Spring football notebook: Arnold, Clements to miss rest of spring

photo by: Carter Gaskins/Special to the Journal-World

Kansas offensive linemen Calvin Clements (75) and Darrell Simmons Jr. (55) during practice on Saturday, March 30, 2024, in Lawrence.

Offensive lineman Calvin Clements and wide receiver Lawrence Arnold will miss the rest of spring practice due to injury, head coach Lance Leipold said.

After the conclusion of Tuesday’s practice, Leipold described his team’s overall health as “fair at best.”

“I’d probably like it to be a little healthier,” he said. “… We’ll get there. And when some are out it creates opportunity for others.”

Clements, a redshirt freshman, has been competing for playing time on the line after the graduation of Dominick Puni. He started in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl when Puni had opted out in advance of the NFL Draft. The 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive tackle is a native of Lawrence and a graduate of Free State High School.

Arnold was KU’s leading receiver last year with 44 receptions for 782 yards and six touchdowns, three of which came in the Jayhawks’ Guaranteed Rate Bowl victory against UNLV. Among other memorable moments, he snagged the fourth-down pass to help KU earn its upset win over Oklahoma, and the drive-opening touchdown from Jason Bean to secure a road victory against Iowa State.

Clements’ unavailability puts the Jayhawks in a tougher position at offensive tackle, where Bryce Cabeldue and Logan Brown — who could potentially end up being KU’s starters in the fall — have also been working their way back from injuries, practicing but not in full.

Defensive end Jereme Robinson is also unavailable for spring practice following surgery.

But the Jayhawks still have nearly five months before they open the season.

Kicking update

KU should be settled at punter with Damon Greaves, at long snapper with Luke Hosford and at kickoff specialist with Tabor Allen returning, but it lost starting placekicker Seth Keller to graduation.

With Keller gone, the Jayhawks did not add a kicker in the offseason, meaning they retain strong-legged Owen Piepergerdes (who is 1-for-2 on field goals and 15-for-15 on extra points in his career) and onetime Nebraska transfer Charlie Weinrich at the position.

“Owen kicked in a couple of games and Charlie didn’t kick in a game but he’s been doing a good job all spring, and this is where we compete, in the spring,” special teams coordinator Taiwo Onatolu said. “And then they’ll do a good job in the summer and then we’ll go through fall camp, and it’s competition.”

There are also new faces elsewhere in the realm of KU special teams. Several staffers who played a role in the unit departed in the offseason. Onatolu said that “it’s good to get new voices, what people do in different areas” and noted it was a solid showing overall last season on special teams.

“One thing about Coach Leipold, I’ve known him for 20-something years, a long, long time,” Onatolu said, “and he will not let you settle to be average, even if you had a great year, he’s always going to try to find ways to make us better, and that’s what we’ve done on special teams with the new additions.”

The “Fab Four”

KU wide receiver Luke Grimm was coy about revealing details when he first mentioned new coordinator Jeff Grimes’ “Fab Four” motto for the Jayhawks’ offense, but a couple of teammates were happy to disclose more information on Grimes’ core values.

“It’s four things: fast, physical, fearless and have fun,” running back Daniel Hishaw Jr. said, adding that Grimes solicited a lot of player input, particularly from team leaders. “It’s what we want to do going into the game, what’s our mindset for the game. And keep those four things in your mind, you should be able to play good.”

Fellow running back Devin Neal, who said that defining such attributes is important for building a team identity, said they’ve already been on display in the spring.

“I think we’ve played really fast, and I think we’re playing physical,” Neal said, “and the most important thing, I think everyone’s kind of having fun, and just enjoying being back out here. It felt like a short time but also felt like a long time being off the field.”

Leipold said that Grimes has combined bringing a sense of familiarity, in terms of some similarities with former offensive coordinator Andy Kotelnicki, with providing a new voice to the coaching staff and the players.

“He’s been able to articulate in a way that our players … they know what’s expected of them,” Leipold said.


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