They’ve met him, spent time around him inside Anderson Family Football Complex and even sprinted through conditioning drills as his watchful eyes observed.
But now, players in the Kansas football program will get to find out what it’s like to truly be coached by Les Miles.
The first of the Jayhawks’ 15 spring practices is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, as Miles and his staff start more thoroughly assessing the roster and trying to mold the athletes that are on campus into players that fit KU’s schemes.
As of yet, neither Miles nor the man he hired to coordinate the offense, Les Koenning, have revealed much about what style of football they envision the Jayhawks executing this fall.
But Koenning said recently that spring practices — which run between now and April 15 — will help the coaches figure out a lot about the offense.
“The ones that prove to us in the spring can make plays, they’re going to touch the ball. I mean, that’s good coaching,” Koenning said with a chuckle.
Here’s a look at some key positions to watch on both sides of the ball in the months ahead.
• Quarterback: The way Miles has spoken of Thomas MacVittie, a former QB at Pitt, it seems as though the 6-foot-5 junior was recruited with the starting job in mind.
But MacVittie will have to win that spot on the depth chart by proving himself a better fit for a successful offense than the other contenders, senior Carter Stanley, redshirt sophomore Miles Kendrick and freshman Torry Locklin.
• Running back: It remains unclear at this juncture what role, if any, that KU’s 2018 breakthrough star, Pooka Williams, will play this spring. Williams was suspended from team activities indefinitely after being charged with domestic battery in December.
In the meantime, senior Khalil Herbert and junior Dom Williams will discover how running backs are utilized in KU’s new offense.
• Offensive line: With 19 offensive linemen on campus right now, the Jayhawks have the depth to foster competition up front.
New O-line coach Luke Meadows will have both experienced upperclassmen and some promising younger linemen to coach up and evaluate, including seniors Hakeem Adeniji, Kevin Feder, Andru Tovi, Clyde McCauley III and Antione Frazier; juniors Malik Clark, Api Mane and Earl Bostick Jr.; and redshirt freshman Nick Williams.
• Receivers: The receiving corps will look completely different for KU in 2019.
Some of the leading candidates to emerge as go-to targets include senior Daylon Charlot, redshirt junior Evan Fairs, junior college transfers Ezra Naylor and Andrew Parchment, juniors Stephon Robinson Jr. and Kwamie Lassiter II, and redshirt sophomore Quan Hampton.
• Defensive line: New D-line coach Kwahn Drake will have more personnel to work with when some 2019 signees arrive this summer ahead of preseason camp, but for now, he’ll be looking to see what a mostly unproven bunch of returning players can provide at the front of defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s 3-4 scheme.
Some of the more promising defensive linemen in the mix include seniors Codey Cole III, Azur Kamara, Najee Stevens-McKenzie, Willie McCaleb, Darrius Moragne and Jelani Brown.
• Linebackers: At what looks to be the most inexperienced position on the roster, a number of players will have a chance this spring to prove themselves worthy of large roles this coming fall.
Among them are junior Kyron Johnson, senior Denzel Feaster, junior Dru Prox and redshirt freshman Kenny Bastida.
• Defensive backs: The bulk of KU’s experience lines up within its secondary.
What’s more, some of the program’s most important leaders are defensive backs, such as senior safeties Mike Lee, Bryce Torneden and Hasan Defense, and sophomore cornerback Corione Harris.
The Jayhawks have depth in the defensive backfield, as well, with the likes of junior safety Ricky Thomas, redshirt junior cornerback Kyle Mayberry, senior safety Jeremiah McCullough, senior corner Elmore Hempstead Jr., redshirt junior corner Elijah Jones and redshirt sophomore safety Davon Ferguson.