Saturday, November 21, 2020

Developing freshmen during off weeks a priority for KU football

Kansas wide receiver Steven McBride makes a catch in the first half of an NCAA football game against Kansas State Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Kansas wide receiver Steven McBride makes a catch in the first half of an NCAA football game against Kansas State Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


By the time the Kansas football team finally plays again, the Jayhawks will have gone 21 days in between games. The extended down time at the very least should allow head coach Les Miles and his staff to further develop some of the program’s youngest players.

Miles already was happy this year’s schedule included three bye weeks, a feature the Big 12 included to try and accommodate for potential COVID-19 related postponements. Now for KU the strange 2020 calendar includes a fourth idle week for his team, which had its Saturday matchup with Texas postponed to Dec. 12.

In the bye week following KU’s seventh straight loss this season and 11th in a row overall, Miles said his staff made it a point to spend time focusing on the underclassmen during practices.

“You can’t give them enough snaps,” Miles said of developing the players whom he hopes will help turn the program around in the years ahead.

KU’s head coach said young players need spring football practices (the Jayhawks didn’t have any in 2020, because of the pandemic), as well as specific strength and conditioning regimens that typically come during the offseason.

Putting freshmen in position to one day thrive, Miles added, has to be a priority.

During KU’s 0-7 start, six true freshmen started at least one game: cornerback Karon Prunty, quarterback Jalon Daniels, running back Daniel Hishaw Jr., receivers Luke Grimm and Lawrence Arnold and offensive lineman Armaj Adams-Reed.

But those are just six of the 24 true freshmen who already have appeared in a game this year.

In weeks when there isn’t a game on Saturday, Miles said, there is even more time to give extra practice reps to the underclassmen who aren’t yet regular contributors.

“We have to focus on those guys,” Miles said. “It’s a group we look forward to progressing and working with for some time.”

The deeper KU gets into this challenging season, the more true freshmen keep showing up during games, either as important starters and reserves, or just in spot duty or during garbage time of a blowout.

But even the freshmen who are just getting a taste of Saturdays in the Big 12 right now, KU’s staff hopes, will become reliable contributors in the seasons ahead. And some of them, Miles hinted, might already be working their ways toward more playing time in the late stages of this season.

“But I don’t know that I want to give you that just yet,” Miles said of identifying those Jayhawks by name.

KU is scheduled to play host to TCU on Nov. 28 (7 p.m. kickoff, FOX Sports 1).

KU football true freshmen who have played in at least 1 game

(Games played in parentheses)

Have started at least once

• CB Karon Prunty (7; 7 starts)

• QB Jalon Daniels (6; 5 starts)

• RB Daniel Hishaw Jr. (7; 2 starts)

• WR Luke Grimm (4; 1 start)

• WR Lawrence Arnold (4; 1 start)

• OL Armaj Adams-Reed (3; 1 start)

Appeared as reserves or on special teams

• CB Duece Mayberry (7)

• WR Tristan Golightly (7)

• WR Steven McBride (5)

• DL Jereme Robinson (4)

• PK Tabor Allen (4)

• C Garrett Jones (3)

• LB Taiwan Berryhill (3)

• P Reis Vernon (3)

• CB Ra’Mello Dotson (3)

• OL Bryce Cabledue (2)

• RB Amarui Pesek-Hickson (2)

• CB Johnquai Lewis (2)

• DL Kenean Caldwell (2)

• WR Jordan Brown (2)

• WR Kyler Pearson (2)

• TE Will Huggins (1)

• DL Caleb Taylor (1)

• RB Jack Codwell (1)


Dale Rogers 2 years ago

Yes! Those guys are our future! Let's hope we have Spring practices in 2021. That's surely not a given at this point of this pandemic.

Brian Wilson 2 years ago

Now you're talking. Stop playing upper classmen just because they have been there longer. And, stop hoping someone will develop into something when they keep playing the same way over and over and over again. It's ridiculous and the definition of insanity. You want to motivate these guys let them know if they can't get the job done that you are training their replacement and if they want to keep their job they have to do their job correctly. It's ridiculous to think you have to Coach Senior and Junior class players on footwork, or techniques, or their responsibilities, or on any one given play. If they don't know what to do instinctively by now they can play somewhere else. Further, this is why you fire the OL coach. If that coach doesn't have his players trained and up to the task then its Hasta la vista baby!

Layne Pierce 2 years ago

Totally agree Brian. Our whole future depends on developing smart, motivated and tough offensive lineman. I say again, we have skill players who are adequate, they just need a chance to work with an average line, not even great, just average. We are at the bottom in the country in numerous offensive categories and that starts with the line.

One problem we have this year is that Daniels is going to develop a lot of bad habits, running away from poor line play and becoming afraid to stay in the pocket, or staying in too long.


Brett McCabe 2 years ago

If KU has one scholarship left available as we get near December signing day, I hope that they would consider Tyler Bowden out of Tonganoxie/Free State. Not necessarily as an RB but how about as a dedicated returner?

Julian Edelman has returned punts forever and has never been considered a TD return threat, but he gets the job done consistently. Wouldn’t this be a value for KU for four years? Where it seems like we are consistently looking for a punt returner who can make good decisions and successfully field the ball?

Bowden is small and I’m not sure of his speed but, until we discover a better threat, maybe just having someone who can solidly field and return kicks and punts would be a value?

Maybe a long shot, but anyone who can set two rushing records at two different, good high school football programs might at least be worth a look.

Brian Wilson 2 years ago

If I had one schollie left I would spend it on a lineman. In fact, for a while I would be getting at least 1-2 extra linemen in each class. Maybe even go outside the box and just find a couple gigantic potentials...maybe some heavy weight wrestler, IDK,. And, If it doesn't work out after their first year, help them find aanother school.

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