Juco defensive lineman Jordan Tavai has arrived on campus and was at practice on Friday afternoon. Tavai, a 6-3, 290-pound transfer from El Camino Community College in Torrance, Calif., practiced in a helmet and jersey but no pads.
That leaves fellow juco defensive lineman Ty McKinney as the only player that has yet to report to fall camp. McKinney, like Tavai, has been finishing academic duties at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
KU coach Charlie Weis previously said that McKinney would arrive a few days after Tavai, and all signs point to an arrival in the coming days. Both Tavai and McKinney are candidates to crack the Jayhawks’ two-deep rotation on the defensive line. Weis has said that he won’t punish them for their late arrivals, stating that the best players would be starting when KU opens the season against South Dakota State on Sept. 1.
McKinney, 6-3 and 310 pounds, is listed on the depth chart behind starter John Williams at the nose position. Earlier in camp, Weis said Tavai was still a candidate to play inside or outside on the defensive line.
“It’s all going to depend on the competition that occurs before he gets here,” Weis said of Tavai.
As a sophomore at El Camino Community College, Tavai finished recorded 58 tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbled while being selected an All-America by the California Community College Football Coaches Association.
“If we look better at defensive tackle, then he’ll be a defensive end," Weis said. "If we look better at defensive end, then he’ll be a defensive tackle.”
Scott Holsopple, the Jayhawks’ first-year strength and conditioning coordinator, pieced together a book in the offseason that documented the physical progress of each one of KU’s players. The goal was simple: Give the players a visual cue for how much progress they made — or didn’t make — while in the offseason training program.
Weis and the coaching staff marveled at some of the “before-and-after” pictures when Holsopple showed him the book before the start of fall camp. And on Friday, Holsopple identified junior defensive tackle Keba Agostinho as an example of a player that had undergone a drastic transformation. Since last season, Agostinho has morphed from a 6-2, 250-pound defensive end to a 280-pound defensive tackle.
“You have to have some genetics with you,” Holsopple said of the weight gain. “And No. 2, you just follow through with the accountability. It’s just eating enough calories.
“It’s the difference between ‘Am I gonna go home and lay down? Or am I gonna go home and have a peanut and jelly sandwich, and drink a chocolate milk, and then lay down.'”Ragone settling in
Senior tight end Mike Ragone, a transfer from Notre Dame, has just one season to make an impact at Kansas. But after spending the summer in Lawrence, he already feels right at home in his first fall camp with the Jayhawks.
Ragone, who carries a lean 255 pounds on his 6-foot-4 frame, suffered through an injury-plagued career at Notre Dame; he made just one catch before a season-ending knee injury last season. But he’s currently slated to start at tight end for Weis, the man who recruited him to Notre Dame. That’s left only one complaint for Ragone, a proud native of south New Jersey.
“There’s no Italian restaurants out here,” Ragone said. “That’s kind of disappointing. Not even Olive Garden. I don’t even know where an Olive Garden is. It’s terrible. You know what I mean? New Jersey. We don’t even go to Olive Garden.”Cummings in battle
Last season, freshman quarterback Michael Cummings bided his time on the sidelines, redshirting as the Jayhawks struggled to a 2-10 finish. Recruited to KU by former coach Turner Gill, Cummings is now adapting to Weis' pro-style system.
“I’ve grasped the offense easier with time,” said Cummings, who used the spring to learn under starter Dayne Crist. “Coming from the spring into the summer and now into the fall. I feel comfortable with the offense.”
Weis has said that Cummings was miscast as a dual-threat quarterback, touting his arm strength. But in order to cement himself as the Jayhawks’ back-up quarterback, he’ll have to beat out juco transfer Turner Baty.
“There’s competition between us, too,” Cummings conceded. “But at the same time, we’re all on the same team. We’re in the quarterback room; we’re all working to get better.”Open practice
KU will have an open practice on Saturday morning, beginning at 8:45 a.m. Fans can sit on the west side of Memorial Stadium, with gates opening at 8:15. Weis and players will sign autographs for 30 minutes after practice.