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Friday, August 5, 2011

Off and running (and passing and catching and blocking and … ): KU football camp gets under way

Running back Deshaun Sands bursts off the line as the Jayhawks run sprints during the team's first practice on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.

Running back Deshaun Sands bursts off the line as the Jayhawks run sprints during the team's first practice on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011.

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2011 Kansas football practice: Day 1

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The Kansas football team practiced for the first time of the 2011 season on Thursday, August 4.

The first day of fall football practice is different for every player just about every year.

That held true Thursday, when Kansas University’s football team ran through its first official practice of the 2011 season, determined to move forward and leave behind the painful memories of last year’s disappointing season.

A small sample size of Jayhawks illustrated that first practice meant different things to do different guys.

But one belief all of them shared was that this year’s camp was going to be much different than last year’s.

That much they learned right away.

“Camp’s gonna be brutal,” senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson said. “Guys are competing at every position, and a lot of guys have that experience under their belts, and we didn’t have that last year. We’ve all been in the fire together, and the whole competition level has gone up. It’s a totally different level.”

Patterson’s run through Day One was the type experienced by the old veteran ready for one more ride. Instead of bouncing around with the eagerness of an underclassmen, Patterson seemed more focused on getting the most out of every moment.

“It is your last go, and I always tell the freshmen and the younger guys that I remember the first day I arrived on campus, and now it’s my last year,” Patterson said. “It’s gonna be done before you know it, and you want to look back and say you gave everything you could. This was Day One, and that’s one less day I’ve got in my career here. It’s just crazy when you think about it.”

Red-shirt freshman Brandon Bourbon took in Thursday’s practice from the opposite end of the spectrum. Unlike Patterson, Bourbon has four years of eligibility remaining. Though he has experienced the rigors of a full season of college football, he has yet to play a down in a game. Even his opportunity in this year’s spring game was taken from him because of injury, and now, as he prepares to make his second first impression, Bourbon moves forward with the same goals he had at last preseason.

“(Last year), I thought I was gonna play,” Bourbon said. “And (this year) feels the same. It feels exactly that same. I have the same goals. I don’t think I could come out and do all this conditioning and all this work if I didn’t plan to start eventually, so that’s my goal. I want to come out and eventually be the starter.”

Bourbon, who injured his leg during spring ball, said Thursday he was back to 100 percent and feeling good. Taking things slowly during the recovery process was his biggest challenge this offseason.

“I’ve seen a lot of guys get hurt, and I knew I’d be back eventually,” he said. “(After I got injured), it was kind of just like disbelief, actually. I kind of thought I’d wake up and be fixed, but then I woke up and couldn’t walk to the bathroom and thought, ‘Wow, this is real.’ But it was just something I got used to and had to overcome.”

Up 15 pounds from last year’s report weight of 200, Bourbon believes he’s better prepared, both mentally and physically, to compete for playing time.

“Now that I know everybody and know the rules of the road, it’s much more comfortable for me,” he said.

Comfort is something third-year sophomore Jordan Webb has on his side this time around.

At least a little bit.

Last year, Webb entered camp in the middle of a quarterback battle he ultimately lost, only to watch as things turned in his favor after the season opener.

That experience, along with a year of maturity and improvement, has given Webb a new outlook on things as he heads into this year’s camp with a slight lead over senior Quinn Mecham and the rest of the KU quarterbacks for the starting job.

“It’s something you just have to take with a grain of salt,” Webb said of Gill’s statements that if the team were to play today, Webb would be its starting QB. “After last season, I know that anything can happen. Quinn’s right on my tail, and we’ve got some good young guys. You just gotta go day-by-day and try to get better each day.”

Although there’s still a long way to go, Webb said he was impressed by a lot of what he saw Thursday.

“We didn’t have the pads on, but we really stressed physicality,” Webb said of the offense. “If we continue to get better physically, we’ll be able to run the ball more, and that’ll set up the passing game. On defense, they were really running to the ball. They were out there flying around, trying to make plays, and they looked a lot faster. I’m all for it.”

Offensive coordinator Chuck Long said repeatedly that Webb had a great day, and Gill said he, too, liked what he saw from last year’s leading passer.

“I thought he was pretty sharp. He looked confident. He was getting balls where they need to be,” Gill said of Webb. “When we have our check-downs, he’s able to go there in a fairly quick manner, and I saw him do that out there today. He definitely looked sharp.”

But Webb’s solid showing was just one of the many things that had Gill fired up about his team’s opening day.

“I was definitely excited to get a chance to see our players go out and perform,” Gill said. “And I really was excited about how they came out and had great focus, showed some passion and showed some resolve in the heat. I think it showed that our strength staff, our training staff and our players did some good things as far as having them in good shape to come out and perform at a high level.”

Patterson said that was no accident.

“Last year, we were (working) just to do it, and this year we’re doing it to get better,” he said. “We know what 3-9 was like and what you do when you’re 3-9. We don’t want to go through the same thing again.”

The Jayhawks will return to the practice fields this afternoon.

Comments

100 3 years, 2 months ago

"We’ve all been in the fire together, and the whole competition level has gone up. It’s a totally different level.”

---Get ready for some football!!!!!!!!!!

Chris Bailey 3 years, 2 months ago

I can't wait for McNeese State! Just wanna be in the stands and feeling the energy! ROCK CHALK!

Robert Brock 3 years, 2 months ago

This team will be better than last year's team. Whether it can achieve a 3-9 record is another matter (I have us losing all Big XII games plus the Georgia Tech game).

vd 3 years, 2 months ago

Shouldn't you be in Colorado, Brock?

huskercarpenter 3 years, 2 months ago

I think you will see faster, more physical and basically a lot more violent play on both sides of the ball this year from the Jayhawks. But that is just what I think.

fromthatstandpoint 3 years, 2 months ago

In fairness, teambuilding is not something that is exactly easy to drill. It takes some time to develop trust, etc. Especially if you come from a "broken home" situation as some seem to think the 09 team was. The talk is sure encouraging, but it remains to be seen what happens to the team spirit when adversity strikes on the field.

texashawk10 3 years, 2 months ago

I read an interview on Rivals (http://kansas.rivals.com/content.asp?SID=897&CID=1248022) with Toben Opurum about the switch to the 3-4 and it's leaving me with some serious questions about the defense. Apparently Toben is switching back to LB and will be doing a lot more of what he was being asked to do at the beginning of last year before he was moved to DE and that concerns me because Toben wasn't great at reading defenses last year which is why he was moved up to DE. Now I have to wonder who will the 3 starting defensive linemen be because most of us assumed Toben had one of the DE spots on lockdown, but now I would guess KU will be rotating in guys like Keba, Lewandowski, and DJ Marshall along with a freshman or two. I don't think anybody can argue about KU having more speed on defense this year, but I just have to wonder what good does it do to have all that speed if KU isn't going to be able to rush the passer or stop the run. Having speed is great, but if you're going to be asking them to cover defenders for 4+ seconds, that is setting up for failure which is what I think is happening.

If I had to guess right now, I would say that KU's starting lineup on opening day would be: DE- Pat Lewandowski DE- Keba Agostinho DT- Richard Johnson OLB- Toben Opurum OLB- Huldon Tharp ILB- Steven Johnson ILB- Darius Willis CB- Anthony Davis CB- Isiah Barfield S- Bradley McDougald S- Keeston Terry

None of us know for sure which of the newcomers will make an immediate impact on defense but some the ones that have gaining the attention of the staff and players are Tunde Bakare, Adonis Saunders, Victor Simmons, Michael Reynolds, and Ben Heeny so I would expect to see those guys get some playing time this season and possibly become key reserves for the defense. Other guys that will be key contributors on defense should be DJ Marshall (DE), John Williams (DT), Patrick Dorsey (DT) Malcolm Walker (LB), Prinze Kande (LB), Lubbock Smith (S), Greg Brown (CB), and Tyler Patmon (CB).

I said on another article that if Vic Shealy wants to run the 3-4 in the future and not just to try and adapt to KU's personnel this is a good move to do now, but KU will be taking a lot of lumps to the head with the 3-4 early on because they simply don't have the personnel up front to run this defense. If Shealy is simply running the 3-4 to get more speed out there and doesn't plan on keeping this defense, then this is a horrible move that will set KU back even further as far as trying to build a solid defense and recruit defensive linemen.

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