiah Johnson and Dexter Linton in the secondary. The second team looked like this: Ty McKinney, Andrew Bolton, Jordan Tavai and Darius Willis up front; Love and Prinz Kande at linebacker; Victor Simmons at nickel back and Greg Allen, Brandon Hollomon, Tevin Shaw and Alex Matlock in the secondary. No major surprises, but it was cool to see how it broke down.
• In seven-on-seven drills, the offense definitely got the best of the defense, with Jake Heaps picking apart the KU defense multiple times. He completed passes to several different receivers and those same receivers made tough catches in traffic. The passing game looked good. One interesting note came when James Sims had a ball go off his finger tips and hit the ground. The pass, which came from Jordan Darling, was low and tough to catch, but Sims still punished himself for the drop with push-ups as he waited for his next rep. That's why he's a team leader and that's why he's been so successful.
• I really enjoyed watching the QB competition between Heaps and the others during a quarterback-challenge style accuracy competition. Heaps took down Darling, Montell Cozart and Michael Cummings, with all four talking trash throughout. Later, he took down QB coach Ron Powlus in a similar battle, by hitting the target 2 out of 3 times. Powlus countered by saying he wasn't supposed to win and even joked that he tried to tire Heaps out with a footwork drill before they squared off. Good stuff. Speaking of QBs, Cummings definitely looks much better in the pocket and can flat-out wing it.
• The special teams portion of practice allowed us to see some new things in all facets. Here's a quick breakdown:
-- Kickoff return duties went to Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox, Brandon Holloman and Nasir Moore.
-- Punt return duties went to Tre' Parmalee, Connor Embree and Isaiah Johnson.
-- Michael Mesh, Trevor Pardula and Matthew Wyman all took their turn at kicking field goals, with Wyman and Pardula looking the best. Practice ended with a Pardula bomb against the win that must have been close to 50 yards, if not beyond.
-- The kickoffs, which came from Pardula and Eric Kahn, all got much deeper in the end zone, with some even going out of the back.
-- Reilly Jeffers was the first-team long snapper and looked good. John Wirtel handled second-team duties and also looked good.
-- Jablonski was the first-team holder and Embree also took a turn.
We'll be out there again today, tracking all 100 plays from the scrimmage so be sure to check Kusports.com throughout the weekend for more from KU football camp.
Another early practice came with another batch of serious energy from the Kansas University football squad.
Thursday morning's first session marked the beginning of the second day of two-a-days for the Jayhawks this month and, maybe it's the cooler weather or maybe it's their hunger to prove people wrong, but the early wake-up call and looming long day has done nothing to zap the spirits of these guys.
During the time we were allowed to watch practice, I saw more than a dozen guys really bringing it in terms of energy. Some were doing that physically, with their performance during drills and from station to station and others were doing that vocally, shouting encouragement and instructions whenever they thought the intensity was dipping.
Senior defensive tackle Kevin Young was probably the most notable guy in the vocal department. During one D-Line drill, Young seemed to sense that his guys were just going through the motions and, rather than looking the other way, he spoke up.
“We're out here,” Young barked. “We might as well have fun.”
Immediately, the energy of the entire group perked up, as guys started screaming and hollering and going a littl harder.
Here's a quick look at what else caught my eye this morning:
• The other day, I noted that Ty McKinney looked a little sluggish. That was not the case today. Not at all. McKinney may have had the most energy of anybody I saw out there today. His juice and excitement during stretching and warm-ups carried over into the drills and even though he wasn't the fastest or the smoothest dude during the drills he definitely looked like the one giving it max effort. Good to see. I talked to him yesterday and he said he felt great and that things had been going great for him and he was starting to feel very comfortable. The guy's a load and if he's in good shape and picking things up at a good pace, he'll definitely help the D-Line this year and could emerge as a major factor.
• It might have been because I just talked to them all yesterday, but I found myself pulled to the D-Line today. Luckily, there's a lot to watch there. For the first few minutes I was over there, I zeroed in on Keba Agostinho and I have to admit he looked like a different player. Both he and Kevin Young look much more explosive and also seem to have improved their footwork a great deal. It's hard to say exactly what their roles will be this season, but if those two are regular contributors and can make a legit impact, it stands to be one of the cooler stories of the season.
• Granted, it was only a couple of drills, but former walk-on Shane Smith received a lot of love from D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt while I was out there. Makes sense to me. Smith's a hard-working, no-frills kind of guy and, even if he doesn't play a down, he still has a great deal of pride and desire to be the best he can be and do things the right way. There are a ton of guys on the depth chart ahead of him, so it would be really easy for a guy like Smith to just half-ass it. But he doesn't. Ever. That's a major credit to him and I gotta think that could at least land him some kind of role on special teams.
• Finally, I got a closer look at Andrew Bolton today and the potential is obvious. The guy is an athletic specimen and, even while recovering from the knee injury he suffered during his last season of juco ball, you can tell that he's the real deal. Listed at 6-3, 280, Bolton's explosiveness measures off the charts, as proven by the fact that while doing a leverage drill under a four-foot high platform, Bolton was the only one in the D-Line group who consistently banged his helmet off the bar while exploding out of his stance. As mentioned in this article, he's got some rust to shake off but you can see the potential for something special is there.
It was another incredible weather day at KU football practice Wednesday afternoon. And I gotta tell ya, these odd August days have been noted by the KU football staff.
While at practice, I talked with head trainer Murphy Grant about whether or not he was loving the cooler weather and not having to worry about heat exhaustion like they do every other August. Grant said he thought the good-weather days were great but added that he would not mind if it got just a little hotter so these guys could test their bodies and conditioning in real heat just in case Sept. 7 rolls around and it's a scorcher.
Makes sense to me. And it's certainly cool to hear that the training staff is thinking about things like that. Grant said they're still focused on proper hydration and all of those things just as if they were going through a normal August. But there's no better test for seeing how the body reacts to heat than being out in it.
Murphy's one of best out there and he and his staff take great care of these guys.
Moving on, here are a few other things that caught my eye on Wednesday:
• Today was the first day for Pearce Slater to don full pads. He was big before but he looks like an absolute mountain all dressed up. If his stamina and conditioning can get to where the coaches want them to be, he'll help in a big way right away. Heck, even if they can't, he might help anyway. The guy's a load.
• I was particularly tuned in to Ben Goodman today at practice, largely because the defensive linemen we talked to this morning said he had looked sharp in camp. In fact, Keon Stowers went as far as to say he didn't think there was any drop off from what Chris Martin gave the defense this spring to what Goodman's giving the D in camp. Stowers is a straight shooter so that should be considered really good news. Goodman works some with the linebacker and some with the D-Line. Today he was with the linebackers and he more than held his own athletically. The guy is in great shape and he looks incredibly athletic. I think you should toss him onto the pile of guys you're excited about this fall if he's not already there.
• Minor note: Darius Willis is now wearing No. 52 instead of No. 2. We'll have to ask him about the change next time we get to talk to him. I still always think of Steven Johnson when I see 52 in a KU uniform. And, no, it's not because Johnson plays for the Denver Broncos these days, although that doesn't hurt.
• While watching the LBs I caught my first real glimpse of Courtney Arnick. Don't count this guy out. He's got great feet and can really change direction. Another guy who stood out today was Victor Simmons. I think he's having a solid camp and KU coach Charlie Weis was not overstating it when he said Simmons looked like a man among boys, physically, at linebacker. Watching him move out there, he actually reminds me of a bigger Bradley McDougald. That should come as no surprise, though, since he played quarterback at Olathe North in high school.
Another two-a-days session awaits tomorrow.
Tuesday morning marked the first half of the first two-a-day practices for the Kansas University football team this fall.
And, from the looks and sounds of all the energy out on the field, the Jayhawks were rather pumped up about it.
Typically, the morning session of two-a-days is a high-energy practice and that's for a couple of reasons. No. 1, the players are used to getting up early as many of them have been doing 6 and 8 a.m. lifts throughout the summer anyway. No. 2, it's cooler in the mornings and that makes it easier to go nuts.
Now, this year that hasn't been as much of an draw because it just hasn't been as hot as it normally is in August. But I'm sure those guys who were all padded up and wearing helmets did not mind the cooler morning for today's practice.
Here are a quick couple of things that caught my eye this morning. We're headed back for a Weis press conference at 11:45.
• I spent some extra time watching the wide receivers today and a name you should not completely discard is Josh Ford. He opened fall camp at No. 2 on the depth chart and looks like he could be sticking there. He looks to be in great shape and has always had good size. Confidence and catching the football were his biggest issues last year so it'll be worth watching how those things stack up as fall camp progresses.
• We've already talked a little about juco transfer Rodriguez Coleman, but I watched him a little more today and I came away even more intrigued by what's possible here. From what I can tell, he's kind of like a wild stallion who's just waiting to be released. All of his movements, even during basic drills, are explosive and his long legs and tall frame make him look even wilder. Word is that he's had an impressive camp so far and I think he'll quickly become a huge part of the passing game. Not only does he have top-end speed, but he also appears to have a great vertical leap.
• Tre' Parmalee and Andrew Turzili are still very much alive in the hunt for receptions. They've got their work cut out for them, but they may yet be factors. One thing I noticed about Jake Heaps' record-setting year at BYU was that he spread the ball around a lot. He had something like 10 or 12 guys catch at least double-digit passes during that fall of 2010. A lot of that was probably because of the offense they ran, but, clearly, Heaps is comfortable getting the ball to multiple guys.
• Finally, one other quick note today on the defensive side of the ball – I spent some time watching linebacker Prinz Kande and I thought he looked good. His body looks bigger than ever and he moved around pretty well out there. It's hard to say how bouncing back from the injury is affecting him, but if you didn't know he was hurt you probably wouldn't be able to guess that from watching him.