CHICAGO — On the road for the first time this season, the chatter here, on the outskirts of the city, is mostly on the Michigan-Notre Dame showdown on Saturday night in South Bend. That, of course, won’t be the case on Saturday in DeKalb, Ill., when Charlie Weis’ Kansas squad travels to Northern Illinois for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff. Plenty of things to watch. James Sims’ return. A bigger weapon in the passing game. A really long road losing streak. But on the eve of KU’s first road game, here’s our first road-trip edition of “Three things…”
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
1 Secondary glance. You probably saw that, earlier this week, Charlie Weis and Dave Campo moved converted receiver JaCorey Shepherd to second-string cornerback. This comes after Shepherd, a sophomore, was moved to cornerback in the beginning stages of this season. It’s a quick rise — a rise that perhaps speaks to the Jayhawks’ depth at cornerback. But Shepherd, who had 15 catches last season as a true freshman, has drawn high marks for his speed and ability to pick up the corner position quickly.
“Campo has been tooting his horn now,” Weis said, joking that Shepherd had been acquired by the defense for a player to be named later.
The question, of course, is whether Shepherd is actually ready to play corner in a game. When asked this question earlier this week, Campo simply restated that Shepherd was good enough to now be No. 2 on the depth chart. And as Campo noted earlier this week, KU’s first string corners — Tyler Patmon and Greg Brown — are pretty much playing 100 percent of the time. Still, it will be interesting to see what happens if an injury forces Shepherd into substantial action.
2 Speed question. Sophomore receiver Andrew Turzilli will make his first start of the season on Saturday, and a conversation with Turzilli from earlier this week revealed this little nugget: According to Turzilli, he had the third fastest 40-time (4.45) on the team this summer, behind only running backs Tony Pierson and Taylor Cox.
This is sort of interesting for a few reasons. First: It confirms there’s not a ton of blazing speed on the KU defense. Second: Turzilli is 6-foot-4 … and apparently really fast. Not a bad combo for a deep threat.
But even more surprising: Cox, 5-10 and 210 pounds, has mostly been cast as an all-purpose back with the ability to make linebackers miss and run over safeties. If he’s really the second fastest player on the team, well, that’s pretty impressive.
3 Mid-Major trouble. Went back and looked at the recent history and results when KU plays a team from a non-BCS conference on the road. And, well, the program is 4-4 in such games — with a couple of wild affairs on the list.
2010: At Southern Miss, L, 31-16
2009: At UTEP, W, 34-7
2006: At Toledo, L, 37-31, 2OT
2003: At Wyoming, W, 42-35
2002: At Tulsa, W, 43-33
2002: At UNLV, L, 31-20
2000: At SMU, L, 31-17
1998: At UAB, W, 39-37, 4OT