LAWRENCE — Seven days into fall camp, KU coach Charlie Weis probably isn’t ready to pass out letter grades or participatory ribbons to his team. But it was clear during his weekly news conference Tuesday that at least two players have stood out so far.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Star
Defensive back Cassius Sendish, a junior college transfer, and junior running back Brandon Bourbon both drew high marks on Tuesday when Weis was asked to divulge any pleasant surprises or impressive performers.
Bourbon’s strong camp comes at a particularly important time for the now veteran running back. Stuck behind three players, including senior James Sims, on the halfback depth chart, Weis moved Bourbon to the newly created “F” position, a hybrid running back-receiver position. For the moment, Bourbon is running with the second team, playing behind junior Tony Pierson, but Weis appears especially impressed with his potential as a runner and pass-catcher.
“It’s almost like a name that we don’t ever talk about,” Weis said. “We don’t ever talk about him, because he’s kind of been buried a little bit in the depth chart.
“We put him in this position behind Tony and he has really thrived. If we asked everyone to rate the best five players in camp, he’d be on everyone’s list.”
Weis also rated Sendish, a junior, as one of the most dependable players in camp. In the first week of practice, Sendish has proven himself capable of rushing the passer from the nickel position, while also being able to drop into both zone and man coverage.
“It’s pretty obvious when we’re out on the field that one of the people that stands out, both as a leader on the field and performer, has been Cassius,” Weis said. “It makes it more comforting for us.”
Other position battles
Despite renewed competition from sophomore Darrian Miller, Weis said senior running back James Sims had clearly established himself as the best running back in camp.
Weis also said senior guard Randall Dent was having a strong camp, but he had been unable to beat out either starting left guard Ngalu Fusimalohi or right guard Mike Smithburg, two junior college transfers who were also playing at a high level. Meanwhile, junior transfer receiver Rodriguez Coleman has improved his stock during the first week of practice.
“As you all know,” Weis said, “we needed somebody at that receiver position to be able to say something like that about. If we’re grading players on the team, and we’re talking about wide receivers, everyone would bring up Coleman.”
Weis said that junior college transfers Michael Mesh and Trevor Pardula were still battling for duties at the kicker spot. Pardula, who will also handle the punting duties, has the strongest leg on the team, according to Weis, but Mesh could turn into an option if he becomes more consistent. For now, Weis said, he hasn’t ruled out splitting some of the kicking duties, whether that is kickoffs or field goals or short field goals and long field goals.