Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coming on fast: Speedy, energetic LB Heeney takes aim at starting job

Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney laughs with graduate assistant Maurice Crum during practice, Tuesday, August 14, 2012, near Memorial Stadium. Heeney, a sophomore, wants to start for the Jayhawks this year and might get the chance if he continues to impress coaches as he has during fall camp.

Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney laughs with graduate assistant Maurice Crum during practice, Tuesday, August 14, 2012, near Memorial Stadium. Heeney, a sophomore, wants to start for the Jayhawks this year and might get the chance if he continues to impress coaches as he has during fall camp.


Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney knows one way — and one way only — to play football, and, so far this fall, his style has led to good things and high praise for the sophomore from Hutchinson.

“That dude is fast and reckless,” senior defensive end Josh Williams said. “He comes straight downhill. Being on the D-line and having a guy like that behind me, I like that a lot.”

So do the KU coaches, who have seen enough from Heeney since December to give him regular work as the first-team middle linebacker during fall camp. Heeney is not the only one who has worked at Mike linebacker. Fifth-year senior Anthony McDonald and true freshman Schyler Miles also are making their case for first-team reps, but an injury to McDonald and the learning curve for Miles have led to more chances for Heeney. But the 6-foot, 225-pound ball of fury does not worry about the players around him. He never has. From the time he was a third-grader playing up with the fourth- and fifth-grade team back home to the time he became one of just 10 true freshmen to play at KU in 2011, Heeney has used emotion, energy and a no-fear attitude to stand out.

“I was never afraid to hit anybody,” he said. “Even when I was just a little third-grader out there, I always kind of held my own. I definitely rang a couple bells and I don’t remember getting mine rung. I think it’s just an instinctual thing.”

This season, Heeney has added a dose of IQ to his physical nature, and that, according to linebackers coach DeMontie Cross, has propelled him to improve.

“The kid just stays ready, and he has a really, really good motor,” Cross said. “That allows him to run around and make plays and show up on tape a lot. You can’t deny what the kid’s doing on the practice field.”

Head coach Charlie Weis has noticed, too, and, Monday, Weis made sure everyone knew it.

“He’s had a really nice camp,” Weis said. “Ben’s put himself in position to play a lot.”

That has been Heeney’s goal from Day 1. And while playing in all 12 games a season ago was a good start, most of Heeney’s action came on special teams, where he was arguably KU’s top performer in 2011. Heeney said he loved playing special teams and still does. The all-or-nothing nature of kick coverage and return units suits his style and matches his mentality. But Heeney said he gladly would abide by the new team rule that says starters can play on just two special teams units.

“Right now, I’m just trying to focus on what I’m supposed to do on the field, and if I’m there starting at middle linebacker on Sept. 1, that’s great,” he said. “If they think someone else can do a better job, if that's the case then that's the case. I just want to do whatever's best for the team and, I personally think me being out there is best for the team.”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Heeney — other than his extreme confidence, of course — is the fact that this whole linebacker thing is relatively new. In high school, he was a record-setting running back on offense and a hard-hitting safety on defense. There are elements of both that translate well to his new position, Heeney said, but the mental component is completely different. That’s part of the reason he works so hard. And other than the blur on the screen during film sessions, that’s one of the main things his coaches have noticed.

“I feel like he has just been mentally into it,” Cross said. “He’s been prepared, he asks good questions and he plays the game like he really enjoys it.”

The first time Heeney met Cross, he stood in his office and told him he wanted to start for him. That conversation has driven him every day since, but it is not the only thing that’s important to Heeney. He also wants his team to succeed, and that’s why he also has become obsessed with the linebacker corps’ quest to create more turnovers in 2012. Throughout the offseason, the linebackers have kept track of the turnovers they’ve forced. During spring ball, they forced none. Through the same number of practices in fall camp, the number is up to nine.

“It all starts with the D-line getting some pressure up there,” Heeney said. “All those new guys coming in and the old guys stepping up, that’s really helped us out.”

The rest of the credit belongs to the relentless effort and contagious work ethic of all of KU’s linebackers.

“Even if I get something wrong, I’m always just trying to go hard and fix my mistakes later on,” Heeney said. “If I don’t know what I’m doing, I’ll go hard to the ball and at least try to do something. ... The recognition’s cool and everything, but, whether I get recognized or not, I’m still gonna go hard.”

KU gets OL commitment

The second best offensive lineman in Kentucky is coming to Kansas.

Tuesday night, reported that Joey Bloomfield, a 6-foot-6, 305-pound tackle from Ballard High, in Louisville, had orally committed to the Jayhawks. The three-star prospect who is rated by as the seventh best player in the Bluegrass state, said his relationship with KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard was key but added that he loved everything the school had to offer.

“I was impressed with the whole aspect, from the people to the facilities and everything in between,” Bloomfield told Jon Kirby. “One thing that stood out is the type of kid they are recruiting and the direction of the program.”

Bloomfield chose KU over Colorado, Houston, San Diego State and Wyoming. He becomes the seventh player in the Class of 2013 to commit to Kansas.


SaltyJayhawk 9 years, 9 months ago

I've gone to school with Ben since the first grade, and I played football with him for a few years. He's a great guy and I'm not surprised at all he worked his way up with how athletic he is.

Dirk Medema 9 years, 9 months ago

Interesting that they're talking abou Willis less and less. He was supposed to be a big recruit in '10.

Also nice to get a recruiting commitment. Wasn't expecting any until we started winning some games. 6-6 305 is good size for starting his sr yr.

Jory Collins 9 years, 9 months ago

He was only a big recruit because he transferred from Buffalo with Turner. Im sure he went to Buffalo and not a Big 10 school for a reason. I love the fact that we might have a couple tough Kansas boys starting at linebacker. Reminds me of a few years ago.

hawk316 9 years, 9 months ago

This article was a nice surprise as I was not familiar with Heeney. Sounds like this was a very nice pickup by the previous coaching staff.

ebizzle 9 years, 9 months ago

Bloomfield chose KU over Colorado, Houston, San Diego State and Wyoming. He becomes the seventh player in the Class of 2013 to commit to Kansas.

so we beat out cu? not pumped.

Laurence Cooley 9 years, 9 months ago

cu has a conference that guarantees two trips to california every year, a (more perceived) stable conference, and games guaranteed to be on tv every week (more exposure). so it may not seem like much, but i excited that we beat them out for him. and his size isn't bad either.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 9 months ago

Last year Colorado wasn't good, but they were better than us. Houston? I think they won 10 games last year. You can't start at the top of the mountain. You have to work your way up. This is a good get and I think it will continue to get better.

kugrad93 9 years, 9 months ago

Houston was 13-1 last year and won its bowl game.

mikehawk 9 years, 9 months ago

Hate to tell you this dude, but those schools match pretty close to us in football in lots of ways. Right now, the players we are going to attract are going to be in that class of talent pool, at best. In a few years with some noticeable stability and success, that may start to change.

JJHAWK 9 years, 9 months ago

"In our Coaches we trust."

If that is not true, it is time for a new coach. I certainly trust Coach Self to find the kids he thinks he can win with - and surprisingly his recruits are not all McDonald's AllAmericans.

I believe that Coach Weis and all the other coaches (and his strength coach) he has brought in know and understand talent and what it takes to win. Yes I'm drinking the blue cool aid.

Stars are for fans, player potential for coaches. Bill Synder has certainly proved that.

Bville Hawk 9 years, 9 months ago

What's happened to ahpersecoachingexperience?

Chris Bailey 9 years, 9 months ago

I thought everyone hated him? I thought he was funny as heck!

Tony Bandle 9 years, 9 months ago

His alarm clock must have broke....he never posts at 12:01 am any more!!

Chris Bailey 9 years, 9 months ago

I watched Heeney every game his senior year and the guy was a beast! He carried that team on his back. If they needed a score he got it. They fell short to BC in the playoffs but he played his butt off. I don't know what it's gonna take to get people to notice these Randy Dreiling coached kids. His son is a beast at Pitt State and has a chance to make it to the NFL out of a DII school. We can't keep letting this talent slip through the cracks. These kids are bred to win. That's all they've known their whole lives. We line up against The Rock every year and we may only be 1-3 against them but I can promise you they knew they played a hell of a team when they walked off that field. Last year was the only year we lost big and it took them till well into the second half to get that lead nailed down. As we well know The Rock turns out many D1 players every year as they recruit K.C.'s best. Even if you claim Hutch recruits (which I doubt since the last two years we've had 5 teams ranked in the state) we draw from Reno County which has about 60,000 residents. My hats off to Ben Heeney he is a player. We should have Grissom, Dreiling and Heeney playing for us and what a force that would be! Rock Chalk and Go Salthawks!

stinkybulldog 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm also from Hutch and I've seen Heeney & Grissom play in the past. Heeney did carry the team on his back, but it wasn't good enough to pull off another state title (could've been 8 in a row). Also, why would Grissom come to KU when OU was offering him a scholarship? No brainer in my opinion. And don't forget about Josh Smith was on the team last year. He was an excellent running back, just a little under sized. There is no doubt that Dreiling develops players, but will he ever move on to the next level? I think it's time for him to cash his chips in. What else does he have to prove at HHS?

stinkybulldog 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm sure he will be seeing more P.T. this year at TE. He's going to be a redshirt Sophomore on a top 10 team. It's like if Elijah Johnson would've played at UNLV instead of KU. He could've started every year at UNLV, rather than sitting 2 years at KU, but he wanted to be on a title contending team. He has been injured his first 2 years in college, so hopefully he will get healthy and move up the depth chart. I would've love to see him at KU, but completely respect his decision for wanting to play for a top-tier team.

Chris Bailey 9 years, 9 months ago

I disagree completely. First, how many college teams run a flexbone? I believe Army runs something similar but no others come to mind. He is a winner at Hutch! Big time! He's got 1000's of people coming out to watch him every Friday night. I don't see him leaving. He's gotta be getting close to 50 and he and his wife make a good salary plus he's made himself a fixture in the area. I truly think that the winning drives him year after year. He is a hell of a coach and I truly hope my son can play for him one day! Just because he's a winner doesn't mean he's tired of it and ready to bolt. I just don't see him making a jump to college he'd be an assistant most likely. He is in total control at Hutch. On Josh Smith I don't know what happened there. I heard he was transferring to Pitt State and now he's back in Lawrence so not sure what happened there. And as for Grissom he originally committed to KU and changed after Mangino was fired. He is now moving from DE to TE which may not be a bad move given his great hands. I still remember that catch he made in Mcpherson in the playoffs. The play was called back but wow! He would have been a starter at KU no doubt! So from that standpoint he would have been better off here. That's his call I just wish we had those two guys! Dreiling's will both be playing for state and national championships again this year.

stinkybulldog 9 years, 9 months ago

Dreiling is a winner in Hutch, you're right, but we're talking about High School football. If he's content with that, great! I just saw a lot of potential for him as a college coach.

Fototherapist 9 years, 9 months ago

I would really like to see more 6' 3" or 6' 4', 240-250lb linebackers on the team. Schyler Miles at 6' 2' 230 is close, but I'm still worried about our ability to handle the run. We need more size behind the line (and don't get me started about our D line). Anthony McDonald is the perfect, protypical size for a linebacker, but if he can't stay healthy...

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

“That dude is fast and reckless,” senior defensive end Josh Williams said.

LOL! He has no idea...

No malice, just thought I'd post this in ahperse's absence.

Chris Bailey 9 years, 9 months ago

HaHa. Too funny! He doesn't have any idea. But hey they're kids. So he gets a pass from this jayhawk. Not that he's above anyone he's just a kid.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 9 months ago

Don't worry about ahperse..he takes long breaks.... like Jaybate, who at this very moment may be riding a pony in the Mongolian Desert or playing Uno with the Pope. [Hint, JB...let the old guy win!!]

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

I'm telling you, ahperse is in Lynchburg, VA, booing, and he'll be there until he loses his voice.

Chris Bailey 9 years, 9 months ago

Haha! You can hold the ahperse torch until his return! too funny!

STLJHawk86 9 years, 9 months ago

Ah, per se KU FAN. His hatred of Turner Gill trumps his alleged devotion to KU so he is probably preoccupied with posting on the LBU bulletin boards. Bad news for Gill but good news for KU and this forum

Tim Orel 9 years, 9 months ago

If you folks are interested in Chris Harris and his thoughts on the Broncos (is he a starter?) you can check out the radio interview at

Jeffery Barrett 9 years, 9 months ago

C BS has KU ranked 106th out of 124. Behind at least 20 teams they are definitely going to be better than, IMO. Unbelievable.

danmoore 9 years, 9 months ago

Good! Post it on the bulletin board along with their 10th place predicted finish in the conference.

KGphoto 9 years, 9 months ago

It's Jerry Palm's own personal computer formula and it obviously sucks. I doubt it weighs much on players lost, players gained, or coaches lost or gained. And it lazily relies on recruiting class rankings which are obviously flawed.

We are flying comfortably under the radar. Expect a couple of heads to pop up after KU puts on an offensive clinic Sep. 1, but personally I hope we stay low until after the TCU game.

Jeffery Barrett 9 years, 9 months ago

Even though Gary Patterson is from western KS and I usually root for him and TCU, I would still love it if KU whooped them.

tical523 9 years, 9 months ago

I have said many times that Ben Heeney is going to be an absolute stud the next few years, plays the game the right way. I would just lock on to him on special teams and he would punish blockers and runners alike. Can't wait to watch him on D.

yovoy 9 years, 9 months ago

tical: yup, that's there I took notice of him. I'd watch him because it was a given that he was going to blow someone up EVERY time.

I've been thinking our LB are kind of "lightweight" as well. We'll see.

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