After Tuesday’s practice, Kansas University quarterback Jordan Webb spoke to reporters for the first time since being named the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback for the 2011 season.
Webb, a sophomore from Union, Mo., who started seven games last season, looked about the same, save for the buzz cut that took the place of his gold locks that were dyed the night before the first day of camp. Webb sounded about the same, too — humble as ever, happy for the opportunity, ready to get back to work. While news that Webb was the starter came as little or no surprise to most who follow the program, the way he reacted probably was even more predictable. Asked what feeling ran through his mind when he and back-up Quinn Mecham received the news from KU coach Turner Gill last Friday, Webb pointed to the one most would expect.
“I guess more excitement,” Webb said. “It doesn’t change the way I approach anything. I still have to keep the competitive nature that earned me the spot, and I know Quinn’s gonna keep doing the same. As we continue to push each other, I think it’s gonna really help our position.”
Webb, a starter in seven games last season, said he learned a lot from KU’s version of QB musical chairs. He said walking into Gill’s office last week had a similar feel and was reminiscent of the day he and former QB Kale Pick learned who had won last year’s quarterback battle.
“It kind of was,” Webb said. “I remember going in there last year and getting the news (that Pick was the starter). I was upset, but it still didn’t change the way I was approaching practice. At quarterback, you just gotta take it day by day, and you just have to try to prove it. One thing that kind of stuck with me from last year was just not to take anything for granted. You’re always one play away from not being on the field, and you just have to try to do your best when you’re out there.”
With Webb slotted in at No. 1 and Mecham working behind him, the most interesting battle at quarterback is at third-string, where quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Chuck Long said Tuesday that red-shirt freshman Blake Jablonski had a slight lead on freshman Michael Cummings
“Right now, we’re working with Blake as No. 3,” Long said. “Michael may work in there some, but I believe in working scout team, and I believe you gotta get reps down there. A lot of the pass patterns are the same, you learn, and you’re going against the first-team defense, so (scout team QBs) actually get a good pocket feel of getting rid of the ball faster. I know in my own experience, when I was a red-shirt on the scout team my freshman year, I got a lot better because of that.”
Cummings, an impressive but raw dual-threat prospect from Killeen, Texas, figures to get most of the work with the scout team, though Long said Jablonski could work there some. If all goes according to plan, Cummings would spend 2011 learning and improving without having it count against his eligibility.
“We’re looking at red-shirting (him) right now,” Long said of Cummings. “But you never know. I told him to stay alert because, in this deal, you just never know. Last year, Quinn went into the season with the scout team as No. 3 and ended up being No. 1. You never worry about red shirts until the end of the year.”
McDonald draws praise
KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy faced an interesting dilemma during a recent practice, one in which his cornerbacks weren’t bringing it the way he had hoped. With the jerseys off because of the nature of the drill, Shealy was forced to identify the unit’s top four players based on ability and not number. It was a tougher task than it might seem and one that led to an interesting conclusion.
“Dexter McDonald is probably the most improved player we have in the secondary,” Shealy said of the 6-foot-1, 205-pound red-shirt freshman from Rockhurst High. “He’s very dynamic. Athletically, if you take the jerseys off between Isiah (Barfield), Greg (Brown), Anthony (Davis) and Dexter, you wouldn’t know who’s making the play. They’re all looking pretty much even right now.”
He didn’t stop there.
“Now that Dexter McDonald is coming on, I’ll mention his name time and time again,” Shealy said. “He had (an interception) today in practice and then two or three pass break-ups. I’m making sure that that meeting room knows that Dexter’s kind of chomping, and I know the upperclassmen are giving him a good look on the field.”
Patmon on the mend
Limited since the third day of fall camp by a muscle pull in his leg, sophomore cornerback Tyler Patmon continues to make strides toward a return. Tuesday, Patmon participated in all of the team’s individual work and did some light skill work after pleading, unsuccessfully, to get back to full speed.
“We don’t want that injury to be something that lasts six weeks,” Shealy said. “If we were playing this Saturday, he would play.”
When he returns, Patmon will begin work at both field corner and nickelback.
“We’re gonna play him at both,” Shealy said. “When he comes back, I think it will be him and Isiah battling at that (field) cornerback position all through next week. When we get into our nickel and dime, Tyler and Greg will come inside to fill those roles, and Isiah and Anthony would be more on the perimeter.”
Other members of the defense who recently have made their return to full practice include Davis, linebacker Tunde Bakare and defensive linemen Kevin Young and Pat Lewandowski. Shealy said all four stood out in practice Tuesday. Shealy also noted the strong play from defensive lineman Randall Dent, a 6-5, 275-pound sophomore who moved back to D-Line from offense at the start of camp.
“It’s been fun watching him and (center Jeremiah) Hatch go after it,” Shealy said of Dent. “It’s kind of like watching two big ol’ cats kind of smacking each other.”
Depth chart coming
Gill his coaching staff would spend the rest of the week evaluating the various position battles still going on and then would try to nail down the starting unit and second stringers sometime this weekend. In addition, Gill said his players would vote for team captains later this week, and the winners would be revealed Tuesday.