Earlier this month, as the Kansas football program continued its grueling preseason camp, KU coach Charlie Weis made it a point to mention freshman receiver Tre’ Parmalee was already competing for a job.
The statement was short and straight-forward, but it matched up with comments Weis made earlier this summer, when he said Parmalee, a former standout at Bishop Miege, had impressive skills for a young receiver.
On Saturday afternoon, as KU held its first full open practice of August, Parmalee offered a small glimpse of what Weis was talking about. With a crowd in the hundreds dotting the bleachers on the west side of Memorial Stadium, Parmalee caught a short pass and broke free for a touchdown against the second-team defense during seven-on-seven drills. Later, while the Jayhawks worked on special-teams, Parmalee sprinted past the coverage for touchdowns on both punt and kickoff returns.
The final return prompted a smiling Weis to stand up near the sideline and yell at a few reporters: “Did Bishop Miege just become the story for tomorrow?”
Weis, of course, has known of Parmalee for some time. The son of former NFL player Bernie Parmalee, the younger Parmalee spent part of his childhood in South Bend, Ind., while his father worked on Weis’ staff at Notre Dame. Later, both Weis and Bernie Parmalee would take assistant positions for the Chiefs and Tre Parmalee finished out his high school career at Miege, where he played for current KU offensive line coach Tim Grunhard.
So, yes, Parmalee certainly has the genes. But he still wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. Measuring 5 feet 10 and 168 pounds, Parmalee had almost no BCS offers before Weis took the job at Kansas.
“Every time we were turning around, he was making a big play down there,” said senior quarterback Dayne Crist, who spent part of the special-teams practice on the opposite end of the field.
On Saturday, Crist told a quick story of how he remembers seeing a 13- or 14-year-old Parmalee running around the fields at Notre Dame during his first years in South Bend.
“He’s incredibly motivated,” Crist said. “He’s a freshman that’s not scared to compete. He’s coming in with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and trying to make his case that he should be playing.”
Crist showcased his accuracy and knowledge of the offense during Saturday’s one-on-one drills between receivers and cornerbacks and a short seven-on-seven scrimmage. After connecting on a deep ball during one-on-ones, Crist finished 11 for 12 during the seven-on-seven part of practice.
“When you’ve got depth at a playmaking spot,” Crist said, mentioning the receivers, “that’s huge.”
Most of the Jayhawks’ receivers got involved on Saturday, but Crist mentioned senior Kale Pick when asked to name a receiver that’s stood out or surprised during fall camp.
“I’m very confident in all the receivers,” Crist said, “But some of the things Kale’s done athletically have kind of exceeded the expectations I had for him athletically.
“He’s made some great catches, some real athletic catches, some plays where you watch on film and you really ‘wow’ at them a little bit.”
Earlier this month, Weis said he was still searching for another possible kicker to take the load off punter/kicker Ron Doherty, who will likely handle the dual role this season. If Saturday’s results were any indication, Weis may be revving up the search.
The Jayhawks’ kicking game looked shaky in all facets — even the normally reliable Doherty missed a field goal at the end of practice that required the team to run extra. While Doherty took the first-team reps, sophomore Nick Prolago handled the second-team punting reps and freshman Austin Barone served as the backup kicker.
Junior offensive tackle Aslam Sterling, a juco transfer from Nassau Community College (N.Y.), is continuing his camp-long battle to cut weight and get in playing shape after arriving to Lawrence late and missing summer workouts.
On Saturday, senior offensive tackle Tanner Hawkinson said Sterling has looked better since becoming more comfortable with the offensive system. And Sterling has generally drew high marks for his work ethic thus far.
“I think he could be a huge asset to our team,” senior defensive end Toben Opurum said. “No pun intended.”
Junior fullback Nick Sizemore appeared to injure his left foot early in practice on Saturday. He left the field before returning on crutches and a fitted boot on his left foot. Sizemore did not begin the spring on the two-deep depth chart at fullback.