Major props to KU coach Charlie Weis for opening up Friday's entire practice to the media.
It offered a great opportunity to see a lot of what's going on with this team heading into its third week of camp. Remember, Saturday is the day Weis said would be the drop-dead day for the depth chart. Translation: If you're not in the mix for first- or second-string reps by Saturday, you're probably not in the immediate plans for the upcoming season.
With that in mind, I'm looking forward to today's Fan Appreciation Day open scrimmage in Memorial Stadium, which runs from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. and will feature a 100-play scrimmage complete with officials and live hitting. Should be fun.
Speaking of live hitting, here are a few of the highlights from today's 2-hour-plus practice. There was a ton to take in out there so this will just mostly be quick-hit bullet points.
• I spent quite a bit of time watching the linebackers today and noticed that Jake Love has really gotten quicker. He looks light on his feet and moves really well. He's battling with Samson Faifili for that Will linebacker spot and, from how things looked today, Faifili may be slightly ahead in the battle, but Love also is working at Mike linebacker and is going to be on the field plenty this fall. He's too good not to put out there.
• We know about the main players handling the Buck role: Ben Goodman, Darius Willis and Michael Reynolds, perhaps in that order. But I noticed that Neal Page and true freshman Kellen Ash also are working there today.
• One cool moment came near the end of practice before the special teams portion of things got going, when holder Blake Jablonski was told by Weis, in front of the entire team, that he had earned a scholarship. The team went nuts with joy and jumped on him as soon as the announcement came. Starting QB Jake Heaps could be heard saying, “Yes! That's what I'm talking about.” And another teammate jokingly told Jablonski that the pressure was now on. Good moment for a guy who has worked hard throughout the past few years for very little glory.
• During defensive drills, the first team D shaped up like this: Marquel Combs, Keba Agostinho, Keon Stowers and Ben Goodman on the line; Ben Heeney and Samson Faifili at the linebacker spots; Cassius Sendish at nickel back and JaCorey Shepherd, Dexter McDonald, Isaiah Johnson and Dexter Linton in the secondary. The second team looked like this: Ty McKinney, Andrew Bolton, Jordan Tavai and Darius Willis up front; Love and Prinz Kande at linebacker; Victor Simmons at nickel back and Greg Allen, Brandon Hollomon, Tevin Shaw and Alex Matlock in the secondary. No major surprises, but it was cool to see how it broke down.
• In seven-on-seven drills, the offense definitely got the best of the defense, with Jake Heaps picking apart the KU defense multiple times. He completed passes to several different receivers and those same receivers made tough catches in traffic. The passing game looked good. One interesting note came when James Sims had a ball go off his finger tips and hit the ground. The pass, which came from Jordan Darling, was low and tough to catch, but Sims still punished himself for the drop with push-ups as he waited for his next rep. That's why he's a team leader and that's why he's been so successful.
• I really enjoyed watching the QB competition between Heaps and the others during a quarterback-challenge style accuracy competition. Heaps took down Darling, Montell Cozart and Michael Cummings, with all four talking trash throughout. Later, he took down QB coach Ron Powlus in a similar battle, by hitting the target 2 out of 3 times. Powlus countered by saying he wasn't supposed to win and even joked that he tried to tire Heaps out with a footwork drill before they squared off. Good stuff. Speaking of QBs, Cummings definitely looks much better in the pocket and can flat-out wing it.
• The special teams portion of practice allowed us to see some new things in all facets. Here's a quick breakdown:
-- Kickoff return duties went to Brandon Bourbon, Taylor Cox, Brandon Holloman and Nasir Moore.
-- Punt return duties went to Tre' Parmalee, Connor Embree and Isaiah Johnson.
-- Michael Mesh, Trevor Pardula and Matthew Wyman all took their turn at kicking field goals, with Wyman and Pardula looking the best. Practice ended with a Pardula bomb against the win that must have been close to 50 yards, if not beyond.
-- The kickoffs, which came from Pardula and Eric Kahn, all got much deeper in the end zone, with some even going out of the back.
-- Reilly Jeffers was the first-team long snapper and looked good. John Wirtel handled second-team duties and also looked good.
-- Jablonski was the first-team holder and Embree also took a turn.
We'll be out there again today, tracking all 100 plays from the scrimmage so be sure to check Kusports.com throughout the weekend for more from KU football camp.