KU notebook: Can Captain Heeney save Jayhawks’ defense?

07/21/2014 5:48 PM

07/21/2014 5:48 PM

Kansas senior linebacker Ben Heeney doesn’t mind flying under the radar. In fact, Heeney says, he kind of enjoys it.

But Kansas’ marketing arm is hoping Heeney, a first-team All-Big 12 middle linebacker, won’t go unnoticed during his final season. Earlier this month, the KU athletic department launched CaptainHeeney.com, a site dedicated to promoting Heeney’s on-field exploits. The site features a superhero theme, complete with a bearded cartoon Heeney stylized as “The Diabolical Defender.”

“It’s kind of cheesy,” Heeney said.

Heeney’s reputation, though, has suffered while playing for a program in the Big 12 cellar. Heeney ranked third in the Big 12 with 112 tackles as a sophomore, and he followed that up with 87 tackles as a junior, despite missing two games because of knee injury. But on the national scene, Heeney remains an unknown.

While Heeney is nonchalant about the site, he did enjoy representing for his hometown of Hutchinson, Kan., which apparently served as an inspiration for Superman’s hometown, “Smallville.”

“It’s all right, I guess,” Heeney said. “I’m not really going for Superman or anything, but that’s just what they put me as, I guess.”

Harwell ready to go

For the past two seasons, Kansas’ offense has suffered from a nearly non-existent receiving corps. Enter senior transfer Nick Harwell, who once hauled in 97 passes for 1,425 yards as a sophomore at Miami (Ohio).

Kansas coach Charlie Weis is — quite predictably — excited about having an eligible Harwell in the passing game.

“Anytime you can plug in a No. 1 wide receiver that’s already been playing,” Weis said, “… it puts a whole different composition to your wide receiver position.”

After his prolific sophomore season in 2011, Harwell followed that up with 68 catches as a junior despite missing three games because of knee injury. Once a small-college recruit, Harwell transformed into a receiver with NFL capabilities.

But during the spring of his junior year, Harwell was dismissed from school for a spat of off-field transgressions. The final straw included a misdemeanor charge of attempted theft after an incident with a former girlfriend. The latter incident expedited his departure from Miami, but Harwell landed at Kansas, where he spent last season on the scout team. Now Harwell says he’s ready for next opportunity at Kansas.

“(I just try to) bring guys with me,” Harwell said. “If I go out there and run routes, I’m making sure I’m not doing it by myself. And I try to make the team better, no matter anything I do.”

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.

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