There’s no better sign that the end of the season is approaching than the image of bright lights standing tall above a Kansas University football practice.
That was the scene Tuesday, where the Jayhawks began preparations for Saturday’s 6 p.m. Senior Day showdown with Iowa State at Memorial Stadium.
For the first time I can remember this season, there was not one specific thing that I went to practice hoping to learn more about.
No Tony Pierson injury. No wondering if Daymond Patterson would be out there. No closer look at that week’s starting quarterback or the first string guys on the offensive line.
It was a little weird, to be honest. And it was made even weirder by the continued absence of music during the early portion of KU’s practice.
With all that said, I still did notice a few things. It’s hard being out there without having something catch your eye. But none of it seemed all that earth-shattering.
We know Michael Cummings is starting at quarterback — although KU coach Charlie Weis said senior Dayne Crist may play some because it's Senior Day — and we know what he can do. We know Pierson is healthy again — boy, do we — and even though he had a small wrap on his left elbow, we know that probably won’t be there on Saturday and, therefore, the elbow probably won’t hinder him in any way.
So while I could tell you about watching senior Duane Zlatnik get nearly all of the reps with the first team again — remember, red-shirt freshman Damon Martin didn’t even make the trip to Lubbock, Texas, last week — or how there were more NFL scouts in attendance today than there had been in quite some time, yet another sign that the season is ending and the chance to get a look at some of KU’s potential future pros is dwindling, I’ll stick with the one thing that caught my eye the most.
Not surprisingly it was the running backs.
But it wasn’t the running backs in the way you might think. I wasn’t awed by Pierson or James Sims running the ball or making cuts. I was awed by the way these guys — all of them — work on blocking.
They don’t let up, they hit the sled, the bag or each other as if they were playing a live game, and they do it over and over until running backs coach Reggie Mitchell or Weis says stop.
It’s impressive. Because don’t you think if there was one group that deserved the chance to take it a little easier during practice that it would be the running backs? Me, too. But that’s kind of the point. Even as impressive and important as they have been, they’re not treated any differently than anyone else.
When you play for Charlie Weis you do three things or you don’t play: You work hard, you play team football and you bring extreme focus to everything you do.
No position illustrates this better — in practice or in games — than KU’s running backs. They truly have been one of the things that has made covering a 1-9 team that has struggled to keep up with the rest of the Big 12 an absolute joy week in and week out.
We’ll get back to our regular look at practice tomorrow, but I thought this was worth getting into.