The Jayhawks who stood out most to coaches during spring football

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas head football coach David Beaty addresses the team following the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

After five weeks and 15 practices, one of the most crucial stretches of the Kansas football team’s offseason has come to a conclusion.

Spring ball is over, and the Jayhawks won’t reconvene for full team drills in helmets and pads with David Beaty and his position coaches again until August. It’s all strength and conditioning work with new assistant Zac Woodfin until then.

So who among KU’s many talented returning players had the most productive spring? Coaches don’t typically like to shower their pupils with too much praise, because they don’t want any individual thinking he’s in a position to ease up and stop improving.

But Kansas staff members over the past several weeks did give out player of the day honors for the team’s practice sessions, shouting out a representative from offense, defense and special teams.

The parameters for the acknowledgments, one can assume, are based around focus, consistency, effort and on-the-field impact. But you also can bet there was a classic Beaty “earn it” element to those practice awards, too. Veterans who have been around the program longer and established themselves as reliable and trustworthy tended to have their names and faces pop up on KU football’s Instagram account, the team’s vehicle for announcing the awards. For example: neither of the program’s transfers from Alabama, receiver Daylon Charlot and offensive lineman Charles Baldwin, picked up a player of the day nod.

Using the coaches’ public awards platform, we can get a sense of which players pleased KU coaches the most this spring. In total, 11 different Jayhawks won multiple practice distinctions, but the unofficial player of the spring distinction for Kansas goes to linebacker Joe Dineen, the only player to pick up the award three times.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium.

Team KU receiver Kerr Johnson Jr. (14) is taken to the turf by Team Jayhawk linebacker Joe Dineen Jr. (29) during the first quarter of the 2017 Spring Game on Saturday, April 15 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

Dineen missed most of the 2016 season due to a hamstring injury, but the good news for KU is he looked as fast and effective as ever this spring. What’s more, Dineen still has two years of eligibility remaining, thanks to receiving a medical redshirt for this past year.

As strong as KU’s defensive line projects to be in 2017, Clint Bowen’s defense needs play-makers behind the biggest Jayhawks up front to keep the program on its upward trajectory. Dineen is capable of being one at linebacker, with sophomore safety Mike Lee leading the secondary behind him.

Ten other Jayhawks won player of the day on two occasions: sophomore tackle Hakeem Adeniji, junior All-Big 12 defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr., junior receiver Jeremiah Booker, sophomore cornerback Hasan Defense, junior defensive end Josh Ehambe, sophomore receiver Chase Harrell, senior receiver Bobby Hartzog Jr., senior tight end BenJohnson, junior running back Taylor Martin and senior kicker Gabriel Rui.

The names that stand out most from that group are Defense and Harrell, because they’re un-tested underclassmen.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017.

Kansas cornerback Hasan Defense talks with Prinz Kande, a member of the defensive staff, right, during spring football practice on Tuesday, March 28, 2017. by Nick Krug

Cornerbacks coach Kenny Perry needs Defense, who played his freshman season at Kilgore College (Texas), to play like a starting Big 12 defensive back immediately, because KU lost two starters at the position. A solid spring is an ideal jumping-off point for the aptly named Defense as he continues his offseason. If he stood out against KU’s receivers, that’s an excellent sign.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017.

Kansas receiver Chase Harrell catches a pass over an obstacle during practice on Thursday, April 6, 2017. by Nick Krug

Conversely, offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham is in charge of the unit’s most talented position group. The man calling plays for Kansas already has Steven Sims Jr., Daylon Charlot, LaQuvionte Gonzalez and Ryan Schadler at his disposal. But none of those targets have Harrell’s size. The redshirt sophomore from Huffman, Texas, is 6-foot-4, strong and proved in KU’s spring game he can get up high and make spectacular catches. Harrell seems on target to have a breakthrough season and KU’s offense needs all the weapons it can get while it continues to play catch-up with the rest of the Big 12.

These standouts and others have more chances ahead of them to improve over the course of football’s lengthy offseason, but it’s interesting to see which Jayhawks the coaching staff chose to commend during the spring.

KU football’s spring players of the day

Practice No. 1

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Derrick Neal, sr., CB

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 2

  • Offense: Hunter Saulsbury, so., OL

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

Practice No. 3

  • Offense: Taylor Martin, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

Practice No. 4

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE

  • Defense: Keith Loneker Jr., jr., LB

  • Special teams: Tyler Patrick, jr., WR

Practice No. 5

  • Offense: Reese Randall, jr., RB

  • Defense: Hasan Defense, so., CB

  • Special teams: Kyle Mayberry, so., CB

Practice No. 6

  • Offense: Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Osaze Ogbebor, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Bryce Torneden, so., S

Practice No. 7

  • Offense: Ryan Schadler, jr., WR

  • Defense: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

  • Special teams: Gabriel Rui, sr., K

Practice No. 8

  • Offense: Evan Fairs, so., WR / Hakeem Adeniji, so., OL

  • Defense: Maciah Long, so., DE

  • Special teams: Ryan Renick, RS-fr., TE

Practice No. 9

  • Offense: Steven Sims Jr., jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Dorance Armstrong Jr., jr., DE

Practice No. 10

  • Offense: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

  • Defense: Daniel Wise, jr., DT

  • Special teams: J.J. Holmes, jr., DT

Practice No. 11

  • Offense: Chase Harrell, so., WR

  • Defense: Isi Holani, sr., DT

  • Special teams: Bobby Hartzog Jr., sr., WR

Practice No. 12

(Walk-through day before spring game — no awards given)

Practice No. 13 — spring game

  • Offense: Ben Johnson, sr., TE / Peyton Bender, jr., QB

  • Defense: Josh Ehambe, jr., DE

  • Special teams: Cole Moos, sr., P

Practice No. 14

  • Offense: Jeremiah Booker, jr., WR

  • Defense: Joe Dineen, jr., LB

  • Special teams: Chase Harrell, so., WR

Practice No. 15

(Results not available)

Player of the Day Standings

Dineen (3)

Adeniji (2)

Armstrong (2)

Booker (2)

Defense (2)

Ehambe (2)

Harrell (2)

Hartzog (2)

B. Johnson (2)

Martin (2)

Rui (2)

Bender

Fairs

Holani

Holmes

Loneker

Long

Mayberry

Moos

Neal

Ogbebor

Patrick

Randall

Renick

Saulsbury

Schadler

Sims

Torneden

Wise

Comments

Carl Anderson

I have to say that maybe the most exciting part of this story, to me, is that so few of these names are seniors. I'm excited for this season, and the future.

3 months, 4 weeks ago

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