Taking on a leadership role
Several players said summer workouts were very tough compared to last year. Senior wide receiver Daymond Patterson singled out Jordan Webb as one of the players that became a leader in the off-season conditioning.
When spring football ended Webb got a vote of confidence. Kansas head coach Turner Gill said Webb had the edge as the starting quarterback, but that wasn't good enough for Webb.
Last season there were discussions that Webb and Quinn Mecham were in a quarterback battle. When Webb was ready to come back from injury Mecham had shown signs he could lead the team. Plus the coaches signed two quarterbacks who would be in the mix.
"I knew going in I was going to be in a quarterback battle," Webb said. "After spring ball I knew it was time for me to step up or I won't see the field. There is competition and as a competitor you have to feel that. I knew I had to improve."
Patterson said Webb is surprisingly one of the stronger players on the team. Webb admits for his size he has good numbers in the weight room especially in the clean (lift). His hard work was noticeable to his teammates.
"It has helped the way guys look at me," Webb said. "I worked a lot on my foot quickness that's the most important thing as a quarterback. I feel the improvement on the field. It helps a lot. I'm about the same weight but I lost some of that fat and gained muscle. I feel a lot better."
Toben ready to go
If there has been a weakness in recent years on defense it is pass rushing. Even when the Jayhawks won the Orange Bowl they finished 64th in the nation in sacks. Last year they ranked 105th and last in the Big 12.
That's where Toben Opurum comes in.
Opurum has a full season of defense on his resume after moving from running back. The defense will give multiple looks but when a pass-rushing situation comes up it is a given Opurum will be coming off the edge.
When the players weighed in Tuesday morning Opurum was at his ideal size.
"I hit 251 the other day that's the heaviest I have ever been," he said. "Right now I am down to my natural weight at about 243-244. That's where I will end up staying and playing this year."
When he arrived at Kansas he was 235. He worked hard to gain weight to battle offensive tackles after changing positions.
"I think the size I'm at right now is good," he said. "I'm able to maintain my speed and be able to do what they ask me to. I've got to be able to drop back in coverage and I'm strong enough to come off the edge."
More news and notes
-- This week the defense got good news when Pat Lewandowski, Kevin Young, and John Williams all returned to the line up. The defensive line isn't a deep unit and can't afford any injuries. The interior part of the line will need Young and Williams all season.
"When you get guys like Kevin back who is explosive off the d-line and John Williams back it helps. (Williams) is really athletic for a guy that size," Opurum said. "They help on the inside and we definitely need it."
-- The toughest position battle appears to be running back. The coaches have acknowledged that Brandon Bourbon is coming on strong and it is a crowded backfield. That has made each player step up their game.
"It's a heated competition every day it seems like everyone is trying as hard as they can to get the spot," Bourbon said. "I feel like if it was just one guy who was named the starter then other guys would accept the role and settle underneath him. Right now we are all going as hard as we can."
-- Usually the team starts preparation for their next opponent on Sunday. Since this is the first game they are expected to start work on McNeese State on Friday.
-- There is still no word from the NCAA on defensive end Javonte Daniel. The three-star defensive end from Georgia is still waiting from the clearinghouse.