Monday, April 13, 2009
What we learned during Kansas' spring practices
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Todd Reesing and the Kansas offense looked in midseason form at the Jayhawks' spring game Saturday.
Played before an announced crowd at Memorial Stadium of 17,000, the Jayhawks provided the most public glimpse of the spring for a team that is considered one of the primary North Division title contenders heading into the season.
The offense's success came at the expense of a young, developing defense that struggled at times. Some of the struggles could have been because it played against the Kansas offense, but a few more victories could have helped the confidence over the course of the spring.
Here are some specific things we learned about the Jayhawks during their spring work.
- Kale Pick showed flashes of becoming the Jayhawks' backup quarterback, but still not enough to enable Kerry Meier to move to wide receiver full-time. That move still may come, but coach Mark Mangino likely won't make it until the summer at the earliest.
- Jocques Crawford's suspension means that Jake Sharp will be the Jayhawks' primary running threat. Sharp's status as starter was solid already, but Crawford's suspension placed him deeper in Mangino's doghouse. It's hard to get out of it when you aren't playing, which leaves Sharp firmly entrenched as the starter. The play of Rell Lewis might have made Crawford's chances of moving back into the rotation academic anyway.
- An offensive line breaking in three new starters looked good in Saturday's scrimmage. Jeremiah Hatch appeared to be a natural at center, as coaches expected. Tanner Hawkinson is a work in progress at left tackle, but coaches love his upside and are willing to let him learn.
- The line's strong play during the spring is because it has a lot of talented skill-position people. Mangino hopes that the line's strong performance isn't indicative of a growing defensive weakness - or else we could see a lot of shootouts involving the Jayhawks this season.
- The Jayhawks' retooled linebackers are improving, but the position remains a big question mark after losing three starters from last season. Newcomer Jake Schermer contributed eight tackles in the spring game, but converted running back Angus Quigley clearly is a work in progress.
- Mangino had a busy spring, suspending Crawford, top receiver Dezmon Briscoe and defensive lineman Jamal Greene. Only Greene is back, leaving a question mark over the program about discipline problems as Kansas finishes spring practice. It's something that Mangino needs to iron out if the Jayhawks are going to contend for their first berth in the Big 12 title game.
- Raimond Pendleton returned to the end zone for one of the few times since his infamous 2007 punt return for a touchdown prompted the wrath of Mangino after his post-score theatrics. Needless to say, Pendleton's score on Saturday -- which came as a second-string receiver -- was a lot quieter.
- We're still not sure about the Jayhawks' kick returns. Briscoe appeared to be a revelation late last season, although his productivity obviously is in doubt with his suspension. The returns are a concern considering Kansas ranked 118th nationally last season and would have been last nationally without Briscoe's late spurt. It will remain a worry until the season starts and Briscoe's status clears up.