DeAndre Daniels’ delay until today in making a decision on where he will play college basketball makes “incomplete” the only reasonable grade for this Kansas University recruiting class.
So while Daniels makes up his mind, it’s time to take a look at another aspect of producing a winner that too often is overlooked. In football, developing talent means every bit as much as recruiting it, and on that front, the outlook for Kansas football looks better than it did heading into last season.
A look at 10 factors that suggest Turner Gill will field a more competitive team in his second season than his first, even if the brutal schedule prevents his record from becoming any better than the 3-9 mark he posted in his first year at KU:
1. Team chemistry: It’s almost unavoidable this becomes an issue when a coaching change takes place. Seniors who have sweated their way through years of grueling workouts to earn starting jobs lose them overnight, which can create resentment. Now that Gill has established his way of doing things, everybody knows the rules, and nobody feels entitled to anything.
2. Jeremiah Hatch: The talented center took a step back last season when he played at such a high weight. His body looks completely different, a sign he has matured and is ready for the sort of senior season his early years portended.
3. Toben Opurum: Injured for much of spring a year ago, then changed to defense after leading the team in rushing as a true freshman, Opurum had to be wondering what he did to lose his spot. He’s coming off a dynamite spring at defensive end and graded out better than anybody on defense.
4. Greg Brown: When he showed he had made the transition from track sprinter to a cornerback who knows how to be quick and agile, not just fast running straight ahead, he earned a starting spot midway through last season. Once he masters the fundamentals, he has a chance to become a big-time playmaker.
5. Jeff Spikes: His blown-out Achilles left a huge hole in the offensive line last season and contributed to 37 quarterback sacks. He’s back at left tackle and will make a huge difference if his size, intelligence and quick feet blend to make him an efficient football player.
6. Kale Pick: It took him less than a full game to lose his spot as the starting quarterback and later was switched to receiver, but was he into it? He is now and showed a great aptitude and attitude at his new position during the spring.
7. Kevin Young: Sickness played a role in his never getting into shape as a redshirt freshman who was moved from defensive end to D-tackle. He’s healthy, talented and in far better condition already.
8. Brandon Bourbon: Playing in such a simple offense in high school left his head spinning during red-shirt season. It clicked for him in the spring, and he stood out until sidelined. He’s in the mix at running back. Still, it’s tough to look at him and not see a potential All-Big 12 linebacker.
9. Huldon Tharp: His speed would have helped at linebacker had he been healthy.
10. Christian Matthews: Such a graceful runner, he looks more natural at receiver now and has an excellent tutor in David Beaty.