Seeing how Wednesday night’s KU football practice was the last one I’ll be at until next spring — that’s if KU coach Charlie Weis is kind enough to let us observe again — I figured I’d spend my time watching the one position that I think could be the most key for KU entering next season: The offensive line.
I’ve watched plenty of Jake Heaps to know he can play; we know the running backs are good and all returning; we know the receivers need help (but that’ll come from guys who aren’t here yet) and we know the defense will need to and try to upgrade speed across the board as it continues its attempt to try to keep up in the track meet Big 12.
What we don’t know yet is what the offensive line will look like without Tanner Hawkinson, Trevor Marrongelli and Duane Zlatnik, all seniors who will graduate in the offseason.
There are more than a few guys on the current roster who could factor into things next season and, the likelihood also still exists that Weis and crew will look to add a couple of impact players at that position in the offseason as well.
Quickly, here’s what caught my eye during offensive line drills tonight:
• Aslam Sterling, Gavin Howard and Randall Dent all will be back and all have legit starting experience. I'm assuming all three will improve tremendously in the offseason and could enter spring ball as potential starters.
• Red-shirt freshman Luke Luhrsen looks like he could become a starter. He’s big, athletic and strong and has improved throughout 2012, even reaching the point where he landed on the two-deep at left guard. With continued work in the offseason, he could be a candidate to start at guard in 2013.
• Sophomore Pat Lewandowski is a guy you should not forget about. The guy’s a beast with a ton of potential who probably just needs a little more time to get comfortable at his new position. Remember, he’s another one of those guys who played multiple positions — on defense — before moving to the O-Line under the current coaching staff. I like his footwork and mindset. I don’t know if he’s starter material, but I like him.
• Red-shirt freshman Damon Martin has to be another guy you put on this list. Through hard work and improvement, he became a starter this season for a game or two, only to fall off the depth chart as quickly as he elevated onto it. This is a big offseason for Martin.
• Finally, don’t forget about Riley Spencer, the fourth-year junior who missed most of the season with an injury but has great size, decent experience and, if healthy, could be in the mix at either tackle spot.
• One other note that I thought was fun to see Wednesday night was wide receiver Connor Embree wearing the No. 1 jersey with the scout team. That means Embree is playing the role of West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, a burner whom Weis thinks is as good a player as there is in the conference. I’m sure it’s been fun for Embree to play that role, especially in light of the fact that his father, Jon, was just fired as the head coach at Colorado.
That’s it, folks. Back to preparing stories for this weekend’s WVU game and the KU volleyball team’s run to the NCAA Tournament.
Thanks for your contributions and participation with this blog throughout the past eight months. We’ll be back at it again, bigger and better, next season.