LAWRENCE — The days are dwindling down now, just a handful left until the Kansas football program officially checks in for August camp next week.
KU coach Charlie Weis plans to release a depth chart on Wednesday, one that figures to look drastically different than the one he released in the spring — especially on defense.
With a defensive line that figures to be almost totally revamped, and a few new faces at linebacker and in the secondary, there could be plenty of competition and shuffling during the first few weeks of practice. And first-year defensive coordinator Dave Campo will face two challenges: Improve one of the worst defenses in the country while teaching his schemes to a collection of first-year Jayhawks.
At Big 12 media day in Dallas earlier this week, Weis was asked if fall camp could feel a little bit like a second edition of spring practice. His answer: “For Campo.”
The Jayhawks, Weis says, will most likely have to keep it simple on defense in the opening weeks of fall camp. Some of the new names are easy to spot: Defensive lineman Josh Williams, a senior transfer from Nebraska, played in all 13 games for the Cornhuskers last season. Linebacker Anthony McDonald is a senior transfer who has reunited with Weis after four years at Notre Dame. And senior captain Tanner Hawkinson said sophomore Keon Stowers, a transfer defensive lineman, had impressed during summer workouts.
Weis also said that he was waiting on the arrival of two more juco defensive linemen, who were waiting for their summer semesters to conclude.
“It might take another week or two,” Weis said. “But it’s not because they’re not gonna be here.”
Weis was mum on names, but signs point to two candidates: Juco transfers Ty McKinney and Jordan Tavai. Both players weren’t pictured in the team media guide.
McKinney, a native of Athens, Texas, played at Trinity Valley Community College, while Tavai was an all-region selection at El Camino Community College in California.
Weis said a late arrival to camp wouldn’t necessarily mean that a player won’t be starting when the season begins.
“On the defensive line,” Weis said, “there’s guys that could be a couple days late that could be starting on Sept. 1. Because I’m not penalizing them if the junior college moves their class a few days late.”
New faces on offense
The KU offense appears to be a bit more solidified, with senior quarterback Dayne Crist entrenched under center and a collection of veteran receivers returning from last year.
But here are three juco transfers that Weis mentioned could be in the mix during fall camp: Running back Taylor Cox; receiver Josh Ford, and tight end Charles Brooks. For now, the emphasis is on
Cox, a junior, rushed for 1,507 yards in 10 games last season at the College of the Siskiyous in northern California. Ford, a 6-3, 205-pound junior, had 58 catches for Arizona Western. And Brooks, a St. Louis native, is a 6-6, 240-pound tight end who played at Scottsdale Community College last season.
With an influx of new players arriving this summer, senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson said he was pleased with how the team responded to workouts under new strength and conditioning director Scott Holsopple.
“I’ve been really surprised and encouraged by how well the young guys — the freshmen, the transfer guys, some of the juco guys — have worked,” Hawkinson said. “They don’t question anything. They just go out there, work hard, work their tail off day to day; they’ve done a great job so far.”
Holsopple, who arrived in January, has thus far drawn high marks from Weis and players while addressing a perceived weakness of the previous regime. “The workouts in the summer have been pretty tough, not only with the heat, but with what he’s running us through,” Hawkinson said. “In the winter, as well, they started off right away full speed. With what he’s doing, there’s really no question about what he’s putting you through. You know it’s going to carry over and help you out on the field.”
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