The 2015 Kansas University wide receivers are a pretty anonymous group. And position coach Klint Kubiak expects it to stay that way.
At least for a while.
See, Kubiak, who played college football at Colorado State, spent some time in the Washington Redskins’ training camp and grew up with a former quarterback and NFL coach for a father, always has subscribed to the simple philosophy that says players earn their notoriety.
So rather than talk about how this guy has looked or that guy has progressed during KU’s spring practices, Kubiak talked about the group as a whole and pointed to the ways it still needed to get better.
“I’d love to sit here and be coaching three guys that are coming back from 80-catch seasons,” Kubiak said. “We don’t have that. The good thing is, we’ve got guys with really good mind-sets who have a passion to get better and a passion for the University of Kansas. They’re so eager to learn and eager to improve.”
Just six Jayhawks who caught a pass in 2014 return to the KU roster this fall. And only three of those are wide receivers. The other three are tight end Ben Johnson (8 receptions a year ago), running back De’Andre Mann (8) and quarterback Montell Cozart (1).
That leaves seniors Tre’ Parmalee (4) and Rodriguez Coleman (3) and sophomore Darious Crawley (1) as the only wideouts wearing blue who have caught a pass in a game for Kansas.
For an offense that could use as many as 8-10 receivers on a regular basis, that fact creates concern and excitement inside the KU locker room.
“It’s actually a great thing,” Parmalee said. “Because it forces older guys like me and Rodriguez Coleman to step our game up to show (the younger guys) the right way to do things.”
So far, the tutelage of the few veterans on the KU receiving corps seems to have helped. Young receivers like Chase Harrell, Tyler Patrick, Bobby Hartzog Jr., Derrick Neal and even a couple of walk-ons — Wichita State track-and-field transfer Ryan Schadler most notable among them — have taken a ton of reps this spring and been given every chance to prove to the coaching staff they can play.
“People have emerged; that’s for sure,” Kubiak said. “Now there’s guys that I want to emerge that maybe are still on the come up, so I’m really pushing hard on the gas there.”
Three more wideouts will arrive on campus this summer — Class of 2015 prospects Jeremiah Booker, Emmanuel Moore and Steven Sims — and they, too, will get their chance to claim a spot in KU’s rotation.
“Play-makers set themselves up,” Kubiak said. “So if there are anonymous guys (this fall), it’s probably because they’re not good enough. Those guys that go in, they better not be anonymous when they’re in the game. They better be a force.”
That last part has multiple meanings. Sure, Kubiak would love to see his guys throw up triple-digit yardage days and lead the Jayhawks in touchdowns. But in order to do that, he says they have to start by developing toughness on the practice field. Last winter, Kubiak said he wanted his receivers to be the toughest unit on the team. Asked recently how that was going, the first-year receivers coach was honest.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We talk every day about that, and we are still yet to prove it, and that’s a big challenge for us. But I love that they’re working toward it.”