Posts tagged with Ku Football
How the upcoming track removal at Memorial Stadium could make fans feel closer to the action on Saturdays
The prevailing thought with most KU football fans seems to be that the biggest reason the track needed to come out of Memorial Stadium was because the seats are too far away from the action.
While the idea of lowering the field and adding seats closer to the sideline remains very possible, such a step won't come for at least a couple of years.
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger told me last week that he's still got the lowering the field option on his radar. But while architects are working up preliminary plans for a major renovation at Memorial Stadium down the road — so KU can be ready to strike when the money and momentum (perhaps in the opposite order) are in hand — nothing about the bigger project is set in stone at this point. Zenger and his staff continue to kick around ideas, examine other venues and talk to professionals about what's possible, what's not and how much all of their different ideas would cost.
We'll get to that in time. But for now, the track's coming out and it's happening tomorrow.
If you ask me, that's going to do a lot more for Memorial Stadium than I think most people may realize. Here's why.
What we've had at Memorial Stadium for the past several decades, in my opinion, is a bit of an optical illusion. Because of the different color of the track, the lines that divide the lanes within it and the extra layer of separation that can be seen from the stands, the seats feel and appear to be farther from the field than they actually are.
Because the issue of getting rid of the track has been kicked around for several years now, I've often thought about it while visiting other stadiums. I can't recall exactly what the distances are at each venue I've been to but I can assure you that the distance between the stands and the sideline at Memorial Stadium is in the same ballpark as many of those other stadiums.
Take K-State's Bill Snyder Family Stadium for example. The last time I was over there to cover a game, I paced it off. Again, I don't recall exactly what the distance was but I remember it being in the 48-50-foot range. If my steps were accurate, that would actually put the seats at K-State farther away from the field than what KU fans will enjoy during the upcoming season, when the 37 feet of turf that replace the track and 10 feet of drainage asphalt will create a distance of 47 feet from the sideline to the stands.
Only time will tell if this optical illusion really existed or if the vantage point changes dramatically (or even just a little) after the removal of the track is complete.
But here's guessing that in addition to looking much nicer and much more like a big-time college football venue, the fans in the stands also will feel like they're closer to the action after this project is complete six weeks from now without KU Athletics having to move so much as a single bolt in the Memorial Stadium bleachers.
What they do from here is anyone's guess, but I'm in total agreement with Zenger and KU coach Charlie Weis that this is a fantastic first step in remaking an old stadium in a fabulous setting.
Now that quarterback Jake Heaps' transfer out of the Kansas University football program is official, it's time to put the finishing touches on the former top-rated high school prospect's time at Kansas.
If there's one wish I could grant Heaps before his college career is over, it would be for him to finish his career by having fun again. The guy deserves it.
By all accounts, Heaps, who came to KU from BYU and sat out the 2012 season before becoming the Jayhawks' starter in 2013, was a fantastic teammate while at Kansas and a great leader both in terms of being that veteran presence the younger guys could look up to and a lead-by-example kind of guy both on the field and in the weight room.
Never one to say too much or over-promise in any area, Heaps simply showed up, worked his butt off and did the best he could while in a KU uniform. He always had something positive to say and remained upbeat and optimistic even while the losses mounted and his own game struggled to get going.
I've done a lot of thinking about what went wrong with Heaps while at Kansas and, outside of the obvious ways in which his skill set did not fit what the Jayhawks had on the roster — inexperienced offensive line, unreliable receivers, offense that could not stay on the filed — I came to a conclusion that speaks more to the big picture of college football and less to Heaps' shortcomings.
In many ways, Jake Heaps was a victim of his era. Ten years ago, a guy like Heaps would have been just about every offensive coordinator's dream — big arm, poised, intelligent and ultra-competitive. But in today's college game, those traits do not mean quite as much as the one Heaps lacks — mobility.
I'll be honest, I always thought Heaps was a little more mobile and agile than he proved to be on Saturdays. Maybe I was comparing him too much to Dayne Crist or maybe I put too much stock into his first spring game when he ran around and made plays but did so while wearing a red, no-contact jersey.
Once he became KU's starter, and as the offensive line broke down around him, Heaps simply did not have enough escapability to avoid trouble and keep plays alive. To be fair, half the time he didn't have much of a chance, but that's perhaps the biggest reason that sophomore Montell Cozart beat him out for the 2014 starting job this spring and also why Cozart started the final three games of 2013 as a true freshman.
Coming out of high school, Heaps was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 pro-style passer in the country. In just about any other era, the top-ranked pocket passer in the country would have been a lock as a Top 10 guy overall. Not Heaps, though. Heaps ranked 63rd on Rivals.com's Top 100 during his senior season of high school, and, although hindsight is 20/20, it seems that we should have been onto something back then.
Not that Heaps was not good enough. I still don't believe that's the case. More, though, that pro-style passers, particularly those trying to play in the Big 12, would simply not be en vogue a few years down the road.
That time has arrived and it's not hard to see. Whether you're talking Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel or any number of other quarterbacks like them, the dual-threat option has become the preferred choice in college football and appears to be the direction the Jayhawks are headed under new offensive coordinator John Reagan and Cozart.
Cozart's emergence spelled the end of Heaps at Kansas and although no one made him transfer — think about this, by the way; when is the last time you can remember a major Div. I school losing its senior-to-be point guard and senior-to-be quarterback in the same offseason? — he felt it was in his best interest to find another school that might give him a chance to start. I can't blame the guy. And I hope it works out for him.
I know Heaps still has NFL aspirations. But he's also a very grounded dude and I'm sure somewhere in his head he realizes that 2014 could be his final chance to play the game he's loved since childhood. If that's the way it shakes out, I'm sure the idea of sitting behind Cozart and only taking meaningful snaps in practice was not the way Heaps envisioned his career ending and that's why he's moving on.
Provided he finishes his requirements for graduation this month — and there's no reason to think he won't — Heaps will be eligible to play immediately at Miami, which seems to have a need for a guy just like Heaps, a one-year player who has some experience and can help the three freshmen QBs on the roster learn the ropes of college football.
Either way, here's hoping Heaps gets the chance to play and, perhaps more to the point, hoping that his next stop has the kind of offensive line that will allow him to showcase his skills one final time.
A couple of quick notes and newsy items while we continue to wait for the outcome of senior quarterback Jake Heaps' decision whether to stay at Kansas or go play elsewhere...
• It's been pretty quiet on the Heaps front for the past few weeks but the more people I've talked to about the situation, the more I'm believing Heaps will in fact leave KU.
A couple of schools that were rumored to be his next landing spot when reports of his potential transfer first came out have been crossed off the list for various reasons, but at least a couple remain, with the University of Miami, Fla., being, by far, the biggest name and a couple of other smaller schools maybe still in the running.
Heaps, a senior-to-be who is within striking distance of graduating this summer, would be eligible to play immediately at his new school if he chooses to leave Kansas because of the same senior-transfer rule that brought Dayne Crist and others to KU during the past couple of seasons.
Heaps has to graduate before becoming eligible immediately, however, so it's likely that that's the hold-up in this whole deal.
There's still an outside shot that he could remain at KU and battle to be an incredibly valuable back-up to sophomore starter Montell Cozart, but provided some other school and coach out there is willing to give him an opportunity to compete to be a starter, I'd be surprised if he stayed.
• I saw on Twitter last week that former KU wide receiver Ishmael Hyman is transferring to James Madison University and will be eligible to play immediately because of JMU's status as an FCS program.
Its official after deciding to transfer from KU, I will be attending and playing football for JMU this upcoming season! #GoDukes 🐶👑— Ish Hyman (@HollyWood_Ish13) June 3, 2014
Hyman's departure from KU caught many fans by surprise and disappointed several people who had high hopes for the 6-foot, 170-pound receiver from Manalapan, N.J.
Hyman has talent and is sort of a natural play-maker, but it seems like the situation at JMU, which is located in Harrisonburg, Va., fits him much better than KU did. He red-shirted in 2013 and was removed from the Kansas roster just before spring practices a couple of months ago.
• This weekend figures to be a big weekend for KU's Class of 2015 recruiting efforts.
Thus far, KU has just one commitment in the class (Bishop Miege quarterback Ryan Willis) but that could change in a hurry after this weekend.
Somewhere around a half dozen junior-college prospects are expected to make their official visits to KU over the weekend — a move that's allowed under the new recruiting rules — and a couple of them seem to be just waiting to see campus and the football facilities before making their decisions official.
Defensive tackle Jacky Dezir (6-foot-3, 305 pounds from the College of DuPage) and offensive tackle Jarek Smalley (6-6, 315, Garden City C.C.) both are very high on KU and could be in line to pick the Jayhawks by the end of the weekend.
• Speaking of recruiting, there's been plenty of message board activity during recent weeks about KU potentially adding a couple of late pick-ups to the roster in time for the 2014 season. I don't have a clue who those players might be, if they exist at all, but it would not surprise me for a second if KU coach Charlie Weis found a couple of diamonds in the rough somewhere and brought them to Kansas for the upcoming season.
You know the deal with Weis by now.... He's always on the lookout for talent and the bottom line with this kind of thing is this: If Weis believes a guy can help the program and can make a positive impact on the field right away, he'll search high and low for a way to bring that guy to Lawrence.
We'll see if anything materializes, but, if it does, my best guess is that any newcomers might play wide receiver or on the offensive line.
• Former KU wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt is out at Texas, a coaching casualty of the Mack Brown movement in the offseason.
Wyatt, who enjoyed two stints at KU before spending the past three years at Texas as the Longhorns' wide receivers coach, is rumored to be in line to become a candidate for the offensive coordinator opening at North Carolina. Wyatt previously served as the offensive coordinator for current UNC head coach Larry Fedora, when the two were together at Southern Miss in 2008-09.
• And, finally, in case you missed it yesterday or earlier today, offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a former walk-on from Rockhurst High who red-shirted in 2013, was given a scholarship for the 2014 season on Monday afternoon.
College football analyst and magazine guru Phil Steele released his preseason all-Big 12 teams earlier today and the Jayhawks, believe it or not, were fairly well represented.
Now, it's not as if KU landed as many guys on Steele's four preseason teams as Baylor, K-State or Oklahoma, but Charlie Weis' squad was given a fair amount of respect.
Here's a quick look.
For starters, putting senior Ben Heeney as one of the top linebackers in the conference was pretty obvious and, had Steele not had him, the whole list would have been suspect.
Heeney has been one of the top tacklers and the leader of the KU defense for the past two seasons and there's no reason to think he'll be anything but that in 2014 as well. If anything, seeing how it's his last season at KU, one might make a strong case for Heeney having his best season yet.
Newcomer Nick Harwell earned the nod here, with Steele putting the Miami (Ohio) transfer just behind Baylor's Antwan Goodley, K-State's Tyler Lockett and Texas Tech's Jakeem Grant. Not going to argue with any of those.
Given Harwell's past performance and his importance to KU's offense, it seems to make sense for Steele to put him here. He's got the talent to move into that first tier by season's end but Montell Cozart and the offensive line are going to have to have big seasons for that to happen.
Senior Jimmay Mundine also earned a second-team nod at tight end, a position that is wide open in the Big 12 this season. Iowa State's E.J. Bibbs earned first-team honors, but, again, if that KU offense shows up this season, Mundine could be productive enough to earn a promotion by December.
Senior offensive guard Ngalu Fusimalohi, the lone lineman to start all 12 games at the same position in 2013, landed on Steele's second-team O-Line, largely based on last year's performance and his reputation as KU's most reliable and proven returning lineman.
Two KU defenders also made the second team, with last year's defensive newcomer of the year, Isaiah Johnson, holding down one safety spot and senior Dexter McDonald picked as one of the two second-team cornerbacks. Can't argue with either choice, as both guys have a ton of talent and have proven themselves in Big 12 play before.
Defensive End/Buck Michael Reynolds landed on Steele's third team, a testament to both his performance last season and development and maturity since arriving on campus, and he was joined by senior punter Trevor Pardula, who spent time as one of the top punters in the nation last season before coming back to Earth a little bit toward the end of the season.
All in all, it's a pretty good showing for the Jayhawks, who, if things go well, easily could have a couple of other guys crack the all-Big 12 lists by the end of 2014.
The omitted names most likely to show up on similar lists in the postseason include: senior wide receiver Tony Pierson, defensive backs Kevin Short and JaCorey Shepherd, right tackle Damon Martin and defensive tackle Keon Stowers.
In order for any of them to make the leap, though, they're going to have to turn in monster seasons and, perhaps more importantly, KU is going to have to win games.
Here's a complete look at Phil Steele's 2014 preseason all-Big 12 teams.
Tuesday was head shot day for the Kansas University football program and 81 Jayhawks paraded through the photo shoot decked out in their Sunday best to pose for pictures that will appear in this year's media guide and other promotional materials for the upcoming season.
Most years, it's a snooze fest. Guys show up, throw on a suit jacket and tie, choose whether they want to smile that nice smile that mom would be proud of or give one of those tough, football-player glares and then head back to the basement of the Anderson Family Football Complex to hit the weights.
Generally speaking, it always looks something like this:
However, this year's photo session came with a twist — quite literally.
Instead of regular suits and ties, the Jayhawks donned bow ties and were allowed to wear their choice of five different crimson-and-blue-themed tuxedo toppers.
Most guys were OK with the change, a few were extremely excited, a handful didn't like the idea until they saw themselves in them and a couple started and stayed steadfastly against the whole idea.
It's hard to pinpoint exactly who was responsible for the change-up, but, even though KU coach Charlie Weis almost certainly had to approve the idea, he probably was not the one who came up with it.
After all, Weis maintained throughout the 2013 season that he had absolutely no say in what uniform combination the Jayhawks went with on game days. If he didn't care about that, I can't imagine he cared much about this.
Personally, I think it's a nice touch. It's not something you see every day and it adds something unique to the same old mug shots that show up in the same old media guides. It also adds a hint of what the fun-loving attitude many on this team are known for and, who knows, maybe that whole "look good, feel good, play good" mantra might come into play, as well.
After the session wrapped, several Jayhawks threw their bow-tie looks onto various social media sites, but before we get to the photos, here are a couple more facts I learned about the new endeavor.
• None of the bow ties used in the photo shoot were of the clip-on variety.
• At the same time, not a single Jayhawk actually tied the bow tie himself.
• The most popular choices among the players photographed thus far — more newcomers will get their photos snapped later this summer — were the striped options (shown below on Keon Stowers, Mike Smithburg, Bobby Hartzog and Jimmay Mundine).
• It is believed that of all the thousands and thousands of head shots taken for KU media guides during KU photographer Jeff Jacobsen's time at KU, this was the first time that any KU team has gone with the bow-tie look.
Here's a look at a few of the best dressed Jayhawks from Tuesday's photo day:
Now that the first wave of the Class of 2014 has made its way to campus and started summer school — a little more than half of the 20 guys left to report in the incoming class are here and all but a couple of them should be here by July — there is one thing worth remembering as fans start to analyze how well Charlie Weis and company did this time around.
The Class of 2013 is the Class of 2014's best friend.
There's no question that some of the guys in the incoming class leave a little to be desired, be it because they have low star ratings, were late commitments or have offer lists made up of smaller schools. But after making a splash with several guys in last year's recruiting endeavor, the Jayhawks appear to have bypassed the hype and sought out the best fits at positions of need.
Six of the 23 commitments are on the defensive line. Four are guys who figure to play in the secondary and the Jayhawks also added four offensive linemen and three wide receivers, both areas of need.
The reason searching for guys with the mentality and make-up the coaching staff desires can work is because several of those guys figure to be given the time they need to develop. Why? Because there are still a bunch of players in the Class of 2013 who have yet to put their stamp on the program and will be counted on during the 2014 season.
Think about it: At least eight guys from last year's class did not play a down in 2013 (15 players in the class, or about half, played significant snaps) but will be expected to be contributors in 2014, some as potential difference makers.
• Defensive end Andrew Bolton, a juco transfer who red-shirted last season and spent the year rehabbing and injury while also getting bigger, stronger and better acclimated to Div. I grind.
• Defensive back Kevin Short, a juco transfer who was forced to sit out the 2013 season because of academic confusion, which only made one of the top talents on the roster even more hungry than he was already.
• Wide receiver Nick Harwell, who sat out after transferring from Miami (Ohio) and is expected to step in as the Jayhawks' much-needed No. 1 option in the passing game immediately.
• Tight end Ben Johnson, a true freshman about whom whispers surfaced last summer that said no one had a better preseason in terms of physical improvement and on-the-field performance.
• Offensive lineman Joe Gibson, a red-shirt freshman who came to KU as a walk-on and battled juco newcomer Keyon Haughton all spring for the starting spot at center. Haughton seemed to emerge from spring ball with the lead, but Gibson is well liked and, at the very least, could help spell Haughton from time to time if needed.
• Offensive tackle Brian Beckmann, a sophomore now in his third season who has great potential and figures to start 2014 as a valuable back-up at either tackle spot.
• Linebacker Colton Goeas, who came with the reputation as a big hitter and spent his first year in town adding size and speed and working on his game rather than worrying about opponents.
• Buck Marcus Jenkins-Moore, a juco transfer who came to town with all kinds of hype and speed but injured his knee shortly after arriving on campus and missed the season.
When you consider that four of those players call the defensive side of the ball home and will be plugged into a defense that returns nine starters from its 2013 Week 12 depth chart, it's clear that KU will need very few of the defensive players it signs in 2014 to play right away. If any.
That's good news because it figures to give all of the new guys time to work on their minds and bodies with strength coach Scott Holsopple without the stress and pressure of being asked to deliver on Saturdays, too.
For a program in the position Kansas finds itself in today, having the luxury of allowing guys to develop is almost unheard of. And it's also key to sustained success in the rebuilding process.
The intent of this blog is not to say that none of the guys in the Class of 2014 are capable of playing right away. There are several guys who could — and probably will — work their way onto the field immediately. And, if they do, that won't be a bad thing for the Jayhawks.
But if they don't, be it because they're not ready or because they're not needed, slapping a red-shirt on them and letting them fortify whatever the Class of 2015 recruiting haul looks like can only add depth and stability to the program in the years to come.
For your amusement, here are a couple of links to KU's most recent recruiting classes:
With rumors and speculation that Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps is looking to transfer still unsolved, I thought I'd take a quick stab at clearing up a couple of things while we wait to see what happens.
First of all, it definitely seems possible that Heaps could transfer. It was the first thing that crossed my mind when KU named sophomore Montell Cozart the starter at the end of spring practices and seems logical for him to at least consider it.
But there probably is more to the decision facing Heaps than just Cozart being named the starter.
As you might have guessed, I've talked to KU coach Charlie Weis a lot during the past few years about transfers — both in and out — and the one thing he's always said about the topic is that players typically transfer for one of two reasons.
If the writing on the wall (or the depth chart) shows that playing time could be tough to come by, some guys look around for better opportunities and other places to play. That seems to be what Heaps is doing now and is the same thing he did when he left BYU to come to Kansas a couple of years ago. It doesn't mean he wasn't good enough to play at BYU or that he's not good enough to play here, just that the situation has changed to give others in front of him the first shot.
But transferring is not always that simple and it's not always about football or whether these guys are good enough to play at their current schools. A lot of good players transfer every year at all levels. But rarely do those types of guys leave because of football.
They leave programs because of philosophical changes, coaching changes or situations in their personal lives that make a change of scenery desired and even necessary. All of that could be contributing to Heaps' decision at the moment. But current KU wide receiver Nick Harwell is a perfect example of one such player.
Harwell left Miami (Ohio) prior to last season not because he wasn't good enough to play there — they surely would have loved to have his talent around for one more season — but because he was looking for a fresh start. He got it with Weis and Kansas and now is poised to be the top receiving option on a team that plays in a better conference and in front of many more eyes of NFL scouts on a weekly basis. That can only help Harwell's professional future and, from all accounts, the move to Kansas has done wonders personally for Harwell, who has been a model teammate, student, leader and hard worker since he arrived.
Heaps is going to do what he believes is best for him, as well he should. That may mean moving on and that may mean sticking around to close out his college career with a bunch of guys he's gotten close with and bled and cried and sweat with during the past couple of seasons.
According to a couple of people I've talked with about the Heaps situation, the whole thing could be over quickly or could drag on into the summer. I haven't talked with Jake about it — players are pretty much off limits in the summer — but I'm sure he's not taking this decision lightly and I'm sure the reason it has gone on this long is because he's doing his homework and thinking long and hard about what he wants to do and what the right thing is for him. Only he can make that decision.
But I think it's important to remember, even if Heaps does leave, that it's not because he wasn't good enough to play here or wasn't welcome. He might not be the starter, but seeing how KU has played multiple quarterbacks during three of the four post-Todd Reesing era seasons, such designation does not exactly mean he's not playing either.
We'll keep an eye on what happens and surely have more as the story continues to unfold.
Earlier this week, a report from USA Today brought up that old story about Notre Dame paying Charlie Weis more in 2012 than it paid current Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly.
I'm not sure I get it.
For one, four seasons have passed since Weis last coached at Notre Dame and during each of the years a report like this has surfaced. We get it. Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame. A lot. But that's the way it's been and will continue to be until the end of their agreement. Everyone knows that. So why does it make headlines on it year after year?
For two, I'm not sure the report tells the entire story.
I remember talking to Weis about the details surrounding his departure from Notre Dame and the situation regarding his contract shortly after he arrived in Lawrence. At the time, it seemed like big news to me and I wanted to make sure I understood it fully — or at least as best I could.
Here's a brief summary of what my notes from those conversations included:
Because Notre Dame is a private institution, it does not have to make public all of the payments made to its head coaches. There is a number that goes down as reportable income for tax purposes, but that number is always a significant amount of money lower than the head football coach's total compensation. It's just that because Notre Dame is private it can pay its coaches in a different manner than a school like Kansas can and does.
Here, Weis receives an annual salary ($2.5 million) and brings home a monthly pay check. Although just $230,000 of that is considered his “base salary” all of it comes directly from Kansas Athletics, Inc., and is reported on KAI's federal taxes. According to Weis' contract with KU, the remaining $2,270,000 per year is for “professional services rendered” and is referenced in the contract at “Guaranteed Net Income.”
At Notre Dame, Weis said he received a relatively modest base salary directly from Notre Dame while the majority of his compensation came from other vendors tied to the athletic department — think payments for his TV show, radio show, clothing deals and money from any partnerships with companies like Nike, adidas, Under Armor or the like.
The biggest reason Weis is still being paid by Notre Dame at all is because the lawyer representing the university failed to include an offset clause in Weis' contract when the school hired him in 2005.
An offset clause, which is pretty common when it comes to coaching contracts at major universities, is a way for the university to save or recover at least part of what they owe a coach after he or she is fired.
In this case, in 2010, Weis took a job with the Kansas City Chiefs after being fired by Notre Dame in 2009. As outlined in the agreement between the two parties after his firing, Weis was scheduled to be paid $2.05 million annually from Notre Dame through 2015. Had an offset clause been included in that initial contract, the total amount given to Weis by Notre Dame from 2010-15 would have been drastically lower.
Let's say Weis made $1 million as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator in 2010. Instead of owing him $2.05 million for that year, Notre Dame would have owed him only the difference — $1.05 million. Furthermore, by the time he was hired at KU, where he brings home $2.5 million annually, an offset clause would have eliminated Notre Dame's payments to Weis altogether.
At the time, many people believed that former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White, who hired Weis and now holds the same position at Duke, was responsible for botching the deal and creating a situation where the university owed Weis so much money for such a long period of time. In reality, it was the lawyer's failure to include the offset clause that cost Notre Dame the most.
Beyond that, the guy who really came out smelling like a rose in this whole deal was Weis' agent. He arranged and executed the deal of the century.
So what does all of this mean? In a nutshell, it's as simple as this: Despite what the reports and headlines might lead you to believe, Kelly did not receive less money in 2012 to be Notre Dame's football coach than Weis did not to be.
Yes, the money Weis received from Notre Dame ($2.05 million) was higher than Kelly's direct payment from the university ($1.46 million). But when you factor in Kelly's other compensation during the season that included an appearance in the BCS championship game Kelly's total haul was probably in the $3-4 million range.
From now probably until the rest of time, any reported dollar amount paid to a Notre Dame football coach is likely to be merely a portion of what the head coach brought home. According to the recent USA Today and Associated Press reports, which cited federal tax returns as the source, Kelly's base salary for the 2012 season was $698,140. Add to that more than $600,000 in performance and academic-based bonuses, which also were reported, and that's where the money changing hands directly between Kelly and Notre Dame stops. But it's hard to say that the other money does not count when you consider that Kelly only earned the rest because of his position as the Fighting Irish football coach.
If any of this interests you or matters in your world, you might as well just commit it to memory because the same story is going to pop up around this time next year and the year after that, as well, just as it has for the past four years. Why, I'm not sure.
The Big 12 blogging crew over at ESPN.com has been awfully busy lately wrapping up its spring football coverage with a bunch of different looks at each of the 10 teams in the Big 12 Conference.
They've done everything from a quick look at each team's most indispensable players to a full-on, 22-round draft of the top football players in the Big 12 and everything in between.
Although the Jayhawks have not been regarded in the exercises as a sleeper team for the upcoming season or anything like that, they have been given a little bit of love.
Here's a quick look at just how much.
Most Indispensable Player
First, we'll start with the most recent entry, which identified KU's most indispensable player. Not surprisingly, they picked senior linebacker Ben Heeney and it's hard to argue with that pick.
When Heeney was out last season, the KU defense was not quite the same. Not only is he the most accomplished and decorated player on KU's ever-improving defense, but Heeney also sets the tone for the way the entire unit plays. Rough, tough and relentless, Heeney has never shied away from contact or throwing himself in harm's way to make a play. Slowly but surely during the past couple of seasons, that mentality has rubbed off on those around him and toughened up KU's defense as a whole.
Of Heeney, ESPN.com's Brandon Chatmon wrote:
Heeney is the best and most productive player on the team and provides peace of mind for the coaching staff.... Without Heeney, the Jayhawks would have to replace a major hole in the middle of their defense. His experience, consistent play and attacking style make him one of the Big 12’s top linebackers. And his leadership is evolving heading into his final season with the Jayhawks.
Imaginary Big 12 Draft
Last week, the ESPN.com trio of Chatmon, Jake Trotter and Max Olson, ripped off a 22-round draft of the Big 12's top talent designed to fill out a starting 11 on both offense and defense.
In all, just three Jayhawks were picked in the 66-man draft, and, somewhat surprisingly, senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was the first KU player taken. Chatmon took Shepherd in the 13th round.
A couple of rounds later, Trotter snatched up senior linebacker Ben Heeney. And in the 19th round Chatmon swiped senior wide receiver Tony Pierson.
In a league with as much talent as the Big 12, it's not all that surprising that only a few Jayhawks were chosen. However, I was a little surprised that both cornerback Dexter McDonald and safety Isaiah Johnson went undrafted. Most within the KU program thought that McDonald was the better of KU's two cornerbacks last season and Johnson is the reigning Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year.
It would be interesting to see these guys do this draft again at the end of next season, or perhaps midway through, as newcomers like Kevin Short and Nick Harwell, along with a couple of other returning talents might be able to crack the draft with strong seasons.
Here's a link to the results of the complete imaginary player draft.
Strong and Weak
Finally, Chatmon was charged with taking a quick look at the Jayhawks' strongest and weakest positions.
To almost no one's surprise, his take was right in line with what most people believe to be true about the Jayhawks heading into 2014.
Strongest position: Secondary.
The Jayhawks have arguably the best returning cornerback duo in the Big 12 with JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald.... KU’s safeties (Isaiah Johnson and Cassius Sendish) are just as productive... Add cornerbacks Kevin Short and Greg Allen, who looked ready to contribute during the spring, and the Jayhawks secondary brings experience, production and depth to the field, three traits several other Big 12 teams wish they had on their rosters.
Weakest position: Offensive line.
The Jayhawks return a league-worst 34 career starts along the offensive line, with All-Big 12 honorable mention guard Ngalu Fusimalohi as the lone returnee with double-digit starts (12).... If KU has any hope of John Reagan’s offense taking off during his first season as offensive coordinator, the offensive line will have to reach new heights.
Now that spring football has come and gone and the Kansas University athletes eagerly looking for to the 2014 season have shifted into full off-season mode, it's time to look back at the biggest winners from spring ball.
The list of guys who helped themselves and their standing on the team with solid springs is long, but here's a look at the five guys who made the biggest move toward landing a big-time role this fall during the past five weeks.
• Greg Allen – Seemingly overnight, Allen transformed from a guy that didn't really make much of an impact on the field into a guy who played like he was a returning starter. The sophomore nickel back oozed confidence throughout the spring and used his size, speed and athleticism to make sure his sharpened mental game delivered plays on defense. Allen played for both sides in the spring game and KU coach Charlie Weis said in the postgame news conference that the 5-foot-11, 210-pound defensive back was making a strong push to be included with the first unit.
• Montell Cozart – Cozart's solid spring game is what most people will remember, but it was his development and surge that came before the glorified scrimmage that put him in position to head into the summer as the guy to beat in the Jayhawks' quarterback race. No longer just an athletic guy with the ability to hurt you with his feet, Cozart looks like a much more polished and comfortable passer and seems to be playing with the kind of poise and confidence of a guy who wants to prove he's a complete quarterback, not just a dynamic runner.
• Kevin Short – Weis said at the start of spring ball that passing either of last year's starting cornerbacks (Dexter McDonald and JaCorey Shepherd) on the depth chart would be a serious challenge. And then Short went out and did it. Tall, long, athletic and a blessed with the coverage instincts of tin foil, Short showed enough this spring to earn a promotion to first-team cornerback, which also allowed KU to slide the versatile Shepherd into the nickel back position.
• Damon Martin – Martin entered the spring with 13 games on his resume and just five starts. All of those came at guard. But this spring, under the tutelage of new offensive line coach John Reagan, the junior lineman widely known as the strongest of KU's big bodies up front, showed enough consistency, improvement and understanding of the Jayhawks' new offense to play every first-string snap at right tackle.
• Rodriguez Coleman – He was quiet during the spring game, but his spring as a whole was lights out. The junior deep threat not only was one of the most popular answers to the questions about which guys looked the best during spring practices, but he also elevated himself from big-time question mark to near-lock status for one of KU's three first-team wide receiver spots.