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Lance Leipold on injuries, special teams, JB Brown stepping up

As the Jayhawks head into the final week of fall camp, the anticipation and preparation starts to get more intense. Head coach Lance Leipold talked about various depth chart question marks, gave an injury update, and talked about his strategy for how hard to push his players and keep them healthy through one of the most important parts of the college football calendar.

The latest on injuries

It goes without saying that there are going to be some bumps and bruises throughout training camp, especially coming off the first scrimmage. The biggest headline throughout camp in Lawrence has been the injury concern of quarterback Jalon Daniels.

Daniels has not been taking reps for three practices the media have been allowed to be at now. While he takes the cake for the highest injury concern, Leipold cited a number of other names that are limited as well. Those names include:

-Taiwan Berryhill

-Craig Young

-Mello Dotson

-OJ Burroughs

It seems that there is an good amount of caution being used with the injury report as the Jayhawks inch closer to their opener on Sept. 1. Protecting his Preseason Offensive Big 12 Player of the Year is going to be a priority for Leipold.

Despite the injuries, there is a silver lining. Each position group is becoming more versatile as the Jayhawks seek to have their best players on the field, instead of the next guy on the depth chart.

“You're trying to evaluate it all, you're watching some individuals, but collectively units are going to work together aren't quite there yet,” Leipold said.

While Daniels would obviously be the top quarterback on the depth chart, Leipold has a lot of confidence in Jason Bean.

“I think you haven't talked enough about them but I know we talked about it last year,” Leipold said. “I really think, once again, Jason Bean's having a very fine camp, and that's showing.”

Among all of the injuries mentioned, Leipold also said that “The receiver group has been another group that's had guys out a little bit,” without giving any specific names. All in all, it seems like there are a lot of bumps and bruises, but there haven’t been indications that anyone’s week one is in jeopardy.

Leipold said new punter Damon Greaves has exceeded expectations
Leipold said new punter Damon Greaves has exceeded expectations

Leipold pleased with how fall camp has gone so far

The talk amongst spring ball was about how physical it has been. Fall camp can be a great time to measure the toughness of the team and to get the most out of them. Leipold admits that fall camp is “the toughest time,” for his players, but is liking the feedback he’s been getting from them.

“This is the best schedule we ever put together for the guys with rotation of how many practices, a day off, when we're doing it, the couple night practices,” Leipold said. “I was talking to Dominick Puni yesterday…This is the best his body has felt.”

As the end of fall camp closes in, it’s been Leipold’s goal to make sure that the team stays focused and finishes it out the way it’s supposed to.

“This stretch right now, today and tomorrow is probably the toughest stretch because then we're off on Tuesday,” Leipold said. “We head towards the weekend with Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Then we're getting ready for school to start. So there's light at the end of the tunnel of camp after Tuesday probably. So this is the grind part of it, if there is going to be one. We've addressed that and talked about it.”

Leipold is impressed with the commitment of his players so far, as they’ve been taking care of the little things.

“Our hydration, all those things have been better,” Leipold said. “Again, I admire their work ethic and what they do to get ready.”

The competition is still in full swing for special teams

The Jayhawks have added depth in a place where they haven’t traditionally had much. Leipold will have some decisions to make when it comes to kicker and punter this season, and he’s letting the process play out on the place-kicking front.

“I really like where we're at consistency-wise,” Leipold said. “I haven't asked and that's on purpose yet to see the charting numbers. I want it to go a little bit longer before I really study that.”

Leipold mentioned that Seth Keller, Charlie Weinrich, and Owen Piepergerdes all “have all done a good job and had their days.”

The Jayhawks added a new, international, weapon at punter this season with Damon Greaves. Greaves made his way from Australia, where he played in the Australian Football League.

“There's a lot new to him as well, so we’ve got to make sure, but I don't care how old you are, you pack up and you move to a new culture and a way of doing things and fit in well with the guys,” Leipold said. “He's a humble guy, he's mature, all those things. So yeah, excited and probably better than I expected.”

Reis Vernon occupied the spot last year, and it will be interesting to see who comes out for the first punt of the season.

On the kickoff front, Tabor Allen handled most of the kickoff responsibilities last season, but Owen Piepergerdes is competing. Piepergerdes started to see the field more toward the end of last season, and Leipold made it seem like him and Allen are in a battle for the kickoff spot.

“Tabor can [kick field goals] as well,” Leipold said. “But really like the fact that when we keep him on kickoffs, but then Owen has also kicked off very well. He's a big strong guy. Again, I like our options there and the production we're getting.”

JB Brown to be the fourth linebacker

The Kansas linebacking core of Taiwan Berryhill, Craig Young, and Rich Miller seems to be set in stone as the starters for that group. However, JB Brown has caught the attention of linebackers coach Chris Simpson, Leipold, and the three linebackers in front of him.

The coaching staff has made it very clear that they are looking for the best combination of players for when the linebackers get mixed and matched. Berryhill has been taking limited reps with his injury status, and so Brown has been there to fill that role.

“He's been, so far, everything we've wanted, and what we thought he could add to our defense and to our program,” Leipold said of Brown. “He's a physical player, great acceleration, speed. Still learning our system and doing things, but he's going to help us this year.”

While he’s still learning the system, Leipold has no doubt that he’d be able to plug Brown in when he needs to do it.

Brown comes into Kansas from Bowling Green last season. He played in every game the Falcons have played during the last three years. He’s been very reliable throughout his college career, and his hard-hitting style of play is expected to help the Jayhawks create depth behind some starters that accounted for 200 of the 888 total Jayhawk tackles last year.

“It's not that we're sitting there going like, ‘He's got miles to go in figuring this out,’" Leipold said. “He's doing fine because he shows up every day. Every day there's something. If there's a hole and a gap there, and there's something to go, he doesn't hesitate. He goes, and he's in the backfield, and he can run sideline to sideline for us as good as anybody at that position. So, those things are all encouraging.”