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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: Sneak peek at KU football whets appetite for 2013 season

Kansas University running backs and quarterbacks shuffle through a drill during a spring football practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium. From left, in front, are running backs Taylor Cox, James Sims, Brandon Bourbon and quarterback Blake Jablonski.

Kansas University running backs and quarterbacks shuffle through a drill during a spring football practice on Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at Memorial Stadium. From left, in front, are running backs Taylor Cox, James Sims, Brandon Bourbon and quarterback Blake Jablonski.

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The sun started to drop, and the temperature more than kept pace. And Tuesday afternoon was one of the warmest spring football practices for a Kansas football team trying to eradicate the stench of a 1-11 record, the school’s fourth consecutive losing season. Most of the summer sessions will take place in blistering heat. That’s OK. Nothing about football practice ever is supposed to resemble comfortable anyway. Golf courses exist for that.

This was the first of the spring practices open to the media, and it presented an interesting challenge to try to pick out bits and pieces of signs of progress.

The best place to start is with the team’s most accomplished player, running back James Sims. He looks leaner than ever and primed for a big senior season. But it’s Tony Pierson whose movements stick out more than anybody’s. You get the same feeling watching Pierson go through drills as you get watching Ben McLemore sprint downcourt. Pierson just looks different than the rest, as if he’s at once moving at a high speed, yet not moving any body parts.

Staying with the jet theme, Colin Spencer, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound Dallas running back who graduated high school a semester early to participate in spring football, showed serious speed running the ball and blowing by the secondary to catch a pass.

Quarterback Jake Heaps, the Brigham Young transfer with two years of eligibility remaining, throws nothing but tight spirals and has the look of a guy who thoroughly enjoys everything he does related to the game of football, especially interacting with teammates. A year ago at this time, Dayne Crist threw a nice ball, and all anybody needed to see was, once the red shirt that means “don’t tackle this man” was taken off him, whether he would hear footsteps, given his history of knee injuries. He did, and it wasn’t pretty. No such questions ever have been asked about Heaps.

Also, it was interesting to see that quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus still throws a nice ball. He showcased his skills during a drill in which five receivers went out for passes at the same time, and all of them caught (or dropped) thrown footballs.

It would be nice to report that a wide receiver knocked my mittens off, but I wasn’t wearing mittens. Plus, too many balls were dropped, although none by Justin McCay, who finally will have footballs thrown to him during games after three seasons as a spectator. McCay spent one season at Oklahoma as a red shirt, one as a bench-warmer, and then had to sit out last season as a transfer. He has two remaining seasons of eligibility. At 6-2, 213, he has the size to make a difference and remains one of the most intriguing mysteries on the team. Emerging senior-to-be Christian Matthews caught everything thrown his way as well.

Three long-time starters on the offensive line are gone. Look for Ngalu Fusimalohi to fill one of the guard spots. He’s big at 6-2, 324, and practices with a nasty edge.

Defensive end Chris Martin, a junior-college transfer, stands out walking to and from practice, thanks to a big, muscular physique, and during practice, thanks to a high motor and nifty pass-rushing moves. Remember the name and the number, 56, and if you’re an opposing quarterback, good luck trying to forget you ever met him.

Greg Allen, 5-11, 203, flashed cover skills of the cornerback he was during his red-shirt season and brings nice speed to the safety position. Early guess: He’s going to be a serious player.

In special teams, a disturbing number of kicks weren’t fielded cleanly. Now for the good news: Trevor Pardula, a punter and kickoff specialist who chose KU’s scholarship over that from hometown San Jose State, showed a really, really strong foot, booming kick after kick over the heads of punt-return men.

Another encouraging development: The contrast between how bodies looked during the forgettable 2010 season that opened with a 6-3 loss to North Dakota State and Tuesday was a stark one. Clearly, the weight room has been alive with misery. One week from Saturday at 1 p.m., the spring football intrasquad game whets our appetites for the 2013 season.

Comments

John Randall 1 year, 8 months ago

So much room for both optimism and trepidation. Sure as hell, I want to watch this season unfold.

I can see five wins. I can smell seven, eight after a bowl. The difference between 4-8 and 8-5 could well be less than ten points.

April13 1 year, 8 months ago

It is amazing how so few points can have such a big impact in determining "success" or "failure".

From a purely logical perspective, the team has to be better this year because it simply couldn't be much worse. What would the difference have been last year at Northern Illinois, at Texas Tech, home vs. Rice and home vs. Texas if our kicking game had been better, our qb play had been better and our defense played only slightly better?

Though we have major gaps to fill on the O-line, this team seems primed for a significant step forward.

KGphoto 1 year, 8 months ago

Let’s throw in the Okie St. game too. That would’ve make it a nice round “bowl eligible” 6 wins.

vd 1 year, 8 months ago

Kitty fans were telling me a few years back, they were 4-3 at the time, "6 pts. more and we would be 7-0." Of course last year, they weren't saying "6 pts. difference we'd be 4-3."

jhox 1 year, 8 months ago

We lost a lot last year but we also had competitive games against a few pretty decent teams. A few key players could easily turn this thing around. It all starts with Heaps. I saw his arm in the spring game last year and I'm pretty excited about him. He has not just got a gun, but a high power rifle for an arm. I just hope he gets a little protection and I hope he has a couple of guys who can get separation and catch a pass.

danno1313 1 year, 8 months ago

I m not sure five wins is realistic. I d like to see it. Four would be a great improvement to me but I m thinking less than that. It s a long way from one win to five in the Big 12.

JayDocMD 1 year, 8 months ago

My gut tells me Heaps is the real deal (FWIW I was leery of Crist.) Having Sims and Pierson on the field with him can only help keep defenses honest.

The main questions:

  • Will he have time to throw, or will he be scrambling for his life?

  • Will the receivers (1) get open and (2) catch it?

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

New hope....same Jayhawks.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Knock off this "I can see five wins, I can smell seven; eight after a bowl" crap. That's a ridiculous prediction after what we saw last season.

Best you can hope for is 4 wins....and that's a prayer. Not only did we prove we can't win in Big XII play, but we can't win on the road...regardless of the competition. So don't count all the non-conference games as wins, especially if one of them is a road game.

Sorry, but you know it's the truth. Think about our optimism last year. Everyone on here was predicting at least 5 wins. We had a 5 star quarterback and a new attitude.

...hopefully you've all learned your lesson. And that is, "Beware the Kool Aid."

Jason Keller 1 year, 8 months ago

If improvement from 12' to 13' is similar to 11' to 12', I think 4 wins is on the low end. You don't go from 50 point blowouts to being .500 the next year... I give them 5-6 wins. They'll play 4 teams who they are better than and win those. They'll play 3 others who they have a shot at and I think they get 1 or 2 of those.

vd 1 year, 8 months ago

Improvement from 11 to 12 was 2 wins to one win. Does that mean improvement from 12 to 13 means 1 win to winless?

danno1313 1 year, 8 months ago

Just being realistic. New faces doesn't always mean wins. We had a NEW FACE at QB last year. How did that work out for us? Four wins would be great.

Micky Baker 1 year, 8 months ago

Trying everything to stick with the student newspaper group think?

Jeremy Hays 1 year, 8 months ago

Maybe the best you can hope for is 4 wins... I know I'm the eternal optimist but I go in EVERY Season thinking KU will win not just 5 or 8 but them all and challenge in the national spotlight. Just as I believe that KU will be in the final four EVERY year. Be Negative or be positive it is your right, however I will NEVER sway from the thoughts of KU being the best in big XII. (again I'm the eternal optimist when it comes to the prediction -- I told a missouri fan that I could see KU in TG's last year winning 7 soooo I'm not very accurate)

Dirk Medema 1 year, 8 months ago

But it's not the same Jayhawks.

29 players are gone and replaced mostly by upperclassmen. And no that's not creating an imbalanced class by class makeup on the team. It is just replacing the defects from previous classes.

Jason Keller 1 year, 8 months ago

What is important for this team is to finish games. We've got to win the games that we are supposed to win. If we do that, this league will gift us a couple games and I think we could find ourselves bowl eligible.

Jeff Suther 1 year, 8 months ago

The biggest question out of the first few practices. Do we have a kicker who can make a field goal outside of an extra point?

Dirk Medema 1 year, 8 months ago

Sounds like we are still hoping on the Hutch kid that's coming this summer. Matt didn't mention anything about the transfer that we were waiting on last year.

Andy Tweedy 1 year, 8 months ago

I've been as optimistic as any over the course of the 27 years since I walked on to the hill. Personally, I see this phase of the program's life as being very similar to 1988 when Glen Mason took over. His first year showed ZERO improvement over 1987 in terms of wins, but you could tell things were getting better. 1989 was a little better and then the wins started coming and improvement could be seen sooner than later. I see this coming season as 1989, part 2. I think the team will be improved, and I think we'll see a few more wins, but I still think we are a couple years away from truly competing. I hope we can get to 4 or 5 wins, but I guess we'll see. Love my Jayhawks regardless!!!

April13 1 year, 8 months ago

And I think that Weis and his staff are better than Mason's. Not to take anything away from Mason, he did a solid job here, but he was a little mercurial. I think that this staff will be steadier and more consistent in building the program.

Micky Baker 1 year, 8 months ago

It was in 1989 I believe when Kansas opened up against Oregon, everyone said Kansas didn't improve the year before, then they blew out Oregon. So many of those making comments when you mention Glen Mason, I presume many say, "who is Glen Mason". Everyone was skeptical about Mangino, too, because he had no head coaching experience. Well, broke the streaks against K-State and Nebraska, 12-1, Orange Bowl trophy. That was after Terry Allen who had success in Division II that left a mess for Mangino. Well, Turner Gill left a bigger mess. He wasn't ready for the big leagues. I do think some where between 6 and 8 wins. Here are the games I think we will win.

At Rice SD LA Lafayette Texas Tech Baylor Iowa State

Teams we have a shot at beating.

West Virginia, Texas, Kansas State(the last game of regular season)

With just a decent kicking game last year, we beat Texas, Texas Tech, Rice, Northern Illinois, and Oklahoma State and have a shot against TCU in which we had a drive late inside their 10 and turned it over. It's going to be a little different at TCU, but they're also not going to count on scouting reports from a year ago, They didn't get to see James Sims or the new wide receivers.

Of course, this will depend on how quickly Heaps and company get on the same page, and that could be pretty quick.

Robert Brock 1 year, 8 months ago

Last season our offense consisted of running behind the blocking of Hawk, Zlat, and Marongelli. They are gone...so what have we got this season? It would be great if we could identify even one receiver who could get open and catch a perfectly-thrown pass (last year our receivers were incapable of doing anything right). Whatever: it's going to be fun.

Ryan Gerstner 1 year, 8 months ago

The Hawks will be the surprise team in the Big 12 this year. They were just a few plays away from 6 wins last year. Heck, Heaps and any place kicker besides what we had probably would have gotten us to 4 or 5 wins. All the negative nancies will go into hiding when the Hawks come out and show everyone we have a legitimate football team again this fall. No reason this can't be a .500 football team or even better. We have 7 home games and the Hawks are always tough at home. We have winnable roadies at Rice and ISU. We'll see how it goes, but get out there and support the Hawks in Memorial!

Lance Cheney 1 year, 8 months ago

"Not so fast" (Lee Corso anyone?) on the Iowa State game. They're not the team they used to be. They're becoming a legit team in the Big 12. They're improving along the same lines we are; the only problem is they were already a ways ahead of us.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

I do take losses like a man, ralster. Last Friday night...tragic night to be a Jayhawk fan....I took it like a man. We coughed up a Sweet Sixteen game. We choked. I accepted it. On to next year.

But there's a difference.

You say "take your losses like a man." Well, we've had plenty to take over the past 3 years. Going 5-7 and losing that last game that would make you bowl eligible? That's the time to take it like a man.

Getting drubbed in embarrassing fashion for 3 years in a row? One conference win. Zero road wins. Six total in three years.....that's enough to drive any man into madness.

It's easy to suck up a bad season when you know good things are on the horizon. But this isn't KU basketball. We don't know that good things are on the horizon. We can't rely on Karma to turn this thing around.

Now I hope your attitude pays off...I truly do. But I will not make excuses for what has transpired over the past three years. We suck. Pure and simple. Hopefully this season we won't suck as bad.

But I'm mad. KU football fans are mad. They have every right to be, and they have every right to not expect too much in 2013. Perkins, Mangino, Gill...everyone involved....tore our hearts out and sent us back to the dark ages. . Maybe we'll claw our way out, but I won't get my hopes up.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

You remind me of...well me.

Up until Lew Perkins took my idealism, rolled it up, and smoked it.

Godspeed, ralster.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

Oh, ralster,

My old friend...the beacon of hope and optimism. I've told you, as always, I admire your attitude. You should be irritated by fans like me. All I ask is to not paint me with the "fairweather" brush like some may.

Bottom line is, if I didn't care about KU football, I wouldn't be on here.

The biggest problem from what I can tell going into this season is that I can't see a reason to believe in an improvement on offense. I know Heaps is supposedly better than Crist, but from what most of you speculated last year, the QB wasn't really the problem; moreover, it was the receivers.

Well I fail to see significant upgrades to that position. Patterson and Beshears were more athletically talented than this group, and they did NOTHING. And the highly touted McCay isn't receiving much praise in the offseason. From what I understand, "run of the mill" is a common phrase being used to describe him.

So it's possible we'll have to rely on our running game, which although stellar last year, will be without our three best veteran linemen.

As far as defense? We were pathetic last season, so I don't see us getting any worse....unless of course we only start 8 men. Which is, of course, all opposing defenses needed to start against us to shut down our powerhouse offense......that threw ZERO TOUCHDOWNS TO WIDE RECEIVERS.

My expectations tempered. My heart goes out to those who still believe, but conjurring up belief is becoming an exhaustive and fruitless endeavor. Much like I tip my hat to die-hard Royals fans; of whom will never see their dedication rewarded.

But keep me in check, ralster. I truly wish for the day you can say, "I told you so, Reuben."

Jason Keller 1 year, 8 months ago

Didn't we bring in a Juco WR who is on the ESPN Juco100? Yes, his name is Rod Coleman. Also, Ishmael Hyman is supposed to be big time. The guys you are talking about were like 5'8... and I have news for you. They weren't that athletic. We've upgraded at WR... just look at the size. Rod 6'2, McCay 6'2, Turzilli 6'4, Chris Omigie 6'4...we're much bigger and physical at that position.

Lance Cheney 1 year, 8 months ago

In Reuben's defense, all that size doesn't matter if they can't catch the ball. Sorry, just playing devil's advocate...

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

Turzilli was decent at best. Parmelee was a disappointment, and Omigie couldn't catch a pass if both his hands and the ball were covered in velcro.

And as for the "cavalry?" We all know that JUCO players define the term "hit or miss." The incoming guys are nothing more than filler until proven otherwise.

McCay was supposed to be our star. And it's clear in Keegan and Tait's writing that they really want to build him up into a great player, but they've seen nothing in practice that merits it.

bad_dog 1 year, 8 months ago

"but they've seen nothing in practice that merits it."

Other than Tait's comment that McKay caught everything thrown his way yesterday. As did Christian Matthews...

KGphoto 1 year, 8 months ago

I came into every season for about the first 15 years after Ewing Kauffman died, with high hopes for the Royals. All through the years trying to find ownership, and well into Glass’ tenure. It wasn’t until I figured out that Glass has no real desire or intent to win games (He only wants a profit, so he sells off the talent we farm up.) that I stopped getting my hopes up. If the owner has no desire to win, and in fact stands in the way of winning, then I have no desire to follow them. It sucks!

It’s not like that at KU. Zenger wants it! Weis wants it! These players can almost taste it, and as a fan that’s enough for me. I’m all in.

6-6 and a bowl win! In your face, Cogburn! : )

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

Good point, KG. All in good fun.

I believe in Zenger's intentions. But I still have a hard time believing Weis will be here more than 3 years.

Micky Baker 1 year, 8 months ago

If you want to use the win loss record as the main measure in improvement, then as soon as Kansas is 3-0 going into the bye week, do I expect them to actually say it's an improvement? NOPE. They'll say "it was just SD, Lafayette, and Rice". Mark it.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

Wichita State will lose by no less than 20. Syracuse will be the national champion.

...and KU will lose to Rice by a touchdown. Late in the game.

Why?

Because with the exception of 2007, the University of Kansas does not (generally speaking) win football games on the road. Statistically speaking, it would be foolish to favor KU in any road game. Look up the numbers sans 2007, and only a fool's hope will keep you from agreeing with me.

If the game was in Lawrence, I would say KU starts the year 3-0.

Lucas Town 1 year, 8 months ago

I will wait until the season starts to see if we have improved. I had a coach in high school later tell me that "everyone looks like an all-american until game day, that's when you find out if your improving." I am not going to buy into anything Keegan or Tait writes any longer. Last year every week was filled with optimism and every week we had nothing to cheer about once the game was over (unless you believe in moral victories and silver linings). I like reading what others contribute to the discussion because some people might know someone who has insight to the program. I am not even going to read into the spring game, this fall will tell us everything we have been waiting for. RCJHGKU!

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

Finally a comment I can agree with wholeheartedly.

Micky Baker 1 year, 8 months ago

Nothing to cheer about? "Drama Queen". Time for some fans to show some maturity. Sure, you can have this opinion all your life if you want, but there were certainly games last year that you probably left early during them, even the ones televised. You changed the channel didn't you and didn't watch. I'm right about this aren't I?

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 8 months ago

I watched every grueling minute of those games, partner.

But you probably have us pegged with the Drama Queen comment.

Bob Bailey 1 year, 8 months ago

Glad to see Cogburn on here. He seems realistic, but they all seem to drop the ball.

The key to winning games is 'Defense'. Nobody writes abut it! The hero's on the team get a lot of talk about 'Offense'. receivers, etc. Doesn't anyone know about Defense? No one seems to realize the key basis is Tackling. No one says a word about Tackling. Last year (after something like 65 years) I gave up on the Jayhawks after 4 games. They couldn't tackle! No one shows me a coach that can teach tackling! No one talks about the Defensive motto "Don't let them score on you." A sure way to guarantee they will.

A Defensive coach MUST know how to teach tackling; must know about 'coverage'; ,The Defensive Scheme' is way, way behind those 2 points! The right 'motto' needs to be The Defensive Team can score more points than their Offense. Chek out last year's game against Northern Illinois--we got ahead when they ran back an interception! But it didn't last long.

When you get on the ball with Defense, then there is hope for optimism. Meanwhile, Cogburn is right!

Jim Jackson 1 year, 8 months ago

Mangino followed the exact same pattern that Snyder followed; loading up on JUCO players (after his first season) and we went to the Tangerine bowl that year after a prolonged bowl drought.

Weis and co. are better talent evaluators and also have inherited better talent than Mangina did.

We are going bowling next year and I can't wait!!

Rock Chalk!!!

Adam Tyler 1 year, 8 months ago

I like Weis. And I like where he is guiding us. But what has he done in college to prove he is better than Mangino at evaluating talent?

hammerhawk 1 year, 8 months ago

Just as long as we beat ksu. I've got a lot at stake with that game. Come on Hawks. Get 'em!

Brian Conrad 1 year, 8 months ago

so sick of KSU fans crowing about co-champs.. win 3 games and one being KSU and I will donate to the Williams fund ! can be done.. we are 6-4 over last ten with puke purple..

CrystalJones 1 year, 8 months ago

No, we are 4-6 against them. They've won 6 out of the last 10 against us, and 16 out of the last 20, for that matter. And they've outscored us 174-44 over the past 3 games, 2 of which were in Memorial. Ugh. We really need to beat them.

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