21.Tyrone Miller Jr., 6-foot, 180-pound Fr. Cornerback
Don't be surprised if Miller plays a big role on this KU defense pretty quickly.
The Jayhawks are in big time need of some cornerbacks who can play and Miller, who comes to KU from Saline High in Ann Arbor, Michigan, poised beyond his years and ready to play a physical and aggressive style of football, might wind up being one of the better gets in the 2015 recruiting class.
Originally committed to Central Michigan, Miller got on board with the idea of challenging himself in the Big 12 when fellow Michigan native and KU running backs coach Reggie Mitchell got involved in his recruitment.
Mitchell has a fantastic track record of landing top talent and Miller said Mitchell's persistence along with the vision for the future laid out by head coach David Beaty was enough to convince him that Kansas was the place to be.
A self-described “physical, in-your-face cornerback,” Miller drew early interest from in-state power programs Michigan and Michigan State, but lost touch with the Wolverines when the school turned over its coaching staff and was forced to look elsewhere when MSU filled up its class.
That development turned out to be KU's gain and even though there are a half dozen other cornerbacks on the roster who could challenge Miller for playing time and even a starting spot, his experience in man-to-man coverages and all-around athleticism and versatility make him a strong candidate to hold down one of the starting cornerback spots, with juco transfer Brandon Stewart most likely being the other starter entering the 2015 season.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Everyone knows that having a strong offensive line — especially in a pass-happy conference like the Big 12 — is paramount to a team's success. And there are a handful of guys on the Kansas University football roster who give the Jayhawks a chance to trot a line with a little bit of experience and some talent onto the field this fall.
The latest entry in our ongoing series of the most crucial Jayhawks for the KU football team this fall is one of those guys.
Here's a look:
22. Junior Visinia, 6-foot-4, 345-pound Soph. Offensive Lineman
Visinia is coming off of a solid freshman season in which he played in all 12 games and started three at right guard.
The biggest question for the Grandview, Missouri, native heading into his second season with the Jayhawks will not be focused on what he did during the offseason to make himself stronger.
Ability is not the issue here. Visinia has a solid understanding of how to play the position, is versatile enough to handle run blocking and pass blocking and has possibly the best feet of the bunch, especially when you consider his size. But there were times last season — as there are with all freshmen — when Visinia was simply overmatched from a strength perspective. And if he did not do enough in the offseason to address that then the likelihood of him making a significant jump during Year 2 drops.
Having said that, it sounds like new strength and conditioning coach Je'Ney Jackson and crew have worked these guys hard over the summer and are seeing great results both in terms of improved power and stamina.
The experience Visinia picked up last season as a true freshman just trying to figure it all out should go a long way toward making him comfortable from the get-go this season. And his presence as an anchor at right guard should be something KU can count on.
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Throughout each KU men's basketball season, our sports editor, Tom Keegan, does a thing after every game where he rates the players of the game in his Keegan Ratings.
This is not that.
It is, however, a ranking that illustrates which KU players the Jayhawks' 8-0 run to the World University Games gold medal helped the most in South Korea.
So let's get to it. As Keegan does in his ratings, we'll go with scholarship players only and not worry about the guys who play at other schools.
1. Wayne Selden – By far KU's best player throughout the touranment, Selden emerged as a go-to option and really showed well as a leader. He looks more determined than ever and his confidence should be sky high come October when the Jayhawks get going for real.
2. Hunter Mickelson – Throughout most of the second half of last season, KU fans everywhere wondered why Mickelson did not get more of an opportunity to play. I don't think anyone will have to worry about that any more. The transfer from Arkansas played quality minutes and put up surprising numbers throughout the tournament, even working his way into a starting role. That kind of lift to his confidence should only make him continue to work harder and harder throughout the rest of the season.
3. Carlton Bragg – Bragg's numbers were not exactly amazing but the thing the long freshman gained that should benefit him the most is his ability to play through adversity. After breaking his nose before things even got going, Bragg played tough and looked unfazed by the injury throughout the tournament. That kind of toughness and sacrifice goes a long way with KU coach Bill Self and you can bet Bragg will get plenty of positive feedback about it. That should only make him more comfortable when the season rolls around.
4. Frank Mason – Mason played exactly the way KU fans would have expected him to play heading into the tournament, so I'm not sure the bulldog point guard gained a whole lot in terms of learning anything new about his game. Still, he was fantastic in leading the offense, set up more plays and buckets than he even got credit for and played a ton of minutes while running the show the whole time.
5. Landen Lucas – There were up and down moments for Lucas, who still lacks some of the skills necessary to be a force down low. But the man can rebound. And he did that pretty well in Korea. With the addition of Bragg and Cheick Diallo and the emergence of Mickelson, Lucas might not get a ton of minutes this winter. But it now seems like a safe bet to say that when he's in there he can have a real impact on the glass.
6. Lagerald Vick – Vick's a long shot to play this season, but it won't be because he doesn't believe he can. The young guard was out there during some pretty crucial moments throughout the tournament and he looked pretty salty at times, especially as a scorer. A loaded roster ahead of him and his inexperience and limited defensive skills will likely keep him off the court this winter. But this experience will no doubt help his development and help him be in a better position to push the guys ahead of him in practices.
7. Perry Ellis – Ellis was good at times and average at others in South Korea but didn't really stand out. The good news for KU was that he didn't need to. He can save that for the college season and what figures to be a big senior year. That said, he looked healthy, moved well, shot the ball with confidence and, like Mason, performed pretty much exactly the way people expected him. That's by no means a knock on him, but I'm not sure the tournament helped him a whole lot.
8. Jamari Traylor – Traylor's minutes were down and Lucas and Mickelson played much bigger roles. For a guy who already is quick to get down on himself, that probably didn't help. Still, Traylor's a good teammate and I noticed him genuinely fired up on the bench late in the gold-medal game when it became clear that KU was going to win. That's a good sign that even though he didn't set the world on fire with his play, he stayed in it for his teammates.
9. Devonte Graham – Graham did not get to play because of injury, but you have to think that just being there helped him a little bit. He saw how his teammates competed in various settings. He was able to observe how Nic Moore and Frank Mason handled things on the floor. And he no doubt did all he could as a vocal leader from the bench. Plus, can a player ever be around too much winning? Even though he didn't play a minute, just feeling that feeling can be something that sticks with Graham, too.
Be sure to make your vote count in our KUsports.com poll about which player the trip to Korea helped the most.
Yesterday, we unveiled No. 25 in our countdown of the most crucial KU football players for this fall. Today, it's on to No. 24, where we flip from offense to defense.
Here's a look.
24. Fish Smithson, 5-foot-11, 193-pound Jr. Safety
After spending one season at Hartnell College, the friendly dude with the funky name arrived on campus prior to the 2014 season poised and ready to play Division I football.
A big reason for that was Fish's upbringing, when he left his native Baltimore to live with his brother, Shaky, in Utah while Shaky starred for the Utes football program. Being tossed into an environment like that forced Fish to mature more quickly than most guys his age and the up-close-and-personal look at college football at a young age allowed him to pick up little things that later would help him make the transition.
In a back-up role to Cassius Sendish and Isaiah Johnson, Fish played in all 12 games last season and finished as KU's fifth-leading tackler.
With those guys out of the picture and the completely remade secondary desperate for leadership and a veteran presence, Fish should have a chance to emerge not only as more of a play-maker but also as one of the generals on defense for the Jayhawks.
Not blessed with any one spectacular skill, Fish is incredibly solid in several areas. He's a lot like Sendish in that way and he is not afraid to stick his nose in there to make a tackle.
The Jayhawks have a bunch of defensive backs on the roster and many of them possess terrific speed, athletic ability and upside. But few of them have the kind of game experience — and production — that Fish brings to the table and that puts the junior in position to be one of the more important pieces on the team, both in terms of delivering on the field and helping bring the young guys along.
Here's a look at the list so far…
Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015:
Don't look now, but July has arrived and, like it or not, before we know it, it's going to feel an awful lot like football season around here.
For now, the KU men's basketball team's run at the World University Games in South Korea is keeping much of the focus away from KU football, as is the fan base's absence of much hope for the upcoming season. Both are valid reasons to keep football on the back burner, but seeing how football is the reason they pay me, I'm not quite as able to turn my attention away from it. Nor do I want to.
This season likely will be rough. But I continue to be impressed by this coaching staff, the direction the program is ultimately headed and, most of all, the incredible effort being put forth by the players this summer. This KU team might lack depth and it might even lack Big 12 talent, but you'd never know it from the way these guys are working.
I know it sounds like you've heard that before, and you probably have. But if it's true, you can't just ignore it. Does that mean the work they're putting in now will lead to wins this fall? That's probably not very likely. But it does mean that they already have bought in to this new staff and are not wasting any time putting in the first bricks in what they hope someday will be a strong house.
Enough about all of that, though. Let's jump into some interesting tidbits that won't make or break the season but might be interesting enough to get you to that next KU hoops game....
• During my weekly viewing of the official KU football roster (always have to make sure I'm aware of any updates that might have taken place) I noticed that senior defensive lineman Ben Goodman is no longer going to wear No. 93, which he has worn since he arrived on campus four years ago. Goodman, instead, will be wearing No. 10 this fall. We haven't had the chance to talk to these guys in quite a while but I'll definitely be interested to hear why Goodman decided to make the change.
• Speaking of numbers, everyone loves quarterbacks and it's probably not too early to start scouting which KU QBs will wear what numbers this fall. Montell Cozart, who seems like a virtual lock to start the season opener on Sept. 5, will still be wearing No. 2. Newcomers Carter Stanley (No. 9) and Ryan Willis (No. 13) are also worth noting. The most recent QB to wear No. 9 at Kansas was 2013 starter Jake Heaps, who, by the way, caught on with the New York Jets and is one of five quarterbacks to sign with the Jets heading into camp. He's still a long shot to make the final roster, but I always love when good dudes get a fair shot and Heaps is getting his. I can't find or recall the last KU QB to wear No. 13. Anyone?
• A couple of other interesting players will wear one of the most dynamic numbers in KU football history this fall. Freshman wide receiver Chase Harrell (6-4, 200) and freshman defensive end Dorance Armstrong (6-4, 225) will suit up in the No. 3 jersey made available by the departure of speed demon Tony Pierson. Of course, Pierson was merely the latest ultra-talented Jayhawk to wear No. 3, following in the footsteps of two-way threats Aqib Talib and Charles Gordon. In more recent years, and before Pierson got the number, former running back Darrian Miller, who had a monster freshman year, also wore No. 3. Of course, just because the number has been so good to those guys — or is it the other way around? — does not mean it's a guarantee that Harrell and Armstrong are in for big things. I happen to think both are, but back in 2008 it was none other than the infamous Jocques Crawford who wore No. 3, so take it with a grain of salt.
• I always love watching what happens to old numbers of superstars after they leave and this year will be no exception. For example, I remember thinking it was hilarious when Greg Brown (5) and Corrigan Powell (10) wore the numbers of Todd Reesing and Kerry Meier following their final seasons in crimson and blue. This year, the number that jumps out the most in that department is 31, worn for four years by Ben Heeney. Suiting up in Heeney's old number will be the only linebacker in the 2015 recruiting class, Osaze Ogbebor. It's far too early to know how well Ogbebor will rep the number, but here's guessing he'll get a chance to show it this season and won't be quite as much of a wild man.
• One other guy who joined Goodman in moving to a new number for the 2015 season was sophomore cornerback Matthew Boateng, who, last season as a true freshman, wore No. 1 and now will be wearing No. 33.
For years, the one constant with the Kansas University football team — other than all of the losing, of course — has been the Jayhawks' ability to put together a deep and talented stable of running backs that, in many ways, have been interchangeable.
Whether you're talking about the steady presence of James Sims, the dynamic play-making ability of Tony Pierson, the do-it-all demeanor of Darrian Miller or even the always-ready-and-willing philosophies of Taylor Cox and Brandon Bourbon, the Jayhawks always had a few backs they could count on to handle the load in the backfield.
That continued into last season even after Cox and Bourbon went down with injuries in the preseason thanks to the emergence of freshman Corey Avery and newcomer DeAndre Mann. Together, that duo helped the Jayhawks transition away from Sims and into more of the same steady presence on the ground in an offense that struggled at most of the other positions.
On Tuesday, however, first-year coach David Beaty announced that Avery had been dismissed from the program for violating team rules and, all of a sudden, things don't look quite as deep or dependable in the backfield.
Yeah, Cox and Mann will be back, but both are coming off of significant injuries and their health and longterm prognosis have to be at least a little bit of a concern. Cox hasn't played football since tearing his Achille's tendon last August and was out for an extended period of time before that because of a bum hamstring. And Mann spent portions of last season nursing head injuries, a plight that's bad news for any player but especially a running back who's asked to lead with his head and churn out those tough yards with guys flying at him from all directions.
That leaves just a couple of other running backs to look at. And before the 2015 season is complete — or possibly even before it begins — both could find themselves being counted on heavily to handle the ball-carrying responsibilities for this year's team.
Both are newcomers, but junior Ke'aun Kinner at least has the advantage of having been in Lawrence for spring football.
By all accounts, the shifty, 5-foot-9, 180-pound spark plug was one of the more impressive performers throughout the spring and there's no doubt that he will have an important role for the Jayhawks this fall.
He's not quite Tony Pierson — but, really, who is? — but he does figure to bring that same kind of explosive potential every time he steps onto the field. That's good news for Kansas and a fun challenge for offensive coordinator Rob Likens, who, no doubt, is sitting somewhere right now trying to find creative ways to get Kinner the football in space.
After that, you're looking at true freshman Taylor Martin, a two-star back from Fort Worth, Texas, who was one of the better pick-ups in the 2015 recruiting class.
Martin, who chose KU over Colorado State, was receiving late interest from TCU, Illinois and Kansas State.
As a senior at Dunbar High, Martin ran for 1,500 yards and 25 touchdowns and earned a spot on the Star Telegram's Super Team second unit. For his career, he averaged 1,660 yards and 24 touchdowns over three seasons.
He also was a two-time district track champion in the 100-yard dash and his combination of blazing speed and good size (5-10, 185) make him a candidate to handle more carries than most freshmen, should KU need to lean on him right away.
Unlike last season, when KU was forced to move freshmen Joe Dineen and Darious Crawley from safety and wide receiver to help add depth at running back, the Jayhawks, at least as of now, are on schedule to have plenty of bodies to rotate in and out of the backfield, even without Avery.
The possibility always exists, too, that they could even add a back or two via transfer or late pick-up. Should that happen, the stable only gets deeper.
But, quality depth or not, with Cox and Mann coming off of injuries, the possibility remains that KU will be counting on two newcomers in a big way to keep alive the streak of solid play from the running back position in Lawrence.
As the past has shown us, that doesn't necessarily mean bad news. But it does put more pressure on the offensive line and quarterback and it does make the odds of KU continuing its run of solid running back play a little less than a lock.
Tuesday marked the second day of the Team Camp circuit at the Kansas University football facilities, and, like Monday, hundreds of high school athletes from nearby schools braved the heat and took their turn on the turf at KU.
Monday's camp welcomed 17 teams to Lawrence and 16 returned for Tuesday, pushing the total number of campers in town this week to right around 800.
While the specifics of what they did and how they worked meant very little to the KU football coaching staff, the mere fact that that many bodies were able to come up to campus at one time to meet the coaches, see the facilities and experience the KU way of life qualifies as a huge development, even if it's not known for a few years just how big of news that is.
Think about it: Six or seven years ago, a young Ben Heeney showed up for these types of team camps and no one knew then that he would wind up becoming one of the best defensive players to ever come through KU.
A guy like that was out there this week. Whether anyone knew it or not was the bigger question.
Of course, there were plenty of guys that the KU coaching staff did know about. And getting to have them on campus in this type of setting was invaluable for the evaluation process.
One head high school coach told me that there were four or five KU coaches with eyes on one of his top players at nearly all portions of the live action the past couple of days. He added that, “there's always a KU coach within 10 feet of you when things are really moving out here. That's great exposure for the kids.”
And it's an even better tool for the KU coaches, who view recruiting as the lifeblood of the program and are in a position where they simply cannot miss on guys if they hope to get the latest KU football rebuilding project off the ground any time soon.
It's easy to watch highlight tapes or game film and hear good things about athletes from their high school coaches. It's another to be able to watch them in a camp setting like this, when it's hot, they're uncomfortable, they might be getting whipped by another team and they have to really show what they're made of to get through it.
Watching those things can be huge for these coaches and even the smallest misstep by an athlete can lead to him being crossed off the recruiting board.
That's not to say this is NFL-combine style serious business out here. These guys have fun, too. Music, from KU's insanely large loud speaker, is blaring from the hill, they have breaks built in for food and recovery and there's all kinds of camaraderie and sportsmanship on display, even with players and coaches from rival schools.
It's likely that the KU coaches only had a list of 5-10 guys that they truly wanted to watch at this week's camp. But the past is full of guys, in all sports, who got noticed because a coach was watching his hot-shot teammate and happened to catch a glimpse of what he could do. It's entirely possible that a few guys made that kind of impact — or at least were noticed — this week, and at a place like KU, where opportunity is plentiful, there's no telling what that could lead to in the future for either player or program.
KU summer camps will continue throughout the week, with a skills camp in Coffeyville tomorrow, a Friday Night Lights elite camp for high school prospects on Friday and a kicking academy on Sunday.
It's an exercise that could be done and could change every NBA season and never stop being enjoyable and entertaining.
And it hit me last night while I was watching Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta.
As Atlanta point guard Jeff Teague had his way with the Cavs' smaller guards in the first half, my mind wandered and tried to remember where Teague played his college ball. After a few minutes of thinking, it hit me and the following “conversation” played out in my head. “Wake Forest. That's right. Wake's pretty well represented in the NBA these days with Teague, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan. I wonder who else they have.”
Perhaps spurred on by an earlier conversation at work about which Florida guys Billy Donovan might try to stockpile on the Thunder, I then got serious and started racking my brain and searching the internet for a current NBA starting five from several of the powerhouse college programs.
Kansas, of course, was included in the exercise and I have to admit, for all that talk about Bill Self not having put too many bona fide stars in the league, the KU squad is pretty nice.
Here's a quick look at it and several others that helped me pass the time as the Cavs pulled away and LeBron James moved one game closer to a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. Unreal.
KANSAS – If you're trying to put the best KU players in the starting five, the Jayhawks wind up a little small. But I'm not putting Pierce on the bench and I think I'd rather have McLemore out there than Marcus Morris, Thomas Robinson or Cole Aldrich.
PG Mario Chalmers
SG Andrew Wiggins
SF Ben McLemore
SF Paul Pierce
PF Markieff Morris
FLORIDA – Beal might not be a true point guard, but I'm sure he could handle the role with this squad of hard-working, defensive-minded Gators.
PG Bradley Beal
SG Corey Brewer
SF David Lee
PF Al Horford
C Joakim Noah
NORTH CAROLINA – I thought the UNC squad was going to be pretty bad but it's better than I thought. Lawson's a stud, Green and Barnes are lights out shooters and Hansbrough is, well, Hansbrough. Not the best on this list but not terrible either.
PG Ty Lawson
SG Danny Green
SF Harrison Barnes
PF Tyler Hansbrough
C Ed Davis
MICHIGAN STATE – Richardson's an actual old man and Harris has barely played (though I think he has a bright future), but those other three are pretty legit.
PG Gary Harris
SG Shannon Brown
SF Jason Richardson
PF Draymond Green
C Zach Randolph
KENTUCKY – There's no doubt that UK was everybody's guess for the best current NBA squad and I think this lineup proves it. A lot of talented former Wildcats didn't make the cut here, which only further speaks to Kentucky's stellar presence in the Association.
PG John Wall
SG Rajon Rondo
SF Eric Bledsoe
PF DeMarcus Cousins
C Anthony Davis
UCLA – I didn't even really want to do a team for UCLA, but Westbrook's too talented to not mention. As it turned out, the team was better than I expected. Even if it is lacking size, it's not lacking scoring or athleticism.
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Russell Westbrook
SF Matt Barnes
PF Trevor Ariza
C Kevin Love
TEXAS – The backcourt leaves more than a little to be desired, but Durant and Aldridge earned UT a spot at the table. Tristan Thompson is starting to come into his own, as well, making this one of the best front courts on the list.
PG Corey Joseph
SG Avery Bradley
SF Kevin Durant
PF Tristan Thompson
C LaMarcus Aldridge
DUKE – Nothing too special here... yet. Once Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor and Justice Winslow land on an NBA roster next month, all three will probably crack this starting five and help the defending champs' current NBA squad stack up with the rest a little better.
PG Kyrie Irving
SG J.J. Redick
SF Luol Deng
PF Ryan Kelly
C Carlos Boozer
WAKE FOREST – As I mentioned above, this whole thing started with me wondering who else Wake had in the league and I quickly found out that the answer was not much. Still, CP3, Duncan and Teague is a pretty nasty trio.
PG Chris Paul
SG Jeff Teague
SF James Johnson
PF Al-Farouq Aminu
C Tim Duncan
MARQUETTE – I did this one strictly for Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan (a Marquette grad, in case you're somehow unaware of that) and the rapidly-emerging Jimmy Butler. That guy's a stud and this team's better than you think.
PG Darius Johnson-Odom
SG Wesley Matthews
SF Dwyane Wade
SF Jimmy Butler
PF Jae Crowder
SMALLER SCHOOLS – No way I could leave Steph Curry, the reigning NBA MVP off of here, so I went with a “smaller schools” category that clearly features some absolute studs.
PG Steph Curry
SG Damian Lillard
SF Kawhi Leonard
PF Kenneth Faried
C Andrew Bogut
NO COLLEGE – And, finally, I rounded the whole thing out with the guys who never went to college at all. No surprise here that this team is absolutely loaded. Even with Kobe and KG getting up theere in years, it's still the best of the bunch.
PG Monta Ellis
SG Kobe Bryant
SF LeBron James
PF Kevin Garnett
C Dwight Howard
Did I miss anyone that belonged on these teams or forget to include a college that should've been on here, as well? I probably could've done a dozen or so more but had to cut it off somewhere.
Between recruiting, returning to Texas to see his family and touring the state to drum up interest for his new program, Kansas University football coach David Beaty has spent a lot of time on the road since being named KU's newest football coach.
This week, in some of KU's most important recruiting territories, Beaty will be entering a few more miles into his travel log.
Beginning Tuesday in Houston, Beaty will make a few stops to share with KU fans his vision for the program and a state of the program as it stands today.
Beaty will be joined by fellow Jayhawks, members of the KU Alumni Association, KU administration and assistant football coaches for a happy hour to talk about what's next for Kansas Football. Food will be provided with a cash bar. The events are free to the public.
Here's a quick look at the schedule for the week:
• Tuesday — Houston, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Christian's Tailgate Heights, 2820 White Oak.
• Wednesday — Dallas, Texas — 7-9 p.m. at Henderson Tap House, 2323 N. Henderson Ave.
• Thursday — Denver, Colorado — 7-9 p.m. at Stoney's Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St.
After that, it'll be back to Lawrence to get the team's summer conditioning program and summer camp schedule under way.
While Beaty's away, the Jayhawks themselves will be focusing on this week's final exams.
Good luck to our players and all KU students this week on their finals! Finish strong!! #EarnIt— David Beaty (@beaty_david) May 11, 2015
Before we check out, here's a quick look at the new KU football poster for the upcoming season.
We've reached April, known in NFL circles as draft month, and it's time to do some quick inventory on the former Jayhawks hoping to get their chance to catch on with an NFL team for the 2015 season and possibly beyond.
As you know, Ben Heeney and JaCorey Shepherd are the former Jayhawks most likely to get drafted in the April 30-May 2 draft, which will take place in Chicago, but there are more than a few other guys from last year's team who figure to get their shot.
Let's start with Heeney and Shepherd and go down the list. As you may have seen, both guys continue to show up on various mock drafts that attempt to predict how this year's draft will play out. The most recent deep mock draft I've seen, a five-round mock draft done by Eddie Brown of the San Diego Union-Tribune, had both Heeney and Shepherd hearing their names called in this year’s draft. Brown has Heeney going as a fourth-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals at pick No. 123 overall. He has Shepherd slotted one round later, as the fifth-round pick of the Denver Broncos at pick No. 164. As you know, Denver already has former Jayhawks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib in its secondary (along with Steven Johnson at linebacker), but the Broncos snagged Harris as an undrafted free agent and went after Talib during free agency two years ago. Maybe it's time they actually drafted a Jayhawk. Time will tell.
Speaking of Shepherd, it's worth noting that the former KU wide receiver turned cornerback who was invited to the NFL Combine but could not participate because of a hamstring injury ran his 4.65-second 40-yard dash time at KU's pro day in late March with a torn hamstring. Several scouts on hand that day came solely to see what Shepherd could do, and even though his 4.65 time was slower than the 4.4 range he had hoped, the fact that he ran that decent of a time with a severe injury showed the scouts plenty.
According to his Kansas City-based trainer, Dexter McDonald's Pro Day, which included some of day's best numbers and times across the board, may have been enough to get teams seriously interested in drafting him. Joseph Potts, a former KU football player and owner of Top Speed Sports Performance, said McDonald's agent recently told him that a few teams have mentioned the possibility of taking McDonald in rounds 3-5 and added that both Oakland and Arizona were planning to fly McDonald out to their headquarters to meet with him and show him around. McDonald, who was fabulous in 2013 and merely solid in 2014, definitely has the athleticism, size, ball skills and toughness to get a shot. Whether that comes via the draft or not remains to be seen.
Former KU defensive tackle Keon Stowers is another guy hearing good things from a few NFL clubs. Stowers, who tore his right pectoral muscle during the bench press portion of KU's pro day after appearing to be well on his way to 25 or 30 reps, is stuck rehabbing now and won't be able to go full speed for at least a few more weeks. Still, several scouts told Stowers that they liked what they had seen on film and that he should expect a phone call following the draft.
I haven't heard too much about KU's trio of wide receivers — Nigel King, Nick Harwell and Tony Pierson — but it seems like a safe bet that at least two of the three will get invited to a camp if they're not drafted. Because of his size, great hands and solid pro day numbers, King figures to be the guy with the best shot in this bunch. But Harwell was productive throughout his career and is a dependable route runner with good hands, so it seems like he should at least get a shot, as well. Pierson, though blazing fast, is probably a bit of a long shot given his size, lack of a true position and injury history.
Tight end Jimmay Mundine is another guy who could be flying under the radar a little bit. I've heard that several teams are intrigued by his physical make up and versatility. He could be used as a second tight end or even flipped to fullback or H back in the right offenses. Mundine really helped himself at pro day, with numbers and times that were better than most expected.
Other than those guys, Victor Simmons, Cassius Sendish, Michael Reynolds, Tedarian Johnson and Trevor Pardula (a combine invitee) also are hoping to catch the right eye during the next few weeks and earn an invitation to show what they can do.