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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Notebook: KU football O-lineman Colin Grunhard ‘doubtful’ this week

Kansas center Colin Grunhard looks in the direction of defensive lineman Caleb Sampson during the Jayhawks' practice on April 15, 2021.

Kansas center Colin Grunhard looks in the direction of defensive lineman Caleb Sampson during the Jayhawks' practice on April 15, 2021.

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The Kansas football team could be without starting offensive lineman Colin Grunhard again this week, when the Jayhawks open Big 12 play.

Head coach Lance Leipold said Monday that Grunhard, who was unavailable to play in the Jayhawks’ loss at Coastal Carolina on Friday due to a lingering injury, was considered “doubtful” for KU’s upcoming Saturday game versus Baylor at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium (2:30 p.m., ESPN+).

A 6-foot-1, 295-pound junior who joined the Jayhawks this past January as a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, Grunhard started at right guard in Week 1, while playing through some pain.

KU (1-1) started redshirt freshman Michael Ford Jr., one of the transfers from Buffalo who followed Leipold to Lawrence, at right guard against CCU with Grunhard unable to play.

After pointing out Ford, who entered the season in a battle for starting right tackle with Bryce Cabeldue, has bounced back and forth some the first two games, playing both tackle and guard, Leipold said Ford played “OK” at right guard in the Jayhawks’ 49-22 defeat at Coastal.

“I think Michael knows he can play better,” Leipold said. “We need him to play better. I look forward to that happening, as well.”

Ford, a 6-3, 295-pound O-lineman from Homewood, Ill., trained at both right guard and right tackle during KU’s preseason practices, but spent more time at right tackle.

Grunhard was slowed during the preseason with his injury but tried playing through it in KU’s Week 1 win over South Dakota.

Pass-blocking from tackles

Coastal registered six sacks during its third win over KU in three years. Leipold was asked Monday for his assessment of the O-line’s pass blocking at the left (senior Earl Bostick Jr.) and right tackle (redshirt freshman Cabeldue) spots specifically, and what they can do better.

“Every time that you get beat there’s something that can be corrected,” Leipold replied.

The head coach said he thinks on every sack CCU recorded, KU ran into a particular issue.

“It could be a body lean, it could be opening a shoulder, it could be lunging,” Leipold said. “There’s a lot of different things that have to go, and again, it’s something that’s being addressed and not neglected.

Leipold said KU offensive line coach Scott Fuchs is “working hard with those guys,” and that the staff and players know that not only do the Jayhawks need better protection from their tackles, but the offense as a whole needs to protect and execute better overall.

Eyeballs on KU vs. CCU

According to ESPN, Friday’s nonconference matchup between KU and Coastal drew an average of 1.3 million viewers.

Per ESPN, it was the most-watched college football game to air on ESPN2 since Sept. 21, 2019.

Comments

Dirk Medema 1 week, 5 days ago

“most-watched college football game to air on ESPN2 since Sept. 21, 2019”

A good sign? Not every sack is “fixable”. Sometimes the opposition is a superior player and even executing perfectly still leads to failure. It’s not a good answer from the head coach but a reality nonetheless.

Hopefully Colin is able to return healthy soon.

Dale Rogers 1 week, 5 days ago

I'd bet the high viewership was to watch the ranked CCU team and not us.

Pamela Shanks 1 week, 5 days ago

Who knows? Perhaps KU fans are reacting to the conference realignment call to action. Those of us who live out of state can contribute by paying up and tuning in. I hope some of that record was due to KU fans showing up. I hope that KU fans show up for the home game this week too! Rock Chalk!!

Andy Godwin 1 week, 5 days ago

As suggested before the season started this team will only be as good as their offensive and defensive lines. During the Spring game, the defense utterly dominated the offense, and that was before the defection of three of KU’s top defensive players to the SEC. It is clear from the Spring game and the two 2021 regular season games that the offensive line is not close to being ready to compete in the Big 12. Bean, Daniels, etc will continue to scramble for their lives and the running game will struggle until this unit gets fixed. Furthermore, the blocking on special teams was horrendous. I cannot remember in all my years of watching football seeing a defender literally hop over the space between the center and right guard to so easily block an extra point. It would be comical (watch the gif in the story about special teams), if not so sad to see the struggles across the offensive line. It does not appear that the new OL coach is making any progress with this unit; similar to his recent predecessors. So personnel or coaching - maybe a combination of both? It will be a very long Big 12 season if this unit does not improve substantially and soon.

Brett McCabe 1 week, 5 days ago

I think that there is room for optimism with this group. They haven’t played together as a unit for very long, and the system is still relatively new. I don’t think it will be a meteoric rise in play but, barring injuries, the line play should get noticeably better.

The challenge? The schedule.

Dirk Medema 1 week, 5 days ago

It’s scary to find myself agreeing with you Brett.

Another reason for optimism that I hope we don’t lose sight of - We’ve done it in the past where we head into a season knowing that x, y, or z will be a challenge and immediately flip out when we realize it is in a game. This staff has had half as long to work with the team as any program in the country, and most weren’t starting in a hole to begin with.

If the problems are as blatant as Andy points out, then that’s all the more reason to be encouraged that Coach is right about it being fixable.

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