Tuesday was the first time Kansas University quarterback Jake Heaps took a snap from new starting center Gavin Howard. And the hope for the struggling Kansas offense is that one week will provide time for quarterback and center to get in sync enough to allow KU’s offense to break out of its sluggish start.
If intensity and effort mean anything, better days could be ahead for the KU offense — particularly the offensive line — as the early reviews of Howard’s showing at center have been positive.
“Gavin’s a redhead, so he’s a meanie,” defensive tackle Keon Stowers said. “He’s a nasty, nasty guy, but he’s smart, real smart. He’s definitely a bigger frame. My first time going up against him in one-on-ones, I could tell he’s gonna be pretty good, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s gonna do this weekend.”
Asked to elaborate on what he meant by “nasty,” Stowers had no problem continuing.
“He doesn’t stop when he hears the whistle,” he said. “You gotta be disciplined, of course. And he’s smart enough to know that. But you gotta have that mean side to play offensive line. When you look at an offensive line like TCU, you see five guys like that. He’s bringing some new spirit to the offensive line, and I’m really excited to see what he’s gonna do.”
Heaps, who will take snaps from his third center in five games today at 11 a.m. when the Jayhawks (2-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12) take on TCU (2-3, 0-2), feels the same way.
“I think Gavin’s had a good impact on the offensive line,” Heaps said. “I really feel positive about the way the line is shaped up right now. They’ve come out with a different physicality and a different mentality, and you can just see it in the way they carry themselves.”
Lewandowski OK at LT
Junior Pat Lewandowski, one of the guys whom Howard is replacing, has moved to left tackle, where he spent most of the spring preparing to play, and does not appear to be pouting about being moved off the ball.
“I think he’s been really upbeat about it,” Heaps said. “This is something where he’s getting an opportunity to play the position that he thought he was gonna be playing all along. He worked extremely hard at playing center and trying to do the best he could for us, and I think he feels really good about this change and playing left tackle.”
KU defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt was a four-year letter winner at TCU from 1986-89 and, earlier this week, Wyatt talked about returning to his alma mater.
“I haven’t been back to Amon Carter Field since 1989, 1990,” Wyatt said. “I was a graduate assistant (coach), and it’s been a while. I’ve been back to the school, and I’ve seen some of the changes that they’ve made. It’s a little different than when I was there. But it’ll be good to go back and have some old memories pop up.”
In other KU-TCU connections, TCU linebackers coach DeMontie Cross was a member of KU’s coaching staff last season and left to join Gary Patterson’s staff in the offseason. Speaking of Patterson, TCU’s 13-year head coach was born in Rozel and hails from Larned. He is a 1983 graduate of Kansas State, where he played football for two seasons.
Today marks the 30th meeting between the schools in a series that dates back to 1942 and the second since TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012. TCU owns a 17-8-4 edge and is 7-2-2 in games played Fort Worth.
KU lost last year’s game in Lawrence, 20-6, in the Big 12 opener for TCU. Prior to that, the Jayhawks had won three straight over the Horned Frogs, with their last victory coming in 1997.
Horned Frogs heavy favorites
TCU enters today’s game as a 25-point favorite at most Las Vegas sports books. The line opened at TCU -24.