Practice Notes: Aug. 10

Fall camp is rapidly descending toward actual game preparation, as the first weekend in September creeps closer every day - and the Kansas Jayhawks have kept the intensity at practice ratcheted to 11. Friday, Head Coach Charlie Weis and his squad took to the turf at Memorial Stadium in preparation for Saturday's Fan Appreciation Day, and Phog.net was on the sideline.

* The fact that Jordan Tavai was suited up - in a manner of speaking - and practicing with the squad should send a huge sigh of relief through Jayhawk Nation. The depth and talent at defensive tackle would have been undeniably upgraded even without Tavai and his fellow JUCO signee Ty McKinney, but having both of them on campus and getting up to speed as quickly as possible changes the shape of things to an even greater degree.

Tavai still has to work his way up to full pads and it will take a while to get him into game shape, but his explosiveness at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds is sorely needed on the Kansas defensive front.

McKinney is expected to arrive next week.

* It's not tough to tell that Tevin Shaw was a running back. During an inside-out tackling drill, the defensive backs are meant to force the ball carrier toward the sideline and prevent a cutback to the middle of the field, wrapping up and finishing the play.

It's tough. Open field tackles often are. But when Shaw - currently in a battle for second on the depth chart at strong safety behind Lubbock Smith with Ray Mitchell - totes the rock they're that much harder. During both of his reps as ball carrier, he left fellow freshman defensive back Tyree Williams grasping at air.

Shaw completed his own reps successfully, as did the veterans one might expect - Bradley McDougald, Tyler Patmon, Greg Brown, etc. Up close, the KU secondary is an impressive bunch. We'll see if it translates over to success on Saturdays.

* We spent some time watching the quarterbacks throw Friday, and perhaps the most startling revelation was just how greatly the collective arm strength and size of the group has changed. Dayne Crist is 6-foot-4. Turner Baty is 6-foot-2. Jake Heaps is 6-foot-1. And the shortest of the bunch, 6-foot Michael Cummings, just might have the strongest arm.

The job is Crist's this year, and the battle for his backup is on, and there's some real talent back there. Baty has a national championship under his belt at the junior college level, and is a savvy, intelligent leader in addition to his physical skills. Cummings is inexperienced and learning an entirely new system, but has a world of talent.

And then there's Heaps, of course, the five-star high school prospect who transferred from BYU and is just waiting patiently in the wings, soaking up everything he can from Powlus and Weis, and positioning himself for next season.

It was a quick 20 minutes Friday afternoon, but fans will get a good long look Saturday during the program's open practice and Fan Appreciation Day.


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