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Friday, August 19, 2011

KU football notebook: Young offensive linemen fitting in quickly

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With injuries to Kansas University’s defensive line being one of the big stories from the first couple of weeks of fall camp, one piece of good news came from senior Patrick Dorsey and red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski being sidelined.

KU’s ability to shift senior Michael Martinovich and sophomore Randall Dent from the offensive line over to D-line not only gives the Jayhawks much-needed depth on defense, but also says something about KU’s five freshmen offensive linemen and how they’ve progressed during their first camp.

“We saw our freshmen offensive linemen on film, and when they’re all together (offensive line) coach (J.B.) Grimes said, ‘Man, we have a big freshman offensive line. And they’re only freshmen,’” offensive coordinator Chuck Long said after Thursday’s practice.

Long said the goal this summer was to get a few of those true freshmen onto the team’s two-deep depth chart.

“Now, because of some injury situations over on defense, we’ve managed to do that,” he said. “We’re full steam ahead with that goal.”

Of the five, Blue Valley West graduate Dylan Admire, who enrolled in January and participated in spring drills, has made the biggest strides.

“Oh, definitely,” Long said. “Dylan’s gonna be a really good football player. And he’s ahead because he’s been here longer.”

Admire, 6-foot-3, 283 pounds, currently sits behind senior Jeremiah Hatch at center on KU’s depth chart. As for the rest of the crew, Travis Bodenstein (6-5, 295), Luke Luhrsen (6-5, 290), Damon Martin (6-5, 265) and Bryan Peters (6-5, 305) all have played well enough for Long and the coaching staff to feel good about the prospects of sticking them onto the field during a game.

“We’re getting past that,” said Long of the reservations of playing true freshmen on the O-Line. “We still need some camp time for that to develop, but a lot of these guys came here on their own in the summer. That’s a plus. Those guys studied on their own and that gives you a head start.”

O-line’s best battle

With the 10 offensive-line spots starting to take shape, Long was asked which position had the best competition. Without hesitating, he pointed to left tackle, where junior Jeff Spikes and third-year sophomore Riley Spencer are battling hard every day. Interestingly enough, Spencer and Spikes are featured on the same page — 77 — of KU’s media guide this year. Their competition on the field seems to be as close as their mug shots are on the page.

“Coach Grimes created some competition between Jeff Spikes and Riley Spencer, and it’s made Jeff Spikes so much better this camp,” Long said. “It really has. That’s probably the one (battle) that sticks out on the offensive line, and Jeff has done great this camp because of that. They push each other. And that’s been a good thing.”

Spikes missed all of last season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon, and Spencer, because of a lack of depth, was forced to play around 100 snaps despite dealing with a shoulder injury that required surgery in the offseason.

Bourbon moving forward

After missing most of spring ball because of a broken leg, red-shirt freshman running back Brandon Bourbon has endured an ongoing battle with minor injuries during preseason camp. But if the last two days are any indication of where he’s at, Bourbon may be turning the corner.

“He ran well today,” Long said of Bourbon. “The last two days he’s been doing really well so he’s working and fighting through that and that’s part of maturity. When you’re a running back at this level, you’re gonna get banged up. That’s a given. So how you work through that is key. But the last two days Brandon has shown up. Probably his best two days of camp.”

Forget me not

Speaking of running backs, much has been made about the group of young and talented backs that KU will take into the 2011 season. And while watching guys such as Darrian Miller, Tony Pierson and James Sims rip up the field has been a delight, Long cautioned against overlooking veteran running backs Rell Lewis, a senior from Muskogee, Okla., and Deshaun Sands, a sophomore from Pompano Beach, Fla. Lewis missed all of last season with a knee injury and Sands was used only sparingly during 2010, rushing for 211 yards and one touchdown on 55 carries.

“Don’t count those guys out now,” Long said. “Rell is someone who’s very experienced and he’s shown great maturity from when we got here until now. I just believe that at that position you need as many as you can get. And, right now, we’re working with all of them.”

As for those other backs, Long said Sims, last year’s leading rusher as a true freshman, was the one who had shown the most consistency in all aspects of the position.

“We feel that James does pretty well at all of it right now,” Long said. “He not only runs well but he pass protects pretty well. The rest of them, we’re working that out to see who the best ones are.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 3 years, 4 months ago

Glad to hear mention of Rell. Been hoping he was coming back from his injury, and possibly going to contribute in some fashion. He would have been so good to have last year.

It is realy encouraging to hear about Spencer battling Spikes so closely. RockChalkTalk had comments from players following Gill's presser recently, and there were comments about Spikes being the OL that the DL least wanted to drill against.

Kevin Studer 3 years, 4 months ago

So we are trying to sell injuries on the D-Line as a good thing? Already the thinnest and weakest position on the field? oooookay...

Clarence Haynes 3 years, 4 months ago

Last year, they did not have anyone who they could even move to backup positions!

PJ Karasek 3 years, 4 months ago

would you rather the coaches say we're screwed? Adjusting and overcoming are two extremely important aspects of college football, two aspects we didn't see a whole lot last year with regard to halftime adjustments and such. I'd rather have them taking an optimistic stance than coming out and saying "we now have no chance, we hope to at least be competitive in games, our line is going to get pushed around." It sure doesn't make the remaining players want to go very hard. Give Gill all the crap you want about being into motivation (I think it's a little over the top sometimes too), but football has a huge mental component and I'd like to see whoever is in there have a little more mental fortitude than we saw at the beginning of last year.

hometownhawk 3 years, 4 months ago

Reading comprehension is not really your strong suit, is it?

Kevin Studer 3 years, 4 months ago

Sorry if complete homerism isn't my strong suit. Momma always said I was too much of a realist. But hey, personal insults are pretty adult, too. Keep up the good work!

Phoggin_Loud 3 years, 4 months ago

In one of the previous articles, Coach Gill stated that the o-line is the strength of the team.

It's nice to have 6'5" across the line. Their size should open up some nice holes for these running backs that everyone is talking about.

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