Kansas football coach Les Miles left a steamy preseason practice early Tuesday afternoon not drowning in sweat, rather once again in a buoyant mood.
Following what Miles disclosed would be the last camp practice during which the team tackled throughout, from start to finish, he opened his press conference by talking up some top offensive performers.
During the closed KU practice, which Miles said featured roughly 140 plays in total, including special teams work, a senior rusher seemed to leave a large impression.
“Khalil Herbert, he’s a really good player,” Miles said of the fourth-year running back form Coral Springs, Fla., adding that Herbert ran for about 70 yards on just six carries.
“I didn’t want to quite get to 10 carries for him,” Miles added, “because he’s going to play a lot of football as we get going.”
According to the head coach, the offense scored “right around six touchdowns.” Though he avoided naming any KU quarterback during his accounts of what transpired, he said the offense completed about 60% of its passing plays.
Shortly after his press conference, Miles replied “not likely” when asked whether he had named a starting QB.
Even if he wasn’t interested in discussing quarterbacks Thomas MacVittie and Carter Stanley on this day, Miles didn’t mind bringing up a couple of their targets in the passing game. Per KU’s coach, junior receiver Kwamie Lassiter II made three receptions for 100 yards and junior Stephon Robinson Jr. added five catches for 50 yards for the offense.
Although the 15th August practice began, Miles said, with the idea that the heat might force them out of David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium and into the indoor practice facility, some cloud cover and breeze allowed them to stay in the elements.
“It was a nice day,” Miles offered. “It was good, hard work. It was what we needed.”
Of course, the practice wasn’t totally flawless.
Miles mentioned, as he has in previous media sessions this month, that the appearance of yellow flags during team situations wasn’t to his liking.
“I’m barking about penalties,” Miles related after Tuesday’s practice.
“We still had a couple of motion penalties, but we were much less in pass interference,” the coach shared of miscues for both the offense and defense. “And, really, for that matter we were much less in motion penalties. So I think there’s improvement there and I know there’s a strong want to do that and be a quality football team.”
While briefly touching on some defensive standouts after Tuesday’s practice — Miles noted sophomore linebacker Jay Dineen is “doing a really good job” — the topic seemed to shift his focus to some of the youngest players on the roster.
Just as he did at KU’s media day a few days earlier, Miles spoke highly of some true freshmen from the Class of 2019, who seem in line to contribute this coming fall.
“Gavin Potter’s going to play just a lot of football,” Miles said of the freshman inside linebacker from Broken Arrow, Okla. “So get used to seeing him and being around him, because he runs well and he’ll hit you. He likes to play and he’s got a smile on his face when he does hard things. That’s kind of a key piece.”
According to Miles, KU has other freshmen that are “worthwhile,” as well.
“Mason Fairchild, really, he’s going to be something special, too,” Miles forecasted regarding the 6-foot-5, 250-pound freshman from Andale. “Can run and catch and blocks well. I think he’s going to be somebody that the Kansas faithful will enjoy.”
It remains to be seen whether KU will find impactful defensive linemen to play at the front of coordinator D.J. Eliot’s scheme. But Miles named Tuesday several candidates he thinks are stepping up during practices.
Freshman nose tackle Da’Jon Terry, listed at 6-4 and 345 pounds, Miles said, has a wide frame that will help him in the years ahead.
“He’s going to take centers in every league and give them headaches,” Miles said of Terry, from Meridian, Miss.
Senior defensive tackle Jelani Brown, KU’s head coach added, is “mobile and uses his hands well.”
Miles called former walk-on Sam Burt, whom he awarded this past week with a scholarship, “strong as a bull” at nose tackle.
“I think he’ll be able to play great in this back end of his career,” Miles predicted for Burt, a junior.
Though 6-7 senior defensive end Darrius Moragne, the coach revealed, has missed some time with a “nick” of some sort, Miles expects Moragne’s size and speed to prove useful.
Miles also mentioned junior Caleb Sampson (6-3, 280) before concluding: “There’s a number of guys that are there that give us an opportunity to play significantly, play at a high level.”