Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Position battles still brewing for KU football


Kansas University football coach Turner Gill went through his first weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday morning and, in doing so, shed some light on loose ends the Jayhawks are trying to tie up before Saturday’s season opener.

Kale Pick to start his first KU football game

The newly named starting quarterback has a lot to prove in the first game this season.

Battles at defensive end, cornerback and running back remain hotly contested and former running back Toben Opurum is making up for lost time and providing depth at a very thin linebacker position.

“He’s been aggressive and he is a physical player in that position, too,” Gill said of Opurum. “There are some things that, probably over the next two weeks, he’ll have to fine-tune as far as lining up against all of the different looks he’s going to have to see.”

At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Opurum has similar natural size to starters Drew Dudley (6-2, 241), Steven Johnson (6-1, 237) and Justin Springer (6-3, 237) and Gill said the Plano, Texas, native’s first couple of weeks at his new position were spent developing his feel.

“We just wanted to know, would he be physical and would he be able to make some things happen, and he’s already shown that,” Gill said. “He will be able to help our football team at the linebacker spot.”

Another question is defensive end, where three players are vying to start opposite of two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection Jake Laptad. With the opener just five days away, Gill said all three have a shot at earning first-team reps.

“There’s definitely some good competition going on there,” Gill said. “We’ve got two or three guys there in Tyrone Sellers and Quintin Woods and Kevin Young. There are definitely some battles going on there with who’s going to end up winning that position.”

Another battle that seems to have emerged is the one between cornerbacks Isiah Barfield and Calvin Rubles. Gill said senior captain Chris Harris was entrenched as a starter at one cornerback spot and that the other guys — as well as the rest of the secondary — would continue to fight for playing time as the season moves on.

“There are positions throughout the football team that are still competitive,” he said. “Running back is one, too. We’re just trying to decide who those guys are that will get the majority of the playing time.”

One position that seems to be stable is quarterback, where sophomore Kale Pick is preparing for his first start since suffering an injury during the first game of his senior season in high school. Though intense, Gill said the battle between Pick and red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb unfolded about the way the coaching staff anticipated it might.

“I think if we all had our way, you’d have someone that really stands out and you’re able to name someone (as your starter right away),” Gill said. “I didn’t have a set timetable but it became pretty clear to us, myself and (offensive coordinator) Chuck Long, as we sat down almost every day talking about it, that Kale Pick was the guy who won the position.”

Asked if he had plans to get Webb some work in Saturday’s contest against FCS foe North Dakota State in the event of a blowout, Gill said he had not thought about that.

“Right now, we’re planning on going with Kale Pick and seeing what happens,” he said.


KU_Alumn_2000 11 years, 1 month ago

The position battle at defensive end will be key. We need that line to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. When we play Georgia Tech...the D line...along with our thin group of linebackers...will need to stop a punishing triple option attack. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Kevin Young ends up winning that battle.

Does anyone know whats up with Josh Richardson ? I thought this guy was supposed to be the real deal at linebacker...but he's not showing up on the depth chart. As a matter of fact...I havn't read or heard any coaches quotes about him. We could use some depth at linebacker...and I'm a little surprised that he's not in the running for some playing time.

KU 11 years, 1 month ago

Richardson was seen as a project when he came in due to his size. He's 6'3" but he came in below 200lb. He has bulked up to around 225. He has the genes--his brother is in the NFL.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

Someone (Maxhawk, maybe?) posted a while back that Richardson was having trouble picking up the system. No idea whether that's accurate, but he seems to have been overtaken on the depth chart by Chea Peterman. Either Gill or Torbush was praising Peterman on a KU football preview a few weeks back. I can't remember whether Blackwell was on the original depth chart (along with Richardson) or not. I hope Richardson's disappearance means others are stepping up...

Matt Tait 11 years, 1 month ago

Gill praised Peterman, and both he and Torbush praised Steve Mestan.

Haven't heard much at all about Richardson but we'll check it out and see what people will tell us.

As for Blackwell, he originally was listed as a safety but was moved to linebacker when depth starting to become a major question at that position.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

Thanks for the info! Your coverage of KU football has been top-notch this off-season. Saturday cannot get here soon enough.

Jason Sinclair 11 years, 1 month ago

Gill hasn't "thought about" getting his 2nd string QB - who's never played a snap in college - some experience in one of the few (two?) easy games on the sched?

That either means that he thinks Pick is injury-proof or that the game will be closer than we fans are hoping/expecting.

Dirk Medema 11 years, 1 month ago

Or maybe it means that Coach Gill is focused on what needs to happen to having a winning FB program and not on what makes for interesting journalism. To give any credibility to the thought of playing Webb gives the journo plenty of freedom to create a QB controversy when there isn't one and the team definitely doesn't need one.

Or maybe you're just smarter than Coach Gill.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

Agree with Dagger. Also sounds like Gill wanted to avoid saying he was anticipating a blow-out--that would lack class.

Marcia Parsons 11 years, 1 month ago

And maybe he is just thinking of giving Pick all the game-time experience he can get when there isn't so much pressure.

Matt Tait 11 years, 1 month ago

All are correct, I believe. Especially the part about the class. Even if he had a plan to put Webb in for the fourth quarter if KU was up big, I don't think Gill would ever say that publicly because of the appearance of arrogance it would create.

That said, Gill said he and Coach Long would talk about it a little more during the middle of the week and probably have a plan at that time.

Being that he said all this on a Monday morning, I think he was trying to remain classy (as always) and also was telling the truth. Kale Pick is his starter and that's what he's focused on for now.

Randy Bombardier 11 years, 1 month ago

Also possibly a sign of respect to the other school, preventing bulletin board material. Suppose he had said, yeah, we plan on playing Webb the entire second half because we figure the game will be over by then.

Jeff Coffman 11 years, 1 month ago

I think that KU will need time. Even if they become a solid team this year...dreaming of an 8-4 record. This coming week might be closer than we are accustomed to. Additionally, I'm guessing they will work on some things for the following week, if it becomes a blow-out (which I'm not convinced it will be).

I do think we will win by more than 20 points, it just there will be signs I think of some transition from last year's team.

justinryman 11 years, 1 month ago

What is considered a blow-out in your book? You say we will win by 20, but that's not a blow-out, ok then again what is? 35 points? 42?

jayhawkcd 11 years, 1 month ago

Not that it matters a lot, but Pick did start the first game of his senior year, but got hurt in that game and did not QB the rest of the season.

Daniel Rojas 11 years, 1 month ago

he came off the bench in the last game of the season vs goddard I believe.....

Matt Tait 11 years, 1 month ago

Excellent point. Thanks for pointing that out. Forgot all about that since he missed his entire senior year. I'll fix it.

  • Matt

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

I think Gill--much like Bo Pelini--knows exactly who will and who won't be playing. This first game should be a good opportunity to try some different sets and get some reps for several different players, particularly at CB.

I haven't seen anything to suggest that Opurum has even broken into second string at LB, so it's unclear to me how this will affect our success in the Big 12. Please explain how having one more inexperienced player at LB rather than one fewer is a bad thing.

justinryman 11 years, 1 month ago

Just becasue Mizzu's depth chart is decided by the police blotter and they can only play the players that weren't arrested.

jayhawk154 11 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, not knowing or saying what you're going to do in your first game of the season is a sure recipe for disaster...

That's stupid.

KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

Better than usual, Az, but I don't think Zac Lee and Cody Green are quite the "cream of the crop."

Dirk Medema 11 years, 1 month ago

Good to see that Coach is keeping most of the guys motivated to work hard(er) and hungry for the start. We rarely hear about substitutions - except in a negative light, but it a hallmark of strong teams to have enough quality depth to provide rest for the starters to keep them fresh and PT for the reserves.

Mula - Maybe you should try counting to 2, when Toben switched, and read Coach's quotes. They don't expect him to be ready in 2 weeks, but early signs from practice are that he will get some snaps during the month long non-con.

And No, Vegas doesn't give any sort of lines on games against FCS opponents. Now go back to your marine biology.

hailtoku 11 years, 1 month ago

Another Red Flag moment from HailtoKU!!


I haven't been impressed with Gill from the get-go. He presents himself well in front of media and alumni so you're all gitty about the guy. Have you actually been reading and listening to the guy though? KU fired the only coach to put their program in the spot light and passed up 3 proven, first class coaches for a 20-30 MAC coach.

Our administration doesn't get it... and most importantly our FANS do not get it!


KCHawk81 11 years, 1 month ago

Hailtoku--what is "gitty"? A definition would improve your argument regarding others' failure to comprehend...

slowplay 11 years, 1 month ago

My god, you are such a downer. I bet you are real blast at parties (at least the few, if any, you are invited to). Why not hope for the best and save the criticism until Gill has proven himself one way or the other?

troutsee 11 years, 1 month ago

Hail and maluza--you will eat your words. We will have a winning record this year. Pick will exceed expectations and will excel. Also the defense is going to be much better than most expect, as will our running game. Gill took a moribund Buffalo program (and believe me it was moribund) and made it very respectable, and this speaks volumes for his ability to coach and to attract first class athletes. Furthermore, he has hired outstanding assistants and this speaks volumes for his ability to coach, as coaches are in the "know." and want to work for a head coach who they think can win. We will have a winning record. Realism is in the eye of the beholder.

honk_for_hawks 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm tired of people talking about how Mangino was so great and how "we passed on proven 1st class coaches". First of all, anybody who actually watched the games knows how questionable Mangino's coaching decisions were. The man didn't know when to call a timeout, had horrible substitution patterns, ran the same plays over and over to the point where everyone knew what was coming, and was an all around A-hole. How is it that every decision made by Gill is seen as dumb and incredibly ill-conceived, but Mangino was some sort of genius? And how can you think we are going to go 3-9 or 4-8? We have CU, KSU, New Mexico St, and North Dakota State @home. That should be 4 wins right there. And you don't think we are going to win at least 1 or 2 of the games against BU, TAMU, MU, OSU, ISU, GT, or SMU? Will we beat Nebraska @ Nebraska? probably not. but every one of the other games is winnable, including GT since its at home. Have some damn optimism and look forward to the season. If you aren't going to, go get your MU season tickets and leave.

Dirk Medema 11 years, 1 month ago

Were you the drill sargent? :-)

At least 8 - 4 before we win the bowl game? (NU, GT, A&M-away, BU?)

Randy Bombardier 11 years, 1 month ago

Look, we have a lot of talent...still. I think Pick is going to be awesome. Wish we could keep the redshirt on Webb another year. I think our ground game is going to improve dramatically which will improve our record by 2-3 games, which it would have done last year if we had had a ground game. Our defense will be better and our special teams will be better. We will be at least 6-6.

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