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Signs of life: Peyton Bender showing why David Beaty had so much confidence in him

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas junior quarterback Peyton Bender throws during the spring game, on Saturday, April 15, at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.

Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

Since Todd Reesing’s college eligibility ran out at the conclusion of the 2009 season, various Kansas football coaches have hoped the quarterback they put on the field could breathe some life into the offense and the program. In the seven seasons since Reesing’s final snap at KU, the Jayhawks have averaged just two victories a year.

Finally, in 2017, it appears Kansas should have a Big 12-level QB lining up behind center, giving the beleaguered program an offense capable of — at the very least — arousing the interest of the fan base and making David Beaty’s Jayhawks more consistently competitive.

We don’t know yet if the title of QB1 will go next to the name Peyton Bender or Carter Stanley, but whomever wins the job in August has a chance to be remembered as the first functional Kansas quarterback in close to a decade.

For the purposes of this entry, we’ll focus on Bender (and take a look at Stanley in a blog to come).

It’s out of character for Beaty to set aside his “earn it” mentality and label someone as a potential starter before that player has even arrived on campus. But that’s what the third-year coach did with Bender, saying the day the former Washington State QB signed with the Jayhawks he expected Bender to come in and compete with Stanley for the most visible job on the team.

A 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior who spent 2016 averaging 304 passing yards a game for Itawamba Community College (Miss.), Bender made his first Memorial Stadium appearance as KU’s quarterback at the spring game and orchestrated two of the three scoring drives during the open scrimmage.

His first TD pass in Lawrence not thrown behind the closed gates of a practice session came in the second quarter of the exhibition on a simple play. With KU’s top receiver, Steven Sims Jr., lined up on the left side 11 yards away from the end zone, Bender spotted soft coverage and took a couple steps back upon receiving the snap, while watching for slot receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez to position himself as a soon-to-be blocker.

Perfectly in rhythm, Sims caught Bender’s pass and Gonzalez set him up for some yards after catch by blocking cornerback DeAnte Ford. Sims swiftly cut back to the right to make safety Mike Lee miss and KU had its first Bender-to-Sims touchdown.

Quick reads and timing, staples of the Air Raid, played a part in Bender’s success on other occasions, too. And a later Sims reception during the scrimmage played out in similar fashion, with Bender getting the ball in his receiver’s hands just in time for Gonzalez to block, setting up an eight-yard gain.

One of Bender’s longest completions during his 11-for-15 outing (143 yards, two touchdowns) came in the fourth quarter with the scrimmage tied. Lined up at the 30-yard line on a second-and-two, the QB gave a little play-fake in the backfield before beginning to survey the field, with his eyes focused on the left side. Bender then turned his head to the middle of the field, where he saw receiver Ryan Schadler breaking open between the 20- and 15-yard-lines.

It might have been a little bit easier than in a game-day situation to stand in the pocket and make the throw with a defensive lineman closing in, knowing the spring game rules revolve around not getting a QB injured, but Bender put the ball on target. He threw it over the reaching arms of linebacker Osaze Ogbebor and into Schadler’s bread basket for a 25-yard completion before Lee had a chance at breaking up the play in the secondary.

Two plays later, out of the pistol, Bender went with another play-fake before making a scrimmage-winning TD throw to Daylon Charlot on a slant. The QB wasted no time on the connection, and got Charlot the ball coming toward the middle of the field before Lee could get into the throwing lane or make a play at knocking the pass to the turf.

via GIPHY

KU spent most of the 2016 season without a quarterback suited to run the offense successfully. Now that Bender is on campus and Stanley has important game experience to go with his two seasons in the offense and growing confidence, the Jayhawks should head into the fall with a QB who can extend drives and direct the offense into the end zone.

Kansas only averaged 359.5 yards a game (last in the Big 12) a year ago and scored just 27 touchdowns on offense during a 2-10 season. Whether it’s Bender or Stanley taking the snaps, the Jayhawks should easily beat those woeful bottom-of-the-league numbers in 2017, leading to at least a couple more victories and far more Saturdays of competitive football.

More signs of life:

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Signs of life: Former Alabama WR Daylon Charlot as good as advertised for KU

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot roars after scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.

Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

If you watched the Kansas football spring game, you could see it. Sure, KU’s coaches had downplayed his standing within the offense, citing new receiver Daylon Charlot’s lack of repetitions in an Air Raid offense or describing his ability as raw because the former Alabama skill player has yet to prove anything on Saturdays in the fall.

But even in a scrimmage designed to spread the ball around and only showcase the blandest play calls, Charlot’s ability was undeniable.

The 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore who sat out as a transfer this past fall at KU looked the part of an impact receiver — even if his coaches rightfully will hold off on showering him with their praises, because it’s their job to keep complacency out of their players’ systems.

During the T.V. broadcast of the spring game, Charlot drew comparisons to former South Carolina and current Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery. While Jeffery has four inches on Charlot, the idea that KU’s newest passing-game weapon could go up and make plays in the air like a larger target proved true.

A four-star prospect out of Patterson, La., who had offers from Alabama, LSU, Notre Dame and others in 2015, Charlot made his unofficial debut as a Jayhawk at the spring game and announced his presence in spectacular fashion.

Early in the second quarter, with the offense approaching midfield, KU football fans at Memorial Stadium experienced their first “wow” play from the receiver. Of course, Charlot couldn’t have made it happen without the help of his teammates. Offensive linemen Hakeem Adeniji, Malik Clark, Hunter Saulsbury, Larry Hughes and Charles Baldwin provided great protection for another touted newcomer, junior quarterback Peyton Bender, who had roughly five seconds to survey the field before pressure came and he looked down the right sideline for the deep threat wearing a No. 2 jersey.

Charlot parked near the 29-yard line as corner Julian Chandler broke toward him and the approaching throw. Then the athletic receiver exploded up, met the ball high with two hands and got his right foot down in bounds as Chandler shoved him out of play. Charlot's strength showed up on the play, too, as he maintained possession through a backward summersault on the turf, finishing a 28-yard completion.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawks receiver Daylon Charlot rolls over out of bounds after pulling in a catch while covered by Team KU cornerback Julian Chandler (25) during the second quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Two snaps later, Charlot was back at it, picking up 12 more yards and another first down. This time, Bender had to backpedal away from the pressure of junior defensive tackle J.J. Holmes, leading to a hurried throw. No problem for Charlot. He reached low and to his right to bring in the pass and extended his arms outward for extra yardage before being tackled.

The third and final reception for KU’s newest play-maker won the spring game for his team, with just under two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

On second-and-goal at the 5-yard line, with the ball placed on the left hash, Charlot flanked out to the right side. With running back Khalil Herbert lined up behind Bender in a pistol formation, a play-fake up the middle set up a one-on-one for Charlot as he made a break toward the goal line, getting inside position on Chandler.

When Bender’s pass met Charlot’s hands, the sophomore receiver out-muscled his defender to come away with the score on a slant.

via GIPHY

A year ago, Kansas finished ninth in the Big 12 in passing offense (240 yards a game) in large part because of its quarterback troubles. But having only Steven Sims Jr. (72 receptions, 859 yards) and LaQuvionte Gonzalez (62 catches, 729 yards) as consistent targets played a role, too. Sims’ overall talent and Gonzalez’s speed in space only could do so much when defenses keyed on them as the obvious top choices within the passing attack.

This fall, opposing defensive backs won’t be able to load up on Sims, Gonzalez or Charlot without leaving one of them or some other capable KU receiver in a favorable situation.

Spring games are only games in name. Had offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and company actually been out there at the glorified practice with the full offense at their disposal and playing in an actual game with a regular-season victory on the line, we would have seen even more of Charlot.

Instead, we will have to wait until September to get a true sense of just how substantial an impact the former Alabama receiver will make. At least we also know, thanks to spring ball, we can anticipate Charlot living up to his hype and his own expectations.

More signs of life

- Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

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Signs of life: Expect an upgrade in KU’s depth and production at running back

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team Jayhawk running back Khalil Herbert (10) charges up the field on a run during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

In 2016, a rebuilding Kansas football team put a far more sound defense on the field than it did the year before, in head coach David Beaty’s first season. Still, KU’s offense couldn’t produce enough first downs or scoring drives to keep the Jayhawks competitive for much of the season. This coming fall, the Kansas offense will look a lot different. And it should be far more productive.

Over the next several days at KUsports.com, we will highlight some of the spring indications that signal better days ahead for the KU offense.

No one who watched Kansas football the previous two years would characterize the team’s running back production or depth as a strength. That could change this fall.

Before spring football began, it seemed reasonable to think KU’s starting running back might not even be on campus this semester. The headliner of Beaty’s 2017 high school recruiting class, after all, is four-star running back Dom Williams. The 5-foot-9 dynamo from Frisco, Texas, won’t report to Lawrence until the summer. What’s more, three-star junior college running back Octavius Matthews will officially join the roster at the same time.

This past fall, neither Taylor Martin (91 carries, 324 yards, four touchdowns) nor Khalil Herbert (44 carries, 189 yards, three touchdowns) showed enough to prove they should enter 2017 at the top of the depth chart. However, this spring both looked far more intriguing, exhibiting flashes as players who need to touch the ball and make an impact on offense.

During KU’s spring game, Herbert, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, displayed the speed and power he rarely got to show off as a true freshman due to a toe injury that slowed him down. On one fourth-and-1 play early on, Herbert made a slight, swift cut to avoid a head-on tackle and his muscular frame powered him through the contact for nine yards and a first down.

Herbert also helped create one of the more impressive offensive plays of the open scrimmage that Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Lined up to the left of quarterback Peyton Bender in the backfield, the promising back from Coral Springs, Fla., took a screen pass in the right flat, with center Hunter Saulsbury and right guard Larry Hughes hustling out in space to block for him.

As an aside: KU’s offensive linemen actually look more like Big 12 O-linemen now. Big guys with the ability to move their feet and execute blocks. Saulsbury (filling in for banged-up Mesa Ribordy) and Hughes did a nice job on this play, as they teamed up with tackles Hakeem Adeniji and Charles Baldwin and sophomore left guard Malik Clark.

Back to Herbert. Bender’s pass was a little high due to some QB pressure from All-Big 12 defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., but Herbert made the grab look simple and then used key blocks from Saulsbury and Hughes to create a 26-yard gain. Going right-to-left off the blocks, he shot out of the running lane after a great cutback.

Team KU running back Taylor Martin (24) looks to make a move during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU running back Taylor Martin (24) looks to make a move during the third quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Speaking of impressive reads and reactions on the run, Martin, a speedy 5-10 junior from Fort Worth, Texas, made one early on in the spring game, too. Martin was headed right out of the backfield and could see the defensive line penetrating at the point he planned to attack. With one cut to the left Martin re-routed and sped ahead for a nine-yard gain.

In the past, Martin got himself and the offense into trouble by trying to make too many jukes and cuts rather than utilizing his sprinter’s speed on straight-away paths. During the second quarter of the spring game Martin proved he has made strides to address those habits that he used to get away with in high school.

On one carry, Martin made the slightest cut left in the backfield to avoid a bunch of snarled linemen, only to tear ahead, spin off a would-be tackler and go eight more yards for a 12-yard pick-up. He got the offense half-way to another first down on the very next play by surveying his blocks and jetting through them after one necessary left-to-right juke to put himself in position.

On his longest carry of the scrimmage, Martin didn’t need to cut, spin, leap or zigzag. He just followed the O-line as it shifted to the right, creating a lane for him to show off his track speed, which Martin harnessed to reach the secondary level of the defense on a 13-yard carry. In particular, senior left guard Jayson Rhodes stood out as a blocker, getting over quickly to seal the left side of Martin’s running-lane chute to a first down.

It was only a spring game, and neither Herbert (six carries, 27 yards) nor Martin (seven rushes, 43 yards) dominated by any means in KU’s Air Raid offense. But they both looked like Big 12 backs capable of playing at a starting level this fall.

The competition between Bender and Carter Stanley to become KU’s starting quarterback has the most attention. But with Herbert, Martin, Williams and Matthews all vying to reach the top of the running backs depth chart, that will be an even more challenging battle.

Regardless of who emerges as the starter, KU looks to have its best stable of running backs in some time, and the Jayhawks should have no problem out-performing their 119.1 rushing yards a game from a year ago, which ranked ninth in the Big 12 and more than 40 yards a game behind eighth-place Iowa State.

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4-star WR Devonta Jason — committed to KU — now has 27 offers

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It’s been less than three months since four-star high school receiver Devonta Jason — one of the top 25 juniors in the nation according to Rivals — shocked the football recruiting world by committing to Kansas, along with his Louisiana prep teammate Corione Harris, a four-star cornerback.

While the news helped introduce KU fans to the term “Louisianimals” and doubled as a sign of associate head coach Tony Hull’s strength as a recruiter, Jason’s verbal commitment doesn’t mean he will definitely play for the Jayhawks in 2018. That won’t become official until he and other members of a Kansas recruiting class that currently ranks 14th in the nation sign their national letters of intent.

As of this week, Jason, a 6-foot-3 receiver now playing at more than 200 pounds, has received 27 scholarship offers — coming from programs in each of the Power Five conferences. The most recent two came Monday, from an old Kansas rival, Missouri, and the Pac-12’s Arizona.

Initially an LSU commit, Jason has much to ponder ahead of his senior season at Landry-Walker High, in New Orleans — the same school from which KU safety Mike Lee graduated early before turning into an impact freshman in the Big 12.

Earlier this month, Jason told SEC Country he is on pace to graduate from high school in December, and enroll at the university of his choice (possibly Kansas) for the 2018 spring semester.

That has to qualify as good news for KU head coach David Beaty and Louisiana recruiting guru Hull. The less time powerhouse programs have to try to sway Jason away, the better the chances for Kansas to get Rivals’ No. 25 player in the nation on the field in Lawrence. National Signing Day isn’t until Feb. 7, 2018. But if Jason graduates in December, the Jayhawks could already have him on campus by then — similar to what the staff did a few months back, with freshman linebacker Kyron Johnson, a three-star prospect from Arlington, Texas.

Open about his ongoing recruitment in interviews since committing to Kansas, Jason told SECCountry.com all the programs going after him have a chance.

“I’m going to be fair about it. I’m committed to Kansas, but LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are all tied in second,” Jason said a few weeks ago.

According to Jon Kirby of Jayhawk Slant, Jason is the highest-rated receiver ever to commit to KU.

It’s not a done deal now. Not even close. But just the idea of a wideout as talented as Jason one day suiting up for the Jayhawks and operating in the Air Raid offense should be enough to get an at times disinterested fan base excited about what Beaty, Hull and company are doing.

In the meantime, we’ll have to watch from afar and see if even more offers come in for the coveted receiver. One thing is certain: coaches from far more renowned programs will continue to do everything they can to get Jason to back out of his KU commitment.

Below is a timeline of Jason’s college recruitment.

2015

- Nov. 4: Commits to LSU

2016

  • April 9: Offer from Mississippi State

  • April 29: Offer from Kansas

  • May 2: Offer from West Virginia

  • May 4: Offer from Georgia

  • May 5: Offer from Nicholls State

  • May 6: Offer from Florida

  • May 11: Offers from Arkansas and Ole Miss

  • May 13: Offer from Jackson State

  • May 14: Offer from Delta State

  • May 17: Offer from Alabama

  • June 24: Offer from Miami (Fla.)

- July 9: De-commits from LSUas does Landry-Walker teammate Corione Harris

  • July 13: Offer from Tennessee

  • Dec. 12: Offers from Auburn, Arkansas State and Memphis

2017

  • Jan. 2: Offer from Texas A&M

  • Jan. 12: Offer from Florida State

  • Jan. 17: Offer from Oklahoma

  • Jan. 18: Offer from Iowa State

  • Jan. 21: Offer from Indiana

- Feb. 4: Commits to Kansasas does Landry-Walker teammate Harris

  • Feb. 9: Offers from TCU and Louisiana-Lafayette

  • Feb. 21: Offer from Tulane

  • April 24: Offers from Arizona and Missouri

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The Jayhawks who stood out most to coaches during spring football

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

After five weeks and 15 practices, one of the most crucial stretches of the Kansas football team’s offseason has come to a conclusion.

Spring ball is over, and the Jayhawks won’t reconvene for full team drills in helmets and pads with David Beaty and his position coaches again until August. It’s all strength and conditioning work with new assistant Zac Woodfin until then.

So who among KU’s many talented returning players had the most productive spring? Coaches don’t typically like to shower their pupils with too much praise, because they don’t want any individual thinking he’s in a position to ease up and stop improving.

But Kansas staff members over the past several weeks did give out player of the day honors for the team’s practice sessions, shouting out a representative from offense, defense and special teams.

The parameters for the acknowledgments, one can assume, are based around focus, consistency, effort and on-the-field impact. But you also can bet there was a classic Beaty “earn it” element to those practice awards, too. Veterans who have been around the program longer and established themselves as reliable and trustworthy tended to have their names and faces pop up on KU football’s Instagram account, the team’s vehicle for announcing the awards. For example: neither of the program’s transfers from Alabama, receiver Daylon Charlot and offensive lineman Charles Baldwin, picked up a player of the day nod.

Using the coaches’ public awards platform, we can get a sense of which players pleased KU coaches the most this spring. In total, 11 different Jayhawks won multiple practice distinctions, but the unofficial player of the spring distinction for Kansas goes to linebacker Joe Dineen, the only player to pick up the award three times.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Dineen missed most of the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury, but the good news for KU is he looked as fast and effective as ever this spring. What’s more, Dineen still has two years of eligibility remaining, thanks to receiving a medical redshirt for this past year.

As strong as KU’s defensive line projects to be in 2017, Clint Bowen’s defense needs play-makers behind the biggest Jayhawks up front to keep the program on its upward trajectory. Dineen is capable of being one at linebacker, with sophomore safety Mike Lee leading the secondary behind him.

Ten other Jayhawks won player of the day on two occasions: sophomore tackle Hakeem Adeniji, junior All-Big 12 defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., junior receiver Jeremiah Booker, sophomore cornerback Hasan Defense, junior defensive end Josh Ehambe, sophomore receiver Chase Harrell, senior receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr., senior tight end BenJohnson, junior running back Taylor Martin and senior kicker Gabriel Rui.

The names that stand out most from that group are Defense and Harrell, because they’re un-tested underclassmen.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry needs Defense, who played his freshman season at Kilgore College (Texas), to play like a starting Big 12 defensive back immediately, because KU lost two starters at the position. A solid spring is an ideal jumping-off point for the aptly named Defense as he continues his offseason. If he stood out against KU’s receivers, that’s an excellent sign.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017. by Nick Krug

Conversely, offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham is in charge of the unit’s most talented position group. The man calling plays for Kansas already has Steven Sims Jr., Daylon Charlot, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Ryan Schadler at his disposal. But none of those targets have Harrell’s size. The redshirt sophomore from Huffman, Texas, is 6-foot-4, strong and proved in KU’s spring game he can get up high and make spectacular catches. Harrell seems on target to have a breakthrough season and KU’s offense needs all the weapons it can get while it continues to play catch-up with the rest of the Big 12.

These standouts and others have more chances ahead of them to improve over the course of football’s lengthy offseason, but it’s interesting to see which Jayhawks the coaching staff chose to commend during the spring.

KU football’s spring players of the day

Practice No. 1

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Derrick Neal, sr., CB

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 2

  • Offense: Hunter Saulsbury, so., OL

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

Practice No. 3

  • Offense: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

Practice No. 4

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE

  • Defense: Keith Loneker Jr., jr., LB

  • Special teams: Tyler Patrick, jr., WR

Practice No. 5

  • Offense: Reese Randall, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Kyle Mayberry, so., CB

Practice No. 6

  • Offense: Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Osaze Ogbebor, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Bryce Torneden, so., S

Practice No. 7

  • Offense: Ryan Schadler, jr., WR

  • Defense: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 8

  • Offense: Evan Fairs, so., WR / Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Maciah Long, so., DE

  • Special teams: Ryan Renick, RS-fr., TE

Practice No. 9

  • Offense: Steven Sims Jr., jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

Practice No. 10

  • Offense: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

  • Defense: Daniel Wise, jr., DT

  • Special teams: J.J. Holmes, jr., DT

Practice No. 11

  • Offense: Chase Harrell, so., WR

  • Defense: Isi Holani, sr., DT

  • Special teams: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

Practice No. 12

(Walk-through day before spring game — no awards given)

Practice No. 13 — spring game

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE / Peyton Bender, jr., QB

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Cole Moos, sr., P

Practice No. 14

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Chase Harrell, so., WR

Practice No. 15

(Results not available)

Player of the Day Standings

Dineen (3)

Adeniji (2)

Armstrong (2)

Booker (2)

Defense (2)

Ehambe (2)

Harrell (2)

Hartzog (2)

B. Johnson (2)

Martin (2)

Rui (2)

Bender

Fairs

Holani

Holmes

Loneker

Long

Mayberry

Moos

Neal

Ogbebor

Patrick

Randall

Renick

Saulsbury

Schadler

Sims

Torneden

Wise

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Stock watch: Josh Jackson’s versatility makes him best small forward in NBA Draft

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Still almost a month away from the May 16 NBA Draft Lottery and some real clarity about where one-and-done Kansas star Josh Jackson could land in the NBA, one factor in his stock is discernible: Jackson is the best small forward available.

For months, experts have raved about the 2017 draft class and its point guards, and Jackson’s name often comes up after Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball in terms of most-coveted prospects. But even with the buzz increasing around Duke freshman small forward Jason Tatum’s stock, Jackson’s versatile game and defensive approach make him the primary target for a team looking to add a wing.

A 6-foot-8 20-year-old from Detroit who finally officially turned pro earlier this week, Jackson’s name takes the No. 1 position on a big board of small forwards, according to a feature David Aldridge wrote for NBA.com.

Jackson, who averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists for Bill Self’s Jayhawks during his one season, ranked ahead of the aforementioned Tatum (easily his biggest non-point guard competition for a top spot in the draft), Florida State freshman Jonathan Issac and Indiana sophomore O.G. Anunoby.

In compiling the list, Aldridge, a veteran NBA reporter, ranked the college and foreign players based on who, in theory, would be best suited to step onto an NBA floor tonight and make the most significant impact. To do so, he used intel from general managers and coaches around The Association, as well as college coaches.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) floats in for a bucket over Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) floats in for a bucket over Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

While discussing who Jackson might be comparable to, Aldridge’s conversations led him to the names of two NBA Finals MVPs: all-league San Antonio forward Kawhi Leonard and Golden State veteran Andre Iguodala.

“I freaking love him,” an executive of a team likely to have a high lottery pick told Aldridge. “This guy’s getting better as he goes, so I can’t see how he can’t be Iguodala — a guy who can defend and pass, and who’s becoming a better shooter. I know the Kansas people, and in terms of work and all that stuff … they were absolutely in love with him as a kid — not a little bit, a lot. He has (Andrew) Wiggins’ athleticism with character off the chain.”

Since Jackson decided to play at Kansas we’ve heard the Wiggins comparisons, but the Iguodala one is unique and intriguing. Casual fans may know the 6-foot-6 wing, now 33, as a phenomenal veteran role player for Golden State. But earlier in his career Iguodala gave his teams in Philadelphia and Denver those intangibles and so much more. Iguodala averaged 17.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 2009-10 — arguably his best stat-stuffing season — for the Sixers.

The fascinating aspect of Jackson’s potential is that the Iguodala comparison is only the baseline. Jackson could turn into an even more devastating version of Iguodala, and that’s likely why someone invoked the name of MVP candidate Leonard. No one saw the Spurs’ 6-7 small forward turning into one of the best players on the planet before the 2011 draft, but evaluators look at Jackson’s skill set and competitive nature and envision greatness.

Leonard didn’t enter the league as a player anyone feared as a 3-point shooter, yet he has turned himself into a threat. During his just-completed sixth regular season, the former San Diego State stud shot 38.1% from long range while setting career-highs in makes (147) and attempts (386).

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) puts a shot over Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

In order to one day become an all-league type of talent Jackson will need to follow a similar path. He arrived at KU with questions about his jump shot, but steadily improved throughout the season to finish at 37.8% on 3-pointers, after making less than 30% in both November and December.

Aldridge reported some wonder how the NBA’s deeper 3-point arc will impact Jackson’s shot-making from deep, but one Pacific Division executive didn’t seem too worried about it.

“There’s a lot less of a concern now than there was in the early part of the season, maybe the middle of the season,” the executive said. “He shot 40 percent the last month, month and a half of the year (Jackson shot 48.1 percent, 25 of 52, behind the arc the last seven weeks of the season). He’s been the best player in his class. He has that kind of pedigree. If he can consistently shoot from NBA range, he does so many other things well he’s going to be a good NBA player.”

— See David Aldridge’s SF big board for the 2017 NBA Draft: Kansas’ Josh Jackson sure thing in small forward group full of surprises

Team’s chances of winning the lottery

Boston (from Brooklyn) - 25%

Phoenix - 19.9%

L.A. Lakers - 15.6%

Philadelphia - 11.9%

Orlando - 8.8%

Minnesota - 5.3%

New York - 5.3%

Sacramento - 2.8%

Dallas - 1.7%

New Orleans - 1.1%

Charlotte - 0.8%

Detroit - 0.7%

Denver - 0.6%

Miami - 0.5%

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Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise could only have so much fun at KU spring game

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. signs autographs following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. signs autographs following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Spring football games are not real football games. And no one understands that better than Kansas defensive stalwarts Dorance Armstrong Jr., and Daniel Wise.

Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium was about letting the fans get a peek at the 2017 Jayhawks, not giving away too many secrets or play-calling wrinkles along the way and keeping quarterbacks Carter Stanley and Peyton Bender healthy.

So juniors Armstrong and Wise, two of the program’s most marketable talents, who also happen to be massive defensive linemen, didn’t get to unleash their full array of skills.

The quarterbacks, receivers such as Daylon Charlot and Steven Sims Jr., running backs Taylor Martin and Khalil Herbert, defensive backs such as Mike Lee, Kyle Mayberry, Derrick Neal and Bryce Torneden, and linebackers Joe Dineen and Keith Loneker Jr., got to experience a lively, enjoyable afternoon scrimmage.

It just felt a little different for the big guys who hope to make a living in the NFL by chasing and demolishing QBs.

A 6-foot-4, 246-pound pass-rusher extraordinaire from Houston, Armstrong was credited with four total tackles and one sack. Wise, a 6-3, 290-pound versatile defensive lineman, had two tackles for loss and a sack. Not bad numbers, for sure, but also not true snapshots of how impactful they will be for David Beaty’s third Kansas football team, either.

It must have been difficult for them to exert their typical full game-day effort knowing they would have to pump the brakes if they created themselves a path to a QB, right? Sophomore safety Lee, who spoke with reporters after the open practice, confirmed as much.

“On the sideline, Dorance was really mad,” a grinning Lee reported. “He was like, ‘They keep holdin’ me! I can’t even get a sack!’ He was like, ‘I wish it was a real game, because I’d have a bunch of sacks.’ And D-Wise was just laughin’ at him, like, ‘It’s just the spring game, son.’”

The picture Lee painted gives you an idea of part of what makes Armstrong great: that competitive fire. But neither Armstrong nor Wise could show off at the spring game in the way Lee (six tackles and two crushing hits on receiver Ryan Schadler) or other defenders were able to do.

None by Zaldy Doyungan

None by Benton Smith

“It really was a defensive back game, because it’s the spring game,” Lee said. “They can’t touch the quarterback. The ball was being thrown a lot.”

Obviously the last thing any coach or player wants is to lose a quarterback due to a contact injury during a practice or scrimmage — it was only two years ago that a freak play at KU’s spring game prematurely ended Michael Cummings’ career. You’ve got to have those QBs in red jerseys and safe.

And, when you think about it, that’s probably what makes Saturdays in the fall so rewarding for standout defensive linemen like Armstrong and Wise. After months of not being able to do what you were born to do, you get to release those frustrations on an opposing quarterback.

Here’s an early bet that Armstrong and Wise this fall will improve upon their combined 13 sacks and 30 tackles for loss from 2016.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise shoots a selfie of himself and his team after being selected as the fourth-overall pick during a spring game player draft on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the Anderson Family Football Complex.

Kansas defensive tackle Daniel Wise shoots a selfie of himself and his team after being selected as the fourth-overall pick during a spring game player draft on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at the Anderson Family Football Complex. by Nick Krug

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Say What? Smith talks KU spring game, QB competition on 810 WHB’s Between the Lines

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Which KU football player should go No. 1 in the spring game draft?

Monday marked the first spring practice for the Kansas football team, including quarterbacks (from left) Carter Stanley, Peyton Bender and Tyriek Starks. The Jayhawks began preparation for head coach David Beaty's third season inside Anschutz Pavilion, on March 13, 2017.

Monday marked the first spring practice for the Kansas football team, including quarterbacks (from left) Carter Stanley, Peyton Bender and Tyriek Starks. The Jayhawks began preparation for head coach David Beaty's third season inside Anschutz Pavilion, on March 13, 2017. by Mike Yoder

The Kansas football team is going all in on building up hype for this Saturday’s spring game at Memorial Stadium (1 p.m. kickoff).

David Beaty and company started off the week Monday by announcing the two sides for the scrimmage — Team Jayhawks and Team KU — and the coaches in charge of each. It will be Kansas associate head coach and running backs coach Tony Hull (Jayhawks) on one sideline and cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry (KU) on the other, with Beaty observing the action in more of a neutral capacity.

How will the rosters be split up for the spring game? Well, that will be determined Wednesday afternoon with a draft.

Hull — who will be assisted by defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, special teams coordinator Joe DeForest, quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley and offensive line coach Zach Yenser — won the right to the No. 1 pick on Monday, when Perry — working with linebackers coach Todd Bradford, offensive coordinator Doug Meacham and defensive line coach Jesse Williams — lost a coin toss by picking tails.

None by Kansas Football

Second-year assistant Hull had the opportunity to take either the swagged-out home KU locker room or the No. 1 pick in the spring draft by winning the coin flip, and he rightfully went with the draft rights.

None by Coach Tony Hull

So who should Hull pick for this weekend’s family-friendly affair? We got together some of our KUsports.com staff members to find out which Jayhawk they think Hull will select — and who they would take No. 1 overall.

Let us know your picks in the comments section below.

Benton Smith’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Since Mr. Louisianimal himself landed the top choice, I think he will want an impact guy from “The Boot” to build his team around.

Kansas receiver Daylon Charlot runs back to the line after catching a pass during spring football practice on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

Kansas receiver Daylon Charlot runs back to the line after catching a pass during spring football practice on Thursday, March 30, 2017. by Nick Krug

That means Hull will go with perhaps the most intriguing talent on the roster, former Alabama wide receiver Daylon Charlot, from Patterson, La. A 6-foot, 195-pound pass-catching and return threat, Charlot walked away from Nick Saban at Alabama when the most prominent head coach in all of college football tried to convince him to stay.

Teammates and coaches rave about Charlot’s athletic ability and how he can break open a play in the open field or with a deep catch. Charlot has been looking forward to playing for months after sitting out and he’ll want to make a splash in his unofficial KU debut.

Who I would take: He won’t have the same flash or fan attention as Charlot or one of KU’s top quarterbacks, but I’m taking a big man who can not only give my QB some time to make his reads, but also get out and create holes for the running backs (or speedy receivers on end arounds).

A transfer from Alabama, offensive lineman Charles Baldwin sat out the 2016 season at Kansas. This spring, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior right tackle finally gets to practice with the first-stringers on offense, as the Jayhawks begin preparation for the 2017 season.

A transfer from Alabama, offensive lineman Charles Baldwin sat out the 2016 season at Kansas. This spring, the 6-foot-5, 305-pound junior right tackle finally gets to practice with the first-stringers on offense, as the Jayhawks begin preparation for the 2017 season. by Mike Yoder

The pick is another Alabama transfer, junior offensive lineman Charles Baldwin.

The 6-foot-5, 305-pound right tackle, like Charlot, will be eager to play after sitting out 2016 as a transfer. And he has the power and athleticism to try and limit the likes of Dorance Armstrong Jr. and/or Daniel Wise, should they end up on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

Even if QB’s won’t be hit in the scrimmage, it would be nice to have a beast like Baldwin on your side as a starting point.

Matt Tait’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Junior DE Dorance Armstrong Jr.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates with Kansas wide receiver Jeremiah Booker (88) after Armstrong forced a fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. (2) celebrates with Kansas wide receiver Jeremiah Booker (88) after Armstrong forced a fumble during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

For my money, Armstrong is the best player on the Kansas football team. As he showed last season, he’s a big-time pass-rusher at the Power 5 level and he’s only getting better.

Because it’s a spring game and the KU quarterbacks will be wearing red jerseys, you won’t see any of the bone-crushing hits that Armstrong is capable of delivering. But you might see him wreak havoc on KU’s offensive line, which, in a game that features players getting credited with sacks for just touching the quarterback, could make for a long day for the KU offense, especially if Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley aren’t getting the ball out quickly.
 Hull coaches offense so it won’t surprise me if he’s leaning toward picking a player from that side of the ball. For what it’s worth, I can’t see it being a running back. But with enough quality players at other positions available down his draft board, Hull can scoop those up later and take the difference-maker with the No. 1 overall selection.

Who I would take: Junior WR Steven Sims Jr.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) gets near  the end zone after a catch late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas wide receiver Steven Sims Jr. (11) gets near the end zone after a catch late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Spring games have been known to showcase offensive firepower, and, at Kansas, wide receivers often have been the beneficiaries of that fact.

From Christian Matthews on a couple of occasions back in the day to LaQuvionte Gonzalez last season, the guys on the outside typically get a lot of space to work with and often can take advantage of being put in position to use their speed to score quickly and often, because they don’t have to worry about their teammates lighting them up. Once they catch the ball, especially in space, it becomes a foot race to the end zone and Sims, along with most of KU's wideouts, is faster than many of the defensive backs on this team and, perhaps most importantly, far more experienced. 


Sims has been KU’s most consistent wide receiver during the past two seasons and I think he’s ready for an even bigger role now that he’s an upperclassman. I think that role begins Saturday and I'd gladly welcome him onto my team if I had the No. 1 pick. 


He catches everything, knows how to get open and has proven to be a favorite target of quarterbacks because of his reliable hands and precise route running.

Give me Sims to start my team and I’ll build around him.

Bobby Nightengale’s prediction and pick

Who Hull will take: Joe Dineen.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) pressures Ohio quarterback Greg Windham (14) during the third quarter on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

When a coach or front office is making a pick at the top of the draft, it’s always important to consider all of the intangibles. That’s why I think Hull is going to pick junior middle linebacker Dineen, aka Local Boy, with his first pick. 

Perhaps no player will be more excited to step on the field Saturday than Dineen, who missed nearly all of last season with a right hamstring injury. The 6-2, 230-pound linebacker was a captain for the defense and is essentially another coach on the field. People know what to expect out of him — a run-stopper capable of running sideline to sideline, and a good pass-rusher on blitzes. 

Who I would take: Mike Lee.

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Mike Lee (11) intercepts a pass during overtime on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

With a young, inexperienced secondary, Kansas sophomore-to-be safety Lee stands out because of his talented freshman campaign. The 5-foot-11, 176-pounder proved that he’s a threat to stop rushing attacks  (70 solo tackles last year) and his big hits make receivers think twice on balls floating over the middle. 

In the spring game, the key to slowing either quarterback, Stanley or Bender, will be strong coverage against top receivers Sims, Gonzalez, Charlot and others. Surrounded by young cornerbacks, Lee is the best weapon in the Jayhawks’ secondary and can provide leadership through his experience. 

Plus, as a bonus, Lee isn’t going to shy away from the top moments. His interception in overtime against Texas helped seal Beaty’s first Big 12 victory in November, providing momentum into the offseason. 

Reply 10 comments from Benton Smith Joe Ross Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Matt Tait Brett McCabe John Myers

An introduction to future Jayhawks Dedric and K.J. Lawson

Memphis' Dedric Lawson looks to shoot as Connecticut's Kentan Facey, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Memphis' Dedric Lawson looks to shoot as Connecticut's Kentan Facey, right, defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Once a national championship opponent of the Kansas Jayhawks, Memphis hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament in three years. So you get a pass if you weren’t particularly familiar with a couple of second-year Tigers by the names of Dedric and K.J. Lawson before news of their plans to transfer to KU came out Monday.

Who are the Lawsons, exactly? Well, they’re brothers, as you likely guessed. Though they’re both in the same class from a student-athlete perspective, K.J. is actually a year older than Dedric, who reclassified to join Memphis at the same time as his brother.

Between them they combined to average more than 31 points per game this past season for Memphis (19-13) and head coach Tubby Smith.

Dedric, a 6-foot-9 guard/forward, proved to be more prolific offensively for the brothers’ hometown program, while nearly averaging a double-double — 19.2 points and 9.9 rebounds — as a sophomore. He only shot 27% from 3-point range (30-for-111) but converted much more effectively on 2-point shots (52%) before he and his brother decided to move on. Dedric made himself a presence on defense, too, averaging 2.1 blocks and 1.3 steals a game.

K.J., a 6-foot-7 guard/forward improved his production with a leap in minutes — and health — between his freshman and sophomore years. K.J. only played 10 games as a freshman, due to a foot injury, and averaged 8.8 points and 3.5 boards in 19.7 minutes.

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

South Carolina forward Mindaugas Kacinas (25) fouls Memphis forward K.J. Lawson, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Able to play 32 games the following year, his sophomore numbers improved to 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds in 33.7 minutes. This past season, K.J. was more accurate from 3-point range than his brother, connecting on 22 of 67 attempts (32.8%). K.J. shot 39.9% from the floor overall in 2016-17, while Dedric converted 46.1% of his field goals.

Dedric got to the free-throw line a lot more, hitting on 152 of 205 attempts (74.1%) as a sophomore. K.J. made 82 of 118 free throws (69.5%) this past year.

Considered the more talented of the two, Dedric tested the NBA Draft waters in 2016 after becoming the American Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year and returned to school after attending the draft combine and hearing from NBA decision-makers about his stock.

Though his sophomore production wasn’t enough to make him an NBA player after two college seasons, Dedric and K.J. likely had their professional futures in mind when deciding to transfer to a high-profile program and play for Bill Self at Kansas.

Here’s a look at one of Dedric’s more effective games of his sophomore season — when he went for 26 points and 6 rebounds against Tulsa — which includes various examples of why he was named First Team All-AAC.

K.J. made it back-to-back AAC Rookie of the Year awards for the Lawson household as a sophomore. His 8.1 boards ranked him third in the conference, behind Dedric’s league-leading 9.9. Like his brother, who averaged 2.9 offensive rebounds a game, K.J. attacked the glass on that end of the floor, gathering 2.3 a game.

Though he wasn’t featured in the Tigers’ offense as much as his brother, he showed a smooth handle and shooting touch in spots, and put together a 19-rebound outing in January versus East Carolina.

“I think my strongest skill set is just my aggressiveness and my rebounding skills,” K.J. said in an interview after picking up his rookie hardware. “Just playing and just enforcing my will on people.”

The Lawson brothers, per NCAA rules, won’t make their KU debuts until the 2018-19 season, after sitting out this coming season as transfers.

Reply 12 comments from Memhawk Koolkeithfreeze Shannon Gustafson Dale Rogers Mallory Briggans Steve Corder Cairo_jayhawk Ryan Mullen Greg Ledom Scott Callahan

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