From the "in case you missed it" folder, check out the following video of former Kansas University football standouts Chris Harris and Steven Johnson leading a Colorado symphony in the KU fight song during a recent event put on by the Denver Broncos.
Harris and Johnson were two of a handful of current Broncos players who participated in a battle of the conductors event of sorts. Each player, including Texas A&M product Von Miller and Tennessee legend Peyton Manning, led the musicians in their school fight songs and fans were encouraged to vote for who did the best job of leading the band.
Here's a look at Harris and Johnson in action:
For years, the one constant with the Kansas University football team — other than all of the losing, of course — has been the Jayhawks' ability to put together a deep and talented stable of running backs that, in many ways, have been interchangeable.
Whether you're talking about the steady presence of James Sims, the dynamic play-making ability of Tony Pierson, the do-it-all demeanor of Darrian Miller or even the always-ready-and-willing philosophies of Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon, the Jayhawks always had a few backs they could count on to handle the load in the backfield.
That continued into last season even after Cox and Bourbon went down with injuries in the preseason thanks to the emergence of freshman Corey Avery and newcomer DeAndre Mann. Together, that duo helped the Jayhawks transition away from Sims and into more of the same steady presence on the ground in an offense that struggled at most of the other positions.
On Tuesday, however, first-year coach David Beaty announced that Avery had been dismissed from the program for violating team rules and, all of a sudden, things don't look quite as deep or dependable in the backfield.
Yeah, Cox and Mann will be back, but both are coming off of significant injuries and their health and longterm prognosis have to be at least a little bit of a concern. Cox hasn't played football since tearing his Achille's tendon last August and was out for an extended period of time before that because of a bum hamstring. And Mann spent portions of last season nursing head injuries, a plight that's bad news for any player but especially a running back who's asked to lead with his head and churn out those tough yards with guys flying at him from all directions.
That leaves just a couple of other running backs to look at. And before the 2015 season is complete — or possibly even before it begins — both could find themselves being counted on heavily to handle the ball-carrying responsibilities for this year's team.
Both are newcomers, but junior Ke'aun Kinner at least has the advantage of having been in Lawrence for spring football.
By all accounts, the shifty, 5-foot-9, 180-pound spark plug was one of the more impressive performers throughout the spring and there's no doubt that he will have an important role for the Jayhawks this fall.
He's not quite Tony Pierson — but, really, who is? — but he does figure to bring that same kind of explosive potential every time he steps onto the field. That's good news for Kansas and a fun challenge for offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who, no doubt, is sitting somewhere right now trying to find creative ways to get Kinner the football in space.
After that, you're looking at true freshman Taylor Martin, a two-star back from Fort Worth, Texas, who was one of the better pick-ups in the 2015 recruiting class.
Martin, who chose KU over Colorado State, was receiving late interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State.
As a senior at Dunbar High, Martin ran for 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns and earned a spot on the Star Telegram's Super Team second unit. For his career, he averaged 1,660 yards and 24 touchdowns over three seasons.
He also was a two-time district track champion in the 100-yard dash and his combination of blazing speed and good size (5-10, 185) make him a candidate to handle more carries than most freshmen, should KU need to lean on him right away.
Unlike last season, when KU was forced to move freshmen Joe Dineen and Darious Crawley from safety and wide receiver to help add depth at running back, the Jayhawks, at least as of now, are on schedule to have plenty of bodies to rotate in and out of the backfield, even without Avery.
The possibility always exists, too, that they could even add a back or two via transfer or late pick-up. Should that happen, the stable only gets deeper.
But, quality depth or not, with Cox and Mann coming off of injuries, the possibility remains that KU will be counting on two newcomers in a big way to keep alive the streak of solid play from the running back position in Lawrence.
As the past has shown us, that doesn't necessarily mean bad news. But it does put more pressure on the offensive line and quarterback and it does make the odds of KU continuing its run of solid running back play a little less than a lock.
Tuesday marked the second day of the Team Camp circuit at the Kansas University football facilities, and, like Monday, hundreds of high school athletes from nearby schools braved the heat and took their turn on the turf at KU.
Monday's camp welcomed 17 teams to Lawrence and 16 returned for Tuesday, pushing the total number of campers in town this week to right around 800.
While the specifics of what they did and how they worked meant very little to the KU football coaching staff, the mere fact that that many bodies were able to come up to campus at one time to meet the coaches, see the facilities and experience the KU way of life qualifies as a huge development, even if it's not known for a few years just how big of news that is.
Think about it: Six or seven years ago, a young Ben Heeney showed up for these types of team camps and no one knew then that he would wind up becoming one of the best defensive players to ever come through KU.
A guy like that was out there this week. Whether anyone knew it or not was the bigger question.
Of course, there were plenty of guys that the KU coaching staff did know about. And getting to have them on campus in this type of setting was invaluable for the evaluation process.
One head high school coach told me that there were four or five KU coaches with eyes on one of his top players at nearly all portions of the live action the past couple of days. He added that, “there's always a KU coach within 10 feet of you when things are really moving out here. That's great exposure for the kids.”
And it's an even better tool for the KU coaches, who view recruiting as the lifeblood of the program and are in a position where they simply cannot miss on guys if they hope to get the latest KU football rebuilding project off the ground any time soon.
It's easy to watch highlight tapes or game film and hear good things about athletes from their high school coaches. It's another to be able to watch them in a camp setting like this, when it's hot, they're uncomfortable, they might be getting whipped by another team and they have to really show what they're made of to get through it.
Watching those things can be huge for these coaches and even the smallest misstep by an athlete can lead to him being crossed off the recruiting board.
That's not to say this is NFL-combine style serious business out here. These guys have fun, too. Music, from KU's insanely large loud speaker, is blaring from the hill, they have breaks built in for food and recovery and there's all kinds of camaraderie and sportsmanship on display, even with players and coaches from rival schools.
It's likely that the KU coaches only had a list of 5-10 guys that they truly wanted to watch at this week's camp. But the past is full of guys, in all sports, who got noticed because a coach was watching his hot-shot teammate and happened to catch a glimpse of what he could do. It's entirely possible that a few guys made that kind of impact — or at least were noticed — this week, and at a place like KU, where opportunity is plentiful, there's no telling what that could lead to in the future for either player or program.
KU summer camps will continue throughout the week, with a skills camp in Coffeyville tomorrow, a Friday Night Lights elite camp for high school prospects on Friday and a kicking academy on Sunday.
The Kansas University athletic department finished the past year ranked 23rd nationally in total revenue earned, this despite continuing to field a football program that severely limits the earning potential of the department.
According to numbers published by USA Today on Friday, Kansas, led primarily by its elite men's basketball program, finished just shy of the $100,000,000 mark in total revenue, pulling in $97,681,066. That total put Kansas fourth in the Big 12 behind Texas (2nd, $161 million), Oklahoma (7th, $129 million) and Oklahoma State (11th, $118 million).
The next closest Big 12 school to Kansas was West Virginia, which pulled in $78 million during the past year and placed 35th nationally.
It's still a ways down the road and far from a guarantee. But imagine for a second if new football coach David Beaty and his staff can get things going again and have Memorial Stadium close to full on a weekly basis year after year. With that kind of financial impact, KU easily could jump into the Top 10, especially if the Big 12 dollars continue to grow.
Speaking of those, the USA Today numbers were released on the same day that Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby revealed that the Big 12 institutions pulled in roughly $25.6 million apiece from a $252 million pie as a part of the conference's revenue distribution from TV deals. That number is for the eight full-share members of the conference. Newbies TCU and West Virginia each pulled in about $23 million as outlined in the agreement they signed when they joined the conference a couple of years ago.
Thanks to ever-increasing television contracts and the continued attractiveness of the Big 12 market, those numbers are higher than the conference was able to dish out a year ago and Bowlsby said that trend is expected to continue in the future. Big 12 officials believe that the payout could reach as high as $44 million per school by the end of the current TV contracts.
Football may be costing KU in a lot of ways, but the financial health of the athletic department certainly looks better than many believe. That's not to say it's smooth sailing up there, but it's also not complete chaos either. And a big chunk of the credit for that goes to athletic director Sheahon Zenger, his vision and his philosophies on spending and not writing checks that your butt can't cash, along with the dedication and commitment to those areas by his entire staff.
Of course, even Zenger himself would tell you that the incredible earning potential of the men's hoops program is the department's golden egg and that one of his main focuses since taking over the job was to make sure that program had everything it needed to continue to function as a national power and world-wide brand.
Sure the NFL season remains several months down the road and, yeah, most of the pro football news of late has been about the recent NFL Draft or Tom Brady and Deflategate, but it's not every day that a former Kansas University football player gets tapped as the fourth best player in all of football so we might as well talk about it.
That day came Tuesday, when Pro Football Focus, one of the top resources for NFL analytics, dubbed former Jayhawk Chris Harris as the No. 4 ranked player in the Pro Football Focus 101 of 2014.
Harris, a native of Bixby, Oklahoma, who is about to enter his fifth season with the Denver Broncos, was one of the top cornerbacks in the league last season.
If the season Darrelle Revis had in 2009 was the single best year we have seen from a cornerback in the PFF era – and it was – then Harris in 2014 got as close to it as anybody has come, and did it despite tearing his ACL in the playoffs the previous year. He came into this year just eight months removed from that injury and yet finished the season with a monster coverage grade and statistics that rivaled anybody.
Here are some of those statistics:
Harris was thrown at 89 times and did not allow a single touchdown.
• Harris allowed 46 receptions (51.7 percent) but gave up an average of just 7.7 yards per catch.
• Harris was not beaten for a pass longer than 22 yards all season.
• Harris finished with 3 interceptions and 10 passes defended.
• When opposing QBs threw Harris' way, they finished with a 47.8 passer rating.
According to PFF, those raw coverage numbers rank pretty close to Seattle stud Richard Sherman (the other cornerback in the Top 10) and are made all the more impressive given that Harris lines up all over the field, left side, right side, slot, nickel.
Although his numbers and the praise he receives from players, coaches and analysts throughout the league certainly put Harris in the elite players at his position, Pro Football Focus believes that Harris' old school mentality, which favors hard work over flash, may be keeping him from being thought of in the same regard as Sherman, Revis or others like him in the past.
Harris has never been used as creatively as Rex Ryan or Bill Belichick used Revis, and he isn’t the masterful self-promoter that Sherman is. He sticks to the old attitude of letting his play do the talking. Unfortunately, in today’s NFL, that doesn’t necessarily get you ahead, and Harris’ understated excellence hasn’t been enough to get him the recognition he deserves. Last season he was truly excellent. Better than Darrelle Revis. Better than Richard Sherman. Better than Joe Haden, Patrick Peterson or any other cornerback that has been in the conversation for best in the league.
Knowing Harris like I do, these are the things that drive him. He likes knowing that people still doubt him and loves going out there and proving everybody wrong. More than that, though, he just wants to win. He gladly would give up all of the stats and recognition for a ring and now that he has that hefty new contract and some financial security for his family's future, the only thing on his mind from here on out will be delivering a championship back to Denver.
Seasons like 2014, as hard as they might be to duplicate, certainly help and you can bet Harris will be looking to top those numbers when things get crackin' this fall.
Between recruiting, returning to Texas to see his family and touring the state to drum up interest for his new program, Kansas University football coach David Beaty has spent a lot of time on the road since being named KU's newest football coach.
This week, in some of KU's most important recruiting territories, Beaty will be entering a few more miles into his travel log.
Beginning Tuesday in Houston, Beaty will make a few stops to share with KU fans his vision for the program and a state of the program as it stands today.
Beaty will be joined by fellow Jayhawks, members of the KU Alumni Association, KU administration and assistant football coaches for a happy hour to talk about what's next for Kansas Football. Food will be provided with a cash bar. The events are free to the public.
Here's a quick look at the schedule for the week:
• Tuesday — Houston, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Christian's Tailgate Heights, 2820 White Oak.
• Wednesday — Dallas, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Henderson Tap House, 2323 N. Henderson Ave.
• Thursday — Denver, Colorado — 7-9 p.m. at Stoney's Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St.
After that, it'll be back to Lawrence to get the team's summer conditioning program and summer camp schedule under way.
While Beaty's away, the Jayhawks themselves will be focusing on this week's final exams.
Good luck to our players and all KU students this week on their finals! Finish strong!! #EarnIt— David Beaty (@beaty_david) May 11, 2015
Before we check out, here's a quick look at the new KU football poster for the upcoming season.
The NFL Draft has come and gone, and, by now, you've surely heard all about the 11 different Kansas University players who either were drafted or picked up by pro teams via free agency in the hours following the draft.
But rather than just knowing that this guy landed here or that guy landed there, it seems like a legitimate look at each guy's chances of making an impact — and a roster — might be in order.
As has been proven in the past by both draft picks and undrafted players, just because a guy was or was not selected does not seal his fate.
With that in mind, here's a quick look at KU's latest crop of NFL hopefuls.
• LB BEN HEENEY --- 5th round pick, Oakland Raiders (140 overall)
Heeney has all the makings of an immediate impact player on all of Oakland's special teams. However, given that the Raiders recently cut an experienced middle linebacker, he might be in line for some immediate playing time on defense and figures to be a guy who sticks around the NFL for a long time.
• CB JACOREY SHEPHERD --- 6th round pick, Philadelphia Eagles (191 overall)
Shepherd could very well go down as a guy who several teams regret passing on because of his injured hamstring. He was one of the top corners in the pass-heavy Big 12 during the past two seasons and has the physical and mental make-up to become a stud. He's probably not physical enough (yet) to follow in Chris Harris' footsteps, but his cover skills and athletic ability could earn him some big money someday.
• CB DEXTER MCDONALD --- 7th round pick, Oakland Raiders (242 overall)
McDonald was not a lock to get drafted but the fact that he did certainly increases his odds of making a roster. Some say it's better not to get drafted in the seventh round because then you can pick your team to tryout with based on the factors that best suit you. That's probably not the case with McDonald, who drew interest from Oakland before the draft and clearly stuck in their plans. Big, physical and gifted athletically, he'll definitely get every shot to make the Raiders' 53-man roster.
• WR NICK HARWELL --- FA pick-up, Dallas Cowboys
Good athlete, great hands and a knack for getting open, the native Texan could easily be one of those guys who opens eyes with his volume of work. The Cowboys already have Cole Beasley on the roster, but if there's room for a Beasley back-up, Harwell could be the guy. It won't be easy for him to make the roster and a lot of it will come down to whether the plays are called for him during camp and the preseason. Even the most talented guys get lost and cut when they don't get work.
• WR NIGEL KING --- FA pick-up, Miami Dolphins
I remember the Dolphins' scout sticking around KU's pro day to talk to King after the event. So it's likely he's been on their radar since at least then. Big, physical with strong hands and good measureables, King has all the physical tools to make a roster and has always approached the game with a business-like attitude. To me, he's one of the more likely KU free agents to stick.
• TE JIMMAY MUNDINE --- FA pick-up, Cleveland Browns
The biggest thing Mundine has going for him is his versatility. His pro day numbers were more impressive than many expected and he has the ability to stay in and block, run routes down the field or perhaps even play some fullback or H back in the right offense. That kind of versatility certainly increases his chances.
• P TREVOR PARDULA --- FA pick-up, Kansas City Chiefs
It sure seems like the Chiefs are set at punter with veteran Dustin Colquitt, but he is in his 10th season and, while that's still young by punter standards, it's not impossible to see a club going with a younger, cheaper option if one emerges. The biggest question for Pardula won't be the leg. It'll be his consistency.
• RB/WR TONY PIERSON --- FA pick-up, Chicago Bears
Straight-line style and injury history make Pierson a long shot to make a roster. But his insane speed earned him the opportunity. He'll make the most of it, and he's very deserving of the chance. Had injuries not slowed him down, I think there would've been a place for him somewhere.
• DE MICHAEL REYNOLDS --- FA pick-up, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Where Reynolds projects at the pro level is a question mark. He's a bit undersized as a D-End and maybe not quite fluid enough to play linebacker. Like most free agents, he'll have to make a roster as a special teams contributor, where fit doesn't matter as much as effort, heart and a willingness to sacrifice everything to make the play.
• DB CASSIUS SENDISH --- FA pick-up, Cleveland Browns
Like his fellow former-KU-now-Cleveland teammate, Jimmay Mundine, Sendish's versatility could prove huge. Nobody worked harder than this guy from the time the season ended until draft day — he kind of reminded me of Chris Harris in that way — and his ability to play corner, safety and nickel, along with any number of special teams, could make him a tough guy to cast aside.
• DB/LB VICTOR SIMMONS --- FA pick-up, Seattle Seahawks
Such a naturally gifted athlete, Simmons should be able to fit into to whatever role the Seahawks want him to play. He's undersized to be an NFL linebacker, but not in terms of strength. Safety might be his best bet and Seattle might be a great fit given that the organization has proven it has no issue whatsoever with how a guy looks, only how he plays.
• NOTEWORTHY: It's also worth pointing out that former KU quarterback Jake Heaps, who finished his playing career with the Miami Hurricanes, received a camp invitation from the New York Jets. Heaps, the former 5-star QB who started the 2013 season at Kansas after transferring from BYU, was en route to New Jersey Thursday morning. In related news, former KU safety Keeston Terry, who left KU after the arrival of former coach Charlie Weis and played out his college career at nearby Pitt State, received a rookie mini-camp invite from his hometown Kansas City Chiefs. Terry's father, Doug, played DB for Kansas City from 1992-95. One more former Jayhawk who joined the ranks of the NFL was wide receiver Andrew Turzilli, who played his final year of college football at Rutgers and signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans following this year's draft.
There aren't a whole lot of details out there about this event, which is slated to take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday on the lawn of Watson Library on KU's campus, but the KU video department put this video together and its intent is clear.
First-year KU football coach David Beaty is ready and willing to take on all comers in an oversized game cornhole, the popular tailgate game also known as bags.
The event is merely the latest way that Beaty is taking to the streets to engage with KU students and fans in an attempt to spark interest in and drum up support for a program that has struggled through six consecutive losing seasons under three different head coaches.
From the look of it, all you have to do is show up to participate in what's being dubbed "Coach Beaty's Campus Challenge." Be forewarned, though. As you can see in the video, the KU coach feels pretty good about his skills.
Friday's spring practice for the KU football team — No. 11 of 15 — kicked off with strength coach Je'Ney Jackson sending his guys back to the goal line after a lackluster breakdown that followed their warm-up.
“We're about to scrimmage, fellas,” Jackson and other coaches yelled. “Have some enthusiasm.”
Seconds later, the breakdown was much more spirited and the Jayhawks had that fire the coaches were looking for.
This, of course, is nothing new. Coaches do this all the time and it has happened at KU plenty. But regardless of whether it encourages you to roll your eyes or pump your fist, it definitely shows the kind of commitment to the small details that this coaching staff and these players are working toward.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to stay for the scrimmage but there were a few other things that caught my eye while we were out there. Here's a look:
• Probably the most interesting aspect of Friday came in the 7-on-7 period that happened just before we were asked to leave. Four different quarterbacks got four reps each and I timed how long it took each to get the ball out of his hands after receiving the snap. Here are the results: Michael Cummings – 2 seconds, 2.5 seconds, 3 seconds, 2 seconds; Montell Cozart – 3.5 seconds, 2 seconds, 3.5 seconds, 2 seconds; Frank Seurer Jr. – 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 2.5 seconds; Brock Gilmore – 4 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 4.5 seconds. Now, just because those back-ups held the ball a little longer does not mean the passes were incomplete or the plays were a bust. But if it's tempo they're looking for (and it is) it's crystal clear that Cummings and Cozart are a full step ahead in terms of reading and reacting.
• One special teams drill I hadn't seen yet was the onside kick recovery drill, which featured roughly 30 different guys running through the drill. One at a time, the guys would practice fielding the bouncing kick and then going down to the ground to secure it. Mixed results, as expected, but it was a fun drill to watch. About that attention to detail, special teams coach Gary Hyman got all over his kickers during the drill for not going rapid-fire enough. “This is their drill, not yours,” Hyman barked. “Get the kicks off faster.”
• Watched the O-Line again for a while and saw Zach Yenser calling out protections and then hovering over his guys while instructing them what to do. Most of them knew what to do to begin with, but he was creating stress and forcing them to focus while under fire. Bryan Peters was working at left tackle with the ones and twos and I can't help but think he's going to wind up being one of those Gavin Howard type guys this fall. He may not be the most impressive guy they have, physically, but he's reliable, can play multiple positions and has a good head.
• The Jayhawks will take the weekend off and return to the practice fields on Tuesday for practice No. 12.
I'm not sure why but I've kind of overlooked the defensive line this spring — at least in terms of how often I've watched them work at practice.
Maybe it's because we've heard so much about how the D-Line is one of the strengths of the team and so many of those guys who play up front are familiar names — Ben Goodman, T.J. Semke, Andrew Bolton, Kapil Fletcher and others.
With that said, I made sure to go stand down there on Thursday at spring practice No. 10 and I'm definitely glad I did.
Not only was I impressed by what I saw — these guys really look to have good footwork, great get-off and solid work ethic — but I also was entertained.
Calvin Thibodeaux was a solid player on a few really good Oklahoma teams. From the look of things, he's also well on his way to becoming a solid coach and maybe even a comedian.
During one drill, in which the D-Linemen were working on lateral movement, a couple of guys stumbled over the bags on the ground. Thibodeaux let 'em have it.
“Don't whoop 'em, bags,” he kept yelling. “Oh man these bags are tough, aren't they? Glad we don't play the bags on Saturday.”
Ribbings like those were seemingly endless, but they all were done with a purpose — to motivate the guys to prove Thibodeaux wrong. Like I said, they've got great work ethic and I can't help but think that's where some of it comes from.
Here's a quick look at the rest of what caught my eye on Thursday:
• During Wednesday's meeting with the media as I was talking with offensive coordinator Rob Likens, special teams coach Gary Hyman came over and pointed something out to me that I had never noticed. “Greatest hair in all of NC-2A right there,” Hyman said as he messed with Likens' 'do and walked away with a laugh. In the interest of being thorough, I decided to take a closer look at Thursday's practice, but was foiled. See, Likens most often wears a hat out there at practice, so he wasn't letting anybody see the locks. Guess we'll just have to trust Hyman on that one.
• Speaking of assistant coaches, co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry donned a little something extra to get his point across to his defensive players at Thursday's practice. Instead of just yelling things to help leverage like, “Bend your knees,” and “You're too high, you're too high,” and “Stay low, get down,” Perry wore a long sleeve T-Shirt with those instructions plastered across the front. Bend. Your. Knees. It's one thing to bark orders, but it's another to remind guys constantly even when they just look at you.
• One more note about Hyman, whom you've already heard has an incredible amount of energy. During a kickoff return drill, one kick returner caught the ball, rolled up the right side and then cut it back to daylight on the left side and broke free. Now in a game that might not be frowned upon. But at Thursday's practice, that wasn't the case. Hyman lit him up for cutting it back because the drill they were doing was designed to work on blocking assignments with a right return. Cutting it back does not allow the guys in the drill to see whether what they had done actually worked or not and Hyman made sure the returner and everyone within ear shot knew it.
• During the 11-on-11 live offense period, Montell Cozart was the first QB out there with the first team. That could mean something, but it also might not. Likens said the other day that he makes a conscious effort to ensure that both Cozart and Michael Cummings work equal reps with the first-team offensive line and the second-team offensive line so he can see how each guy reacts to the adversity and advantages that come with both. It might have just been how the rotation fell today so I wouldn't read too much into Cozart being out there first just yet.
• Speaking of QBs, one thing I noticed that was new to me was hand signals from the quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage. Now, we're not talking Peyton Manning stuff here, but I did see these guys signaling to receivers and possibly even linemen with their hands after taking the calls from the sideline. All in the name of tempo, I'm sure.