Buster Camp Day 7: Coming together (Audio)

Garden City, Kan (westernkansasnews.com)-With temperatures in excess of 100 degrees, Garden City Head Coach Matt Miller opted to cut practice shorter than usual on Friday.

“I heard it was 104,” Miller said later. “The heat can definitely drain you.”

More often than not, we’ve seen coaches push through the heat, only to lose players to season ending and life-threatening illnesses. Good call by Miller. 

Graham on day two

There’s only a few superlatives that could possibly describe Danarious Graham’s throws on Friday. One of them would be ridiculous, and I mean that in the best of senses. 

Despite throwing an interception to T.J. Ellison during 11-on-11 drills (the throw was a missile over the middle and basically stuck in the linebacker’s helmet), Graham’s entire arsenal was on full display. 

“Our receivers have to adjust to this guy,” Miller said. “They turn around and the ball is already on them. Nobody can make those throws.”

In the movie ‘A League of their own’ Gina Davis, who played Dotty Henson as the famed catcher for one of the women’s professional baseball teams, gunned down a runner at second base. One of the opposing players promptly told her manager: “I can’t do that.” His response: “Who can?” 

This isn’t to discredit what Tyler Lasalle, Bryce Gemmel and Alex Gomez bring to the table. But the reality is, there are throws that they can’t make that Graham can. There are throws that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford can make that Peyton Manning cannot. It’s just reality. The point: Graham’s arm and accuracy are invaluable, and if he ends up winning the job and the line can protect him…you see where I’m going here. 

One particular pass stood out Friday. During 11-on-11, Graham took a shotgun snap, dropped three steps and fired a laser to Monterio Burfield on a skinny post. The throw hit the sophomore receiver between the numbers as it spiraled between two different defenders. Burchfield caught it in stride and raced the rest of the way for a touchdown. 

The ability to fit balls into tiny windows is something only a few quarterbacks can do. And not to gush over a kid that’s been in pads for exactly two days, but for two sessions now, Graham has been doing exactly that: making NFL type throws.

So what does this amount to?  If Graham continues to progress, there’s no reason to believe he can’t be one of the best quarterbacks in the Jayhawk Conference. But, Miller and his staff are playing this one extremely smart: Akeem Jones wowed some last year during fall camp, only to completely fall off the table once the season started. There was no question then that Jones gave the Busters the best chance to win, but after struggling against Hutch and barely playing at Ft. Scott, Jones was eventually pulled for veteran Jake Curran. 

Graham has overcome much bigger things than football. Eight years ago, he watched his mother pass away. So a quarterback competition seems like a stroll in the park. And for a kid who sat the first seven practices while completing the rest of his paperwork, he hasn’t missed a beat. 

Mcdonald back in the fold

2013 seemed like a promising season for running back Matt McDonald. After all-the kid overcame a serious knee injury in high school where doctors said his career was probably over.  

The freshman worked his way back, and by early in the season, he was splitting carries with Oklahoma State signee Tyreek Hill. But the glory ended after only five games when McDonald suffered a season-ending arm injury.

Two straight years McDonald has dealt with injuries. However; he’s pushed through all of it.

“I just keep working,” McDonald said following practice on Friday. “The only way you can progress is through hard work. You’re going to have your good days and your bad ones. But you have to be able to push through it. I have a goal, and the only way to reach that goal is to keep climbing.”

McDonald has, all the way to the top of Miller’s depth chart.

Matt McDonald after practice