University of Kansas

Defensive end Josh Ehambe dominates Kansas football spring game

Defensive end Josh Ehambe pumped his fist after getting a sack of quarterback Tyriek Starks in Kansas’ spring game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Defensive end Josh Ehambe pumped his fist after getting a sack of quarterback Tyriek Starks in Kansas’ spring game on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Special to The Star

The No. 1 rule of spring games: Don’t overreact.

This is one practice out of 15, after all, and good performances often aren’t a guarantee of anything when the real season starts in five months.

Knowing all this, Kansas coach David Beaty’s words about Josh Ehambe probably mean quite a bit following Team Jayhawks’ 14-7 victory over Team KU in Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

“Very excited,” Beaty said of Ehambe, slowing his cadence for emphasis. “Because we need him to do some things like that.”

Ehambe, who is battling for a starting spot at defensive end, was the standout Saturday. The junior-to-be registered four sacks, which included one that was credited by officials but didn’t end up in the box score.

“Just wanted it more I guess,” Ehambe said of his game. “I’m just playing as hard as I can.”

Kansas coach David Beaty talks about the performances of quarterbacks Peyton Bender, Carter Stanley and Tyriek Starks following the spring game Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Beaty has talked often about this defensive end position being important, and it’s not difficult to see why. The Jayhawks already have one of the top pass-rushers in the Big 12 in Dorance Armstrong, which means there’s a need for a playmaker on the other side.

“Of course (opponents) are going to double-team Dorance, because he came off a 10-sack season,” Ehambe said. “Then you’ve got (defensive tackle) Daniel Wise in the middle. That’s going to leave that end over there wide open.”

Yes, it’s only one practice game. And Isaiah Bean — another top candidate for that spot — didn’t play because of injury.

But Beaty still was happy with what he saw from Ehambe.

“He is starting to become productive, and he’s pretty much done it all spring,” Beaty said. “If there’s a guy I’m most proud of to this point, it’s Josh.”

There were other highlights. Safety Mike Lee added to his hard-hitting reputation, jarring receiver Ryan Schadler so hard with one second-quarter pass breakup that Schadler’s mother, Donna, found him on the sideline after the game.

“She was like, ‘Why’d you have to hit my son that hard?’” Lee said with a smile. “ … I told her I’m sorry. She was like, ‘I’m happy his rib’s OK.’”

KU also showed off added depth at receiver. Alabama transfer Daylon Charlot had a tough sideline catch and also a touchdown, while five wideouts had at least three catches in the running-clock format.

At quarterback, Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley each had good moments. Bender completed 11 of 15 passes for 143 yards with two scores.

“I thought I did fine. I thought I did what I was supposed to do,” Bender said. “We kept the play-calling fairly simple, so we weren’t trying to get anything too complicated called in there.”

Stanley was 13 of 24 for 114 yards. Neither quarterback had an interception.

“I think it was all right,” Stanley said. “I’ll have to watch the film just to see all the stuff. I know I missed some throws, maybe missed some reads, but there were some positives about it.”

KU also welcomed back many former players in the NFL, including Chris Harris, JaCorey Shepherd, Bradley McDougald and Steven Johnson.

Lee said Harris, now with the Denver Broncos, singled him out in a team meeting: “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to be where I’m at.”

“I was like, ‘Thank you,’” Lee said. “Hearing that from a famous NFL football player … I was just like, ‘Wow.’ ”

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell