LAWRENCE — The oval track — once home to the Kansas Relays while generating heroics from the likes of Jim Ryun — was removed from Memorial Stadium a few years ago.
Now, the place is all about football and even adorned with sweet portraits of past KU greats on the outer façade.
Nonetheless, if a few lanes of track were still available, the Jayhawks could stage a competitive race. Their wide receivers could potentially run sprints or distance, depending on how they were deployed.
“A lot of them in a normal practice setting are running over five miles,’’ said offensive coordinator Doug Meacham, who also coaches the KU receivers. “I’m not talking about jogging five miles. This is a variety of sprints now.’’
Conducted at a swift pace, mind you, as the Jayhawks build on their spread tendencies under a new coordinator with 11 seasons of experience coaching Big 12 gun and fun.
The preference among so many conference teams to pass the ball repeatedly surprised wide receiver Daylon Charlot last year when the sophomore sat out as an Alabama transfer.
“And now,’’ Charlot said, “we’ve got coach Meacham, so in our practices, we probably run 20 miles a day. All it does is hurts. It’s mostly deep routes, which I love, but in practice that’s a lot of running. It gets tiring, but it’s helping us for the season.’’
OK, Charlot exaggerated. Still, the mileage estimate Meacham provided is demanding enough.
Especially since it’s no estimate.
Technology enables players to wear GPS systems, which track distance, as well as additional data that accounts for load, re-direction and maximum speed. Devices are placed near players’ sternums in undershirts they wear.
“Outside receivers run a lot of deeper routes,’’ said Meacham, “so we’ve got to monitor all that, because they can burn up fast.’’
The first data read-outs Meacham remembers monitoring were around 2010 when he coached at Oklahoma State. It was discovered that star receiver Justin Blackmon was logging between five and six miles at practices while accounting for all the time he spent on his feet.
Since then, the data has become more sophisticated and incorporated into analytics monitored by strength and conditioning staffs. Chase Harrell, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound sophomore, was cited by coach David Beaty as the Jayhawk consistently logging the most mileage in practice.
“There’s a science behind how you do it,’’ said Beaty, “but if you’re out of shape and you’re playing here, you’re doing something wrong, because you’re running a lot. Both sides of the ball.’’
The beginning of football camp is not the time to get the body tuned.
The workout regimen conducted throughout the offseason is designed for the Jayhawks to withstand up-tempo scrimmages that also include contact.
“You have to take some of the old-school thought out of it,’’ said Meacham, “because they work out all summer and when they show up they’re in shape.
“When I played, everybody went home and had a workout manual and did about half of it. Then you used August to get in shape. It’s different now with the volume and tempo of reps. When I played, everybody huddled. We played about 55 snaps. Now, it’s about 85. So that’s like 15 games.’’
To account for the speedy bursts and swift execution demanded by a spread attack, a receiving corps must be deep. The Jayhawks, who will often line up four-wide, will carry 12 receivers, Meacham said, on travel squads.
Consider that for quarterbacks, and in particular transfer Peyton Bender, every chance to work on timing is necessary to gain trust in receivers.
Of course, the QBs are also considerate of how hard their targets are pushed running constant routes.
“I definitely feel sorry for them,’’ Bender said. “I hate when they’re open and you miss them on a route, because those guys are working hard and busting their tails on every play.’’
So far, everyone in the KU camp has raved about depth at receiver, a group led by Steven Sims, who paced the Jayhawks in every receiving category last season with 72 catches, 859 yards, seven touchdowns and an 11.9-yard average.
Yet there is a proper pace and substitution pattern to be found so that the group is most effective, assuming a quarterback can deliver the ball accurately and the offensive line provides adequate protection.
A lot of ifs, but Meacham’s early read — based in part on data read-outs — indicates KU’s wideouts can handle a significant load.
“We’ve got a lot of functional guys beyond the ones,’’ he said, “and I’ve been with teams where it doesn’t take long to get to where guys are un-functional.’’
Contact Kevin Haskin at email@example.com or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.