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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Keegan

Column: Weis sees positives at camp

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Corey Avery might be the newcomer Charlie Weis has enjoyed watching the most, but he’s far from the only one who has caught the attention of Kansas University’s third-year head football coach.

Kyron Watson, a 6-foot, 235-pound freshman linebacker from East St. Louis, Ill., has a thicker build than most freshmen and moves better than most teenagers his size. Weis sounded more than a little excited Wednesday at the mention of his name.

“I’d be surprised if those two guys didn’t play this year,” Weis said of Avery and Watson. “I’d be surprised if they didn’t play the first game. Both of them are natural. Both of them are instinctive. Obviously, they lack in experience.”

Weis said Watson is pushing those ahead of him and described him as, “a sideline-to-sideline player. He’s got leadership that’s a little bit suppressed because he’s a freshman, but he’s one of those guys a little bit down the line that you can see that in him.”

Wide receiver Nigel King, the Maryland graduate who has two remaining years of eligibility, will be counted on to help Nick Harwell in upgrading what has been the nation’s least productive receiver group the past two seasons.

“Very pleased,” Weis said of King. “He’s another big physical guy that catches the ball and he’s not falling behind.”

Meaning?

“He takes notes, diligent notes, asks a lot of questions,” Weis said. “A lot of times players will not ask questions because they think it makes them look dumb. He’ll ask any question, ‘Hold on a second, coach (Eric) Kiesau, explain this to me again.’ That’s the sign of a polished guy who gets it. He’s playing himself up the depth chart, not down the depth chart.”

De’Andre Mann, a juco transfer at running back, remains in the mix.

“De’Andre’s challenging for No. 1 as well,” Weis said. “I mean, Brandon (Bourbon) and Taylor (Cox) have their work cut out for them with these two guys (Avery and Mann). There’s quite the competition.

“De’Andre’s a natural runner and he also has a second gear that’s good to see on the field because sometimes you’ll watch a junior-college tape and you’ll see them running away from people and you don’t know if he’s running away from them because he’s just better than them or does he have that true second gear? He does have that. And sometimes with a guy who’s 5-9, (198 pounds), you see that short stocky guy you say, ‘He’s not going to be able to run like that,’ but he can.”

In the defensive backfield, the deepest unit on the team, juco transfer Kevin Short has serious talent, but won’t start unless he earns it by matching his effort to his talent. Depth allows coaches to use more motivational tools.

Safety Anthony “Fish” Smithson, a sophomore junior-college transfer, plays behind Cassius Sendish, whom Weis labeled the best natural leader on the team.

“Fish is that close to being a starter,” Weis said, leaving a small gap between his index finger and thumb. “... I think Fish is waiting for his opportunities for playing time.”

Defensive lineman Andrew Bolton, a juco transfer who red-shirted last season to gain strength in his surgically repaired knee, is expected to start, but still is so much in learning mode, Weis said, that he’s still thinking instead of reacting.

John Duvic, a freshman kicker from Chicago, has a good shot at winning the job in a competition with Matthew Wyman.

Ideally, the roster would be talented enough and deep enough that newcomers would have their paths blocked by more experienced players. Kansas isn’t there yet, but does seem to have more talent, especially on defense, than in the past few years.

Comments

Andy Tweedy 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Nothing about the offensive line...BOO!!!

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The OLine has been mentioned in other articles. The plan is to solidify the starting 5 by the end of this week and move forward with those 5 playing together next week. I would guess next week is when we'll get a more detailed article in regards to the OLine.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm happy to read about the number of position battles going on and even happier that they involve some of the better players on the team.

The rebuilding of KU football is not an overnight process. Depth breeds competition, competition breeds improvement, improvement breeds wins. Right now, KU is building the depth of the program and there are some positions that are in the second stage because there is quality depth in place.

I will also say that even if Charlie Weis never gets the win column improved, he is going to leave behind a better foundation for success than when he got here and that cannot be said about the previous two coaches.

Doug Cramer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Aaron - I hope you're right about Weis leaving behind a foundation for success. Although the demographics times talent equation of this team would not suggest so.

We have to do better than last place rankings in the Big 12 with our recruiting, and the senior / junior laden demographics also doesn't help for his legacy / future performance of this program.

As like most seasons, the weaknesses of this team will be heavily exposed in the trenches...on both sides of the ball. Weis is talking up his D-line, although I have to see it to believe it. That unit looks awfully thin.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

.The DLine is in better shape than you give them credit for. The Olobia injury definitely hurts the depth, but the front line guys are better than you give them credit for. I do consider the Buck position as part of the DLine the Buck lined up on the DLine the vast majority of snaps last year. You like sacks as the indication of a DLine's strength and that's definitely part of the equation. Last year, KU was only 4 sacks away from being in the top half of the Big 12 in total sacks and finished 7th in the league overall with 21 sacks. KU only had 12 total in 2012 so that's a pretty big jump. In 2012, nobody had more than 1.5 sacks and in 2013, 5 players had more than that. KU had 5 sacks from the DLine in 2012 and had 14 sacks from the DLine in 2013. 10.5 of those DLine sacks are back this year and 17.5 of the 21 sacks total are back.

The KU DLine is by no means an elite DLine, but they're better than you give them credit for and most of that production is back this year.

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