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My "Rapid Reaction" to the opening depth chart of KU football's fall camp

Good afternoon, KU fans.

The day Jayhawk football die-hards have been waiting for all summer has come and gone, and while practice — and my “What Caught My Eye” blogs — does not get started officially until tomorrow, here's my instant reaction to the first depth chart of the fall, which KU coach Charlie Weis released a little while ago.

We'll have much more from Weis' press conference later today and in tomorrow's paper, but here's the quick-hit feedback on what I saw.

• By now, I'm sure you've all seen somewhere that Weis is expecting wide receiver Nick Harwell to red-shirt. Harwell, a transfer from Miami (Ohio) University who needed just six hours to graduate and become eligible for KU this fall, was not allowed to take those final classes and instead will sit out the 2013 season. This is not all bad. Harwell will get a chance to learn KU's system, dominate with the scout-team offense and reshape his image that will make him more attractive to potential NFL employers.

• Maybe the biggest surprise to me on the depth chart was at center, where Pat Lewandowski was listed as the first-string guy. Here's the deal; I like Lewandowski a lot and thought he could be a solid tackle. I think the coaches did, too. But, according to Weis, they moved him to center a few months ago after seeing some snapping issues in the spring. The best things Lewandowski brings are size and intelligence. Besides, asking him to handle the center job, where he will be able to rely on his brain and braun might be a better thing to ask of him than putting him out on an island at left tackle and wishing him luck. Dylan Admire will push him, but Lewandowski's size may be the difference.

• I have to admit, I absolutely loved seeing the defense being listed as a nickel D instead of a base 4-3 or 3-4. Weis was very candid in explaining the reasoning behind this and it has everything to do with trying to keep up with the crazy offenses in the Big 12. Not only will the Jayhawks use five DBs as their regular look this season — Weis even hinted that six and seven DBs could be employed regularly — but the three main defensive coaches, Dave Campo (DBs), Clint Bowen (LBs) and Buddy Wyatt (D-Line) will all be coaching on the field this year, basically coaching and making calls on the fly. It'll be hectic and an absolute grind every Saturday, but it should put the KU defense in the best position to succeed. One other thing the nickel personnel indicates is that there is a lot of versatility on defense, with Cassius Sendish, who could play safety or corner, being the prime example of that.

• Nice to see Brandon Bourbon listed as the second-string F behind Tony Pierson. Obviously, these two are completely different players, but I think putting them at the same position (a) speaks to Weis' creativity with play-calling and (b) tells you how the coaches feel about Bourbon. If he were a bum, they'd just bury him on the depth chart. He's not going to take touches away from Pierson here, but he will give KU flexibility in an already versatile offense.

Christian Matthews and Justin McCay were the top two wideouts throughout the spring and they open as the top two wideouts entering fall camp. And it doesn't sound close. Weis said Matthews was the clear leader of the position and may be the most reliable player they have and that McCay had a chance to be a top-tier wide receiver. If that's true and both back up those claims, that'll lessen the Harwell blow.

• Juco transfer Charles Brooks, a senior who played sparingly last season, was nowhere to be found on the tight end list. Four others were listed. Weis said Brooks would still have a chance to compete but added that he really wants to see what red-shirt freshman Jordan Shelley-Smith and true freshman Ben Johnson could do. Ben Johnson was cited by Weis as the top performing newcomer throughout the summer and he's up to 240 pounds. Brooks is certainly not out of it yet — Weis said everyone on the roster would get until Aug. 17 to prove their worth — but he may go down as a miss.

• The kicking game was as we expected, with juco transfers Trevor Pardula (punts and kickoffs) and Michael Mesh (place kicking) listed as first-stringers. My guess is that Pardula has both of his jobs all but locked up. The place kicker job is more open at this point, but I've been told that it would be an upset if Mesh did not win it. The crazy thing is the guy most likely to beat him out might be Pardula, but asking the newcomer to handle all three jobs could be a bit much.

• A couple of position changes that jumped out: Greg Allen is listed as a cornerback again after moving to safety last spring. I asked Weis about it and he said he's a safety with corner skills. There's that versatility thing coming into play again. Brian Maura has moved from linebacker back to safety and Victor Simmons and Courntey Arnick have moved from linebacker to nickel back. Not a huge change there, especially with the nickel defense. But notable nonetheless. Weis said Simmons was a man among boys, physically, at the nickel position, and he may have a golden opportunity waiting for him this month.

• A lot of the newcomers who we expect to be first-team, front-line guys are listed second on the depth chart today. But that's today. Give it time. Weis said the depth chart would be extremely fluid and guys like CB Kevin Short and OL Pearce Slater (the only two newcomers who have yet to arrive) could easily make their way to the top of the depth chart by the time camp closes. Others in this group who were listed with the second team include: Zach Fondal (LT), Andrew Bolton (DE) and Samson Faifili (LB). Again, give 'em time. They haven't even started practicing yet.

• Finally, one of the more incredible things about this depth chart is that Weis was able to go three-deep (sometimes four) at every position. That's a far cry from how things were last August, when he was struggling to feel good about identifying a first team and back-ups. That's gotta be a good sign for the progress of the program.

Time will tell. Practice is set for 2:50 p.m. Thursday. Be sure to check out Kusports.com throughout the day for more coverage from today's opening presser and then, around 4:00 tomorrow for the initial “What Caught My Eye” blog of the 2013 season.

Comments

fearthephog512 1 year, 4 months ago

...nom...Can't eat enough ...nom nom... football news! Rock chalk! Thanks for the quick update Matt.

texashawk10 1 year, 4 months ago

I like the versatility of formations the defense could line up in, but I do wonder if Campo is throwing too much at the defense too fast and making the defense too complicated too quickly.

JHawkInVeins 1 year, 4 months ago

Turzilli should be a first or second teamer. He has great speed, size, and can jut flat out play.

Matt Tait 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah, that was a little surprising, but also understandable. He's not even listed as a clear-cut third-team guy. I've heard that there's something missing there and I think it's mostly a lack of confidence and aggression. He has all the tools but he just can't seem to flip it into attack mode and leave it there.

hawks04 1 year, 4 months ago

Was anything said about the omission of Omigie? Thought he had a lot of potential just a few years ago..

Matt Tait 1 year, 4 months ago

Completely forgot to ask since there was so much other good info. He's not listed on the roster, in the media guide or on the depth chart so I think it's safe to say he's gone.

kudzutexas 1 year, 4 months ago

Don't know where Omigie went. Ray Mitchell is now on Northern Iowa's football team roster.

Robert Brock 1 year, 4 months ago

Omigie is one of the worst receivers in modern KU football history. He couldn't catch a cold!

Steve Reigle 1 year, 4 months ago

Excellent article. I love reading detailed information like this. No way will I remember it all but it serves to get me even more excited about the coming season and I really enjoying reading the articles. Looking forward to the What Caught My Eye articles, too. I always devour those.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

Interesting that you don't mention the DL. That seemed sort of jumbled to me. I was expecting Combs in the middle. It is also rather encouraging like you mentioned in general that CW can realistically talk about 3 deep. Someone commented a while ago that the significant difference between the SEC and programs elsewhere was that they commonly go at least 2 if not 3 deep along the DL in particular.

Matt Tait 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah, there are a lot of bodies there and the reason I didn't mention them is because it was pretty much as expected -- at least to me.

Combs and Stowers are clear-cut starters inside with Goodman, Bolton, Reynolds and others involved outside. Guys like McKinney, Young, Tavai, etc. should push the front-line guys and provide good depth.

Who knows if that'll all hold throughout camp, but it was what I expected to see going in.

Chris Bailey 1 year, 4 months ago

Hey Matt,

What about Tuly Mckinney? I saw him listed but I thought he was supposed to be an absolute beast? Any word on him? I think he was there for spring ball.

Matt Tait 1 year, 4 months ago

McKinney's listed as third-string at Nose tackle. Kevin Young is 2nd and Combs is ahead of both of them. I doubt either of them can pass Combs but I also know that Young won't give up his spot without a fight. McKinney has his work cut out for him.

One of the most encouraging things, at least from a fan's perspective I would guess, is that Weis said all of these guys get til Aug. 17 to stake their claim. And you can be darn sure that if a guy like McKinney can't beat out Young and Combs but can help elsewhere, Weis will move him in a second.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

Actually Matt, McKinney is listed behind Young and Stowers at N. Combs is at LE/T.

That's the jumbling that I was referring to above. Thinking that Combs was in the middle and Stowers would be one of the guys more to the outside. Definitely agree with the encouragement that CW is intent on getting the guys who can play on the field, whether that be at DL, RB, DB, ...

Chris Bailey 1 year, 4 months ago

You're forgetting Miller! Dude was a stud as a true freshman! He'll battle Sims for the starting job all season in my opinion!

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

Definitely. Brandon is outside with Tony because of Darrian. By the end of the season, the question could be the same as 2011 - Who's getting the carries, and may be a big reason Sims #'s might actually drop this year.

Jim Jackson 1 year, 4 months ago

Tait, no chance Cox takes a RS this year? I think he will be best utilized next year as the other RBs have already burned a RS.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

There are more coming, and Wrench in particular is rated higher than all the current backs.

Ken Schmidt 1 year, 4 months ago

Matt, I am surprised that Faifili is listed as second string, but again, I expect he will get plenty of reps even if he lands there for the season. The Staff has been really high on him by all regards. I pay passing regard to the roster as it is announced today because there are a lot of guys who might just find new jobs in the next couple of weeks and for that, I am pretty excited about.

What's your take on Prinz Kande. He was so highly touted coming in, 4-star IIRC. Is there some feeling regarding whether he failed to progress or any other reason he remains on the sideline? Did his injury set him back?

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

CW mentioned Faifili specifically during the presser IIRC. Commented that they might be looking for another place to play Jake, but that also was an illustration of the general roster situation. It's fluid, and the will find places/ways for players to get on the field if they have the ability.

Max Ledom 1 year, 4 months ago

I am absolutely terrified that Christian Matthews is our apparent Number 1 Wideout. I like the guy and have always wished him success. But seeing him as number 1 when he has had virtually no impact in his 5 years so far scares me.

Jim Jackson 1 year, 4 months ago

I 100% agree. He's had plenty of time and done absolutely nothing.

Sure hope Mark Thomas and Rod Coleman can step up, even Josh Ford

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

Wasn't there a WR at the OB that hadn't made an impact til his Sr year?

KGphoto 1 year, 4 months ago

I wouldn’t read too much into that chart. McCay and Heaps have something going, and Pierson will likely push for the lead in receptions anyway, with Mundine somewhere in the mix at the top.

Don’t forget though, that Matthews was our best read option QB the last two years. He’s an excellent, instinctive runner if we can get him the ball. I could see him being our 4th leading receiver, by putting up similar stats to last year’s leading receiver, Kale Pick. 26 receptions for 390 yards.

Yikes! That kind of puts things in perspective. We must’ve been the worst passing team in college history.

Andy Tweedy 1 year, 4 months ago

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. But I'm not even going to read any articles about Christian Matthews until he's done something worth reading about. None of this is Matthews fault, it just hasn't worked out. But I'm not buying it right now!

TheRaptor 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm willing to give Matthews the benefit of the doubt. He's had to put in a lot of time learning to QB the Jayhawk position. I'm anxious to see what he'll do full time at WR.

Jim Stauffer 1 year, 4 months ago

The thing about Mathews is he has not had any decent coaching until Weis got here. If he can learn to actually play the position, he could be very good. He has excellent moves and his speed is tolerable.

orbiter 1 year, 4 months ago

Secondary is weak, but the Big XII is what it is and you have to design defenses to give you the best chance to win. And, it's not like we are neck deep in elite linebackers. Anyway, even if you want to go with a base defense, some of those guys that are DBs now would be playing LB.

Dirk Medema 1 year, 4 months ago

Behind Cassius, we have 2 guys that have been listed at LB in the past. It is a function of the O's being put on the field. It doesn't matter how good your LB's are if they are mismatched covering a WR.

It seems that CW feels there are at least 5 quality DB's/CB's/S's in Shepherd and the JC's, with more being developed from the young guys. He's talking about playing 6 or 7 at a time (dimes and quarters).

KGphoto 1 year, 4 months ago

We stand to be putting a lot more pressure on the QB this year, even if we only bring 3 guys, and that will do wonders for any secondary. We also have more depth and versatility in the secondary than last year.

Our nickel and dime packages won’t look conventional. You call it what you want but Simmons and Arnick are LBs who can cover. They’ll likely be in on those packages. We have a whole bunch of guys who can play multiple positions now. And even though it seems like it could be difficult to grasp and perfect for the incoming guys, it will also be difficult to scout and read for an opposing offense.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 4 months ago

Matt,

What's your honest opinion of Christian Matthews as a receiver?

To me, it's a tad concerning that our second best wideout (if not best from what i hear) is a converted quarterback.

HAWKS1 1 year, 4 months ago

I look for Ford to really step up big at WR this year. It seems Weis/Campo are all-in on defending the Big12 Passing attacks. I hope we aren't vulnerable to the quality run game which some of the B12 teams do still have (though often overlooked).

shannyvan1 1 year, 4 months ago

I can remember a pretty good receiver named Kerry Meyer that was a converted quarterback.

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