Practice Report

Spring football is underway in Lawrence.'s Kevin Flaherty with a position by position breakdown of the action on Friday, inside.

The Kansas Jayhawks football team in 2009 will not be without its challenges. The Jayhawks must replace three interior linemen and all three starting linebackers from a year ago.

But at the same time, Kansas Coach Mark Mangino said the biggest challenge thus far has been the weather. The weather already caused the team to cancel one practice, and Mangino expressed concerns that it could cost the team another practice over the weekend.

Cold weather is what pushed Friday's practice inside the Anshutz Sports Pavilion and closed it off to the public. The practice remained open to the media.

Players were in full pads, and they played like it, especially in a pretty heated inside running drill that pitted the offense, without receivers, versus the defense, without cornerbacks.

But it might have been the players who weren't at practice that caused the biggest stir. Mangino said afterward that potential All-American receiver Dezmon Briscoe and defensive tackle Jamal Greene had been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. Mangino said neither player had practiced all spring, and said he would consider their cases next week. Also missing was projected starting defensive tackle Caleb Blakesley, who was sick. Rod Harris went down a little more than halfway through the practice with an injury, though he remained on the sideline.

Other than that, it was pretty uneventful. Mangino said he was pleased with the tempo of practice, while Kerry Meier talked about the team's attitude while working out. He said the team wore shirts all winter displaying the team's goal – winning the Big 12 North – and talked about the need to be a better team on the field, rather than on paper.

Position-by-position breakdown of the practice

Quarterback: As could be expected, Todd Reesing was pretty sharp. Reesing made quick reads and got the ball to where it needed to be on time. He also stretched out a play or two with his legs to find receivers. Meier is still receiving plenty of number two quarterback reps, though he said after practice that he was spending 70 percent of his time at receiver and 30 percent at quarterback. Meier said last year the split was closer to 50-50. A large part of Meier's phasing out at the position has been the development of redshirt freshman Kale Pick. Pick looked at ease Friday and rarely out of control. He made a few nice plays with his legs and had another play where he caught a bad snap with one hand before firing downfield and hitting Isiah Barfield on a deep out route. While Pick's throwing form flows easily, Jordan Webb's is not exactly what you would show kids on an educational video. But it works for him – Webb made some nice throws in positional work and seems to put the ball on the money without much effort. It will be fun to watch Pick and Webb battle for the position in the future.

Running back: Much of the practice seemed devoted to throwing the ball, so there weren't as many reps here. Still, there's a lot to like with this group. Jake Sharp looked good and had one play on a sweep where he got the edge and outran everybody not named Darrell Stuckey. Jocques Crawford also had some nice moments and seemed much more decisive about picking his holes. He showed great burst and wasn't afraid to lower his shoulder. Both Sharp and Crawford were used vertically in the passing game as well. Rell Lewis had a few nice cuts and showcased decent speed in the open field. He also had a few nice catches out of the backfield. DeShaun Sands had a little bit of a rough practice, fumbling at least twice. But it's easy to see what the coaches like about him – he's quick, gets low to the ground and gets upfield in a hurry. He's certainly not afraid to run inside.

Receiver/Tight end: With Briscoe out, Tertavian Ingram received repetitions at the outside spot opposite John Wilson and made the most of it. Ingram had several nice catches and seems to have really filled out – he's now listed at 200 pounds. Wilson showcased his deep speed, engaging in some nice battles with cornerback Daymond Patterson in individual routes. When Meier played receiver, he showcased the same steady play and ability to get open that he did all through last season. When Meier took some reps with the number one team as a quarterback, Raimond Pendleton filled in admirably. Another guy who appears to have gotten stronger, Pendleton made the most of a few wide receiver screens and also caught a long flag route for a touchdown from Meier. On the very next play, Isiah Barfield, who backed up Wilson, caught a pass on a streak for a touchdown. Mangino said Barfield's head was spinning, but added that he should be able to help the team at receiver. A.J. Steward played with the first-team in the slot spot opposite Meier/Pendleton and had some nice catches. Listed at 229 pounds, he's a fluid athlete and a load to bring down in the open field. Tim Biere looked good as a blocker.

Offensive line: The key to Kansas's offensive success, the Jayhawks must break in three new starters. But after Friday's practice, Mangino had to be happy with the line's development. Mangino was quick to single out John Williams for his strength and quickness, and added that, if he kept up his current effort, he would be a starter. Williams mashed players across from him in the inside drill, but struggled at times in pass protection, particularly against quicker players. His athleticism doesn't seem to be an issue, so it's likely technique that can be corrected. Tanner Hawkinson had a similar day – he bulldozed in the run game, but had some issues staying in front of defensive ends when pass blocking. He's still raw, as his first day at left tackle was in the first spring practice, but his coaches, and his teammates seemed hopeful. Jake Laptad said that Hawkinson had shown tremendous improvement, and added that he had outstanding strength. Jeremiah Hatch was tremendous at center – he and Darius Parish had some epic battles in pass-rushing drills, most of which were won by Hatch, including one where he wrestled the bigger player to the ground. The rest of the line, including Sal Capra and Jeff Spikes was pretty solid. On a side note, from watching, I think I would take KU's backup line of Ian Wolfe, Carl Wilson, Brad Thorson, Trevor Marrongelli and Ben Lueken over some of Mangino's early starting lines. It's amazing how much Kansas has improved in the trenches over Mangino's tenure.

Defensive line: The Jayhawks were missing two players expected to compete for starting jobs in Blakesley and Greene, so Richard Johnson Jr. and Duane Zlatnik ran with the ones, with Darius Parish and Patrick Dorsey practicing with the twos. None of the players there particularly stood out, though Johnson Jr. had a solid day and made some plays in the backfield. Mangino said the interior line still had a lot of work to do. The opposite was true on the outside, he said, where Maxwell Onyegbule and Laptad have had monster springs. Both had big practices Friday, with Onyegbule showing outstanding quickness off the edge. He also showcased his athleticism by making a diving interception of a tipped ball. Laptad was used to generate pressure both from the inside and the outside – he lined up at tackle a few times in pass rush drills to test Williams, and typically, Laptad won. He said he's spent the offseason working on getting off the ball quicker, and it shows. Backing up those two were Jeff Wheeler, Dustin Spears, Kevin Young and D.J. Marshall. You have to think if Quintin Woods is as advertised, he'll slide in at least at one of the backup spots.

Linebackers: With Justin Springer out for the spring with an injury, walk-on Steven Johnson has been working with the ones. On the hoof, he's an impressive player, not like your typical walk-on. He's got nice size at 6-2 225 and can run. He's also not afraid to be physical. Arist Wright seems to have the job at one outside spot, while crafty senior Jake Schermer and running back-convert Angus Quigley are fighting for the other. Both had their bright spots – Schermer blew up a couple of running plays by making the correct read, while Quigley caused some serious issues blitzing off the edge. Dakota Lewis is behind Wright and has the quick feet needed in coverage, while Steven Foster is behind Steven Johnson. It's an interesting sight to see Foster standing next to Josh Richardson. Foster is very much a throwback player – a 241-pound physical, mean-looking kid. Richardson, who is long and lanky, could pass for a wide receiver. Mangino said Kansas spent about 80 percent of its time in the nickel last year, and said he expected that again this year.

Defensive backs: This should be one of the strengths of the defense. Both Patterson and Justin Thornton were their usual selves at cornerback, while Stuckey was all over the place as a strong safety and Phillip Strozier was solid. The backups had some nice plays as well, with Greg Brown getting kudos from the staff for a few plays. Lubbock Smith has speed to burn at free safety. He got caught peeking in the backfield on one play and still recovered to almost make a play. On another one, he tackled a running back for a loss on a sweep. Chris Harris and Ryan Murphy were both sound at nickel back, while Olaitan Oguntodu was up and down. He didn't get over in time to help out on Pendleton's touchdown and was a step late on Barfield's touchdown the next play. But on the next play, Oguntodu was right on time, breaking up a potential big play by stripping Crawford as the ball came in on a pass down the sideline.

Special teams: The Jayhawks didn't really punt Friday, thanks to the low ceilings at Anschutz. The ceilings also made life rough on kickoffs and kick-return drills, as almost every kick hit the rafters and bounced back. To simulate kickoff returns, players ignored the kick, and a coach tossed the ball to the return man shortly after the kick was made. Crawford, Patterson and Wilson all took times as kick returners, and all three showed excellent speed and vision for finding the seam. It will be interesting to see how that race unfolds when they're able to better simulate returns.

Coaches: Mangino seemed to be in a good mood Friday, stopping to talk with reporters and a few recruits who attended the practice. Looking for the guy to mike up during a practice? Go for new linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Bill Miller. Miller brings a great mix of sarcasm and enthusiasm to the field, and he was heavily involved in developing fundamental footwork with the players Friday. At one point during the sideline tackling drill, Miller said "if you can't tackle in space, you can't play for us." The players seem to also like new defensive line coach Tom Sims. Without discussing previous coaches, Laptad said Sims was correcting many of the technical errors the defensive linemen had been making, such as taking false steps.

Depth Chart from Practice

QB: Todd Reesing, Kerry Meier/Kale Pick
RB: Jake Sharp, Jocques Crawford, Rell Lewis/DeShaun Sands
WR: Tertavian Ingram*
WR: John Wilson, Isiah Barfield
WR: Kerry Meier, Raimond Pendleton
WR: A.J. Steward*
TE: Tim Biere, Ted McNulty
LT: Tanner Hawkinson, Ian Wolfe
LG: John Williams, Carl Wilson
C: Jeremiah Hatch, Brad Thorson
RG: Sal Capra, Trevor Marrongelli
RT: Jeff Spikes, Ben Lueken
K: Jacob Branstetter
KR: Crawford/Daymond Patterson/Wilson

DE: Maxwell Onyegbule, Jeff Wheeler
DT: Duane Zlatnik, Patrick Dorsey
DT: Richard Johnson Jr., Darius Parish
DE: Jake Laptad, Dustin Spears/Kevin Young/D.J. Marshall
OLB: Jake Schermer/Angus Quigley
MLB: Steven Johnson, Steven Foster
OLB: Arist Wright, Dakota Lewis
CB: Daymond Patterson, Greg Brown
CB: Justin Thornton, Anthony Davis/Calvin Rubles
Nickel: Chris Harris, Ryan Murphy
FS: Phillip Strozier, Lubbock Smith
SS: Darrell Stuckey, Olaitan Oguntodu
P: Alonso Rojas

*The absence of Dezmon Briscoe and an injury to Rod Harris muddied the chart a bit. Those backup positions were filled by potential walk-ons who were not listed on the roster. Top Stories