At the midway point of spring football practices, Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps noticed he and his teammates had flipped a switch and started treating each day a little differently.
Heaps recently recalled the moment he saw the team go from its regular practice pace to a breakneck speed that has made the second half of the spring session much more intense than the first.
“One of the practices we had a short-yardage period, offense against defense, who’s gonna get the first down,” Heaps began. “The trash talk started, guys were competing, and everybody was having fun. That’s how it should be. You have to take practice seriously, but it might as well be fun, too.”
That short-yardage session lasted just a few minutes, and, pushed for the results of the drill, Heaps turned a brighter shade of red and said it went back and forth. It was clear that he did not care which side won the drill, only that the competition sparked something in his teammates.
“After that, guys got a taste of it and it was like, ‘Wow, that was fun. That was cool,’” Heaps recalled. “As a leader, you use those opportunities and go, ‘Yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to be every day.’ Ever since that, we’ve carried that attitude all the way through.”
Pierson catching on
Throughout the spring, junior tailback Tony Pierson has been given plenty of time to get used to his new role. KU coach Charlie Weis said that, rather than have Pierson play half the snaps and spell starting tailback James Sims, Pierson will be on the field for most of KU’s offensive plays this fall.
The 5-foot-10, 171-pound speed back has shown what he can do in the running game, and this spring he and Heaps have worked hard on developing Pierson’s skills as a receiver.
How much does Pierson expect to be used in the passing game?
“During the spring, it’s been like 80 percent pass, 20 percent running,” Pierson said.
The always-confident Pierson knows what he can do as a receiver, but it’s best to let his teammates tell how much of a difference his new role can make for this year’s offense.
“He just opens things up so much more,” Heaps said. “He’s scary-dynamic. He’s fast. He catches the ball well.”
Heaps did not stop there.
“He’s done it multiple times this spring,” he continued. “All it takes is for him to catch the ball, make one guy miss, and he’s gone. To put him in the position where he’s only gotta make one or two guys miss versus all 11 guys miss, it’s exciting. And that’s basically what we’re trying to do with Tony, put him in the best position we can to have him make some game-breaking plays.”
Sims, who used to share carries with Pierson, also likes the idea of the East St. Louis, Ill., native getting more field time this fall.
“Tony’s one of the best in the country, if not the best, as far as making big plays,” Sims said.
Train like a Jayhawk
The Jayhawks once again plan to host the popular “Train Like a Jayhawk” kid’s clinic from 10-11 a.m. Saturday, a couple of hours before kickoff of the annual spring game.
The clinic is open to children in grades 1-6 and will feature instruction and drill stations taught by the current Jayhawks. All activity will take place on the KU football practice fields adjacent to the southeast corner of Memorial Stadium. Each participant will receive a free T-shirt.
Following the clinic, the Hy-Vee Hawkzone will be open from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with the spring game kicking off at 1 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
Weis and the KU football program will host a barbecue Friday for any former KU football players who can make it. It’s the second such alumni cookout under Weis.
For information or to RSVP, contact Tracey Dillon at firstname.lastname@example.org or (785) 864-3142.