Could it be that fourth-year Kansas football coach David Beaty actually has chosen a starting quarterback but is keeping it quiet so as not to tip off Nicholls State? I suppose so, but I don't think so.
If the players know who's starting they aren't saying, and the way they answered questions about it Thursday told me they don't know and that the job still is not settled.
"It's definitely a close competition," receiver Evan Fairs said. "Just as a receiver, me seeing it, I know it would be hard for me (to pick one), so I know for the coaches it must be even harder."
Why is it difficult?
"I feel like I love all of them individually the same," Fairs said. "I feel like they all have different traits, but at the same time they all play at the same level, so it’s definitely going to be hard to make the decision.”
Receivers aren't paid to make such decisions but can offer insights. I asked Fairs if Bender distinguishes himself from the group by throwing the best deep ball, Miles Kendrick by being the best runner. He didn't see it quite that way.
“I’ve caught very deep balls from all three of them throughout the spring and the summer, so I feel like they all can be accurate on the deep balls,” Fairs said. “I feel like Peyton can put the ball in tight spots more, and Miles, I feel like his feet are good, but I feel like Carter can do the same things with his feet as well, sprinting out of the pocket.”
Fairs reiterated that the defense won't be able to creep up without fear of getting burned long no matter which of the three passers is in the game.
"As far as their arms, I feel like all three of them have big arms," Fairs said.
How about how easy it is to catch their passes?
"All of them throw tight spirals," Fairs said. "As far as how the ball is coming to me when I catch it, they're all the same."
Slimmed-down defensive tackle J.J. Holmes didn't sound as if he had any idea as to the identity of KU's starting quarterback.
"I don't know," Holmes said. "There is a lot of competition still continuing, a lot of people fighting for spots. It's still early. It's still early."
And getting later by the day.
As Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry were shooting the Golden State Warriors to their third NBA title in four seasons, retired voice of the Jayhawks Bob Davis reminded me that Brandon Rush guarded both of the NBA superstars.
Rush was on Curry for much of the night in 2008 when Kansas defeated Davidson, 59-57, in an Elite Eight game in Detroit. Curry scored 25 points but made just 9 of 25 field goals and 4 of 16 3-pointers.
“I tried not to let him get any air space,” Rush said of his approach against Curry. “The way he plays now, he can create so much space for himself. Nobody can do that like that guy.”
Rush was a teammate of Curry’s for two seasons (2014-15, 2015-16) and said it’s no mystery why Curry has improved so much.
“He works every day after practice, works on dribble moves,” Rush said. “Every day. Every single day. I tell that to everybody and nobody believes me, but it’s true. He does that after practice every single day.”
Durant scored 32 and 37 points against Kansas in his lone season at Texas. In the first game, he was making shot after shot, with Rush guarding him tightly.
“Just like he does now,” Rush said. “He got better, too. And it helps when you have four guys who know how to play and know where you want the ball. He’s having a good time out in the Bay. I’m happy for him.”
Rush last played an NBA game in 2016-17. He signed a 10-day contract with Portland in February, but never played in a game for the Trailblazers.
He said he wants to catch on with a team this coming season.
“Everybody doesn’t know I was really ill for a while,” he said. “I was sick. I had to be hospitalized for a while. I had a heart infection. It was crazy. I’m all better now.”
Rush has worked his way back into shape and has a shot to catch on with a roster because he’s a popular teammate, doesn’t rock the boat and is a good long-range shooter. His career 3-point percentage is .402.
Rush, 33, also moves his feet so well for someone with his length that he can defend multiple positions. He said he has had to guard LeBron James “plenty of times.”
“He’s a tough cover,” Rush said. “He’s big. People don’t realize how big he is. His shoulders are wide. He’s big as hell. He’s fast as hell.”
James is not the toughest player in the NBA for him to guard, though, Rush said. Instead, he cited two Portland guards from smaller college basketball programs as the toughest assignments for him.
“I would say C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard,” Rush said. “Those two are tough to guard.”
A whopping 24 players, including two current University of Kansas golfers, tied after two rounds of stroke play for the 64th and final spot in match play in the U.S. Amateur.
The 24 players, including KU junior Andy Spencer and sophomore Ben Sigel, all finished stroke play, which consisted of a round at Pebble Beach and a round at Spy Glass Hill, at 4-over par.
The playoff started at 9:30 a.m. and took two holes to complete after two players advanced with a birdie.
The playoff started at No. 17 at Pebble Beach, a par 3, and concluded on No. 18, a par 5. Neither Spencer nor Sigel made it past the first hole.
Playing in the second foursome to tee off in the playoff, Spencer pulled his tee shot well left of the green into a deep rough, missed a long putt on a misread and picked up.
Sigel teed off in the third foursome, and reached the front of the massive green. He initially took a few practice swings with a wedge and then put that club back in the bag in favor of a putter. He left the putt well short, then left his par putt of about 75 feet, which, as it turned out, was meaningless anyway, an inch short.
Another player left in the same spot later in the playoff hit wedge from there and left it a few feet from the pin. Had he sunk it, he would have incurred a two-stroke penalty anyway because he had suffered a brain cramp and left the pin in.
Jacob Bergeron emerged from the playoff victorious with a bogey 6 on No. 18, knocking Peter Quest, who knocked his second shot into the ocean, out of match play. Quest missed his 5-foot bogey putt.
Bergeron earned the No. 64 seed in match play and advanced to a first-round match with Daniel Hillier, 19, of New Zealand. By the way, Hillier is not a brother to KU golf team brothers Charlie and Harry Hillier.
A replay of the playoff can be watched on the USGA Twitter account.
Stop grousing about that 10-foot putt you barely missed costing you 10 bucks. Nobody wants to hear it. Besides, it could be worse. You could be missing it on the PGA Tour, where one stroke sometimes costs you more than 10,000 times as much as that.
Gary Woodland’s 16-foot birdie putt on No. 18 in the 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club came up an inch short, bumping him from what would have been a three-way tie for fourth place with Stewart Cink and Jon Rahm into a four-way tie for sixth with Thomas Pieters, Francesco Molinari and Justin Thomas.
That one stroke was the difference between making $452,833 and $334,712.50. In other words, one inch equated to $118,120.50.
Woodland’s frustration over the putt coming up short had nothing to do with $118,120.50. At this point, every putt that drops draws him a little closer to joining the best of the best American golfers and becoming a player who could represent his country in the Ryder Cup. His effortless swing produced terrific results for him all week and he had an incredible day with the putter on Aug. 9 to become the first-day leader on his way to becoming the second-day leader.
He didn't play as well on the weekend, but could move himself from the outside looking in at Ryder Cup contenders to gaining serious consideration if he can get hot in the first three of four FedExCup playoff tournaments. Woodland is taking off this week's Wyndham Championship to gear up for the Northern Trust at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. the following week.
On the same day Woodland completed his strong PGA performance with a 69, 2,000 miles to the west, Web.com touring pro Chris Thompson made a 15-foot putt on No. 18 that gave him a 64 for the day and a solo third-place finish. He made $40,800 in the tournament. Had he missed it, he would have been in a seven-way tie for third, which would have paid him $25,843. So that’s a difference of $14,957, basically a grand per foot.
Again, it’s not the money itself that made it such a big putt. It’s what the money did for Thompson’s standing on “The 25,” which is what the Web.com Tour calls its money list because the top 25 finishers on the money list in the regular season earn PGA Tour cards. He stands at 19th with one tournament remaining. Had he missed the putt, he would be in 24th, $16 ahead of Ben Taylor, squarely on the bubble heading into the Portland Open, which has an $800,000 purse.
The higher purse means there could be more movement than usual in “The 25,” but it would take an awful lot of things to have to happen for Thompson to drop below 25. For example, if Thompson didn’t earn any money, then the six players directly behind him all finished in the top 13 in the tournament, that would do it, but that’s not very likely to happen.
St. Louis — Based on a points system, the top eight players gain automatic spots on the America's Ryder Cup team and four captains’ picks will be added.
After finishing in a tie for sixth in the 100th PGA Championship, Woodland finished 19th in the final Ryder Cup standings.
The eight players who earned automatic spots, in order of their points: Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
Woodland doesn’t seem to be in the conversation yet for one of the captains' picks, but with strong finishes in the first three FedExCup playoff tournaments, he could make it happen.
“I definitely think there’s still room,” Woodland said Thursday after taking the first-round lead with a 64.
Woodland’s best previous finish at a major was tied for 12th at the 2011 PGA, so this was a significant step for him.
Now he’ll turn his attention to the FedExCup playoffs.
“That's been as frustrating as my major record. I've been in the fitting, I think, for the last seven years for all the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup's fittings,” Woodland said. “I tried all the clothes on. I’ve seen them all, and I've just never had a chance to make the team. Last year, I think, was probably as close as I made, and that's frustrating.”
Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk said he will hold one pick until after the BMW Championship (Sept. 6-9), the third FedExCup playoff tournament.
“If there isn’t someone who just sticks out as a hot player, we’ll take the best player available,” Furyk said.
Woodland, who has made great strides in his smooth, powerful swing working with Butch Harmon, has time to become that hot player.
“I got off to a great start this year, but I made a lot of changes because of my major record,” Woodland said. “Pete Cowen and I have made a lot of changes in the short game, that was with Butch’s recommendation. I just, the short game has really held me back. I hit the ball beautifully, but to contend week in, week out, I have to get better in those areas.”
Resurgent Tiger Woods, who stormed to a second-place finish, playing his Sunday round with Woodland, likely will lock up one captains' pick, Phil Mickelson another. Bryson DeChambeau was edged by Simpson for the final automatic spot, so he’ll receive strong consideration.
Mickelson finished 10th, Woods 11th.
The Ryder Cup points standings don’t determine anything beyond the top eight spots, but are worth looking at to see what other golfers Woodland would have to beat out. Spots 12 through 18: Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Kyle Stanley, Brian Harman and Kevin Na.
Woodland earned $334,712.50 for finishing in a tie with Thomas Pieters, Francisco Molinari and Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship.
Jon Rahm, of Spain, was the only one of five players who finished ahead of Woodland who has not won a major, and Peters, of Belgium, was the only one who tied him who is without a major.
Woodland’s winnings moved him to 32nd on the PGA Tour money list with $2,601,066, and 32nd in the FedExCup standings. He moved up to 39th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Gary Woodland was probably a little light in estimating that 75 to 100 spectators came from Kansas to watch him compete Thursday in the first day of the 100th PGA.
His high school golf coach and high school basketball coach were in the crowd, as were many friends from his high school and college days.
I ran into a grandmother, husband, wife and four young children who made the trip from Overland Park to watch Woodland. Former Lawrence High star and University of Kansas walk-on Stephen Vinson and his family followed Woodland, a former AAU basketball teammate of Wooldand’s.
“Gary was a shoot-first point guard, but to his credit he could shoot from his far away from the basket as anyone I ever played with,” Vinson said on a bus ride from a hotel to Bellerive Country Club before Woodland teed off Thursday. “He had great range from a young age. He would be a good three, four steps behind the NBA line and he still would shoot. That was the part of the game he enjoyed the most. He was a really good shooter.”
I bounced my theory that shooting a basketball and putting are similar skills and that I’ve always maintained that a good putter is somewhere inside Woodland just needs to be freed.
“I would agree,” Vinson said. “He was a very good baseball player too, a very good shortstop. I played against him in baseball. That wasn’t very fun either. Like a lot of kids, if you’re good at something, you’re good at everything.”
Vinson said Joey Devine, who went 8-3 with a 2.75 ERA in seven seasons in the major leagues as a reliever with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland A’s, was on the AAU team also.
Nicholls State seemed like a safe tomato can for Kansas to pummel in the season-opener when the game was scheduled, but the Colonels are one of the more impressive turn-around stories in college football.
Fourth-year coach Tim Rebowe inherited a program coming off an 0-12 record and has gone 3-8, 5-6 and 8-4.
The Colonels return four starting offensive linemen, their quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver.
And Kansas isn’t the only school to add talent via the transfer route. Junior running back Kendall Bussey transferred in after rushing for 237 yards for Texas A&M last season.
The Colonels also welcomed a graduate transfer from Texas. Alex Anderson, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound offensive lineman from Landry Walker High in New Orleans, appeared in eight games for the Longhorns, including three last season.
All three of KU’s nonconference games have at least one thing in common: It wouldn’t come as a surprise if Kansas were to win or lose any one of them.
Miles Kendrick spent one semester at San Mateo Community College before transferring to Kansas. He hasn’t had nearly as much experience running an Air Raid offense as either Peyton Bender, who started eight games for Kansas season, or Carter Stanely, who started four.
Kendrick studies more than his playbook.
“I really just try to take advantage of those mental reps I get watching those guys,” Kendrick said. “I can only bang my head on the playbook so many times.” He said that all three quarterbacks were getting about the same number of reps the first couple of days of practice.
Neither Bender nor Stanley had particularly strong numbers last season, but both quarterbacks showed toughness by taking so many vicious licks and getting right back up.
Kendrick is shorter, thicker and more muscular than the two quarterbacks with whom he is competing.
If one of the three quarterbacks had stood out in the spring, a starter would have been named already. Having three competitors triples the chances that one will have a breakthrough camp.
At San Mateo, Kendrick completed a so so 57.9 percent of his passes, but in a more important statistic, yards per attempt, he produced a great number (10.6). Kendrick also rushed for an average of 4 yards on 103 attempts.
As a runner, he sounds as if he might share the quality of past Kansas greats John Hadl and Todd Reesing in that he doesn't heat up a stopwatch but tends to run one step faster than the man chasing him.
“Pure speed, I’ve never really been a guy who when you see him out running you say, ‘That guy’s really fast.’ You can tell I’m athletic, but when those lights come on and you have big, mean, sweaty guys chasing you, it tends to speed you up,” Kendrick said. “I would say I’m more of that guy.”
And as a thrower?
“I feel like I can make every throw, every throw in the playbook,” Kendrick said. “I’ve always taken pride in that.”
It's an interesting QB competition. Bender throws the prettiest ball. Kendrick's probably the best runner. Stanley can do a little bit of both and has a little pep in his step that can perk up a team.
Stanley wasn't surprised to hear that head coach David Beaty stated a preference for choosing a quarterback quickly, but only if one steps up and wins the job.
“If I were the head coach I think I would want to name a starter sooner," Stanley said. "I think it’s an opportunity for a team to get behind that one guy and it’s an opportunity for that one guy to get true No. 1 reps."
First-year offensive line coach A.J. Ricker faces as daunting a challenge as anyone in the Kanas football program. He has so much reworking of the offensive line to do and so little time to do it before the Jayhawks open the season for a 6 p.m. kickoff Sept. 1 vs. Nicholls State.
Ricker is in the process of identifying which blockers are best suited for which positions. At the same time, Ricker is trying to determine which of the 22 O-linemen will be counted on to play this season and which likely are headed for scout-team duty and possible redshirt seasons.
“It’s a big puzzle right now,” Ricker said. “It’s musical chairs. Guys are moving around. After about two weeks, I’d like to really start slimming that thing down and understanding these are probably the 10, 12 guys we’re going to need for the season. That’s where we keep them at their position so they can start jelling.”
It doesn’t give the line much time to coalesce, but with so many veteran blockers brought in from outside the program, at least the numbers are better than in recent seasons.
“That’s the biggest thing, competition,” Ricker said. “Guys know they have to show up for every practice ready to roll: ‘I have to show up every day, focused, ready to work.’ Guys are going to have bad practices. Guys are going to have bad days. But, at least, now they know there is a little bit more of a repercussion than, ‘Hey, let’s do better, Johnny. You had a bad practice.’ You could use a little of it as motivation. Having depth is really going to help us.”
So, even with so little time to form a new offensive line, Ricker sounds confident Kansas can field a better offensive line immediately than the one that struggled to open holes for running backs and keep quarterbacks on their feet a year ago.
“I think it’s very realistic,” Ricker said of instant improvement. “Obviously, I took this job knowing a lot of that and wanting to fix it, and, obviously, I feel like I can fix it. Last year was last year and we’re moving forward, and telling those guys first sign of adversity, it’s not, ‘Here we go again.’ We’re starting all over. The good thing about camp, we say it all the time as coaches, and I think they believe it now, is every job is open.”
A gold star to anybody who can predict what the season-opening depth chart will look like at the five O-line positions.
I’ll take a stab at it and I would be curious to see other close followers of KU football do the same in the comments section below.
LT: Hakeem Adeniji; LG: Api Mane left guard; C: Alex Fontana; RG: Dwayne Wallace; RT: Kevin Feder.
Adeniji has started all 24 games of his Kansas career, most of them at left tackle. Mane played left guard for College of San Mateo. Fontana, sidelined by injury last season, played center in junior college and made one start at center in 2016 for Houston, four starts at guard. Ricker praised the work Fontana has done at center and in the meeting room.
Wallace made nine starts for Cal in his lone season there after playing two seasons in junior college. He was listed as the starting right guard in the depth chart released after spring football. Feder, a transfer from Ohio State, has two remaining seasons of eligibility after coming to Kansas as a graduate transfer. An injured foot kept him off the field early in his career. He was cleared to play last season, but did not make it onto the depth chart.
The influx of older players with more mature bodies should help, even if chemistry will take time to develop.
LT: Clyde McCauley; LG: Malik Clark; C: Andru Tovi; RG: Chris Hughes; RT: Adagio Lopeti.
Juco transfer Reuben Lewis will battle for a spot on the depth chart, as will junior Antione Frazier, who has not used a redshirt year yet and could benefit from one. Redshirt freshman Joey Gilbertson will fight for snaps at center and redshirt sophomore Cam Durley will try to make it onto the depth chart at tackle. Tovi won’t cede the left guard spot easily, so that position will make for an interesting battle.
Also, Ricker is very high on true freshman Jacobi Lott's potential, but ideally, Lott will redshirt because he'll be more ready to make a big impact in his fifth year than in his first.
Every college football program has its different behind-the-scenes rituals, and first-year Kansas offensive line coach A.J. Ricker pointed to one he found particularly interesting.
It symbolized the moment summer conditioning gave way to fall camp and it involved head strength and conditioning coach Zac Woodfin and head football coach David Beaty.
“It was kind of cool to see the tradition in our first team meeting where Zac literally passes the key, the key to the team back to Beaty,” Ricker said. “I’ve never seen that. I thought that was really cool.”
During summer conditioning, the football coaches are restricted as to how much time they can spend with players. Since conditioning is “voluntary” the strength coaches can spend long hours helping players improve their bodies in the weight room. The more coaches are around to supervise players in the weight room, the safer for the athletes.
“I thought Coach Woodfin did a terrific job,” Beaty said Saturday at Media Day. “I want to take my hat off to him. Our staff did a terrific job. We worked from the day we walked off the field at Oklahoma State. We continue to do that now. We get the kids pretty much year-round, so it blends from summer to fall camp. Almost like we weren't going into something different. That was good.”
Ricker already has developed a strong rapport with Woodfin.
“I might be overstepping my bounds saying this, but to me in football that’s your most important hire,” Ricker said. “Those strength guys are with the players more than we are.” Woodfin is in his second season heading Beaty’s strength-and-conditioning team and is assisted by Ervin Young, Jack Wilson, Stewart Young and intern Michael Brinson.
“I think the strength staff, Zac and his guys, have done a hell of a job with our guys, not only physically, but even more mentally because football is so mental,” Ricker said. “I know everybody says that, but the mental toughness, the physical toughness, toughness is in everything I preach in my room because to me toughness wins.”
It takes mental toughness to exercise discipline in eating the right foods as well.
The athletes and strength staff have scientific help in that area as well. Sports nutritionist assistant Holly McKee and sports nutritionist intern Cristina Desemone work closely with Woodfin to ensure the athletes are fueling their bodies in an efficient way based on the positions they play.