Two-Minute Drill: Through the Lens
Written by Jeff Jacobsen
Kansas Athletics Staff Photographer
The bolts of lighting and strong rumbles of thunder that awakened everyone in the Lawrence area early Saturday morning were something very new. It was not the rain and clattering storms, it was the fact this was happening on KU football photo and media day. In the 18 years covering this day for the Jayhawks, the key element always remembered most was searing heat.
As the team’s orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jeff Randall said, “It never rains in August in Kansas.”
That might not be totally correct, but the point is that Saturday’s opening event in a long day designed to showcase the KU football program was nearly postponed or cancelled for the day due to the storms. For every KU fan, the fact the storms blew away from Memorial Stadium just in time for all the photographs to be taken and press conferences to be held on time could be viewed as a good omen for the season to come.
With a new head coach in David Beaty, a new staff and so many new players, everyone that attended media day in the morning and Fan Appreciation Day in the late afternoon and early evening needed a roster to be sure exactly where everyone fit into the season’s plans. As the athletic department’s photographer, the morning provided an opportunity to further put faces to the names on the long list of Jayhawks that started practice on Thursday. It was also a joy to see players smiling and anxious to prove themselves knowing that the days will grow harder and longer from this point forward.
Since we live in a very visual world now filled with social media of all shapes and forms, players of today are much more photographically savvy. The “herding cattle” toil of the old days is much easier for the simple position groups, recruiting area groups and individual photographs. Everything went faster than normal. There was time for the serious photographs needed for KU’s program and recruiting needs, but also time for some fun photographs and friendly banter between coaches and players as the groups were setup for each photograph.
The quick pace allowed more time for the photographers from the local media in Lawrence, Topeka and Kansas City to use their creative skills. The steely sky of the morning even lent drama to the photographs. With the cloud cover, no one could really complain about the heat and no one could claim they could not see due to burning sun of past years. Players anxiously checked the back of photographer’s digital cameras. Their roars of delight and laughter made it clear they liked what they were seeing.
By late in the morning, coach Beaty stood before the media filled with excitement over the condition of the players and their attitudes so early in the process to not just resurrect the program but set a course that will see KU back in the bowl game hunt. Listening to the enthusiasm in Beaty’s voice, those two events might happen sooner than anyone expects.
By the early evening, clouds gave way to blue sky. With the high humidity, working up a serious sweat proved easy. Coach Beaty promises a fast-paced, high-octane spread offense and attacking defense. The fans in the stands had to be impressed with the efficient manner the Jayhawks went about their tasks.
With a coaching staff brimming with enthusiasm that constantly barked out words of instruction backed up with confidence-building encouragement, the players moved from drill to drill at a pace not seen at KU in years. Their enthusiasm alone would seem good for two extra wins in a season. Drills covered every aspect of a game, including punt blocking and ball security, at a dizzying pace intended to condition the players for the demands of their new offensive and defensive schemes.
Granted, this was only the third practice of the season but the spirit seemed contagious. During a drill pitting an offensive lineman against a defensive lineman, held right next to the stands, fans enjoyed the fierce battles that more than once ended with intense scuffles between players.
When linebacker Josh Ehambe pancaked a lineman to the turf, his defensive teammates swarmed him in celebration. Quickly, though, veterans T.J. Semke and Ben Goodman, Jr., pulled him aside to show him techniques he could add to his skill set. On a team that is working to build depth through an intensive walk-on program, the leadership of veterans like Semke and Goodman is paramount in setting the proper tone for the season.
The quickness needed to run a no-huddle spread offense at times had offensive coordinator Rob Likens jumping up and down out of frustration over rapid communication breakdowns from the sidelines, but that is to be expected after the change from a much slower-paced pro-style offense.
Everyone that follows KU football knows there is much work to be done, but again fans saw a head coach actively involved in every aspect of his team’s preparations. One moment he was helping with a tackling drill and the next tossing volleyballs into the air for players to work on punt blocking technique. The promise coach Beaty made to the fans on his first day in Lawrence has continued right through these early fall practices. Whatever it takes to out-work other programs in the Big 12, Beaty is ready and so it would seem are the players.
While the day started with dreary weather, the Fan Appreciation Day turned into a team appreciation day as the fans thanked the players not only for the post-practice autographs they received, but also for the effort they displayed in their first public practice.
As the sweat-drenched players relaxed with the cooling relief of popsicles, the smiles on their faces proved there still is a real player and fan connection filled with hopes for KU football.
Reports Fall Camp ArchiveCamp Central
8/5 – Football is Back!
8/6 – Substitutions?
8/7 – The Little Things
8/8 – Media Day
8/8 – Thru the Lens
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