After weeks — perhaps months — of anticipation, the first spring football game under Kansas University coach Charlie Weis has come and gone and, judging by the general opinion of the dozens of people that I spoke with in the hours since Saturday’s game ended, most liked what they saw.
Toss me into that group, but understand that it’s always a dangerous thing to read too much into what happens or does not happen at a school’s spring football game.
Remember, Christian Matthews had been the star of the previous two spring games but never really did much during either season that followed. Matthews made next to no noise on Saturday so maybe that’s a good sign for the upcoming season. Then again, maybe it’s not.
Anyway, after taking some time to soak up what I saw, here’s a look back at a few quick-hitters that caught my eye from Saturday’s spring game.
• I really liked what I saw from senior wide receiver Kale Pick. We already knew about Pick’s blocking and how much pride he takes in that. Its effectiveness was on display again during D.J. Beshears’ 28-yard touchdown run on a reverse. But what we had not really seen in the past was what a weapon Pick can be catching the ball. We did Saturday. QBs Dayne Crist and Jake Heaps looked his way a lot and Pick caught everything thrown at him, including the 46-yard flea-flicker completion that wowed the crowd. Now that KU has a strong-armed reliable QB with experience in the pocket, I think Pick’s value and production both will sky-rocket this season.
• I’ll admit it. I’m guilty. After having him sit out nearly the entire 2011 season, I forgot just how talented senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson was. I was reminded Saturday. Often. Patterson brings a different dimension to the position, a wiggleness of sorts, that’s hard to coach and even harder to coach against. It was awesome seeing DP back out there again, and I’m sure Crist felt the same way.
• Speaking of KU’s receivers, the big days from Pick, Patterson and Beshears made me believe that the KU offense will be OK no matter what the NCAA decides regarding sophomore transfer Justin McCay’s eligibility this week. Of course, it would be awesome for KU to have McCay out there — both for the offense and for the young man himself — but if he is not given his hardship waiver and therefore has to sit out a year, KU’s offense will be fine. I’ll feel for McCay, as I do think he deserves the waiver, but the Jayhawks have a lot of weapons in the passing game, with or without him.
• Tight end Jimmay Mundine might very well be one of those weapons, and I thought Mundine showed some good things on Saturday. He did also fumble, though, which is pretty much in line with the inconsistency that the young, talented tight end has shown since arriving at KU. It looked like Crist liked Mundine and felt comfortable going to him over the middle, and that certainly will give Mundine a leg up in the race to become KU’s starting tight end. But he didn’t show me enough for me to feel that he’s the clear-cut No. 1. Mundine definitely will have to hold off newcomers Mike Ragone, Charles Brooks and Jordan Smith, and you know each one will be gunning for him. The good news here is, if KU wants to show a couple of two-tight-end sets (which they will, at times), they appear to have the personnel to do so.
• Props to junior tailback James Sims for running hard behind KU’s second-string offensive line all day, but the emergence of Marquis Jackson (10 carries, 76 yards and 3 TDs) might signify even more bad news for KU’s former starter, who lost his spot atop the depth chart after an off-the-field incident. Sims is not the kind of guy to sulk or quit, so I was not surprised to see him running hard, trying to prove himself again. But with Tony Pierson ready to explode, Jackson coming on and Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox and Tevin Shaw still in the fold, things are awfully crowded at running back for KU, and sitting out three games to serve a suspension to start the season won’t do Sims any good.
• Tough to say too much about the play of KU’s defense on Saturday. Sure, they shut down the white squad, almost entirely, but had they not, that would have been bigger news. That said, plenty of people not named Michael Reynolds (3 sacks, 5 tackles) made some plays for the KU D. Junior cornerback Tyler Patmon made a couple of nice pass break-ups, breaking on the ball and timing it perfectly each time. And safeties Bradley McDougald and Lubbock Smith each made their presence known a time or two, as well. I don’t remember Crist or Heaps throwing at senior cornerback Greg Brown. Is that a sign of respect or just coincidence?
• Finally, it was good to see junior place kicker Ron Doherty knock every kick he attempted through the uprights. Doherty was 1-for-1 on field goals and 6-for-6 on PATs. Although he has not had a fantastic spring, he appears to be the starting place kicker, and I doubt he gives up the job.
There’s still plenty to take away from the spring and even more to look ahead to this summer, so be sure to check back with KUsports.com often throughout the next few months as we continue to track and countdown the days to KU’s first season under Weis.;