One of the top defensive backs in the NFL, former Kansas football star Aqib Talib has once again made headlines for the wrong reasons this week.
The ninth-year corner, who already has three interceptions and a touchdown return through five games this season for defending Super Bowl champion Denver, reportedly shot himself in the right leg this summer.
On Tuesday, the 30-year-old Talib told Denver’s 9News Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “may fit in” in the Broncos’ locker room. Talib’s comments came days after an old recording emerged of Trump using vulgar language while denigrating women.
Talib played at Kansas from 2005 to 2007 and ranks second all-time in program history, with 13 career interceptions (Ray Evans, who played in the 1940s, is first, with 17).
Watch the Talib clip below.
Former Kansas football star and Super Bowl champion Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos didn’t hold back Thursday in an appearance on ESPN’s Highly Questionable.
In the midst of an interview with co-hosts Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones, Harris offered his recollection of an infamous on-campus altercation between members of the KU basketball and football teams, back in 2009.
“Were you on the Kansas football team that lost the fight to the basketball Morris twins?” Le Batard asked.
Smiling, Harris responded: “We definitely won that fight.”
Jones followed up: “We hear the other way.”
As reported by the Lawrence Journal-World at the time, the brawl left KU guard Tyshawn Taylor with a dislocated left thumb weeks before the start of the 2009-10 basketball season.
According to LeBetard, Marcus and Markieff Morris’ account of the incident includes them back-to-back, taking on football players “over someone who was on the track team.”
Harris remembers the fracas differently.
“Nah, man. I mean that story right there, I think it was over one of the little track girls, but, I mean, we had 300-pound dudes fighting these basketball guys, so they definitely didn’t win,” Harris said. “I definitely watched it and seen it with my own eyes. We definitely won that for sure. I love the Morris twins, though. Those my boys, though.”
Furthermore, Harris claimed there wasn’t really a football versus basketball dynamic at KU.
“We (the football team, coming off back-to-back bowl-win seasons) were actually pretty good at that time,” Harris said. “I guess you could say they were running the campus. We were, too.”
Reiterating his love for the Morris twins, Harris said he had to have his football teammates’ backs during the heated disagreement, before again laughing at the idea of a humongous defensive tackles in a melee against slighter basketball players.
“It’s not fair to fight a 6-foot point guard or 6-7, 6-9 power forward. I think we had a little advantage,” Harris recalled, wearing a grin.
Harris, who played with volatile cornerback Aqib Talib at Kansas and is teamed up with him again in Denver, also shared on ESPN one of his favorite Talib stories from back in the day.
“I was a true freshman, and I was starting opposite of Talib, who was an All-American. We were playing Missouri. They had their whole team on the 50-yard line, and Talib just like ran through their whole team,” Harris said. “And they were warming up, running plays, and he like, they had to get the cops to come drag him off there, off their side of the field for warmups, back in the tunnel. So I was like, ‘Man.’ That was one of the craziest times I’ve seen Talib right there.”
Watch the entire entertaining segment with Harris below:
Beginning at 2 p.m., Kansas football coach David Beaty will meet with members of the media to discuss National Signing Day and the newest additions to the KU program.
Watch the press conference live right here, or come back and check it out later in the day.
Denver Broncos fan favorite Chris Harris Jr., a Pro-Bowl cornerback, has been proving his doubters wrong from the minute he arrived in The Mile High City.
Undrafted after starring at Kansas for four seasons, Harris had no choice but to take on a me-against-the-world mentality, because the NFL culture didn’t accept him. The 5-foot-10, 199-pound corner wrote about that battle extensively for The Players’ Tribune on Thursday, in a piece titled: Don’t Call Me Underrated.
His account kicks off with a reminder about his KU career — Harris started for four seasons, even as a freshman on a team that would win the Orange Bowl. But all 32 NFL teams passed on the experienced corner in the 2011 draft.
Upon joining the Broncos, Harris found out breaking through as an undrafted rookie would be even harder than he expected.
“There’s a huge stigma to going undrafted,” Harris wrote at ThePlayersTribune.com. “Not a lot of people talk about it, but there is. For a guy who’s drafted, and in particular drafted high, you’re allowed to make so many more mistakes. People want you to succeed, and any shortcomings you have are viewed as temporary. An ‘adjustment phase.’
“When you’re undrafted, you just don’t have that same margin for error. You have to go above and beyond — and then above and beyond that.”
Harris goes on to explain how other team’s coaches, players and some media members hope to see undrafted players fall flat and make a mistake.
“Because if you do make one, they can think to themselves, ‘Oh. That’s why he went undrafted. Okay. We’re fine. We did our jobs.’”
Harris provides an interesting perspective on the subject — one he would know far more about than those of us watching on Sundays do. He paints the NFL as quite a cliquish environment.
Along those lines, consider another point brought up by Harris. Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 4 overall player in the NFL for 2014. The guys ahead of him? J.J. Watt, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Houston.
Later, the NFL Network released a top-100 list. Somehow Harris didn’t even make the cut.
That makes almost as much sense as the Broncos’ official online store not selling Harris T-shirts (which it doesn’t).
Appropriately, Harris closes his story by pointing out the sure-fire way to get people to remember him: “Win the Super Bowl.”
You can watch Harris — with fellow KU product Aqib Talib — in prime time tonight, when his Broncos (1-0) play at Kansas City (1-0) on Thursday Night Football (CBS and NFL Network).
The Kansas football team and first-year head coach David Beaty are less than two weeks away from the start of a new season and a new era. But when one considers the long road ahead for the first-time head coach and the program in general, it’s hard to forget KU got to this point with the help of former head coach Charlie Weis.
ESPN’s Jake Trotter made that abundantly clear in a piece examining the state of KU football, referring to Weis’s two-plus seasons at KU — when the Jayhawks went 6-22 — as “utterly ruinous.”
Trotter points out KU would have been much better off hiring Gus Malzahn, then offensive coordinator at Auburn, instead of Weis.
“For Kansas, the Malzahn match made too much sense,” Trotter writes. “But in a defining decision, the Jayhawks changed course in the final moments and opted to go with the biggest name they could get.”
Malzahn, of course, went on to coach at Arkansas State for one season before returning to Auburn as head coach. The Tigers went 12-2 his first year and 8-5 in 2014. Who knows how he would have fared in Lawrence. But you get the feeling the guy could (eventually) win anywhere.
Maybe in a few years, once Beaty and his staff have time to recruit and train multiple batches of recruiting classes, he can win at Kansas, too — just like his former boss, Mark Mangino.
For the time being, the upbeat Beaty and his energy-filled assistants will have to begin a slow, steady rebuilding project this fall. A one- or two-win season seems likely to be in play at KU. As ESPN points out, since 2000, 20 major-conference teams have finished with one victory or fewer — including Weis’s 2012 Jayhawks. Trotter says Beaty has a “herculean task to keep the 2015 Jayhawks from joining that ignominious club.”
As you know by now, the lack of marquee returning starters and a deficiency in scholarship players are what make KU’s current situation so daunting.
And those are the reason’s Weis’s name will continue to come up as Beaty’s Jayhawks compete this season.
1:45 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS COACH CHARLIE STRONG
Charlie Strong’s first season in charge of the heralded Texas football program didn’t live up to his — or any of the Longhorns’ — expectations. UT did win enough games to gain bowl eligibility, but Texas finished 2014 with a 6-7 mark, and a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.
The Longhorns also got blown out in their regular-season finale, versus TCU, so Strong felt just plain angry about the way his first year in Austin turned out.
Strong said every person involved in the program enters 2015 as fired up about getting Texas back to its glory days as he is. The UT coach shared he spoke with the team’s seniors and it came up that they have yet to experience a double-digit win season.
“So it's more about them,” Strong said. “They want to show that what it's all about and what the university is all about and just how they want to go out and compete.”
From the head coach’s discussions with strength coach Pat Moorer this summer, he thinks numerous Longhorns are taking it upon themselves to step up and get UT headed in the right direction.
“But you know what, when you're at a place like here, it should be like that,” the second-year Texas coach said. “We shouldn't even have to have this conversation. It should get where each and every year we talk about competing.”
12:10 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA STATE COACH MIKE GUNDY
In 2014, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy decided to pull the trigger and insert a true freshman at quarterback late in the season. While he, of course, wishes the three games Mason Rudolph played hadn’t cost him a year of eligibility, Gundy still thinks it was the right move for the program then and now, and the Cowboys are seeing dividends from the move.
OSU went 7-6 overall last fall and 4-5 in the Big 12, but it won two of its last three games — including a win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl — with first-year QB Rudolph on the field. The team’s sudden late-season starter threw for 853 yards and six touchdowns (four interceptions) in those three games.
The way the Cowboys ended the season, Gundy said, led the staff to go ahead and name Rudolph the starter for 2015 long ago, even though there are other options on the roster, including J.W. Walsh. OSU’s head coach said the player who would have been a red-shirt freshman this season looks much different in his second summer in the program, and Rudolph is working hard and showing signs of toughness.
11:47 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
More leftover KU nuggets from Monday Fun Day in Big D...
• KU coach David Beaty said that senior Ben Goodman was “by far” the best leader the Jayhawks have on the roster, but that does not mean Goodman is the only leader. Late in the breakout sessions, I caught up with sophomore tight end Ben Johnson and asked him to rattle off the names of a few players who had emerged as leaders throughout the spring and offseason. After tipping his head toward Goodman as a somewhat obvious answer, Johnson listed senior wide receiver Tre' Parmalee, juco running back transfer Ke'aun Kinner, junior linebacker Courtney Arnick and junior quarterback Montell Cozart as some of the team's best leaders. Johnson also said he had done his best to fill the role vacated by Jimmay Mundine in terms of leading the tight ends and leading by example whenever possible.
• One other interesting note about leaders, Beaty said Michael Cummings has maintained a role as one of the team's best leaders, even while recovering from ACL surgery. “The day after he had surgery (in mid-June), he hobbled up to my office to talk about how he could help the team,” Beaty recalled. “We didn't have to talk about it because he already knew and had it in his mind, but I told him that day that the key now is for him to find a way to still help this team. And he has. He always has his arm around one of the younger guys out there and is trying to make this team better.”
• In the name-flying-under-the-radar category, it might be time to start looking a little more closely at red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Daniel Wise. There's a serious opportunity for some unproven guys to step up on the interior of the defensive line for the Jayhawks this fall and Goodman said he thought Wise, 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, was a guy who could definitely make some noise and hold his own in there. Another guy Goodman mentioned was senior Kapil Fletcher (6-3, 271), who played seven games a season ago after transferring to KU from Hartnell College.
• Speaking of D-Tackles, Goodman said he was not worried at all about those guys (and others) being able to handle the middle of the trenches for the KU defense this fall. “I played in there last year, out of position, at 250 pounds and I at least was able to hold my own. So I know those guys, who are around 280 or so, will be fine in there.” Time will tell, but Goodman brings up an interesting point.
• Every Jayhawk in attendance on Monday was asked to give their realistic expectations for the 2015 season. Although none of them gave a specific win total — and why would they? — you could tell that these guys believe they'll be better than people think. And why wouldn't they? From the sound of things, they've definitely been putting in the work it takes to be a successful team, it's just going to come down to the answers to these questions — Do they have enough talent to compete? Will a few guys step up from out of nowhere and make a big impact? And will they have enough depth to handle injuries and fatigue? At least as of now, the answers to those questions all look less than positive, but you can't blame the players themselves for being confident and believing that they can go out there and get the job done. That's an important part of it. How much it matters remains to be seen.
11:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
IOWA STATE COACH PAUL RHOADS
Like Kansas, Iowa State experienced a rough 2014 season. The Cyclones — the only Big 12 team to lose to the Jayhawks last fall — went 2-10.
Seventh-year ISU coach Paul Rhoads had plenty of issues to address in the offseason, and after surrendering 38.8 points a game to its opponents, defensive strides have been one area of focus.
“We’ve been porous, as far as stopping the run,” Rhoads said.
The coach thinks the defensive line will have depth and talent in 2015, though, and Rhoads said the Cyclones have six players returning with starting experience on defense and 10 more who played significant snaps. So he thinks continuity and seasoning will help the progress on that side of the ball.
On offense, the coach pointed out, ISU has 11 players who have previously started. It also will help to have offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the former KU head coach, back.
“I think Mark has a much better understanding of where the league is at,” Rhoads said, “going into his second season as offensive coordinator.”
11:08 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA COACH BOB STOOPS
Not many football coaches would consider an 8-5 season disappointing. Then again, not many football coaches work at programs such as Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished 2014 with fewer than 10 wins for just the second time in the past nine seasons.
“It’s not up to our standards and our expectations as a a program, for sure,” Stoops said of a down year that ended with a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
OU averaged 36.4 points a game in 2014 and 464.7 yards, but Stoops hopes to put up even larger numbers this year, with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (formerly O.C. at ECU) in place. Stoops said the Sooners need to move the ball more consistently and simply show a better ability to put points on the scoreboard.
A reporter asked Stoops if the program is where he wants it to be at right now, and he gave his numerous reasons for feeling optimistic. For starters, he has been at Oklahoma for 17 seasons (and won 168 games), and the Sooners are just a year removed going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl.
“I look around the country, we’re probably not the only team who was 8-5 or 7-6,” Stoops said.
In his time at Oklahoma, the team has finished with 10 or more victories 13 times.
11:03 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
A few leftover notes from KU's turn at Big 12 media days on Monday...
• Asked what surprised him the most so far about the job and taking over the KU program, KU coach David Beaty said the support and acceptance from the KU fan base had been the most surprising. He's well aware of how rough things have been the past few seasons and he does not blame anyone for being down on the program or taking a wait-and-see approach to being a fan. But he's been incredibly pleased by how welcoming everyone has been and how much so many fans have expressed to him how badly they want KU to have good football again.
• Beaty was asked about whether he thought the Big 12 should expand from 10 teams to 12 and he quickly passed through the topic. He did say that he thought finding schools that were the right fit was the most important factor if the conference were to expand and said he would rather see the conference stay at 10 schools than add just for the sake of adding and getting to some magic number. Asked if he had any schools in mind that he'd like to see the conference go after, he simply said, “No.”
• Asked how he came up with the three players who would represent KU at Big 12 media days this year, Beaty spoke to a team mantra that has become pretty popular in Lawrence and on Twitter this offseason: “They earned it,” he said of Jayhawk representatives Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith. “If we're gonna talk and say that we're gonna base everything we do on earning it and hard work then we're gonna do it with everything we do. Because if we don't, it's gonna lose it's punch.”
• History and tradition clearly mean so much to Beaty and he's done a lot already to make sure his team understands what came before them and what legacies they're trying to represent and honor. That's why he has made such strong efforts to get so many former players in front of the Jayhawks at practice and things like that and also why he has so regularly emphasized that everything these guys have today — the football complex, the TV exposure, the gear, etc. — has come about because of the blood, sweat and tears of former players who did not have it so good. That even extends to the 2008 Orange Bowl team, which Beaty said was sort of irrelevant to this group initially but no longer is because of the big deal they've made about how special that team was. “We're standing on the shoulders of giants,” Beaty said. “They were in the dungeon and we're in the Taj Mahal. It's important that we honor and appreciate that.”
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
BAYLOR COACH ART BRILES
A year ago Baylor football coach Art Briles had an arm he could trust in the Bears’ high-octane offense. But Bryce Petty’s days in a BU uniform are through.
That makes junior Seth Russell the quarterback for what is expected to be one of the nation’s top teams. At this point of Russell’s career, Briles said he doesn’t quite know what he has in the new No. 1 QB, compared to what he knew of Petty at the same stage of his career.
Briles and the Baylor coaches are still trying to figure out how Russell functions as an athlete, how he competes and how he processes it all. As he gets adjusted to his new role in the spotlight, Briles said he wants to make sure Russell doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“You just have to be good,” Briles said. “You don’t have to be great.”
10:00 a.m. Original post — By Benton Smith
We’re back in Dallas for another day of Big 12 football news conferences.
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks went through their media sessions yesterday and have completed their responsibilities, so we’ll share some notes and thoughts that haven’t been addressed yet, as well as the comments of the Big 12 coaches in attendance.
In the meantime, catch up on some of Monday's highlights:
5:05 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
There aren’t a lot of expectations for Kansas football this season. So Ben Goodman, Jordan Shelley-Smith and Ben Johnson didn’t anticipate hearing a lot of questions about wins or bowl games at Big 12 Media Days.
Goodman said while they respect people’s opinions, given KU’s recent struggles, they also easily keep themselves from feeling negative about outside perceptions.
“We just look at it as motivation, man,” Goodman said.
The Jayhawks know few in the college football world think they are capable of becoming relevant.
“We have to earn it, which is our slogan, but we have to earn people’s respect, too,” Goodman said. “Stay tuned in in Lawrence, and I hope we earn y’all’s respect.”
Since Goodman brought up “earn it,” I asked him how often David Beaty uses the two words.
“He says it a lot,” the senior defensive lineman said, before giving his impression of Beaty, which wasn’t quite as polished as Shelley-Smith’s. “‘Hey, man. Earn it. Earn it, earn it, earn it. Love you guys.’”
Beaty doesn’t mind those type of light-hearted moments, because he wants players enjoying themselves while they work toward restoring the program’s public image.
4:15 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
The interview portion of the afternoon just wrapped in Dallas, and Jayhawks Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith, as well as first-year coach David Beaty, spent over an hour and a half answering questions.
One of the highlights of the session had to be junior offensive lineman Shelley-Smith giving his Beaty impression, which of course included the team slogan, "earn it."
12:37 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS TECH COACH KLIFF KINGSBURY
A former quarterback himself, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has two quarterbacks competing to become the Red Raiders’ starter this fall.
Junior Davis Webb and sophomore Patrick Mahomes both have had individual success at times in their careers. Kingsbury said both will need to eliminate negative plays at the QB position for Texas Tech to win more games.
Both showed progress in the spring with ball security, but Kingsbury knows that has to carry over to actual games to mean anything. Whomever is named the starter, he added, won’t see a quick hook when mistakes come.
Kingsbury plans to name a starter “fairly early” in preseason camp, but if an injury takes place after one guy wins the job, he won’t be worried, because he thinks Tech has two players capable of winning games.
12:18 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KANSAS STATE COACH BILL SNYDER
After leading his Kansas State football team to a 9-4 record in 2014, coaching legend Bill Snyder heads into preseason camp with significant uncertainty at the most marquee position.
Snyder, who has seven quarterbacks on his K-State roster, said the Wildcats will open practices in a few weeks with four players sharing opportunities to become the starter. Ideally, one will emerge as the clear starter before the season begins.
“I don’t know how fast that will be,” Snyder said. “Right now, they’re all on equal footing.”
When questioned on the possibility of implementing a platoon, or two-quarterback system, Snyder said that won’t be the intent. He doesn’t favor that approach, but he hasn’t ruled it out, either.
One of the four leaders at this juncture is transfer Jonathan Banks, a sophomore from Contra Costa College. But because he joined K-State in the summer, so they haven’t seen him in practices yet.
Freshman QB Zach Davidson red-shirted in 2014. Sophomore Jesse Ertz played in mop-up duty last season. Junior Joe Hubener played in seven games a year ago.
“They’re all good young guys,” Snyder said. “They all care, they’re all good teammates.”
11:33 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
WEST VIRGINIA COACH DANA HOLGORSEN
Headed into his fourth year coaching in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen feels pretty confident and comfortable with his team.
Part of those positive vibes come from having more than 50 players who have been on the field in Big 12 football games. And some of the optimism originates from how competitive the Mountaineers were in 2014, when they went 7-6, despite having major issues with giving the ball away.
WVU was 120th in the nation in turnover margin last season, and four of its losses came by 10 or fewer points.
“We know we would’ve put ourselves in a position to win the conference,” Holgorsen said, if the Mountaineers had taken care of the ball.
Holgorsen has been known in his coaching career for his involvement in Air-Raid offenses, and he thinks his West Virginia version will only be as good as its quarterback.
Success with the Air-Raid, the fifth-year WVU coach said, comes down to taking care of the football. The Big 12 has had “tremendous” quarterback play through the years and many instances of pass-heavy offenses.
“The main thing when it comes to winning a championship,” Holgorsen said, “is guys that take care of the football.”
11:05 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KU COACH DAVID BEATY
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty opened his morning press conference at Big 12 media days talking about how excited he is to be back in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, one of the nation’s hotbeds of high school recruiting.
• Beaty said getting KU’s football program back on track will be a process, not an event. The new KU coach said he and his staff have high standards, and they have simple ways to reach lofty goals: work hard and earn everything.
• Beaty wants KU football to have a brand that is tough, competitive and fun for players to play in.
• On freshmen/first-year players: In college football these days, it’s hard to tell a player he will for sure red-shirt. Injuries are a part of the game, so depth usually becomes a factor. High school players are coming in more prepared than ever. But incoming freshmen will have to earn playing time.
• Beaty referenced his time at KU as an assistant under Mark Mangino. Some of the things Mangino created, in terms of good habits, are still there, according to Beaty.
• Senior QB Michael Cummings is a better kid than he is a player, Beaty said. His knee injury in the spring game broke Beaty’s heart. Cummings had surgery in June, and Bowen looked out his office window the other day and saw Cummings down on the field throwing the ball. If anybody can make it back this season, it’s Cummings.
• It was a no-brainer decision to keep Clint Bowen on his staff as assistant head coach. Beaty and Bowen, and their families, vacationed together this summer. Beaty likes the kind of person Bowen is, but also how much Bowen cares about the KU program.
• New offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has been a consummate pro. That’s probably the most impressive thing about him. Shelley-Smith has put on 65 pounds since converting from tight end and it should pay dividends for him.
• With two days of contact now the standard for practicing in the Big 12, it won’t change the way KU does business. The program will adjust to this and other changes that come in the college football landscape.
• Strength coach Je’Ney Jackson used to be at KU as an assistant coach and worked with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Beaty hired Jackson because of how talented he is. He likes the standards and expectations Jackson sets for the players.
• You need to have some depth at running back in college football, and Beaty thinks the Jayhawks have that. He pointed to Taylor Cox, Ke’aun Kinner, De’Andre Mann and Taylor Martin as the players KU will lean on at the RB position.
• High school coaches in Texas know Beaty and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry well, and they know when their kids go to KU they’ll be taken care of, and nothing will be given.
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
Some on social media wondered if Kansas football was going with "KU" on its helmets, without a Jayhawk logo.
But, as we saw last season, Kansas actually has a number of helmet options, and some of them that KU brought to Dallas have "KU" on one side and a Jayhawk on the other.
10:25 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TCU COACH GARY PATTERSON
This summer’s trip to Big 12 Media Days feels a lot different than the 2014 venture for TCU coach Gary Patterson. Twelve months ago, the Horned Frogs were coming off a 4-8 season in 2013, with few expecting much out of them.
“A year ago, you had to prove people wrong. Now you’ve gotta prove people right,” said Patterson, whose team went 12-1 last season after installing a new offense, and now is expected to battle Baylor for the 2015 league crown.
Patterson said entering this season as a Big 12 favorite only means so much.
“It’s a nice feeling, but I’ve been in this business too long to get caught up in it,” the TCU coach said.
Patterson has to stay even keeled, he continued, because then his team will do the same.
His best player, senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, has kept his cool this summer, as hype builds around the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Patterson said Boykin spent all summer doing seven-on-seven work with his offensive teammates, instead of leaving town to work with some “quarterback gurus.”
10:21 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
Just caught my first glimpse of KU coach David Beaty and the three KU player reps here in Dallas. Beaty and Ben Johnson elected to go with the light gray suit look while Jordan Shelley-Smith went dark blue and Ben Goodman went with the dark gray. All of them look sharp and they're all rocking the Jayhawk pin on their jackets.
A lot of teams just wear slacks and team polos to this event but the KU players always have tried to make sure they look as sharp as they can.
I think part of it is that they want to make sure they look like a top-level team so that people will treat them like one in spite of their record during recent seasons.
Beaty will hit the podium at 10:40 for his first official Big 12 Q&A.
Original Post: 9:25 a.m. — By Matt Tait
Like it or not, Big 12 football media days in Dallas always sort of represents the unofficial end of summer and the infant beginning of another college football season.
And it has arrived.
Four representatives of the Kansas University football team, along with players and coaches from the other nine Big 12 schools have invaded the Omni Hotel in Dallas to talk about the upcoming season, the challenges facing college football today and any and every other quirky and comedic thing they can think of to represent their schools and teams and kick off the 2015 season in style.
KU will be represented by first-year coach David Beaty, who should flourish in this setting, as well as players Ben Goodman (senior defensive end), Ben Johnson (sophomore tight end) and Jordan Shelley-Smith (junior offensive lineman).
Those three players, though not widely known throughout the conference will be in charge of answering all of those tough questions the Jayhawks normally get down here — Why is it so hard to win at Kansas? What's it like to lose so often? Will this year be any different than the previous five? And so many others like that.
I saw the KU contingent in the lobby when we checked in last night and they don't appear to be concerned with those types of things. Instead, they're excited to be here, ready to represent KU well and looking forward to showing people that there's more to football and the teams in the Big 12 than the results on the field.
I wouldn't expect to hear any outlandish comments from any of these guys. They're respectful young men who understand that the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk. But I'm sure they'll be happy to share with us how hard they've been working this offseason and why they're optimistic about what's ahead.
As for Beaty, you can bet he'll give some colorful quotes, simply because he uses such interesting and entertaining language. But you can also bet that you'll hear him speak the words “earn it” about a million times and also will NOT hear him call his team or anyone else “a pile of crap.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is speaking to the media to kick things off and the coaches press conferences get rolling at 10:05 with TCU coach Gary Patterson. Beaty is set to speak for the first time at 10:40.
Keep it right here for all of your coverage from Day 1 of Big 12 media days from myself and your guy Benton Smith.
Kansas University's football team recently announced its fans will decide which of three uniforms the Jayhawks will wear for their season-opener on Sept. 6.
It's a good idea and promotes interaction between the fan base and the program. But the uniform promotion will only dictate the way KU looks for one Saturday in September.
Well, former KU basketball stars Marcus and Markieff Morris are about to allow fans to have their say on something far more permanent.
The Morris twins, ESPN The Magazine announced, will let the public pick their next tattoo.
The idea came about as a tie-in to the upcoming "fansourced" issue of ESPN The Magazine.
The Morrii, now teammates with the Phoenix Suns, have been adding ink to their frames for years.
Their next additions will either feature dogs, a tribute to their grandma or the acronym they popularized while playing at Kansas, F.O.E (family over everything).
Fans can cast their vote by tweeting to @ESPNMag with one of the following hashtags: #DOGS, #GMA or #FOE.
If KU fans get involved, here's guessing it will be FOEOE (FOE over everything).
Update: 12:15 p.m. - By Benton Smith
The Oklahoman's Berry Tramel did the math, and since Kansas State first hired coach Bill Snyder, the other programs in the Big 12 have had 48 coaches.
"When you hear stuff like that thrown out by people like us," Tramel asked Snyder, "does that make you feel old and how do you sort of fight against the age thing and keep coaching at such a high‑pressure, high‑intensity job that you've got?"
Snyder's response: "Well, I don't pay much attention to what the turnover ratio is from one school to the next. And there's a variety of different reasons.
"Sometimes people move on. The age factor, I can't negotiate that. It is what it is."
Added Snyder: "And I'm as old as time and that's not going to change."
Update: 12:05 p.m. - By Matt Tait
More from OU coach Bob Stoops real quick. I meant to ask KU coach Charlie Weis about this yesterday but it fell through the cracks of so many other questions and topics we needed to get to.
But the whole question about how the increased access to players in the summer has benefited the coaches is a good one. I'll get to Weis and the KU coaches when camp begins, but here's what Stoops had to say about the new rule which allowed coaches to have contact with players for 20 per week during the summer for the first time this year.
That 20 hours was free to be used for everything from film study to mandatory time in the weight room and actual drills and practice time.
"The new rule is great," Stoops said. "In that you just keep players — we'r e so accountable to these young men through the summer and really year‑round in what they're able to do. Just the ability to be able to see them daily, to go into the weight room, put your arm around them, interact with them, motivate them, how is school going, that's just the positive side of it just to have more interaction with them and to hopefully influence them in a positive way that way.
"So it hasn't really affected or changed the way we've gone through our summer working out. Coach Schmidt won't give me any more time. He uses it. It's allowed us maybe an hour a week to go over some film study with the players. So that's really helped the freshmen in particular, your new guys that have come in.
"And then the opportunity to watch them work out, and I'm really excited, the freshmen really look strong. Some of the key guys that everybody's paying attention to really have been impressive in the summer and being able to handle the volume of our running and lifting and just a different level from high school and not everybody can handle it. And a lot of these guys really handled it well and looked to be in position to really affect this year."
This 20 hours a week won't drastically change the way players are coached or impact greatly how teams perform during the season, but this notion of interacting with the players almost year-round now is awfully important because, remember, a lot of these guys pick their schools based in large part on their relationship with the head coach and now they're able to grow that relationship even more during a time of the year when the bullets aren't flying and the stakes aren't quite as high.
I'll be interested to hear what kind of benefit the Jayhawks have gotten from this new rule, as well.
Update: 11:45 a.m. - By Matt Tait
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen was asked about his running back situation during his time on the podium and a potentially familiar name for KU fans came to the forefront.
Holgorsen said Dreamius Smith, a former KU commitment who signed with the Jayhawks but never made it to campus as an academic casualty, is at the top of the pile after racking up nearly 500 yards (494 on 103 carries) last season in a complementary role to Charles Sims.
Holgorsen said Smith, a Wichita Heights graduate, averaged nearly the same number of yards-per-carry as Sims (4.8) but simply did not get the same number of touches that Sims got.
Before landing at WVU, Smith, now a senior, spent two seasons at Butler Community College, where he was a 2012 All-KJCCC first-team selection and ran for 984 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore.
Smith, at 5-foot-11, 216 pounds, is bigger and more of a bruising runner than Sims was but he doesn't give up much in the way of speed or quickness.
Several people in the KU program were very excited about Smith when he committed to Kansas but, obviously, things never worked out for him in Lawrence. Hardly a surprise, though, that he's gone on to do well in college after a standout prep career that included 3,288 yards and 54 touchdowns on 320 carries.
Update: 11:30 a.m. - By Benton Smith
West Virginia is entering its third season in the Big 12. The Mountaineers arrived in 2012 with a lot of excitement, coming off a 70-33 trouncing of Clemson in the Orange Bowl as their final act as a Big East team.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said, after a 4-8 season in 2013, WVU is in a very different place.
"The days of rolling through the Big East and being able to play in a BCS game are long gone," the coach said.
"We have not been dominant in the Big 12, obviously," Holgorsen added.
West Virginia was the only Big 12 team to lose to Kansas in 2013.
Update: 10:50 a.m. - By Benton Smith
Former KU football coach Mark Mangino, who went 50-48 with the Jayhawks and led his team to a 3-1 bowl record, is back in the Big 12, at Iowa State.
Cyclones coach Paul Rhoads, who hired Mangino this offseason as the program's offensive coordinator, said he reached out to the former Kansas coach because he has great respect for what Mangino has accomplished in the profession. In Rhoads' first season at ISU, he coached against Mangino.
"He has a proven track record as a play-caller, a tough guy type of coach," Rhoads said.
ISU, the head coach added, will play a spread offense, with three receivers and one running back, and use a no-huddle approach. All of that, Rhoads said, will be familiar to ISU fans. The change will be a different pace, with an offense that is simple to execute at a high rate of speed.
"That's exactly what Mark brings to our offense," Rhoads said.
Update: 10:30 a.m. - By Benton Smith
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops stepped up first to the microphone this morning, and one of the first topics to come up was the fast-paced offenses of the Big 12. The Sooners have played that style for years and now the rest of the league has tried to replicate their success with the same approach.
Stoops said there isn't much more OU can do to run its offense any faster. "But we'll keep looking for ways," he added."
This offseason, Oklahooma became the new home for highly-touted wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who was dismissed from Missouri. Stoops said an appeal to allow Green-Beckham to play this season is being processed.
"A second chance at our place," Stoops said, "could serve him well."
Original post: 10 a.m. - By Benton Smith
Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis and Jayhawks Ben Heeney, Nick Harwell, Jimmay Mundine and Cassius Sendish left Dallas, site of the Big 12 media days, Monday after fielding hundreds of questions about the upcoming season.
But KUsports.com is still at the Dallas Omni Hotel for Day 2, and we'll update you with any interesting nuggets that come up.
Today's schedule kicks off with press conferences throughout the morning, featuring Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Iowa State's Paul Rhoads, West Virginia's Dana Holgorsen, Kansas State's Bill Snyder and first-year Texas coach Charlie Strong.
In the meantime, check out all of our KU coverage from Monday:
Update: 4:45 p.m. - By Matt Tait
We'll obviously hear and learn a lot more about KU's new-look offense under first-year offensive coordinator John Reagan in the coming weeks, but we learned this much about it today — the players like it.
Nick Harwell said he loves the versatility the offense brings and how it allows him to make plays and put pressure on the defense in a number of different ways. Jimmay Mundine said he loves the tempo, the room to work and how it better takes advantage of KU's strengths, not just in terms of running game or passing game, but even more detailed in that Mundine is now blocking Sam linebacker and nickelbacks instead of offensive linemen.
He thinks that will make the whole attack more dangerous and give sophomore QB Montell Cozart more time to make plays himself.
Mundine spoke a lot about the responsibility of the seniors taking up some of the slack so the young QB doesn't feel like it's all on him.
As for Charlie Weis, he emphasized that the offense is Reagan's to run. He'll have input when he sees fit and he'll be there for him as a sounding board, should Reagan need one, but, for the most part, Weis will stay out of the way. Most of his input will come in the game plan stages early in the week and Reagan will handle the rest. Weis said he would not be involved much at all on game days.
What's more, the whole thing sounds a lot simpler, which we've heard before. Mundine gave an example of a play call from last year that had like 8-10 different words in it (see video below in the blog, from previous update). And that was for a basic run to the right. As he said, "That's a lot to process before you even think about how you're going to execute it." This year, though, that same play has been condensed into three words, which makes it easier to process, so that by the time you line up, you're thinking about HOW you're going to do something instead of WHAT you're going to do.
Subtle change, but pretty significant from the sound of it.
Update: 3:50 p.m. - By Benton Smith
KU senior wide receiver Nick Harwell might be new to the team, but he played three seasons at Miami (Ohio), where he caught 229 passes and 23 touchdowns in three seasons. He is an experienced veteran who knows the game.
Other than him personally looking forward to the season opener on Sept. 6 vs. Southeast Missouri State (because he had to sit out 2013 as a transfer), a couple of games on the 2014 schedule stood out for Harwell.
The receiver realizes the Jayhawks' second game of the season — at Duke (10-4 in 2013) — will be a challenging one. And the Sunflower Showdown will, of course, hold significant meaning for KU, after the Wildcats won by three touchdowns at KU in last year's regular-season finale.
Here's what Harwell had to say on the matter:
Update: 3:25 p.m. - By Matt Tait
Just finished up with interviews here at Big 12 media days and we probably have enough stuff to fill an entire section every day from now until camp starts on Aug. 8.
As I go through the tape and jot down the most impressive bits, I'll be sure to fill you up with a few that stood out right here. Like this one from senior TE Jimmay Mundine, who talked about facing his drops head on in the offseason and did not shy away from using the miscues as an opportunity to get better.
"(Tight ends) coach (Jeff) Blasko and I talk all the time about how if I just caught half of the balls I dropped, I would've had a completely different season," Mundine said.
To that end, the coach and the veteran pass catcher watched tape of every drop and tried to analyze exactly what went wrong. Most often it was simply a case of Mundine trying too hard to make a big play when the simple and safe play would have been just fine.
That, he said, was his biggest takeaway from the exercise and he's hoping it serves him well during his senior season.
"It sucked," Mundine said. "It hit me in the stomach, but it definitely motivated me. Now I'm just trying to focus on making the basic paly and not trying to do too much."
Update: 2:50 p.m. - By Benton Smith
After a morning full of Big 12 coaches, the players had their time with the media this afternoon at the Omni Dallas Hotel. KU brought seniors Ben Heeney, Nick Harwell, Cassius Sendish and Jimmay Mundine to media days.
Weis was back on the floor, too, so we bounced around from table to table to talk with all the Jayhawks. You get the sense from speaking with the guys that they are both realistic about how far the program has to go and looking forward to trying to be the team that gets KU out of its slump.
We'll post more throughout the afternoon, but for now, here's senior tight end Mundine talking about some of the reasons he prefers new offensive coordinator John Reagan's system to what KU ran in 2013.
Update: 11:20 a.m. - By Benton Smith
Every time someone at Big 12 media days starts talking about Kansas football, some variation of the following phrase inevitably is uttered: KU needs to win some games.
Entering his third season with the Jayhawks, coach Charlie Weis spoke about some of the things that will make that possible while fielding questions at his morning press conference. Here are some of the highlights:
• Senior tight end Jimmay Mundine didn't arrive at Kansas ready to contribute to his full potential. He was far better as a receiver than a blocker. This season, he should be an integral part of KU's offense.
• There are expectations for sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. "I'm glad I made the decision halfway through his freshman year to play him," Weis said. Now KU's coaches knows what they're getting and don't have to worry about jitters in Cozart's sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-2 195-pound QB has athleticism and can stand in the pocket and deliver. That gives KU a better chance to score more points.
• With senior Nick Harwell, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), Kansas is plugging in a No. 1 receiver who already has three years of big production on his resume. Adding a valuable senior leader like Harwell makes everybody around him play better.
• Each year more focus goes toward addressing less contact taking place for football players. In the concussion discussion, there are a lot of talks at length about minimizing the helmet-to-helmet type of contact. Still, Weis said teams need live tackling to be able to practice fundamentals and techniques. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will demonstrate proper form to all of his players. KU will only have two days a week of contact. And as the season goes on, it will have to be cut down even more.
• KU's offense has to stay on the field and suffer far less three-and-outs. When you have a mobile quarterback (which didn't happen for KU last year until Cozart began playing), "you're playing 11-on-10 football," Weis said. The QB carrying the ball puts much more stress on the defense.
• One reporter asked Weis if he could put a number on what would make 2014 a successful season for Kansas — as in, how many games do you need to win? Weis said it is Important that his team's expectation be clearly defined. But he didn't want to definite it for the media. But he emphasized the players know the expectations, while adding: "We haven't done a thing in the two years I've been here."
• KU's new spread offense is all coordinator John Reagan's. Weis will only be involved on offense during the week, not on game day. "I'm gonna let the offensive staff run the offense. I'm more of an advisor right now." The head coach said he will be a resource to Reagan.
• More on monitoring contact: No one pounds the guys at practice that play every week in games all the time. The "gray area" is getting the young players ready to play if they're not getting real in-game reps.
• On incoming freshman Jacob Bragg — He's "one of the best pure centers in the nation. Weis told Bragg the same thing he tells every recruit: Don't come in expecting to red shirt. Come in with the goal of beating everybody out for a spot.
• Weis was asked if cheating is widespread on campuses across the country. "Maybe I'm oblivious," he said, adding he hasn't seen it, but hears about it "all the time."
• Andrew Bolton, Kevin Short and Marcus Jenkins-Moore are players KU wants to see on the field. Bolton came in banged up and he is glad they didn't play him. Short in the secondary gives the Jayhawks a chance to keep up with the Big 12's offenses, which throw it around and play in space.
• For KU's Sept. 6 opener vs. Southeast Missouri State, the first female member of a Big 12 officiating crew, Cat Conti, will be on the field at Memorial Stadium. Weis, calling himself old-fashioned, said: "I'll try to watch my language." He added that It's great that women are being put on equal footing with men.
• Senior linebacker Ben Heeney is probably one of the more under-appreciated defensive players, if not players, in this league, according to Weid. Heeney reminds him a lot of former all-pro Zach Thomas — short but plays sideline to sideline with a vengeance.
• The QB situation at KU has been troubling the past couple of seasons, under Weis. The coach said true drop-back quarterbacks have gotten exposed. That's why they changed what they're doing, offensively at KU. The only offensive position that has been Big 12 caliber the past two years was running back, with James Sims. Players were marginal at other skill positions.
• In closing — The bottom line: If we don't score more points, we're not going to win more games.
— Hear complete audio from the press conference: Charlie Weis at Big 12 football media days
Update: 10:22 a.m. - By Matt Tait
Baylor coach Art Briles kicked things off for the coaches at the podium today by talking a lot about defending the Bears' 2013 Big 12 title.
It doesn't seem like he's all that worried about his team's chances in 2014.
Briles said, among other things, that the Bears would not try for a bunt or a single this season. They're swinging for the fences.
In addition, he said the whole notion of defending last year's title was a little crazy because "how can you defend something that can't be taken away?" Decent point.
KU coach Charlie Weis is up next. The 2013 KU highlight video is playing now...
Original post: 9:00 a.m. – By Matt Tait
Generally speaking, Kansas University football doesn't make many headlines during the annual Big 12 media days in Dallas, which begin today and wrap up Tuesday.
When you've won just two conference games in the past four seasons (33 tries), it becomes more and more difficult for the other Big 12 media members to care too much about the outlook for the Jayhawks in the fall.
That all changed last year, though, when KU coach Charlie Weis stole the show with his “pile of crap” line that was both bold and honest and remains misinterpreted by many to this day.
If I've learned one thing about Weis in his three years in Lawrence it's that he tells it like it is. No sugar coating, no dancing around the subject, just his real opinion — like it or not — regarding just about anything he's asked.
That's a great trait for a coach to have for a guy covering his program and it helps make the Jayhawks relevant at this two-day football kickoff event. When everyone else is talking about national title chances, Heisman hopefuls or the league race, the Jayhawks stay in the conversation because of Weis — both his resume and his reputation.
I can't tell you how many other media members who cover the Big 12 have mentioned to me in the past couple of years how awesome it is to listen to a guy who actually says something. That's not a knock on the other coaches in the conference. There are several incredible coaches in the Big 12, but there's a lot of coach speak, as well. Not with Weis.
I'm sure we'll learn a thing or two about the state of the KU program in the next couple of days — who's healthy and who's not, who's in jeopardy academically, who might no longer be on the roster, etc. — and we'll definitely learn a lot more about when camp opens Aug. 8. But the always intriguing question of “What's Weis gonna say next?” will be one of the biggest topics of the week down here and even though I've gotten used to the way the guy does business, I have to admit, I'm curious, too.
Stay logged on right here throughout the day today and Tuesday as Benton Smith and I will scoop up all the KU and Big 12 tidbits about the upcoming football season you'd care to read about.
Weis is scheduled to hit the podium at 10:30 this morning and he'll field questions for 20 minutes before returning to the ballroom around 1:30 for the breakouts. He'll be joined by seniors Nick Harwell (WR), Ben Heeney (LB), Jimmay Mundine (TE) and Cassius Sendish (S) and, between the two of us, we'll spend plenty of time with all five of them to get the latest update on where the Jayhawks stand heading into Year 3 of the Charlie Weis era.