Posts tagged with Ku
Tuesday marked the first practice of the spring that was open to the media and instead of the usual 20 minutes of stretching and warm-ups, KU coach Charlie Weis opened the door and pulled back the curtain for the entire hour-and-40-minute session.
A good chunk near the end was spent on special teams, but, with this team, even that was an area worth watching.
With that in mind, here's the first (and maybe only) edition of “What Caught My Eye” from spring drills. Grab a chair and get comfortable.
• New year, new leaders. In addition to the bounce in their step and hope in the air (none of that was there during the final few weeks of the 2012 season), it's always interesting to see what a new team looks like during spring drills. Who steps up and leads. Who is most vocal? Who leads by example? All of that and more is easy to spot during an open practice. But the easiest way to find out who the leaders are is to watch the stretching lines. Usually the guys closest to coach Holsopple are the biggest leaders and, on Tuesday at least, that seemed to hold true. The first line included quarterback Jake Heaps, linebacker Ben Heeney and running back James Sims. A couple of surprises on the first line included Keba Agostinho, Randall Dent, Dexter Linton, Jacorey Shepherd and Ron Doherty. A few of those guys are seniors, but a few are not. Nothing earth-shattering there but it was the first thing that jumped out.
• The Coach Weis song of the day seems to be back, at least for now, and today, the practice DJ stacked a Bruce Springsteen song on top of a Bon Jovi song. Talk about buttering up the head coach.
• Darius Willis, who now wears No. 52, looks substantially bigger than I ever remember him being. Willis, whom Weis said recently is pushing Heeney for first-string reps at middle linebacker, looks mobile, physical and ready for a bigger role again. In short, he's everything I thought he would be when he first arrived from Buffalo.
• One of my favorite drills of the day was a drill in which five receivers ran different routes on the same play, with each one receiving a ball at the same moment. The drill was made possible by the fact that all three KU quarterbacks — Heaps, Michael Cummings and Blake Jablonski — along with QB coach Ron Powlus and one of the managers dropped back and threw to a designated guy. While this unfolded for nearly 10 minutes, Coach Weis sat in a golf cart in the end zone and coached both the receivers and the quarterbacks. The way the receivers and running backs ran routes at different depths reminded me of the fountains at the Belagio in Las Vegas dancing to the music.
• Speaking of routes, I thought it was very cool to see the different ways Tony Pierson was used. I don't think for a second that we saw even one-fifth of what KU will ask of Pierson this season, but what we did see was the dynamic junior speed back running routes all over the field. Short. Long. Seam. Post. Corner. If he and Heaps can develop some chemistry, he'll be a nightmare for opposing defenses this fall.
• Another dude we've heard about who truly has gotten bigger is red-shirt freshman tight end Jordan Smith. The guy's lower body looks like a tank. Didn't watch him a ton in route-running and pass-catching drills, but he's bulked up, no question about it.
• We didn't get to see much of the offensive or defensive lines during live action, so I'll stick with the linebackers and secondary. The first string looked like this: Courtney Arnick, Heeney and Jake Love at linebacker, with Shepherd and Cassius Sendish at corner and Greg Allen and Dexter Linton at safety. When the team went to its nickel package, Dexter McDonald checked in at nickel back. When they went dime, Allen, Linton, Shepherd, McDonald, Sendish, Tevin Shaw, Willis and Heeney were all out there.
• Remember that talk of accountability that we heard from these guys at the start of spring drills? It's legit. I heard more guys calling out other guys today than I can remember all year last year. Nothing major and nothing nasty. Just guys yelling at other guys after a dropped pass or for jogging instead of sprinting. No bad blood, no whining, just players responding to a little push from another teammate. Pretty cool to see, really.
• One of the most exciting sessions of the day was the one-on-ones, where wideouts or running backs lined up against a defensive backs and ran routes. Overall, the offense seemed to get the better of the defense during this one. By my count, the offensive player got the best of the defense 19 out of 31 times. That included nine of the first 10, though, so the DBs made a decent comeback late in the drill.
• Got my first look at new defensive backs coach Scott Vestal in action. He's intense. The guy really has a motor and he has a set of lungs to match. Really like his style and passion.
• We saw some pretty extensive special teams work and, of all the return men, Tre' Parmalee and JaCorey Shepherd stood out as the most impressive. Both had multiple long returns and looked incredibly shifty no matter where they were on the field.
• Speaking of special teams, it was cool to see the punting and kickoff drills because that gave us a good look at new kicker Trevor Pardula. I know it was just one practice, but I'd be shocked if Pardula didn't have both jobs locked up already. He's solid and consistent on kickoffs — something that even teammates paid attention to and responded with, 'We need that,' — and he can really boom his punts. On a couple of occasions, Pardula's punts inspired Weis to say the following: “Woo Hoo Hoo Hoo.” Huge upgrade.
• As for field goal kicking, it appears there's still some work to be done there. Pardula was decent and veteran Ron Doherty had his moments, but nobody stood out the way Pardula did in the other aspects of the kicking game. That's not all bad news. Remember, Hutch Juco walk-on Michael Mesh is still coming this summer and he should have a good shot of winning the job.
• Pardula did deliver when it counted, connecting on a 38 yarder to close practice. Had he missed it, the team would have run. Instead, they celebrated. Want another sign of progress? Last year, this was the drill that Weis had his team do over again because it didn't celebrate the made kick properly. No such problem Tuesday.
I just received a news release from KU that forced me to do a double-take. Turns out what I thought I read the first time actually was true.
KU has become the first NCAA program to incorporate virtual-reality training into its regular routine of preparing its student-athletes for competition.
The full release is posted below. It sounds to me like this is a potentially very cool development and certainly keeps KU on the cutting edge and at the forefront of college athletics when it comes to training practices and facilities.
Here's the release:
Kansas Athletics became the first NCAA institution to partner with EON Reality, the world's leading interactive 3D software provider, in the creation of software to eventually be used in a virtual reality football simulator. The simulator utilizes EON Reality’s popular Icube and will enable student-athletes to simulate an actual game for training and teaching purposes.
“This state-of-the-art training will greatly benefit our student-athletes and makes Kansas a leader of virtual reality in sport,” Kansas Director of Athletics Sheahon Zenger said. “We constantly seek responsible and innovative ways to help our student-athletes and this cutting-edge technology brings a great opportunity to our football team.”
Once the software is fully developed, student-athletes will be able to step into a 10 feet by 10 feet room and be immersed into simulated-game action. The experience makes the user feel as if they are standing on an actual playing field, complete with crowd noise, realistic game speeds and football player avatars running real plays.
The student-athlete will be able to experience game action of any play desired. The virtual reality football simulator is at the forefront of a growing trend of applications using virtual and augmented reality within the sports industry.
“At the elite level, everyone is pretty much the same when it comes to size, speed and strength,” said Brendan Reilly, Co-Founder of EON Reality Sports. “What separates an average team from a great team is how they perform from a cognitive standpoint – reading plays, understanding coverages, reducing mistakes and making quick decisions, etc.
“The teams that do these seemingly little things right usually wind up winning. Virtual Reality has been proven to dramatically increase a user’s experience level. The end goal is to speed up the experience level of an athlete and essentially have freshmen operating at the same cognitive level as a senior.”
The Cincinnati Bearcats officially broke them in for the rest of the world to see earlier Wednesday during their 61-44 victory over Providence in the Big East Tournament, and the expectation is that the Kansas University men's basketball team will do the same during its opening game of the Big 12 Championship on Thursday.
We're talking the uniforms that sent the college basketball world into a frenzy a few weeks ago, of course, as the odd and somewhat bold pattern dreamed up by the folks at adidas certainly has changed the way college basketball teams look on the floor.
As the top seed in this year's Big 12 tourney, the Jayhawks will wear the white version of the wild look. According to most — fans I spoke with, Twitter-dwellers and other writers — the white uniform is the less outlandish of the two, with the blue version bearing the brunt of most of the criticism.
While the initial fan reaction, at least according to Twitter, seemed to reveal that the new look was universally despised by KU fans, a couple of quick phone calls on Wednesday painted a much different picture.
First, I called Jock's Nitch in Downtown Lawrence to find out just how well the uniforms had been received by the public. What I was told surprised me. According to general manager, Ryan Owens, the store sold out of all of its shorts — both white and blue — and even sold more than a few of the jerseys.
Wait. There's more. Somewhere around 15-20 folks even put their name down to snag dibs on the first batch of shorts in Owens' second order. One of them was someone many of you might know — Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers, through Twitter, asked Owens to hold a pair of the white shorts for him.
Overall, Owens said he believed the younger generation liked the look a lot more than most, but also said that he was surprised by the reaction to the blue uniform when people saw it in the store.
“They're different, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “It's definitely something out of the box. But when people get into the store, they actually wind up liking the blue more.”
Rather than stopping there, I thought I'd make a quick call to KU, too, to find out how the new duds had been received on campus. It turns out the reaction was nearly the same. The KU Store, which is connected to Allen Fieldhouse, sold through all of its shorts, both colors, and has made a dent in the re-order, as well. KU Store also sold most of its youth jerseys in both blue and white.
According to the people at adidas, the motivation behind unveiling the wild look was to shake things up during the most fun time of year for college basketball.
After dabbling with something different during last year's postseason with the fluorescent colors worn by schools like Baylor and Louisville, adidas simply wanted to be make another splash in the market and show off something fun on a huge stage.
One person I talked to at KU said they had heard that this specific style of uniform had been selling like crazy across the country, too, with Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Baylor, UCLA and Louisville — all adidas schools — joining the Jayhawks in wearing the wild look this postseason.
The whole thing is part of a huge marketing campaign by adidas, complete with mannequins in the windows of Dick's Sporting Goods stores as well as spreads in the East Bay retail magazine as well as Slam Magazine.
KU coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks' plans were to wear them for one game and that he didn't think it would go beyond that. He did leave the door open for an encore performance, though, by saying that it depended on how well they played in them.
It did seem pretty certain that KU would not be wearing them in the NCAA Tournament.
KU will open postseason play tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Kansas City, Mo., against the winner of tonight's West Virginia-Texas Tech game.
Here's a quick video I put together from today's KU football clinic with about 100 Special Olympians. The event, which was organized by Hannah & Friends, the not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with different abilities founded by KU coach Charlie Weis and his wife Maura, included the team and its participants running through 10 different skills stations and an hour-and-a-half of drills, laughs and smiles.
The new KU student group, Hannah & Jayhawk Friends, which, Maura Weis said is the fastest growing organization on campus, also helped make Saturday's fun happen.
After the clinic was over, I got to stick around for an hour of the Jayhawks actual practice and saw some new looks and new faces, so I'll have more thoughts from that later today.
For now, enjoy the video from a great event!
OK, for this week's final set-the-scene-for-spring-football blog, we'll dive into sleepers.
Rather than just pick a few and speculate how they might fit in or what roles they may play, I'll go position-by-position and give you one player whom I could see making a splash that people may not be expecting.
Now bear in mind that this is being written before the start of spring drills and that time, let alone preseason camp, could change things drastically. But, for now, here are the guys I could see stepping up in some way, shape or form this season.
*Disclaimer: Just because they make this list does not mean I'm saying they will make a huge impact.*
Quarterback: Tough one. I'll go Jordan Darling. Jake Heaps looks like the man and Michael Cummings is a known name as his back-up. I don't expect Darling or fellow-freshman Montell Cozart to play, but one of them figures to get a leg up on the other through scout team reps and if Darling can put up the high school numbers he did while moving to a new school each year, I think he could contribute in a positive way as the show team QB in 2013.
Running back: Freshman Colin Spencer. Weis recruited this guy as an athlete/defensive back and already has moved him to running back. That was partially to cover his butt in terms of depth but more so because Spencer can play. I fully expect him to factor into the offense in some manner right away.
Wide receiver: Ishmael Hyman. Remember how Tre' Parmalee played a much bigger role than anyone expected last season? That's what I keep thinking of when Hyman's name pops up.
Tight end: Trent Smiley. I've long been a fan of Smiley's ability to block. He may be as good as anyone on the team. And because of that, you know he's gonna be out there. Playing time leads to production and even though Smiley won't be asked to do much more than block, I wouldn't be surprised if he came away with three or four touchdowns by default this season.
Offensive line: Let's go with Joey Bloomfield. True freshmen rarely do much on the offensive line at KU, but there's something about Bloomfield (probably his 6-6, 305 size) that makes me scratch my head and wonder if he might be ready for some kind of role a little earlier than most we've seen in recent years.
Defensive line: Keon Stowers. Did not make the splash I thought he would last season, but did participate in plenty of snaps and seemed to improve as the season went along. I've heard his name mentioned more than a few times when it comes to offseason workouts and leadership, and, at 6-3, 290 and athletic, Stowers has the make-up to be a pest in the middle.
Linebacker: Victor Simmons. As a true freshman, I had Simmons pegged as a future star at safety. But then the coaching change happened, he moved positions and my prediction fell flat on its face. Simmons is a big-time athlete who can run and during the past two seasons has bulked up nicely to 6-2, 206 pounds. I doubt he plays much, but if he gets a shot, that speed and his physicality could become a factor much in the way Prinz Kande's was before a knee injury cut his season short last year. (Kande was another good option here, by the way, but you never know how a guy's gonna respond to a serious injury like that).
Cornerback: JaCorey Shepherd. I'm going with Shepherd as a sleeper here only because he's still new to the position and I think he's going to be very good one day. Defensive coordinator Dave Campo has raved about the former wide receiver since Day 1 and we saw flashes of what he could do last season. Coming off a full offseason devoted to defense, I think Shepherd has a chance to be a terrific corner.
Safety: Dexter Linton. Linton fared well when thrust into action because of injuries last season and seems to be the most proven safety among KU's returners. We may have seen his ceiling in those games and the guys Weis & Co. brought in during the offseason may have more talent, but it would not surprise me if Linton played a decent-sized role this season.
Specialist: Ron Doherty. One kicker (Trevor Pardula) was given a scholarship to help eliminate KU's problems in the kicking game and another (Michael Mesh) was encouraged to walk-on with the idea that he could compete for starting place kicking duties right away. I know Doherty has been strictly average during the past couple of seasons, but what if those moves (and getting past an injury that plagued him for most of 2012) are exactly what the senior with experience needs to deliver a breakout season?
I’m still working on that granting of rights story to help bring a little clarity to the issue of why KU and the rest of the Big 12 schools can’t or, more likely, won’t leave for another conference any time soon.
I’ll make sure you all see that when it’s finished.
For now, though, let’s shift gears back to the concept of the Big 12 adding schools as opposed to any of the current members leaving.
If we’ve learned nothing else through this whole realignment mess it’s that things change quickly and sometimes turn 180 degrees on the same day.
That seems to be the case currently, as the hottest rumors regarding the Big 12 today center on the possible addition of Florida State and perhaps even one or more other ACC schools.
Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson and, possibly even Georgia Tech could be included if something were to take place. But right now the whole thing seems to be stuck in a holding pattern featuring heads on swivels.
Curt Popejoy of RantSports.com released a recap late Tuesday night that said Tampa radio stations have been reporting that FSU has accepted an invitation to the Big 12 and that an announcement could come as soon as next week.
I don’t think we’re there yet. There are too many elements of this thing still up in the air, whether that’s the result of the ACC’s lawsuit against Maryland to enforce full payment of the $50 million exit fee or the fact that the Big Ten may still be looking to expand its membership, which, if it did, would have a major impact on the rest of the realignment rodeo.
Multiple sources have told me recently that very few people/schools involved in this mess actually enjoy the idea of realignment but are forced to act or at least prepare to act out of a sense of self preservation.
It’s my belief that the Big Ten, SEC, ACC and Big 12 all have been working hard behind the scenes on ways to not only strengthen their conference through proactive movement, but also to ensure that their current lineups will not be harmed by movement elsewhere.
It’s a sticky situation and could spin out of control just as quickly as it could once again calm down.
If there’s one final thing I’ll emphasize (again) it’s that the Big 12 is happy at 10 teams but is not choosing not to be foolish this time around and won’t simply sit around and wait for the rest of the world to act. That does not mean the league will add BYU or Cincinnati just to expand, but it does mean it could give a serious look at some serious candidates, with Florida State being the top priority among them all.
Here are a few links for you to look over while I wait to hear back from some more folks. I’ll try to update this later today and throughout the week.
Here’s the latest from realignment guru Chip Brown at Orangebloods.com, who offers some great insight from the Texas point of view: http://texas.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1445262
The Pac-12 continues to stand by the claim that realignment is not on the horizon, but that’s largely because the league does not have as many attractive options as the others should it choose to expand. Here’s the latest from Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, who recently said San Diego State and Boise State would be on the league’s list of candidates if it were to expand: http://www.pacifictakes.com/2012/12/4/3721260/conference-realignment-pac-12-boise-state-san-diego-bsu-sdsu
Most of this is common knowledge, but it’s laid out very nicely here: http://www.bloguin.com/crystalballrun/2012-articles/november/the-big-picture-of-conference-realignment.html
Finally, this is a couple of weeks old now (and, in realignment that’s ancient) but here’s what a member of Florida State’s board of trustees had to say recently regarding FSU’s plans: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaf/2012/11/19/maryland-florida-state-fsu-trustee-andy-haggard-college-conference-expansion-realignment/1715537/
Already known as one of the smartest and hardest working dudes on the team, Kansas University senior Trevor Marrongelli now has a little more proof to back that up.
Marrongelli, a center from Austin, Texas, was one of 19 KU football players named to the Big 12 all-academic squads released by the conference on Thursday.
That’s the highest number in KU history, surpassing the mark of 17 set by the 2010 squad.
For Marrongelli, it marks the fourth straight season he has earned first-team honors, making him just the fourth KU football player all-time to achieve such academic success.
Marrongelli was just one of three athletes in the entire conference to be nominated to the team with a 4.0 grade-point average. KU senior Brandon Hawks, a safety from Oskaloosa, was one of them.
Hawks and Marrongelli were joined on this year’s first team by Dylan Admire, Ryan Burton, Gavin Howard, Tyler Patmon, Justin Puthoff, James Sims and Shane Smith.
Second-team honorees included: Michael Cummings, Blake Jablonski, Pat Lewandowski, Jake Love, Toben Opurum, Daymond Patterson, Corrigan Powell, JaCorey Shepherd, Nick Sizemore and Andrew Turzilli.
This is the second time this calendar year that the Jayhawks made news in the classroom. Just before the season began it was learned that the team raised its overall GPA from 2.46 last fall to 3.0 in the spring.
KU coach Charlie Weis has made academics a top priority with this program and, clearly, his players know he means business.
KU will play host to Iowa State at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in what will be the final home game for 23 seniors, many of whom are on the list above.