Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has been doing this long enough to know there is no reason for him to feel overly excited about what he sees out of players at an August practice that doesn’t even involve full pads.
Still, the Kansas football team’s assistant head coach said he can learn a little here and there about an individual, or even the defense as a whole during the first few days of preseason camp.
“The coverage stuff and movement stuff. You can determine if they know what they’re doing,” Bowen said. “Can they get themselves aligned? Can they get their eyes in the right spot? Can they read their key and react? You can determine all that stuff.”
Although cornerback qualifies as the least experienced position on KU’s roster, Bowen, who works directly with safeties during drills, said assistant Kenny Perry’s corners have shown some promise this week.
“I thought we really did some basic techniques better,” Bowen said of KU’s cornerbacks. “We talk about winning at the line of scrimmage and it takes trusting your footwork and trusting your eyes and not just hitting the panic button and turning and running.”
Bowen estimated the group — which includes sophomore Hasan Defense, junior Shakial Taylor and junior Antonio Cole (all transfers), as well as sophomore Kyle Mayberry, redshirt freshman Shola Ayinde, sophomore Julian Chandler and others — competed better at the line of scrimmage this week than it did at any point during spring practices.
An injury kept Taylor out of the mix throughout March and April, making the first day of camp “Day 1” for the 6-foot corner, as far as Bowen was concerned.
“Physically he was a pleasant surprise, so that was good to see,” Bowen said of the former South Dakota State corner.
Third-year head coach David Beaty also complimented Taylor’s ability.
“He is a guy that I think can really help us at the corner,” Beaty said. “Watching him on some special teams stuff was pretty cool to watch. He’s got great bend, great get-off. He can do a lot of things in the block game that I think can help us. That’s just after a couple days of going through rotations.”
At Thursday morning’s practice returning starting center Mesa Ribordy observed from behind drills without a helmet.
Offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, though, said Ribordy didn’t have a serious injury.
“He’s fine. It’s a precautionary thing,” Meacham said of the sophomore offensive lineman, who got hurt at Wednesday’s practice. “He kind of got rolled up on. It’s not a knee or anything.”
KU’s first-string center, Meacham said, could have practiced if necessary.
“OK, we’ve got 20 more of these things,” Meacham explained of the staff’s line of thinking. “Let’s not make it linger.
A couple days after Beaty reported receiver Kenyon Tabor and running back Octavius Matthews, both newcomers to the program this summer, were being held out of practices for medical testing, Tabor did some light work off to the side during practice.
“He’s got some issues with his back,” Beaty revealed regarding Tabor, a 6-4, 215-pound true freshman from Derby. “It’s going to take a little while. We’re going to be careful with him. He’s doing what he can. Hopefully some of the treatments that we have that we’re doing here over the next couple of days will really help.”
Beaty said KU should have a better idea next week of Tabor’s timetable, after seeing how he responds to treatment.
A 6-1, 200-pound junior, Matthews remains out. Beaty said the staff is waiting on “a second set of tests,” and he will provide an update on the running back’s availability as soon as possible.