Posts tagged with Football
Here we go with Week 2 of our Keegan vs. Tait college football picks showdown.
The younger generation jumped out to an early lead with an 8-2 record last week and there are a couple of differences in this week's picks as well, so the lead could grow or change hands.
Enough with the chit-chat, though. Here's a look at this week's games and picks.
Week 1 Results
Week 2 Games
Kansas at Rice
Tulsa at Oklahoma
Georgia State at West Virginia
Iowa at Iowa State
UMass at Kansas State
Lamar at Oklahoma State
Ole Miss at Texas
Alabama at Texas A&M
UCLA at Nebraska
Purdue at Notre Dame
Question: You're starting a pro football franchise and can draft any player in his prime in NFL history. Who do you take and why?
Kansas 35, Rice 27
Oklahoma 41, Tulsa 21
West Virginia 42, Georgia State 13
Iowa 20, Iowa State 14
Kansas State 47, UMass 10
Oklahoma State 56, Lamar 7
Texas 23, Ole Miss 19
Alabama 30, Texas A&M 20
Nebraska 33, UCLA 31
Notre Dame 35, Purdue 9
Answer: You know the whole quarterback run thing that has swept over the NFL in recent years thanks to guys like Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton? Yeah, John Elway did that. OK, so maybe Elway was not the smoothest man on the move and maybe he did not run the zone read, but he did run. And he did win. A lot.
The two-time Super Bowl champion, who capped his sensational Denver Broncos career by winning MVP honors at Super Bowl XXXIII before riding off into the sunset, is second all-time in career rushes by a quarterback, one tote behind former Phily QB Randall Cunningham. He also threw a ball so hard that his receivers had a name for the little indention the tip of the football made on their bodies when it hit them — The Elway Cross — and was as competitive a player as the NFL has ever seen. Remember his helicopter run and dive that set up a crucial touchdown in Super Bowl XXXII?
For a while, before Brett Favre wound up passing him, Elway owned the top spot in the one category that should be listed first on the list of most important statistics for any player — career victories. And if I'm starting a team, I'm picking a guy who knew how to win and did anything and everything within his power to make it happen.
The ultra-athletic Elway, who twice was drafted in the Major League Baseball draft — first by Kansas City in the 18th round out of high school in 1979 and then again by the New York Yankees in the second round in 1981 — led the Broncos to five Super Bowl berths, two Super Bowl victories (back-to-back, no less) and belongs in every conversation ever had about the greatest quarterback to play the game.
As for my opponent and boss, this is probably the right time to point out that he went 4-1 in the office's NFL picks contest last week and doesn't follow the NFL a lick. He could be tough to catch in the pro picks, but since he does follow college football closely, I'm not too worried about keeping my early lead here.
Rice 31, Kansas 24
Oklahoma 35, Tulsa 10
West Virginia 49, Georgia State 7
Iowa 28, Iowa State 21
Kansas State 42, UMass 7
Oklahoma State 55, Lamar 10
Texas 35, Ole Miss 21
Texas A&M 35, Alabama 31
Nebraska 35, UCLA 31
Notre Dame 35, Purdue 17
Answer: Jim Brown. Normally, I would say a quarterback, but there was nothing normal about Jim Brown, No. 32 for the Cleveland Browns. Retired Lawrence Journal-World editor and columnist Bill Mayer likes Jackie Robinson for his pick as the greatest athlete of all-time and there is a lot to like about that selection, but my vote goes to Brown.
The greatest football player of all-time, Brown also was inducted into the College Lacrosse Hall of Fame, located on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He was a first-team All-American as a senior and ranked second in the nation in scoring. Many are aware of that, but the amazing thing about Brown's athletic career is how few know of his basketball prowess. Brown led the Syracuse University basketball team in scoring one season.
Brown led the NFL in rushing eight times in nine seasons, averaged more than 100 rushing yards per game and more than five yards per carry. Brown never missed a game because of injury. He was bigger, stronger, faster and had better vision than any other running back in the league. He demoralized opponents in a way no football player had before him or has after him.
I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Matt, on your strong Week 1 performance. For a guy who has to shave three times a day — your 5 o'clock shadow, I'm guessing, arrives at about 11 a.m. — you do a terrific job of keeping up on college football.
Day 2 of the Kansas University football program's fall camp has come and gone and I left practice with a couple more early observations.
In keeping with the spirit of yesterday's season-opening blog, let's take a quick look at a few more newcomers today as well as a couple of other interesting tidbits that jumped out at me during the 20 minutes we were out there.
• By far the player who jumped out at me the most today that I did catch yesterday was wide receiver Mark Thomas. Listed at 6-foot, 210 pounds, Thomas is every bit of that. The Nassau Community College graduate has thick, powerful legs and looks like he could do some damage both after the catch and in blocking. They were just doing basic drills against no defense so it's hard to tell how physical Thomas really is. But if he's even half as physical as he appears, he'll be a load for opposing defenses.
• Sticking at wide receiver, I got my first look at Nick Harwell today. He's smaller — at least shorter — than I expected but the roster says 6-1, 193 and we know KU coach Charlie Weis does not fudge on those measurements. Forget physical appearance for a minute, though. Harwell carries himself like the polished and experienced receiver he is. He ran mostly with the second group today — opposite Josh Ford — and he had great bounce, which led me to believe that he's not going to let the fact that he can't play this year keep him from getting better and helping the Jayhawks.
• Coach Weis told me on Wednesday not to make a big deal out of the fact that offensive tackle Zach Fondal (again, pronounced Fawn-Doll) would spend some time at left tackle and some time at right tackle throughout camp while the team attempts to build some depth at both positions and waits for the arrival of juco tackle Pearce Slater, who should be in camp tomorrow. So I won't. But it was worth noting that Fondal ran drills as a right tackl with the No. 1 unit today. Riley Spencer started there yesterday. Not worth making too much out of it. Maybe they're just alternating every other day. But this much is certain; if Fondal wasn't at least someone they thought could compete for that spot you can bet they'd have somebody else in there.
• It'll be interesting to see how long it lasts, but I caught another “Start from the bottom” reference in one of the songs that roared over the speakers at camp today. That's two days of practice and two musical references to KU's position as the predicted cellar-dweller in the Big 12.
• Another musical note: There must have been something wrong with the first song on today's practice playlist because it was all treble and sounded awful. The guy in charge of the music quickly caught in and skipped ahead to the next track, but not before hearing a chorus of boos from the players during stretching.
• I'm always a big fan of checking out who the team leaders are and since captains have not been announced yet the best place to check this out is warm-ups. Which guys go first in sprints or stand in the first line during stretching? The answer? A ton. Ben Heeney, Jake Heaps, Jake Love, Keon Stowers, Ben Goodman, Pat Lewandowski, Cassius Sendish, Justin McCay, Dexter Linton, Taylor Cox, Christian Matthews, Trevor Pardula and Riley Spencer held down the first line. Remember, football fields are pretty wide.
• Finally, I think it's noteworthy that guys are going all out out there so far in camp, even during the simulated offensive snaps the team runs at the beginning of the positional drills period. It would be real easy to jog out to your position or up to the line of scrimmage, but, for the most part, these guys are sprinting to their spots to get lined up. There's been a lot of talk about the defense playing faster, but it looks like that may be a focal point for the offense, too.
In case you missed my video from Day 1, check it out:
Seeing how today marked the official beginning of the 2013, I figured I better make my first “What Caught My Eye” blog of the season one that's dedicated to beginners.
We'll have plenty of time to get into some more position-specific stuff and talk about the Jayhawks you already know about, but here's a quick first-look at a few of the newcomers, guys we got to see in a KU uniform for the first time today.
Remember, media members are not allowed to attend the entire practice, just the first 20-30 minutes, so what we see is somewhat limited. But instead of just mailing it in and pretending like it's all the same, I'll spend the month looking for the little things that stand out — at least to me — and I'll try to interpret them and analyze them as best I can.
• First, it's worth pointing out that there was a ton of energy all over the field today. That's to be expected from a first practice — I don't care if it's the first day of middle school football or the first day of NFL training camp — but it's still nice to see, considering that the last time we were invited to practice during the season, we saw a team that always worked hard but lost its bounce week after week, loss after loss. The energy did not just come from the players today, though. Tons of juice from everyone including coaches, managers and anybody else associated with the program.
• As you might have guessed, my first glances went toward defensive tackle Marquel Combs. I wanted to see how he worked, how he moved and how he carried himself. I'd give him high marks in all three areas and the best part was, he looked like he was having fun the entire time. Combs has a chance to impact this team in a bigger way than just about anybody this season and it was good to see him out there in his element.
• On the offensive line, Zach Fondal (pronounced Fawn-doll, I've been told) looks like he could jump out there right now. Great size, good feet, fluid movement. There's no doubt that he has some work to do, both in getting in better shape and in learning how to play D-I football, but the framework appears to be there. Fondal opens camp as the second-string left tackle and he'll work at both left and right tackle throughout camp to give the Jayhawks better depth at both spots.
I know I said this was about beginners today, but this would be a good time to toss in my impressions of left tackle Aslam Sterling. In a word, I'd say, 'Wow.' Not only does he look to be in much, much, much better shape than the guy who started for the Jayhawks last season, he moves like a running back. The coaches have been singing the praises of his transformation for weeks now and after seeing it with my own two eyes I can plainly say that they're not making too much of it. He's a new man. And he looks like he has a chance to be a force.
• Another guy who jumped out at me was linebacker Samson Faifili, who opens camp as a back-up to Jake Love at the Will linebacker spot. Know this about Faifili: If Love holds him off, he'll have earned it and it'll make me think even more of Love than I already do. Faifili is non-stop energy who likes to bounce around the field, talk constantly and elevate the energy level whenever possible. He's easy to spot because he's got that Troy Palamalu hair sticking out of the back of his helmet. Before too long, I'm guessing you'll notice the guy (No. 51) for something other than his hair.
• Just because we can, let's throw Jake Heaps into the “new” grouping. After all, he is new as a starter on this squad. I've seen him plenty of times now, both in practice and in game-type settings, but I still walk away impressed every time. The ball just zips off his hand. We talked with him a little earlier today and he said he wasn't going to change anything about how he does things now that camp has started. The only change you might see is a louder, more energized, more excited guy in the No. 9 jersey. He's been waiting a long time for a chance to get back out there.
• Here's another one that's in that quasi-new category. Remember former defensive lineman Max Onyegbule? He's back with the program in a coaching role and, from the looks of things today, he'll help a lot. He's young enough to relate to these guys and spent most of the stretching portion of the practice bouncing in the faces of his D-Linemen. Any guesses on the guy who got the most attention from Max? Yep. Combs.
• Finally, one quirky thing I thought was funny came when the Coach Weis song of the day came on. Yes, they're still doing it with the second song of each practice and, yes, it sounds like it's still going to be Bruce Springsteen or Bon Jovi every day. Today's song was Springsteen's “Born to Run” but when it came on, even the players went nuts. I never saw that last year. Like I said, there was a lot of energy out there today and nothing showed that more than a bunch of 18-20 year-olds getting fired up about a song by the Boss. One other musical mention came four or five songs in, when a track by Drake filled the air. It's name? “Started from the Bottom.” It's hook? “Started form the bottom, now we here.” Sounds like a decent way for the KU football program to kick off the 2013 season.
More to come tomorrow. See you then.
Check back with KUsports.com throughout the afternoon for more from practice, as both Jesse Newell and I got some video from the first day.
As the beginning of fall camp draws near and preseason predictions pop up just about everywhere you look, the Kansas University football program continues to see the odds of a decent season stacked against it.
Earlier today, I received an email from the folks at www.bovada.lv with the updated odds on each school's chances of winning its respective conference this season.
Not surprisingly, KU was the biggest of the long shots in the Big 12, at 100-1. If you scroll through the rest of the conferences you'll see that they capped the longest odds at 100-1, which I suppose makes sense for the oddsmakers but seems a little off from where I sit.
Don't get me wrong here; I think KU will be a much improved team in 2013 and I'm fully expecting the Jayhawks to win a Big 12 game or two. But if I'm putting down any money on the Jayhawks to win the entire conference, I'd sure like to see my payout be greater than 100-1 if they actually pulled it off.
For the record, I'm not betting on KU or anyone else to win the Big 12 this season, but I did pick Texas on my preseason ballot.
Inside the program, KU coach Charlie Weis and his staff and players will continue to use things like this as motivation. They know that nobody outside of the walls of their football complex believes KU will be much more competitive this season in the conference than they have been in the past few.
But they also believe — even if they aren't saying it — that those people will be wrong.
As you know, KU was picked to finish 10th in the 10-team Big 12 by the media. And most of the preseason college football magazines I've scanned have the Jayhawks slotted in the cellar, as well.
But I have heard, oh-so-quietly, from a few people out there who are willing to say that KU will be the surprise team in the Big 12 this season. What that means is not exactly clear. By calling them the "surprise team" they could be saying that most people expect them to win zero games and they see them winning 3 or 4. They could also be calling them a surprise team because they believe they can finish in the top half of the league. Who knows?
The good news here is that, a week from tomorrow, we'll begin the quest to finding out, as KU's fall camp opens and the season officially gets under way.
In the meantime, here's a look at the rest of those odds in the other major conferences.
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Big 12 Conference
Oklahoma State 5/2
Kansas State 12/1
Texas Tech 25/1
West Virginia 25/1
Iowa State 40/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 American Athletic Conference
South Florida 33/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Atlantic Coast Conference
Florida State 5/2
Virginia Tech 15/2
North Carolina 8/1
Georgia Tech 12/1
North Carolina State 50/1
Boston College 75/1
Wake Forest 100/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Big Ten Conference
Ohio State 5/6
Michigan State 15/2
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Mountain West Conference
Boise State 7/5
Fresno State 2/1
Utah State 11/2
San Diego State 13/2
San Jose State 10/1
Colorado State 33/1
Air Force 40/1
New Mexico 100/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Pac-12 Conference
Arizona State 9/1
Oregon State 10/1
Washington State 50/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Southeastern Conference
South Carolina 9/2
Texas A&M 15/2
Ole Miss 33/1
Mississippi State 75/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Mid American Conference
Northern Illinois 13/10
Bowling Green 7/2
Ball State 5/1
Kent State 15/2
Western Michigan 33/1
Central Michigan 40/1
Eastern Michigan 75/1
Odds to win the 2013-2014 Conference USA
East Carolina 15/4
Middle Tennessee 12/1
Louisiana Tech 15/1
North Texas 20/1
Southern Miss 20/1
Florida Atlantic 28/1
Florida International 33/1
Annual KU football coaching clinic mixes good entertainment with wealth of knowledge and coaching advice
The Kansas University football program wrapped up its annual coaching clinic on Saturday with the back end of a two-day clinic that drew dozens of college and high school coaches from around the area and focused on everything from X's and O's to the way KU coach Charlie Weis and his staff run the program.
The clinic was structured in a way that allowed every coach that attended a chance to interact with KU's coaching staff in small groups and also allowed time for the coaches to give presentations on a variety of topics that focused on their areas of expertise.
Defensive coordinator Dave Campo talked coverage concepts. Recruiting coordinator Rob Ianello shared with the coaches ways for them to help their athletes get recruited. And so on and so on.
All of the coaches who spoke at the event showed genuine enthusiasm and did not mail it in in any way. In fact, several of them seemed legitimately bummed when the time ran out on their Saturday sessions. Here are but a few of the more interesting and/or entertaining points:
• Weis kicked things off bright and early Saturday morning with a brief overview of who he was, where he came from and where he was headed. His message was simple and he repeated it often: “You have to change with the times and be able to adapt you to your personnel not your personnel to you. It's a big difference, fellas.”
Weis, who emphasized a football coach's role as a teacher, said he first learned that extremely important lesson from the first coach who ever hired him in Morristown, N.J.
“When I understood that football is nothing other than the subject you teach, that's when I really became a football coach,” Weis said.
• Linebackers coach Clint Bowen, who diagramed run fits and discussed them in terms of concepts the way Campo described Read, Mix and Cloud coverage concepts, shared with the coaches in attendance some words of wisdom he first heard from former KU defensive coordinator Bill Young.
“The more times you can say always and never the better chance you have,” Bowen said.
Most of the material covered by both Campo and Bowen focused on generalizing your defense and the buzz words within it to make it as easy as possible to adjust quickly from one look to another.
• Offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, in wrapping up his session, made a genuine plea to the coaches in attendance to come up and hang out in the summer from time to time. Grunhard, who coached for six years at Bishop Miege High, said he never got the feeling during that stretch that KU's coaching staff reached out to the prep community, and he's proud to be part of a staff that values that and sees its importance.
• Strength and conditioning coach Scott Holsopple may have stolen the show by talking with great enthusiasm about the ins and outs of his job and laying out not only his personal philosophies about strength training but also outlining a year in the life of the KU football program. He talked fast and covered everything, from what the Jayhawks do and how often they do it during spring, the offseason and in season to what they do on a daily basis and why it's important.
At the end of Holsopple's talk, which went 10-15 minutes longer than scheduled, several coaches in attendance were so fired up that they turned to one another and simply said, “Let's go get a workout in.”
Perhaps the best part of Holsopple's session was not the behind-the-scenes look at how KU football operates, but the way he tailored his talking points to what could best help the coaches in attendance. Throughout the hour-long Q&A, Holsopple kept going back to the fact that he wanted this to be worth these guys' time and wanted to help them get as much out of it as they could, stuff that they could learn and take back to their programs and utilize.
• Friday night's portion of the clinic included two guest speakers, legendary Florida high school coach George Smith and Smith Center, Kan., high school coach Roger Barta. Before the room broke up into buzz sessions by positions, the two coaching giants held court on everything from their humble beginnings in the business to detailed
More than a couple of coaches, including Campo, told me Saturday that the hour-long session run by those two guys was as cool a moment as they had enjoyed in coaching in a long time.
• In addition to the individual time with KU's coaching staff, the coaches at the clinic were invited to watch Friday's regular practice and a 90-play scrimmage on Saturday.
Tuesday marked the first practice of the spring that was open to the media and instead of the usual 20 minutes of stretching and warm-ups, KU coach Charlie Weis opened the door and pulled back the curtain for the entire hour-and-40-minute session.
A good chunk near the end was spent on special teams, but, with this team, even that was an area worth watching.
With that in mind, here's the first (and maybe only) edition of “What Caught My Eye” from spring drills. Grab a chair and get comfortable.
• New year, new leaders. In addition to the bounce in their step and hope in the air (none of that was there during the final few weeks of the 2012 season), it's always interesting to see what a new team looks like during spring drills. Who steps up and leads. Who is most vocal? Who leads by example? All of that and more is easy to spot during an open practice. But the easiest way to find out who the leaders are is to watch the stretching lines. Usually the guys closest to coach Holsopple are the biggest leaders and, on Tuesday at least, that seemed to hold true. The first line included quarterback Jake Heaps, linebacker Ben Heeney and running back James Sims. A couple of surprises on the first line included Keba Agostinho, Randall Dent, Dexter Linton, Jacorey Shepherd and Ron Doherty. A few of those guys are seniors, but a few are not. Nothing earth-shattering there but it was the first thing that jumped out.
• The Coach Weis song of the day seems to be back, at least for now, and today, the practice DJ stacked a Bruce Springsteen song on top of a Bon Jovi song. Talk about buttering up the head coach.
• Darius Willis, who now wears No. 52, looks substantially bigger than I ever remember him being. Willis, whom Weis said recently is pushing Heeney for first-string reps at middle linebacker, looks mobile, physical and ready for a bigger role again. In short, he's everything I thought he would be when he first arrived from Buffalo.
• One of my favorite drills of the day was a drill in which five receivers ran different routes on the same play, with each one receiving a ball at the same moment. The drill was made possible by the fact that all three KU quarterbacks — Heaps, Michael Cummings and Blake Jablonski — along with QB coach Ron Powlus and one of the managers dropped back and threw to a designated guy. While this unfolded for nearly 10 minutes, Coach Weis sat in a golf cart in the end zone and coached both the receivers and the quarterbacks. The way the receivers and running backs ran routes at different depths reminded me of the fountains at the Belagio in Las Vegas dancing to the music.
• Speaking of routes, I thought it was very cool to see the different ways Tony Pierson was used. I don't think for a second that we saw even one-fifth of what KU will ask of Pierson this season, but what we did see was the dynamic junior speed back running routes all over the field. Short. Long. Seam. Post. Corner. If he and Heaps can develop some chemistry, he'll be a nightmare for opposing defenses this fall.
• Another dude we've heard about who truly has gotten bigger is red-shirt freshman tight end Jordan Smith. The guy's lower body looks like a tank. Didn't watch him a ton in route-running and pass-catching drills, but he's bulked up, no question about it.
• We didn't get to see much of the offensive or defensive lines during live action, so I'll stick with the linebackers and secondary. The first string looked like this: Courtney Arnick, Heeney and Jake Love at linebacker, with Shepherd and Cassius Sendish at corner and Greg Allen and Dexter Linton at safety. When the team went to its nickel package, Dexter McDonald checked in at nickel back. When they went dime, Allen, Linton, Shepherd, McDonald, Sendish, Tevin Shaw, Willis and Heeney were all out there.
• Remember that talk of accountability that we heard from these guys at the start of spring drills? It's legit. I heard more guys calling out other guys today than I can remember all year last year. Nothing major and nothing nasty. Just guys yelling at other guys after a dropped pass or for jogging instead of sprinting. No bad blood, no whining, just players responding to a little push from another teammate. Pretty cool to see, really.
• One of the most exciting sessions of the day was the one-on-ones, where wideouts or running backs lined up against a defensive backs and ran routes. Overall, the offense seemed to get the better of the defense during this one. By my count, the offensive player got the best of the defense 19 out of 31 times. That included nine of the first 10, though, so the DBs made a decent comeback late in the drill.
• Got my first look at new defensive backs coach Scott Vestal in action. He's intense. The guy really has a motor and he has a set of lungs to match. Really like his style and passion.
• We saw some pretty extensive special teams work and, of all the return men, Tre' Parmalee and JaCorey Shepherd stood out as the most impressive. Both had multiple long returns and looked incredibly shifty no matter where they were on the field.
• Speaking of special teams, it was cool to see the punting and kickoff drills because that gave us a good look at new kicker Trevor Pardula. I know it was just one practice, but I'd be shocked if Pardula didn't have both jobs locked up already. He's solid and consistent on kickoffs — something that even teammates paid attention to and responded with, 'We need that,' — and he can really boom his punts. On a couple of occasions, Pardula's punts inspired Weis to say the following: “Woo Hoo Hoo Hoo.” Huge upgrade.
• As for field goal kicking, it appears there's still some work to be done there. Pardula was decent and veteran Ron Doherty had his moments, but nobody stood out the way Pardula did in the other aspects of the kicking game. That's not all bad news. Remember, Hutch Juco walk-on Michael Mesh is still coming this summer and he should have a good shot of winning the job.
• Pardula did deliver when it counted, connecting on a 38 yarder to close practice. Had he missed it, the team would have run. Instead, they celebrated. Want another sign of progress? Last year, this was the drill that Weis had his team do over again because it didn't celebrate the made kick properly. No such problem Tuesday.
I just received a news release from KU that forced me to do a double-take. Turns out what I thought I read the first time actually was true.
KU has become the first NCAA program to incorporate virtual-reality training into its regular routine of preparing its student-athletes for competition.
The full release is posted below. It sounds to me like this is a potentially very cool development and certainly keeps KU on the cutting edge and at the forefront of college athletics when it comes to training practices and facilities.
Here's the release:
Kansas Athletics became the first NCAA institution to partner with EON Reality, the world's leading interactive 3D software provider, in the creation of software to eventually be used in a virtual reality football simulator. The simulator utilizes EON Reality’s popular Icube and will enable student-athletes to simulate an actual game for training and teaching purposes.
“This state-of-the-art training will greatly benefit our student-athletes and makes Kansas a leader of virtual reality in sport,” Kansas Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger said. “We constantly seek responsible and innovative ways to help our student-athletes and this cutting-edge technology brings a great opportunity to our football team.”
Once the software is fully developed, student-athletes will be able to step into a 10 feet by 10 feet room and be immersed into simulated-game action. The experience makes the user feel as if they are standing on an actual playing field, complete with crowd noise, realistic game speeds and football player avatars running real plays.
The student-athlete will be able to experience game action of any play desired. The virtual reality football simulator is at the forefront of a growing trend of applications using virtual and augmented reality within the sports industry.
“At the elite level, everyone is pretty much the same when it comes to size, speed and strength,” said Brendan Reilly, Co-Founder of EON Reality Sports. “What separates an average team from a great team is how they perform from a cognitive standpoint – reading plays, understanding coverages, reducing mistakes and making quick decisions, etc.
“The teams that do these seemingly little things right usually wind up winning. Virtual Reality has been proven to dramatically increase a user’s experience level. The end goal is to speed up the experience level of an athlete and essentially have freshmen operating at the same cognitive level as a senior.”
Here's a quick video I put together from today's KU football clinic with about 100 Special Olympians. The event, which was organized by Hannah & Friends, the not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with different abilities founded by KU coach Charlie Weis and his wife Maura, included the team and its participants running through 10 different skills stations and an hour-and-a-half of drills, laughs and smiles.
The new KU student group, Hannah & Jayhawk Friends, which, Maura Weis said is the fastest growing organization on campus, also helped make Saturday's fun happen.
After the clinic was over, I got to stick around for an hour of the Jayhawks actual practice and saw some new looks and new faces, so I'll have more thoughts from that later today.
For now, enjoy the video from a great event!
OK, for this week's final set-the-scene-for-spring-football blog, we'll dive into sleepers.
Rather than just pick a few and speculate how they might fit in or what roles they may play, I'll go position-by-position and give you one player whom I could see making a splash that people may not be expecting.
Now bear in mind that this is being written before the start of spring drills and that time, let alone preseason camp, could change things drastically. But, for now, here are the guys I could see stepping up in some way, shape or form this season.
*Disclaimer: Just because they make this list does not mean I'm saying they will make a huge impact.*
Quarterback: Tough one. I'll go Jordan Darling. Jake Heaps looks like the man and Michael Cummings is a known name as his back-up. I don't expect Darling or fellow-freshman Montell Cozart to play, but one of them figures to get a leg up on the other through scout team reps and if Darling can put up the high school numbers he did while moving to a new school each year, I think he could contribute in a positive way as the show team QB in 2013.
Running back: Freshman Colin Spencer. Weis recruited this guy as an athlete/defensive back and already has moved him to running back. That was partially to cover his butt in terms of depth but more so because Spencer can play. I fully expect him to factor into the offense in some manner right away.
Wide receiver: Ishmael Hyman. Remember how Tre' Parmalee played a much bigger role than anyone expected last season? That's what I keep thinking of when Hyman's name pops up.
Tight end: Trent Smiley. I've long been a fan of Smiley's ability to block. He may be as good as anyone on the team. And because of that, you know he's gonna be out there. Playing time leads to production and even though Smiley won't be asked to do much more than block, I wouldn't be surprised if he came away with three or four touchdowns by default this season.
Offensive line: Let's go with Joey Bloomfield. True freshmen rarely do much on the offensive line at KU, but there's something about Bloomfield (probably his 6-6, 305 size) that makes me scratch my head and wonder if he might be ready for some kind of role a little earlier than most we've seen in recent years.
Defensive line: Keon Stowers. Did not make the splash I thought he would last season, but did participate in plenty of snaps and seemed to improve as the season went along. I've heard his name mentioned more than a few times when it comes to offseason workouts and leadership, and, at 6-3, 290 and athletic, Stowers has the make-up to be a pest in the middle.
Linebacker: Victor Simmons. As a true freshman, I had Simmons pegged as a future star at safety. But then the coaching change happened, he moved positions and my prediction fell flat on its face. Simmons is a big-time athlete who can run and during the past two seasons has bulked up nicely to 6-2, 206 pounds. I doubt he plays much, but if he gets a shot, that speed and his physicality could become a factor much in the way Prinz Kande's was before a knee injury cut his season short last year. (Kande was another good option here, by the way, but you never know how a guy's gonna respond to a serious injury like that).
Cornerback: JaCorey Shepherd. I'm going with Shepherd as a sleeper here only because he's still new to the position and I think he's going to be very good one day. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has raved about the former wide receiver since Day 1 and we saw flashes of what he could do last season. Coming off a full offseason devoted to defense, I think Shepherd has a chance to be a terrific corner.
Safety: Dexter Linton. Linton fared well when thrust into action because of injuries last season and seems to be the most proven safety among KU's returners. We may have seen his ceiling in those games and the guys Weis & Co. brought in during the offseason may have more talent, but it would not surprise me if Linton played a decent-sized role this season.
Specialist: Ron Doherty. One kicker (Trevor Pardula) was given a scholarship to help eliminate KU's problems in the kicking game and another (Michael Mesh) was encouraged to walk-on with the idea that he could compete for starting place kicking duties right away. I know Doherty has been strictly average during the past couple of seasons, but what if those moves (and getting past an injury that plagued him for most of 2012) are exactly what the senior with experience needs to deliver a breakout season?
During the 13 months that I’ve covered him, Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis has proven himself to be 100 percent honest. It’s one of his most solid characteristics and one of the things on which he prides himself.
Another is his ability to read people, build relationships and have an impact on the lives of hundreds of young men throughout the past few decades.
That’s what makes today’s Deadspin story about the tale of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s girlfriend being a hoax seem like such an unbelievable thing.
Although Weis has talked very little about Notre Dame since taking over at Kansas in December of 2011, he has answered questions when asked and talked, both publicly and privately, about how much he values his relationship with Te’o and his family.
Weis certainly had nothing to do with any of this, but I can only imagine how much hearing this news hurts him emotionally, given the strong bond he has with the Te'o family, and how much it will really hurt him if it turns out to be true.
No one knows what to think right now but this much we do know: Deadspin’s report was wonderfully done and, if accurate, brings shame to the entire Te’o family.
Here's the official statement from Notre Dame released just moments ago:
Notre Dame Statement: Manti Te’o
On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax. While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators.
Dennis Brown University Spokesman | Assistant Vice President
Statement from Manti Te'o:
"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.
"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.
"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.
"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.
"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft."