Blaney Breaks Down Young Offensive Players

Today marks the first open spring practice. Pretty much anybody who watches the team knows the stars and the starters to watch, but Kansas assistant coach Brandon Blaney, who also serves as Kansas's recruiting coordinator, breaks down some of the young players, or the not-so-obvious players to watch on the Jayhawk offense.

At quarterback, this spring should showcase a battle between two young signal callers set to fight for Todd Reesing's job in 2010. Blaney said both Kale Pick and Jordan Webb fit what Kansas wanted from the position —quick thinkers who can read the defense quickly and efficiently, while making plays with either their arms or their feet.

"With Kale being here since last spring, we've been able to see him a number of times in scrimmage-type situations, and he responded well," Blaney said. "He was our scout team player of the year, and he made a few throws that made you say ‘wow.' He managed the spread pretty well, and he's got some nice tools."

"We still want to see Jordan in some practice situations, but his film was pretty impressive," Blaney said. "He makes the types of reads and the types of throws that you look for in a spread quarterback."

Neither will probably win a height competition, but Blaney said that didn't bother a Kansas staff that has seen the success both of a shorter Kansas player — Reesing—and a rival player — Missouri's Chase Daniel.

"When you look at the quarterbacks out there in spread offenses, they aren't necessarily the biggest guys," Blaney said. "It's more important for them to be able to handle the mental processes that come with the position.

"We will have to wait to see how it translates, but I think the Webb kid demonstrates that fast decision-making that we're looking for," Blaney said. "He can get rid of the ball pretty quickly."
Quarterback won't be the only spot that's open in 2010. Running back, with the departure of Jake Sharp and Jocques Crawford, should also see newcomers stepping in. Blaney said Kansas had a couple of young players the staff was excited about. The first he mentioned was true freshman DeShaun Sands, the son of Kansas great "Tuxedo" Tony Sands, who is in for the spring.

"He's working out with us, and though it's a bit of a cultural change, he's adapted pretty well," Blaney said. "He has a great work ethic, and he's standing out a bit."

Blaney said having a parent who had been through the rigors of FBS football often helped with a player's adjustment.

"It depends on the family, but sure, it can help," Blaney said. "Of course in this case, you have a player whose father was also a personal trainer, and that helps."

Blaney said Rell Lewis was another potential competitor, and said he had "shown flashes."

At receiver, Kansas returns three starters from a year ago, including two 1,000-yard receivers in Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier. Blaney said the staff would work through the spring to try and find the fourth starter, which he said would be a competition between several players.

"The spring is great for guys like Rod Harris. He's physical, and he has some skills and had a great offseason," Blaney said. "Tertavian Ingram is a guy we've had here for a little while and he and Raimond Pendleton should be in the mix as well."

Blaney is the tight ends coach, and he said there was a lot to like from his current stock. The returning starter is Tim Biere, a player that Blaney said showed a lot during his freshman season.

"There's an old saying that you never trust a player's freshman year, good or bad," Blaney said. "But I think his future is bright. He came in and really developed and was physical with his blocks. That's something you don't see often with freshmen. He comes in and he's blocking guys like Orakpo, English and Prater, guys who are good Big 12 defensive ends, and he did a great job."

Blaney said A.J. Steward had a great offseason and could be a major contributor as well. Nick Plato and walk-on Ted McNulty were two others he mentioned who had a chance to crack the lineup.

The offensive line will be a position to watch through the spring, with Kansas replacing three linemen. To get more out of the unit, the coaches shifted Jeremiah Hatch from tackle to center, and moved Tanner Hawkinson from defensive end to left tackle.

"The players who step in will have some huge holes to fill," Blaney said. "We are expecting to see some real competition."

Blaney mentioned John Williams and Trevor Marrongelli as players who could see time at guard. He said Williams was doing a good job of "remaking his body," and said the coaches were impressed with his agility and quickness. Marrongelli, he said, was also earning high compliments — especially from the defensive assistants who coached against him. Blaney also talked up Ben Lueken, who he said earned playing time last year for his physical and mental maturity.

"He came in with an understanding of how the game was played," Blaney said.

Then there's Hawkinson, who Blaney said would find his way onto the field someway, somehow.

"When you're a big, intelligent, strong, athletic guy like he is, you're going to have options where you can play," Blaney said. "I don't know where he will end up, honestly. But he's great at busting his tail and every day, he makes himself a little bit better."

Blaney said he looked forward to seeing the development of the line.

"We're going to be missing a lot of experience," he said. "But it's also a really, really talented group."

Blaney said Kansas continued to improve the quality of athletes on the team, and said the offensive line was just one example of that.

"I think it's been an overall change on the team," said Blaney, who has been with Kansas since 2002, Mangino's first season. "You watch practice, and we're a step or two better in terms of speed, size and strength and overall ability. That's a positive."

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