Shortly after the season ended RCT had an opportunity to discuss the season and immediate offseason changes with someone close to the program. With Spring football drawing to a close I thought I'd reach out and see if I could get a few thoughts on Winter workouts, where the team sits today and a few thoughts on varying position battles coming out of Spring.
Nothing earth shattering, but it does give some hints to the players that are stepping up and where some of the concerns from fans might also resonate with those a little more in the know. With that, here's a few odds and ends from Kansas football post-Spring.
RCT: I'll start at the position that everyone has circled as priority number one and that's quarterback. It's no secret that this is a spot that Jayhawk fans are watching closely with many believing Jordan Webb has an inside track. The talk seems to indicate it's an ongoing battle and that certainly appears to be true with other players still preparing to throw their names in the mix, but what is the feeling of the team in terms of a frontrunner at the moment?
If we played today Jordan is the starter. There isn't a player that has really stepped up vocally in the group but Jordan would definitely be my prediction if we played tomorrow.
RCT: That seemed like an easy answer. Let's turn to the players up front protecting the quarterback, the offensive line. The group looked improved during the Spring scrimmage can you speak to that group?
They've definitely improved a lot. Having Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch completely healthy has been very big in bringing that group along. Spikes is going to be good at left tackle and Hatch has taken a vocal leadership role throughout workouts and this Spring. As a group they are playing a LOT better and they're in shape which is big. I think a lot of that has to do with maturity and maybe a little different approach from a conditioning standpoint, but even (Duane) Zlatnik and Trevor (Marrongelli) were much more vocal during workouts and with the group this offseason.
RCT: Do you feel like the players have put forth a more focused effort this offseason when comparing it to last year?
Definitely, players AND coaches yes. We've been able to focus more because we know the expectations and they know us as players. People were stepping up in workouts, stepping up from a vocal leadership standpoint and doing the extra things which wasn't really happening last year. I think it's going to show in that we'll be better conditioned and mentally tougher than a year ago.
RCT: Any specific players in the different position groups that stood out or that you can point to as those stepping up?
Like I said with the offensive line it was Hatch and then also Zlatnik and Trevor.
The running back position is hard because they are so young and it's harder to get a younger player to step up and lead.
Receiver is a position I'm still curious about. I think we'll know more when we get to game one. I just don't know who is the consistent playmaker that changes the game like those players in the past have. Christian has shown the ability, Omigie has been showing up big in workouts, Kale, Beshears and Daymond Patterson have all shown the ability at times but it just hasn't been consistent from any one person or set group.
On the defensive line Toben, Keba and Arps have all been stepping it up in workouts and are players leading that group. Pat Dorsey has had a nice offseason as well as Kevin Young but they didn't play last Saturday. Tyrone Sellers worked extremely hard.
Linebacker has really been a group deal but Darius and Steven Johnson have been the most vocal and they work as hard as anyone.
I'd say our most confident group is the defensive backs. It's been tough with Isiah out but Greg Brown, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis all stepped up this Spring. McDougald killed it in workouts this year and Keeston worked to get through rehab. It's definitely a group with a lot of players that can step up and lead.
RCT: You mentioned the wide receivers and some questions there. With those questions in mind as well as those surrounding the quarterback position, do you think the running game can take the next step this year and ease some of the burden?
Definitely, our running back situation last year was killing us at times. They've done a real good job with it this year and we have players in the position that are a threat to score on every play. Add in the improvement on the offensive line and I think it's an area the offense could be able to lean on.
RCT: Flip it to the defensive side of the ball and specifically the defensive line. The group looked good in the scrimmage with the one's but it also looked like a thin group. Can that group go deep enough to provide four quarters of consistency?
They have to find a way to get it done. The defensive ends have better depth in numbers but are thin on experience, whereas the defensive tackles are thin on numbers but have some solid experience. It's one thing or the other right now.
RCT: The general feeling at linebacker seems to be that we're quicker to the ball this year. What is the thought on that group from you're perspective?
Upgrade in overall talent from last year no question. It's also a group that is deeper than last year. But one thing people have to understand is that Dudley and Springer were very intelligent football players and they understood the defense better than anyone on the field last year. Dudley could beat out a faster, stronger, more athletic player because he plays faster. Those two could read and react.
Better athleticism this year, deeper unit, but they have to get to the point where they can play fast. They can get there for sure.
RCT: Moving to the safeties. A lot of talk seems to be circulating about the potential of Keeston Terry and Bradley McDougald. How would you say they are adjusting now that they've had a full Spring at the position?
The key word there is potential. They are definitely an improvement over last year and they are starting to understand the defense better and they both know how to make a play on the ball. Some of the talk out there might be premature, but the potential is there.
RCT: At corner it seems that there are a lot of athletes but also a lot of questions as to if they are ready to compete against the pass happy Big 12 offenses. How do you see that position playing out?
A lot of quality depth right now. I see Greg Brown, Isiah Barfield, Tyler Patmon and Anthony Davis all fighting for starter minutes right now and all four could do it. Right now I'd say Brown and Barfield are the favorites.
RCT: Does Patmon see minutes at the nickel spot then?
Right now Dexter Linton and Dexter McDonald are working in there primarily. Both young, but both did well this Spring. Right now seems like Patmon is moving to where he will focus in on the corner spot but that could change.
RCT: I guess that brings up a question on formation. Some talk of 3-4, is that something we'll see regularly this year, in certain situation or will it be used infrequently.
You will see 3-4 this year. It's not our base but it's a regular part of our defensive work and we'll use it.
That wraps it up. I'd say overall I feel like this individual reflects my overall feeling on coach Gill coming out of Spring and that is as someone who sounds more confident. In general I think Gill's level and amount of "coach speak" has dropped off as he now feels better and more confident with where the team is at and what he's working with.
I get that same impression here. There are players, units and people around the program that are starting to step into those all important leadership roles and providing some accountability in the program.Now we just have to wait and see how that translates to the field this fall.