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Friday, August 12, 2011

Open competition: KU football special teams spots (mostly) up for grabs

Kansas University special teams players are, Back row, from left: long snappers Justin Carnes and Tanner Gibas; front row, from left, punter Victor McBride, and kickers Alex Mueller and Ron Doherty.

Kansas University special teams players are, Back row, from left: long snappers Justin Carnes and Tanner Gibas; front row, from left, punter Victor McBride, and kickers Alex Mueller and Ron Doherty.

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Which KU football player has stood out the most at practice?

We asked Kansas football players which of their teammates had especially impressed them at practice.

So far, Aaron Stamn isn’t playing favorites.

The Kansas University special teams coach has yet to publicly declare a starter for kicker, punter, punt returner or long snapper.

He’s hoping to have those positions decided in the next two weeks.

“It is nice for me as a special teams coordinator to see all these new young guys out there,” Stamn said. “We red-shirted a lot of them too, and they are coming out right away and want to get onto the field.”

The only position with a clear No. 1 is kick returner, as junior D.J. Beshears is back after posting 25.6 yards per return last season. That average ranked second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.

“I plan on returning kicks as well as punts. I’m looking to improve on that,” Beshears said. “I know for a couple weeks, I was up there at the top of the conference in returns. I hope to get back up there.”

The 5-foot-9 Beshears showed big-play ability in 2010, returning a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against New Mexico State.

His 922 kickoff return yards were the most ever by a Jayhawk in a single season.

“He just runs with passion, and D.J. does not like getting tackled,” Stamn said. “Sometimes he dishes it out more than the other guy tries to hand it to him. As a returner, that’s great.”

Beshears should be joined in the two-returner set by junior Bradley McDougald, who averaged 19.1 yards on his 14 kickoff returns last season.

Freshman running back Brandon Bourbon will get a look at kickoff returner as well.

The other positions are a little more complicated.

At punter, sophomore Ron Doherty was the leader at the end of the spring drills, but Stamn indicated that the position was still open with red-shirt freshman Victor McBride competing.

Also, don’t be surprised if the Jayhawks change their punt setup after having three punts blocked out of a spread punt formation last year.

“We’re still messing around with it. We’ll see what we end up doing,” Stamn said. “We’re going to do what’s best for our football team, so we could end up doing that (spread formation). We could end up doing something else.”

At kicker, Doherty is competing with Alex Mueller — a true freshman that was ranked the fifth-best kicker in his class by Rivals.com.

“Ronnie has a very strong leg and a great, hard work ethic, and he’s very consistent,” Stamn said. “Alex gets the ball up really fast, really high. So what that prevents is, that prevents people from getting through the middle on a field goal rush from being able to block the ball easily. And he’s also very consistent with what he does.”

Both players also are competing for kickoff duties. Doherty had three touchbacks in 21 kickoffs last season.

The long-snapper job is open as well, with incumbent sophomore Justin Carnes battling against freshman Tanner Gibas.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Gibas was ranked the third-best long snapper in the nation by long-snapping instructor Chris Rubio.

“He can zing it, which is why he came here,” Stamn said of Gibas. “He has a good attitude. He goes out there and runs well, has a good work ethic and pays attention. So he has fit right in.”

Stamn also said he’s seen improvement in Carnes, who played in all 12 of KU’s games last year.

At punt returner, Stamn said the Jayhawks will experiment with a few young guys, including freshmen Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepherd and Marquis Jackson.

Comments

Kirk 2 years, 8 months ago

They look special all right

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stevemize 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sue I can be all that proud of a player having "most total yards" in the kickoff return category. That pretty much just means we were giving up a boatload of scores, followed by a kickoff. On the other hand, average per return is something to be excited about.

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Dirk Medema 2 years, 8 months ago

All the young speed itching to get on the field should go a long ways to helping the ST. I am definitly hoping we don't need our starting S on kick-offs.

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rwhawk 2 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if any of these guys have eyeballs? (Hint: Find some shade for your bright sunny blue sky day pictures). And why is the kicker (Mueller) given the camera the "I'm bad" look? Please somebody be a friend and let the boy know it doesn't actually help his street cred.

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jhawkrulz 2 years, 8 months ago

I've been staying up for the past four nights, wondering who would start at punter.

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flouis11 2 years, 8 months ago

'Tony Pierson' should be changed to 'Anthony Pierson.'

Stamn should be cut a little slack for last year. The long snapping last year an abomination,it took way too long to get to the punter. . (That is why Gibas was brought in, he snaps the ball like lightening.) Then you throw in the slow punting style of Rojas and you create the perfect storm for punts to be blocked. The three man protect was the only option left available to him and unfortunately it wasn't great.

You will see great improvement this year in all areas of special teams.

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SEsco10 2 years, 8 months ago

Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepherd and Marquis Jackson

Can't wait to see these guys on the field as true freshmen.

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texashawk10 2 years, 8 months ago

Set another kickoff return yards record this year DJ...oh wait, that's a stat where you don't want to set a record for total yards in a season. At least the coach recognizes that the spread formation for punt block doesn't work, although probably a few weeks too late. Pack em' in tight and make the rushers have to go around the outside to block punts, it takes longer to do that than running straight up the gut. Hopefully whoever wins the field goal kicking job has better range and accuracy than Brandstetter did. Does anybody remember that Brandstetter missed 2 FG's in the NDSU game last year which would've won the game for KU had he made those. It would still be embarrassing to not score a TD on an FCS team, but at least KU would've won the game.

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ahpersecoachingexperience 2 years, 8 months ago

how the special teams coach kept his job after last year amazes me!

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