Posts tagged with Ku Football
With the current state of Kansas football leaving more than a little to be desired by the KU fan base, it's often easier to think back about the good days than it is to focus on the present or even forecast the future.
Whether that brings memories of Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier in the snow, the Orange Bowl title in 2008 or a stretch of three bowl appearances in four seasons, the fond memories are there and they did not take place too long ago.
One such memory, or at least a memorable Jayhawk, that just now seems to be gaining serious steam is the four-year career of cornerback Chris Harris. Harris, currently a starter for the Denver Broncos who is widely regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, has gone a long way toward bringing positive vibes to the KU program to fans of professional football.
If you're a regular visitor of this site, you've probably seen and read plenty about Harris. But there's even more to his story than the current success and memorable milestones he's racking up by the day.
The Broncos official web site recently did a fantastic job with Harris' story, in a three-part series known as The Underdog.
Here you get a very candid and entertaining look at Harris' beginning and everything that went into making him the player — and person — he is today.
It's worth a watch for anyone, but will be especially meaningful for KU fans who remember No. 16 making his mark during that magical Orange Bowl season in 2007.
Check it out…
21.Tyrone Miller Jr., 6-foot, 180-pound Fr. Cornerback
Don't be surprised if Miller plays a big role on this KU defense pretty quickly.
The Jayhawks are in big time need of some cornerbacks who can play and Miller, who comes to KU from Saline High in Ann Arbor, Michigan, poised beyond his years and ready to play a physical and aggressive style of football, might wind up being one of the better gets in the 2015 recruiting class.
Originally committed to Central Michigan, Miller got on board with the idea of challenging himself in the Big 12 when fellow Michigan native and KU running backs coach Reggie Mitchell got involved in his recruitment.
Mitchell has a fantastic track record of landing top talent and Miller said Mitchell's persistence along with the vision for the future laid out by head coach David Beaty was enough to convince him that Kansas was the place to be.
A self-described “physical, in-your-face cornerback,” Miller drew early interest from in-state power programs Michigan and Michigan State, but lost touch with the Wolverines when the school turned over its coaching staff and was forced to look elsewhere when MSU filled up its class.
That development turned out to be KU's gain and even though there are a half dozen other cornerbacks on the roster who could challenge Miller for playing time and even a starting spot, his experience in man-to-man coverages and all-around athleticism and versatility make him a strong candidate to hold down one of the starting cornerback spots, with juco transfer Brandon Stewart most likely being the other starter entering the 2015 season.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Everyone knows that having a strong offensive line — especially in a pass-happy conference like the Big 12 — is paramount to a team's success. And there are a handful of guys on the Kansas University football roster who give the Jayhawks a chance to trot a line with a little bit of experience and some talent onto the field this fall.
The latest entry in our ongoing series of the most crucial Jayhawks for the KU football team this fall is one of those guys.
Here's a look:
22. Junior Visinia, 6-foot-4, 345-pound Soph. Offensive Lineman
Visinia is coming off of a solid freshman season in which he played in all 12 games and started three at right guard.
The biggest question for the Grandview, Missouri, native heading into his second season with the Jayhawks will not be focused on what he did during the offseason to make himself stronger.
Ability is not the issue here. Visinia has a solid understanding of how to play the position, is versatile enough to handle run blocking and pass blocking and has possibly the best feet of the bunch, especially when you consider his size. But there were times last season — as there are with all freshmen — when Visinia was simply overmatched from a strength perspective. And if he did not do enough in the offseason to address that then the likelihood of him making a significant jump during Year 2 drops.
Having said that, it sounds like new strength and conditioning coach Je'Ney Jackson and crew have worked these guys hard over the summer and are seeing great results both in terms of improved power and stamina.
The experience Visinia picked up last season as a true freshman just trying to figure it all out should go a long way toward making him comfortable from the get-go this season. And his presence as an anchor at right guard should be something KU can count on.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Yesterday, we unveiled No. 25 in our countdown of the most crucial KU football players for this fall. Today, it's on to No. 24, where we flip from offense to defense.
Here's a look.
24. Fish Smithson, 5-foot-11, 193-pound Jr. Safety
After spending one season at Hartnell College, the friendly dude with the funky name arrived on campus prior to the 2014 season poised and ready to play Division I football.
A big reason for that was Fish's upbringing, when he left his native Baltimore to live with his brother, Shaky, in Utah while Shaky starred for the Utes football program. Being tossed into an environment like that forced Fish to mature more quickly than most guys his age and the up-close-and-personal look at college football at a young age allowed him to pick up little things that later would help him make the transition.
In a back-up role to Cassius Sendish and Isaiah Johnson, Fish played in all 12 games last season and finished as KU's fifth-leading tackler.
With those guys out of the picture and the completely remade secondary desperate for leadership and a veteran presence, Fish should have a chance to emerge not only as more of a play-maker but also as one of the generals on defense for the Jayhawks.
Not blessed with any one spectacular skill, Fish is incredibly solid in several areas. He's a lot like Sendish in that way and he is not afraid to stick his nose in there to make a tackle.
The Jayhawks have a bunch of defensive backs on the roster and many of them possess terrific speed, athletic ability and upside. But few of them have the kind of game experience — and production — that Fish brings to the table and that puts the junior in position to be one of the more important pieces on the team, both in terms of delivering on the field and helping bring the young guys along.
Here's a look at the list so far…
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Don't look now, but July has arrived and, like it or not, before we know it, it's going to feel an awful lot like football season around here.
For now, the KU men's basketball team's run at the World University Games in South Korea is keeping much of the focus away from KU football, as is the fan base's absence of much hope for the upcoming season. Both are valid reasons to keep football on the back burner, but seeing how football is the reason they pay me, I'm not quite as able to turn my attention away from it. Nor do I want to.
This season likely will be rough. But I continue to be impressed by this coaching staff, the direction the program is ultimately headed and, most of all, the incredible effort being put forth by the players this summer. This KU team might lack depth and it might even lack Big 12 talent, but you'd never know it from the way these guys are working.
I know it sounds like you've heard that before, and you probably have. But if it's true, you can't just ignore it. Does that mean the work they're putting in now will lead to wins this fall? That's probably not very likely. But it does mean that they already have bought in to this new staff and are not wasting any time putting in the first bricks in what they hope someday will be a strong house.
Enough about all of that, though. Let's jump into some interesting tidbits that won't make or break the season but might be interesting enough to get you to that next KU hoops game....
• During my weekly viewing of the official KU football roster (always have to make sure I'm aware of any updates that might have taken place) I noticed that senior defensive lineman Ben Goodman is no longer going to wear No. 93, which he has worn since he arrived on campus four years ago. Goodman, instead, will be wearing No. 10 this fall. We haven't had the chance to talk to these guys in quite a while but I'll definitely be interested to hear why Goodman decided to make the change.
• Speaking of numbers, everyone loves quarterbacks and it's probably not too early to start scouting which KU QBs will wear what numbers this fall. Montell Cozart, who seems like a virtual lock to start the season opener on Sept. 5, will still be wearing No. 2. Newcomers Carter Stanley (No. 9) and Ryan Willis (No. 13) are also worth noting. The most recent QB to wear No. 9 at Kansas was 2013 starter Jake Heaps, who, by the way, caught on with the New York Jets and is one of five quarterbacks to sign with the Jets heading into camp. He's still a long shot to make the final roster, but I always love when good dudes get a fair shot and Heaps is getting his. I can't find or recall the last KU QB to wear No. 13. Anyone?
• A couple of other interesting players will wear one of the most dynamic numbers in KU football history this fall. Freshman wide receiver Chase Harrell (6-4, 200) and freshman defensive end Dorance Armstrong (6-4, 225) will suit up in the No. 3 jersey made available by the departure of speed demon Tony Pierson. Of course, Pierson was merely the latest ultra-talented Jayhawk to wear No. 3, following in the footsteps of two-way threats Aqib Talib and Charles Gordon. In more recent years, and before Pierson got the number, former running back Darrian Miller, who had a monster freshman year, also wore No. 3. Of course, just because the number has been so good to those guys — or is it the other way around? — does not mean it's a guarantee that Harrell and Armstrong are in for big things. I happen to think both are, but back in 2008 it was none other than the infamous Jocques Crawford who wore No. 3, so take it with a grain of salt.
• I always love watching what happens to old numbers of superstars after they leave and this year will be no exception. For example, I remember thinking it was hilarious when Greg Brown (5) and Corrigan Powell (10) wore the numbers of Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier following their final seasons in crimson and blue. This year, the number that jumps out the most in that department is 31, worn for four years by Ben Heeney. Suiting up in Heeney's old number will be the only linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class, Osaze Ogbebor. It's far too early to know how well Ogbebor will rep the number, but here's guessing he'll get a chance to show it this season and won't be quite as much of a wild man.
• One other guy who joined Goodman in moving to a new number for the 2015 season was sophomore cornerback Matthew Boateng, who, last season as a true freshman, wore No. 1 and now will be wearing No. 33.
From the "in case you missed it" folder, check out the following video of former Kansas University football standouts Chris Harris and Steven Johnson leading a Colorado symphony in the KU fight song during a recent event put on by the Denver Broncos.
Harris and Johnson were two of a handful of current Broncos players who participated in a battle of the conductors event of sorts. Each player, including Texas A&M product Von Miller and Tennessee legend Peyton Manning, led the musicians in their school fight songs and fans were encouraged to vote for who did the best job of leading the band.
Here's a look at Harris and Johnson in action:
For years, the one constant with the Kansas University football team — other than all of the losing, of course — has been the Jayhawks' ability to put together a deep and talented stable of running backs that, in many ways, have been interchangeable.
Whether you're talking about the steady presence of James Sims, the dynamic play-making ability of Tony Pierson, the do-it-all demeanor of Darrian Miller or even the always-ready-and-willing philosophies of Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon, the Jayhawks always had a few backs they could count on to handle the load in the backfield.
That continued into last season even after Cox and Bourbon went down with injuries in the preseason thanks to the emergence of freshman Corey Avery and newcomer DeAndre Mann. Together, that duo helped the Jayhawks transition away from Sims and into more of the same steady presence on the ground in an offense that struggled at most of the other positions.
On Tuesday, however, first-year coach David Beaty announced that Avery had been dismissed from the program for violating team rules and, all of a sudden, things don't look quite as deep or dependable in the backfield.
Yeah, Cox and Mann will be back, but both are coming off of significant injuries and their health and longterm prognosis have to be at least a little bit of a concern. Cox hasn't played football since tearing his Achille's tendon last August and was out for an extended period of time before that because of a bum hamstring. And Mann spent portions of last season nursing head injuries, a plight that's bad news for any player but especially a running back who's asked to lead with his head and churn out those tough yards with guys flying at him from all directions.
That leaves just a couple of other running backs to look at. And before the 2015 season is complete — or possibly even before it begins — both could find themselves being counted on heavily to handle the ball-carrying responsibilities for this year's team.
Both are newcomers, but junior Ke'aun Kinner at least has the advantage of having been in Lawrence for spring football.
By all accounts, the shifty, 5-foot-9, 180-pound spark plug was one of the more impressive performers throughout the spring and there's no doubt that he will have an important role for the Jayhawks this fall.
He's not quite Tony Pierson — but, really, who is? — but he does figure to bring that same kind of explosive potential every time he steps onto the field. That's good news for Kansas and a fun challenge for offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who, no doubt, is sitting somewhere right now trying to find creative ways to get Kinner the football in space.
After that, you're looking at true freshman Taylor Martin, a two-star back from Fort Worth, Texas, who was one of the better pick-ups in the 2015 recruiting class.
Martin, who chose KU over Colorado State, was receiving late interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State.
As a senior at Dunbar High, Martin ran for 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns and earned a spot on the Star Telegram's Super Team second unit. For his career, he averaged 1,660 yards and 24 touchdowns over three seasons.
He also was a two-time district track champion in the 100-yard dash and his combination of blazing speed and good size (5-10, 185) make him a candidate to handle more carries than most freshmen, should KU need to lean on him right away.
Unlike last season, when KU was forced to move freshmen Joe Dineen and Darious Crawley from safety and wide receiver to help add depth at running back, the Jayhawks, at least as of now, are on schedule to have plenty of bodies to rotate in and out of the backfield, even without Avery.
The possibility always exists, too, that they could even add a back or two via transfer or late pick-up. Should that happen, the stable only gets deeper.
But, quality depth or not, with Cox and Mann coming off of injuries, the possibility remains that KU will be counting on two newcomers in a big way to keep alive the streak of solid play from the running back position in Lawrence.
As the past has shown us, that doesn't necessarily mean bad news. But it does put more pressure on the offensive line and quarterback and it does make the odds of KU continuing its run of solid running back play a little less than a lock.
Tuesday marked the second day of the Team Camp circuit at the Kansas University football facilities, and, like Monday, hundreds of high school athletes from nearby schools braved the heat and took their turn on the turf at KU.
Monday's camp welcomed 17 teams to Lawrence and 16 returned for Tuesday, pushing the total number of campers in town this week to right around 800.
While the specifics of what they did and how they worked meant very little to the KU football coaching staff, the mere fact that that many bodies were able to come up to campus at one time to meet the coaches, see the facilities and experience the KU way of life qualifies as a huge development, even if it's not known for a few years just how big of news that is.
Think about it: Six or seven years ago, a young Ben Heeney showed up for these types of team camps and no one knew then that he would wind up becoming one of the best defensive players to ever come through KU.
A guy like that was out there this week. Whether anyone knew it or not was the bigger question.
Of course, there were plenty of guys that the KU coaching staff did know about. And getting to have them on campus in this type of setting was invaluable for the evaluation process.
One head high school coach told me that there were four or five KU coaches with eyes on one of his top players at nearly all portions of the live action the past couple of days. He added that, “there's always a KU coach within 10 feet of you when things are really moving out here. That's great exposure for the kids.”
And it's an even better tool for the KU coaches, who view recruiting as the lifeblood of the program and are in a position where they simply cannot miss on guys if they hope to get the latest KU football rebuilding project off the ground any time soon.
It's easy to watch highlight tapes or game film and hear good things about athletes from their high school coaches. It's another to be able to watch them in a camp setting like this, when it's hot, they're uncomfortable, they might be getting whipped by another team and they have to really show what they're made of to get through it.
Watching those things can be huge for these coaches and even the smallest misstep by an athlete can lead to him being crossed off the recruiting board.
That's not to say this is NFL-combine style serious business out here. These guys have fun, too. Music, from KU's insanely large loud speaker, is blaring from the hill, they have breaks built in for food and recovery and there's all kinds of camaraderie and sportsmanship on display, even with players and coaches from rival schools.
It's likely that the KU coaches only had a list of 5-10 guys that they truly wanted to watch at this week's camp. But the past is full of guys, in all sports, who got noticed because a coach was watching his hot-shot teammate and happened to catch a glimpse of what he could do. It's entirely possible that a few guys made that kind of impact — or at least were noticed — this week, and at a place like KU, where opportunity is plentiful, there's no telling what that could lead to in the future for either player or program.
KU summer camps will continue throughout the week, with a skills camp in Coffeyville tomorrow, a Friday Night Lights elite camp for high school prospects on Friday and a kicking academy on Sunday.
The Kansas University athletic department finished the past year ranked 23rd nationally in total revenue earned, this despite continuing to field a football program that severely limits the earning potential of the department.
According to numbers published by USA Today on Friday, Kansas, led primarily by its elite men's basketball program, finished just shy of the $100,000,000 mark in total revenue, pulling in $97,681,066. That total put Kansas fourth in the Big 12 behind Texas (2nd, $161 million), Oklahoma (7th, $129 million) and Oklahoma State (11th, $118 million).
The next closest Big 12 school to Kansas was West Virginia, which pulled in $78 million during the past year and placed 35th nationally.
It's still a ways down the road and far from a guarantee. But imagine for a second if new football coach David Beaty and his staff can get things going again and have Memorial Stadium close to full on a weekly basis year after year. With that kind of financial impact, KU easily could jump into the Top 10, especially if the Big 12 dollars continue to grow.
Speaking of those, the USA Today numbers were released on the same day that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby revealed that the Big 12 institutions pulled in roughly $25.6 million apiece from a $252 million pie as a part of the conference's revenue distribution from TV deals. That number is for the eight full-share members of the conference. Newbies TCU and West Virginia each pulled in about $23 million as outlined in the agreement they signed when they joined the conference a couple of years ago.
Thanks to ever-increasing television contracts and the continued attractiveness of the Big 12 market, those numbers are higher than the conference was able to dish out a year ago and Bowlsby said that trend is expected to continue in the future. Big 12 officials believe that the payout could reach as high as $44 million per school by the end of the current TV contracts.
Football may be costing KU in a lot of ways, but the financial health of the athletic department certainly looks better than many believe. That's not to say it's smooth sailing up there, but it's also not complete chaos either. And a big chunk of the credit for that goes to athletic director Sheahon Zenger, his vision and his philosophies on spending and not writing checks that your butt can't cash, along with the dedication and commitment to those areas by his entire staff.
Of course, even Zenger himself would tell you that the incredible earning potential of the men's hoops program is the department's golden egg and that one of his main focuses since taking over the job was to make sure that program had everything it needed to continue to function as a national power and world-wide brand.
Sure the NFL season remains several months down the road and, yeah, most of the pro football news of late has been about the recent NFL Draft or Tom Brady and Deflategate, but it's not every day that a former Kansas University football player gets tapped as the fourth best player in all of football so we might as well talk about it.
That day came Tuesday, when Pro Football Focus, one of the top resources for NFL analytics, dubbed former Jayhawk Chris Harris as the No. 4 ranked player in the Pro Football Focus 101 of 2014.
Harris, a native of Bixby, Oklahoma, who is about to enter his fifth season with the Denver Broncos, was one of the top cornerbacks in the league last season.
If the season Darrelle Revis had in 2009 was the single best year we have seen from a cornerback in the PFF era – and it was – then Harris in 2014 got as close to it as anybody has come, and did it despite tearing his ACL in the playoffs the previous year. He came into this year just eight months removed from that injury and yet finished the season with a monster coverage grade and statistics that rivaled anybody.
Here are some of those statistics:
Harris was thrown at 89 times and did not allow a single touchdown.
• Harris allowed 46 receptions (51.7 percent) but gave up an average of just 7.7 yards per catch.
• Harris was not beaten for a pass longer than 22 yards all season.
• Harris finished with 3 interceptions and 10 passes defended.
• When opposing QBs threw Harris' way, they finished with a 47.8 passer rating.
According to PFF, those raw coverage numbers rank pretty close to Seattle stud Richard Sherman (the other cornerback in the Top 10) and are made all the more impressive given that Harris lines up all over the field, left side, right side, slot, nickel.
Although his numbers and the praise he receives from players, coaches and analysts throughout the league certainly put Harris in the elite players at his position, Pro Football Focus believes that Harris' old school mentality, which favors hard work over flash, may be keeping him from being thought of in the same regard as Sherman, Revis or others like him in the past.
Harris has never been used as creatively as Rex Ryan or Bill Belichick used Revis, and he isn’t the masterful self-promoter that Sherman is. He sticks to the old attitude of letting his play do the talking. Unfortunately, in today’s NFL, that doesn’t necessarily get you ahead, and Harris’ understated excellence hasn’t been enough to get him the recognition he deserves. Last season he was truly excellent. Better than Darrelle Revis. Better than Richard Sherman. Better than Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson or any other cornerback that has been in the conversation for best in the league.
Knowing Harris like I do, these are the things that drive him. He likes knowing that people still doubt him and loves going out there and proving everybody wrong. More than that, though, he just wants to win. He gladly would give up all of the stats and recognition for a ring and now that he has that hefty new contract and some financial security for his family's future, the only thing on his mind from here on out will be delivering a championship back to Denver.
Seasons like 2014, as hard as they might be to duplicate, certainly help and you can bet Harris will be looking to top those numbers when things get crackin' this fall.