Notebook: Competition heating up during week on OL

Jon Kirby, Publisher- Football Editor
Jayhawk Slant

Kansas head coach David Beaty started off his Tuesday press conference with good and bad news on the injury front.

This could be the week they get back players for the first time this year.

“Shaq Richmond, who we haven't had for a long time, good to see he's possibly got a chance to be back this week,” Beaty said. “He's responding well to his treatment.”

Last year Richmond played in seven games for the Jayhawks and was figured to be competing starting job going into fall camp.

The Jayhawks might also get the services of running back Taylor Martin who held the top spot during fall camp. The defense could get more help if linebacker Denzell Feaster returns.

“We certainly would love to have him back in that lineup as well,” Beaty said of Martin. “We've been missing some depth there at linebacker and he’s a talented guy (about Feaster). Think he can help us.”

The news wasn’t as good for a couple of defensive players. Beaty announced Isi Holani will miss the rest of the season with an injury. Holani was getting a lot of snaps at nose tackle. And starting nickel-back Derrick Nea’s status is up in the air.

“He may or may not be available,” Beaty said of Neal. “We'll see how that goes.”

Beaty says it comes down to how they play

Beaty said he is excited to get the conference slate going this week against West Virginia. He recognized the good year the Mountaineers had last season and the fact Dana Holgorsen won coach of the year honors by various media outlets.

But Beaty said the game will come down to how the Jayhawks play.

“The thing about this week for us, it really continues to be about us,” he said. “It's not as much about them because we certainly can't control them. What we can control is us. We can control our development. We've got some obviously younger players in some positions, but our coaches are going to continue to coach them up and continue to develop them.”

West Virginia lost some key defensive players from 2016 but Beaty thinks their defensive coordinator Tony Gibson always has them prepared.

“On the defensive side, Gibby is as good a coach as there is I think in the league when it comes to defending spread offense stuff,” Beaty said. “He'll always be a challenge to coach against, plus he's got a lot of fast guys over there. A little bit of youth, new starters. They lost a bunch from last year. You really wouldn't notice it on tape so far.”

Herbert takes advantage of opportunity

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Khalil Herbert started the season as the Jayhawks second-leading rusher returning from last season. But during week two it was freshman Dom Williams and transfer Deron Thompson who saw a lot of the carries.

Against Ohio Herbert entered the game as a back-up and rushed for 137 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.

“We challenged him,” Beaty said. “He was a guy that kind of had slid down the chart a little bit. We certainly challenged him. He's such a good kid, it wasn't a problem. He really made a focus to get himself ready. When that opportunity came, he capitalized on it, which is exactly what you want. I thought he played really, really well.”

Hannon, Tovi top depth chart but competition ongoing 

This will be a big week of competition for the offensive line. Last week Andru Tovi replaced Jayson Rhodes and Zach Hannon played most of the game at right tackle after Antione Frazier started.

Tovi and Hannon both showed up this summer as newcomers. Hannon played four years at Nebraska before transferring to KU. Tovi was a walk-on who arrived on campus in July.

“He's brought a level of maturity to our locker room,” Beaty said on Hannon. “He's savvy. He's been around a while. I love Tovi. That dude is strong. He'll rip the chairs from the wall. He's only going to get better. He moves people, which is good.”

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