The Kansas Jayhawks hosted their annual Spring Game in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon.
This year’s event was more of a traditional format in terms of scoring and timing, albeit with a running clock. The teams were drafted last week, so each side was a mix of 1s and 2s, and each side had three timeouts per half.
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. Although Bryan Sperry didn’t make it (hopefully he’s OK), fans in attendance did get to witness something they hadn’t seen in almost 50 years - #10 Bobby Douglass whipping passes around Memorial Stadium. Although interestingly, this time he was doing it with his right arm instead of his left. (I am currently investigating this quandary.)
Other football alums spotted included Chris Harris, Jacorey Shepherd, Steven Johnson, Darrell Stuckey, and Bradley McDougald.
As we’ve already discussed, it was standard 15-minute quarters but with a running clock. Each side got three timeouts per half. There were no kickoffs, and no rush on field goals.
Each side was drafted last Thursday, with Kenny Perry and Tony Hull the opposing head coaches. David Beaty observed the action from about 20 yards behind the offense.
There was a stiff breeze from south to north of at least 20 mph on a mostly cloudy afternoon.
For the third spring game under David Beaty, the offense displayed was... let’s say uninspiring.
It was primarily Peyton Bender vs Carter Stanley, but we also saw a little bit of Tyriek Starks. Keaton Perry also took a couple of snaps. Here's a quick look at the offensive numbers piled up today, courtesy of various sources since the box score link at KUAthletics.com isn’t working today.
Peyton Bender: 11-15, 143 yds, 2 TDs
Carter Stanley: 13-24, 114 yds
Tyriek Starks: 2-2, 55 yds, TD
The main difference I noted this year was that instead of having multiple passes that should have been intercepted by multiple quarterbacks, this year there was only one, an ill-advised toss from Stanley into the wind with time running out in the fourth quarter. Additionally, there was one TD pass from Stanley to Kerr Johnson called back because of holding. (And yes, it was an obvious hold and a good call.)
Taylor Martin: 7 rushes, 43 yds
Khalil Herbert: 6 rushes, 27 yds
Neither running back really impressed, but I’m guessing a lot of that came down to the offensive line and possibly the play calling (although Martin did average 6.1 ypc). I can’t remember seeing Arkansas transfer Denzell Evans in the game at all, and remember top-rated Juco recruit Octavius Matthews will join the team in August, so the Jayhawks should have some options when fall camp starts up.
Ben Johnson: 3 rec, 52 yds
Chase Harrell: 3 rec, 51 yds
Daylot Charlot: 3 rec, 45 yds, TD
Ryan Schadler, 3 rec, 37 yds
Steven Sims Jr: 2 rec, TD
So, the articles you see out there talking about receivers “ruled the day” in the Spring Game or whatnot - well, I mean, I guess? The Jayhawks probably threw the ball 70% of the time, but even David Beaty admitted in his postgame presser that the calls were, and I quote, “very basic,” although there was a reverse flea-flicker called that was pretty fun.
Overall, the day seemed to belong to the defense, but again, it's hard to get a read on things in a spring game.
Keith Loneker Jr: 5 tackles
Joe Dineen: 5 tackles
Josh Ehambe: 3 sacks
Dorance Armstrong: 4 tackles, 1 sack
Mike Lee: 2 bone-crushing hits
I didn't really get the sense that the D-line dominated the O-line by any stretch, which could be a good sign, considering that Dorance Armstrong and Daniel Wise are both expected to be All-Conference players in 2017. It would be nice if another DE would step up opposite Armstrong, and maybe Ehambe’s performance in camp will set him up for that.
Also, Mike Lee is gonna hurt some people this year, y’all.
The only special teams play of note were two field goal attempts, both of about 40 yards, and both into the wind. Predictably, both attempts missed. I can’t even tell you who the kickers were, because the box score link still isn’t working over at KUAthletics.com. But, help is on the way, and will be here in August.
I'll be honest, I once again left Lawrence unimpressed. The offense was better, I guess? I actually really liked what I saw from all three quarterbacks. Bender looks confident and poised, Stanley still reminds you of Reesing, and Starks has an absolute cannon for an arm.
Charlot and Harrell each made circus catches along the sideline, although quarterbacks weren’t looking downfield very often. Mike Lee had two jarring hits. The skill position players are in place; now we need some Big 12 caliber offensive linemen.
We complained about play-calling all year last year, and if the spring game is any indication, we’ll be doing it again this year. I mean, seriously, what was that call on 4th-and-three with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter? Some kind of draw up the middle? Predictably, it was snuffed out by the defense.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I’m not a play-caller. I never will be. It just seems to me like there’s more room in the middle of the field than there is on the sidelines. Stop it with the screens and the flats and get the ball down the field. More slants, more ins, and more deep balls. Get the ball down the field.
At this point, I don’t think the defense can improve much more until the offense improves. If other teams constantly get the ball in plus territory, we’ll have a repeat of 2016 on our hands again.