Notebook: Defense ‘flying around’ as Jayhawks have spring practices for first time in 2 years
photo by: Hunter Ristau/Kansas Athletics
Kenny Logan Jr., one of the Jayhawks’ breakthrough contributors on defense in 2020, is in his junior year, but this is the first time in his college career that he’s experienced spring practices.
The Jayhawks didn’t get any springtime sessions a year ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Logan was still a high school senior in Florida when the Jayhawks had spring ball in 2019, ahead of his freshman year.
“The first couple of practices have been kind of fun,” Logan told reporters Thursday night after KU’s second practice under interim head coach Emmett Jones.
“We’ve been out there having a lot of energy. Guys flying around,” the junior defensive back said. “Just happy to be back on the field; happy to be back on the green grass with our brothers. So we’re out there competing every day.”
There’s been a lot of competition at the closed practices so far, Logan said. Which Jayhawks on defense are “flying around” and making plays? Logan rattled off a few: redshirt freshman cornerback Ra’Mello Dotson; freshman safeties Jayson Gilliom and O.J. Burroughs; freshman cornerback Jacobee Bryant; and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Caleb Taylor.
“All of those guys are coming in, pushing, working hard every day, trying to get better,” Logan said. “That’s definitely promising for the future.”
Another defensive veteran, super-senior Nate Betts, has also been encouraged by the energy the defensive players are bringing to practices early on this spring.
“Everybody’s around the ball. We’re getting turnovers,” Betts said. “That’s the main thing that stands out.”
Betts is spending an extra year at KU thanks to the NCAA’s blanket waiver that provided all players with another season of eligibility. However, he’s moved from safety to linebacker this year.
Even though both Betts and Logan were upbeat, Logan didn’t think he had witnessed anything so spectacular that he would consider it a memorable highlight.
“Not yet. Not yet,” Logan said with a smile. “It’s still early.”
The Jayhawks have the weekend off, coinciding with the Easter holiday. When Jones wrapped KU’s second of 15 practices, Logan said, the coach’s message involved the work still ahead of them: “Continue to keep pushing forward. We’re not where we want to be yet. This is just the beginning. Keep having energy and keep making plays.”
Offense in early stages of installation
On the offensive side of the ball, KU junior center Colin Grunhard said the team was making progress on new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord’s system.
Grunhard, who just joined the Jayhawks as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame this semester, said he thought DeBord’s system was “a great scheme.”
“We’ve only gone through our first three installs,” Grunhard said. “It’s a great offense, very similar to what I’m used to — it’s a pro-style offense.”
Without giving away too many details, Grunhard said KU’s quarterbacks could “make some great reads” in the system, which also sets up offensive linemen to execute double-team blocks.
“It’s a lot of fun to play in,” Grunhard said.
Additionally, the veteran O-lineman said KU’s new O-line coach, Lee Grimes, was introducing techniques that fit in with DeBord’s system.
“It’s been all good so far,” Grunhard said. “We’re just ready to put some pads on.”
That will happen this week at practices scheduled for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Jones still working with WRs
Jones has a lot more on his plate this spring than he did during his first two years at KU as an assistant, but the interim head coach said he’s still working directly with the Jayhawks’ receivers.
In between his new responsibilities, Jones said he’s still able to meet with KU receivers in the classroom like usual, and he still goes over fundamentals with them on the field.
“That’s, like, my baby right there, so it’s hard to let that go,” Jones said.
During practices, Jones said he is able to branch off and observe other position groups and leave the receivers with another assistant as he handles head coaching duties.