Three in the Kee: Lasting impressions from spring ball at KU, Mizzou and K-State
MANHATTAN, Kan. — There were two common threads along I-70 (and slightly north, in the case of The Little Apple) this month, at least as far as Saturday football was concerned:
1) The weather was, more often than not, gorgeous;
2) The defenses were ahead of the offenses. And not by a little. By a lot.
Take the latter with a grain of salt, of course, the way you should take most things from a game in which quarterbacks can’t be tackled and scoring is up to the whims of that particular head coach.
It’s going to take some breaks for Missouri to repeat at SEC East champs, but as the new starters on the defensive line showed, it’s certainly not a leap of faith, either. While the Tigers need to replace, en masse, arguably the best receiving corps in the history of the program, Kansas State must settle on viable answers at tailback, left tackle and safety (and the jury’s still out on all three). Kansas coach Charlie Weis is still standing on the U.S.S. Jayhawk with his captain’s hat, trying in vain to get a stuck wheel to move and turn that big ol’ battleship in the right direction.
Spring football is better than nothing, mind you, even if it promises you much of the same. The summer beckons. And so do the possibilities …
THREE LAST OBSERVATIONS FROM SPRING FOOTBALL AT KU, MU AND K-STATE
:03 … KANSAS: THE READ OPTION COULD BE A VERY, VERY NICE WRINKLE …
… with new starting quarterback Montell Cozart running it. Look, we’ll be frank: No one saw much from the first-team offensive line that inspired much confidence, and that just isn’t going to fly with a pure drop-back passer (looking at you, Jake Heaps) trying to survive in the pocket.
New offensive coordinator John Reagan will try to make the best out of what he’s got. Which, at the moment, is a slew of capable, multifaceted tailbacks, a quarterback with good wheels and … ummm … a lot of question marks just about everywhere else.
How well Cozart can stick as a real-life, Big 12 starter will depend largely on one thing: The former Bishop Miege standout will have to throw the ball well enough to keep defenses honest enough to allow the space near the line of scrimmage for a true option game to work. Otherwise, it’s another fall of more of the same: loaded boxes, third-and-forevers and all kinds of opportunities for punter Trevor Pardula to work his magic. We love Pardula, but the less Weis has to see of the guy, the happier everybody along Mount Oread is going to be.
:02 … MIZZOU: THE ‘O’ WILL GO AS FAR AS THE LINE WILL CARRY IT
Tailback Marcus Murphy provided the lightning this month, running mate Morgan Steward the thunder. But if the Tigers are to replicate the prolific success of last autumn’s offensive attack, it’ll have to start up front. Again.
It was a spring of moving parts: Mitch Morse switched from right tackle to left tackle, protecting Maty Mauk’s blind spot, while 2013’s right guard, Connor McGovern, took over Morse’s old right tackle slot.
"I think we’re all good in our certain positions and we’re all good at certain things," noted senior lineman Anthony Gatti, who’s expected to nail down one of the guard spots. "If they want to move us around … we’ll be up for it. But I think everybody’s kind of settling down in their positions. Which is good."
:01 … KANSAS STATE: COME BACK SOON, TYLER LOCKETT (SERIOUSLY)
From the get-go, the Wildcats’ first-team offense didn’t exactly, shall we say, light the world on fire Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Which led to this question being posed to quarterback Jake Waters after the tilt:
Miss Tyler Lockett much?
"Yeah," Waters, who completed 26 of 38 throws on the day, said of Lockett, the All-Big 12 wideout who sat out because of an injury. "Uh, yeah, he’ll help."
Lockett caught 81 balls last fall — more receptions than the rest of K-State’s entire spring roster.
So, yeah. He’ll help.
"Curry (Sexton) was the receiver out there who had experience, and those other guys, that was the first time playing pretty much in a live game," Waters continued. "So they’re going to get better. They’re going to learn from this, too. So I’m not worried at all."
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter at @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.