After two days of closed practices, we were back out there on Saturday morning. The practice — open to KU students with a valid student ID from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and to the media from 10:20-11:00 — was a lot less like an actual practice and a lot more like a dress rehearsal.
With the season opener now just two weeks away, KU coach Charlie Weis took time out to treat the beginning of Saturday’s practice as if it were gameday.
With the music blaring and the stands yet to fill up, the kickers hit the field first and began their warm-ups. Kickoffs, punts, field goal attempts, everything was done just as it would be on a Saturday during the season.
About 15 minutes after the kickers hit the field, KU quarterback Dayne Crist led the quarterbacks and a group of specialists onto the field. Ten or so minutes after that another wave of players came out and so on and so on.
Although this kind of thing is not ground-breaking, it is critical, especially when you’re talking about a program that has a new coaching staff. Why wait until Sept. 1 to give these guys a feel for what things will be like on gamedays? Emotions run high, adrenaline is pumping and it can be tough to focus when kickoff is an hour or so away. That’s why they did the Saturday walk-through and, like everything else with Weis, the goal was for repetition and discipline now to make things run more smoothly when they count for real.
Beyond that, we didn’t see a whole lot on Saturday. By the time we left, a few students were starting to file in, but I would definitely be interested in hearing how many showed up, especially in the wake of Weis’ comedic comments from last night’s pep rally about leaving games early.
“If you’re leaving at halftime,” Weis told the large crowd at Corinth Square in Prairie Village, “You and I are going to get into a fistfight.”
Here are a few other things that caught my eye during Saturday’s walk-through.
• Several different players were working on punt and kickoff returns. Could have just been a thing for today or could be a sign that there is competition at that position, too. Veterans Daymond Patterson, D.J. Beshears and Bradley McDougald were joined by newcomers Tre Parmalee, Tyree Williams and Greg Allen. The first depth chart of the season — which we received on Aug. 1 — did not include returners, so, right now, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be handling those duties in two weeks.
• No Ty McKinney once again. According to several people, the junior-college transfer from Trinity Valley CC in Texas is going crazy while wait for his classwork to be finalized. He has done the work and turned it in, it’s just waiting to be graded. At this point you have to feel for this guy. All he wants to do is play football and, with each day that passes, it becomes more and more unlikely that he’ll be able to play a big role on the KU defense early in the season. That’s not to say he can’t get out there, but this was a guy who had starter potential. McKinney Watch continues. Stay tuned...
• With McKinney still not on campus, a few veterans are benefiting from extra reps in practice. One guy who appears to be taking full advantage of it is Kevin Young, 6-3, 285-pound junior defensive tackle from Olathe. During drills on Saturday, Young worked with the likely first team, as defensive ends Toben Opurum and Josh Williams lined up on the outside and Keba Agostinho and Young lined up inside. The second unit also featured some quality names, which gives a great indication that the talent and depth on the D-Line is much improved. Jordan Tavai and Ben Goodman were the defensive ends who ran second and Keon Stowers and John Williams were the interior linemen. Again, this was just a drill, so it does not necessarily reflect what the depth chart looks like. But, right now, those eight guys appear to be your first two waves on the D-Line.
• Speaking of absences, a few guys were on the exercise bikes again and one guy was not at practice at all. Linebacker Anthony McDonald and safety Brian Maura were back on the bike, and they were joined by wide receiver Christian Matthews. Tight end Jimmay Mundine, who was at team pictures on Saturday morning, was not on the field for the first 40 minutes of practice. It sounds like Mundine is just dealing with some kind of flu or something and he should be fine.
• A familiar face showed up for practice on Saturday, as former KU linebacker James Holt was on hand to watch his former team. Holt, who played on KU’s Orange Bowl championship team and later with the San Diego Chargers, was a second-team all-Big 12 selection in 2008 and an honorable mention all-Big 12 pick in 2007.
• Finally, the Coach Weis song of the day was “10th Avenue Freezeout” by Bruce Springsteen.