LAWRENCE — It’s no secret that the Kansas kicking game was one hot mess last season. The Jayhawks’ kickers finished the year 10 of 16 on field goals — and made just three of eight from beyond 30 yards.
It was a categorical debacle, the kind of thing that KU coach Charlie Weis would like to forget. Then again, it was the sort of performance that prompted a reporter at Big 12 Media Days to begin a question with following: “Charlie, the kicking game was nothing short of atrocious last year.…”
“I agree wholeheartedly with your comment,” Weis responded.
And judging by the KU roster, it’s the type of mistake that Weis will never make again. If it seems like the Jayhawks have about 10 kickers in the fold, that’s because it’s pretty close. The Jayhawks began fall camp with six players that could be involved as a place-kicker or punter — and five of them are new faces.
“It makes everyone always have to bring their ‘A’ game everyday to practice,” said Trevor Pardula, a junior-college transfer. “It’s always good to have competition.”
Pardula, a 6-foot-5 kicker who grew up playing soccer in California, figures to fit into the plan in some way. He was recruited specifically to punt and kick off, and could be a factor on field goals as well.
During an open practice earlier this week, Pardula regularly smashed kickoffs through the back of the end zone. And during Saturday’s open scrimmage at Memorial Stadium, Weis sent Pardula out to attempt a 55-yard field goal.
The kick had the distance — but sailed wide.
“I know I had the distance,” Pardula said, “but it didn’t feel good at all.”
On the field goal front, Pardula could have competition from junior-college transfer Michael Mesh, a Hutchinson native, and sophomore Matthew Wyman, who looked sharp during open practices on Friday and Saturday. Senior Ron Doherty, who was 5 of 10 on field-goal attempts last season, is also still competing for time at punter.
Early this week, Weis indicated that he was considering splitting up the kicking duties, even going as far as using a different kicker for short field goals and long field goals.
In that scenario, Pardula would appear to have a leg up on the competition from distance, while Wyman or Mesh could be used as the short man.
“I think this competition is helping us, because it’s pushing us to get better each day,” Mesh said. “Each kicker has a different perspective that can help another kicker.”
Offense stands out — The good news: Quarterback Jake Heaps got off to a blazing start on Saturday, hitting tight end Jimmay Mundine for a 49-yard touchdown pass on the first series of the Jayhawks’ open scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
The bad news, of course, was that the KU second-string defense was gashed for a 49-yard TD.
Heaps, a transfer from BYU, continued his solid spring, linking up with Brandon Bourbon for a 27-yard touchdown and leading another scoring drive that ended with a 63-yard touchdown run from James Sims.