Spotlight Finds Freshmen
LAWRENCE, Kan. – With classes starting on Monday, the Kansas football is in the home stretch of its annual fall camp gauntlet after completing two weeks of continuous meetings, conditioning and practices. On Thursday, head coach Charlie Weis made a group of freshmen available to the media for the first time.
In all, 12 players – all of which were freshmen with the exception of junior college transfer De’Andre Mann – conducted their debut interviews as Jayhawks on Thursday.
With injuries hampering the running back position, Weis is still looking at that position group with some confidence thanks to newcomers Mann and freshman Corey Avery.
“Based on perspective and perception of what I’ve seen, I’ve been very excited about Corey,” Weis said. “He makes people miss and that excites me.”
In his first season, out of the Dallas area, Avery, described some of the reasons Weis might be excited about his future.
“I’m a quick running back, explosive – not overpowering – but I’m a speedy guy,” Avery said.
Avery anticipated that those traits would get him on the field during his first season in Lawrence, but not as early on in his career.
“I always felt like I’d be a part of the team, whether it was a big way or a small way,” Avery said. “Now, that those guys went down I’m going to have to step up and take on a bigger role.”
Weis added that along with Avery, Mann is a different kind of dynamic runner who would have challenged for a spot on the field before the slew of injuries.
“De’Andre is challenging for No. 1, as well,” Weis said. “There’s quite the competition. De’Andre is a natural runner, and he also has a second gear that’s good to see on the field sometimes with a guy who’s 5-9, 205. You see that short, stocky guy and you say, ‘He’s not going to be able to run like that,’ but he can.”
Mann isn’t concerned about who is chosen to start games or who is out there getting the primary carries. He pointed out that the running back position is one where depth is needed and that in order to keep guys healthy teams have to rotate running backs.
“I believe in my talent and I’m a hard worker too,” Mann said. “These days you need three or four running backs and I’m just pretty confident in myself.”
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, the coaching staff has been excited about the possibilities at linebacker and in the secondary with a group of new players that have been impressing in camp so far.
Weis pointed out freshman linebacker Kyron Watson was going to be tough to keep off of the field in week one. Watson, who is listed at 6-0, 230 pounds, isn’t just a defender who can make tackles between the hashes, but can play in space and displays sideline-to-sideline speed.
“Kyron, who’s learning behind and sitting there behind Ben and a couple other guys, will be pushing,” Weis said. “Kyron is a sideline-to-sideline player, and he’s got leadership that’s a little bit suppressed because he’s a freshman, but he’s one of those guys that you can see down the line potentially being in that role.”
Even after Weis praised his speed, Watson acknowledged that he still has a lot of things to catch up on in order to put himself in the best position possible to play early on. He cited that the transition from high school to college football has been an eye-opening experience.
“Lately I’ve just been trying to take every snap I can, every rep I can, and just learn things I have to do to be a better player,” Watson said. “I’m trying to adjust from high school to college football and the speed of the game.”
In the secondary, veteran leadership has helped freshman cornerback Matthew Boateng improve and he, like many other underclassmen on the team are ready to step up and help the team when called on in the upcoming season.
“(Camp) It’s been great,” Boateng said. “With one-on-ones or seven-on-sevens I learn a lot from just sitting back and watching them (JaCorey Shepherd and Dexter McDonald). If they see me mess up on something they help me out. I’m very coachable, I feel like I can learn a lot from the guys in right now and I feel like I can fill some big shoes when needed.”
KU KICKOFF AT CORINTH SQUARE
The ninth annual KU Kickoff at Corinth Square, sponsored by First National Bank, will be held on Friday, Aug. 22, beginning at 6 p.m.
Kansas Athletics and the KU Alumni Association will join forces to host the family-friendly event located at 83rd & Mission Road in Prairie Village, Kansas. KU football head coach Charlie Weis and women’s basketball head coach Bonnie Henrickson will each address the crowd at Corinth Square.
Also sponsored by Shawnee Mission Health, the KU Kickoff at Corinth Square will include food, drinks and KU giveaways as well as inflatable games for kids. The band Coversmith is scheduled to perform from 8-10 p.m. A limited number of coupons for Corinth Square vendors will be available for members of the KU Alumni Association and Williams Education Fund who show their membership cards.
On Friday requested football staff will round out KU’s media availability for players and assistant coaches for the rest of the 2014 fall camp.
To stay up to date during fall camp follow the Jayhawks online via 2014 Fall Camp Central and on Twitter @KU_Football.
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