Posts tagged with Practice
Blocking took on an extra emphasis at this morning’s Kansas football practice, the first of two sessions today.
Not only did all of the position groups spend a little extra time working on the skill, but the team’s most important blockers — the offensive linemen — worked out with a little different look.
Junior tackle Riley Spencer was not on the field this morning. No word on why, but I have heard that he’s dealing with some kind of a knee injury. We get a chance to meet with Coach Weis around noon, so we’ll get the scoop then.
With Spencer out of the lineup, for now, junior Gavin Howard slid over to right tackle and defensive-lineman-turned-offensive-lineman Randall Dent worked with the first team at right guard.
Dent looks good. Like Aslam Sterling, he’s moving well for a man his size (6-4, 300) and he looks to be in much better shape than he has been during the past couple of seasons when he was on the defensive line.
There certainly still is time for Sterling (6-5, 360) to make his way onto the first string, but, whether Spencer is out for a little while or a long while, getting Dent some meaningful reps with those first-teamers should benefit KU’s depth in a big way.
I also think it shows you a lot about Howard, a guy who, just a few weeks ago, was a major question mark but now appears to be creeping into that category with Tanner Hawkinson, Duane Zlatnik and Trevor Marrongelli as guys you would label steady and solid.
I watched Howard a lot today and the one thing that stood out to me that I hadn’t noticed before is his strength. He’s got a good frame (6-4, 300) but he also appears to have some muscle behind it.
Perhaps because we all had the day off yesterday, the media turnout at today’s practice was pretty low. So low, in fact, that Coach Weis noticed and actually made it a point to reward those of us who did show up with 20 extra minutes of practice watching. That gave me time to focus on more than just the O-Line, so here’s what else caught my eye at Day 12 of fall practice.
• While Spencer was not even on the field this morning, two Jayhawks were busy riding the bikes. D-Back Brian Maura and linebacker Anthony McDonald spent the first 40 or so minutes of practice on the exercise bikes in the southwest corner of the practice fields. As I mentioned, we’ll try to get an update on all of KU’s injuries a little later today.
• With a good chunk of my time focused on the O-Line, I thought it was really interesting to see O-Line coach Tim Grunhard coaching his guys even during stretches. He walked up and down the line and reminded each one about gaps and assignments. This coaching staff really stresses the mental side of the game as much as the physical, so I’m guessing this was part of hammering that point home. Cool to see a guy using every minute he gets to coach, though.
• I know it’s different in practice than it is during live action, but this offensive line really looks like it has a chance to be a solid run-blocking unit. Of course, it’s going to be just important, if not more so, for these guys to pass protect, but they all look really physical driving blockers downfield. As I mentioned earlier, the running backs spent a good chunk of the early portion working on downfield blocking and the wide receivers and tight ends worked on the same thing. I know you’ve all heard this a lot, but this is the kind of thing that makes those of us in the media continually say that this team will line up right, execute better and look like it knows what it’s doing out there. It’s the little things.
• During the sled drill that followed stretching, KU flashed a look at most of its first-string guys. Depending on what happens with Dent, Spencer and Sterling, and depending on what kind of package they’re running, the first unit looked like this: RT - Howard, RG - Dent, C - Marrongelli, LG - Zlatnik, LT - Hawkinson, TE - Ragone, TE/FB - Smiley, QB - Crist, RB - Pierson, WR - Pick, WR - Patterson.
• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Born to Be My Baby” by Bon Jovi. This is the kind of tune that proves you’re a die-hard Bon Jovi fan.
• We’ve got our next press conference with Weis around noon today and we’ll also get interviews with a few offensive players at that time, so keep an eye out for audio clips a little later.
The media — and the rest of the free world — had the chance to check out an entire practice Saturday morning, and the longer look at the KU football team gave us a chance to see a little more than stretching and position drills.
We watched live hitting, all five quarterbacks in action and plenty of situational stuff. What’s more, the coaches operated as if no one else was in the building, ripping guys when they needed to be ripped and praising guys when they made good plays.
It’s still tough to tell too much from what we watched, but there were a few things that stood out.
Here’s a look:
• The drop-off from QB Dayne Crist to the next two quarterbacks (Michael Cummings and Turner Baty) is pretty noticeable, understandably so. During the 7-on-7 portion of the scrimmage, Crist handled 12 plays and completed 11 of 12 passes. The one that was incomplete was a drop by Andrew Turzilli, who alligator-armed the throw despite being open. KU coach Charlie Weis let him hear about it and also used the opportunity to remind the rest of the receivers how to do things. Cummings completed 3 of 6 passes and Baty completed 3 of 6. Both threw some good balls and both made some bad choices. Two TDs were converted during the drill, one from Crist to D.J. Beshears on a deep ball and the other from Baty to Tre Parmalee on a wide receiver screen.
• Speaking of Parmalee, Weis said last week that he was competing for playing time and that catch and run showed why. After looking the ball into his hands, Parmalee made one move and took off. No dancing, no fancy jukes, just cut and go. Parmalee also later scored on a kickoff return and a punt return during a special teams scrimmage. Keep an eye on him.
• One of my favorite drills of the day was the tight end drill in which TEs coach Jeff Blasko stands 10 yards away and fires passes to the middle of two lines. One tight end comes from the right and is the intended receiver and another comes from the left, in front, and tries to serve as a distraction. Mostly catches during this drill, including a one-handed stab by Charles Brooks — on a high throw — who had just been called out a couple of times in a row. It wasn’t just ripping for Brooks, though, on Saturday. A couple of drills later, Blasko praised his footwork, calling it, “Clinic tape.”
• Spent quite a bit of time watching the wideouts on Saturday. Here’s a quick run-down. Remember, though, this is just one day and one opinion, so it’s by no means the end-all, be-all read of this position. Quickets routes: Kale Pick, Josh Ford, D.J. Beshears. Best target: Ricki Herod, Andrew Turzilli, Kale Pick. Best hands: Kale Pick, JaCorey Shepherd, D.J. Beshears, Daymond Patterson, Chris Omigie. I’ll try to track this the rest of camp to see if it changes or anyone else jumps out.
• We saw a fair amount of one-on-ones between the receivers and the cornerbacks, and, on this day, the receivers dominated. So much so that defensive coordinator Dave Campo, on more than one occasion, talked about the drill being a waste of time. One thing I thought was interesting was Campo emphasizing the deep ball to his guys. “W’re not gonna get beat deep,” Campo said. It didn’t work every play as Pick and Omigie both vicitimized the DBs for deep balls, but there was marked improvement shown in that department throughout the course of the drill. One of the coolest parts of this drill was the live refereeing, which came complete with boos from the few hundred fans who showed up to watch.
• One other cool moment came when all five QBs — Crist, Baty, Cummings, Blake Jablonski and Jake Heaps — threw, side-by-side, the different routes of the route tree. Deep, intermediate, flat, out... they were all there and it was wild to see this within such a small space.
• Saturday’s action also featured a look at live running plays. Brandon Bourbon looked really sharp, running with great power and Taylor Cox was right behind him. James Sims also looked good with his reps and Tony Pierson got a few touches, as well. Just as they’ll do during the season, though, they appear to be making sure Pierson doesn’t take too much of a pounding.
• Practice wrapped with 30 minutes of special teams drills, including live returns and the do-or-die field goal that determined how much running the team did. One thing I really liked about the special teams drills is that all of the coaches remained very actively involved, especially Campo, who stayed right in the thick of things the entire time. Pretty impressive stuff from a former NFL head coach who could easily have a different attitude.
• Here’s one more good line from special teams coordinator Clint Bowen, who was trying to fire up his guys on a kickoff drills: “Coach is cheating you today, man. You guys only get two tries. Let’s make ‘em count.” Hey, whatever it takes. Gotta find any angle you can to get guys motivated.
Overall, it’s a much different picture than we’ve seen around here during the past couple of years. Guys are working their butts off and are held accountable on almost every play. I can’t tell you how many times I heard a coach say the words, “You’re too soft,” or something of the like. They don’t want these guys thinking they’re going to play just by being on the team. They want them thinking they have to work for it — at all times — and I think that’s why the effort seems so much better and the intensity so much higher.
As practice wrapped, the fans gave these guys a nice hand. People are hungry for football to be a winner around here, and, even though it might take some time, it appears as if KU is once again headed in that direction.
It might as well have been called Jordan Tavai Day at Kansas University football practice on Friday, as the arrival of the big man from El Camino CC in California, was the only thing on the minds of most media members.
Tavai, who arrived late because he was busy finishing up classes in California, dressed out in shorts and a helmet on his first day. Because of NCAA rules, he'll have to go through two practices like that and two more in just a helmet and shoulder pads before he'll be able to suit up in full pads.
Didn't matter. Just seeing Tavai out there was good news for the Jayhawks, and, even though he'll be playing catch up for the first couple of weeks, it does not take much effort to see how much he'll impact the program.
For starters, Tavai is thick. He's listed on the roster 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, and he looks every bit of that. What’s more, like offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (6-5, 360), who also arrived late, Tavai moves pretty well for a man his size.
The KU coaching staff has said that Tavai has the skill set and versatility to play either defensive tackle or defensive end. They’ll make that decision based on what the other guys around him show this preseason. From looking at him, I could see him playing either, but I have to tell you that, to me, he looks like a defensive tackle all the way. I like the idea of his athleticism at that size causing problems in the middle for opposing offensive lines.
That’s just one opinion from one day of watching the guy for 20 minutes. And, knowing my analysis works, he’ll probably wind up a D-End for sure now. It sure is going to be fun to watch how it plays out though.
A couple of other things that stood out about Tavai: He looks explosive, he uses his hands very well and he appears to be in pretty good shape.
Although Tavai was the main attraction at Friday’s practice, here are a couple of other quick things that caught my attention:
• As you can probably tell from the photos, today’s practice took place in Memorial Stadium. Could be because the coaching staff wanted those guys to get used to what’s coming up tomorrow — Fan Appreciation Day, 8:45-10:45 a.m. at Memorial Stadium — by letting them run around out there today. Maybe it was just the day or the change in location, but today’s practice seemed a lot livelier than some of the others.
• That was true at just about every position, but the three that stood out the most to me were: Offensive line, Defensive backs, Tight ends. Go figure, those groups are led by Tim Grunhard, Clint Bowen/Dave Campo and Jeff Blasko, four of the most intense coaches in the program. Saw some real good hitting out of the D-Backs during a one-on-one drill.
• Speaking of the secondary, safety Brian Maura was on the bike again for the start of practice. I’ll be sure to find out what’s up with him the next time we get coach Weis.
• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “Darkness on the Edge of Town” by Bruce Springsteen. It’s a great song, and, despite its heavy vibe, it has a little “edge” to it that I could see getting some guys fired up to hit.
See everyone at open practice tomorrow morning!
Thursday morning brought with it the beginning of the second day of two-a-day practices for the Kansas University football team.
And there were a couple of good things about it for the Jayhawks.
First, it was not too early. Practice did not begin until just after 9 a.m. Second, it was not too hot, as the morning temperature hung around 70 degrees before the sun started climbing and heating things up.
Pretty much business as usual in terms of what we were able to see today, but my focus took me to the offensive line, where I was impressed by a lot of what I saw.
First, as a whole, these guys look to be in very good cardio shape. Even after doing back-to-back-to-back-to-back drills with O-Line coach Tim Grunhard bearing down on them, you could hardly see them taking a breath.
As expected, projected starters Duane Zlatnik, Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Gavin Howard led off most of the drills, but the other guys are right there with them working their butts off.
Here are a couple of tidbits I saw from observing the O-Line:
• While newcomer Aslam Sterling moves great on his feet for a man his size (6-5, 360), he has some work to do in the conditioning area. That’s no big secret and head coach Charlie Weis even made mention to the fact that the coaches were going to ease Sterling into things before they made him take the full conditioning test that the rest of team had to take on Day 1.
• Former D-Lineman Pat Lewandowski is the ultimate chameleon. I mean, he’s been with the offensive linemen for what, a few weeks now, and he already looks the part. Long, lean and in solid shape, the weight Lewandowski has added to bulk up for the O-Line appears to have been good weight and he looks like he could play tackle today.
• I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears mentioning again. It’s so impressive to watch Grunhard coach these guys. There’s not a single minute where he’s not coaching or yelling or screaming “faster, faster, faster” at his group. That’s far from it, though. The former NFL veteran is not afraid to break into a stance and show proper technique if he thinks his guys need to see it. I said it earlier in the week, but, again, KU is very fortunate to have this guy on the coaching staff.
• Nothing else really stood out to me today. I was able to get confirmation that the exercise bike routine at the start of practice is used to get guys loose and not to punish them. Makes sense, since something tells me any punishment would be a lot worse than riding a stationary bike. D-Back Brian Maura was back on the bike today, but it seems like that’s just to get loose since he rode the bike yesterday but looked fine during drills.
• Today’s Coach Weis song of the day was “Out in the Street” by Bruce Springsteen, but it was hardly the only song that popped. Right out of the gate, “Still Not a Player” by Big Pun and, right after The Boss, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” had KU players and coaches alike bouncing around a little more.
Call me crazy, call me an optimist or call me accurate, either way, I’m telling you that I’m starting to notice some improvement in this year’s Kansas University football team.
My football mind is not sharp enough to know the ins and outs of position-by-position techniques, nor is our allowed time at practice long enough to actually see any drastic improvements in terms of picking up the playbook or fixing something that was broken the day before.
But in terms of the little things like footwork, quickness, number of reps it takes to get a drill right and those types of things, I have seen improvement. This is particularly true with the defensive backs, who looked much, much quicker during a variety of drills today than they did a week ago.
There may be a couple of explanations:
They may have gotten quicker.
They may just look quicker because they’re more confident and more accustomed to what a Charlie Weis practice is like.
They may have been working particularly hard today because, as defensive coordinator Dave Campo told us this morning, last night’s practice was not a good one.
Whatever the reason, it was cool to see and certainly a good sign for KU fans.
Here’s a quick look at what else caught my mind at Wednesday’s practice:
• Earlier today, linebackers coach DeMontie Cross praised senior linebacker Tunde Bakare’s for his recent improvement and, after watching Bakare a little more closely today in practice, I can see what he’s talking about. Bakare has always been the kind of guy who plays all-out, but that relentless style now looks like it has more purpose. He takes fewer steps to get places yet still goes 100 percent on every rep. If he can keep that up, it’s going to be hard for the coaches to keep Bakare on the bench, especially in the Big 12 against all of those spread offenses.
• Speaking of the linebackers, I watched an interception drill for about five minutes in which they hop over bags in varying manners and then try to catch the ball as Cross rips it there way. They didn’t catch them all, but, overall, I think this unit has pretty good hands. It’s different in a game, of course, but it all starts in practice. The best hands I saw — at least today — belonged to Darius Willis and Prinz Kande.
• Another player spent the early portion of practice riding the stationary bike in the southwest corner of the practice fields today. This time it was receiver-turned-safety Brian Maura. It’s still hard for me to tell if this is an injury thing or a discipline thing, but, again, it doesn’t look too serious either way.
• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day — and, by far, the weakest effort to date — was “We Weren’t Born To Follow” by Bon Jovi. It’s a 2009 song, which might explain things a little bit since most of Bon Jovi’s best stuff came a little earlier than that. It was followed by Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” though, and, I’m told, that was for Weis, too. Not only does that seem like a fitting song for a football practice soundtrack, it also helped make up for the Bon Jovi selection.
The Kansas University football program’s first day of two-a-days arrived this morning, with the beats at the practice fields blaring by 9 a.m.
The 9 a.m. start was the first of two practice sessions that will take place today, but it did not seem as if anyone was dreading it. Credit that to the music that livens up every practice and probably could make these guys look hype if they were in their pajamas.
A couple of things crossed my mind as I watched today’s practice.
The first was that I should probably point out that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows at these things. Partly because of my nature and partly because of the job I have, it’s easy for me to highlight the positives at practice. This newcomer looks great. These guys worked hard in this drill or that one. And, while all of that stuff is true, it’s not the only thing that goes on at practice.
Trust me, there is plenty of barking and plenty of bad steps and bad reps. That’s part of the game, though, and part of the reason they practice. So whether it’s offensive line coach Tim Grunhard asking his group what the heck they were doing or receivers coach Rob Ianello imploring his athletes to do it right, there are plenty of instances in which these guys are being hammered by the coaches. The biggest thing that’s important to point out about it, though, is that nobody’s crying about it. The players use it as motivation and strive to bounce back with a better rep the next time. The coaches move on and don’t dwell on it or hang on to the negative.
Most of what I write in these practice updates has been and will be flattering, but I thought it was important to point out that there is more than enough grinding going on out there, too.
All right, on to what caught my eye today.
• First, I made it a point to take a closer look at linebacker Schyler Miles today and I gotta tell ya, you just don’t see true freshmen come in looking like him very often. Physically, he’s already ready to contribute and it’s quite clear that there’s still room to grow. Mentally, he works hard. That’s not to say that most of these guys don’t, but Miles really looks like a football machine out there who has just two things on his mind. Playing football and getting better. I’ll look forward to seeing him at Saturday’s open practice when we can see him run a little bit and see what kind of instincts he has.
• I also spent a lot of time watching D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt today and he, perhaps better than anyone out there, best illustrates the major difference between this season and the two before it. Wyatt’s out there walking around, having fun, clowning around with guys and seeming to genuinely enjoy himself. Why? To me, it looks like he gets to be himself again and he gets to love coaching football. No more scripted catch phrases, no more “no cussing” policy. Just a football coach doing his job and pushing his guys to be better. That’s the general vibe of the entire practice, which has much better energy and tempo than we saw during the past couple of seasons.
• One reason for that — though I doubt it — could be the presence of pro scouts. I know they came up to practice a few times during the past couple of seasons, but I also know they weren’t there multiple times during the first week. They have been this year. Today’s rep was from the 49ers (and that was just the morning session) and I’ve seen several others from other franchises throughout the first six practices. Part of that is because there’s more pro-level talent to watch now, but another part of it has to be the influence of Charlie Weis and Dave Campo. Talk about an opportunity.
• I also spent a little time over by the running backs and other than being impressed by the way Charlie Weis Jr. handles himself out there, Brandon Bourbon's health and physical presence really stood out. He looks good.
• Finally, this blog probably won’t be complete each day without the song of the day update, so for those keeping track, today’s Coach Weis dedication was “Runaway” by Bon Jovi. I know Bon Jovi and The Boss have plenty of hits to keep this thing moving along, but it’s going to be interesting to see when we get to the first Coach Weis song that’s written by somebody other than those two guys.
Monday marked the first day in full pads for the Kansas University football team and you know what that means — time to get more physical.
Although most of what we saw during the opening portion of practice was limited to position drills, most of the players hit a little harder in the pads.
This was particularly true with the tight ends, who worked non-stop on blocking techniques, while tight ends coach Jeff Blasko turned up the tempo nearby.
A lot has been made about how KU’s deep group of tight ends could factor into the passing game this year, but I gotta tell ya, seeing these drills today reminded me just how much of a weapon these guys could be as blockers.
Mike Ragone looked great, but Jimmay Mundine held his own and newcomers Charles Brooks and Jordan Smith also looked very physical. Obviously, this is great news for the likes of Tony Pierson, Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox and James Sims, as well as quarterback Dayne Crist, of course.
Here’s a quick look at the rest of Monday’s practice:
• A small pack of referees showed up to Monday’s action, most of them there to get in a little work of their own. While his team was stretching, KU coach Charlie Weis huddled with the refs to talk about the plan for the day. KU officials told me that the Jayhawks do not change their practice routine when the refs show up, but they do use them. Any time there are live drills where it’s 11-on-11, the refs will jump in and officiate as if it were a game-type situation.
• Today’s interviews were with the defensive line, so, naturally, that’s where my eyes wandered during practice. We’ve already talked about the physical make-up of guys like Keba Agostinho, John Williams, Josh Williams, Keon Stowers and others, but one thing that stood out today was how all of that depth on the D-Line has changed how hard these guys practice. Because there are plenty of reps to go around, the guys who are in the drills go all-out and then rush back to the back of the line. D-Line coach Buddy Wyatt said earlier Monday that Stowers was as hard a working player as he had ever coached and it shows in practice.
• Speaking of the D-Line, there are a couple of real leaders on this unit, as co-captain Toben Opurum and fifth-year transfer Josh Williams appear to be the guys that lead the charge most days. Both are very vocal throughout practice, and Wyatt said he thought that Williams’ vocal nature had inspired Opurum to become a better vocal leader, as well.
• Quick reminder: Two-a-days begin tomorrow, when the Jayhawks will practice once in the mid-morning and again in the early evening.
• Finally, today’s song dedicated to Coach Weis: Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” No word on whether that was a subtle hint to the players or not.
Sunday was the second day of practice in shoulder pads for the Kansas University football team and, with it, came a little different look at this year’s squad.
I’ve heard from football coaches for years that guys who look great in shorts and helmets don’t always necessarily transfer that over when they’re suited up in pads. Although we won’t see full pads until Monday — because of NCAA practice rules — we can tell a little something by looking at them with shoulder pads on.
So that was the theme of what I tried to keep an eye on today — especially with the newcomers. Obviously, we’ve all seen what Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears and Tony Pierson can do in pads. But what about some of the new guys, both on offense and defense?
Here’s what I saw:
• Freshman cornerback Greg Allen looks like he could be a beast. For starters, he’s incredibly athletic, but he also has great size. At 5-11, 204, that should be big enough to compete with most receivers in the Big 12 right away. Especially at cornerback. Putting on shoulder pads only made his frame stand out more.
• Same story for freshman safety Tevin Shaw. Both of these guys have great size for true freshmen. And several of the coaches already have talked about how they are physically ready to compete. You figured they would have to be to land on the depth chart before even putting on a uniform.
• Another newcomer who looked good in pads was freshman wide receiver Tre Parmalee. His name came up earlier in the day when wide receivers coach Rob Ianello talked with the media about his group and Parmalee, who was the top receiver in the Kansas City area last season at Bishop Miege, looks every bit as athletic and quick in shoulder pads as he does without. That position is so deep and there is so much competition there that it’s hard to tell if Parmalee can crack the lineup right away. If he doesn’t, though, it won’t be because he’s not ready.
• Speaking of receivers, I mentioned Saturday that D.J. Beshears was riding the bike at the beginning of practice. He jumped into things full speed on Sunday and looked fine.
• As I stationed myself between the DBs and WRs for most of today’s session, I noticed something that I thought was pretty cool. We all know that these two groups like to talk trash on one another when they’re battling it out, but did you know that it extends to drills, too? Shortly after senior safety Bradley McDougald finished an interception drill on the south end of the fields, he shouted toward the receivers on his way back to the safeties line. It’s possible that his words could have been those of encouragement, but the tone with which they were said and the history between the two positions suggest that McDougald was trying to light a fire under his team’s wideouts.
• Finally, another quick note on the music that kicks off each practice. Other than remaining as loud as can be, I learned a little something about the order of the songs that are played. At every practice the second song of the day belongs to head coach Charlie Weis. He doesn’t necessarily pick it, but the crew that is in charge of the music knows his favorites and they make sure to sprinkle one in early in the day. Based on the first four days of practice, it appears that Weis’ top two favorites are Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. Big surprise, right? Sunday’s tune: Bon Jovi’s “Bad Medicine.” Good stuff.
• One more quick music note: I was particularly entertained when senior tight end Mike Ragone did his best American Idol audition to the Jay-Z and Kayne West song that we'll just call, "Ball So Hard."
• Finally, I should pass along this statement from Charlie Weis regarding the passing of Garrett Reid, the son of Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid:
“I just heard the tragic news of the passing of Garrett Reid. Andy has been a close friend of mine for many years and my thoughts and prayers go out to Andy, Tammy and the kids.”
I spent most of my time at today’s practice watching the quarterbacks. I know that’s a little cliche, but, because it is, I often forget to look at them at all.
I know we all know that Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps are former five-star guys, big-time talents, a huge upgrade for KU, yada, yada, yada, but it really never gets old watching them work.
They’re so focused, such natural leaders and have such live arms.
Although Heaps, Turner Baty, Michael Cummings and Blake Jablonski all have their share of talent, it just continues to become more and more obvious how important Crist will be to this year’s team. The biggest reason? He’s huge. KU’s offensive line will fight like crazy to keep him from taking hits, but even if he does, I think he’ll be able to hold his own.
Anyway, here are a few other things that caught my eye today.
• Crist, Heaps and Baty all throw great balls. Baty’s motion and delivery resembles Crist’s a lot. The only difference is, since he’s 6-2 — compared to Crist’s 6-4 — the release point is a little different. Heaps, I’m told, has the best technical release of all of the QBs and it shows during warm-ups. He releases it high, it stays tight and it gets there in a hurry.
• One area that Baty really stands out to me is in the learning department. The guy is like a sponge out there, always watching the other QBs and listening to any and all direction from whoever is talking. I’ve seen him on more than one occasion run over to a coach who was trying to instruct him. Cool to see. Should help him a lot.
• During our early interview session today, senior safety Bradley McDougald tipped his cap to senior corner Corrigan Powell for renewed focus and intensity. It shows. Powell really digs in during practice and appears interested in making his final season at KU one that will included his name more than a couple of times. Not only does the arrival of all these new, young corners help push the starters, but it also can push guys like Powell, who, if they don’t step up their games, could get passed over for good.
• It’s always easy for the new guys to stand out in these types of settings because we haven’t seen them before. It happened again today when I caught a glimpse of freshman defensive end Tyler Holmes. Physically, Holmes looks ready to play right now. With Toben Opurum and Michael Reynolds working in at Sam linebacker and a couple of those other defensive linemen arriving late, Holmes could be an under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on. I remember talking to him before he got to campus and his goals there were very clear — come in and play right away. On the most recent depth chart, Holmes is listed in a battle with red-shirt freshman Ben Goodman for the second-string spot behind transfer Josh Williams. I know there are a lot of battles worth keeping an eye on, but the Holmes-Goodman showdown should be intense.
• One other quick note from today’s practice... senior wide receiver D.J. Beshears spent the early portion of the day riding an exercise bike in the corner. Initially, I wondered if it were an injury thing, but it looked less and less like that as practice went on. A few minutes before we had to leave, I noticed strength coach Scott Holsopple standing next to Beshears as the senior wideout did crunches. No telling what it was, but regardless of the reason, it did not appear to be serious.
Another day, another practice for the KU football team.
While their physical appearance continues to be something many media members marvel at, we’re starting to get used to the bigger bodies and more fit look.
With that in mind, here’s what stood out to me on Day 2.
• A lot has been made about the increased bulk of returning defensive linemen Keba Agostinho and John Williams. I got my first good look at both of them today and they are definitely noticeably bigger. Keba has added overall bulk and looks like he belongs in the middle of the D-Line and Williams looks a lot trimmer overall but also bulkier up top.
• Speaking of defensive linemen.... Kevin Young once again looks like the athlete he was recruited to be. During his first couple of seasons in town, Young was sent some mixed messages about what he would be and how he would be used. That forced his weight to fluctuate and caused some confusion. He looks athletic again now and the former Nebraska commitment could provide great depth for KU’s D-Line.
• I spent some extended time over by the defensive backs today and a couple of things jumped out over there. First, transformed wide receiver Brian Maura’s size (6-3.5, 205) puts him a head above all others in the defensive backfield. Judging by the depth chart — he’s not on it — I’m sure he’s still got some work to do to, but if he ever gets it, that size could be very helpful.
• One general comment about the D-backs.... Even without looking at the numbers, I think you’d be able to tell who the freshmen are and who the veterans are. The main reason? Footwork. The vets have much quicker feet in most of the drills. That’s not a knock on the new guys, just a look at what experience can do for you. It also should be pointed out that just because the footwork is different in drills does not mean that would carry over to the field. Some guys are just gamers. We’ll see if any of these new D-backs are. Greg Allen looks very put together, while Nas Moore and Tyree Williams look crazy athletic and capable of playing right away.
• One more note for one of the newcomers, Williams apparently has just one gear — all out. Williams continually ran so hard through the finish of each drill that he slammed into the fence just off the field.
• As for the D-Line, it’s looking better and better all the time. I talked yesterday about some of the newcomers helping there, but today I saw some more from a couple of returners. Toben Opurum and Josh Williams led off most of the drills — no surprise, considering last week, in Dallas, Opurum said Williams had been a great leader all summer — and both looked as if they were trying to set the tone for the rest of the group. Ben Goodman and Michael Reynolds also looked good, especially in the quickness department. Quick feet, explosive movements. Should be fun to see what both guys bring this year.
• Finally, I don’t think this would be complete without mentioning how hard the coaches are working. It’s not yelling, it’s not screaming, it’s instructing. They’re flat-out working their butts off to teach these guys, which, I’m sure, makes it that much easier for these guys to want to learn.