Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kansas OL Gavin Howard ‘has stepped up’

Kansas offensive lineman Gavin Howard stretches out as the team warms up during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.

Kansas offensive lineman Gavin Howard stretches out as the team warms up during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.



Kansas offensive lineman Gavin Howard stretches out as the team warms up during practice on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012.

When Kansas University’s first depth chart of the 2012 regular season is released today, junior offensive lineman Gavin Howard figures to find his name in two places — starting right guard and reserve right tackle.

Not bad for a guy who entered spring drills with lukewarm confidence from his new coach.

“Well, you have to put somebody as the fifth guy right? He’s the fifth,” KU boss Charlie Weis said in April, asked what Howard had done to earn the first-string spot on the offensive line. “I think that’s kind of open game. That’s not a finite thing. But based on what we’ve seen so far, he would hold a slight edge over the other guys.”

Nearly five months later, Howard appears to have widened the gap and emerged as another reliable option on an offensive line loaded with talent and experience.

Although Howard downplayed Weis’ comment and said he did not expect to hear anything different, teammates said the 6-foot-4, 300-pound junior from Owasso, Okla., used those words as a reason to improve.

“I definitely think that’s driving him,” said senior co-captain Tanner Hawkinson, a four-year starter at tackle. “Gavin’s a great competitor, and he’s probably one of the smartest guys on the team. He’s done a great job for us.”

Added quarterback Dayne Crist, who has a strong interest in the talent level of the guys protecting: “He knows that his time is now, and his name is being called, and he has stepped up in that regard. Physically, he’s turned it on, and he’s working really hard to make a name for himself.”

Although the extra motivation certainly did not hurt, Howard’s step forward came because of his biggest strength — his brain. A double major in math and finance who also will have enough math credits to earn a teaching certificate, Howard is the poster boy for the movement toward the thinking-man’s offensive lineman. No longer are big bodies and bulk enough to play in the trenches.

“That’s what a lot of people think,” Howard said. “But especially with this coach Weis offense, it’s so much to learn, and everyone has to be sharp because if you’re not sharp there’s no way that you can play in this offense.”

That’s never been a problem for Howard. According to Crist, who knows KU’s offense almost as well as the man who designed it, picking up the playbook came easily for Howard.

“In terms of X’s and O’s, he gets it,” Crist said.

Howard also appears to “get it” in many other ways. Never one to take himself too seriously, Howard is comfortable with how his career has played out but admits he would like to see it finish on a higher note than it began.

“When we started the spring and I was a starter, that was probably the first real time where I thought, ‘Oh, this could be a chance,’” Howard recalled. “But it’s always something you strive for. It’s never your goal to go in and be a backup.”

Now that he’s been given the chance to step to the front of the line, Howard has found that all of the preparation he did as a reserve during his first three seasons in Lawrence have paid off.

“I’ve been labeled as a second-string guy since my red-shirt freshman year,” Howard said. “And going into game-type stuff, you have to focus just as much as a starter. The biggest difference between then and now is just that in practice you get more reps each day.”

Heeney on top

Weis said during his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show Monday night that sophomore linebacker Ben Heeney would enter the season as the Jayhawks’ starter at middle linebacker.

Heeney, who made a name for himself on special teams as a true freshman in 2011, began camp as an outside linebacker but slid to the middle when senior transfer Anthony McDonald missed time because of injury. Competing with freshman Schyler Miles and a banged-up McDonald, Heeney emerged as the top option at arguably the defense’s most important spot.

“The one thing he’s done better than just about everybody in training camp is make plays all over the field,” Weis said Monday. “We’ve been impressed by his physicality, and I think he’s gonna play a lot for us.”

SDSU QB injured?

According to reports, South Dakota State quarterback Austin Sumner, a sophomore who was a finalist for FCS freshman of the year in 2011, has missed a couple of recent practices and may not be full strength for Saturday’s season opener.

Weis acknowledged Monday that he had heard the reports, but added that he was not about to pay them much attention.

“There are rumors out that he’s banged up his thumb,” Weis said. “So we’ll be ready for him. You never know what you’re gonna get in the opener … you gotta practice for pretty much everything because you never know what you’re gonna get.”

Stick around. Please?

A little more than a week after joking about starting a fist fight with any KU students who left football games early, Weis once again made his pitch for the student body to stay until the end of Saturday’s game.

“Everyone knows we’re going to go sing the alma mater at the end of the game, and it’s not the same if they’re not there,” Weis said. “We’re going (to the KU student section) anyway. I really want to see a connection between our players and the student body, and that’s a two-way street.”


JHWKDW 1 year, 7 months ago

Concerning Gavin Howard I am so glad we got Tim Grunhard as our offensive line coach. He did a awesome job coaching in High School Football. This guy was a part of some awesome Offensive lines at the Chiefs. Too bad the rest of the offense on the Chiefs was not up to snuff. If they were as good as Grunhard, and that offensive line who knows! Anyway man I have a feeling if he is as good as I think he is, or will be it will be hard keeping Grunhard here!

Concerning staying until the end of Saturday’s game I always stay until the end. Come on we owe that to this coaching staff, ok Coach Gill did not inspire much hope but lets see what this guy can do.

Also something that has to change at Football games really KU fans, lets stop tearing down the goal posts people. Please people stop. Let us act like we have been there! It is just juvenile, and makes us look bad.


Randy Bombardier 1 year, 7 months ago

To keep 'em in the stands:

During the final minutes have the Student Activities give away Spring Break trips to Cancun for students in attendance (must be present to win) paid for by gate receipts.

Students smuggle booze in and leave early to begin partying, win or loss. Strongly consider liquor sales, starting at half-time so students don't get too wasted.

Have an alumni hiring event right after the game in the parking lot. (Maybe the seniors will stay).

Hire a bunch of K-State fans to come to every game threatening to take down the goal posts.(My goodness, people, what is it going to take?)

Open the gates at half-time and bus in local kid's clubs to take the place of exiting students.

Find the hottest chicks on the campus of our opponent for the week, bus them in, pay their way and seat them in our student section. Our guys will stay in their seats and their girlfriends will make sure we don't have to do that again.

Allow anonymous wifi access to section of the big screen in the fourth quarter where students can advertise: Sr. Engineering student seeks hot female Accounting Major, row, section, seat.

All this to say I sure wish some actual effort were made to address this issue. It is a black eye for KU when we have televised games.


Charles Logan 1 year, 7 months ago

Off subject, but does anyone know how I go about changing my screen name????


Sam Brockert 1 year, 7 months ago

I had a nightmare last night that I had to go to a wedding on saturday and that I would miss the season opener...I woke up soooo depressed. Not because of the dream, but because I realized...I wasn't dreaming.


OakvilleJaybateNightmare 1 year, 7 months ago

Its great news that Heeney has won the middle linebacker spot. He's a sophmore and Miles is a freshman so we'll have a couple good linebackers for years to come.

As for the SDSU quarterback, who cares? If you can't beat them when they are at full strength, then you aren't a very good team at all. If KU is a decent team in the Big 12, they should win this game by at least 3 touchdowns, AT LEAST.


clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 7 months ago

Where did you find the depth chart?


Keith Hummel 1 year, 7 months ago

Per the depth chart that was just released, Gavin Howard will start at RT while Aslam Sterling will be the starting RG. I didn't expect Sterling to be a starter that soon.


KGphoto 1 year, 7 months ago

Good job Gavin.

Now for something really important. It's four days til the season opener and they don't have the times for the games set. (Yes I realize the first 3 are.) I'm planning on going home for a game this year and I can't make plans because I don't know if it's gonna be a night game, a day game or what?

It's ludicrous! I know TV money is at the root of it, but how can they be allowed to hang the fans out like this? Have some accountability. My god I just wanna slap somebody.


Keith Hummel 1 year, 7 months ago

Another great article and another good indication that we are better at every single position this year. Saturday simply cannot get here fast enough. Two years of football frustration are about to be unleashed. If we put the kind of whoopin on SDSU we are capable of, I predict the Rice game will be close to a sellout. Jayhawk Nation is just that hyped!


jhawkrulz 1 year, 7 months ago

Wasn't there an article about how Weis knows how to push people's buttons to motivate them...seems like he figured out the button to push for Howard.

Is there some kind of countdown yet?


Eliott Reeder 1 year, 7 months ago

If you build it... they will stay...


april28 1 year, 7 months ago

Charlie...if you win, people will be in the stands.


David Leathers 1 year, 7 months ago

"...and he’s working really hard to a name for himself.”

I'm assuming you meant " [make] a name for himself."


Commenting has been disabled for this item.