Unsure of what to expect, I headed over to Lawrence today for the annual spring game and a preview of the 2015 edition of the Kansas Jayhawks football squad. I saw some good things and I saw some things that concerned me.
Remember, spring football should always - and I mean always - be taken with a grain of salt.
The coolest moment of the day actually came in the alumni flag football game, which took place before the spring game. The highlight belonged to former KU footballer Bryan Sperry, who played from 1946-48. Sperry took a middle screen and followed a wedge of blockers all the way to the end zone for a touchdown on the final play of the alumni game.
About a half hour later, the new-look Jayhawks took the field in front of a crowd estimated at slightly over 6,000. (KUAthletics.com reported 6,227. Not sure who counted.)
The game was blue vs white, but I couldn't tell if it was 1s vs 2s or not. Based on the names of players I had heard of on each team, I'm guessing it was mostly 1s (blue) vs 2s (white). Quarterbacks wore red (no contact). Head coach David Beaty stationed himself behind the offense throughout the game. Other coaches and even players continually switched sides between possessions.
Several Jayhawks were held out of or otherwise missed the spring game. Corey Avery, Rodriguez Coleman, Joe Dineen, Matthew Boateng, De'Andre Mann, Jake Love, and Kyron Watson were the absentees that I noticed. Afterwards it was reported that Avery and Coleman had been suspended for violation of team rules.
The Jayhawks did not take a single snap under center the entire afternoon. The offense was continuously pushing tempo, lining up quickly, and snapping the ball shortly after the umpire placed it. It should be easier on the offensive line as well, as the QBs are looking to get rid of the ball quickly.
Once it gets clicking, this will be an exciting brand of football to watch. It's a true Air Raid offense, using the running game to keep defenses honest. Quarterbacks were continually looking for a 1-on-1 matchup they could try and exploit. Unfortunately, there were not a lot of accurate balls thrown by KU quarterbacks today. There was only one interception on the day, but there probably should have been three or four.
Statistically, Montell Cozart led passers by going 16/26 for 219 yards and 2 TDs. Michael Cummings went down during his second possession after taking a shot to the knee. Cozart played the rest of the afternoon for the blue team. Cozart made some good passes, especially on the bomb to Florida transfer Kent Taylor late in the fourth quarter. For the most part, though, all quarterbacks seemed to be off target, constantly under-throwing on deep balls and throwing behind receivers on other routes.
R-Fr Ryan Schadler led all rushers with 45 yards on 8 carries. Tre Parmalee and Shakiem Barbel, both senior receivers, each hauled in 5 passes. Parmalee only gained 28 yards on his five receptions while Barbel's went for 78 yards. The stat sheet didn't track targets, but it sure seemed like R-Fr Tyler Patrick was a favorite target of both Cummings and Cozart. Patrick ended up with 4 receptions for 43 yards.
Both blue and white squads employed a 4-2-5 defense. S Bazie Bates led all tacklers with 5 solo stops. Combined, the defenses only registered one sack on the day, but came away with five tackles for loss. As mentioned earlier, there was only one interception (by Cozart), but there could have been several more.
Again, it's hard to get a read on things in a spring game. Did the offensive lines dominate the defensive lines, or was it a result of the offenses being run that kept the sack and TFL totals down? The lines were able to get some pressure on some of the longer-developing plays, so take that for whatever it's worth.
Tre Parmalee was the only one who fielded punts during the afternoon. Each half started with a kickoff that was live and full contact. All punts and field goals were not.
Field goals were, once again, an adventure. KU employed two kickers on the day, Matthew Wyman and Ryan Weese. Each kicker was 1/2 on field goal tries. Wyman missed a 49-yarder and hit a 28-yarder, while Weese missed a 43-yarder and hit a 38-yarder.
Eric Kahn hit 9 punts for 332 yards, an average of 36.8 yards.
Haha, yeah right. Seriously, what can you conclude from this spring game? KU was missing some of their better players on the afternoon on both sides of the ball. The coaching staff definitely has their work cut out for them, but I really like what I've seen and heard from them. They are excited for the opportunity that is Kansas football and it shows. I don't hear any talk about making "leaders out of young men" or "did you see that pile of crap out there." I hear things like "we need to work hard" and "we need to earn everything" and "seizing opportunities," which to me is much more refreshing.
It might be a rough first two or even three years in term of production on the field, but I came away from today's scrimmage hopeful about the future of Kansas football.
Here are some highlights of the spring game courtesy of KUAthletics YouTube channel.