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Talking red-shirts: A look back at the guys who sat out in 2012 and what's in store for their futures

With Kansas University's spring football set to begin one week from tomorrow — crazy, isn't it? — I figured now was as good a time as any to jump into a week's worth of blogs that serve as a bridge from 2012 to 2013.

For starters, the week-long fun will be a good refresher for those of you who may have forgotten exactly how last year went — either by choice or because of the passage of time.

Beyond that, it'll be a good way to show you that now that the end of February has arrived, I'm ready to rev things up and tackle the double-duty that lies ahead of covering the hoops team's run to March Madness and the football team's next new beginning.

I was on vacation last week — Cabo San Lucas; it was awesome! — so things were a little slow in the football department. They won't be any more.

As many of you may already know, last year's spring football began in late March, with the spring game taking place April 28 and the first weeks of spring drills coming at the tail end of KU's run to the national title game on the basketball court.

This year, the two will overlap unlike anything I can remember — with the 2013 spring game taking place on April 13 — and my challenge is to make football's preseason at least almost as relevant as basketball's postseason. There are plenty of story lines that will help make that happen and we'll also benefit from the football squad taking a week off for spring break while the basketball team eyes the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament, almost assuredly in Kansas City, Mo.

Anyway, enough about what's coming up. I just thought it would be a good idea to set the scene.

For today's entry, we'll look back, oh so briefly, at the players who did not play in 2012 — guys who red-shirted and saved a year of eligibility while also learning the ropes and getting bigger, faster and stronger with the rest of the squad. Just because these guys did not play during head coach Charlie Weis' first season in Lawrence does not mean they're yesterday's news. A few of them could represent hope for tomorrow. Finding out which ones will be the tricky part.

So to give you at least a fighting chance of figuring it out, here's the list of relevant 2012 red-shirts along with a quick blurb about each.

• Greg Allen, 5-11, 204-pound cornerback: There's been a lot of talk about the incoming juco class of defensive backs, but I still have extremely high hopes for Allen, a natural, who has the frame to play safety (should they elect to go that way) and the skills to play corner.

• Courtney Arnick, 6-2, 195-pound linebacker: Arnick possesses the one thing that can get you playing time on a Dave Campo defense faster than any other — speed. The last time I saw Arnick, I remember thinking to myself that he looked a little bigger than I remembered. He's still undersized, but on this defense and in this conference, there's a place for that.

• Brian Beckmann, 6-6, 300-pound offensive lineman: Beckmann's tough and he worked his butt off for absolutely no playing time as a true freshman. That'll go a long way toward earning him the respect of his teammates and coaches and I think this guy could be solid if/when he gets the opportunity.

• Sean Connolly, 6-7, 287-pound offensive lineman: Hurt for nearly all of 2012, I saw Connolly do more work on the stationary bike than anything else. Jury's still out, but he's definitely behind.

• Tyler Holmes, 6-3, 286-pound defensive lineman: I don't know much about Holmes, but I do remember this: He was determined to play as a true freshman and I doubt his hunger has died down. Looks good in pads but plays a very crowded position.

• Neal Page, 6-4, 230-pound defensive end/linebacker: A late pick-up in the Class of 2012, Page seems, to me, to be built from the same mold as Ben Heeney and Jake Love — tough, fearless and doesn't care a lick about his own well-being when he's out there. Those are great traits for football players to have. Whether they benefit Page remains to be seen.

• Tevin Shaw, 5-11, 185-pound safety: I loved what I saw from Shaw during preseason camp last August. He's pretty well put together, moves smoothly and has a lot of natural football instincts. My guess is the red-shirt year was used to add size and it'll be interesting to see (a) if that happened and (b) what that did to his fluid movement.

• Jordan Smith, 6-5, 230-pound tight end: Big target who has good hands and models his game after Dallas Cowboys great Jason Witten. Smith was buried behind a couple of older guys last year but with no truly proven tight ends in front of him any longer, he has a shot to make some noise. Even if that doesn't happen this year, I like the look of Smith's future.

That's a quick look at this year's red-shirt freshman. Now for the other guys who sat out last season but could be in line to make an impact in 2013:

• Jake Heaps, 6-1, 208-pound, junior, quarterback: Sat out after transferring from BYU and did everything he could to connect with teammates and learn the offense. The one question I get asked more than any other is: Can the Heaps kid play? My answer is always: I think you'll like what you see.

• Eric Kahn, 6-1, 185-pound, sophomore, kicker: Transferred to KU from Mid-America Nazarene University and found his way into the conversation for his ability to bomb kickoffs. With two new kickers (Trevor Pardula and Michael Mesh) added to the roster through recruiting and senior Ron Doherty returning, it'll be interesting to see if Kahn's still relevant.

• Justin McCay, 6-2, 215-pound, junior, wide receiver: Transferred to KU from Oklahoma and sat out after having a waiver request and appeal denied by the NCAA. It might have been the best thing to ever happen to him. Sitting out allowed the Bishop Miege grad to develop a rapport with Heaps on the scout team and also work his way through the trials and tribulations of leaving OU and returning home. McCay has a chance to be a big-time receiver but he'll only be as good as the effort he puts in. At this point, I expect him to be a legit contributor. Just don't expect him to be Calvin Johnson.

• Nas Moore, 6-1, 170-pound, junior, cornerback: Still pretty raw after only recently moving from wide receiver to cornerback. Seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle a little bit. Still a nice looking athlete with speed.

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Comments

sports4life 1 year, 6 months ago

Only 62 days and counting until the spring game.

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Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Hate to be "that guy" but it's actually far fewer than that. This year's spring game is April 13, which by my calculations is only 48 days away. I may have confused you with talk of last year's spring game (April 28) so if that's the case, my bad. The good news, though? You just shaved two weeks off your wait.

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sports4life 1 year, 6 months ago

Ah yes, I looked at the wrong date. 48 days sounds much better. Thank you for all the time you put into covering football during the offseason! Your articles make counting down the days that much faster.

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Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Nice to hear. Thanks! Plenty to come in the next several weeks.

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milehighhawk 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt -- the line, "he'll only be as good as the effort he puts in" could (arguably) be said about anyone.

Are there any whispers or questions about McCay that caused you to mention that for him?

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Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Good point.

No, nothing specific, I just know that he's a fun-loving guy (and I like him a lot) and that if he wants to be as good as his physical tools suggest he might, he needs to lock in. I think he will. Hard to do that fully when you're sitting out and know you can't play.

I know he wasn't great last spring but a big reason for that was the distraction of his eligibility. Heard he really improved once that was all resolved and had a nice preseason camp.

More than anything, I just included that so people don't set the bar too high for him.

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Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

You must have missed the video of coach getting after the team for a lack of effort, and making them do up-downs. Justin was so intense he was starting to get "lapped". Really lame effort.

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Brad Farha 1 year, 6 months ago

@Matt -- thanks so much for all of your coverage of the football team. I don't post much, but I do read all of the articles and I appreciate each one. I can't wait for the spring game, and I look forward to the Fall!

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Matt Tait 1 year, 6 months ago

Many thanks. It's been a fun — and fast — offseason. Hard to believe spring drills have arrived.

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Boouk 1 year, 6 months ago

I think Smith could be really good, especially in this offense that utilizes TE's. If he's up around 250 by now look for him to play a lot next season. I think by the end of the year he could be atop the depth-chart at TE.

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Lanny Welch 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt - I was surprised with Turner Baty's departure because I thought he had a real shot at the backup QB spot. Is there more to the story you can share?

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Boouk 1 year, 6 months ago

He said he didn't like his odds of beating out Cummings for the back-up QB spot, so he transferred to SFCC for a year to get some playing time. He'll have 2 years of eligibility remaining if/when he transfers back to KU.

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VaJay 1 year, 6 months ago

Do we still have a shot at picking up a couple of transfers??

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741hawk 1 year, 6 months ago

This is fun . . . to have some significant fb info this time of year. We sure appreciate your hard work, Matt.

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IDUNNO 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't see kickers Kahn or Prolago on the current roster? Did they transfer or roster just not current?

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Dirk Medema 1 year, 6 months ago

It is good to realize that we have a couple more new DB's this year.

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Kevin Randell 1 year, 6 months ago

@dagger108, I agree! I just hope we can now run a defensive scheme that doesn't require all of our DB's to give a 10 yard cushion off the ball. We've been picked apart by slants, and curl routes for to long. I'm excited to see the product on the field in April!

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Tom Keegan 1 year, 6 months ago

Matt, I won't expect Calvin Johnson from Justin McCay, but is it OK if I expect Keyshawn Johnson? -- Keegan

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