The whole thing lasted less than 10 seconds but so adequately summed up the work that had been done in the Kansas University football weight room from early December to mid-March.
Thursday afternoon, at the Jayhawks’ second practice of the spring, senior offensive lineman Larry Mazyck — all 6-foot-8, 343 pounds of him — delivered the kind of occasion for which coaches live. After practice, KU coach David Beaty recalled the moment with equal doses of comedy and pride.
“I saw that big sucker roll his shirt up today. He’s starting to like the way he looks, which is good,” said Beaty of the offensive tackle who has leaned up, slimmed down and taken a more mature approach to his preparation. “I was watching him in drills and he took his shirt up and took a look at me and I knew what he was getting at. And, you know what, you feel good about that for those kids. They see their work coming to fruition. He’s got a long way to go, but I’m pleased with his progression.”
Mazyck, whose playing weight during the 2014 season hovered around 360 pounds — and was even higher when he first arrived on campus — is merely the best and most obvious example of a program-wide change that has taken place at Kansas during the past few months.
While Beaty and his coaching staff credit the players for putting in the work, the first-year KU coach repeatedly has praised strength coach Je’Ney Jackson for inspiring and organizing the transformation.
“From a body standpoint, you just look at big Larry out there,” Beaty said. “He looks like a totally different dude. That guy did not look like that when we walked in the door. So I take my hat off to coach Jackson and that staff. They did a tremendous job getting those guys ready to go for spring ball.”
And that staff, which includes former KU linebacker Justin Springer and second-year assistant Ervin Young and graduate assistant Tyler Hill, did so with a sense of urgency.
See, there was a month-long period following the 2014 season and leading up to the hiring of Beaty during which the Jayhawks were kind of on their own. With no strength program in place and uncertainty for the future dominating each day, the returning players did their best to stick to their workouts but did not have the same direction that Jackson has provided.
So when the former KU assistant coach, who returned to Lawrence after shaping and molding the Indiana basketball team for the past four seasons, his first order of business was to make life as miserable as possible for his players.
“Pushing the envelope and seeing how they react. That was a major focus this winter,” Beaty said. “And this is what we learned: We have a team that won’t flinch. They won’t back down. They don’t quit. We pressed ’em extremely hard and put them in some impossible positions and we feel really good about where our kids are at physically. Je’Ney Jackson did a phenomenal job.”
Cox officially back
Beaty announced after Thursday’s practice that senior running back Taylor Cox officially had been granted a sixth season of eligibility.
Cox, a former junior-college transfer who missed most of the past two seasons because of injuries — including last season with a torn Achilles tendon — officially was given “an extended clock.”
“We’re thrilled about that,” Beaty said. “I know he was unbelievably excited when that news came through and so were we. We needed the depth and he’s a guy that’s a veteran dude and we’re happy he’s going to continue to be with us.”
Early returns positive
After finally getting the chance to watch film of his new players running his system, Beaty offered a quick review of what he saw that he liked following Tuesday’s opening practice of the spring.
Beaty praised the competitiveness of the offensive line, the depth and talent of KU’s running backs and the aggressive play of his cornerbacks. Beaty also offered some high praise for what has been a weakness for KU during the past few seasons.
“At this point, the strength of our team lies up front on the defensive line,” Beaty said. “We’ve gotta get those guys operating in our system, but they did some good things (Thursday) in pass rush. They got after that offense. Some of those turnovers were caused by the defensive line.”
Two days after running 94 plays in 44 minutes, Beaty revealed that the new-look KU offense ran 92 plays in 42 minutes during Thursday’s practice. Both outings exceeded his expectations.