The Kansas Jayhawks hosted their annual Spring Game in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon.
Several things were different from a "normal" spring game, including the timing. The NCAA allows 15 practices for teams in the spring, and usually, spring games are the last official "practice" of the spring semester. Not the case for KU this year, as the Jayhawks have two more practices remaining next week.
Before we get into what happened Saturday afternoon, it's time for that annual disclaimer. Spring football should always - and I mean always - be taken with a grain of salt. We're talking about practice here. Not a game. Not a game. Not a game. We're talking about practice.
Once again this year, there was a flag football alumni game. And once again, Bryan Sperry stole the show.
That makes two TDs in two alumni games for the postwar Jayhawk. Other football alums spotted included Daymond Patterson, Justin Thornton, Toben Opurum, Mike Norseth, Jonathan Wilson, Patrick Dorsey, and Frank Seurer.
Chris Harris Jr., Darrell Stuckey, and Stephen Johnson were all in attendance as well, but did not participate in the alumni game. Harris and Stuckey were honorary coaches on the sidelines.
Instead of a standard 1s vs 2s, it was offense (blue) versus defense (white). Quarterbacks wore red. There was no tackling on kickoffs, and no rush on field goals. The offense scored points by making first downs, touchdowns, and field goals. The defense scored points with TFL's, 3-and-outs, and turnovers. A penalty resulted in a loss of points by the offending team. There was no timer, and the "game" was scheduled to last approximately 100 plays.
The defense won by a 49-42 score, but don't let that fool you at all. The defense way outclassed the offense today, leading 45-19 at one point and holding the offense to two touchdowns in 100 plays.
Well, let's get this out of the way first. The offense was unimpressive. But once again, keep in mind, it's a spring practice.
Ryan Willis was dressed, did not have a cast on his wrist, but did not play. Montell Cozart started the game, followed by Keaton Perry, then Cozart again, then Carter Stanley. We also saw some of Deondre Ford. Here's a quick look at the offensive numbers piled up today, courtesy of KUAthletics.com.
Cozart and Stanley each should have had an extra interception on passes that were simply dropped by the defense.
Who are these running backs? No Ke'aun Kinner and no Ryan Schadler, although Schadler did see action on special teams.
Quiv Gonzalez did have a really nice catch and run for the 61 yard TD. You can see that play in the video below at the 42-second mark.
I will say that it is nice to have some legitimate speed on offense again. Hopefully this coaching staff will figure out how to use it properly.
Overall, the day belonged to the defense. They picked up two sacks, 7 TFLs, and 4 INTs, although as I mentioned earlier they really should have had 6 INTs.
Frank Seurer Jr. and Colin Spencer led the defense with six tackles apiece. Spencer, Hudson Hall, Cameron Rosser, and Stephan Robinson collected the INTs.
But again, it's hard to get a read on things in a spring game. I didn't really get the sense that the D-line dominated the O-line or vice-versa. I will say that it seemed like the only time the D-line got pressure or TFLs was due to a blitz.
There were no punts and only two kickoff returns on the afternoon, so there's not really much to talk about there. Matthew Wyman and Nick Bartolotta each tried a kickoff; neither one made it to the 10-yard line. Quiv Gonzalez returned one and Derrick Neal brought back the other.
Wyman was the only kicker to attempt any field goals, and he went 4-6 on the day. Wyman converted kicks of 31, 28, 22, and 34 yards. The two he missed, at 49 and 46 yards, both had plenty of leg but were wide left.
I'll be honest, I left Lawrence today unimpressed. The offense was dreadful. I just have to keep telling myself it's only a practice.
Once I got back to the car, I caught the end of the radio broadcast, and this quote from David Beaty caught my ear:
The kids are bigger, they're stronger, and they're faster. Coach Jackson has done a tremendous job with our team. I think last year we had five guys that ran 4.5 or better. This year we have 28 or 29. Last year I think we had six guys that could power clean 300 pounds, now we've got 30 guys that can power clean 300 pounds. I think last year we had five guys that could squat 500, this year we've got 35 or something like that. So he's done a tremendous job. The bigger, the stronger, the faster we get, the better we develop these guys, the better we'll be, quicker.
Beaty seems to know that his job is to recruit overlooked or unheralded talent and develop it. Even if he is successful in that regard, however, it will still be 2017 or 2018 until the Jayhawk fans can realistically expect a program capable of bowl eligibility. Beaty is still saying all the right things and seems to have the right mindset for a guy in his position. #EarnIt seems to be a real thing in Lawrence, and here's hoping that it will eventually turn into #Wins.