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Ranking Kansas football position units: No. 8, inside receivers/tight ends

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Team Jayhawk wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) escapes a tackle from Team KU safety Shaquille Richmond (4) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawk wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (1) escapes a tackle from Team KU safety Shaquille Richmond (4) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Third of a 10-part series ranking Kansas football positions from weakest to strongest:

LaQuvionte Gonzalez, so quick, so fast, looked so good at times, which makes it all the more frustrating when he isn’t quite quick enough to get out of his own way.

Kansas head coach David Beaty recruited him out of high school to Texas A&M and again to Kansas. Beaty has gone out of his way to be an advocate for Gonzalez, who repaid him by doing whatever it was he did, or not doing whatever it was he didn’t do to earn a demotion to third-string for much of the spring.

Gonzalez got the message and improved his act in time to earn his way back to first string before the spring expired. But will he stay in that mode and maximize his final opportunity as a senior in college? Or will he not have the discipline to keep making the sacrifices to make his effort and contributions more consistent? It’s too late in his career to be asking those questions and that’s a shame because he’s an explosive talent. He’s the X-factor among inside receivers. Beyond him, nobody has the blend of talent and experience he possesses.

Offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Doug Meacham saw the need for another slot receiver and lobbied for Ryan Schadler to convert from running back. Schadler is an eager student of the game, one of the fastest players on the team, and a tough, 5-foot-11, 191-pound block of muscle, but he lacks the polish he’ll have a year and two years from now.

Tyler Patrick, a similar body type and athlete to Schadler, and juco transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. worked with the twos at the end of spring.

Two developments could make this position group shoot up the rankings: 1 - Gonzalez getting serious; 2 - Incoming freshman Quan Hampton making a huge splash as a freshman. A 5-8, 165-pound jumping jack from Texarkana, Texas, originally committed to Texas State but changed his mind when Kansas offered a scholarship.

“One of the most explosive guys that we have seen down there,” Beaty said on signing day. “We found out about Quan from all of the opposing coaches around the area. That’s how you know you’ve found a dude is when everywhere you go, guys tell you, ‘Hey, have you seen that Quan Hampton kid over at Texarkana?’ And I’m talking about every place we go. . . . (Pointing to a highlight video) Just watch the quickness and suddenness of this guy off the ball. Nice quickness.”

At times, one of the inside receivers will be replaced by a tight end or a blocking back. Sure-handed Ben Johnson will fill both roles and is expected to be on the field a little more often than last season, when he caught 10 passes for 112 yards in nine games. He’s not stupendous in any one area, but also has no deficiencies. His backup, Jace Sternberger, transferred. Freshman Kenyon Tabor, who helped Derby High to back-to-back 6A state titles, has outstanding hands and makes impressive catches in traffic. He has the ability to be used as a tight end, in the slot or on the outside and has a very high ceiling.

No.9: Cornerbacks

No. 10: Offensive line

Comments

Brett McCabe 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Schadler will be the leader - our Edelman (who played QB in college and made the switch just fine). If the Texarkana kid is explosive, he'll swap reps with Q because Q is too mercurial to be counted upon. Thank goodness we have some other choices at punt return this year.

Ben Johnson deserves praise for riding this thing out with Beaty - most would have transferred. Maybe Meachem can find a way to get him involved in the offense this year.

Titus Canby 2 weeks, 6 days ago

One promising development from the spring game -- no dropped passes. And a couple of impressive catches. That by itself is a huge upgrade.

Jim Stauffer 2 weeks, 5 days ago

Exactly Titus. There were throws in tight spots that stuck when they hit the hands of the receivers. That was the single most impressive thing I saw. We were pitching and catching like the good teams do.

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