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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Jayhawks’ tight end competition wide open this spring

Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine heads into the endzone for a touchdown past Rice corner back Malcolm Hill during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas tight end Jimmay Mundine heads into the endzone for a touchdown past Rice corner back Malcolm Hill during the first quarter on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

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With Notre Dame transfer Mike Ragone gone and four tight ends vying to snag his snaps, tight end is one of the more intriguing positions on the Kansas University football roster this spring.

While a couple of the guys battling for playing time have logged experience in the past, none of them are considered known commodities.

“It’s anybody’s time,” said KU tight ends coach Jeff Blasko. “It’s all fair game, the depth chart is fluid and we’ll go from there.”

Jimmay Mundine is listed No. 1 at the position on KU’s pre-spring depth chart. During his first couple of seasons in town, Mundine, a 6-foot-2, 242-pound junior from Denison, Texas, has shown bright spots a pass catcher, but most of his opportunities have come during mop-up time. According to the coaches, something clicked for the big body in the offseason that has them excited about his potential in 2013.

“I have been very pleased with Jimmay in just about every facet since the season ended,” KU coach Charlie Weis said. “He changed his body and is in great shape. He is one of those guys that has emerged as a leader and we did not know he had that in him.”

When asked to explain what changed with Mundine during the past few months, Blasko pointed to the positive feedback he’s heard for the work he’s done.

“I think he’s a guy that feeds off the confidence,” Blasko said. “And when he plays with confidence he takes his game to another level and that’s something we’re excited about moving forward.”

Junior Trent Smiley, who played in all 12 games last season and was used primarily as a blocker, will be a non-contact player this spring because of offseason shoulder surgery and incoming freshman Ben Johnson, of nearby Basehor-Linwood High, won’t arrive on campus until June.

That leaves senior Charles Brooks and red-shirt freshman Jordan Smith as Mundine’s direct competition for reps this spring. Both have a chance to work their way up the depth chart quickly, according to Blasko.

“To me, it’s fun because of the competition that it brings to the table,” Blasko said. “When things get hot and heavy and the competition arises, you really get to see a kid’s true personality. Some kids crumble and some kids elevate their play.”

Brooks, a junior-college transfer in the recruiting Class of 2012, played in just one game last season and rarely showed the speed, athleticism and big-play ability the coaches saw when they recruited him.

“He obviously was a disappointment,” Blasko said. “We had higher expectations for Chuck in Year 1 and Chuck had higher expectations for Year 1. But we’re erasing the past, we’re moving forward. He feels more comfortable here. He feels more in the offensive system now and the terminology and all those things and we’re anticipating him to be much improved.”

Smith hits spring drills with perhaps the most balanced set of all-around skills of all of KU’s tight ends. Although he lacks experience, he’s both a physical presence who has good hands and athleticism. He also looks nothing like the player who reported to campus last June.

“He’s another guy whose body has completely transformed,” said Blasko, noting Smith now weighs 247 and has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle since arriving on campus. “His strength right now is the point-of-attack blocking. He plays with good pad level, he’s tough, he’s nasty, he plays with some fire. The pass game is his area where he’s got ability but we just need to fine-tune some things to get him better.”

The Jayhawks ran through practice No. 4 of the spring on Tuesday and will hit the field again Thursday before taking 12 days off for spring break.

Comments

Doug Roberts 1 year, 1 month ago

I can count on one hand the number of passes tight ends caught last year. I seriously hope that changes this year.

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Jayhawker111 1 year, 1 month ago

Jimmay Mundine is good. He will be the guy. Just need somebody to get him the ball.

Last year the play calling never did utilize the tight ends.

That has gotta change.

Mundine is a weapon that needs to be fueled.

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 1 month ago

Trent Smiley made a diving catch last year that was phenomenal. Can't remember which game it was...but it was impressive.

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schmucker 1 year, 1 month ago

Are the message boards ever coming back?

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phog1004 1 year, 1 month ago

In all actuality Crist was ok (not good) at hitting the TE's, it was the WR's he was atrocious at hitting, but I do agree with you that Heaps needs to be a ton better in every facet of the game. That being said, even if Heaps is only marginally better, it should technically help this teams outcomes a ton. I mean we were about 5 plays away from winning 5 games, and Crist was dead last in the country in some of the QB statistics (DEAD LAST!!)....so even if Heaps is only the 80th best QB, or 60th best QB, it should reflect very positively on the W/L column, theoretically.

On a related note, apparently Crist really helped himself out playing in those 2 all-star games, and winning the MVP in one of them???? NFL Draft Scout has him as the #19 overall QB (out of 143), and has the first 17 being potentially drafted!! Can this guys seriously play himself into a round 7 flyer with a good pro-day this Friday ?? For comparison sake, Jantz from ISU is listed as the #33 prospect, Seth Doege from TTech is #21, and Colin Klien is #17 (and listed as potentially draftable, but probably as a TE if he is willing to convert)

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 1 month ago

It would be nice to have someone who can throw the football to them.

We'll see if Heaps is competent, or if he "Crists" out.

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Jim Erickson 1 year, 1 month ago

Would love to have the athleticism and talent to run the occasional double tight end set. I hated the guys, but Rucker and Coffman were tough to compete against. Obviously I would settle for a single stud tight end, something we have not had since Fine.

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