Saturday, April 2, 2011

On a mission: Kansas football on quest for respect

Kansas University head football coach Turner Gill watches over spring workouts at the practice facility on Friday, April 1, 2011.

Kansas University head football coach Turner Gill watches over spring workouts at the practice facility on Friday, April 1, 2011.


Last spring, the focus for Kansas University’s football team was on replacing some of the school’s all-time greats.

This year, the Jayhawks are determined to regain the respect those guys brought to the program, and their quest began Friday, when they kicked off spring drills for the second time under coach Turner Gill.

“We definitely want respect from our fans and from our opponents,” junior wide receiver Kale Pick said. “You gotta come out and work hard and get some wins for next season. That’s our ultimate goal. It’s the offseason, and we’re working hard to be a better team and improve for next season.”

While working toward their goals officially began Friday, it really started weeks ago during the offseason, just days after their season-ending loss to Missouri. Several Jayhawks said the program’s offseason conditioning was more rigorous this winter, and many of them pointed to last season’s disappointment as the reason for the ramped-up drive.

“We’ve got a chip on our shoulder,” said sophomore linebacker Huldon Tharp, who missed all of 2010 because of a foot injury. “We went 3-9, and that’s not something any of us are OK with. Everybody on this team is going to work as hard as we can to get back to the Orange Bowl and compete for a Big 12 championship. That’s everybody’s goal, so that’s what we’re gonna work toward.”

Tharp was one of a handful of players who received an extra dose of inspiration from Friday’s first day of spring drills.

“(I’ve been waiting for this day) since the day I was injured, since I found out I wasn’t gonna play last season,” Tharp said. “Anybody that loves the game of football can’t wait to get back on the field.”

A freshman All-American in 2009, Tharp had carved out a bright future for himself as the next in a long line of ultra-talented linebackers to come through KU’s program. But that’s when the injury popped up.

It surfaced during spring ball in 2010. Rest and treatment was the prescription, but, on the first day of preseason camp, Tharp found out neither worked, and he injured the foot again. Now, a little less than a year after he first was injured, Tharp said he’s close to 100 percent again.

“I’m still working through soreness,” he said. “But, structurally, everything’s fine. I’m just trying to get back into the swing of things.”

Another player dying to do just that was Darius Willis, a sophomore linebacker who transferred from Buffalo after the 2009 season and sat out during 2010.

“I’ve been waiting on this day since the first day I stepped on campus,” Willis said. “I can’t wait to play with these dudes. I really can’t wait. I’m ready to get going. Today felt good, just being out there with my teammates, knowing that we’re all in it together. It starts today. Ain’t no looking back now. What goes on from here on is work. We’re preparing for the Big 12 Conference.”

The Jayhawks have 14 spring practices remaining, including the April 30 spring game. They’ll return today for practice No. 2 and then will take Sunday off before getting back after it on Monday.

Gill said he liked what he saw on Day 1.

“I loved their energy,” he said. “We changed a little bit of the format. We’ve got everybody getting a lot more reps, and it was good to see our guys come out and perform in a good way, enthusiastic and running around.... ready to go.”

QB job up for grabs

Six players lined up to compete for the starting quarterback position in 2010. That number was trimmed down to three Friday, but the KU coaching staff still find itself without a clear-cut answer to the question that plagued the team all of last season: Who is your starting quarterback?

“It’s in question,” Gill said. “I can’t sit here and say who’s gonna be ready to start. We’re gonna evaluate each and every day, and at the end of spring practice we’ll see where they’re at, and if we need to make a decision, we’ll make it. If not, we’ll continue to evaluate as we go into the fall.”

Competing for the job this fall are returning starters Quinn Mecham and Jordan Webb, along with red-shirt freshman Blake Jablonski. No matter how any of them perform this spring, all three likely will have to win the job again, when highly touted freshman Brock Berglund reports to camp this fall.

Gill said he was impressed with what he saw from his top returners.

“I think the one thing is, they’ve gotten stronger,” he said of Mecham and Webb. “I think that’s gonna help a lot of things, being able to stay healthy, being able to take the hits and then being able to make better decisions.”

Pick happy at WR

He opened the 2010 season as the team’s starting quarterback. This year, he’s fighting for a spot in the wide-receiver rotation.

A lot has changed for KU junior Pick in the last year, but the Dodge City native seems content with his new position.

“I’ve actually started to like wide receiver quite a bit,” Pick said. “I’m still as competitive, but I’m trying to get a wide-receiver spot. It’s actually more competitive because it’s a deeper position.”

As for the decision to move to wide receiver, Pick said that came from two places.

“It was mutual,” he said. “They wanted me at wide receiver, and I wanted to do what was best for the team.”

Who stood out on Day 1?

No pads, no hitting, no real time to evaluate who did what and who came up short. Still, a handful of guys stood out for different reasons on the first day of spring drills.

“(Senior tight end) Tim Biere may be one guy that stood out,” Gill said. “I loved the way he came out and did things. There were many other guys that did well.”

Added Pick: “I’d say Chris Omigie, an outside receiver. He’s improved quite a bit. And then I’d probably say Tyler Patmon. He’s improved a lot. He’s got a lot of confidence right now, and he had a great offseason. He’ll be a good player for us this year.”

Coach Fam back in the fold

There were several familiar faces on the sidelines of the KU practice fields, but none bigger or brighter than former KU coach and player Don Fambrough.

Fambrough, one of the most loyal and devout KU supporters, did not get the opportunity to give his annual speech to the team prior to last year’s Border War showdown with Missouri. But there he was Friday, watching his beloved Jayhawks while sporting his classic KU letter jacket. During warm-ups, Gill and Fambrough had a special moment as the two bantered about football and shared a laugh.


Laurence Cooley 6 years ago

you tend to do a lot of that as well. Talk talk talk talk talk

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years ago

Type type type type type

Side note: tait does a great job on his coverage!

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Outrageous! I don't understand how you can say that it's all talk when they use such specifics as "good player," "improved" and "did things."

Joking aside. I dig the coverage, although there wasn't a lot of meat in this article. Not Matt's fault though, there just isn't too much info on No Contact/No Pads Day 1 of Spring Drills. But I am looking forward to a full summer of great coverage. Thanks Matt!

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Outrageous! I don't understand how you can say that it's all talk when they use such specifics as "good player," "improved" and "did things."

Joking aside. I dig the coverage, although there wasn't a lot of meat in this article. Not Matt's fault though, there just isn't too much info on No Contact/No Pads Day 1 of Spring Drills. But I am looking forward to a full summer of great coverage. Thanks Matt!

KGphoto 6 years ago

And of course, you are the first one here, again... at 12:30... in the morning... reading all about Coach Gill and whatever he is doing today. You're like a stalker. Why don't you just admit you're secretly in love with him?

Admit it. You can not get enough of him. You wait around until after midnight for the new Turner Gill article to pop up on and you sit in front of the computer with your pants down and type...

Talk talk talk talk talk

Then you wait anxiously for the first person to rip you for hating on Turner. You love this, because you get to continue talking about him, without anybody knowing how you really feel. I'm on to you mulaza.

Dan Harris 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Ashtin Meerpohl 6 years ago

I'm glad Coach Fambrough is back in the picture. He's a KU football icon and i think that he should be able to be a part of the rebuilding of the KU football program

ahpersecoachingexperience2 6 years ago

Great day to be a Jayhawk! Can't wait for Turner and the boys to get back on the field for some redemption!

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Oh man. I just want to say how much I've missed wasting my time with you guys. :) This is gonna be fun.

ahpersecoachingexperience 6 years ago

If I ever met this guy I'll use the "force" to choke him out. By the way, did you take a double posting pill or something last night?

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Apparently I did. Also, I take that as a threat to my life. You've been reported to the Imperial Police.

John Randall 6 years ago

I just have to reject that conclusion –– it being based on the premise that you have a life.

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Wow, retiree's getting in on the action. Props to Pops for the nice slam.

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

Don't you guys see? If all of us KU fans are all insulting each other, the terrorists win. And by terrorists, I mean Missouri fans. And sometimes K-State fans.

Laurence Cooley 6 years ago


good point. that should be on a shirt or something lol

KGphoto 6 years ago

Guess it's time for another identity flip eh? That's good, I get a headache looking at that damn word anyway.

What's it gonna be mulaza? Let me guess.


Maracas 6 years ago

Results on the field. That's going to tell the story more than any spring spin.

TopCityHawk 6 years ago

I see all the guys talking about wanting some respect this year. That's nice, but fellas we have got to earn it. We will have 12 opportunities to back up all of our talk.

On the other hand, it is nice to read about some guys that are truly excited about being Jayhawks. Pride will matter this year.

I like Kale Pick's attitude. I could imagine him having a very tough time sitting, waiting, wishing, but he seems to have put in some good work at WR during the off season and might turn into a valuable player/leader. Regardless, we need guys like him setting the example of how to be a great teammate. I believe this will go a long way in developing our young players, and setting the tone for the program moving forward.

The best thing from practice (hands down): Coach Fambrough roaming the practice fields, and chatting it up with his fellow Red Leggers. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest men in the history of the KU football program. The University must honor him, before it is too late. He deserves it.

Andy Tweedy 6 years ago

I love me some Jayhawk football, but those little red bonnets the payers wear on their helmets have got to be the dumbest looking things I've ever seen on a football field. Has anybody ever seen a team use those before, I have not. If you don't know what I'm talking about, rivals has practice pictures, and you can see one on the player in front of the pic that comes along with this article.

Ben Kliewer 6 years ago

They're for players to identify offense from defense in position drills where everyone is wearing the same practice colors. All teams have them, but they're different colors. I would assume they're crimson because of the Kansas color scheme, and that the practice uniforms are dominated by blue and white. For example, if the WRs are working on a position drill, and they need guys to act as DBs, they throw on those red "bonnets" because they're all wearing the same practice uniforms.

TopCityHawk 6 years ago

The red beanies have been in use by football teams for a while now, however, the fact that someone has not come up with something that looks and works better is beyond me. They constantly fall off, and hardly make it easy to determine who is who while wearing similar colored jerseys.

Someone could make some serious loot by creating something more efficient and better looking.

jayhawkintexas 6 years ago

With the revamped Big XII schedule I doubt if the won-loss record will be any better than last year. Maybe the scores will be closer though.

Jayhawker111 6 years ago

Per your quote "all three likely will have to win the job again, when highly touted freshman Brock Berglund reports to camp this fall".

Berglund blew his chance to be the starter this fall when he left school. Do you realize when he comes back in the fall that there are only a limited amount of practices before the first game?

There is no way that any freshman quarterback (Including Superman) can come into a fall camp and win a Big 12 QB job. Name one that has done it?

Berglund will not be a factor this fall.

sun45kiss 6 years ago

GO KU !! I'm ready for some KU Football !! I wanna see what Coach Gill has done with his team this year. We KU Football and Coach Gill...I do wish the names were put back on the jerseys.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.