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Friday, August 6, 2010

Freshman learning curve: Veteran Jayhawks helping rookies during first football practices

Kansas freshman running back Brandon Bourbon takes off during drills on the first day of fall practice, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010 at the practice fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium.

Kansas freshman running back Brandon Bourbon takes off during drills on the first day of fall practice, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2010 at the practice fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium.

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Wednesday marked the college football debut for 15 incoming freshmen at Kansas University.

KU QB job still not settled

The starting quarterback job for Kansas University is still a mystery. Both Jordan Webb and Kale Pick are front runners for the position, which may not be assigned until the first game draws near.

And although the upperclassmen did their best to help the newcomers break in with style, a few of the older Jayhawks couldn’t help but find entertainment in the rookies’ struggle to catch on during their first official day with the team.

“You want to help the freshmen as much as you can,” third-year sophomore quarterback Kale Pick said. “But it’s also kind of funny to point one out and look at them lookin’ around with their heads swimmin’.”

Par for the course, according to the guys who have been through KU’s preseason football camp a time or two. Most Jayhawks on this year’s roster remember well their day as the new guy on the field. That includes sixth-year senior Angus Quigley, who, as one of the oldest members of this year’s team, said he could sense a huge gap between himself and some of the younger guys on the squad.

“I can tell it’s a world apart,” Quigley said. “We’ve got (running backs Brandon) Bourbon and (James) Sims and I can tell that their minds are going a thousand miles an hour. It’s hard for a running back to come in and get comfortable with the pace of the game at this level right away. Everything’s faster. But they’ll catch up.”

And, like it or not, their older teammates will help them do so.

“Yeah, you have to,” Pick said with a laugh.

Don’t get the Jayhawks wrong. There’s nothing they’d like more than to see the new guys catch on right away and move forward as if they were on campus a few months ago for the 15 practices during spring drills.

Because of the pace of the game, the expectations of the new coaching staff and the fact that the season opener is now just four weeks away, that’s just not possible. So the older guys do what older guys do best. They lead. They answer questions. They pat the young’uns on the back during the tough times.

“We definitely help them,” red-shirt freshman quarterback Jordan Webb said. “Any time they have a question, they know they can come to us. We were all in the same position as them at one point, so we definitely sympathize with them when they’re a little bit lost.”

In addition to Bourbon and Sims, several other first-time Jayhawks hit the practice field with high hopes. Wide receivers Brian Maura, Keeston Terry, Andrew Turzilli and Ricki Herod, tight ends Trent Smiley and Jimmay Mundine and offensive lineman Chad Kolumber are hoping to find a way to factor into the offense.

Because of injuries and suspensions on the opposite side of the ball, defenders Keba Agostinho, JaQwaylin Arps, Jake Farley, Pat Lewandowski, Dexter McDonald and Ray Mitchell may have an opportunity to earn playing time right away.

None of the freshmen were made available to the media on Day One, but KU coach Turner Gill mapped out a sure-fire way that the new guys could crack the lineup in 2010.

“If they’ve got some talent, (if) they make plays,” he said. “If there’s maybe one or two or three plays that we see they can make that maybe somebody on the team has not been making. Again, they gotta be consistent. But, more importantly, if they can show us that they can have some big-play ability. Whether it’s offense or defense, it really doesn’t matter, even if it’s special teams.”

Gill said Wednesday he could envision putting a couple of freshmen defensive linemen onto the field early on because of KU’s lack of depth at the position. Beyond that, the rest of the rookies will get a shot to play their way onto the depth chart in the next couple of weeks.

“If they can do some things really well on maybe two-to-three teams on special teams or maybe be a second guy on offense or defense, we’ll look at that and probably go ahead and play them,” Gill said Wednesday. “But this is just the first day and we’ve got a lot of things to evaluate.”

Comments

Mike Kendall 4 years, 1 month ago

Is it just me, or, is Angus Quigley ready to explode out of a cannon? This guy has one year and I am thinking he is going to make the best of his one season!

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Dirk Medema 4 years, 1 month ago

Are there really just 15 incoming freshmen?

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Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

No... There are more but a couple of them are injured and a few others are not on scholarship. That number was just the number of scholarship freshmen who were actually able to participate in practice on Wednesday.

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for reading!

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Chris Bailey 4 years, 1 month ago

Matt,

Hey I live in Hutchinson and not much mention here about Josh Smith walking on. Is here really in camp? I spoke with him a couple months ago as his family lives about 2 blocks away. Didn't know if he was there and if he had a chance to make the team. Anyway, would appreciate your thoughts. I watched him run for 3 years and he was pretty special I'd be surprised to not see him on the field in a couple years and on scholarship. Love to hear your thougths.

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Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I meant to look for Smith the other day and ran out of time... so much to watch for, you know.

But I will keep an eye out for him and I'll ask around, too. It's early so he probably hasn't made much of a splash yet but, like you've alluded to, everything I've heard is that he's a great talent and he could find a way to contribute on special teams right away.

I'll keep him in mind and get back to you.

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Dirk Medema 4 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the followup Matt. How about a followup article at some point (a slower day) regarding the bigger picture. There seems to be lots of issues on the scholarship front: - Smaller '10 class (18 total?) - Lost players for a myriad of reasons - Implications of above on recruiting - Transfers, and how they fit in There has been some blogging (mild amazement?) at the number of schollies going to OL so far, but it seems to me that it completely fits in if #2 in particular is considered. It would be interesting to get the pro's perspective.

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Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

Sounds good. Thanks for the idea. I'll start working something up...

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Randy Bombardier 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey, Matt, thanks for the great job that you do. On the transfer front, time permitting, a good thing to know would be notable transfers from years past. Notable walk-ons too.

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Tony Bandle 4 years, 1 month ago

I do like what the picture shows above...Kansas is going to unveil it's revolutionary two ball offense!! Defensive coordinators will be tearing their hair out as the try to track the Twin TD makers.

The only problem is that the quarterback must be ambidextorous!!

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justanotherfan 4 years, 1 month ago

Some of these freshmen are extremely good athletes. I could really see a few of them getting on the field quickly (Bourbon, Sims, Agostinho, Maura, Herod) and getting some time. I wouldn't be surprised if several others are big contributors by the time we get deep into the season (Lewandowski, Kolumber). I'm excited to see what these guys can do.

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SCJayhawker 4 years, 1 month ago

Sure hope Josh Smith from Hutch gets a chance. Kid is kinda small 5'10 220 but he really set the world on fire for the past few years in HS. I think he won the MVP in the Shrine Bowl just last week too.

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hailtoku 4 years, 1 month ago

Watching Bourbons highlights, he has a long way to go.

He dominated in high school but if you watch the way he runs you can tell its not going to translate over in the Big 12. Pretty sloppy form.. runs upright, doesn't really follows his blocks and doesn't stay between tackles.

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KGphoto 4 years, 1 month ago

You're high. He blew the doors off of every physical test they could throw at him. Defensive coordinators will be game-planning for Bourbon every Friday. Then, they'll be drinking it, after he runs them over on Saturday.

Arm tacklers be damned. I reckon him to a guy like Chris Brown of Colorado about 9 years ago. He looked slow and sloppy as he exploded on Nebraska for 6TDs and carried CU to the Big 12 Title game. Brown ran upright too, but he was deceptively fast and powerful. Chris has enjoyed a nice NFL career, but Bourbon is even better.

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Matt Tait 4 years, 1 month ago

Decent analogy. Brown was darn good. It will be interesting (and exciting) to see how Bourbon progresses. I think the sky's the limit...

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KGphoto 4 years, 1 month ago

Oh, and by the way, he had no blocks to follow. He saw that, and used fantastic vision to create a play. People like to knock that he gained those yards against inferior competition, but remember he also had inferior blockers.

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newjayhawk 4 years, 1 month ago

You are right on point! Bourbons' highlight films clearly show that the LEVEL of talent that he played against...looks like 1A private school kids! He is a very fast, bruising, downhill type runner.HE IS GOOD! That is NOT the issue. There is a huge difference in Bourbon running through-over-and around those private school looking kids on his highlight tapes, and running into some 6'3"-to 6'5" Defensive Linemen that love upright running backs like this kid! Heck , once he gets though that then there's a couple of 6'2"or bigger linebackers! I am probably rooting for this kid more than anyone. But, before you guys annoint this kid KING BOURBON, you better raise your heads up and look at the competition that he has(on his team/and his opponents) .

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