Tuesday, August 25, 2015

KU freshmen could make quick contributions

Kansas University tight end Jace Sternberger (19) pushes a defensive lineman away during practice on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas University tight end Jace Sternberger (19) pushes a defensive lineman away during practice on Friday, Aug. 21, 2015, at Memorial Stadium.


Last week, first-year Kansas University football coach David Beaty made no secret about the fact that he plans to play several of his youngest players during the 2015 season.

A lack of depth throughout the roster, limited experience at several positions and the absence of proven veterans in some of the most important spots have opened the door for true freshmen to get onto the field faster than they might at several other programs.

If you’ve been paying attention to Beaty’s words throughout preseason camp, it’s easy to identify who the most likely candidates for early playing time will be.

So let’s dive right in and take a stab at IDing the five freshman most likely to make an immediate impact for this year’s KU football team.

1. Steven Sims Jr. — 5-foot-10, 170-pound Wide Receiver

Recruited by Beaty while he was still at Texas A&M;, Sims has impressed a little more each day during preseason camp. Fast, elusive, sure-handed and tough, the Houston native carries himself more like a polished veteran than a true freshman and may very well have worked his way into a starting role by the season opener. Starting quarterback Montell Cozart has been assigned as Sims’ “big brother” and Cozart praised Sims for his ability to “fly” and said the two talk all the time about routes and KU’s offense. “He’s always saying, ‘Hey, Montell, I’m gonna be open for you. I got you.’ And if I want to throw a streak, I just tell him, ‘Hey, Steven, I’m gonna let it go, go get it for me.’” That kind of trust is rare between a veteran QB and a true freshman. And it sounds like Sims will have plenty of opportunities to chase down Cozart passes this fall. Added Beaty: “I’m waiting on him to hit the wall and he hasn’t done it yet. Hopefully he doesn’t.”

2. Tyrone Miller Jr. — 6-foot, 180-pound Cornerback

Like Sims, Miller quickly earned an opportunity to run with the first unit and has not looked back since. Strong, physical and very comfortable playing the man-to-man coverages the Jayhawks figure to use most often this fall, Miller has impressed cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry with his maturity and willingness to put himself in any situation necessary to help the team. “He’s done everything I’ve asked,” Perry said. “He just comes to play and doesn’t say nothing.” His coverage skills and speed are solid, but it’s his physicality and ability to mix it up with receivers and anyone else who comes in his path that makes Miller stand out. Added Beaty: “He’s a talented young corner and I’ve enjoyed watching him play. He’s a really mature guy for his age.”

3. Jace Sternberger – 6-foot-4, 225-pound Tight End

Late last week, Beaty said his first KU roster was actually one tight end short. Sounds to me like that means the tight ends that are on the roster all will play. That includes Sternberger, a versatile, physical, athletic player who has looked smooth throughout preseason camp. “Honestly, I want to see more out of him. I want to see him be that guy I saw on tape all the time. We need him to play for us this year and we need him to be productive.” A big reason for that is the fact that veterans Ben Johnson and Kent Taylor both spent time dealing with injuries during camp. If either guy were to go down, that would open the door for Sternberger to play a huge role. But even if they stay healthy, the pace of the offense likely means there’s a spot for the freshman. “(Tight ends) kind of fall in the same category as running backs,” Beaty said. “You almost can’t have enough of those guys because they play very physical positions and it’s tough for guys to make it through the season unscathed.”

4. Dorance Armstrong Jr. — 6-foot-4, 225-pound Defensive End

Regarded by some as the best pure prospect in KU’s 2015 recruiting class, Armstrong finds himself at a crowded position but has shown during preseason camp that even battling some of the baddest dudes on the team is not too big of a challenge for him. “I really have been impressed with Dorance,” Beaty said. “He can rush the passer now. He’s got some talent and he works his tail off. I think there’s a chance he could help us this year, particularly in some third-down rush situations.” The fact that Beaty’s talking like that about a position where Damani Mosby, Ben Goodman, Anthony Olobia and T.J. Semke have been so strong all offseason just shows how impressive Armstrong has been and could be.

5. Emmanuel Moore — 6-foot, 200-pound Wide Receiver

Moore has not shown up on the two-deep at wide receiver thus far but don’t discount his potential to impact this team as a kick returner. Back in February, on signing day, Beaty mentioned the return game when talking about several of his new freshman. Given the fact that Moore is still fairly new to the receiver position and Beaty’s comments about him in February, seeing him out there returning kickoffs or punts seems very possible. Said Beaty of Moore: “Built like a running back at 6-foot plus, and runs like a running back after he catches the ball, which is something we really need around here, guys that can do more than just catch it.”


Brandon Mahon 7 years, 1 month ago

Another freshman I think definitely has a chance when he gets healthy is Booker. He was having a great camp and the coaches were raving about him but he has been banged up and may just be getting back the week of the first game. They have also said that Taylor Martin (RB) and Clyde McCauley could find themselves in some playing time situation. I would RS all the OL if we could tho.

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 1 month ago

Okay Tait, I think it's due time for you or Keegs to do an article on Devonte Wilson. This kid is a freak athlete and ESPN already has stuff on him. Hook it up, sir!

Matt Tait 7 years, 1 month ago

Not sure what to tell you… As far as I know, he's not a part of the program (at least as of yesterday) and I don't know that we want to get into the habit of writing about every good athlete that goes through KU but isn't actually on one of KU's teams… Impressive stuff, for sure, but unless something changes and he's either added to the team or there's legit interest from both parties in that happening, he's probably just going to have to be a cult hero.

Brandon Mahon 7 years, 1 month ago

Per Foxsports and ESPN he is a RB on the roster and every website that has talked about him says he is a KU player. His Instagram says he is a KU sophomore but nothing about being on the team. I really hope Beaty and co really do talk to this kid and see about letting him walk on. If we were able to get a lot of the guys we did to come "walk on" we should be able to get him to at least come to camp. Also he is from Junction City, KS so it would be even a cooler story to see KU give him a shot. Isn't that something Beaty and staff are trying to build?

John Fitzgerald 7 years, 1 month ago

ESPN and Fox Sports must have their information wrong. Either way it'd be cool to find out why a kid that claims to be a KU RB, with that skill set, isn't on the KU roster. Especially if ESPN and Fox are showing interest. Thanks for the information though, Matt.

Brandon Mahon 7 years, 1 month ago

it is crazy so many news outlets think that he is a KU RB... ESPN had it on the side ticker of the homepage for social media stuff.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 1 month ago

If that guy can't make the team as a walk on, then it just goes to show you how rare Div 1 athletes really are. You'd think that they could use him for something...

Maybe his academics weren't up to par? Maybe he can't run very fast? Maybe he lacks football skills?

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 1 month ago

All this talk about Cozart's ability to move around plus our TEs and WRs leads me to believe not much has surfaced on the OL. I suspect we are likely to see a no-line offense, again. It seems our coaches may be favoring short, quick hitting passes to the TE with our WRs flying deep in an effort to primarily pull DBs from the line of scrimmage and an occasional home run.

My expectations for our offensive averages are: Rushing 58 ypg, Passing 165 ypg.

I've not been able to get any kind of blind feel about our defense from the LJW coverage but I've been expecting something like our opponents averaging: Rushing 250 ypg, passing 400 ypg. Certainly BU and TCU will challenge our guys, especially the DBs, with possible 1,000 yard games.

Glen Miller 7 years, 1 month ago

I think your offensive numbers are a bit low, considering that we are a fast paced offense. We will have more chances and more plays. I look for at least 250 total yards per game with 90-100 of those yards on the ground. Good line or not, with Cozart as our QB our rushing numbers will be helped by his mobility. Unfortunately, I don't see more than a 150-175 yards per game average through the air as I just don't think Cozart has the accuracy to do the quick hitting short route offense we run. I look for Cozart to start up until the offensive line gets some cohesion and then one of the Freshmen will step in and start the second half of the season. Our passing numbers will go up then, but our rushing shouldn't drop off much with the help of a semi legit passing attack. I know we are not deep and we are not as "talented" as the rest of the Big 12, but I think this team is going to surprise some people. I do think our defense will struggle though, since our offense is so fast paced and our scholarship numbers are about 20-25 short of other schools. We just don't have the bodies or depth on defense.

Gerry Butler 7 years, 1 month ago

numbers taken down Suzi, lets see where you line up at the end of the season

Kenneth Hillman 7 years, 1 month ago

Tait - has Chase Harrell hit a wall? He was listed as a "most crucial" and there was a lot of pub on him early about being a contributing freshman. HCDB even compared him to Mike Evans. However, he's not on your list of potential contributing freshmen and two other freshman wide receivers are. I was pretty excited about the early pub on him.

Michael Maris 7 years, 1 month ago

These poor Missouri Tigers Fan base here in the STL, they just can't give up on their anger towards the Jayhawk Nation. Yet, they're the one's that decided to stop being the redheaded stepchild in the Big VII. Now, that they're in the SEC. They still want to lash out against the Jayhawks. Funny stuff.

Brent Held 7 years, 1 month ago

Maybe our AD department needs to man up and throw em on our schedule again. We know they still want to play.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 1 month ago

They decided to leave. We let them. We manned up when we stayed true to our commitment to the league.

Mizzoo played the B twice. First when they lifted their skirt to the Big10 and got rejected, and then with the SEC.

Glad the AD's secure enough not to join the Ben Dover crowd.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm generally optimistic, but finding it tough given past performances of the QB and supporting cast. Seems likely to result in very few W's and leads me to the question:

Is there an over/under for games til we see a QB replacement (freshman QB)?

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