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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

Bewareofthephog Fifety-Five 1 year ago

Game One: sneak past South Dakota 14-10

Game Two: defeat Rice 28-17

Game Three: we start to really come alive, and defeat LT 32-21

Game Four: out momentum keeps rolling and we beat TTU 28-0 (shutout)

Game Five: TCU gives us a scare, but we pull it out 13-10

Game Six: underrated JUCO guys give OU a rude awakening 56-6 W

Game Seven: in a high scoring game we win 74-60

Game Eight: we hook the horns 24-13

Game Nine: we show no mercy, and beat OSU 30-3

Game Ten: WVU, high scoring, we win 91-77

Game Eleven: we easily take sunflower showdown 35-21

Game Twelve: Bama keeps it close in the first quarter of the championship, then we rally and win 42-14

12-0 and BCS Champions.

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lisanancy727 1 year ago

until I looked at the draft which had said $7028, I accept that...my... mother in law woz like they say truly earning money in there spare time at their computer.. there neighbour has been doing this for only 10 months and just took care of the mortgage on their villa and purchased a great Honda NSX. we looked here, http://tiny.cc/jiv2uw

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Brian Conrad 1 year 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..

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hammerhawk 1 year ago

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

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Jim Jackson 1 year 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!!!

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Bob Bailey 1 year 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!

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Lucas Town 1 year 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!

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jayhawkintx1973 1 year 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.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year 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."

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Ralster Jayhawk 1 year ago

Just amazing to me that we "shouldnt" be optimistic in rooting for our team, because of the "past". It is frankly incredible how analytically stupid many KU fans are regarding not only football, but also basketball (ya, pick any thread under either sport and see half the comments). They only think in concrete, black-white, W/L type of ideas. Where's the ability to think in abstraction? Why do these teenager-mentality types never learn anything new? The "we-are-tired-of-losing" is so much like "are we there yet? Are we there yet?". The answer for the sports retards is "no, we (ku football) are not there yet". How about learning to see the strengths and weaknesses in last year's 1-11 team, and comparing them to the 2-10 Gill team prior? Are these people capable of that? Then compare this 2013 team to last year, and see what the difference was. What steps are needed to attack the problem areas? But no, too many KU fans are weak-minded, cant take their L like a man. While the team is busy trying to get better and keep working to try to earn W's...We are adding about 1/3rd of the football roster, kids arriving full of hope to play for us (same scenario in basketball), yet we have these dimwits-in-ku-tshirts that seemingly cannot be educated in the process of creating a winning mindset, and a winning team, ultimately. Those are truly the LOSER KU fans, sucks to be you.

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hawkfan20 1 year 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!

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Robert Brock 1 year 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.

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Andy Tweedy 1 year 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!!!

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Jeff Suther 1 year 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?

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Jason Keller 1 year 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.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year 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."

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John Randall 1 year 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.

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