Wednesday, August 29, 2012

KU linemen Sterling, Tavai among new arrivals to earn starting jobs

Kansas University newcomers Jordan Tavai (9) and Aslam Sterling (77) will start their first games at KU, coach Charlie Weis announced Tuesday. Tavai, a defensive tackle, and Sterling, an offensive guard, are just two of 14 new arrivals on the Jayhawks’ two-deep for Saturday’s game against South Dakota State.

Kansas University newcomers Jordan Tavai (9) and Aslam Sterling (77) will start their first games at KU, coach Charlie Weis announced Tuesday. Tavai, a defensive tackle, and Sterling, an offensive guard, are just two of 14 new arrivals on the Jayhawks’ two-deep for Saturday’s game against South Dakota State.


Two of Kansas University team’s most recent arrivals officially became starters on Tuesday, when KU football coach Charlie Weis released the first depth chart of the regular season.

Offensive lineman Aslam Sterling was penciled in as the starter at right guard and defensive lineman Jordan Tavai was tapped as the top option at nose tackle.

The question now is: Does the fact that both guys were able to work their way into the starting lineup in less than a month say more about their ability or the team they joined?

“I think it says a lot about those guys,” senior offensive lineman Duane Zlatnik said. “I saw film on them both before they came here and I knew they were gonna come in and compete right away. The best players are gonna play.”

In the case of Tavai, a 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior-college transfer from El Camino, Calif., that was exactly the explanation Weis gave.

“He’s been one of our best guys in his brief time here,” Weis said of Tavai.

Not only is Tavai listed as the starting nose tackle, he also is listed as a potential back-up at both defensive end spots. The reason? Weis said he’s the one guy on the roster who could start inside and transition outside effortlessly.

For Sterling, a 6-foot-5, 348-pound monster from Nassau Community College in New York, the move has been just the opposite. After spending most of his three weeks in town at tackle, Sterling began working at right guard early last week.

“I didn’t really expect to go play right guard,” Sterling said. “But I’m starting, so I’m happy.”

The move, though challenging, has not been that difficult for Sterling. For starters, he has previous experience at the position and also has a built-in advantage.

“When you’re moving from right tackle to right guard, you know what the guy next to you is doing, so it’s not that bad,” he said.

Both Weis and offensive line coach Tim Grunhard said putting Sterling at guard and allowing junior Gavin Howard to play right tackle gives KU’s O-line the best shot for early success.

“He’s a big road-grader, so we’re excited about seeing what he can do,” Grunhard said.

Added Weis: “We’ve settled the offensive line down. Instead of there being roving parts, we’ve settled it down. Gavin and (junior) Riley (Spencer) have settled down at right tackle, and Aslam and (junior) Randall (Dent) at right guard. I think you should expect to see all four of those guys playing in the game.”

While Sterling’s size — he’s down about 20 pounds from his reporting weight — is unmatched on the KU roster, his hard work is what earned him the opportunity to start. From going all-out at practice every day to spending nearly an hour a night extra in his playbook, Sterling did all he could to make up for lost time. That included extra one-on-one sessions with strength coach Scott Holsopple, both in the mornings and after practices.

“It’s not fun at all. Not for a guy my size,” he said. “But I’m getting through it, and my conditioning is getting better each week.”

In other notable depth chart news:

  • Senior transfer Anthony McDonald, a linebacker from Notre Dame, was not listed. “Anthony could play,” Weis said. “But, right now, I don’t believe that Anthony could turn it loose. When he can turn it loose, the depth chart will change.”

  • Red-shirt freshman Michael Cummings continues to hold the lead over sophomore transfer Turner Baty in the race to back up starting quarterback Dayne Crist. At running back, juco transfer Taylor Cox edged out sophomore Brandon Bourbon for the No. 2 spot at running back — behind sophomore starter Tony Pierson — but Weis said all three backs should get carries on Saturday.

  • KU’s two-deep features 14 newcomers, including five who will enter the season as starters.

  • Tavai and freshman wide receiver Tre’ Parmalee were the two players whose names appeared three different times on the depth chart. While Tavai is listed in three spots on the defensive line, Parmalee was listed as a reserve at three different positions — wide receiver, punt returner and holder.

  • Although most of the battles for first- and second-string spots have been settled, a few instances of “OR” remain on the depth chart. Weis doesn’t mind.

“Hopefully, they’ll never resolve themselves,” Weis said. “The reason you have those is because you like ’em both, not because you like neither. It’s a little tougher when the “or” is in the first position.”

Preparation Ouch

During Tuesday morning’s Missouri Valley Conference coaches teleconference South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier pointed out that preparing for the Jayhawks could be tough because they had no recent film to watch from Weis coaching the Jayhawks.

“We don’t see anything because there’s no film on ’em, obviously,” Stiegelmeier said. “You can look at Florida, with coach Weis and his offense there but that’s a whole different level and different type of player.”

Later in the day, Weis seemed genuinely confused when Stiegelmeier’s comments were brought to his attention.

“No film on me? Take your pick,” he said. “Florida, Chiefs, Notre Dame. You get tons of film on me, what do you want to pick? Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of different things, so I think you have to decide what you’re gonna get ready for.”

So much, in fact, that Weis said he was not concerned at all about the concept of spies observing practice from KU’s campus.

“We’ve done so many things on offense that if you video-taped all we’ve done and tried to get ready for it, it would take you about three years,” Weis said. “So, if they can figure that out, they’re a lot smarter than I am.”

QB update

As for the health of SDSU quarterback, Austin Sumner, on whom there is plenty of film to watch, Stiegelmeier said the sophomore was “questionable” for Saturday’s 6:06 p.m. kickoff.

“He had an injury in fall camp and, right now, he is more out than in,” Stiegelmeier said. “He’s doing everything he can, but it’s very doubtful that he’s gonna play.”

If Sumner cannot play, red-shirt freshman Eric Kline would get the start, but Weis said the injury report would not change KU’s practice plans.

“Sumner is who we’ll prepare for,” Weis said. “And if it ends up being Kline, we’ll be ready to go.”

Oh, those Dakotas

All of the talk about playing South Dakota State in the opener has brought back plenty of memories of KU’s season-opening embarrassment at the hands of North Dakota State in 2010.

Although Weis was not here at that time, he said he had reminded his players plenty about that 6-3 loss.

“I think they’re well aware of that,” he said. “I think bringing back moments from the past, both good and bad, are good teaching points.”

With that in mind, Weis said the least of his concerns was about his team looking past the Jackrabbits.

“I don’t think we’re worried about being overconfident,” he said. “We just lost a hundred in a row.”

Snap judgment

Last weekend’s suspension of starting long snapper Justin Carnes made the KU coaching staff adjust quickly. As it turns out, the bad news might have turned out to be a blessing, as senior center Trevor Marrongelli has taken over on short snaps and freshman Reilly Jeffers is listed as the first-team deep snapper.

“Trevor is actually a better short snapper, it’s just that you had an opportunity to take your starting center and not have to put him out there,” Weis said. “In reality, what we’re doing is we’re just forcing Trevor to do more work. But at the same time we actually get a very, very good short snapper.”

Asked if Jeffers, a true freshman from South Bend, Ind., was ready for the load, Weis praised Marrongelli yet again.

“If Reilly wasn’t good enough, he wouldn’t be doing it because Trevor’d be doing that, too,” he said. “Trevor could long-snap, too, but I don’t want to listen to him whine about having to run 45 yards down the field after he snaps the ball. I think we feel pretty good about it. You never going into a season just having one guy do it. You have other guys that are set and ready to go.”

Position changes

KU’s latest official roster revealed position changes for a couple of Jayhawks not on this week’s depth chart.

Junior Darius Willis, who started every game of the 2011 season at middle linebacker also has begun working as a defensive end. Sophomore Victor Simmons, who played 11 games at safety last season, has been moved to linebacker.


Dirk Medema 9 years, 8 months ago

CW just continues to impress me in so many ways. I think this is going to be a really fun football season. Pinstripe baby!

Dirk Medema 9 years, 8 months ago

Matt - It's encouraging to hear from your practice report that DWillis has taken to the position change with positive enthusiasm. Also encouraging that VSimmons has landed in the LB's (W/M/S) after a freshmen year of impact. Had been surprising to not see his name.

Kman_blue 9 years, 8 months ago

I agree. Great to hear they're keeping positive.

These position changes lead me to believe that coach Campo is upgrading the speed at every position on D and still likes these guys enough to move them to positions he thinks they'll have a better chance to make an impact at while also increasing the speed at those positions.

vd 9 years, 8 months ago

3 days before the FB season and we have 2 BB articles and 1 FB article.

LAJayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago


LAJayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago


Jeremy Bolinger 9 years, 8 months ago

SDSU head coach is a damn fool. This offense will be better than the garbage at UF last season. Brantley isn't in the same league as Crist, and we have better wide outs as well. SDSU coach needs to keep his mouth shut. His lack of respect for KU is quite evident.

David A. Smith 9 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, I laughed hysterically and quite incredulously. Pretty bad move. He took a team and coach that have a lot to prove and incited them on a personal level. Hang 70 on them!

Bobby Burch 9 years, 8 months ago

Agreed AtlJaybird. I hope Weis and Campo don't stop the pummeling until a nice 30 plus lead.

I can see it now: Pierson breaking away with a nice screen pass; Crist connecting deep with Pick; Opurum and Williams maiming their backup; McDougald with a pick-six. I'm so pumped!

Rock Chalk!!

april28 9 years, 8 months ago

We will need a steady diet of quality JuCo guys for the next three years to build the team. They come and they go pretty quickly, so you must be able to fill holes while you get the right freshman - and a steady stream of them - into the program.

And, frankly, at Kansas the coach will have to be creative for the next 10 years until we can become established as a real football destination.

Also...cancel the Rutgers game.

april28 9 years, 8 months ago

ummmm....have you seen Kansas football over the last 30 years?

texashawk10 9 years, 8 months ago

The first Rutgers game is scheduled for 2015 in New Jersey which happens to be a pretty good area for recruiting and with a New Jersey guy as a head coach, that's a good thing for KU. Rutgers also hasn't had much success outside of the past 6-7 year and with Greg Schiano gone, who knows if Kyle Flood can maintain the success that Rutgers has had recently. I also love the home and home with Ohio because that as well gives KU a presence in the very fertile recruiting grounds of Ohio and two winnable games in the future against a quality MAC school if Frank Solich is still there.

april28 9 years, 8 months ago

Gentlemen, it's simple...what's the upside? what's the downside? Beat Rutgers? No parades, I'm pretty sure. Lost to Rutgers? Yeah, same ole Kansas.

HAWKTOPIA 9 years, 8 months ago

HCCW is a real competitor. I love that he has Parmalee as the holder. Look for a converted +2 once in a while. i am sure he will have free rein to dart to the zone! If the Jayhawks can get a few breaks, look for a 6 win season!

NebraskaJayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

Wow, that's quite a compliment you're giving April28.

wildjayhawk 9 years, 8 months ago

You don't know what you are talking about, moron..

Jim Jackson 9 years, 8 months ago

You can look at Florida, with coach Weis and his offense there but that’s a whole different level and different type of player.”

At first, I was perplexed by this comment, not understanding what precisely their coach was trying to convey, but he bascially said UF is a more talented team than us.

That may be true, but the coach of SDSU should not be so bold in making such a public statement.

Coach Weis needs to make an example out of this clown; blow them out, 63-0.

We need to make a splash and no better way to do it than embarassing an opponent that had the hubris to mock our talent.

Rivethead 9 years, 8 months ago


It's impossible for KU to "make a splash" playing a FCS opponent. In a D1 vs FCS game, the only team that can "make a splash" is the FCS team (think Appy St. vs UofM or NDSU vs KU).

What the SDSU coach said isn't inflammatory. In fact, he's pretty much stating facts. You look at the UofF roster and compare it to ours.....there are a helluva lot more 4 and 5 star kids on the Florida roster than ours. And SEC football is definitely a whole other level than what KU plays.

KU will win this game. Coach Weis will play just about everyone. It won't be a blow-out. It will be all business. Coach Weis has his eye on a bigger prize.

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 8 months ago

And SEC football is definitely a whole other level than what KU plays.

Not sure what you mean by that, league wise the big12 is as good or better than the sec.

clevelandjayhawker 9 years, 8 months ago

10 teams, 6 went to a bowl. OSU would have beat LSU or Bama. SEC also has its turds..vady, kent, etc. They also get an extra non conference game due to the divisions. Thought you were kicked off this site?

KGphoto 9 years, 8 months ago

Texas will be trotting out 2 QBs in their season opener. That's F'dUp. Considering Weis got here in December, shook the tree and gutted 1/4 of the team, swapped players with Campo, and is still waiting on a guy who was slated to start, I think he's doing pretty well.

kellerman411 9 years, 8 months ago

I agree but there is a difference between switching positions and switching which side of the ball you play on.

Danny Hernandez 9 years, 8 months ago

As Jayhawker28 posted. "You can look at Florida, with coach Weis and his offense there but that’s a whole different level and different type of player.” At first, I was perplexed by this comment, not understanding what precisely their coach was trying to convey, but he bascially said UF is a more talented team than us"

Yes, that is exactly what the SDSU coach meant so come Saturday, Weis and company are going to unload their full fury on that team....IF I was the injured SDSU starting qb, I'd make sure I don't play!

There is going to be some serious azz kicking at Memorial....Wish I could travel from Miami to Lawrence to watch the game and celebrate the W because it's going to be a party.

I'm glad we have Coach Weis and the coaching staff he assembled. Thanks in advance Coaches

KGphoto 9 years, 8 months ago

Bad move Stiegelmeier.

I just hope on one play, Crist zips a sideline pass intentionally over the WR and into Stiegelmeier's ear. Better yet, into his big mouth.

Curtis Stutz 9 years, 8 months ago

Crist would be an instant crowd favorite if he pulled that off.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 8 months ago

6'-5" AND 385 POUNDS!!?? That's bigger than any guard maybe in the history of the NFL!!!

My guess is he won't be doing much pulling but if he can just stay moving forward, he will holes in the defense and if he can just stay erect, it will be virtually impossible to get around him on the pass rush!!

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 8 months ago

Yeah, that is my biggest worry about Crist stayin' healthy, that one of our own big boys doesn't back onto his foot. Ouch. I hope Crist has a real polished drop and pocket presence to avoid such things.

Eric Williams 9 years, 8 months ago

where did you get 385 pounds from?

it says 6'5" 348 pounds (still very large) and he lost 20 pounds...sooo he started at 368

KGphoto 9 years, 8 months ago

If he's erect I doubt they go anywhere near him.

HAWKS1 9 years, 8 months ago

Coach Weis has a "standing" order of Viagra for Sterling, in case it's needed. (Sorry Oakville, I just couldn't pass up that opening ha!)

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 8 months ago

Coach, can we have our first game next year on a Thursday? Can't wait for Saturday, to see our talent on display with improved coaching. I think moving Bourban to fullback was brilliant. He will toughen up and when he is given the ball he is going to score. Opponents will say, "That's no fullback." He'd be the fastest fullback in the NFL no doubt. So, who will be the playmakers? Triple Play Trey? Sour Smash Bourban? Touch-Me-Not Tony? (I'm not touching Cox) or Crist Our Savior? Six-Pick? D.J.Sixthgear? Diamond Daymond? Shall I go on? I'll spare ya'all that. We have some talent. I am expecting it to be maximized with this staff. Really excited for our D to see what they can do with the new reinforcements and good coaching. Go Hawks!

Terry N Tom Denner 9 years, 8 months ago

Crist with a very healthy OF line and a monster size DEF line could spell 7 wins this season and a BOWL GAME !!!

Nick Cole 9 years, 8 months ago

See you at the game. I'll be tailgating starting around 10AM. SO PUMPED!!!!!

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 8 months ago

Wow 8 hours (and 6 minutes) of tailgaiting...pace it out...and stay thirsty. Hope you have a setup to keep up with the games throughout the day.

Nick Cole 9 years, 8 months ago

Impressive math skills. And yes, we've got a nice set up for following the games. We are starting early so we can smoke some meat. Actually getting everything set up at 6am. Just not going to start tailgating until 10am. Well, maybe 9am, haha.

Jeff Coffman 9 years, 8 months ago

Always have said, if we stay healthy we go bowling...if we have tons of injuries, it is going to be a 2-4 win season.

Health is going to be the key, the one thing promising is that HCCW has some good depth, but injuries could really put a wrinkle in that depth chart.

DaBellaDaBall 9 years, 8 months ago

Someone (above) said something to the effect that this game will be business as usual and Coach has bigger fish to fry or a bigger prize ahead. Darn tootin' right. Coach is not going to open up things up anymore than will be necessary to get a solid win. After two games, we will be 2-0 and still flying under the radar. TCU, with its load of Fr and Soph players, is going to sleep-walk into a buzz saw on 9/15. You heard it here first.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 8 months ago

Actually, I said we'd surprise TCU several days ago. Dibs. But I agree with you. Now we have talent and coaching.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 8 months ago

Exactly. Frankly, each game is winnable. We could be in a situation like back in the days when Nolan Cromwell and the Hawks came out of nowhere. A former D-back at QB? How good can he be? Well, the rest of the conference found out.

We have a number of guys that we know can play, now we have some coaches who will maximize their abilities and some others are about to find out what we have. Consider Pierson, if given 15 runs and 5 passes each game and the plays are called at the right time versus the right set he could have 2,000 all-purpose yards or more. Crist could have 3,500 yards passing. We have the tools for the pass to set up the run and the run to set up the pass. Raspberry kool-aid is my favorite in case you're wondering. If everything goes well and Crist is healthy 7 wins could be the floor. Anyone who thinks we will only one conference game knows nothing about our level of talent, let alone that this is going to be the most physical team since 2007.

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