The wait is almost over.
Beginning Friday, the Kansas University football team will hop back onto the practice field for the first time in months, marking the official beginning of the 2014 season.
While that means different things to different people — excitement for the players, longer hours for the coaches, fans holding their breath — there are more than a few things to watch the Jayhawks begin fall camp. Third-year coach Charlie Weis kicks things off with a news conference today, and players report to campus this afternoon and suit up Friday.
Here’s a quick look at some of the more interesting storylines as camp kicks off.
Who’s there? Who isn’t?
A few departures from last year’s team are already known, but there’s always the possibility that other returners may not return. In addition, roll call for the remaining members of the Class of 2014 recruiting class is always interesting. The most notable names in that group this season include defensive linemen Anthony Olobia and Damani Mosby and offensive lineman Devon Williams. It sounds like everybody is expected to report on time, but nothing’s ever sure until they’re here.
Cozart and the new offense
There’s no doubt that Montell Cozart’s development will be one of the most important factors in determining whether the Jayhawks are successful this season. By all accounts, Cozart had a solid summer. But how he looks running the show and acting as the leader of the offense when the season opener — Sept. 6 at home against Southeast Missouri State — is barreling down on him, will be tracked on an almost daily basis. Senior wide receiver Nick Harwell is eligible, the offensive line is still a work in progress and John Reagan has taken over as the offensive coordinator, so there are those wrinkles to watch, too.
Injury updates dry up as soon as the season ends in December. It will be interesting to see how guys like Tony Pierson, Taylor Cox and even Ben Heeney look after getting some time to recover from injuries that plagued them last season. And count on new injuries being revealed. There’s almost always someone who starts camp on the banged-up list.
Is urgency present?
For more than two dozen Jayhawks, Friday marks the beginning of their final fall camp and, therefore, their final season of college football. For a group that’s lost 30 games in the past three seasons and 39 games in the past four, that means there’s just one more shot to reshape their legacy. Having experienced seniors is something this team considers a big strength. How well those veterans lead and help develop the young guys who can help them win games will be crucial early.
The defense, which returns nine starters from last season and figures to benefit from another injection of talent (Kevin Short, Andrew Bolton and a couple of newcomers), has made clear its goal for 2014. The KU defenders want to be the best defense in the Big 12. Achieving that goal, however, doesn’t just happen. It starts with rep one on day one and these guys know that. The question will be, do they bring that kind of intensity to every drill throughout August so they’ll be hitting on all cylinders when the season rolls around?