With two wide receivers out for this week’s game at Georgia Tech and a couple more coming back from suspension, the Kansas University football team is in need of a spark in the pass-catching department.
Enter true freshman Marquis Jackson.
“There’s a possibility he might get some playing time,” KU receivers coach David Beaty said after Wednesday’s practice. “He’s progressing well. He’s making a move. So we’re gonna take him with us this week. He’s traveling and he’s preparing to play.”
Like many in this year’s freshman class, Jackson, a 6-foot, 205-pound outside receiver from Fort Worth, Texas, arrived in Lawrence this summer ready to do whatever it took to earn playing time. He hasn’t stopped working since. Senior Daymond Patterson and fellow freshman JaCorey Shepherd are both out with groin injuries, which has cleared the way for Jackson to earn more reps in practice. But that’s not the only reason he’s slated to travel and prepared to play this weekend.
“You start getting guys nicked up and you start moving guys up and he’s certainly fallen in that category,” Beaty said of Jackson. “But he also has earned it. He’s busted his rear end. He’s a guy that’s a tireless student and I like those guys. I know I can trust him when I put him in the game.”
In terms of skill set, Jackson possesses similar traits to the other receivers the Jayhawks will put on the field on Saturday. Ultra-athletic, with good speed and good hands, Jackson is exactly the type of receiver the KU coaching staff wants to play. But it doesn’t stop there for the man who averaged 27 yards per catch his senior year of high school.
“The thing that he brings that might (give him) a little bit of an edge on just about everybody in that room is he’s got an unbelievable passion,” Beaty said. “He really wants to know the nuances of everything that goes on with that position. He asks questions all the time. He’s very intuitive about things. He really wants to know how he can get better on every play. So much so, that every now and then I have to say, ‘Let’s finish and we’ll get in the video room. I can show you better than I can tell you.’ I’m excited about him getting an opportunity.”
Johnson praises Jayhawks
When asked this week to identify the major differences between KU’s team in 2010 and the team the Jayhawks will take to Atlanta this weekend, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson pointed to sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb.
“Their quarterback is remarkably better than he was a year ago, as you would imagine (he would be) after playing,” Johnson said of Webb.
That wasn’t the only part of KU’s team that Johnson complimented. Some of them he remembered from last year’s 28-25 loss in Lawrence.
“There is some different personnel,” he said. “But I think they’re bigger and probably more physical and stronger. They’ve got a bevy of running backs, with some new guys there, and they’re a little bit more physical. They’ve given up some junk yardage on defense at the end of the first game like we did with some of the reserves and skewed their stats a little bit. They’ll hit you and they run around so they’re a very formidable opponent.”
Yellow Jackets more balanced
During last season’s upset victory in Lawrence, the KU defense dictated how, when and where Georgia Tech ran its offense, the rarely seen triple-option attack that opposing teams have a tough time tackling.
This time around, Gill expects things to be different.
“They actually seem like they’re more explosive on offense because of their passing game,” Gill said. “I think they’re averaging over 200 yards passing (per game). They obviously do a great job running the football, but when they start passing like that, they have a tremendous thing going right now.”
Quarterback Tevin Washington leads Georgia Tech’s attack with 513 yards of total offense and seven TDs. In all, the Yellow Jackets have racked up 1,258 yards of offense, and scored 112 points, in two games this season.
Tech’s offensive explosion has been historic. In the last 30 years, GT’s offense has topped the 590-yard mark in just seven games. Two of those came this season, with the Yellow Jackets gaining 596 yards in a 49-21 victory against Middle Tennessee State last week and 662 yards in a 63-21 pasting of Western Carolina in the season opener.
“We’re going to be going up against a very different scheme than what we have seen over the last two weeks,” Gill said. “Just from the speed aspect of our defense, I think that will help us. We did a pretty good job with (GT) last year. They’re going to do some tweaking so we need to do some tweaking on our sideline and try and keep them off guard. The main thing is our defense needs to tackle well.”
Defensive line shuffle
With junior defensive tackle John Williams out for the season, senior Richard Johnson Jr. slides into his spot as the starting tackle on KU’s defense.
Gill said Tuesday that Johnson, 6-foot-3, 283 pounds, and sophomore Shane Smith, 6-5, 278, would fill most of the void left by Williams’ absence.
Gill also said that red-shirt freshman Pat Lewandowski, 6-6, 248, would remain at defensive end, despite Lewandowski playing D-tackle all spring and being one of the team’s top performers.