Thursday, March 25, 2010

Trading places: Gill allows position changes for KU spring football

Jeff Himes, head football equipment manager, finds the practice jersey belonging to quarterback Kale Pick on Wednesday in preparation for the start of spring drills. The preseason workouts begin Saturday.

Jeff Himes, head football equipment manager, finds the practice jersey belonging to quarterback Kale Pick on Wednesday in preparation for the start of spring drills. The preseason workouts begin Saturday.


When Kansas University football coach Turner Gill takes the field with his team for the first time at 1 p.m. Saturday, he’ll do so with a handful of Jayhawks in new positions.

Eight returning players from last year’s squad will open spring practices at a different position than the one they played to finish 2009. The reason falls in line with what Gill has preached since arriving in Lawrence.

“I left it up to the guys and just asked them to tell me where they wanted to start out,” Gill said. “So there have been some changes based on what they felt. If they believe there’s a certain position they can play well, I want to start ’em there. I want to see them get excited, I want to see them go out and play hard and feel good about it.”

KU officials said Wednesday the following players have taken Gill up on his offer: Isiah Barfield (wide receiver to cornerback), D.J. Beshears (cornerback to wide receiver), Steven Foster (linebacker to fullback), Chase Knighton (quarterback to wide receiver), Daymond Patterson (cornerback to wide receiver), Angus Quigley (linebacker to running back), Ian Wolfe (offensive line to tight end) and Duane Zlatnik (defensive line to offensive line).

That’s not to say the final depth chart will be set by the players themselves. But at least the first draft will be penned by the guys who put on helmets and shoulder pads.

“Obviously, if a person doesn’t do well or if we believe he can help us at a different position or get more playing time (somewhere else), then we’ll discuss that later,” Gill said.

Of the eight players making a switch, only Beshears and Patterson started games in 2009. Both figure to be in the middle of heated battles at their new positions. Of course, the same could be said for just about everyone on KU’s team.

“There’ll be competition at every position,” Gill said. “Obviously, quarterback’s going to get all of the attention. I understand that. But we’re going to make it where there’s competition at every position.”

The quarterback race likely will have three main candidates — returning back-up Kale Pick, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds; junior-college transfer Quinn Mecham, 6-2, 195; and red-shirt freshman Jordan Webb, 6-1, 210. Although Gill has not said whether he will name a starter by the end of spring practices, all three will jockey for position throughout the next four weeks.

Similar competitions are being waged at running back, where Toben Opurum (577 yards and nine TDs on 133 carries in 2009) returns as the only player who tallied meaningful carries; wide receiver, where Johnathan Wilson (35 receptions in 2009) and Bradley McDougald (33) lead a crowded and potential-packed group of playmakers; linebacker, where Drew Dudley, Huldon Tharp and Justin Springer return with experience; defensive line, where only All-Big 12 performer Jake Laptad is a known commodity; and the secondary, where all of the starting positions appear to be up for grabs.

This year, perhaps more than any season that has come before it, the most important aspect of spring practices might not show up in the depth chart or on the field.

“Obviously, you have to do all of the things to take care of (the game), taking care of the football, creating turnovers, excellent special teams and all of that,” Gill said. “But you also have to make sure you’re having guys believe in each other. And that starts with players to players, and then you have to take it to the next level of players to coaches and coaches to coaches. That takes time. I don’t have a magic ball here that’s going to tell me if it’ll take one month, seven months, two years, four years or whatever. But I do know that we will be successful here at some point in time on a consistent basis.”

Spring practices begin Saturday and run through the April 24 Spring Game.


greggy 12 years, 3 months ago

D.J. Beshears has alot of talent and would be great coming back as a corner. He'll probably just get lost in the battle of wide receivers

Dyrk Dugan 12 years, 3 months ago

Foster is a good athlete...probably should have not been moved to defense...he got lost in the shuffle there.

i though Zlatnik and Barfield had already made their switches last year....i guess this is just the confirmation for spring ball.

Angus can run the football....he's an athlete. Gee whiz, all of these years, and maybe, his last one, his time will come.

Rock Chalk spring football!

Rivethead 12 years, 3 months ago

Hopefully Coach Gill and crew will be able to teach Angus to run lower and hold onto the ball better.

MitchumMan 12 years, 3 months ago

I love what Coach Gill is doing here! Right now the players probably know their own abilities better than Gill does, so he wants to see if there are any players who weren’t being utilized as they should have been. I could see at least one of the old CBs turned WRs go back to CB though. But if the player knows that they are truly better and/or needed at another position then they will probably practice harder and enjoy it more. Nothing is worse than playing a position where you think you aren’t being utilized to your potential!

A happy player is a player that will fight to the end with you. An unhappy player is one that will give up on you when you need him the most. Keep doing what you’re doing Coach Gill.

justinryman 12 years, 3 months ago

Talk about a way to lift a players spirit and self motivation. Especially after they were moved from one position to another, yes they will be behind a litle in timing and on the learning curve, but they will also be more motivated in wanting "it".

Can't wait to see wat the new regime has in store for us.

Rock Chalk

jmsuther 12 years, 3 months ago

I like seeing patterson moving to wide receiver where he wants to be. I could see him starting.

jmsuther 12 years, 3 months ago

I think that this team has a lot of unused talent that mangino was afraid to used because he was to stubborn to change anything in the offense with our seniors even though it obviously needed to be changed. I don't mind the spread but you have to be able to get under center and run the ball against teams where the only wat to lose is beating yourself. If we had and under center run game last year we would have beat colorado and kstate for sure.

Jaminrawk 12 years, 3 months ago

DJ and Patterson came to KU as wideouts but I'm surprised Patterson wants to switch back. He seemed to have potential as a corner. Seeing as the wideouts are a bit crowded what with Wilson, McDougald, Omigie and McGriff all being big targets, I wonder how two smaller guys like Breshears and Patterson would be used.

jdavidholt 12 years, 3 months ago

I've never heard the extent of Toben Opurum's ankle/leg injury suffered late in the season. Anyone?

rolo2383 12 years, 3 months ago

Beshears and Patterson are burners. We could use a couple of guys who can fly down the field to stretch it. The last few years we've had a lot of big receivers who weren't quite able to spread the field too much.

I thought Zlatnik wanted to move back to D.

I also heard Parrish is going to move back to D.

rolo2383 12 years, 3 months ago

Toben is fine now. I can't remember what his injury was but he's back to 100% or very close. I know he had some soreness when they removed the pins from his leg but that was a couple of months ago.

Scott Smetana 12 years, 3 months ago

Nice picture of "Himer". He was there during the Mason era.. he's the last. I hope he still doesn't give all of the walk-ons the crappy equipment just because he can. Walk-ons are awesome!

Jeremy LeMaster 12 years, 3 months ago

Patterson always showed more potential as a Wide Receiver than as a Corner. His move to corner was more of necessity and he lost playing time back there last year. Beshears showed a lot of potential in the secondary late in the year but I do not remember seeing him perform at WR.

I like to see this and hope that they enjoy playing football again. Please keep us updated on how the spring practices are going.


Robert Brock 12 years, 3 months ago

Is this going to be a rocky year or do you guys think KU will surprise some people? I'm anxious to see what we look like. It may not be pretty at first.

Bill Kackley 12 years, 3 months ago

I like this. When I was a senior in high school I moved from one town to another and 6 man footfall to 11 man. Because I was the biggest person on the football team I was made to play offensive tackle and defensive nose guard. Didn't mind the defense but offensive tackle wasn't me. In 6 man I had been mainly an end although I quite often ran and passed out of the backfield. 6' 7" 200#'s I hated the offensive tackle position and as was mentioned earlier probably didn't work to my full potential, playing on the first losing team of any kind I had ever played on. When our fullback was injured, I volunteered to play that position, was not even given a chance in practice to show I could do it. I think it is important to give the kids a chance to play at the positions they feel they are best at. I was also a better receiver than one of our ends but we seldom passed the ball out ofthe single wing formation.

Phoggin_Loud 12 years, 3 months ago

I think I saw one once, but it's been a long time.

Sounds cool.

Jeffery Barrett 12 years, 3 months ago

Don't you think it's funny when people answer their own questions?

Jonathan Briles 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm excited about the potential for happy players and agree with some of the changes, but I think it really sets us back a little bit on defense to be honest. I love the thought of Patterson as WR because he was a killer there at the beginning of his freshman year. I would like to see DJ go back to defense however because he has a lot of potential at CB. Other than DJ I'm not too concerned about the changes. I hope Barfield can be a good replacement. After all of this we will be very young in our secondary now. Which could be good in a couple of years. Then we could have an incredibly experienced and good secondary which KU has not seen in a very long time.

JBurtin 12 years, 3 months ago

"Is this going to be a rocky year or do you guys think KU will surprise some people? I'm anxious to see what we look like. It may not be pretty at first."

Based on what I'm seeing here I think we'll surprise some people. There were times last year that we really needed to simplify the situation on both sides of the ball.

Moving Foster back to Fullback should help us move the ball more consistently. Last year Jake could get outside, but had a tendency to plow into the first guy in front of him rather than developing any elusiveness. Opurum did a great job up the middle, but it was apparent very quickly that he couldn't turn the corner on the outside runs and defenses adjusted accordingly.

When we don't have Foster in the game our new smaller backs have more of an elusive nature and should be a bit more of a threat on the outside runs, and I don't think Turner will be afraid to use a Toss or dump off pass to help Opurum (or one of the other backs) make the corner.

When Foster comes in he can take out that first man that always seemed to snag our backs last year. Get Opurum in space against a D-back and he'll drag him for ten yards before the next man gets there to help. Alternatively, Rell Lewis or Quigley will simply take their head off. Foster also opens up the possibility that Sands could bust out a run up the middle, which would have been unlikely without a fullback.

Beshears and Patterson moving back to WR could help as well as their elusiveness can turn small, easy-to-execute plays into big ones.

I think the more-consistent, clock-eating offense can help immensely with giving our defensive guys some rest and confidence.

Defensively, I think we'll still have some struggles getting a pass rush, but I think having a coach with a more positive attitude should help build the confidence of our defensive backfield. If the run support improves a bit at the linebacker position and the defensive backs aren't on a constant depth chart carosel of stupidity we should be able to make just a few more stops.

Combine these factors and I think you will likely turn a few of those close losses from last year into close wins.

MitchumMan 12 years, 3 months ago

As usual there's a great article at RockChalkTalk. Today's article covers the defensive side of the ball.

number1jayhawker 12 years, 3 months ago

The only move mentioned that has kind of surprised me, is the Ian Wolfe from OL to TE. He will have had to drop some weight to make the switch.

Patterson & BeShears will be valuable assets at the WR spot. Combine them with a couple of big receivers like Omigie and McGriff and the offense will have big play ability. And if our running game improves, loom out.

Tony Bandle 12 years, 3 months ago offensive player who is pass eligible and just finished a big dinner!

honk_for_hawks 12 years, 3 months ago

barfield was a corner two years ago, a receiver last year, and he is going back to corner this year. I'm sure he is switching because he realized he is a better defender than route runner. I personally think his speed is better used on the defensive side where he actually started two games as a true freshman. he runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash and is arguably one of the more athletic players on the team. his one down side (and I know this because i regularly play basketball with him) is that he doesn't have the best hands. they are obviously much better than any of ours, but for a d-1 receiver, this is one of the main reasons he is much more likely to get playing time on defense.

Matt Tait 12 years, 3 months ago

Nope. The NCAA denied Onyegbule's request for the sixth year so he's spent the last few months working out in hopes of landing a job with a professional football team.

He looked pretty good at KU's Pro Day earlier this month. I'm not sure that will lead to an NFL opportunity, but with his size and athleticism I wouldn't be surprised if he's playing pro ball somewhere next year.

justanotherfan 12 years, 3 months ago

I seem to remember Patterson getting into Mangino's doghouse after muffing a punt and never really getting out. The only thing that really got him back on the field after that was switching to DB. He played pretty well at corner, but he's a natural with the ball. I think we need to find ways to get him the ball, along with MacDougald and the speedy freshman, Maura. Those three are big play guys.

I hope Gill has some ideas to shore up the defense. I don't know if it was scheme, personnel or both, but something has to change. We seemed to be back on our heels quite a bit last year. I hope Gill has made some adjustments to fix that.

Eric Williams 12 years, 3 months ago

I think the big difference is motivation.

Mangino was a step up at the time, but he motivated through fear (i.e. taking playing time away). Gill seems to motivate by listening and being honest.

He's not guaranteeing a position switch, just giving those players the opportunity that was never there.

Matt Tait 12 years, 3 months ago

Many people have said this already, but I whole-heartedly agree... With Omigie, McGriff and even Wilson to some degree, KU has some good size at one wide receiver position. I think one of those guys can be what Briscoe was (at least in terms of his role, not necessarily production)...

That leaves McDougald to fill Meier's spot, which I think he could do very well, albeit in a slightly different manner

And then you've got a spot for a burner, which could be Daymond Patterson or even a guy like Keeston Terry.

With what seems to be a shift toward more focus on the running game, I'm not sure there will be room for more than three productive wideouts this year... Of course, that's not saying that five or six guys couldn't make an impact at the position. Depth is always good to have and could help this inexperienced group as much as any.

There are a lot of interesting positions to keep an eye on this spring, but wide receiver could be one of the most exciting. This group is deep, which will create great competition, and a lot of these guys are ultra-talented.

Matt Tait 12 years, 3 months ago


Sorry I overlooked your post earlier. I just wanted to provide you with the following info about the defensive line position so you can see why I consider Laptad to be the only known commodity.

John Williams 11 games, 6 tackles Darius Parish, 12 games 8 tackles Richard Johnson, 22 games, 31 tackles Jamal Greene, 29 games, 34 tackles

Jake Laptad, 38 games, 107 tackles

I'm definitely not saying that these guys aren't good players and won't contribute this season. I think they will and I think they're going to have to. But Laptad, in 36 fewer games, has nearly 30 more tackles than all of those guys combined and is the only one of the group that has consistently been able to hold down a starting spot.

I'm with you, I think big things could be in store for Johnson and/or Greene and Williams this season. But I also think we need to see it first.

Thanks for the post.

Jonathan Briles 12 years, 3 months ago

You said that one of the burner type WR spots could be filled by Keeston Terry, but from what rivals says he runs about a 4.7. Is that wrong and he has better speed than advertised or what did you mean by your comment? Being that he is a four star guy I am hoping he is faster than they say but you would know better so what type of a player is he?

Matt Tait 12 years, 3 months ago

My bad, KanFan27.... I shouldn't have included Terry in the "burner" category. Although he has good speed, he's not a burner. What he does do best, though, is make plays in space, which — in my opinion — makes receivers seem fast as all get out.

Think Wes Welker, Brandon Stokley, Steve Smith... none of them are overly fast (anymore) but if you can get 'em the ball in open spaces, they'll make plays and juke and jive their way up the field.

Jonathan Briles 12 years, 3 months ago

Okay, thanks for the clarification. Hope he can have as much of an impact as some of receivers you named off. I also think of Briscoe when I think of YAC type WR instead of Burner types. He was incredible at using his strength and elusiveness to make his way up the field.

yovoy 12 years, 3 months ago

defensively, if we don't get some size, speed, and snarl at linebacker, we better control the ball well or we better outscore the other team. tharp impressed me last year. didn't realize he was from kansas. he seemed to be the only lb i saw last year that just "looked" like a linebacker. what about springer? i didn't realize that he was as big as he is, but can do you think he can step up a bit this year?

i don't care where quigley is on the field - i just want that kid to succeed in the program that he's given so much for. my heart bleeds for that kid, and i always liked his determination. one of my favorite of all-time.

i know that gill is a wiley character, i really wouldn't be surprised if he threw the ball quite a bit more than many might expect (provided he has the personnel). he sees the game through a qb's eyes, so i think he'll be able to adjust the gameplan on the fly pretty well. i don't really think our offense will be too bad. i am really most nervous about our defense. i'd also like to see some of that swagger come back. we had it coming up the year we won in the ft. worth bowl, and it seems we lost it around the time of the brawl with tyshawn and the boyz.

i miss mangino, but the excitement that coach gill has brought to the u (and the debate he has stirred here), has me feeling as jacked about kufb as i normally do.

jhokfan 12 years, 3 months ago

Lots of questions, the biggest one being at the quarterback position. Hopefully someone will emerge as a clear cut favorite and Gill will not be forced to play musical chairs.

I expect this team to be competitive but I’m going in with zero expectations in regards to wins and losses. Our non-con schedule is tougher but our conference schedule should be easier. There is talent on this team. Mangino to Gill is not the same as Allen to Mangino.

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