A peek behind closed practice gates of Kansas football preseason camp
There were no pads. No real football contact. But the Kansas Jayhawks practiced Tuesday morning in helmets, jerseys and shorts, making their Sept. 2 opener feel closer than ever.
As has been the case with KU football for some time now, media members only caught glimpses of the action, during an early period, which opened with warm-ups and special teams work.
The drills on a day like this, a day after their first walk-through and a full week before the players practice in pads, aren’t exactly fierce in nature during the 15 to 20 minutes we see. But what stood out as the Jayhawks ease into preseason camp was just how precise some of the team’s veterans are in their approach.
In particular, junior receiver Steven Sims Jr.’s footwork was as impressive as ever. The wet grass went flying in all directions from underneath him, as his feet chopped on routes.
Junior running back Taylor Martin efficiently made bursts to the left and right of obstacles, before and/or after powering straight ahead.
Both starting quarterback candidates, junior Peyton Bender and redshirt sophomore Carter Stanley, displayed tight spins and on-point throws every time I looked their direction. It seems both are ready to make the other work as the QB race nears the finish line.
Last year, KU punt returners made no impact. In fact, they were a net negative, totaling -10 yards on seven attempted returns for the year. As you probably knew or just guessed, that was last (128th) among FBS teams.
It will be up to one or two of these Jayhawks to turn that portion of special teams around: Daylon Charlot, Sims, Quan Hampton, Takulve Williams, Hunter Kauffman, Travis Jordan and Kwamie Lassiter II took turns fielding punts at practice.
As KU took field goal reps at practice, senior kicker Gabriel Rui got the first cracks at it. Rui looked solid, even on the grass. Better than he looked in the spring actually.
Then left-footed freshman Liam Jones took his turn. Although he missed one 45-yard try from the left hash, it was due to a low snap that broke up the timing and he still put a good boot on it before missing it wide-left.
Jones then drilled a straight-away attempt from 49 yards, perfectly splitting the uprights. Seemed like it had the distance for a 55- or 60-yarder from my vantage point.