Before the pom-poms waved, the band played and supporters of Kansas University football cheered on the 2016 team during Saturday’s annual spring game at Memorial Stadium, the crowd of 1,200 fans, along with the players and coaches on the field, kicked things off with a moment of silence for former KU running back Brandon Bourbon, who on Friday was found dead near his hometown of Potosi, Mo., after a six-day search.
Second-year Kansas football coach David Beaty explains the scoring system implemented during the Jayhawks' open practice at Memorial Stadium, and answers questions about KU's progress this spring.
With Bourbon’s smiling face plastered on the Memorial Stadium video board, heads bowed and prayers went up for the 24-year-old former Jayhawk who committed suicide last week.
KU coach David Beaty said the news of Bourbon’s passing came as a harsh blow to several players on his team, many of whom knew Bourbon well and stood next to him during his five-year career as a Jayhawk. And Beaty said he believed getting back to football proved to be therapeutic in a sense.
“It’s been a rough 24 hours around here for our team because of Brandon Bourbon and the loss of one of our family members,” Beaty said. “There’s been some hard individual talks with those guys over the last 12 or 15 hours. Some of them haven’t gotten a lot of sleep. But that’s what it means to be a Jayhawk. They really, truly care about each other. There’s a bond there that it’s hard to describe.
“I think it was a healing day because that’s what Brandon would have wanted us to do, is go out there and play Jayhawk football, so that was fun getting out there and getting that done.”
Linebacker Joe Dineen, who played with Bourbon as a true freshman, agreed with Beaty and said it was good for him and his teammates to “get back to something familiar.”
“His name echoes throughout the halls here as one of the genuine, good dudes that was on the team,” Dineen said of Bourbon. “It’s so sad to hear what happened.”
With funeral arrangements still pending, Dineen said Beaty made it clear that the program would work with any players that wanted to attend Bourbon’s memorial services.
Senior quarterback Montell Cozart on Saturday wrote the words “RIP 25” on his uniform towel, and Beaty made sure to stress the creation of a GoFundMe account put together to support Bourbon’s family.
“That GoFundMe account is GoFundMe.com, Brandon Bourbon Funeral Funds,” Beaty said. “And, if you would, just continue to mention that for us because I know the family is in need right now.”
Willis still sidelined
Several starters did not play in the spring game, including quarterback Ryan Willis, who sat out because of a wrist injury.
Cozart started in his place, and the depth at quarterback fell out like this behind him: No. 2 Keaton Perry, No. 3 Carter Stanley, No. 4 Deondre Ford.
Willis’ absence was most notable in the lack of down-the-field throws and four interceptions tossed by the four KU QBs who did play.
Beaty said last year’s eight-game starter remains on pace to recover in time to compete this summer and into preseason camp.
“He’s actually gone through a lot more than probably what people think because he’s actually healing pretty fast,” Beaty said. “He’s a tough kid. He’s taking snaps. He’s working inside with us, and on occasion he will go through plays. We won’t let him throw it, but he’ll go through plays and take us through his reads with his feet and his shoulders, so he’s getting a lot of work that way.”
Former Kansas University cornerback Chris Harris kept his triumphant year going with his first victory as a head coach.
Harris, who coached his alumni squad to victory over Darrell Stuckey’s crew, was a huge part of the Denver Broncos’ run to a win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 in February in Santa Clara, Calif.
In all, 40 former players were listed on the alumi rosters, and several more filled the stands to support the program.
For the second year in a row, 90-year-old Bryan Sperry stole the show by scoring a touchdown on a reception late in the alumni game.
Although it was clear that Saturday’s spring game left plenty to be desired and highlighted many areas that the Jayhawks still need to improve, Beaty said his team had come a long way since this time last year.
“Year one to year two, night and day in terms of just how we practice, how we look, how we’re conducting our business in spring,” he said. “They just got a little bit more maturity about them, which experience gives you, and really understanding kind of what we want, playing smarter. It’s been night and day in that regard.”
This and that ...
Frank Seurer Jr., a former quarterback turned safety, led the Kansas defense with eight tackles. He also tallied one of KU’s seven tackles for loss. Earlier in the day, his father, standout Kansas QB Frank Seurer Sr., threw passes during the alumni game. ... Colin Spencer, Hudson Hall, Cameron Rosser and newcomer Stephan Robinson all recorded interceptions in Saturday’s victory by the White team. ... Defensive ends Kellen Ash and Damani Mosby were credited with sacks.
... Ten Jayhawks hauled in two receptions or more in the Blue team’s loss, including freshman Keegan Brewer (5-49) and sophomore Steven Sims Jr. (3-45). KU’s QBs completed 30 of 61 passes for 316 yards, 2 TDs and 4 interceptions. ... Temperature at kickoff was 66 degrees, under sunny skies with winds of 13 mph out of the southeast.
— See what people were saying about Saturday’s spring practice during KUsports.com's live coverage.