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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Matt Tait’s KU football notebook

Junior Toben Opurum was selected among his teammates as captain along with three seniors.

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KU football receivers, offensive linemen go through pre-practice drills

Kansas football receivers and offensive linemen go through pre-practice drills on Tuesday, Aug. 30, four days before the team's season-opener against McNeese State.

At least six freshmen could play vs. McNeese State

Kansas head football coach Turner Gill said anywhere from six to 10 freshmen could get playing time against McNeese State in KU's 2011 season opener.

Fast start key

All offseason, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill raved about his team’s improved speed and the impact that the new crop of faster players would have on his team.

Tuesday, at his first regularly scheduled news conference of the 2011 season, Gill said fans should not have to wait long to see it.

“On offense, defense and special teams we need to have a great start,” said Gill, looking ahead to Saturday’s 6 p.m. season opener against FCS foe McNeese State. “We need to have some guys making plays and getting some excitement for our team and our fans. That was one of the things we didn’t have as much of last year. I think we have some people that can do that this year.”

Statistically speaking, the first quarter was KU’s poorest in terms of putting points on the board during 2010. In 12 games, the Jayhawks scored just 43 points in the opening quarter, including 26 against conference foes. That number included five field goals and four touchdowns, and the Jayhawks scored more than 7 points in the first quarter just once, when they tallied 14 against Oklahoma State during the second-to-last game of the year. What’s more, opposing defenses kept the Jayhawks off the board altogether in the opening quarter five times.

As with most areas in which the Jayhawks struggled in 2010, the coaching staff put a premium on improving their first-quarter performance this offseason.

“What the coaches have really stressed is starting strong and finishing strong,” said junior defensive end Toben Opurum. “It’s something we do in practice. Right out of our stretch we go into a live period so we can get used to starting fast and coming out of the locker room and not being timid.”

3 players suspended

Gill announced Tuesday that three players had been suspended for violating team rules. Sophomore wide receiver Erick McGriff and red-shirt freshman tight end Jimmay Mundine will miss the next two games to serve their suspensions, while sophomore defensive end Tyrone Sellers will sit out Saturday’s game against McNeese State. In addition to those three players, the Jayhawks will be without senior defensive tackle Patrick Dorsey, red-shirt freshman linebacker Jake Farley and sophomore wide receiver Chris Omigie, who all will miss Saturday’s contest because of injuries.

Freshmen to be featured

Gill revealed the number of true freshmen he expected to play during KU’s opener.

“I can probably sit here and say six of them for sure are gonna play in this first ballgame,” he said. “There may be one or two that may play, and that’s why I can say 7-to-10 who would probably play in a two-game scenario. They’ve shown great progress and they can help our football team win games. That’s probably the ultimate deal, us saying, ‘This guy or that guy can help us win games, so let’s play him.’”

Though Gill stopped shy of naming names, he did single out running back Darrian Miller, of Blue Springs, Mo., as one of the true freshmen who would play this weekend. Others who also may be on Gill’s list include: running back Tony Pierson, place kicker Alex Mueller, long snapper Tanner Gibas, linebacker Colin Garrett and wide receiver JaCorey Shepherd.

D-end available

Red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive end from Blue Valley West High in Overland Park, will be available for Saturday’s game. After moving to defensive tackle — and tearing it up — during the spring, Lewandowski was moved back to D-End at the beginning of fall camp. A few days in, on Aug. 8, he suffered a leg injury which forced him to miss the next couple of weeks. He returned to practice early last week and Gill confirmed Tuesday that Lewandowski would play on Saturday.

“He’s playing, he’s ready,” Gill said.

Gill talks captains

On Monday, KU announced seniors Tim Biere, Jeremiah Hatch and Steven Johnson, along with junior Toben Opurum, as the team captains.

“They have been good examples (of what our team’s about) in my full year, going on my second year here,” Gill said. “They have represented KU (well) on the field, off the field (and) in the classroom.”

Comments

texashawk10 3 years, 1 month ago

Since Mueller and Gibas are listed as #1's on the depth chart, I would hope those play. Considering that, 4 would be the number of freshman lining up on offense, defense, and special teams against McNeese St. that had to beat out more than 1 person to earn their PT. Not taking anything away from Mueller or Gibas because those are two of the most underrated positions in football, but those are two very specialized positions unlike most other positions out there.

PJ Karasek 3 years, 1 month ago

nah, we just won't need to punt or kick field goals.

All touchdowns baby!!!!

jhawkrulz 3 years, 1 month ago

"As with most areas in which the Jayhawks struggled in 2010, the coaching staff"

Well put LJW.

ahpersecoachingexperience 3 years, 1 month ago

"improved speed" take two shots! Man, I need to stop playing this game so early in the morning.

Mike Ardis 3 years, 1 month ago

Matt,

What size of crowd is expected Saturday and how are season ticket sales going?

Matt Tait 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm expecting a solid crowd... definitely 40-45k... There's just something about the opening game of the season, especially on a good weather day, that gets people excited and heading to the stadium.

That said, if the weather's not good, that could hurt attendance a little, but, 3-9 last year or not, I think people will show up on Saturday ready to see all these new guys and see if last year's rough go was just a fluke.

As for season ticket sales, all I can say is they're not talking a lot about it so that usually means things aren't going great...

You going?

squawkhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, then the next game will be 30k - 35K followed by 25K to 30K then 20K to 25K and then BB season begins.

Baldwin023 3 years, 1 month ago

Well with the students getting a complimentary ticket for the first game that should help with attendance.

Chris Bailey 3 years, 1 month ago

I'll be there Matt! Section 4 Seat 1,2 and 3! My dad, my son and me! Rock Chalk!

Matt Tait 3 years, 1 month ago

Enjoy the game. Should be a great night and a fun atmosphere...

MDHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

I'll be there...have my tickets, taking a break from the books. I love Saturday at Memorial Stadium!

squawkhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Starting and playing that many freshmen means only one thing...

Randy Bombardier 3 years, 1 month ago

You are surprised that this is a rebuilding year?

MDHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Could mean several things...some negative, some positive. I'll take it to mean "that many freshmen" worked hard enough to win a starting spot.

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