Posts tagged with Ku Football

Pro Football Focus taps Chris Harris the 4th best NFL player in 2014

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) reacts after making an interception as free safety Rahim Moore (26) and strong safety Mike Adams, left, watch during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) reacts after making an interception as free safety Rahim Moore (26) and strong safety Mike Adams, left, watch during the second half of an NFL football game against the San Diego Chargers, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, in San Diego. The Broncos won 35-24. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy) by Matt Tait

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.

As a four-year starter for the Jayhawks, senior cornerback Chris Harris has seen the highs and lows of the football program. His freshman year culminated in an Orange Bowl victory. In his senior year, the team is 2-6 going into today’s home game against Colorado.

As a four-year starter for the Jayhawks, senior cornerback Chris Harris has seen the highs and lows of the football program. His freshman year culminated in an Orange Bowl victory. In his senior year, the team is 2-6 going into today’s home game against Colorado. by Nick Krug


Beaty back on the road to promote KU football

Between recruiting, returning to Texas to see his family and touring the state to drum up interest for his new program, Kansas University football coach David Beaty has spent a lot of time on the road since being named KU's newest football coach.

This week, in some of KU's most important recruiting territories, Beaty will be entering a few more miles into his travel log.

Beginning Tuesday in Houston, Beaty will make a few stops to share with KU fans his vision for the program and a state of the program as it stands today.

Beaty will be joined by fellow Jayhawks, members of the KU Alumni Association, KU administration and assistant football coaches for a happy hour to talk about what's next for Kansas Football. Food will be provided with a cash bar. The events are free to the public.

Here's a quick look at the schedule for the week:

• Tuesday — Houston, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Christian's Tailgate Heights, 2820 White Oak.

• Wednesday — Dallas, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Henderson Tap House, 2323 N. Henderson Ave.

• Thursday — Denver, Colorado — 7-9 p.m. at Stoney's Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St.

After that, it'll be back to Lawrence to get the team's summer conditioning program and summer camp schedule under way.

While Beaty's away, the Jayhawks themselves will be focusing on this week's final exams.

Before we check out, here's a quick look at the new KU football poster for the upcoming season.

The official 2015 Kansas Football poster.

The official 2015 Kansas Football poster. by Matt Tait


11 former Jayhawks set to begin journey to make NFL rosters

The NFL Draft has come and gone, and, by now, you've surely heard all about the 11 different Kansas University players who either were drafted or picked up by pro teams via free agency in the hours following the draft.

But rather than just knowing that this guy landed here or that guy landed there, it seems like a legitimate look at each guy's chances of making an impact — and a roster — might be in order.

As has been proven in the past by both draft picks and undrafted players, just because a guy was or was not selected does not seal his fate.

With that in mind, here's a quick look at KU's latest crop of NFL hopefuls.

• LB BEN HEENEY --- 5th round pick, Oakland Raiders (140 overall)
Heeney has all the makings of an immediate impact player on all of Oakland's special teams. However, given that the Raiders recently cut an experienced middle linebacker, he might be in line for some immediate playing time on defense and figures to be a guy who sticks around the NFL for a long time.

• CB JACOREY SHEPHERD --- 6th round pick, Philadelphia Eagles (191 overall)
Shepherd could very well go down as a guy who several teams regret passing on because of his injured hamstring. He was one of the top corners in the pass-heavy Big 12 during the past two seasons and has the physical and mental make-up to become a stud. He's probably not physical enough (yet) to follow in Chris Harris' footsteps, but his cover skills and athletic ability could earn him some big money someday.

• CB DEXTER MCDONALD --- 7th round pick, Oakland Raiders (242 overall)
McDonald was not a lock to get drafted but the fact that he did certainly increases his odds of making a roster. Some say it's better not to get drafted in the seventh round because then you can pick your team to tryout with based on the factors that best suit you. That's probably not the case with McDonald, who drew interest from Oakland before the draft and clearly stuck in their plans. Big, physical and gifted athletically, he'll definitely get every shot to make the Raiders' 53-man roster.

• WR NICK HARWELL --- FA pick-up, Dallas Cowboys
Good athlete, great hands and a knack for getting open, the native Texan could easily be one of those guys who opens eyes with his volume of work. The Cowboys already have Cole Beasley on the roster, but if there's room for a Beasley back-up, Harwell could be the guy. It won't be easy for him to make the roster and a lot of it will come down to whether the plays are called for him during camp and the preseason. Even the most talented guys get lost and cut when they don't get work.

• WR NIGEL KING --- FA pick-up, Miami Dolphins
I remember the Dolphins' scout sticking around KU's pro day to talk to King after the event. So it's likely he's been on their radar since at least then. Big, physical with strong hands and good measureables, King has all the physical tools to make a roster and has always approached the game with a business-like attitude. To me, he's one of the more likely KU free agents to stick.

• TE JIMMAY MUNDINE --- FA pick-up, Cleveland Browns
The biggest thing Mundine has going for him is his versatility. His pro day numbers were more impressive than many expected and he has the ability to stay in and block, run routes down the field or perhaps even play some fullback or H back in the right offense. That kind of versatility certainly increases his chances.

• P TREVOR PARDULA --- FA pick-up, Kansas City Chiefs
It sure seems like the Chiefs are set at punter with veteran Dustin Colquitt, but he is in his 10th season and, while that's still young by punter standards, it's not impossible to see a club going with a younger, cheaper option if one emerges. The biggest question for Pardula won't be the leg. It'll be his consistency.

• RB/WR TONY PIERSON --- FA pick-up, Chicago Bears
Straight-line style and injury history make Pierson a long shot to make a roster. But his insane speed earned him the opportunity. He'll make the most of it, and he's very deserving of the chance. Had injuries not slowed him down, I think there would've been a place for him somewhere.

• DE MICHAEL REYNOLDS --- FA pick-up, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where Reynolds projects at the pro level is a question mark. He's a bit undersized as a D-End and maybe not quite fluid enough to play linebacker. Like most free agents, he'll have to make a roster as a special teams contributor, where fit doesn't matter as much as effort, heart and a willingness to sacrifice everything to make the play.

• DB CASSIUS SENDISH --- FA pick-up, Cleveland Browns
Like his fellow former-KU-now-Cleveland teammate, Jimmay Mundine, Sendish's versatility could prove huge. Nobody worked harder than this guy from the time the season ended until draft day — he kind of reminded me of Chris Harris in that way — and his ability to play corner, safety and nickel, along with any number of special teams, could make him a tough guy to cast aside.

• DB/LB VICTOR SIMMONS --- FA pick-up, Seattle Seahawks
Such a naturally gifted athlete, Simmons should be able to fit into to whatever role the Seahawks want him to play. He's undersized to be an NFL linebacker, but not in terms of strength. Safety might be his best bet and Seattle might be a great fit given that the organization has proven it has no issue whatsoever with how a guy looks, only how he plays.

• NOTEWORTHY: It's also worth pointing out that former KU quarterback Jake Heaps, who finished his playing career with the Miami Hurricanes, received a camp invitation from the New York Jets. Heaps, the former 5-star QB who started the 2013 season at Kansas after transferring from BYU, was en route to New Jersey Thursday morning. In related news, former KU safety Keeston Terry, who left KU after the arrival of former coach Charlie Weis and played out his college career at nearby Pitt State, received a rookie mini-camp invite from his hometown Kansas City Chiefs. Terry's father, Doug, played DB for Kansas City from 1992-95. One more former Jayhawk who joined the ranks of the NFL was wide receiver Andrew Turzilli, who played his final year of college football at Rutgers and signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans following this year's draft.


Coming Thursday: David Beaty vs. KU in a cornhole challenge

There aren't a whole lot of details out there about this event, which is slated to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday on the lawn of Watson Library on KU's campus, but the KU video department put this video together and its intent is clear.

First-year KU football coach David Beaty is ready and willing to take on all comers in an oversized game cornhole, the popular tailgate game also known as bags.

The event is merely the latest way that Beaty is taking to the streets to engage with KU students and fans in an attempt to spark interest in and drum up support for a program that has struggled through six consecutive losing seasons under three different head coaches.

From the look of it, all you have to do is show up to participate in what's being dubbed "Coach Beaty's Campus Challenge." Be forewarned, though. As you can see in the video, the KU coach feels pretty good about his skills.


What caught my eye at Day 11 of KU football’s 2015 spring practices

KU QB Montell Cozart looks to pass during Friday's 7-on-7 drills at spring practice No. 11.

KU QB Montell Cozart looks to pass during Friday's 7-on-7 drills at spring practice No. 11. by Matt Tait

Friday's spring practice for the KU football team — No. 11 of 15 — kicked off with strength coach Je'Ney Jackson sending his guys back to the goal line after a lackluster breakdown that followed their warm-up.

“We're about to scrimmage, fellas,” Jackson and other coaches yelled. “Have some enthusiasm.”

Seconds later, the breakdown was much more spirited and the Jayhawks had that fire the coaches were looking for.

This, of course, is nothing new. Coaches do this all the time and it has happened at KU plenty. But regardless of whether it encourages you to roll your eyes or pump your fist, it definitely shows the kind of commitment to the small details that this coaching staff and these players are working toward.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to stay for the scrimmage but there were a few other things that caught my eye while we were out there. Here's a look:

• Probably the most interesting aspect of Friday came in the 7-on-7 period that happened just before we were asked to leave. Four different quarterbacks got four reps each and I timed how long it took each to get the ball out of his hands after receiving the snap. Here are the results: Michael Cummings – 2 seconds, 2.5 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds; Montell Cozart – 3.5 seconds, 2 seconds, 3.5 seconds, 2 seconds; Frank Seurer Jr. – 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 2.5 seconds; Brock Gilmore – 4 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 4.5 seconds. Now, just because those back-ups held the ball a little longer does not mean the passes were incomplete or the plays were a bust. But if it's tempo they're looking for (and it is) it's crystal clear that Cummings and Cozart are a full step ahead in terms of reading and reacting.

• One special teams drill I hadn't seen yet was the onside kick recovery drill, which featured roughly 30 different guys running through the drill. One at a time, the guys would practice fielding the bouncing kick and then going down to the ground to secure it. Mixed results, as expected, but it was a fun drill to watch. About that attention to detail, special teams coach Gary Hyman got all over his kickers during the drill for not going rapid-fire enough. “This is their drill, not yours,” Hyman barked. “Get the kicks off faster.”

• Watched the O-Line again for a while and saw Zach Yenser calling out protections and then hovering over his guys while instructing them what to do. Most of them knew what to do to begin with, but he was creating stress and forcing them to focus while under fire. Bryan Peters was working at left tackle with the ones and twos and I can't help but think he's going to wind up being one of those Gavin Howard type guys this fall. He may not be the most impressive guy they have, physically, but he's reliable, can play multiple positions and has a good head.

• The Jayhawks will take the weekend off and return to the practice fields on Tuesday for practice No. 12.

KU receivers coach Klint Kubiak (all black at left) directs the onside kick recovery drill during Friday's practice at Memorial Stadium.

KU receivers coach Klint Kubiak (all black at left) directs the onside kick recovery drill during Friday's practice at Memorial Stadium. by Matt Tait


What caught my eye at Day 10 of KU football’s 2015 spring practices

D-Line coach Calvin Thibodeaux works the bag as Andrew Bolton works on footwork and getting off of a block during Thursday's practice.

D-Line coach Calvin Thibodeaux works the bag as Andrew Bolton works on footwork and getting off of a block during Thursday's practice. by Matt Tait

I'm not sure why but I've kind of overlooked the defensive line this spring — at least in terms of how often I've watched them work at practice.

Maybe it's because we've heard so much about how the D-Line is one of the strengths of the team and so many of those guys who play up front are familiar names — Ben Goodman, T.J. Semke, Andrew Bolton, Kapil Fletcher and others.

With that said, I made sure to go stand down there on Thursday at spring practice No. 10 and I'm definitely glad I did.

Not only was I impressed by what I saw — these guys really look to have good footwork, great get-off and solid work ethic — but I also was entertained.

Calvin Thibodeaux was a solid player on a few really good Oklahoma teams. From the look of things, he's also well on his way to becoming a solid coach and maybe even a comedian.

During one drill, in which the D-Linemen were working on lateral movement, a couple of guys stumbled over the bags on the ground. Thibodeaux let 'em have it.

“Don't whoop 'em, bags,” he kept yelling. “Oh man these bags are tough, aren't they? Glad we don't play the bags on Saturday.”

Ribbings like those were seemingly endless, but they all were done with a purpose — to motivate the guys to prove Thibodeaux wrong. Like I said, they've got great work ethic and I can't help but think that's where some of it comes from.

Here's a quick look at the rest of what caught my eye on Thursday:

• During Wednesday's meeting with the media as I was talking with offensive coordinator Rob Likens, special teams coach Gary Hyman came over and pointed something out to me that I had never noticed. “Greatest hair in all of NC-2A right there,” Hyman said as he messed with Likens' 'do and walked away with a laugh. In the interest of being thorough, I decided to take a closer look at Thursday's practice, but was foiled. See, Likens most often wears a hat out there at practice, so he wasn't letting anybody see the locks. Guess we'll just have to trust Hyman on that one.

• Speaking of assistant coaches, co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry donned a little something extra to get his point across to his defensive players at Thursday's practice. Instead of just yelling things to help leverage like, “Bend your knees,” and “You're too high, you're too high,” and “Stay low, get down,” Perry wore a long sleeve T-Shirt with those instructions plastered across the front. Bend. Your. Knees. It's one thing to bark orders, but it's another to remind guys constantly even when they just look at you.

• One more note about Hyman, whom you've already heard has an incredible amount of energy. During a kickoff return drill, one kick returner caught the ball, rolled up the right side and then cut it back to daylight on the left side and broke free. Now in a game that might not be frowned upon. But at Thursday's practice, that wasn't the case. Hyman lit him up for cutting it back because the drill they were doing was designed to work on blocking assignments with a right return. Cutting it back does not allow the guys in the drill to see whether what they had done actually worked or not and Hyman made sure the returner and everyone within ear shot knew it.

• During the 11-on-11 live offense period, Montell Cozart was the first QB out there with the first team. That could mean something, but it also might not. Likens said the other day that he makes a conscious effort to ensure that both Cozart and Michael Cummings work equal reps with the first-team offensive line and the second-team offensive line so he can see how each guy reacts to the adversity and advantages that come with both. It might have just been how the rotation fell today so I wouldn't read too much into Cozart being out there first just yet.

• Speaking of QBs, one thing I noticed that was new to me was hand signals from the quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage. Now, we're not talking Peyton Manning stuff here, but I did see these guys signaling to receivers and possibly even linemen with their hands after taking the calls from the sideline. All in the name of tempo, I'm sure.


What caught my eye at Day 9 of KU football’s 2015 spring practices

The Kansas University football team put another spring practice in the books on Tuesday. That's No. 9 of 15 for the Jayhawks, who will wrap up spring ball with the annual spring game on April 25.

The Kansas University football team put another spring practice in the books on Tuesday. That's No. 9 of 15 for the Jayhawks, who will wrap up spring ball with the annual spring game on April 25. by Matt Tait

If you're looking for signs of optimism regarding the progress of the Kansas University football team this spring, here's a nugget that might interest you.

On Tuesday, at the ninth practice of the spring, the Jayhawks jumped right into a special teams period following the stretching and warm-up session as they normally do.

For the second time in the past few practices, kickoff return was the focal point of the period and it jumped out at me how much the Jayhawks had improved in such a short time in this department.

Things that were merely being taught at a practice last week now looked like things these guys had been doing for years. And the overall energy and intensity of the drill looked much sharper, crisper and efficient.

It's one drill. And this does not mean that all is well and that this coaching staff has a magic wand that can turn frogs into princes.

What it does mean, though, is that these players are continuing to put in the work and what they're being taught is starting to take hold.

Here's a quick look at the rest of what caught my eye at Tuesday's practice:

• There has been some message board chatter about the health of left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith and I even wrote last week that he wasn't working in every drill. But he was out there today and seemed to be fine. Good news for an offensive line that's still coming together.

• I thought it was interesting to watch the tight ends working drills with some of the wide receivers on Tuesday. Ben Johnson, who every day looks like he's poised to step into a big time role, and Kent Taylor were working on routes with Tre' Parmalee, Rodriguez Coleman and Tyler Patrick. Nothing Earth-shattering here, but it speaks to the potential interchangeable nature of these positions in an offense that may use as many as 8-10 pass catchers per game.

• Speaking of interchangeable, I noticed that former Free State High standout Joe Dineen was working with the safeties at Tuesday's practice. Dineen, who started as a safety and then moved to running back and finally linebacker, is listed on the roster as a linebacker. He's been held out of most contact drills throughout the spring while recovering from an injury so maybe him working with the safeties was just a way to get him some more mental reps and keep things sharp in case he's needed back there, as well.

• We continue to hear nothing but good things about the way Montell Cozart and Michael Cummings are battling for the top spot on the depth chart at quarterback. So I took an extended look at both on Tuesday. Forget arm strength, footwork and those types of things. I'm not fully qualified to critique that, nor do I get to hear what they're asked to do with each rep. One thing that jumped out at me while watching though was how both guys constantly looked for time to get some work in between reps. If Cozart wasn't throwing live, he was working on his arm placement or drop back. And if Cummings wasn't up in the drill, he was doing the same, while also clearly working through some mental reps. We've heard a lot over the years about the importances of these extra reps and it's cool to see both guys taking it seriously.

• Speaking of the two QBs, I believe we'll get to talk to them and maybe a few other players sometime this week. So it should be fun to hear how the battle's progressing and how they're liking the Rob Likens/David Beaty offense.


What caught my eye at Day 8 of KU football’s 2015 spring practices

No need to be alarmed, but Friday's eighth practice of the spring session for the Kansas University football program may have been the first in which special teams coach Gary Hyman did not sport his signature look of a turtleneck and pants.

According to one KU official, who also noticed the fashion trend, Hyman was mic'd up for Friday's practice, an episode of KU's web-only, behind-the-scenes look at practice that surely will go down as a must-watch.

Hyman usually looks something like he does in the photo below:

Special Teams coach Gary Hyman left, and Darius Willis right, talk about drills on Thursday March 26, 2015.

Special Teams coach Gary Hyman left, and Darius Willis right, talk about drills on Thursday March 26, 2015. by Richard Gwin

All joking aside, I continue to be amazed by Hyman's energy. It's as if the guy just never has a bad day — or at least as if he's immune to showing it. When he's on the practice field, his entire focus is on giving every ounce he's got to teaching the Jayhawks in front of him whatever drill or skill they're working on that day.

It's not just Hyman who operates this way, but he's definitely one of the loudest and most entertaining of the bunch.

With Friday marking the first practice of the second half of the spring, I tried to spend a little more time looking at depth chart situation, knowing darn well that what's out there today could change a dozen times before the first game. Still, it's at least an indicator of which guys have performed well through the first part of spring ball.

Here's a look at what else caught my eye at Friday's practice:

• I got my first look at some kickoff return drills and it's safe to say that there's still quite a battle going on back there for which guys will get first team reps with that unit this fall. On Friday, Rodriguez Coleman, Derrick Neal, Ke'aun Kinner, Corey Avery, De'Andre Mann and walk-on Ryan Schadler (a red-shirt freshman from Hesston, Kansas, who ran track at Wichita State and continues to catch my eye with his blazing speed and all-out effort) all took turns with the first team. There's a long way to go before that gets sorted out, but it's definitely fair to say that's one area where KU is not hurting for options, provided they can afford to use front line guys in that role.

• Speaking of that drill, LBs coach Kevin Kane and WRs coach Klint Kubiak (I guess it was a K-name thing) ran the drill and their emphasis was not on the return guys but rather on the first three blockers in front of them. Not only did they emphasize steps and direction and spacing, but they also made it a point to hammer home to those guys that it's extremely critical for them to yell to the wall in front of them that the ball has been caught and they're coming. “Caught it, caught it, caught,” barked Kubiak, demonstrating the proper style and volume. “Yell and be loud out there, fellas. Make sure they hear ya,” Kane added.

KU's offensive line runs through a drill at Friday's practice.

KU's offensive line runs through a drill at Friday's practice. by Matt Tait

• Quick update on the first- and second-string O-Line units. It seems as if regular first-team left tackle Jordan Shelley-Smith might be dealing with some kind of a nagging injury so on Friday the ones lined up like this: LT Joe Bloomfield, LG Bryan Peters, C Keyon Haughton, RG Junior Visinia, RT Larry Mazyck. The twos looked like this: LT Devon Williams, LG Kyle Pullia, C Jacob Bragg, RG D'Andre Banks, RT Jayson Rhodes.

• I spent the last part of the practice we were allowed to watch observing the wide receivers and both Rodriguez Coleman and Tre' Parmalee jumped out at me throughout the drills. Coleman just looks so effortless in everything he does. If you're not into that sort of thing, you might mistake it for a guy with a lack of a motor, but I don't think that's the case. He just moves so well and has some pretty good experience, that this is all old hat for him. As for Parmalee, his hands (which never were an issue) look stronger and better than ever and he's another one of those guys who you can tell has played a little bit. Both guys are going to have to really step up for this young and inexperience receiving corps this fall, but it seems like they're doing a solid job of leading by example and helping bring the young guys along.

• The Jayhawks will have the weekend “off” and will return to the practice field on Tuesday for spring session No. 9.


What caught my eye at Day 6 & 7 of KU football’s 2015 spring practices

KU special teams coach Gary Hyman runs through a containment drill during spring practice No. 7 on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium.

KU special teams coach Gary Hyman runs through a containment drill during spring practice No. 7 on Tuesday at Memorial Stadium. by Matt Tait

Other than the 80-plus degree temperatures that made the Memorial Stadium turf feel like it would in the middle of a summer day, the main thing that jumped out to me at Monday and Tuesday's sixth and seventh spring practices for the KU football program was the attention to detail and fundamentals stressed by every coach during every drill.

On Tuesday — as is the case on most days — special teams coach Gary Hyman was the man flying around the field yelling and screaming about technique, steps, shoulders and leverage.

He's a blast to watch because he's so passionate about what he does and he puts every ounce of what he's got and who he is into every rep. The Jayhawks would be in great shape if they had a bunch of Gary Hymans to suit up and play this fall.

But they don't, so he's doing the best he can to mold them into guys who have his personality. I can't imagine what it's like to play for him, but it's a lot of fun and very informative to watch him work. He's equal parts praise and critique and you have to listen carefully to the words to determine which is which because his voice and tone rarely change.

Whether it's “Goooood, that's the way to do it, son,” or “Why did you let him get outside of you,” Hyman puts his signature roar on each teaching point.

Here's a quick look at the rest of what caught my eye during Monday and Tuesday's practices:

• One of Monday's most interesting special teams drills involved a volleyball. Yep. A volleyball. Linebackers coach Kevin Kane was working with guys on rushing the punter and instead of using a football, the mock punter had a volleyball and simply flipped it with his hands whenever guys got close enough to get a block. They did this drill from a full 10 yards back and also did it from a couple of feet away, where they simulated running with their arms and then just flipped their hands out when Kane blew the whistle. This was just one of the many special teams drills that they did during the past two days, but it was cool to see how seriously the guys were taking it. Fundamentals reign supreme.

• In case you missed it, also on Monday, 5-star Antioch, California, running back Najee Harris, 6-2, 220 pounds, was on campus for an official visit. It was Harris' second visit to KU in a month and, although he's just a sophomore, the interest in the program seems to be genuine.

CCR fan and KU linebackers coach Kevin Kane keeps an eye on a group of Jayhawks working through a tackling drill during Tuesday's practice.

CCR fan and KU linebackers coach Kevin Kane keeps an eye on a group of Jayhawks working through a tackling drill during Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

• Moving on to Tuesday, tackling was a huge emphasis of the portion of practice that we were able to see. I'm sure it is every day in a number of different ways, but the focus on wrapping up and bringing guys down really jumped out to me during this one. Kevin Kane ran a station that focused solely on wrapping up at the line of scrimmage. Every position group but the offensive line and quarterbacks came through it, even the wide receivers. Clint Bowen and Kenny Perry also ran tackling drills with mats and bags. The one thing Kane kept yelling over and over — other than great things like, “Holy Moses,” after a poor rep — was: “Guys, you've gotta get better at tackling. You've gotta get better at tackling.” Continued effort like they showed on Tuesday certainly won't hurt.

• Speaking of Kane, by far the most hilarious portion of Tuesday's practice came when “Fortunate Son” by Credence Clearwater Revival blared over the loud speaker. Kane, who must be a CCR fan, started barking at the players at his station at the time, “Who sings this?” “Who sings it?” “Who. Sings. This. Song.” Each time, the Jayhawks delivered a shake of the head and a shrug of the shoulders. I can't say I expected any of them to know the answer, but watching Kane try to coach it out of them was hysterical. Finally, after about a minute, he gave up and told them. I'm not sure the actual answer rang any bells either. Good stuff.

• This is really nothing new, but it's pretty impressive what kind of shape this coaching staff is in. These guys look good, they move well and they clearly have made fitness an important part of their lives. It's easy, when you work the kind of hours that these guys work, to let that area of your life slip, but these guys — many of them young dudes — have not done that. That kind of example can only help, especially when it allows them to jump into drills and join in the conditioning elements of practice.

• As for specific players who have stood out the past couple of days, defensive end Damani Mosby continues to look like a man possessed. He goes hard every single rep (at least the ones that I've seen) and, physically, looks like the kind of guy who could make a significant impact on the field this fall. Another guy who looks good is Ronnie Davis. He's still a work in progress in some areas, but, physically, he's put together well and, like Mosby, he goes all out all the time.

• To be fair to the KU wideouts, who have struggled with drops at times this spring, there was a deep ball fade and back-shoulder drill they did while we were out there and I only saw one ball hit the turf. They ran this on one side of the field from the 40 yard line in and then lined up in the end zone on the other side of the field and ran it from the goal line out. Minor detail, but it's this kind of efficiency that KU coach David Beaty has always been impressed by and it's no surprise that he's incorporating a whole bunch of it into his first practices as a college head coach.

• Now at the halfway point of spring football, the Jayhawks will be off Wednesday and Thursday and return to the field on Friday for practice No. 8 of 15 scheduled for the spring. The final date will be the annual spring game, which is scheduled for April 25.


NFL Draft Chatter regarding a few former Jayhawks

We've reached April, known in NFL circles as draft month, and it's time to do some quick inventory on the former Jayhawks hoping to get their chance to catch on with an NFL team for the 2015 season and possibly beyond.

As you know, Ben Heeney and JaCorey Shepherd are the former Jayhawks most likely to get drafted in the April 30-May 2 draft, which will take place in Chicago, but there are more than a few other guys from last year's team who figure to get their shot.

Let's start with Heeney and Shepherd and go down the list. As you may have seen, both guys continue to show up on various mock drafts that attempt to predict how this year's draft will play out. The most recent deep mock draft I've seen, a five-round mock draft done by Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union-Tribune, had both Heeney and Shepherd hearing their names called in this year’s draft. Brown has Heeney going as a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 123 overall. He has Shepherd slotted one round later, as the fifth-round pick of the Denver Broncos at pick No. 164. As you know, Denver already has former Jayhawks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib in its secondary (along with Steven Johnson at linebacker), but the Broncos snagged Harris as an undrafted free agent and went after Talib during free agency two years ago. Maybe it's time they actually drafted a Jayhawk. Time will tell.

Speaking of Shepherd, it's worth noting that the former KU wide receiver turned cornerback who was invited to the NFL Combine but could not participate because of a hamstring injury ran his 4.65-second 40-yard dash time at KU's pro day in late March with a torn hamstring. Several scouts on hand that day came solely to see what Shepherd could do, and even though his 4.65 time was slower than the 4.4 range he had hoped, the fact that he ran that decent of a time with a severe injury showed the scouts plenty.

According to his Kansas City-based trainer, Dexter McDonald's Pro Day, which included some of day's best numbers and times across the board, may have been enough to get teams seriously interested in drafting him. Joseph Potts, a former KU football player and owner of Top Speed Sports Performance, said McDonald's agent recently told him that a few teams have mentioned the possibility of taking McDonald in rounds 3-5 and added that both Oakland and Arizona were planning to fly McDonald out to their headquarters to meet with him and show him around. McDonald, who was fabulous in 2013 and merely solid in 2014, definitely has the athleticism, size, ball skills and toughness to get a shot. Whether that comes via the draft or not remains to be seen.

Former KU defensive tackle Keon Stowers is another guy hearing good things from a few NFL clubs. Stowers, who tore his right pectoral muscle during the bench press portion of KU's pro day after appearing to be well on his way to 25 or 30 reps, is stuck rehabbing now and won't be able to go full speed for at least a few more weeks. Still, several scouts told Stowers that they liked what they had seen on film and that he should expect a phone call following the draft.

I haven't heard too much about KU's trio of wide receivers — Nigel King, Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson — but it seems like a safe bet that at least two of the three will get invited to a camp if they're not drafted. Because of his size, great hands and solid pro day numbers, King figures to be the guy with the best shot in this bunch. But Harwell was productive throughout his career and is a dependable route runner with good hands, so it seems like he should at least get a shot, as well. Pierson, though blazing fast, is probably a bit of a long shot given his size, lack of a true position and injury history.

Tight end Jimmay Mundine is another guy who could be flying under the radar a little bit. I've heard that several teams are intrigued by his physical make up and versatility. He could be used as a second tight end or even flipped to fullback or H back in the right offenses. Mundine really helped himself at pro day, with numbers and times that were better than most expected.

Other than those guys, Victor Simmons, Cassius Sendish, Michael Reynolds, Tedarian Johnson and Trevor Pardula (a combine invitee) also are hoping to catch the right eye during the next few weeks and earn an invitation to show what they can do.

Pro Day recap with individual numbers


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