What caught my eye at Wednesday's practice: Oct. 8th
If there's one thing I've learned in the two Kansas University football practices we've been able to watch since Clint Bowen took over as the team's interim head coach, it's that paying attention to detail won't be lacking for the Jayhawks.
Bowen and his squad again spent the first hour or so of practice working on fundamentals and drills that are both designed to prep the players for their next opponent and develop them for the future.
Wednesday's session began with Bowen — the current head coach — walking his kickoff coverage team through a very slow and methodical drill designed to teach kick coverage. It seemed appropriate given (a) the fact that KU gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown last week and (b) Bowen has emphasized a ton in the past two weeks that KU has to get better in special teams if it expects to have a chance to compete in the Big 12.
There was nothing flashy about the drill, just 11 guys running quarter-speed down the field and focusing on staying in their lanes. Later, the team went to full kickoff coverage and tried to recreate the slow-mo specifics.
• Shortly after the kickoff coverage drill was complete, the Jayhawks emphasized field goals and Matthew Wyman had a fantastic day. Wyman drilled all of his kicks, including one from near 50 yards. As Wyman set up, senior receiver Nick Harwell was making sure those on the sideline realized the importance of every little detail. “Let's make sure we make this (stuff) matter,” Harwell yelled repeatedly. As soon as Wyman drilled the kick, Harwell was the first to lead the charge in celebrating the kick before the Jayhawks moved on to individual drills.
• One of my favorite parts of these practices has become the one-on-ones between the wide receivers and defensive backs. Not only does it show guys competing their tails off, but, on Wednesday, it also gave me a good, rapid-fire look at all three KU quarterbacks competing for the starting job. It was too hard to tell exactly who looked best as a thrower — each guy (Michael Cummings, Montell Cozart and T.J. Millweard) had good moments and bad — but it was easy to see who was the most impressive receiver. His name was Nigel King and he caught everything. King got open, used his big frame to shield off DBs and snatched the ball out of the air with his strong hands the way a father might catch a return throw of a Nerf football from his son.
• One other quick note about kickoffs: Don't be surprised if you see KU senior Tony Pierson back there returning kicks this week. The coaching staff has really emphasized trying to find ways for Pierson to get more touches and that could be an easy one. To no one's surprise, Pierson also got some reps at WR and RB on Wednesday.
• It might not mean much come Saturday, but quarterback Michael Cummings and center Joe Gibson worked with the first unit at the start of practice. If that holds to Saturday, it would be a change in the starting lineup at both spots, as Cozart and Keyon Haughton had started the first four games in those positions. Again, it's too early to say and too hard to know if that was an indicator or just a rotation-type coincidence.
• KU alum Dana Anderson, a huge Jayhawk supporter whose name is on the outside of the Anderson Family Football Complex, attended Wednesday's practice and spoke to the team before the action started.