Oh well, at least nothing was falling from the sky during the Kansas University football team’s annual spring game. Yet, plenty else was falling, including the sky itself. The big black cloud that hovered over the stadium seemed appropriate.
Other falling objects: The starting quarterback, with a knee injury, smoked by a walk-on linebacker who apparently momentarily forgot the QB wears a red-shirt that identifies him as a player who must not be tackled. When Micheal Cummings went down, so did the Jayhawks’ chances of winning a game during this coming fall’s 12-game schedule, although the extent of his injury was not yet known, according to coach David Beaty. Those chances fell two more times when it was announced that wide receiver Rodriguez Coleman and running back Corey Avery, the team’s two most talented players, were indefinitely suspended for violating team rules.
“Their future in the program is uncertain,” Beaty said of Coleman, a veteran of supsensions, and Avery, the team’s leading rusher as a freshman last fall.
The past two springs, Coleman has stood out, making every eye at every open practice lock on him because of his effortless speed, smooth stride and quick cuts. He opened last season serving a suspension for a team-rules violation and never worked his way back into serious playing time. He looked so smooth again this spring, and now this. In between his suspensions, he was involved in a fight at, you guessed it, The Cave. If only he were as good at life as he is at football.
Already rocked by the losses of experienced talents Nigel King, a wide receiver who declared a year early for the NFL draft, and two-year starter Isaiah Johnson, a safety who graduated and transferred to South Carolina, KU has precious few talented players remaining, even if Cummings’ injury is not a serious one.
Michael Glatczak, a walk-on safety, made the hit. Ever-the-good teammate, Cummings told Beaty that someone accidentally pushed Glatczak into him.
“They know they’re not supposed to touch that guy,” said Beaty, who related that his vision of the play was blocked, so he didn’t know whether Glatczak was shoved. “When they do, they get a mouthful from every guy on our staff, not just me. Clint Bowen is a raging lunatic at practice if you get close to that quarterback. We always stress that.”
The play just reiterated that the state of KU football is in the midst of getting worse before it gets better, but that’s usually the way it works.
As for the game itself, tight ends Ben Johnson and Kent Taylor looked like keepers, so look for them to play together a lot with Taylor split wide.
“The way we do our personnel, we’re going to find our best 11 guys,” Beaty said. “If you’re one of those guys, you’re not standing next to me. We don’t tab you as an X or a Z or a Y or even an H. We rank them top four, second four. You want to get in that top eight.”
Defenses typically look better in spring football games because no team wants to reveal much of its offense to opposing programs who will dissect the tapes. The defense has a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Even so, neither the first-team nor second-team offensive line looked particularly quick or strong.
The wide receivers looked so small. So many walk-ons had to play so many snaps at so many different positions and many of them didn’t look out of place going against the scholarship players. At one point, the cornerback coach’s son handed off to one of the program’s two sons of the team orthopedist for a nice rushing gain. Walk-on quarterback Frank Seurer Jr., son of the former KU QB, made a couple of nice plays at safety, his new position. Walk-on linebacker Cameron Rosser made a couple of big hits.
The two biggest surprises of the day involved the size of the crowd. First, it was surprising that given the forecast for weather and for success on the football field, so many loyal spectators showed up. Perhaps they were grateful that the practice of over-hyping players relentlessly has been abandoned and replaced by a gentle telling of the truth, and that truth is that it’s going to take time. Years.
The second surprise came when the crowd estimate was announced as 6,227. There weren’t that many people in attendance. Maybe more than 4,000, but not 6,227. Impressive turnout, whatever the real number. Their patience will be tested. Again.