Kansas offensive line coach Tim Grunhard on Friday laid out the framework for the Jayhawks’ offensive line in 2012. As KU took the field for the second practice of fall camp, Grunhard confirmed that senior left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, senior left guard Duane Zlatnik and senior center Trevor Marrongelli were all locked in at their respective spots.
That leaves, for now, three players to battle for the remaining two spots on the right side. Junior Gavin Howard was listed as the starting right guard when KU coach Charlie Weis unveiled the depth chart on Wednesday. The right-tackle spot was listed as a competition between junior Riley Spencer and junior-college transfer Aslam Sterling, who arrived on campus on Thursday.
“It’s a great healthy battle between those three,” said Grunhard, the former Chiefs lineman who left his post as head coach at Bishop Miege to join Weis at Kansas.
Sterling, who checks in at 6 feet 5, 360 pounds, has drawn high marks for his size and athletic ability — he showed off those soft feet during footwork drills on Friday — but he also missed out on spring ball and an entire summer of conditioning work.
When asked whether Sterling’s size would allow him to excel at run-blocking, Grunhard answered, “I think with that body, (he can do) whatever he wants to do.”
“He’s a big powerful guy,” Grunhard added. “We watched him on the film -- boy he comes off with some power. But he also has good feet for a big guy.”
KU coach Charlie Weis has picked defensive-backs coach Clint Bowen, a Lawrence native, and Grunhard to be the lead local recruiters in Kansas and the Kansas City area.
Grunhard, in his first year on the job, is still getting his feet wet in the recruiting game.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Recruiting is a lot tougher than I thought it would be. It’s tough when there’s a lot of buzz about some other programs around. But we’re excited about having some of the guys that we have coming.”
For now, the Jayhawks have three local commitments for 2013 — Bishop Miege quarterback Montell Cozart, SM East quarterback Jordan Darling and Basehor- Linwood tight end Ben Johnson. Darling, in fact, attended practice on Friday and watched the KU quarterbacks run through drills.
It’s early, of course, but Grunhard is also optimistic that KU will be able to find success in the running game. The biggest reason: He believes sophomore Tony Pierson, sophomore Brandon Bourbon, junior James Sims and juco transfer Taylor Cox are all solid options in the backfield.
“I told the (offensive line), just get in the way,” Grunhard said. “Let these guys have an opportunity to run with the football.”
Former Blue Valley West standout Pat Lewandowski, a sophomore, is in his first fall camp as an offensive lineman, a change that he’s embracing with open arms.
Lewandowski said Weis called him about the switch earlier this summer.
“He gave me his thoughts and ideas,” Lewandowski said, “and he told me, ‘Take your time, think about it.’ ”
Ultimately, Lewandowski decided that he’d have a better chance of helping the team on offense, where he’s backing up Hawkinson at left tackle. Grunhard, who remembers watching Lewandowski in the EKL, said he was impressed with how Lewandowski bought into the change.
“He gives us some (high-) quality depth at the left-tackle position,” Weis said, “And we think that he could step in if he had to and compete for us.”
DENT MAKES PROGRESS:
Grunhard is also helping former defensive lineman Randall Dent make the transition to the offensive line. It’s early in the process, Grunhard says, but Dent will continue to find his way.
“Big too-hard-to-handle Randall?” Grunhard said. “Randall is doing good. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. But he’s a big body.”