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Posts tagged with Practice

What caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice: Sept. 18

KU's wideouts run through a drill during Tuesday's practice.

KU's wideouts run through a drill during Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

To be fair, I received a copy of KU’s updated depth chart at Charlie Weis’ news conference earlier this afternoon.

But just because I had a head start did not mean that I didn’t notice quite a few of the new looks during Wednesday’s practice.

Rather than leading with a couple of nuggets about how sunny it was or how focused they looked, I figured we’d start this one out with a quick look at those depth chart changes.

In all, I circled 10 significant pieces of information on this week’s depth chart, by far the most of any so far this season.

So, without further ado, here’s a look at the changes, followed by a couple of quick practice tidbits:

Right Guard:
In — Randall Dent
Out — Aslam Sterling
• Sterling is now listed as the back-up at both right guard and right tackle and Weis said he would be involved in a three-man rotation with Gavin Howard and Dent at those two spots.

Z Receiver:
In — Andrew Turzilli
Out — D.J. Beshears
• Simply put, Turzilli is performing better at the moment, as evident by his 100-yard game last week.

Halfback:
In — James Sims as an “Or” option with Taylor Cox for the back-up spot behind Tony Pierson
• All three guys will play Saturday and all three bring different elements to KU’s offense.

Nose Tackle:
In — Kevin Young
Out — Jordan Tavai
• Tavai is now listed as the starter at defensive tackle, as Weis said he wanted to find Tavai a home he could settle into instead of playing him all over. This move also bumped John Williams up to the lone second-stringer behind Young.

Defensive Tackle:
In — Jordan Tavai
Out — Keba Agostinho
• Again, Weis was looking for a home for Tavai. This is not a reflection on Agostinho, who still remains a front-line guy when the Jayhawks play “big” and kick Toben Opurum out to Sam linebacker.

Boundary Corner:
In — JaCorey Shepherd as a back-up to starter Tyler Patmon
Out — Greg Allen
• Not only has Shepherd worked his way into this spot, but I’m guessing Allen has emerged as a strong red-shirt candidate. Win-win.

Strong Safety:
In — Dexter Linton
Out — Lubbock Smith
• Lubbock is still battling an injury that kept him out of last week’s game and Linton has done a nice job in his absence.

Long Snapper:
In — Justin Carnes
Out — Trevor Marrongelli (short snaps) and Reilly Jeffers (punts)
• Weis said Carnes would have to earn his spot back after returning from a three-game suspension, but it seems like a safe bet that he’ll be able to do that. This should help KU’s struggling kicking game.

Kickoff Returner:
In — Tre’ Parmalee
Out — D.J. Beshears
• Weis said he was very disappointed in the kick return game last week and simply wanted to see if getting someone else out there could give KU a lift. Parmalee has earned it.

KU receiver Kale Pick is moving better this week than last and seems likely to play this weekend vs. Northern Illinois.

KU receiver Kale Pick is moving better this week than last and seems likely to play this weekend vs. Northern Illinois. by Matt Tait

• OK, so there you have it.... A quick look at the depth chart changes and why they might have happened. As for the guys who are coming back from injury, Lubbock Smith certainly still looks a little hobbled out there and I’d guess it’s 50-50 whether he’ll be able to play this weekend at Northern Illinois. Kale Pick looks a lot better and Weis said he’d be shocked if Pick didn’t play. The good news is Pick looks close to 100 percent while running through drills and making cuts. Away from the action, though, you can still tell he’s favoring that left leg. Both Pick and Smith are wearing braces on their afflicted knees.

• Alex Matlock, Sean Connolly and Brian Maura were on the exercise bikes at today’s practice. Other than that, the rest of the team looks like it’s preparing to play in this weekend’s game, except, of course, for Prinz Kande (out) and Riley Spencer, whom Weis said earlier today would miss the rest of the year in order to “get his knee fixed.”

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen. A message to KU’s defensive backs, perhaps?

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What caught my eye at Wednesday’s practice: Sept. 12

The KU running backs take instructions from assistant coach Reggie Mitchell at the outset of a blocking drill at Wednesday's practice.

The KU running backs take instructions from assistant coach Reggie Mitchell at the outset of a blocking drill at Wednesday's practice. by Matt Tait

Today’s Kansas University football practice carried with it the same upbeat energy and fast tempo as Tuesday’s, but one thing that caught my eye was that a lot of it was coming from the coaching staff.

Sure, that’s their job, to motivate, encourage, even intimidate these players into working their butts off every minute they’re out there, but I was surprised that so much of the hootin’ and hollerin’ came from the coaches.

During the preseason, the players were much more vocal from start to finish and the coaches’ voices merely served as accompaniment.

Now, there are a few ways you can read that, and most of them are good.

  1. The players are locked in. There’s no need to yell and scream when you’re so focused on that task at hand because anything extra might serve as a distraction. Could be.

  2. The players are working so hard that they don’t want to waste the energy getting everyone else hype. If you’re not hyped up for No. 16 TCU coming to town in three days for what could go down as the biggest game of your season, a little barking probably isn’t going to get you there anyway. Could be.

  3. They players are still shaking off the shell-shock and disappointment from their loss to Rice last weekend. Doubtful. Their energy and performance doesn’t indicate that’s the case.

Remember, I’m not out there the entire practice so all of this could have changed the minute I left. But, even during the time we were allowed to watch during camp I saw — and heard — a lot more talking from the players than I did today.

Definitely not something to make a big deal of, just one of the more interesting things I noticed.

Here are a few others:

• I kept an eye on the linebackers for a few minutes today — mostly to see how Anthony McDonald looked — and I continue to be impressed by how hard Tunde Bakare works. He’s always flying around, always going 100 percent, not afraid to leave everything he has out there. It’s typical of a senior who’s hungry to make a name for himself, but still impressive nonetheless. As for McDonald, he looked good. I didn’t see any signs of him playing tentative or easing up. Coach Charlie Weis said earlier this week that McDonald was ready to play and I’m guessing we’ll see him out there plenty this weekend.

• One other thing I noticed while watching the linebackers was the presence of defensive coordinator Dave Campo. It’s not that Campo has never worked with this group, more that, during the early portion of practice he usually works with the DBs and today he was with the linebackers. Could be an indication that KU realizes it’s going to have to bring a little extra beef this week to handle TCU.

• Speaking of not getting cheated, tailback Tony Pierson is another guy who doesn’t hold anything back during practice, and if there’s one guy who could probably get away with it, it’s Pierson. I’m sure the coaches don’t want the 5-10, 175-pound speed back adding practice bruises to the pounding he’s already taking on Saturdays. Even still, Pierson goes all out on every drill, including blocking drills that involve pushing the sled or diving into linebackers to pick up the blitz. There’s a reason Pierson is getting a lot of love as KU’s best offensive player. Two words — hard work.

• With Kale Pick on the exercise bike and his status for Saturday’s game still up in the air (Pick was joined by Brandon Bourbon, Lubbock Smith, Ray Mitchell and Sean Connolly on the bikes on Wednesday), I wondered if that meant JaCorey Shepherd was back with the wideouts for the day. Didn’t look like it. Shepherd still had on white and spent the first part of the day working with the cornerbacks.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi.

• Oh, and just so you know, I'm well aware that today's photo is one of my worst. Cut me some slack. I'll bounce back next time!

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What caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice: Sept. 11

The many looks of KU quarterback Dayne Crist at Tuesday's practice.

The many looks of KU quarterback Dayne Crist at Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

All eyes — at least both of mine — at Tuesday’s practice were on Kansas University quarterback Dayne Crist, who, earlier in the day, told reporters that, after a Monday evening chat with KU coach Charlie Weis, he vowed to have more fun starting today.

It’s tough to see evidence of that during the portion of practice that we get to watch, but there were a few signs.

For the most part, we watched Crist go through warm-ups and then work with the rest of the quarterbacks during individual drills. During each, he bounced his head to the music and clowned around with teammates Jake Heaps, Michael Cummings, Turner Baty and Blake Jablonski.

It wasn’t the kind of banter that would make you say, “Whoa; where did the funny guy come from?” But it was enough to show that Crist, as he said he was, seemed a little looser than during the previous few weeks.

The only place it will really matter is Memorial Stadium on Saturday, when Crist and the Jayhawks try to bounce back from last week’s loss to Rice with a match-up against No. 16 TCU at 11 a.m. But Tuesday seemed like a good start.

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice:

• As promised by Weis earlier in the day, Kale Pick, Lubbock Smith and Brandon Bourbon were nowhere to be seen on the practice field. All three are nursing injuries they suffered against Rice and each was getting treatment during the early portion of practice. Weis said the injured trio was “day-to-day” and added that if they had to play today they probably would not go. We’ll keep an eye on their progress throughout the week.

• Freshman offensive lineman Sean Connolly spent the early portion of practice riding the exercise bike, but the good news there was that he was alone. No Anthony McDonald. No Nick Sizemore. Not only were both of those guys off the bikes, they also both were back on the depth chart, as Sizemore was listed second-string at the F position, behind Trent Smiley, and McDonald was listed second-string at Will linebacker behind Huldon Tharp. Weis said McDonald, in fact, was “ready to play.”

• Just a quick note regarding the tempo and tone of practice... I didn’t notice a whole lot of moping. Guys looked energized and seemed to be working just as hard as they had each of the other times we’d been out to practice. Might not mean much, but might also be a good sign. We’ll see.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Living Proof” by Bruce Springsteen.

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What caught my eye at Wednesday’s practice: Sept. 5

Wednesday's KU football practice took place inside Anschutz Sports Pavilion instead of in the extreme heat outside.

Wednesday's KU football practice took place inside Anschutz Sports Pavilion instead of in the extreme heat outside. by Matt Tait

Wednesday’s Kansas University football practice was moved inside to Anschutz Sports Pavilion, which offered a little bit of relief from the heat, but mostly in the way of shielding the Jayhawks from the sun and not in overall temperature.

As thermostats outside continued to push the 100-degree mark, the temperature inside Anschutz, which basically functioned like a hot box, could not have been much lower than 90.

It’s not that KU coach Charlie Weis was afraid of a little heat, more that Weis likes to be ultra-prepared, and when your gametime conditions are expected to be in the mid-70s, as they are for this weekend’s 2:30 p.m. kickoff against Rice, it makes more sense to run your guys through practice in a cooler venue than to conduct a scorcher on the practice fields.

It should be noted that nobody confirmed that the move was because of the heat. That's just my best guess as to why they changed venues today.

While the move inside made things a little more manageable in the temperature department, it also made it a lot louder. Not only were the pre-practice tunes blaring off the walls of the old fieldhouse, but it was so loud in there that coaches could only be seen yelling and not heard.

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye at Wednesday’s practice:

• Nowhere was that picture of a coach’s screaming being seen but not heard more evident than with the wide receivers and coach Rob Ianello. After a rather lackluster warm-up session in which his group ran through a couple of rounds of the gauntlet drill, Ianello quickly became irked by the effort and energy and immediately ordered a dozen or so up-downs. While I’m sure the KU receivers did not enjoy the punishment, it seemed to work as the individual drills that followed were more crisp and had a greater sense of urgency. Senior wideout Kale Pick also was visibly upset with his group during the ealry portion of practice and, being the leader and upperclassman he is, Pick continually barked at his teammates to pick it up.

• One positive thing I saw from the receivers on Wednesday came from No. 8, juco transfer Josh Ford, who made a name for himself on special teams last weekend and appears to have taken quite a bit of confidence from that performance into his position. Tuesday, Ianello said that those types of performances on special teams are noticed by position coaches and can go a long way toward upping your reps with your main position. He wasn’t lying. Ford ran some drills with the second unit on Wednesday, a clear indication that his stock is on the rise considerig he was not listed on KU’s latest depth chart.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Get Ready” by Bon Jovi.

Check out what a quick learner Josh Ford has become, as he lines up behind starter Kale Pick during a receiving drill on Wednesday.

Check out what a quick learner Josh Ford has become, as he lines up behind starter Kale Pick during a receiving drill on Wednesday. by Matt Tait

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What caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice: Sept. 4

KU tight ends Trent Smiley (85) and Jimmay Mundine (at right, without helmet) attempt to cool down between drills at Tuesday's practice.

KU tight ends Trent Smiley (85) and Jimmay Mundine (at right, without helmet) attempt to cool down between drills at Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

It was another hot one on the practice fields at Kansas University on Tuesday, as the Jayhawks went through drills under the scorching sun with temperatures that soared above the 100-degree mark on the field.

During his weekly radio show on Monday night, KU coach Charlie Weis talked the difficulty adjusting the changing temperatures at this time of the year. For instance, even though it was in the upper-90s in Lawrence today, gametime temps for Week 2 against Rice are expected to be in the mid-70s.

Obviously, that will have an equal impact on both teams and really should not play much of a factor. But I thought it was interesting to note and I also thought it was interesting that Weis took note, himself, of what this week’s temperatures down in Texas would be. Always looking for an edge.

Speaking of the edge, the tight ends, who had a solid showing last Saturday in KU’s 31-17 victory against South Dakota State spent quite a bit of time working on sealing the edge during early drills at practice today.

We know Mike Ragone can get the job done, but I continue to be impressed by the effort put forth by Jimmay Mundine, a guy who, during his first couple of years in town, had been known to lack a little bit of work ethic and also be more of a pass-catcher than a blocker. Not any longer. It looks like Mundine has figured out quickly that the way to get onto the field at his position is to be a mean blocker. He looks good out there and will only continue to get better.

KU tight end Jimmay Mundine works on a blocking technique while Tight Ends coach Jeff Blasko looks on.

KU tight end Jimmay Mundine works on a blocking technique while Tight Ends coach Jeff Blasko looks on. by Matt Tait

One other thing that caught my eye with Mundine was how comfortable he was tutoring the other tight ends. At a position that’s four-deep, it would be really easy for Mundine to worry about getting his and perhaps even enjoy the fact that others were taking a bad step here or there. But it doesn’t look like it works that way with this group and that attitude, if consistent, should benefit the entire team.

Here’s a look at a couple of other things that caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice:

• Tuesday marked the first time I can remember where strength and conditioning director Scott Holsopple donned something other than sweats and a hooded sweatshirt. Not to worry, though. Even though the temperature reached triple-digits, Holsopple still wore the sweats and added a long sleeve jacket to the ensemble. I don’t know how he does it.

• There was a No. 97 on the field today, but, no, it was not defensive lineman Ty McKinney. McKinney is still expected to arrive on campus Friday — and Weis was not interested in talking about it during Tuesday’s news conference — but he was not here today. That 97 was Darius Willis, a former linebacker who recently began working with the defensive line. But Willis, who wore No. 2, has not made a jersey change, that’s just routine procedure for the scout team, which often will wear the numbers of the upcoming opponents to get the Jayhawks even more prepared. In this case, Willis was playing Rice defensive end, Jared Williams, whom Weis said, earlier in the day, was the Owls’ leader on the defensive line.

Kickers Nick Prolago (16) and Austin Barone (99) may get an extended look with the kickoff team this week in practice.

Kickers Nick Prolago (16) and Austin Barone (99) may get an extended look with the kickoff team this week in practice. by Matt Tait

• One other interesting note from today's press conference: Weis said he and his staff would give kickers Nick Prolago (16) and Austin Barone (99) a serious look on the kickoff team this week in practice. The idea comes in part because Weis was displeased with the kickoff team in last week's opener and part because he would like to give place kicker and punter Ron Doherty a little less of a load. We'll see how it works out.

• Tuesday marked the first time I can remember where linebacker Anthony McDonald stayed out there the entire time we were allowed to watch. No exercise bike for the Notre Dame transfer today, which could be a sign that he is progressing nicely. The only guy on the bike today was fullback Nick Sizemore, who figures be out for a while longer with a broken foot.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “No Surrender” by Bruce Springsteen.

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What caught my eye at Wednesday’s practice

Despite the heat and their size the KU defensive linemen have been flat-out getting after it this week.

Despite the heat and their size the KU defensive linemen have been flat-out getting after it this week. by Matt Tait

The hot sun returned to KU football practice for the second day in a row Wednesday, making temperatures on the field soar above 100 degrees and the vibe around practice feel a lot more like the final days of August.

As was the case at Tuesday’s practice, Wednesday’s intensity seemed a notch or two higher than it had been during fall camp. With the season opener now just three days away, it’s clear that these guys are dying to get out there and would do anything to fast-forward to Saturday.

That goes for the coaches, as well, many of whom were seen barking a little louder and encouraging a little higher during everything from stretching to individual drills and team drills.

That same concept carried over to the actions of several players and coaches, as the D-Line continued to work like mad men even during the early portion of practice and the running backs did some heavy one-man work on the sled to kick things off.

Even tight ends coach Jeff Blasko turned up the heat on his pre-practice passes to his tight ends. And offensive line coach Tim Grunhard, who always seems to be fired up, had a little extra juice behind his words as his linemen drilled in front of him. “Power, fast, finish,” Grunhard hollered over and over at each of his linemen. Lot of work going on out there.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko and senior Mike Ragone work through a drill during the early part of Wednesday's practice.

Tight ends coach Jeff Blasko and senior Mike Ragone work through a drill during the early part of Wednesday's practice. by Matt Tait

Practice began with an unusual song choice, but one that seemed to fit the situation. As “Who Let The Dogs Out” blared over the speakers, several players and even a couple of coaches answered with a little barking of their own.

As has been the case the entire preseason, players and coaches alike truly seemed to be enjoying themselves out there. This team looks ready for what’s ahead — whatever that may be.

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye at Wendesday’s practice:

• Same drill today as it was yesterday for senior linebacker Anthony McDonald. The Notre Dame transfer went through as much of the pre-practice stuff as he could before heading to the exercise bike for a “break.” It seemed as if he got a little deeper into practice today and he looked a little less hobbled. Seems like a good idea to sit him until he can go full speed. It will be interesting to see when he gets to that point.

• Joining McDonald on the bike today was junior fullback Nick Sizemore, who broke his foot during KU’s open practice a couple of weeks ago and will miss some time. The fact that he was out there in uniform and on the bike might indicate that Sizemore will be back at some point this season, but I keep forgetting to ask for an official update on his status. I’ll add it to the list.

• I’m beginning to really enjoy the idea of Ben Heeney and Huldon Tharp playing linebacker for this team. Both guys are tenacious and fearless and both guys look fast and physical. My enjoyment from watching them has caused me to overlook senior Tunde Bakare, but I think that could be a mistake. Bakare’s the man at Sam linebacker for the Jayhawks right now, with only senior Corrigan Powell listed behind him at the spot that seems to be a hybrid between a true linebacker and a nickel back. Bakare has improved a ton in the offseason — especially in the mental aspects of the game — and with more bulk, faster feet and a sharper mind, he could be in line to make a lot of plays for the KU defense this season. We already knew that he was a monster in space, but it now seems as if he can take fewer steps to get where he needs to go and that should make him more efficient and hard to keep off the field. The big thing to watch with him will be in coverage, but he’s done plenty of that in the past couple of years and, if he’s not up to the task, Powell, a true cornerback, could be called upon.

• Want a sure-fire sign that game day is fast approaching? Make a quick drive to campus and check out the hill. Tents for Saturday’s tailgating already are being set up. They’re pretty plain Jane right now, but in just a couple of days they will be packed with people and popping with color.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” by Bon Jovi.

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What caught my eye at Tuesday’s practice

KU lineman Aslam Sterling, the team's starting right guard, runs through a drill with O-Line coach Tim Grunhard during Tuesday's practice.

KU lineman Aslam Sterling, the team's starting right guard, runs through a drill with O-Line coach Tim Grunhard during Tuesday's practice. by Matt Tait

It did not take long to figure out that things were different out at practice today. Pads popped, coaches barked and the theme of it all just seemed a little more intense.

Makes sense. The season opener is just four days away.

“Game week, game week, game week,” offensive line coach Tim Grunhard hollered as his offensive linemen were getting started.

One thing I noticed was the pace of practice. Not only were guys turned up a little bit more, but they also got in and out of their stations a little faster. In fact, some stations that we had become used to seeing throughout August were skipped altogether. Could be because they’re in game-prep mode now instead of focusing so much on fundamentals and philsophies.

With that in mind, here are a few other things that stood out at Tuesday’s practice:

Ben Heeney looks like a first-string linebacker. Physically, we’ve known all along that the 6-foot, 225-pound sophomore had enough to play the part, but now he looks a little more confident, a little more explosive, a little more intense. I’m sure he was all of those things before. That’s probably what landed him the job as the starter at Mike linebacker. But I could not help but think that the knowledge that he’s the guy has inspired him to turn things up even more. He led off most drills we saw and was the most aggressive guy I saw out there at any position. Impressive. Expect big things.

• Speaking of linebackers, senior transfer Anthony McDonald was not on the depth chart when it was released today, but KU coach Charlie Weis said he could play and he would be back on it when McDonald was back to full strength. With that in mind, it seemed to be an encouraging sign when I saw No. 51 going through drills with the linebackers to start practice. He looked a little tentative, maybe a half step slow, but his effort was all-in. Just when I was noting all of those things, I noticed that he wound up back on the exercise bike. But, hey, maybe that wasn’t a setback. Maybe the mere fact that he was out there at all was a sign of progress. Time will tell.

• Sophomore wide receiver JaCorey Shepherd again was wearing white and started off working with the DBs.

Darius Willis, the junior linebacker who started every game last season at middle linebacker, has fallen off the depth chart and appeared to be working with the defensive line early during Tuesday’s practice. Interesting. Keep an eye on that. One other note about Willis: Even though he’s not in the immediate plans at LB, his head’s still in it. I’ve seen no evidence of a bad attitude or any pouting and he’s as engaged as anyone out there during practices. Good sign. Good dude.

• I know people know that the D-Line has improved, so much, in fact that the coaching staff has even gone as far as to say that these guys “look good,” but I definitely think this will be a pleasant surprise right out of the gate. These guys are physical, fast and relentless. I noticed that particularly out of John Williams, Kevin Young and Josh Williams during Tuesday’s drills. If they perform in games the way they look in practice, this defense could take a major step forward.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen.

Let the countdown begin... or should I say continue?

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What caught my eye at Day 20 of Fall Practice

JaCorey Shepherd (89) waits for his turn during defensive back drills as the beginning of Wednesday's practice.

JaCorey Shepherd (89) waits for his turn during defensive back drills as the beginning of Wednesday's practice. by Matt Tait

10:31 p.m. Update:

As promised, here are some of the comments from KU defensive coordinator Dave Campo regarding WR/CB JaCorey Shepherd:

“It’s not a permanent thing,” Campo said of Shepherd’s switch. “We’re trying to develop some depth at a lot of different positions. When you’ve got young guys as back-ups, you never know how things are gonna work out. We just wanted to get a good look at him.”

“He was definitely one of those (offensive) guys (I had my eye on),” Campo said of Shepherd. “He’s a very quick athlete. One thing with a corner is quick-twitch, the ability to plant and drive. He doesn’t know a lot right now about playing over there, but athletically he fits the mold of a guy that has a chance.”

“He’s still playing some offense,” Campo said. “He’s both right now. The kid’s a good athlete.”

Original Post:

My eyes did not deceive me. KU sophomore JaCorey Shepherd once again was wearing white on Wednesday and working with the defensive backs in practice.

I first noticed the move on Tuesday, when Shepherd was not working out with the wideouts. We get to talk to defensive coordinator Dave Campo after tonight’s practice, so I’ll be sure to update this with Campo’s thoughts on Shepherd as a D-Back.

No word yet if this is a full-time switch or just something they’re trying out, but it seems to be an obvious indicator that Shepherd is not in the immediate mix at wide receiver.

As for how he looks as a DB, I was impressed. He’s got good, quick feet, gets into and out of his breaks with ease and obviously has the speed and athletic ability to hang back there. This could wind up being a good thing for him and the team. We’ll see.

One thing I did like was that he still seemed to be having fun over there. I didn’t see a lot of pouting or moping, which could very easily be the direction he took it. Instead, he was having fun with his teammates and working hard when his turn was up.

More on that in a while.

As for the rest, here are a couple of other things that caught my eye Wednesday:

• I did not see Darius Willis working with the linebackers today, at least not during the first part of practice. Willis, who started all 12 games last season at middle linebacker started the 2012 preseason in a battle with true freshman Schyler Miles for the No. 2 spot at the same position. Both were behind Notre Dame transfer Anthony McDonald, but, with Miles coming along slowly but surely and sophomore Ben Heeney emerging as another option at MLB, Willis seems to have fallen down the depth chart. I’m not exactly sure what his absence Wednesday means. Could mean nothing. He could have been excused for one reason or another. But I definitely did not see him out there during the time we were watching. Worth keeping an eye on.

• Tuesday, I mentioned a new player on the Jayhawks’ offensive line, and, thanks to the solid effort put forth by a couple of loyal readers, we were able to pinpoint the mystery man’s name. Alex Beglinger, a 6-foot-8, 320-pound guard who was a teammate of new KU quarterback Turner Baty last season at City College of San Francisco, evidently has joined the squad as a walk-on. Here’s a look at Beglinger’s bio from Rivals.com: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/recruiting/player-Alexander-Beglinger-140364

It should be noted that Beglinger, No. 78, is not the only new face out there these days. Several walk-ons have come and gone during the past couple of practices and a handful of them will probably still be out there next week when the season starts for real. I’ve been told they’ll be added to the roster at that point, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested.

Ty McKinney was not at today’s practice. Still no word. McKinney Watch rages on. Stay tuned...

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Wanted Dead or Alive” by Bon Jovi. This was definitely one of the more popular Coach Weis camp songs, as I even heard a handful of players singing along with the classic anthem during warm-ups.

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What caught my eye at Day 19 of Fall Practice

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2011/09/03/ku_fbc_mcneese19.jpg

Tuesday afternoon provided the ultimate return on making the trek to Kansas University football practice day after day during the preseason.

As the team broke into position groups to work on individual drills, I found myself watching the wide receivers. Specifically, I had my eye on freshman Tre' Parmalee, who was praised by KU coach Charlie Weis earlier in the day. Watching Parmalee, who has put himself in position to play a lot this fall, got me thinking about which receivers we weren’t hearing much about.

The immediate name that came to mind was sophomore JaCorey Shepherd, last year’s fourth-leading receiver who tied for the team lead with three touchdowns.

Shepherd has been pretty quiet this offseason. So quiet, in fact, that now he’s playing a new position.

Tuesday, while all of KU’s wideouts worked out with assistant coach Rob Ianello, Shepherd was on the other field — in a white jersey instead of blue — working out with the defensive backs.

Shepherd still wore No. 89, and there has not yet been any kind of announcement about him switching positions permanently. But he was definitely working with the D-Backs on Tuesday and he might be staying there.

Stay tuned...

Here’s a quick look at what else caught my eye on Tuesday:

• Senior linebacker Anthony McDonald was back on the exercise bike after a brief moment away from it at the start of practice.

Earlier in the day, Weis told us that part of the reason McDonald spent so much time on the bike was because they were trying to make sure he would be full-go for the season. McDonald has a history of injuries and, according to Weis, knows only one way to play the game.

“He’s one of those guys, tackle to tackle, hit you as hard as he can possibly hit ya,” Weis said. “That’s the only game he knows. There’s no passive game in how he plays.”

• There’s a new player in camp — and, no, it’s not Ty McKinney — but I’m not sure who he is yet. He wears No. 78, works out with the offensive linemen and his last name begins with the letter B. That’s all I could make out in the brief time we were up there and no one by that name, or that number, is listed on KU’s official roster. I’ll check into it more and let you know. Know this, though, the guy caught my eye because he’s huge. Looks to be about 6-foot-6, 310-320. Stay tuned...

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “For You” by Bruce Springsteen. I probably won’t tell Weis this, but I must admit, the only version of the song I had ever heard was the cover job by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. I like both versions.

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What caught my eye at Day 17 of Fall Practice

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads his group onto the field during Saturday morning's walk-through.

KU quarterback Dayne Crist (10) leads his group onto the field during Saturday morning's walk-through. by Matt Tait

After two days of closed practices, we were back out there on Saturday morning. The practice — open to KU students with a valid student ID from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and to the media from 10:20-11:00 — was a lot less like an actual practice and a lot more like a dress rehearsal.

With the season opener now just two weeks away, KU coach Charlie Weis took time out to treat the beginning of Saturday’s practice as if it were gameday.

With the music blaring and the stands yet to fill up, the kickers hit the field first and began their warm-ups. Kickoffs, punts, field goal attempts, everything was done just as it would be on a Saturday during the season.

About 15 minutes after the kickers hit the field, KU quarterback Dayne Crist led the quarterbacks and a group of specialists onto the field. Ten or so minutes after that another wave of players came out and so on and so on.

Although this kind of thing is not ground-breaking, it is critical, especially when you’re talking about a program that has a new coaching staff. Why wait until Sept. 1 to give these guys a feel for what things will be like on gamedays? Emotions run high, adrenaline is pumping and it can be tough to focus when kickoff is an hour or so away. That’s why they did the Saturday walk-through and, like everything else with Weis, the goal was for repetition and discipline now to make things run more smoothly when they count for real.

Beyond that, we didn’t see a whole lot on Saturday. By the time we left, a few students were starting to file in, but I would definitely be interested in hearing how many showed up, especially in the wake of Weis’ comedic comments from last night’s pep rally about leaving games early.

“If you’re leaving at halftime,” Weis told the large crowd at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, “You and I are going to get into a fistfight.”

Here are a few other things that caught my eye during Saturday’s walk-through.

• Several different players were working on punt and kickoff returns. Could have just been a thing for today or could be a sign that there is competition at that position, too. Veterans Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears and Bradley McDougald were joined by newcomers Tre Parmalee, Tyree Williams and Greg Allen. The first depth chart of the season — which we received on Aug. 1 — did not include returners, so, right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be handling those duties in two weeks.

• No Ty McKinney once again. According to several people, the junior-college transfer from Trinity Valley CC in Texas is going crazy while wait for his classwork to be finalized. He has done the work and turned it in, it’s just waiting to be graded. At this point you have to feel for this guy. All he wants to do is play football and, with each day that passes, it becomes more and more unlikely that he’ll be able to play a big role on the KU defense early in the season. That’s not to say he can’t get out there, but this was a guy who had starter potential. McKinney Watch continues. Stay tuned...

• With McKinney still not on campus, a few veterans are benefiting from extra reps in practice. One guy who appears to be taking full advantage of it is Kevin Young, 6-3, 285-pound junior defensive tackle from Olathe. During drills on Saturday, Young worked with the likely first team, as defensive ends Toben Opurum and Josh Williams lined up on the outside and Keba Agostinho and Young lined up inside. The second unit also featured some quality names, which gives a great indication that the talent and depth on the D-Line is much improved. Jordan Tavai and Ben Goodman were the defensive ends who ran second and Keon Stowers and John Williams were the interior linemen. Again, this was just a drill, so it does not necessarily reflect what the depth chart looks like. But, right now, those eight guys appear to be your first two waves on the D-Line.

• Speaking of absences, a few guys were on the exercise bikes again and one guy was not at practice at all. Linebacker Anthony McDonald and safety Brian Maura were back on the bike, and they were joined by wide receiver Christian Matthews. Tight end Jimmay Mundine, who was at team pictures on Saturday morning, was not on the field for the first 40 minutes of practice. It sounds like Mundine is just dealing with some kind of flu or something and he should be fine.

• A familiar face showed up for practice on Saturday, as former KU linebacker James Holt was on hand to watch his former team. Holt, who played on KU’s Orange Bowl championship team and later with the San Diego Chargers, was a second-team all-Big 12 selection in 2008 and an honorable mention all-Big 12 pick in 2007.

• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “10th Avenue Freezeout” by Bruce Springsteen.

The KU football team runs through pre-game stretches just as it would on Saturdays this fall. The season opener is now just two weeks away.

The KU football team runs through pre-game stretches just as it would on Saturdays this fall. The season opener is now just two weeks away. by Matt Tait

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