For the third time this spring, the media was invited to the practice fields at Kansas University to check out 15-20 minutes of the KU football team’s practice.
Today’s practice was the first after last Saturday’s scrimmage, in which newcomers Darrian Miller (4 TDs) and Julius Green (several tackles for loss) were said to have stood out.
Instead of relying on the word of those who saw the scrimmage, I was allowed to make my own observations at today’s practice. Here’s a quick look at what I came up with:
Wildcat offense looks to be in the KU arsenal: After wondering in vain throughout 2010 if the Jayhawks would install the ‘Wildcat’ offense that incorporates a direct snap to a running back or wide receiver, it looks as if that will be part of the package this year. Monday, the Jayhawks called out “Jayhawk” several times — a play-call that’s done both verbally and by flapping one’s “wings” — and the team lined up quickly and without confusion each time it was called. The first few times they ran “Jayhawk” it was sophomore wide receiver Christian Matthews who took the snaps. Later, junior wideout Kale Pick took his turn. It should be fun to watch how that one unfolds this season.
Linebackers look bigger, faster: Thanks to the return of sophomore Huldon Tharp and the presence of transfer Darrius Willis, the KU linebacking corps, which includes returning starter Steven Johnson playing on the outside with Tharp, looks a lot faster, a lot more explosive and even a little bigger. Johnson (95 tackles and 2 sacks in 2010) seems to have added a little bulk this year and Tharp and Willis both look fast. While those three made up the first team, they were backed up by sophomore Steve Mestan (MLB), junior transfer Malcolm Walker (OLB) and sophomore Prinz Kande (OLB), a former safety who moved to linebacker during the offseason.
Brown bulks up: He played his best football of the season down the stretch last year and it looks as if that success continued into the offseason, as junior cornerback Greg Brown looks to have added around 10 pounds of muscle during the offseason. Brown, who played in all 12 games a season ago, appears to be a likely candidate to start at one cornerback position when the season kicks off in September.
Not all sunshine and rainbows: Maybe it was just a case of the Mondays, but even during drills run at half-speed, several members of both the first-team offense and the scout-team defense jumped offsides or took an early step during the Jayhawks’ pre-practice routine on Monday. The intensity seemed to be up a dozen notches by the end of practice, so, again, maybe it was just a slow start.
Injury update: Senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson (foot) was held out of practice again, sophomore defensive tackle Kevin Young received attention on-and-off during Monday’s practice, though he did participate, and junior running back Rell Lewis, who is attempting to come back from an ACL injury that kept him out all of last season, was seen wearing a brace on his injured knee and limping slightly.