Big 12: Chea Peterman

Surprises on Kansas' new depth chart

May, 7, 2010
Coach Turner Gill released his first depth chart, and though it's early, he's made good on his promise to give players a head start. Here's a few thoughts:

  • Toben Opurum? Nowhere to be found. He was banged up this spring and wasn't full available, but thinking back on my trip this spring, I can't say I'm shocked to see senior Angus Quigley and freshman DeShaun Sands above him. I went to Lawrence with every intention of writing about Opurum, but I asked Gill about how Opurum would fit into the new offense, and if he felt comfortable relying on him as a power runner for carries to help break in a new quarterback. His answer on April 12: "He’s in the hunt. He’s in there at this point. He’s definitely in the hunt. He’s gotten a little banged up, but it's good to see we have some competition at the position. There is no clear-cut guy, but there’s nothing clear cut at any position at this point in time, at running back or wherever. We’re going to keep this thing competitive. We do have some competitiveness at the running back spot and a lot of different areas." Opurum was the team's leading rusher from a season ago and even with senior Jake Sharp on the team, he's still my bet to lead the team in rushing again, but look for plenty of Jayhawks running backs to get touches this season, including incoming freshman Brandon Bourbon.
  • Kale Pick and Jordan Webb are listed as co-No.1 quarterbacks with, for what it's worth, Pick's name is listed first. That might be alphabetical or it might be that Pick has a slight edge, but they're the only two players sharing a position on the chart. That's a little surprising, but my guess is Gill is spurning the "Embrace Leader Position" button over the summer in favor of the "Spur Improvement Via Competition" button. Both good options, but Gill talked about competition at positions a lot all spring. It doesn't look like that's changing.
  • The team's leading tackler from 2009, linebacker Drew Dudley, is listed as a second-teamer, but he was playing through a shoulder injury throughout the entire spring. He was able to participate in pass skeleton drills and other team work, but was held out of contact. My guess is he'll be right back at starter once he's healthy next fall. Junior Steven Johnson is starting at strongside linebacker, senior Justin Springer is starting at middle linebacker and sophomore Huldon Tharp is starting at weakside linebacker. Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush sees linebacker as one of his more surprising positions in terms of depth, so look for at least a couple more guys to slide into the rotation like junior Chea Peterman, who isn't listed on the depth chart.
  • Freshman Christian Matthews began the spring as a quarterback, but moved to receiver late in the 15 workouts. His performance was good enough to earn him a second-team receiver nod. That's pretty impressive, but he did make a nice game-winning catch in the spring game.
  • Junior fullback Steven Foster is behind Justin Puthoff on the chart. Foster came to Kansas as the nation's No. 4 fullback. Puthoff is a walk-on still lacking a headshot. Not exactly an endorsement of Foster's skills, but Gill isn't kidding around when he says everyone got a fresh start. We'll find out in the fall if Puthoff was that impressive, or if Gill just wanted Foster to have to stare at that all summer.

Kansas leaning on linebackers

April, 26, 2010
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Kansas entered the spring with plenty of questions as Turner Gill took over for Mark Mangino.

Defensive coordinator Carl Torbush feels like he answered at least one this spring. Or narrowed down the possible answers, at least.

"I thought going into spring we had a lack of depth at linebacker, but as they’ve improved, I feel pretty good there right now," Torbush said. "I think we’ve got more guys that have a chance to play than I anticipated coming in."

Though Torbush admits cornerback is his deepest position, he envisions at least six linebackers making serious contributions in the fall and jockeying for starting positions during camp.

Among them are Steven Johnson, Huldon Tharp, Justin Springer and Chea Peterman.

Johnson and Dakota Lewis led all tacklers in Saturday's spring game with five stops, and Johnson added two for losses. But the anchor of the unit, Drew Dudley, was missing in contact for the spring.

"I don’t have any doubt that Drew will be a leader when that time comes," Torbush said.

Dudley has been practicing with a shoulder injury for the spring, but has been held out of contact as a precaution. Johnson, a former walk-on who saw playing time as a true freshman, is now a junior trying to find a spot at one of the three linebacker spots.

"I’ve been switching positions," Johnson said. "Played a little Will, played Mike, played Sam. It’s a little difficult. I got reached a few times, hey, I even got pancaked. But you know, you gotta get up and keep on going. You’ve got to forget about the play and move on."

Attitudes like Johnson's leave Torbush encouraged by his linebackers. He doesn't need perfection in April.

"I like the effort, the learning curve they had. The willingness to learn and please the coaches," Torbush said. "We haven’t played a real game. As long as you’re practicing against each other, it really doesn’t matter until you get into a real game situation and see how they’re going to respond in front of all those fans."