Here are your top candidates to represent KU at Big 12 Media Days in Dallas later this month
At last glance, the section on the Big 12 web site where it lists which players will be representing their respective teams at this month’s Big 12 football media days in Dallas — July 25 & 26 — had the following entry for Kansas University: “Coach Turner Gill, Players TBA.”
With that in mind, I figured we might as well bang out a blog weighing the options for the Jayhawks.
This whole concept is something I started thinking about upon the conclusion of last year’s Big 12 media days in Dallas. That one ran for three days because there were 12 teams instead of the 10 we’ll see this year.
Who the teams send to Dallas is not hugely important in the grand scheme of the season, but there is an element of prestige involved with being selected.
Last year, Gill was joined by seniors Jake Laptad, Chris Harris and Brad Thorson, and all three said it was an honor to be chosen to represent the team. I’m guessing that’s the way most players from most teams feel, even if some made it clear that they weren’t thrilled to be there.
Here’s what we know about the quote/unquote requirements to represent the Jayhawks at this event:
• Last year, Gill sent all seniors.
• Typically, the players selected not only have been among the team’s top performers on the field but also its most respected off it.
• Any position will do. Most teams send their stars — save for former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach leaving both QB Graham Harrell and WR Michael Crabtree home a few years back — but more than a few offensive linemen and lesser-known defensive players have made the trek.
With all of that in mind, here’s my guess — in order of most likely to least likely — as to which players the Jayhawks will send south for the summer later this month.
1. Daymond Patterson, Sr. WR — Not only is Patterson a senior and one of the best talkers on the team, he’s also a playmaker. He enters 2011 as the team’s top returning receiver, he’s on a couple of national watch lists and he delivered, without question, two of KU’s top offensive plays in 2010, the first being his pinball touchdown catch and run against Georgia Tech and the second being his one-handed grab against Colorado that too often goes unmentioned when people talk about that remarkable comeback. As if those weren’t reasons enough, here are a couple more. One: Patterson’s one of the team’s hardest workers and most colorful personalities. In addition, he’s a native Texan. I’d call him a lock to be in Dallas later this month.
2. Tim Biere, Sr. TE — Though he’s one of the more quiet guys on the team, Biere has been a favorite of coach Gill’s since he arrived here. During the past two years, it seems that every time a reporter asked Gill to name a player who looked good or stood out at practice, Biere’s name was in the mix. Coaches like to reward players like Biere, guys who show up each day to work hard and don’t draw any unnecessary attention to the program. Again, Biere’s a senior so that only helps his cause. Beyond that, he’s a great ambassador for the program, who is happy to sit there for hours and talk about what KU means to him or why the Jayhawks are on the rise.
3. Toben Opurum, Jr. DE — This one’s a little bit of a stretch, but I think it might happen. Here’s why: Ever since Gill moved him from offense to defense — first linebacker and then defensive end — Opurum has made his coach look good. Instead of being bitter and angry after the move to LB, Opurum was open-minded and willing to embrace the change. Instead of being furious, threatening to transfer and bad-mouthing his coaches after the move to D-End, Opurum went to work, improved on a daily basis and turned out to be a pretty solid defensive end. For that and that alone, Opurum deserves a few pats on the back from the coaching staff and this would be a great place to give it to him. Like Patterson, Opurum’s a native of the Dallas area — Plano, Tex. — and, also like Patterson, he’s a fantastic talker who comes across as the exact image of the kind of student-athlete Gill wants at Kansas. The only thing that makes this a stretch is the fact that Opurum’s still just a junior. But I think he’s earned the right to be there, and, what’s more, Gill thinks he’s on the brink of becoming one of the best defensive players in the Big 12. Why not showcase him?
4. Steven Johnson, Sr. LB — About 300 days ago, I had Johnson on my list of guys destined to go to Dallas. It’s not that he’s done anything to hurt his chances, I’m just not sure if there aren’t guys on this team who might provide a better mix of personality and on-field potential. Johnson’s a great talker, a reporter’s dream, the kind of guy who will tell you exactly how he’s feeling and what’s on his mind. That’s fantastic for us 100 percent of the time. It’s only fantastic for the coaches about 85 percent of the time. I don’t think that’s what will keep him from Dallas, though. I just think he’s the odd man out here.
5. Jordan Webb, Soph. QB — An extreme longshot but one I’d like to see. What better way to give Webb a shot of confidence than by rewarding him with this kind of trip and making him the face of your program? At least for now. As crazy as it might sound, I think that could go a long way toward making Webb a better quarterback and the KU offense a more productive unit. Here’s why it won’t happen: All signs point to the fact that Webb will be the starting quarterback when the Jayhawks take on McNeese State on Sept. 3. However, if that’s true, the last thing the coaching staff wants to do is announce it. They want the quarterback battle to remain competitive. They want Quinn Mecham, Michael Cummings and, eventually, Brock Berglund to show up to practice and conditioning each day believing they still have a chance to start. Thinking they do will make them push themselves harder. Each man pushing himself to the limit only helps Webb push himself, too. In addition to the coaching staff wanting to play it close to the vest with the QB race, Webb’s only a sophomore and doesn’t have quite the personality of the four guys listed above him.
Others who could be considered but probably won’t attend: James Sims, Soph. RB; Jeremiah Hatch, Sr. OL; Tanner Hawkinson, Jr. OL; Kale Pick, Jr. WR; Darius Willis, Soph. LB.