Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Focal point: Jayhawks passionate in practice

Kansas safety Bradley McDougald gets down on defense during practice on Monday, April 25, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Bradley McDougald gets down on defense during practice on Monday, April 25, 2011 at the practice fields near Memorial Stadium.


KU tight ends coach Aaron Stamn talks it up with his players during pre-practice drills

KU tight ends coach Aaron Stamn talks it up with his players during pre-practice drills on April 25, 2011.

Passion. Focus. Leadership.

All are common attributes shared by successful college football programs around the country. And each has been more prevalent on the Kansas University practice fields this spring.

Monday, the Jayhawks ran through their 12th practice of the month. With two more to go before Saturday’s spring game — 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium — things are starting to heat up.

“Every day it seems like we’re more focused than we were at any time last year,” sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb said. “And that definitely comes from that chip on our shoulder. We had a bad year, and we want to focus because we want to improve. The other thing is passion. On Wednesday, we had a little mini-scrimmage, and coach said it was the most passion he’d seen from us. I think that’s really gonna show (this season).”

Some of the extra effort comes from the lingering embarrassment of last year’s 3-9 season.

“Oh yeah, that definitely has something to do with it,” junior cornerback Greg Brown said. “No one wants that again. It’s a bad feeling going out there and losing all those games after doing all that preparation in practice.”

But another explanation comes from a new initiative taken by the KU coaching staff. This winter, the coaches began grading the performance of their players during workouts.

Players were given a score — 0 through 4 — in several different areas, and after every session the grades were posted.

“We grade them on everything every day,” KU coach Turner Gill said. “We talk about their alignment, their assignment, technique and then how to finish.”

Though the daily grading system took some getting used to, the players took to it quickly.

“I think it’s to bring out more competitiveness,” junior wide receiver Kale Pick said. “And I think it brings out more of a competitive nature in our building. I think it’s helped out a lot.”

The grading system pushed individual players, and Pick said it also helped develop leadership and accountability. Though perfect 4’s were hard to come by, Pick said players were applauded when they scored 3’s and 4’s and challenged when they registered lower.

The extra scrutiny has spilled into spring ball, and the result has been a more polished performance.

“I’ve been here three-and-a-half, four years now, and people are more locked into practice,” Brown said. “There’s less chatter on the sidelines and (fewer) people off talking about something else. More people are in a zone and in tune to practice. If they’re messing up, you see more emotion coming out. It seems as if they’re caring. Everyone’s giving their all.”

Pick said the team’s intensity had not surprised him. He’s known a lot of these guys for years, and he knows they all have too much pride to let what happened last season be OK. He also credited familiarity with the coaching staff, now in its second season, as the reason on-the-field leaders have felt comfortable stepping forward.

“We have a lot more leadership this year,” Pick said. “The offense was down a little bit at the beginning of practice, and Jordan and I kind of got on the offense and started talking and told ’em, ‘Let’s go. Pick it up.’ And then toward the end, we kind of got the defense a little.”

Asked to identify the team’s most effective leaders, Pick struggled to name just a couple.

“Jordan, me, Daymond (Patterson), D.J. (Beshears). We’ve had a lot of guys step up in different situations,” he said. “There’s a lot of leadership on this team compared to last year.”

While the Jayhawks showed improvement in passion, focus and leadership right away this spring, Gill said Monday their good habits continued.

“I thought we had good emotion, great enthusiasm, guys were talking a lot each other, and that is a big difference from what I saw last year,” he said. “It tells me that they understand what we’re trying to get done.”

Bourbon out 6-8 weeks

Running back Brandon Bourbon, a red-shirt freshman from Potosi, Mo., suffered a lower leg injury last week and will be out the next couple of months.

Gill said Monday he was encouraged by the nature of Bourbon’s injury and that he expected the 6-foot-1, 210-pound back to be ready to go by the time preseason camp opens in August.

“He’ll definitely be ready to go in the fall,” Gill said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but he will be fine and ready to go (this) summer, and, no doubt, he’ll be ready to go in the fall.”

Patterson back, doubtful for spring game

Junior wideout Daymond Patterson made his return to practice Monday after missing the last several days due to a leg injury. Patterson participated in drills with a helmet and pads but wore shorts instead of football pants like his teammates. Gill said last year’s leading receiver was still working through his injury.

“He’s still a little bit gimpy,” Gill said. “We’re not gonna push it as far as for him to get him any more reps. Hopefully, Wednesday he’ll be able to get a few more reps, but he’s not gonna get a whole lot. We know what he can do.”

Gill also said Patterson may be held out of Saturday’s spring game.

“We’ll make that determination on Friday, but I would say (he’s) probably not likely (to play),” Gill said.

Agostinho back to D-End

Gill said Monday that Keba Agostinho, a sophomore from Katy, Texas, who opened spring ball as a defensive tackle after playing 12 games at defensive end as a true freshman in 2010, was moving back to defensive end.


David Leathers 10 years, 9 months ago

Rock Chalk FOOTBALL!!! If this doesn't excite you, I don't know what will. I'm ready for our Hawks to something on the football field. I'm tired of being just a basketball school. I'm ready for all the "Fire Turner Gill" bandwagoners to be smacked in the mouth. I'm ready for a DAMN ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK on the football field.


I'm ready for another mixed drink!

David Leathers 10 years, 9 months ago

PS- I can't type when I'm drinking, otherwise, I wouldn't have omissed the 'do' in the 3rd sentance.

ahpersecoachingexperience 10 years, 9 months ago

You're to drunk to type yet you can proof read?!?

waywardJay 10 years, 9 months ago

Hey Ahper....

We thought you were drunk all last year. ;)

kureader 10 years, 9 months ago

You also "omissed" the word "sentance"! Hahaha.
But, that's OK.
You get an "A" for enthusiasm!

Paul Rupp 10 years, 9 months ago

+1 and a TexasHawk "Hell Yeah!" Can't wait!

Kman_blue 10 years, 9 months ago

I've been really looking forward to the football season since about a week after our run in the tourney ended. It can't get here fast enough!!

Excited to see how improved the team is this fall!

Andrew Moore 10 years, 9 months ago

I'm excited to see how our QB situation shakes out. Will it be Webb? or will Brockman swoop in and earn the spot?

I'm looking forward to watching our RBs, namely Darrian Miller. By all accounts, he is the type of difference maker that we haven't had the past few years.

I'd like to see our defense actually play some defense. Will Opurum get to the QB? How about the linebackers? They were pretty thin last year, and aside from that one good game against GT, they really didn't play well.

One more thing, who is returning kicks for this squad? It seemed like DJ Beshears and Patterson were dynamic enough returners but couldn't get anything going most of the season.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

Brockman? There are only a few recruiting sites that should be able to clue you in.

As for KR/PR, I believe DJ had a record of some sort last year 900+ yds in 30+ returns. That sounds pretty going to me.

justinryman 10 years, 9 months ago

It is starting to show that things are starting to look up for this football team. Leadership, accountability, skill, speed, execution and focus. Lets just hope that it continues into fall ball as well and onto the actual playing field and produces some W's.

waywardJay 10 years, 9 months ago

Leadership, Speed and Accountability were definetely hallmarks of Gill in Buffalo. It's the execution and focus people will question.

BleedingCrimsonAndBlue 10 years, 9 months ago

I think that we have the skill player (except maybe at QB) to win some football games this year. What will really determine how well we do this season is how much we have improved in the trenches on both sides of the football. You could have Barry Sanders and Peyton Manning in the backfield, but you have to have an O-Line that can protect and run block for them to show case their abilities. On the flip side, if you can't get pressure on the QB with just bringing four guys you're going to get torched in the Big 12.

justinryman 10 years, 9 months ago

Pelini just got a nice fat raise at NU, probably to keep him from going to Ohio St. when they fire Tressel.

Plus I think Gill getting hosed twice before might keep him going back to Nebraska.

beenahawk 10 years, 9 months ago

Before giving the man a contract extension it might be nice if he had say, TWO consecutive winning seasons. The absolute least of our worries right now is Gill leaving, for anywhere.

KGphoto 10 years, 9 months ago

It's really nice to see players finally getting established in the position they are going to play next fall. They are fine-tuning Keba into his final slot, QB is a ?, and some players have yet to arrive, but of the players here now, it looks like the depth chart is framed up.

Players I'm dying to see being settled into their position:

1 Bradley McDougald - Back at the position Ohio St. wanted him to play. And back at the position I wanted to see him playing all along. If he'd played safety for Ohio St., he would be in the 2012 draft discussion right now (see Jermale Hines, S/Ohio St., a possible 2011 4th or 5th round pick. Bradley is faster, more instinctive and has more big play ability than Jermale.) He's a big hitter with CB skills, and if he intercepts it, he's a threat to score. He has too many skills to be limited as a WR. He needs to have an impact on every defensive down.

2 Toben Opurum - I know I'm not alone here. Finally some speed off the edge. A player with Toben's measurables finds great success every year in college football. There aren't too many RTs in college that can handle his low-padded speed/strength combo.

3 Huldon Tharp - The biggest difference maker, at the most important position of need for KU. His speed was a huge missing factor for a problem unit in 2010.

4 The Offensive Line - Specifically Spikes and Hatch, but as a unit, it will be entirely different if 5 guys can stay healthy and play together all year.

hailtoku 10 years, 9 months ago

Because I don't think Gill knows the first clue about being a head coach, I'll reserve my excitement about the season until we start winning games.

Keep in mind this is the same stuff we heard last year from the players. For now, I'm proud to be a jayhawk and hope the football team makes this university proud.

Ben Kliewer 10 years, 9 months ago

knows the first clue?

Anyway, I think cautious optimism is the way to a tentative +1 I would disagree that this is the same stuff we heard from last years players. I think everyone could tell it was a little forced last spring. If you have a new coach come in, in todays media, what's a team supposed to do, go out there and say "I don't know about this?" Honestly, no school's athletic department would let them go out and say that. You can look at the worst program in the country (not implying us, but not discounting us either) and they're not going to go out there and say "We're probably going to suck this season." So, it could be the same situation this year. But it seems, in combination with the media reports (from what little they observe), that the team is likely shaping up at least a little bit better than they were at this time last year. The feel is easier, from my distant perspective, and it seems like the players are more genuine. So, in that sense, I would disagree that it's the same thing we heard last year. I would like to address your statement "For now, I'm proud to be a jayhawk..." For now?!?! I have never found a time in my life, whether winning or losing that I have ever been not proud to be a Jayhawk. I am always proud to be a Jayhawk. Sure, there are times when it is tough to be a proud Jayhawk, but "for now" never enters my vocabulary. I will write it off this time as a slip of the tongue (or keystroke). But you, sir or madam, are on my troll radar...(jk)

Ethan Berger 10 years, 9 months ago

The First Clue? So how did he become a head head coach if he has "no clue" How did it take a historically bad Buffalo team and have team winning their conference in 3 years? You don't have to like him, but to say he knows nothing is just dumb.

waywardJay 10 years, 9 months ago

Key ingredient to success, winning approach.

What we had, Guys who feared when Mangino was going to yank them for a mistake...... If they get yanked, not knowing whether they would get the chance to play again.

What we have, Grade cards everyday at practice telling them exactly what they need to do..... That way if they are yanked they can improve upon the mistake.

Which seems to be a more successful approach ? If Mangino gould get us to a BCS game on the Backs of a split team .... Imagine what Gill Could do with a team united behind one goal......

Phoggin_Loud 10 years, 9 months ago

Check out "Play of the Day" # 12!

Kale Pick does it again. He's turning into one heck of a receiver.

Phoggin_Loud 10 years, 9 months ago

Check out "Play of the Day" # 12!

Kale Pick does it again. He's turning into one heck of a receiver.

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