Five thoughts from Kansas’ open football practice

08/16/2014 5:28 PM

08/17/2014 9:20 AM

The Kansas football program opened its afternoon practice to the public on Saturday, holding its annual Fan Appreciation Day of preseason camp.

On other practice days, Kansas allows the media to watch the first 20 minutes of practice, which consists of some stretching, running and positional drills. It’s tough to glean much from those little snippets of football, but here are five thoughts from the Jayhawks’ open practice on Saturday.

1. AVERY FIGHTING FOR TIME: Freshman running back Corey Avery spent some time with the first-team offense during 11-on-11 drills. A shifty runner with some burst, expect Avery to play this season. Charlie Weis has said that he likes Avery’s ability to make people miss. Seniors Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox have more experience, but Avery may have more potential than any running back on the roster.

2. YOUNG RECEIVER TO WATCH: Receivers coach Eric Kiesau has said he’d like to get two freshmen receivers in the mix this year, perhaps with a nod toward next season. The Jayhawks have three senior receivers (Tony Pierson, Nick Harwell and Justin McCay) in the rotation, and it could be beneficial to give their future replacements some game experience. So here’s one young receiver to watch: Derrick Neal.

Listed at 5 feet 10 and 155 pounds, Neal is a little on the slight side. But he can definitely run and he showed off some impressive hands during receiving drills on Saturday.

3. THE KICKING BATTLE: Sophomore kicker Matthew Wyman looked a little shaky during the special-teams portion of practice, making just three of seven field-goal attempts. (He wasn’t helped by some poor snaps.) It’s a sample size of one practice, but freshman kicker John Duvic was a little more accurate.

4. THE QUESTIONS UP FRONT: It’s no surprise there are major question marks on the offensive line. This is Kansas football, after all. For now, the starters appear to be the same unit that was listed on the initial depth chart at the start of camp: Left tackle Pat Lewandowski; left guard Ngalu Fusimalohi; center Keyon Haughton; right guard Mike Smithburg; right tackle Damon Martin.

5. SHORT IN THE MIX: Cornerback Kevin Short, a junior college transfer who became eligible this year, spent time with the first-team defense on Saturday. He also looks like an option in the return game. Starting cornerback Dexter McDonald sat out portions of Saturday’s practice, allowing Short to step in, but it’s a safe bet that Short will see substantial snaps this season.

To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to rdodd@kcstar.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.

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