KU football players identify potential under the radar gems
During every football season, there’s always a few players who make unexpected rises through the depth chart.
As the Kansas football team opens its fall camp Monday, players have watched their teammates progress through summer weight lifting, 7-on-7 games, individual drills and other preparations for the upcoming year.
Which players will find their way into the starting lineup and making plays on Saturday? A few KU players shared their best guesses.
Dorance Armstrong Jr., the Big 12’s preseason defensive player of the year, said the entire defensive line unit has impressed him. He’s seen some progress from 6-foot-2, 245-pound sophomore Maciah Long, who has already played several positions for the Jayhawks including quarterback.
“He’s a guy that puts in the work to learn the defensive end position because it’s not the same as linebacker and stuff,” Armstrong said. “Everybody in general is just putting in the same amount of work to be better. They know we have to be better in order to be a better team.”
When Armstrong arrived to campus for his freshman season, he was undersized but used his speed to his advantage. He said sophomore defensive end Isaiah Bean has some similarities to himself a few years ago.
“He’s a smaller guy, but his speed and his physicality, I don’t even know a word for it, is just amazing,” Armstrong said of the 6-4, 210-pound Bean. “I like his motor. He goes 100 percent every rep for everything he do.”
The Jayhawks return plenty of depth at linebacker after several injuries at the position last year. Keith Loneker Jr., a transfer from nearby Baker University, recorded 43 tackles and four pass breakups.
Loneker and Joe Dineen Jr., who sat out most of last year with a hamstring injury, are expected to be starters, but they are confident there’s plenty of options to help the team.
“We’ve got a freshmen who came in during the spring named Kyron Johnson. He can play,” Dineen said. “He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s physical. He’s going to be a good one for us.”
Dineen recognized Osaze Ogbebor, who registered 12 tackles in six games last year, as a “solid guy” who will be in line for more playing time. Dineen added that he was impressed by Dru Prox, Denzel Feaster and his younger brother Jay Dineen throughout the summer.
“I think linebacker, we’ve got a lot of depth and we’ve got a lot of guys who can make some plays,” Dineen said.
On the offensive side of the ball, there’s plenty of attention on the depth at receiver, the quarterback race between Peyton Bender and Carter Stanley, and the speed of the team’s top running backs.
But the key will be on the offensive line, which adds a year of experience from last season. Sophomore Hakeem Adeniji found himself starting as a true freshman last year and he’s confident that the unit will only continue to improve.
“I think there’s a few guys to watch: Chris Hughes, an interior guy, Antione Frazier, Malik Clark, young guys, you have Charles Baldwin, an older guy in there,” Adeniji said. “We’ve got a graduate transfer, Zach Hannon. I think we definitely have a few guys who could compete for some spots.”
After completing summer practices, Adeniji saw one under-the-radar defensive end who he expects to make a big impact.
“I think Josh Ehambe is going to be huge for us this year,” Adeniji said. “There’s a lot of attention on the other guys on the defensive line and I think he’s come the furthest of almost anybody on our team from last year. I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.”