Catching on: Freshman receiver Chase Harrell made his mark in spring

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell pulls in a catch during practice on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Year after year, with player after player, coaches consistently talk about what an advantage it is for prospects to graduate high school early and make it to their college campuses in time for spring football practices.

For Kansas University freshman receiver Chase Harrell, that path paid major dividends this year, according to first-year KU coach David Beaty.

“He matured so much from that spring,” Beaty said of the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Huffman, Texas, native. “It was amazing. Watching him grow from then to now, I gotta take my hat off to him because that was a hard spring. For a freshman. An early enrollee.”

And it was laid out that way by design. From heavy workloads in the weight room with strength coach Je’Ney Jackson to intense on-the-field demands at practice that better resembled game week than a light run-through five months before the season arrived, Beaty and company made everything as difficult as they could this spring. The goal was to establish the tone for what was to come.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell pulls in a catch during practice on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

“I did not think he would be able to hold up to that standard,” Beaty said of Harrell. “But, man, he was phenomenal.”

For a young player at a position where opportunities for playing time are wide-open, the confidence, mentality and maturity Harrell gained in April could serve him well in August.

Beaty has not been shy about comparing Harrell to former Texas A&M standout and first-round NFL Draft pick Mike Evans. And he even took the comparison a step further recently when talking about Harrell at Big 12 media days in Dallas.

“He’s good,” Beaty said. “The dude’s 6-4, 200 pounds. He runs well. His ceiling is off the charts. That dude right there is what Mike Evans looked like. But he is, right now, more developed than Mike Evans was at that age.”

Praise like that would lead anyone to believe that Harrell would have an automatic spot in the Jayhawks’ lineup this fall. And based on his head start and raw skills, that certainly seems likely. But it is far from a given. And now that three other freshmen receivers have been added to the mix, Harrell will have to beat out more than just the guys he competed with this spring.

“I expect him to earn it,” said Beaty, repeating KU’s unofficial slogan for the 2015 season. “If he does it, he’ll do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. And he’s gonna have to show us that he’s better than the other guys. … But he’s worked his tail off.”

Key camp dates

The Jayhawks will report to preseason camp Wednesday and begin official practices for the season Thursday. KU then will go Friday, Saturday and Monday before jumping into a full-pads workout on Aug. 11 and the first two-a-day practices on Aug. 12.

KU’s official Media Day is set for Saturday, but Beaty has set up a favorable schedule for access for the rest of the month, with every position group getting its day with the media and all of KU’s assistant coaches talking at least once.

KU’s preseason camp will cover 21 practices and run through Aug. 27. After that, the Jayhawks will begin preparations for the Sept. 5 season opener against South Dakota State at Memorial Stadium.

King to Denver?

The Denver Broncos may be looking to add another former Kansas football player to the three they already have on their roster.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, the Broncos recently hosted wide receiver Nigel King for a workout. Denver has a roster spot available after fifth-year pro Kyle Williams suffered a season-ending injury during a recent practice.

King worked out with Denver on Sunday but was not offered a contract, according to Cameron Wolfe of The Denver Post, who cited an NFL source as the place he learned that King had not signed with the Broncos.

King, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout with good speed and hands who transferred to KU from Maryland for the 2014 season, finished last season with 537 yards and a touchdown on 30 receptions in 12 games and elected to forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL. He went undrafted last April and initially got a tryout with the Miami Dolphins following the draft.

King, who spent the first few years of his college career at Maryland, was waived by Miami just last week.

Should he somehow wind up with the Broncos, King would join cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib and linebacker Steven Johnson as the Jayhawks on Denver’s roster.