The same question has been asked late in the season of every Kansas University head football coach in recent years:
What players who are red-shirting this season have stood out in practice?
Turner Gill turned his head to the side, paused, smiled and said something to the effect of, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.”
His response lent credence to my suspicion that he didn’t spend much time thinking about his roster.
Charlie Weis, of course, loved to tackle that question and answered with hyperbolic praise for Dayne Crist, Jake Heaps and other transfers he was convinced were a year removed from record-breaking, All-American seasons that would expose their previous coaches as charlatans whose football minds were as empty as their Super Bowl jewelry cases.
Clint Bowen, then the interim head coach and defensive coordinator and now assistant head coach and DC under friend David Beaty, gave an honest answer, and not a very encouraging one. Bowen, like Beaty, enjoys evaluating talent. If he had the names of several deserving players, he would have shared them. Instead, he mentioned three.
Center Jacob Bragg, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound center from Nacogdoches High in Texas, was a three-star recruit in the Class of 2014. He played in the prestigious Under-Armour All-America game.
If Bragg can earn the job at center, Joe Gibson could move to guard, provided he adds strength. Junior Visinia, impressive as a true freshman, should be able to lock down the other guard spot, giving KU a solid trio. At tackle, however, the search continues.
In addition to Bragg, Bowen mentioned tight end Kent Taylor, a Florida transfer with a better reputation as a receiver than blocker. Ranked No. 1 at tight end in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, he caught two passes as a true freshman, including one for a five-yard touchdown in a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville. He did not play in any games as a sophomore and transferred to KU, citing Weis as the reason.
No surprise, Bowen also mentioned defensive tackle D.J. Williams, 6-5, 292, from Lufkin, Texas. Williams drew so many raves during practice that credit goes to the coaching staff for having the discipline to resist activating him midway through his freshman season. Now he has four remaining years of eligibility. Williams drew scholarship offers from Miami (Florida), Missouri and Oklahoma, according to Rivals.
Others who sat out 2014 will emerge during spring football, where more intense evaluations take place.