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KANSASsoar as Kansas tries JAYHAWKS Expectations
to duplicate the best year ever
JocquES crAWford

‘bAcK
iN ToWN

EvErYoNE’S quarterback

buddY

the

THE NEW

Todd reesing is

big 12

club

table of contents
special section University daily kansan

2008 kansas jayhawks football

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3 6 7 18 19 20

aUgUst 28, 2008

The Jayhawks’ renaissance man

kerry Meier

Kansas brims with confidence after last year’s success Jayhawks prepare for the Big 12 gauntlet Rebuilding or reloading? Kansas hopes its the latter Look who’s growling again, Chase and the Tigers Tips for Kansas on how to avoid a letdown A look at KU’s 2008 schedule

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kansan file photo

Can he do it again?

todd reesing JocqUes crawford gUide to the big 12 leading Men

He’s got everyone’s attention

Check out the Jayhawks’ competition

The Big 12 is loaded with quarterbacks

ark Mangino starts every meeting right on time, down to the second. He’s minutely detailed and he’s guarded, hiding his mustacioed face behind a pair of sunglasses. Kansas’ football coach doesn’t like attention, he’d prefer to work in shadows. But Mangino loves college football, he loves college campuses and he loves the students that populate them. “I’m kind of old school on this.” Mangino said. “College football is still for college kids on college campuses, and it should be the center of attention. “Because part of the college experience is spending an afternoon or an evening in your football stadium on your campus and having a good time.” On Saturday, Mark Mangino will walk on the field at Memorial Stadium and begin his seventh season at Kansas. And he’s never been more right. We hope you find this Kansas football preview helpful. We’ve spent the past month producing a thorough and comprehensive guide on the 2008 Kansas football team.

Letter from the editor

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By RUSTIN DODD [email protected]
And we hope you read every inch. But here’s a small piece of advice. After you finish reading about Todd Reesing, Jocques Crawford and the rest of the Big 12 — forget it all. Don’t think about how many games Kansas is going to win. Don’t worry about how many touchdowns Todd Reesing will throw. Don’t worry about the loss of Aqib Talib. Wake up on Saturday, take a deep breath and walk over to the Campanile Hill. Grill a hotdog, drink something cold, and watch the sun go down over Memorial Stadium. Because it’s finally football season, we’re all in college and we’re here to have a good time.

www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 kansas jayhawks football

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Above: Safety Justin Thornton celebrates with Mike Rivera, left, and Maxwell Onyegbule, right, after picking off a pass in KU’s 24-21 Orange Bowl victory against Virginia Tech. Left: Darrell Stuckey and the Jayhawks’ only loss in an otherwise perfect season came against Missouri and its quarterback Chase Daniel.

They’ve never felt like this before
Jayhawks say they have a new swagger as this season starts and expect a repeat from last year, when they went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl
[email protected] Just talk to a Kansas football player for a few minutes about the upcoming season and you’ll notice something different. It’s hard to pin-point exactly what it is, but there seems to be a different feeling around the program these days. And why not? Coming off the best season in school history, it’s only natural that players and coaches seem to have a little more bounce in their step as they walk to meetings or to the practice field. “We have that swagger,” safety Darrell

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

By B.J. Rains

Stuckey said. And as the Jayhawks look to repeat the success of last year’s record-breaking year, they are doing it with a different kind of ‘swagger’ that hasn’t been seen around this town in a long time. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” quarterback Todd Reesing said. “Not that we lacked confidence before, but we really expect to be on the big stage now.” The Jayhawks will definitely enter the big stage this fall, entering the year ranked 13th in the ESPN/ USA Today Coaches poll and anywhere from 10th to 20th by anyone and everyone that put together a pre-season poll. ESPN2 has already picked the Jayhawks for a nationally televised Friday night game at No. 21 South Florida in week three. “We’re excited by that,” Reesing added. “To have the opportunity to play in big games and play on national television, it’s exciting for us, because it’s somewhere that this program hasn’t been in a while.” A year after just wanting to get enough

wins to make it to a bowl game, the Jayhawks and their fans have much higher goals this season. No longer does the thought of a Big 12 Championship or high-profile bowl game seem like that much of a dream. It’s a big difference from when coach Mark Mangino arrived at Kansas in 2002. Then, the program had no expectations, and the games were merely a way for the basketball-crazed Jayhawk fans to pass the time until hoops season got underway. “That was a terrible feeling,” Mangino said. “It was bad for the players, the coaches, when nobody expects you to be successful. That’s not a great feeling, and after experiencing that the first few years, we embrace any expectations that people have for us now. “Nobody outside of this program has higher expectations for this team than the kids that play here. They have high expectations. They want to win. They set the bar high for themselves.” Those expectations might be as high this year as they have ever been when it comes to

Kansas football. It’s been a while since opposing teams looked at their schedule to see when they were playing Kansas, knowing that it would be one of the toughest games of their season. “As we started to win more games during the season, we started to get everybody’s best shot,” Mangino said. “We will get it from the first game this year all of the way through. We’ll get everybody’s best shot if we continue to play at a high level, but I told our players the top teams in the country are used to that, used to getting every team’s best shot and if we can’t handle that then we’re not going to be as good as we want to be.” And while Mangino said he wasn’t in the business of making predictions for the upcoming season, even he knows that it could be another special season for his squad. “We think we’re going to have a pretty good football team again,” Mangino said. Just one of many who seem to think the same thing.

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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2008 kansas jayhawks fooTball

Underrated no more
Overlooked in high school, Reesing broke records in 2007; now the junior quarterback wants more victories in 2008

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Ryan McGeeney/KANSAN

www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 kansas jayhawks football
By Taylor Bern
plished what no other Jayhawk passer in recent history could was his “will to win.” “He doesn’t have a favorite guy that he throws to. He just does what he has to to win games,” he said. In fact, Reesing swears that the only stat he ever pays attention to is his team’s number of wins. “If I throw for 1,200 yards or 4,400, whatever helps us win the most games is what I’m going to do,” Reesing said. “Statistics don’t really mean anything, and if that’s all you care about then something’s wrong.” Whether he cares or not, Reesing has always had spectacular stats, dating back to high school. A native of Austin, Texas, Reesing earned the Texas 4A Player of the Year as a high school junior and Central Texas Player of the Year as a senior. Still, his hometown Longhorns never gave Reesing a legit opportunity to make the team. On the other hand, Mangino offered him a scholarship the day after the two met. That’s one reason Reesing has circled Nov. 15 on his calendar, the day Texas comes to Memorial Stadium. “From a football standpoint it’s just another game on the schedule, I’m supposed to say. But it may have a little something special to me because I have a lot of friends from back home that go to UT and I think my dad has already reserved about 25 to 30 hotel rooms for that game,” he said. “Playing against a team that you grew up in your hometown watching, it means a little something more.” That will be an emotional game for Reesing, and if things go their way that could be a very meaningful game for the Jayhawks in terms of a Big 12 title. After two years of playing South opponents Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M, Kansas squares off with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Basically the Jayhawks swapped out the three bottom teams of the South for its three best, and most preseason predictions have them losing one if not all of those match-ups. That’s just fine with Reesing. “That’s where we want to be, we like to be the underdog,” he said. “We want to be overlooked because it’s a lot more fun playing when people don’t want you to succeed. It’s a little something inside that makes you work that much harder.” The other factor that’s kept him going in the offseason is that obnoxious little one in the loss column. “When you’re a game away from playing for a conference championship game or winning the Big 12 North, it sucks,” Reesing said. “I think we used that loss as motivation to get really ready for the Orange Bowl, and we came out in that game really fired up and ready to prove that we deserved to be there. All this talk about us not deserving it was a bunch of baloney.” Despite its 2007 success and largely because

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A 5-foot-11 quarterback for the University of Kansas used to be able to walk around town in relative anonymity. With nearly 3,500 passing yards and an Orange Bowl title, Todd Reesing forever changed what it meant to be the Jayhawks’ signal-caller. The tiny Texan’s sophomore season stuck a jam in the revolving door under center for Kansas, and now his task is to try and improve on the greatest season in school history. The first step to conquering that obstacle is handling the unfamiliar position of being the unquestioned starter. “This year, coming in, I’m the returning starter and guys look to me to be the one to lead the offense,” Reesing said. “There’s more responsibility, there’s more people looking up to you and looking to you to be the leader and be the one to take that step forward and work hard.” Last year the preseason talk about the quarterback position was whether or not Reesing could unseat Kerry Meier. Reesing eventually won the job and after his stellar season was named to the All-Big 12 second team as well as a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award. This time around the team expectations are heightened and although Reesing said it’s fun not looking over his shoulder, coach Mark Mangino has stressed that handling success can be as tough as handling failure. “For Todd, the challenge is to be able to manage all this attention that he’s received,” Mangino said. “Everybody in Lawrence, Kansas, wants to say that they know him and that they pal around with him and he’s their buddy. “I think if he continues to do a good job of managing going from being a player that was not well known, who was competing for a position last year at this time, to being somebody that’s highly respected as a player in our league, that’s the key (to success).” Life off the field has and will continue to get more difficult for Reesing, who can’t go to the grocery store without attracting a crowd. Reesing said he doesn’t mind most of the time because people just want to wish him good luck and he likes signing autographs for kids. Still, he didn’t mind the time when he could walk around unrecognized. Life on the field only got better with his celebrity, because as the No. 1 guy Reesing has spent more time understanding the nuances of his top wide receivers. The increased reps have had a positive effect for both sides. “It helps because we’re able to get the timing down, and we don’t have to worry about the different flaws in a quarterback’s game,” senior wide receiver Dexton Fields said. “Having one quarterback is really what we’ve been looking for ever since I got here.” Fields added that the reason Reesing accom-

Junior quarterback Todd Reesing returns to the field in 2008 with a newfound celebrity. The previously overlooked gunslinger from Texas began last season in a position battle and ended the year with his name splattered across the Kansas record books.
KANSAN FILE PHOTO

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

of its difficult schedule, Kansas’ hype level is nowhere near that of Oklahoma, Texas Tech or archrival Missouri. Each of those schools, and their quarterbacks, has been predicted to win the national championship, Heisman Trophy or both. One successful season didn’t put Kansas on their level in the minds of people outside the program. However, it did wonders for the

under-sized, under-recruited but no longer under-the-radar phenom taking snaps for the crimson and blue. “I’m not looking to get hype or get predicted to do this or that,” Reesing said. “I’m happy with where I am, I have my Orange Bowl ring and it doesn’t really matter what anybody else says. It matters what you do out there on Saturday.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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Rockier road lies ahead this season
Skeptics called Kansas’ 2007 schedule too easy, but this year’s slate promises a tougher test
for Reesing and the Jayhawks, who because of the rotating Big 12 South schedule have dropped the three worst South teams in A year after going 12-1 and defeating Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M and Virginia Tech to win the FedEx Orange Bowl, have added the heavyweights — Oklahoma, Kansas coach Mark Mangino is still stuck Texas and Texas Tech. The Jayhawks, who are a combined defending his team’s 2007 schedule. Seven months removed from the greatest 0-6 under Mangino against the Sooners, season in the history of the program, writers, Longhorns and Red Raiders, now have their broadcasters and even opposing coaches still opportunity to prove that last year’s success question the schedule that produced a school- was not a result of a weak schedule. “We’ve always said that we want our record 12 victories for the boys in crimson program to be able to compete with the best and blue. Somehow, the Jayhawks’ schedule was even teams in the league,” Mangino said. “The fact a topic at the Mountain West Conference that we are picking up Oklahoma, Texas and Media Day last month, when New Mexico Texas Tech is something that we look forward coach Rocky Long — whose team lost four to. We want to be able to play against the best games last year, including a 10-6 loss to UTEP teams in our league and be able to beat them. and a 37-0 thrashing by lowly TCU — openly That’s the test for our program. We will never truly get over the hump, in my eyes, until we took a stab at the quality of their opponents. “I mean, who did Kansas play last year?” are able to defeat those teams as well.” Kansas will host Texas and Texas Tech in Long said. Lawrence, a place where How easily Long the Jayhawks are 18-3 since and those bashing the 2005, but the October “They’re going to be gunning Jayhawks schedule forget 18 matchup against that Kansas won a BCS for us. And we’re ready for the Oklahoma is in Norman bowl over a national footand certainly seems to be ball power and lost by just challenge.” the Jayhawks’ toughest test eight points to the No. in 2008. Add in a week3-ranked team in the counMIKE RIVERA three road game at South try in their lone defeat. “It doesn’t bother me at Senior linebacker Florida, and nobody will be able to doubt the level all,” Mangino said of the of difficulty that Kansas schedule talk. “Tell me will face this fall. when there was a time “It forces us to not be complacent, seewhen Kansas’ football program could beat the likes of Nebraska, Texas A&M, Colorado and ing that our schedule changed so much,” Virginia Tech and you have to sit and defend safety Darrell Stuckey said. “Anytime you your schedule. Times have changed, haven’t have a team where they go 12-1 and they turn around and play the exact same teams they?” As Mangino avidly points out, a closer the next year, you could see them becoming look will show that the Jayhawks’ schedule complacent. ‘Oh, we beat them last year’ or wasn’t nearly as bad as advertised. The vic- ‘Oh, we did this to them last year.’ But seeing tories over Colorado and A&M both came that our schedule in the south has changed, it on the road on two consecutive Saturdays, gives us new goals, a new challenge. It opens and the 76 points that Kansas scored against our eyes and makes us see that we still have a Nebraska were the most ever scored against lot further to go.” And regardless of how easy the Jayhawks’ the storied Husker program. In all, the Jayhawks played five teams that went on to schedule actually was last season, a 12-win season definitely will have opposing teams play in a bowl game. “I’m not going to get into scheduling circling the matchup with Kansas on their because I can’t control that,” said quarter- schedule for 2008. “They’re going to be gunning for us,” said back Todd Reesing. “I play whoever is on the schedule and that’s really all it comes down to. senior linebacker Mike Rivera. “And we’re The only thing I’ll say is we play in the Big 12 ready for the challenge.” A challenge and a schedule that looks to be and there are a lot of good teams, so it doesn’t much harder than a year ago. matter which three you’re playing.” This year, the three actually may matter [email protected]

2008 kansas jayhawks football

By B.J. Rains

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Top: Kansas last faced Oklahoma in 2005 at Arrowhead Stadium, where future NFL star Adrian Peterson gained 122 yards in the Sooners’ 19-3 victory. Below: Quarterback Vince Young and Texas beat Kansas 66-14 in the teams’ last meeting, in Austin, Texas, in 2005.

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www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

Big shoes to fill
[email protected] It would be tough for any team to repeat a season in which it went 12-1, won the Orange Bowl and enjoyed the best season in school history. But throw in the loss of eight key players, including first team All-American’s Aqib Talib and Anthony Collins, and the task becomes all but impossible for coach Mark Mangino and the Kansas Jayhawks. But as the Jayhawks prepare to open the season against Florida International on Saturday, that’s exactly the task that they must somehow overcome. “It’s going to be tough,” said linebacker Mike Rivera. “Those guys were great players. There’s going to have to be some guys step up and fill those roles.” In addition to Talib and Collins, secondteam All-American defensive tackle James McClinton is gone, as is the team’s leading rusher in Brandon McAnderson and receiver in Marcus Henry. Tight end Derek Fine is now a member of the Buffalo Bills and kicker Scott Webb and punter Kyle Tucker are both missing as well. Nobody’s absence, however, will be more visible than Talib’s, whose flashy play and swagger on both sides of the ball helped put Kansas on the national scene. “When you walked into the locker room and you saw him, he was the star,” cornerback Chris Harris said of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers first round draft pick. “It’s weird not seeing him, but it’s time for new stars. It’s been a lot quieter without him around, that’s for sure. A lot less jokes.” The Jayhawks seem to be better prepared to fill the holes on defense, with only Talib and McClinton not returning from a squad that finished No. 12 nationally in total defense. All three linebackers – Joe Mortenson, James Holt, and Rivera – are back and will anchor what should be one of the nation’s best defenses again in 2008. “The impact they left on our defense was amazing, just the standard that they showed that needs to be reached,” safety Darrell Stucky said of Talib and McClinton. “It’s one of those things where we will be better because of them, but I also think we can be better even though they left.” The challenge will be tougher on offense, where the Jayhawks must replace five starters including both tackles, a tight end, a running back and a wide receiver. Over 2,000 yards of offense, including over 1,000 receiving yards from Henry and 1,000 rushing yards from McAnderson, must come from other players this fall.

2008 kansas jayhawks football

Loss of All-American Talib and others will provide tough challenge for Jayhawks

By B.J. Rains

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Wide recevier Marcus Henry is one of several offensive performers missing from last year’s team. Henry led the team in receptions and receiving yards and was a draft pick of the New York Jets. He’s one of the biggest absences from the offense, along with lineman Anthony Collins. Aqib Talib and James McClinton are gone from the defense. “We have a lot of guys (returning) who played last year and made a lot of big plays for us,” quarterback Todd Reesing said. “Just because we lost a tight end and a receiver to the NFL, which were two huge players for us, we still have a lot of guys who can fill those voids. They might not be as good at certain things as those guys were but they are going to bring their own potential and capabilities to the table.” And with the absence of skilled playmakers such as Henry and McAnderson, Reesing knows that he can’t put too much pressure on himself and must instead trust the newcomers to be able to fill the voids that they left. “That’s one thing that I have to try not to do,” Reesing said. “I can’t take on more of a role than I have to. I can’t put more pressure on myself or allow other people to put more pressure on me. I can’t do too much, just stay within the offense and do what I can. I’ll rely on the other 10 guys out there to make plays. “We have a lot of good guys and it will be a lot of fun. We will see what happens.”

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Derek Fine catches one of his 46 passes from last season. This one came against Texas A&M. Fine, a tight end, finished the year with 394 yards and four touchdowns. He now plays for the Buffalo Bills. Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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2008 kansas jayhawks football

Jocques Crawford won’t run from the hype
The JUCO transfer wants to make people forget his troubled past and give the KU backfield depth and star power
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BY CASE KEEFER
[email protected] Heads turn and people follow Jocques Crawford as he searches for a seat in Mrkonic Auditorium to participate in Kansas Football Media Day. The junior running back sits at the end of the first row and immediately cameras and microphones are placed right in front of his face. The media wants Crawford to explain the aura surrounding his arrival in Lawrence. There are the accolades – Crawford received the National Junior College Player of the Year Award at Cisco Community College in Texas last season. There’s the hype – rivals. com ranks Crawford as the best recruit in coach Mark Mangino’s new class. And then, there’s the number. Crawford is wearing a blue Jayhawk jersey like the other www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ryan McGeeney/KANSAN

25 players in the room, only his is imprinted with the No. 3 in the middle. “I’ve always wanted to wear three,” Crawford says. “I’ve worn three since high school.” But that number carries an extra significance in Lawrence lately. The last two Jayhawks to wear the digit – Charles Gordon and Aqib Talib – became college stars and now play in the NFL. “I’ve been told,” Crawford says.

2008 kansas jayhawks football
Crawford admits that inheriting Talib’s number brings extra pressure. But he’s not worried about it. Crawford has gone through too much to reach this point, where he’s the center of attention on the defending Orange Bowl champions, to stress about something as trivial as what’s on the front of his jersey. said. n n n sites still listed him as committed to the Red Raiders. It might have been because of his reputation. Whatever it was, it wasn’t for lack of production. Crawford rushed for 1,935 yards and 19 touchdowns his sophomore season at Cisco. But he wanted to play in the Big 12 Conference his next year and didn’t have any offers. Enter Kansas. Crawford liked that starting running back Brandon McAnderson had graduated. He bonded with head coach Mark Mangino and offensive coordinator Ed Warriner. He enjoyed his visit to Lawrence. He committed. “He was recruited because we were hoping he’d have an immediate impact,” Mangino said shortly after Crawford signed. Now, Crawford is in the middle of a position battle with junior running back Jake Sharp and saying all the right things about it. Crawford says he and Sharp aren’t treating it like a fight for playing time and are close friends. He says Sharp has helped ease his transition to Kansas by acting as a confidant on the practice field. “I know how hard it is to come in here and play right away,” Sharp said. “It’s no easy feat. He’s been working hard and I’ve been helping him any way I can.” With Crawford and Sharp, the Jayhawks could have one of the better 1-2 punches of running backs in the Big 12. That’s exactly what Crawford and Sharp say they envision. Mangino describes Crawford as a powerful running back – the opposite of Sharp who is more of a quick, small threat out of the backfield. He still expects him to play right away. “We have high expectations for him,” Mangino said. “Like any other player who comes from junior high or high school, he has to prove that he can play at this level every down. I think he will.” n n n

Crawford had never heard of a junior college football player going on to a successful career. He didn’t think they existed. Then, Xavier Crawford, Jocques’ father who played college football for Memphis in n n n the 1980’s, told his son the story of one of his ‘Memphis’ is tattooed down Crawford’s left best friends. Xavier told Jocques about Issac Bruce, who tricep in bold black letters. Crawford is proud of where he comes from. currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers after 14 seasons with the St. Louis Rams. But that doesn’t mean he wants to go back. “The only thing I miss about Memphis,” Bruce had played at two junior colleges in California before transCrawford said, “is my ferring to Memphis and family.” being drafted in the NFL. Memphis isn’t only “I’m putting it behind me and Jocques had met Bruce Crawford’s hometown, but also the place where just staying focused. I came here many times before. He just never knew about his he thought his football dreams had ended twice in to go to school and play football. junior college career. By less than a year. Jocques crAwford hearing about it, Crawford re-focused once again. Before his senior season running back “I see people like that at Cordova High School, who went to junior colCrawford and two friends lege and still became sucwere arrested and charged cessful,” Crawford said. with felony aggravated “It kind of drives me and rape. The charges were reduced to misdemeanor simple assault, gives me a goal to set for myself.” Crawford decided to attend Cisco Junior but the damage had already been done on College in Cisco, Texas – a ranching comCrawford’s football career. The Memphis School District suspended munity with a population about equal to the Crawford from athletics for the upcoming number of students who attended Crawford’s high school. semester. He would miss the football season. There, he could concentrate on school and In a controversial decision, however, the school district changed its ruling. Crawford football. He intended to make himself better and his mother had appealed and won. Some so in two years he could head west and attend Memphians were outraged by the decision Texas Tech like he originally planned. Those plans changed. The Red Raider and labeled it as a classic case of an athlete receiving special treatment and escaping pun- coaches told Crawford they wanted him to play defense even though he led the nation ishment. Crawford said some might still hold what in junior college rushing yards and averaged happened three years ago against him in nearly seven yards per carry. Texas Tech had a star freshman running Memphis. He doesn’t really know, though. back. His name was Aaron Crawford, Jocques’ Nor does he care. “I’m putting it behind me and just staying brother. When Jocques told the coaches he focused,” Crawford said. “I came here to go to didn’t want to play defense, they offered to let him play in the backfield with his brother. school and play football.” By averting the disaster of potentially miss- Jocques didn’t like that idea, either. “Tech doesn’t run the ball much at all and I ing his senior season of high school football, everything seemed to fall into place for wanted my brother to have just as much sucCrawford. He couldn’t be stopped when he cess as I do, if not more,” Crawford said. “So I ran the ball and rivals.com ranked him as one just felt I need to let him be there and let him of the best high school running backs in the do his own thing.” country. n n n Crawford committed to Texas Tech before the 2006 season. That was just months before Crawford laughs about it now. At the end the something else happened that made Crawford question if he would ever have a of last November, he sat in his dorm room in real opportunity to chase his dreams of an Cisco and watched No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 NFL career. Missouri battle it out at Arrowhead Stadium His grades came shortly after he completed on ABC. high school at Cordova. They weren’t high He had no idea he’d commit to Kansas enough to play Division-I college football. in two months at the time. Crawford hadn’t Crawford wouldn’t be moving to Lubbock, received much recruiting attention after tellTexas, to play for the Red Raiders his fresh- ing Texas Tech he wouldn’t be coming to man year of college. Lubbock. “I felt like my life was over,” Crawford Crawford said he heard it was because Web

The hour allotted for players to talk to the media is wrapping up at Mrkonic Auditorium. Crawford, who has sat straight up with good posture and talked for 55 straight minutes, leans back in his chair and takes a deep breath. It’s been exhausting sharing his story with everyone who asks. But Crawford is used to reflecting. “Everyday I sit back and think about the things I had to do to get to this point right now,” he said.

Jon Goering/KANSAN

Jocques Crawford says he wears No. 3, the same number as former KU stars Aqib Talib and Charles Gordon, because he’s worn it since high school. Crawford was the National Junior College Player of the Year last season. Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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2008 kansas jayhawks football

A LESSON IN RESILIENCE
A heart condition forced him to redshirt, Todd Reesing took his quarterback job, but Kerry Meier stayed strong, and transformed himself into the Jayhawks’ most versatile weapon

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Ryan McGeeney/KANSAN

www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

2008 kansas jayhawks football
than 5 percent of patients who underwent the same procedure. The injury may have been a blessing in When Kerry Meier steps on a football field, disguise for Meier, the youngest of four Meiers he no longer takes it for granted. He learned the to play football in college, and whose family hard way that there’s more to life than football. wished even before the injury that Meier would There’s more than putting on the pads each be able to sit out the season with a redshirt , day and going to practice with his teammates. learn the offensive system and gain the experiThere’s more than being on the cover of Sports ence needed to be a starting quarterback in the Illustrated or being recognized as the pride of Big 12. Pittsburg, Kan. And there’s surely more than “Everything just kind of happens for a reason rising on the depth chart at an unfamiliar posi- and that’s how we looked at it,” Dennis Meier tion and helping lead Kansas to the greatest said. “It was our hope that he would be able to season in school history. redshirt. All of the other boys had gone through For Meier, who was diagnosed with Wolff- a redshirt year and his brothers kind of had him Parkinson-White syndrome in 2005, just hav- convinced that it was probably a positive thing ing a healthy heart is an accomplishment that to redshirt versus getting thrown out there, he knows he will never top. especially at the quarterback position. There’s “Anytime you have a scenario like that in just a certain level of maturity and confidence your life, it kind of hits you and really opens that you build during that redshirt year.” up your eyes to not just football, but life in Fans pleaded for Meier as the Jayhawk general,” Meier said. “I went from talking about offense struggled later that season, but Mangino playing to having heart surgery It was a big- kept Meier on the bench, refusing to burn a time eye opener.” year of his eligibility for a quick fix in a couple When Meier arrived in Lawrence from the of games. southeast Kansas town of Pittsburg in the The strategy paid off the following year. summer of 2005, he was hailed as the next Meier started eight games at quarterback as great Jayhawk quarterback. Many observers a redshirt freshman in 2006 and passed for expected him to immedi1,193 yards and a Kansas ately battle for the startfreshman record 13 touching job as a freshman. But downs. He was also sec“I said, ‘This kid is way too that all changed when tests ond on the team with 346 administered to incoming talented to be standing here rushing yards. A shoulder football players showed next to me. Let’s find a way to injury cut short his season that Meier suffered from and allowed Todd Reesing Wolff-Parkinson-White get him on the field.’” to break onto the scene and syndrome, or WPW, a conemerge as prime competidition that affects the election for Meier heading into MArk MAngino last season. trical system of the heart. kansas football coach Instead of battling for The two former roomthe starting quarterback job mates battled for the starton the practice field, Meier was on an operating ing spot, but eventually it was Reesing who table undergoing a lengthy procedure in which came out on top. It was a crushing blow to doctors entered his body through his groin and Meier, who had dreamed of being a starting worked their way up to his heart. quarterback all of his life. And while some “It was a pretty complicated thing, I still thought Meier might seek a transfer to a school don’t fully understand it,” Meier said. where he could be the starter, Meier had no According to www.mayoclinic.com, WPW thoughts of leaving town. is diagnosed in about 1 percent of the general “No, never,” Meier said emphatically. “I came population. The condition causes the heart rate here to get a good education, and I really to rapidly increase about one or two times a enjoyed Lawrence and the people. It’s just far week, usually returning to its normal speed enough away from home that my parents and and rhythm after a few minutes. But though everybody can’t bother me, but they are close rare, the rapid heart rate can sometimes result enough to stay in contact too. But no, transferin sudden death. ring never crossed my mind.” Meier’s procedure corrected the problem An avid music fan, Meier searched online and allowed him to return to the practice field and soon purchased a set of bongo drums off of just 10 days later. eBay. Instead of finding his solace on the field, “We were thankful that KU had some sort of he found it off. screening mechanism because he had absolute“A lot of the music I listen to has bongos in ly no symptoms, nothing ever showed up on it so I just decided to buy some myself,” Meier any of his routine physicals,” said Kerry’s father, said. “I kind of do my own thing, make my own Dennis Meier. “It was out of the blue, and we beats. It’s a great way for me to get away and get were very thankful it was observed.” my mind somewhere else. I just play the drum Doctors informed Meier that as soon as the and let the rhythm roll.” problem was cured, he would be free of any Meier said that it took him about a day to get lingering effects and would be able to live a past the disappointment of not being named the normal and healthy life. According to www. starter and that he used it as motivation to get mayoclinic.com, the syndrome reappears in less better. As he stood on the sideline and watched [email protected]

By B.J. Rains

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Kerry Meier (left) leaps for a ball against Missouri during Kansas’ 36-28 loss to the Tigers last November. Meier, who started at quarterback in 2006, moved to wide receiver in 2007 and caught 26 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. as Reesing led the Jayhawks to two impressive victories, coach Mark Mangino and offensive coordinator Ed Warinner began working on a way to somehow get Meier onto the field. “I realized that standing next to me during the game was one of the most talented athletes on our entire roster,” Mangino said last year. “I said, ‘This kid is way too talented to be standing here next to me. Let’s find a way to get him on the field.’” Meier found the field in week three against Florida International when he entered the game in the first quarter as a wide receiver. Reesing found Meier for a 15-yard completion on the first play and on the next play, Meier motioned into the backfield and took a pitch from Reesing for a six-yard run. Meier’s role as the secret weapon had begun. He appeared in 10 games as wide receiver, including five in which he started and caught 26 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. “He’s a natural athlete, and when you put an athlete in a position to compete he’s going to do well,” Reesing said. “What was shocking was how quickly he picked it up. He went out there the first day as a wideout and he looked like he had been doing it all year.” Meier also saw action in eight games as quarterback and was 25 for 29 for 275 yards and three touchdowns. He became the first Jayhawk since Garfield Taylor in 1981 to have a passing touchdown, receiving touchdown and rushing touchdown in the same year. Add in his four punts for a 32.2-yard average and he became the ultimate utility player. “He’s the definition of a team player. He’s going to do whatever he has to do to help the team out,” Reesing added. “When he came in last year towards the end of the year and started playing wideout, he made a big impact. He’s going to be a guy who’s going to make a lot of plays and surprise a lot of people.” Dennis Meier played baseball at the University of Missouri-Rolla and his father played in the Yankees organization, but despite the baseball bloodline in their family, all four of his sons eventually decided to go with football. Shad played tight end at Kansas State, Adam played quarterback at Pittsburg State and Dylan was a quarterback at Kansas State before the youngest Meier ended up at Kansas. “We may have burned them out when they were young playing too much baseball. I don’t know that to be a fact,” the elder Meier said. “Back when they were pretty young, about 9 or 10, they were playing on traveling teams and stuff like that so they played quite a few games. I think they just liked football the best. They pretty much played all of the sports in high school but they saw their opportunity in football as they gathered up some size and maturity. “Kerry was always a very athletic kid, and with his brother being a tight end and having the success that he did, there was no doubt in my mind that Kerry could pretty much play quarterback, wide receiver, defensive back. I mean there was no question he has always been a very good athlete.” And now, as Meier prepares to start this season as one of the Jayhawks’ starting wide receivers, he can’t help but think about three years ago, and the heart condition that could have ended his life. “Honestly, it does, it creeps back into my mind,” Meier said. “It can’t help but creep into your mind, having heart surgery, but I feel like my body is in great condition and I’m just happy with the way things turned out.” — Edited by Jessica Sain-Baird

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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A guide to the rest of the Big 12
by taylor bern

2008 kansas jayhawks football

Missouri is the North favorite with its Heismancaliber quarterback, but Oklahoma beat the Tigers last year and has a talented group again. The Sooners will be challenged in the South by Texas and Texas Tech, which has one of the top receivers in the nation. Up North, Nebraska wants a solid debut season from coach Bo Pelini, and QB Josh Freeman expects to lead K-State to a bowl, a year after losing seven games.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Colorado
head Coach: Dan Hawkins (3rd year) 2007 Record: 6-7 (4-4) key Players: Cody Hawkins So-QB, George Hypolite Sr-DT, Brad Jones Sr-LB key losses: Hugh Charles RB, Jordon Dizon LB, Terrence Wheatley CB Consider the Buffaloes rebuilt. Coach Dan Hawkins’ tenure in Boulder hasn’t always been pretty (read: 2-10 in 2006), but last year’s squad made huge strides in the right direction. Colorado defeated Oklahoma and Nebraska at home and also won in Lubbock and Waco. Freshman quarterback Cody Hawkins took his bumps and threw 17 interceptions. But with experience, that number could fall while his 3,000 passing yards and 22 touchdowns could increase. Defensive tackle George Hypolite has the ability to take some pressure off of the linebackers, which lost All-American Jordon Dizon. The offense has balance and big-play ability, but its x-factor is freshman running back Darrell Scott. Scott was the No. 1-rated running back by Rivals.com, and his presence could make Colorado the Big 12’s surprise team this season. Coach’s take: “I really believe that if we’re able to reach down in the hearts and minds of young men and push the right buttons and do the right things, you can develop that kind of chemistry and that kind of magic and make (wins) happen.” Dan Hawkins is in his third year as head coach of the Buffaloes. They went 2-10 in his first season, made a bowl last year and are expecting better this fall.

Iowa state
head Coach: Gene Chizik (2nd year) 2007 Record: 3-9 (2-6) key Players: Alexander Robinson So-RB, R.J. Sumrall Sr-WR, Kurtis Taylor Sr-DE key losses: Todd Blythe WR, Bret Meyer QB No one expected year one of the Gene Chizik-era to go smoothly – and it didn’t. The Cyclones opened the season with backto-back home losses to Kent St. and I-AA Northern Iowa. Iowa St. rebounded with a 15-13 victory against Iowa then dropped another six games in a row. The one bright spot came at the end of the season when then-freshman running back Alexander Robinson led ISU to two late-season victories. Against Kansas St. and Colorado, Robinson totaled 188 yards and scored four touchdowns. He also rushed for 149 yards on 21 carries in a 42-28 loss to Missouri. Iowa St. doesn’t play Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech for the next two seasons, but it’s the only North school that hasn’t named its starting quarterback. Coach’s take: “We will have more growing pains. We don’t have a lot of players that ‘add water, instant player.’”
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wide receiver R.J. Sumrall led the Cyclones in receiving last year with 54 receptions for 434 yards. He is one of the veterans coach Gene Chizik is counting on to lead this year’s team. So far, Chizik has yet to announce who will be the Cyclones’ starting quarterback.

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Missouri
Head Coach: Gary Pinkel (8th year) 2007 Record: 12-2 (7-1) Key Players: Chase Coffman Sr-TE, Chase Daniel Sr-QB, Jeremy Maclin So-WR, Sean Weatherspoon Jr-LB Key Losses: Will Franklin WR, Martin Rucker TE, Tony Temple RB It’s hard to believe how far coach Gary Pinkel’s team has come in 12 months. Last year nobody was too sure what to expect, and 8-4 would have been a successful season. Now Missouri returns 17 starters, including a Heisman finalist, from a squad that scored nearly 40 points a game and only lost to one team all year. Amazingly, anything short of a BCS berth in 2008 would be a disappointment in Columbia. With Oklahoma off the schedule, the most important regular season games for Missouri will be its first and last, a pair of neutral site games with rivals Illinois and Kansas. Barring any injuries, the Tigers should be stellar on both sides of the ball, which will help them push for an undefeated season while Daniel builds up his Heisman resume.

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Quarterback Chase Daniel led Missouri to a victory against Kansas last year, clinching a Big 12 North title for the Tigers. This season, the Tigers want to win the Big 12 and compete for the national championship. Coach’s take: “We certainly haven’t arrived. We won the Big 12 North last year. University of Missouri hasn’t won a Big 12 championship yet.”

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

nebraska
head Coach: Bo Pelini (1st year) 2007 Record: 5-7 (2-6) key Players: Joe Ganz Sr-QB, Marlon Lucky Sr-RB, Ndamukong Suh Jr-DT key losses: Courtney Grixby CB/KR, Maurice Purify WR Rebuilding is a word Nebraska fans don’t like to hear associated with their team, but they might as well get used to it. While the Tigers and Jayhawks have emerged as Big 12 powers, the traditionally powerful Cornhuskers fell to the wayside under Bill Callahan. Their defense was particularly atrocious in 2007, as it ranked in the bottom 10 in rushing, scoring and total defense. Enter Bo Pelini, the defensive coordinator at LSU and former defensive coordinator and interim coach with Nebraska. As interim coach, Pelini won the 2003 Alamo Bowl 17-3 before accepting the coordinator position in Baton Rouge. Pelini’s Tiger squads were consistently one of the best defensive units in the country, and he’ll need that experience to get the Cornhuskers back on the right track. Coach’s take: “We try to have an offensive mentality on defense. We want to attack. We want to dictate to the offense as much as they’re trying to dictate to us.”

Mascot Willie the Wildcat might be the best known face for Kansas State this year. Defensive end Ian Campbell and quarterback Josh Freeman are two of the few returning players among a large number of newcomers, including 19 junior college transfers.

kansas state
head Coach: Ron Prince (3rd year) 2007 Record: 5-7 (3-5) key Players: Ian Campbell Sr-DE, Josh Freeman Jr-QB, Deon Murphy Sr-WR key losses: James Johnson RB, Jordy Nelson WR What started as a promising season in Manhattan turned into a whopping disaster. Kansas State lost its final four games by a combined score of 198-112, including a 73-31 defeat at Nebraska. One win in any of those final four games would have made coach Ron Prince’s team bowl eligible. Instead the Wildcats stayed home for the holidays and their defense should be blamed. To remedy the situation Prince brought in 19 junior college players, an unheard of number even at a school known for recruiting juco players. Shifting Ian Campbell from linebacker to defensive end should help the run defense, but the secondary is still in shambles. It’s very difficult to judge how juco talent will translate into D-I, so Kansas State could be in for a wild ride up or down the polls. Coach’s take: “The recruiting philosophy was to really do what Kansas State is best at and what they’ve always done, which is to really have a unique mix of high school players and community college players.”

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Quarterback Joe Ganz will captain the offense for the Huskers again, after throwing for 1,435 yards and 16 touchdowns last year in limited time. His new coach, Bo Pelini, is known as a defensive specialist.

CONTINuED ON PAGE 14

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

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2008 kansas jayhawks football

2008 Big 12 south preview (continued from page 12)
by CasE kEEfER

oklahoma
Coach: Bob Stoops, 10th year 2007 Record: 11-3, Big 12 Champions key Players: Sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford, sophomore running back DeMarco Murray, junior defensive end Auston English, senior safety Nic Harris key losses: Linebacker Curtis Lofton, receiver Malcolm Kelly, cornerback Reggie Smith The Sooners don’t want to talk about it, but everybody else does. Oklahoma has lost four straight BCS bowl games – including two national championship games. In a year when the Sooners are expected to compete for a national championship, it’s fair to ask them what has gone wrong lately. But the players and coaches will stick to clichés and say they’re taking it one game at a time and not worried about the end of the season. The Sooners will deal with it at the end of the season – assuming they live up to the lofty expectations that accompany a No. 4 national preseason ranking. Oklahoma is loaded at nearly every position. Sam Bradford, the nation’s most efficient passer, and Auston English, the preseason Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, are the leaders of their respective units. Coach’s take: “Overall, we’ve been in six Big 12 Championships and we’ve won five of them. We are doing something right. We know how to win those games and we’ll manage these others the best we can.”

AssoCiAteD press

Quarterback Blake szymanski is slated to Baylor’s starter. He beat out three other players for the top spot.

baylor
Coach: Art Briles, first year 2007 Record: 3-9 key Players: Junior safety Jordan Lake, junior linebacker Joe Pawelek, junior receiver David Gettis, senior receiver Thomas White key losses: Running back Brandon Whitaker, safety Brandon Stiggers, linebacker Nick Moore Don’t do it. That’s what everyone told new coach Art Briles as he contemplated leaving his job at Houston to become the 25th coach in Baylor history. His own daughter thought he was crazy when he signed a contract to coach the Bears. After all, turning the Baylor football program around is the equivalent of making western Kansas a vacationing hot-spot. The Bears haven’t put together a winning season in 13 years and are 11-85 all-time in Big 12 Conference games. But Briles has a vision and thinks he can turn the Bears into contenders within a few years. This year, however, might be tough. There’s a four-way battle for the starting quarterback spot between Miami transfer Kirby Freeman, last year’s starter Blake Szymanski, junior-college transfer Jeremy Sanders and walk-on Ryan Roberts. Baylor’s defense will need to be its strength as the Bears return their two leading tacklers from last season. Coach’s take: “If I walked through the room and 11 other head coaches from the Big 12 walked through the room, there probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of people pointing at me and saying, ‘There goes Baylor football.’ That’s what we’re out to change.”

AssoCiAteD press

running back DeMarco Murray knows how to make tacklers miss. as a freshman last year, he rushed for 128 yards against texas and more than 100 yards four times all season. a knee injury cut his season short.

oklahoma state
Coach: Mike Gundy, fourth year 2007 Record: 7-6 key Players: Senior quarterback Zac Robinson, senior tight end Brandon Pettigrew, senior cornerback Jacob Lacey, junior linebacker Patrick Lavine key losses: Receiver Adarius Bowman, running back Dantrell Savage, safety Donovan Woods Quarterback Zac Robinson will be the most important player on the field all year for the Cowboys. The rest of the team is unknown. Oklahoma State has to replace Dantrell Savage, the second leading rusher Mike gundy has an inexperienced team this season except for returning quarterback Zac robinson. robinson must stay healthy and lead the young offense. in the Big 12 last season, and Adarius Bowman, the fourth leading receiver in the Big 12 despite missing his two final games because of injury. Sophomore running back Kendall Hunter and sophomore receiver Dez Bryant are among those who must progress quickly to keep the Cowboys’ offense potent. Robinson did everything last year, passing for more than 2,800 yards and rushing for more than 800. But he may have to cut down on the rushing attempts this season because Mike Gundy can’t even imagine what would happen if Robinson went down with an injury. How worried is the coach? He’s already losing sleep over the thought. Coach’s take: “I worry about that every night, just before I take a sleeping pill to go to sleep.”

AssoCiAteD press

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texas
Coach: Mack Brown, 11th year 2007 Record: 10-3 key Players: Junior quarterback Colt McCoy, senior receiver Quan Cosby, senior defensive end Brian Orakpo, senior linebacker Rashad Bobino key losses: Running back Jamaal Charles, receiver Limas Sweed, safety Marcus Griffin For the first time in three years, the Longhorns aren’t receiving much national attention headed into the season. There’s no Vince Young to talk about, no national championship to defend and no second-year quarterback who put up Heisman-like numbers as a freshman. Quarterback Colt McCoy wants to return to his freshman-year form, when he threw 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Yes, quarterback Colt McCoy regressed last season. He threw 18 interceptions as compared to only seven his freshman season and completed three percent less of his passes. McCoy said he learned a lot from his rough sophomore season and would return to form this year. McCoy isn’t the primary concern for coach Mack Brown, though. The Texas defense returns only four starters from last year’s team. Brian Orakpo dealt with injuries all of last season but is one of the conference’s best pass rushers when healthy. Coach’s take: “This is the first time we’ve been considered an underdog for a while. It’s a different role for us and seems to be motivating our guys to work really, really hard.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

texas tech
Coach: Mike Leach, ninth season 2007 Record: 9-4 key Players: Sophomore receiver Michael Crabtree, senior quarterback Graham Harrell, senior safety Darcel McBath, sophomore linebacker Brian Duncan key losses: Receiver Danny Amendola, running back Shannon Woods, safety Joe Garcia, Texas Tech and its 41 points per game are no longer the Big 12’s secret. The nation is starting to take notice. That happens when a freshman receiver, Michael Crabtree, is named an All-American after scoring 22 touchdowns and gaining nearly 2,000 receiving yards. Quarterback Graham Harrell isn’t bad, either. He completed 72 percent of his passes for 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns last season. But for Texas Tech to compete for its first Big 12 Conference title, its defense needs to continue to progress. Ruffin McNeil took over as interim defensive coordinator in the middle of last season, and the Red Raiders ranked first in the conference in total defenseduring the last nine games. Leach expects that trend to continue this season as he named McNeil the permanent defensive coordinator in the off-season. Coach’s take: “I’ve never coached in a game in the Big 12 when before the game started, I didn’t think we were going to win.” Wide receiver Michael Crabtree, left, and quarterback Graham Harrell will likely hook up on pass plays several times this year. Last season, Crabtree totaled almost 2,000 receiving yards.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

texas a&M
Coach: Mike Sherman, first year 2007 Record: 7-6 key Players: Junior running back Mike Goodson, senior tackle Travis Schneider, junior cornerback Jordan Pugh, senior defensive end Cyril Obiozor key losses: Tight end Martellus Bennet, linebacker Mark Dodge, defensive tackle Red Bryant The Aggies will still wear maroon and white this season, but that might be the only thing Mike Sherman isn’t planning on changing. The former Green Bay Packers coach came to College Station, Texas, after being hired to replace Dennis Franchione and immediately started a Quarterback Stephen McGee is back, but his role could change under new coach Mike Sherman. transformation of his team. He told senior quarterback Stephen McGee, who had started for three straight years, he would have to beat out sophomore Jerrod Johnson for the starting job. He informed 285-pound running back Jorvorskie Lane that he must lose weight and would be moved to fullback. And he’s changing the offense completely. Defensively, the Aggies will look different as well with a new linebacking corps. Junior Matt Featherson and sophomore Von Miller are among the new linebackers who have to replace Mark Dodge and Misi Tupe, who combined for 214 tackles last season. Coach’s take: “I feel strongly about the university and the leadership there and the potential that is within our grasp at some point. I look forward to achieving that potential, getting that potential to fruition.” Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

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2008 kansas jayhawks football

ALL PHOTOS BY ASSOCIATED PRESS OR KANSAN FILE PHOTOS

The Big 12 has as many good quarterbacks as any conference. K-State’s Josh Freeman, Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson, Kansas’ Todd Reesing, Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, Colorado’s Cody Hawkins, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Missouri’s Chase Daniel are earning the Big 12 national recognition. Daniel could be the best of the group. Last season, he was on the All-Big 12 First Team and was named a Heisman finalist. Reesing was on the All-Big 12 second team and threw for 33 touchdowns last year.

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The Big 12 is loaded with top guns
This season might just be the year of the quarterback in the Big 12; at least seven of them could be candidates for all-conference honors
BY RUSTIN DODD
by [email protected] Zac Robinson sat in the corner of a crowded hotel ballroom in late July, arms folded, eyes politely focused on the microphones in front of him. His 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and orange shirt were a dead giveaway. Robinson looks like a starting quarterback. But if you saw the boyish, brown-haired Oklahoma State quarterback on the street, you’d probably need a Cowboy football program to recognize him. Doesn’t matter that Robinson was one of just three quarterbacks in the country to pass for 2,800 yards and rush for 800 yards last season. Doesn’t matter that one of those other guys was named Tim Tebow, Florida’s sophomore Heisman Trophy winner. If Robinson played in any other conference, he’d probably be a household name. But Robinson plays in the Big 12, a conference where nearly every team owns a quarterback with prodigious talents and video game stats. Most Big 12 coaches can’t remember a time when their conference – or any conference – was stocked with so many A-list quarterbacks. That may be because the Big 12 is treading into uncharted territory. “There’s at least eight in our conference that are very confirmed on the national level as far as their ability and have the resume to back it up,” said Kansas State coach Ron Prince. Prince believes his own quarterback, junior Josh Freeman, is one of those eight. But like Robinson, Freeman was shut out of any postseason awards last season. That was partly because Missouri’s Chase Daniel and Kansas’ Todd Reesing ignited a dual football renaissance among two of the nation’s oldest rivals. Daniel was named First Team All-Big 12 by the Associated Press and was a Heisman Trophy finalist, and he’s back for his senior season, attempting to top the 4,306 yards and 33 touchdowns he tossed in 2007. Reesing returns as well, of course, and Kansas’ resident funslinger will try to duplicate a season where he earned Second Team All-Big 12 honors, while throwing for 33 touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. And it’s not just a Big 12 north phenomenon. Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders’ explosive spread offense and finished first in the country with 48 touchdown passes in 2007. And all Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford did during his freshman season was lead the country in quarterback rating, while tossing 36 touchdown passes. Throw in Texas’ Colt McCoy, Colorado’s Cody Hawkins, Texas A&M’s Stephen McGee and Nebraska’s Joe Ganz and the Big 12 has 10 returning quarterbacks who started games in 2007. n n n Bo Pelini hardly recognized the Big 12 when he took over the reins at Nebraska last winter. Pelini, who was an assistant coach at Nebraska in 2003 and Oklahoma in 2004, remembered the black and blue ground offenses that ruled the league in the late 90s and early 2000s, when running backs such as Ahman Green, Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson reigned over the conference. “It’s changed,” Pelini said. “It’s gone from option football to zone read and spreading the field and fast-break type offenses.” But then in 1999, an assistant from Kentucky named Mike Leach took over the offensive coordinator position at Oklahoma and installed his pass-happy spread offense. Leach used as many as five wide receivers, attempting to stretch defenses all across the field. One year later, Leach became the head coach at Texas Tech and took his offense with him. While it seemed a novelty at the time, eight years later Missouri and Kansas both employ similar spread offenses, while Oklahoma, Texas, and Oklahoma State – among others – all use elements of the spread. “The bottom line is every spread offense is different. And there’s not one—there’s very few that are the same,” Pelini said. “It’s not just the Big 12, but it’s college football in general,” Pelini said. Cartoonish offensive numbers have come with the spread, and those numbers have brought attention back to the quarterbacks. And perhaps no quarterback in the Big 12 is grabbing more headlines than Missouri’s Daniel. After being propelled into the national spotlight with a flurry of huge games last November, Daniel’s mug was splashed on the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this month, and the coaches named him preseason FirstTeam All-Big 12. n n n

So for now, Robinson will start the season in relative anonymity, another Big 12 quarterback with strong arms and dangerous legs in a conference loaded with them. Robinson can scramble around the pocket, he can throw the deep ball and he’s ready to get noticed. But as Robinson says, “You see a lot of guys around the conference like that.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

17

Tigers find place among Big 12 elite
Missouri’s quick-striking offense drives team near top of conference
at as many as four different backs to carry the load, and he also must replace a pair of starters from the offensive line. Like his defensive line Though it seems like an overnight success last year, Pinkel said his inexperienced O-line story to some, Missouri’s trip up the Big 12 would have to mature. “Our offensive line as we look at them are ladder has been a long process. Last season coach Gary Pinkel’s squad went going to have to be a lot better in October and from unranked to one win shy of the BCS a lot better in November than they were at the National Championship game. With 15 return- beginning,” he said. Pinkel added that he’s not too worried, ing starters, including 2007 Heisman finalist Chase Daniel, the Tigers are expected to because he has Daniel to help take any pressure remain at that elite level and maybe even bring off his young line and tailbacks. Daniel, who finished fourth in last year’s home the crown. All of this was made possible by Pinkel’s Heisman vote and figures to be heading to New York again this year, decision to effectively is the steady hand of the combine the two hottest offense. He made clutch offensive philosophies in “The way we’re going and the plays all year and guided the country, bringing the the Tigers to their best seano-huddle spread offense way we’re working, it could be a son in school history. to Columbia. special season.” However, Daniel said “The way that whole he understands that it will thing came down origitake an entire team effort nally, I felt we needed an CHASE DANIEL find success again this edge,” Pinkel said. “I looked Missouri quarterback year. at what Mike (Leach) has “What made us really been doing in Texas Tech, good last year was that our and certainly a version of guys who were returning his spread offense, and stepped up and got better,” Daniel said. “Our going to bowl after bowl after bowl.” Before making his decision, Pinkel also veterans have to get better in order for us to get spoke with defensive coordinators from across where we want to be.” Some of those veterans who figure to step the country and asked them what offense drove them nuts. The most common response he up are senior tight end Chase Coffman, junior heard was that defensive coaches hated trying linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Though still to stop the spread. From there he worked on perfecting his young, Maclin has lots of experience. Last year he led the Tigers with 1,055 receivown version of the spread, talking to other coaches who run spread-oriented offenses like ing yards, and Maclin’s also one of the top Florida’s Urban Meyer and Bowling Green’s return specialists in the country. The only team to beat Missouri in 2007 Gregg Brandon. Missouri offensive coordinator Dave was Oklahoma, which did so in the regular Christensen then came up with the idea of com- season and in the Big 12 title game. This year bining the spread with a no-huddle scheme. the Sooners and Tigers won’t meet unless each The result? Last year the Tigers offense aver- squad can duplicate last season and again make aged 39.9 points per game (ninth in the nation) the conference title game. In a stacked Big 12, that’s not an easy thing and 490.3 yards per game (fifth in the nation). “We want to be an offensive football team to do, but with their super offense in place and that gives, dictates a little bit what the defense a plethora of returning starters on defense, the Tigers are starting to feel the magic once does as the Cotton Bowl did,” Pinkel said. In the 2008 Cotton Bowl, Missouri running again. “Now we have to take the next step,” Daniel back Tony Temple used the spread to cut up said. “This year’s already been a lot more the Arkansas defense for 281 yards and four intense, but we don’t need to talk about it. We touchdowns. Temple will be the most difficult player for know our goals are out there for us. The way Missouri to replace as there’s not one clear we’re going and the way we’re working, it could guy ready to step in. Pinkel said he’s looking be a special season.”

2008 kansas jayhawks football

By Taylor Bern

[email protected]

KANSAN FILE PHOTO

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel enters the 2008 season as a Heisman Trophy contender, and the Tigers could vie for the national championship. Daniel finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2007, while Missouri fell one victory short of the BCS National Championship game and then soundly defeated Arkansas, 38-7, in the Cotton Bowl.

Heisman Trophy contenders
tim tebow Florida, junior, quarterback
The list starts with Tebow, last year’s Heisman winner. Tebow, a junior, accounted for 55 touchdowns — 32 in the air and 23 on the ground — in 2007. If Florida stays in the national title hunt, Tebow will stay in Heisman conversations.

Pat white West Virginia, senior, quarterback
White’s old head coach, Rich Rodriguez, left for Michigan. But White returns for his senior season as the best dual threat quarterback this side of Tim Tebow.

Chris “beanie” wells Ohio State, junior, running back

knowshon moreno Georgia, sophomore, running back

A workhorse in Ohio State’s ground game, Wells ran for 1,609 yards last season and has the added advantage of playing in a glamour program.

If Moreno can avoid the sophomore jinx and carry Georgia to a national title, he may be the second sophomore in a row to win the Heisman.

Chase Daniel Missouri, senior, quarterback

A Heisman finalist a year ago, Daniel’s hopes this season rest on Missouri staying relevant nationally.

miChael Crabtree Texas Tech, sophomore, wide receiver

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Wide receivers are at a natural disadvantage in the Heisman race, but Crabtree’s numbers last season — 134 catches and 1,962 yards — are too gaudy to ignore.

www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

Kansas’ focus shifts to sustaining success
Mark Mangino’s Kansas Jayhawks would be wise to study the rise of Wisconsin football during the 1990s

2008 kansas jayhawks football

[email protected]

By alex dufek

“W

e’re just getting started.” This is the motto the Athletic Department adopted for the 2008 Kansas football season. A bold statement considering the Jayhawks had their best season in school history a year ago. As we all know by now, Kansas has had a problem with consistent success in football. Evidence lies in the fact that the school has never appeared in back-to-back bowl games. National exposure, expectations and doubters are already looming over Lawrence and things won’t get easier once the season begins. A dangerous non-conference match-up at South Florida in week three, and an improved Big 12 south schedule featuring three teams ranked in the AP preseason top 15, guarantees a more difficult road to greatness this season for the Hawks. But fear not, if Kansas can hurdle over a few of these obstacles the promised land may not be far away. Having two University of WisconsinMadison alums for parents, I have heard many similarities drawn between the current state of Kansas football and the state of Wisconsin Badger football in the early 1990s, when its program was “just getting started.” In 1993 the Badgers burst onto the Big 10 scene as well as the national landscape in an almost identical fashion to how Kansas did one year ago. After finishing 5-6 in 1992, Wisconsin made the leap to 10-1-1, snaring a Rose Bowl title they had been denied three times before. Likewise, following a 2006 season where the Hawks finished 6-6 with no bowl berth, Kansas surprised many in 2007 as they finished 12-1 and captured the Orange Bowl title that eluded the program in 1969. However, things weren’t always great in “America’s Dairy Land.” During the 30 seasons leading up to 1993, the Wisconsin program averaged a lowly 4.2 wins per season. Things were equally sub-par in the “Sunflower State.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mark Mangino answers questions at Big 12 media day July 22, in Kansas City, Mo. After leading Kansas to an Orange Bowl title in 2007, Mangino and Kansas face a tougher schedule in 2008. But a winning season this year means Kansas will get invited to a bowl game for the second consecutive year. In the 30 seasons before last year’s campaign, Kansas averaged an almost identical 4.4 victories per season. The Badgers followed their Rose Bowl success by going 8-3-1in 1994, capping the season with a Hall of Fame Bowl victory, only the second back-to-back bowl trip in Wisconsin’s history at the time. Since then the Badgers’ program has blossomed into one of the most consistent in college football. Over last 14 seasons the Badgers have averaged 8.4 wins per season, played in 12 bowl games, suffered only two losing seasons and groomed a Heisman trophy winner in Ron Dayne. This is an example of turning a program around in its purest form. Although the majority of Wisconsin’s success is only 15 years in the making, the tradition in Madison is strong. The fans are dedicated and enthusiastic, the band is famous for its “5th Quarter” and the break between the third and fourth quarter is easily the most exciting in the nation as fans always go wild when they hear House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” In fact, their home venue, Camp Randall, is so respected that the videogame “NCAA Football 2009” ranked Wisconsin’s home turf as the eighth toughest stadium in college football. Not too bad considering they were placed ahead of traditional powers USC, Michigan and Nebraska. Now how can Kansas model Wisconsin’s success? The Kansas Athletics Department has done its job by building the new football facilities and extending head coach Mark Mangino’s contract. The fans have chipped in by setting season attendance records each of the past three years. And the coaches have recruited talent, developed it and established a winning atmosphere in Lawrence. However, Kansas has come all too close to changing the national perception of the program in the past. The 1996 season carried a lot of optimism as Kansas entered the year ranked 25th in the AP poll after a successful 1995 campaign in which the Jayhawks capped off a 10-2 season by blowing out UCLA in the Aloha Bowl. All started well in 1996 as the Jayhawks jumped out to a 3-1 record, but things turned sour fast following the Jayhawks 52-24 shellacking of Oklahoma in week four. The Hawks went on to drop six of their last seven and finished the year a disappointing 4-7. Kansas coach Glen Mason ventured north to the University of Minnesota and the program didn’t find itself back in a bowl until 2003. A 2008 season without a bowl berth, regardless of the schedule or the newfound national attention, would be another huge setback. With all the momentum in the world pushing Kansas forward this year, players, coaches and fans need to keep the gears in motion. That means the team must overlook no opponent and at the same time not be intimidated to walk into Norman, Oklahoma, or Lincoln, Nebraska, and beat the traditional powers in their houses. It also means fans must stay at games through their entirety regardless of the score, if they ever wish to have an environment that rivals the great venues across the country. The foundation has been laid down by Mangino, Lew Perkins and Co., and if it’s not supported now, the program they’ve done a terrific job building will most likely crumble. However, if Kansas can push through this year and win seven-plus games, earning a bowl berth, maybe students at Memorial Stadium will also find the urge to celebrate, mimic Wisconsin and “Jump Around.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008 www.kansan.com

19

2008 schedule
florida International louisiana tech

2008 kansas jayhawks football
by tayloR bERn

associated Press top 25 Poll
Team (1st place votes) 2007 1. Georgia (22) 11-2 2. Ohio State (21) 11-2 3. Southern California (12) 11-2 4. Oklahoma (4) 11-3 5. Florida (6) 12-2 6. Missouri 12-2 7. LSU 12-2 8. West Virginia 11-2 9. Clemson 9-4 10. Auburn 9-4 11. Texas 10-3 12. Texas Tech 9-4 13. Wisconsin 9-4 14. kansas 12-1 15. Arizona State 10-3 16. BYU 11-2 17. Virginia Tech 11-3 18. Tennessee 10-4 19. South Florida 9-4 20. Illinois 9-4 21. Oregon 9-4 22. Penn State 9-4 23. Wake Forest 9-4 24. Alabama 7-6 25. Pittsburgh 5-7 Pts. 1528 1506 1490 1444 1266 1266 1135 1116 1105 968 966 786 771 707 631 590 578 509 496 483 366 293 227 89 85

Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. This game should be more clinic than contest, although it will be hard to improve on last year’s 55-3 rout. Kansas has an advantage at every position and fans should enjoy this ceremonious start to the season.

Sep. 6 at 6 p.m. Last season Kansas beat its four non-conference opponents by a combined score of 214-23. That brought a lot of scrutiny about scheduling cupcakes and the Bulldogs are only a small step up from the usual pastries.

at south florida

Sep. 12 at 7 p.m. This is Kansas’ first real test of the season as the Bulls have won nine games in back-to-back years behind junior quarterback Matt Grothe. In 2006, Kansas held off South Florida 13-7 in Memorial Stadium.

sam houston state

Sep. 20 at 7 p.m. The last time Rhett Bomar played Kansas, he was wearing an Oklahoma jersey and he led his squad to a 19-3 victory. Three years later he returns with the I-AA Bearkats and should be in for a long night.

at Iowa state

Oct. 4 at TBA This should be Kansas’ easiest Big 12 contest and a good one to get it rolling. The Jayhawks beat the Cyclones by a combined score of 86-17 the past two seasons.

Colorado

Oct. 11 at TBA Dan Hawkins’ team is headed in the right direction and it could make this game too close for comfort. The Kansas secondary will have to be ready for Cody Hawkins’ balanced passing attack.

at oklahoma

Oct. 18 at TBA This game starts one of the most difficult and important six game stretches in the Mangino era. The Jayhawks could, and probably should, be undefeated heading into this game and the Big 12 title still goes through Norman.

Usa today Coaches’ Poll
1. Georgia (22) 2. USC (14) 3. Ohio State (14) 4. Oklahoma (3) 5. Florida (5) 6. LSU (3) 7. Missouri 8. West Virginia 9. Clemson 10. Texas 11. Auburn 12. Wisconsin 13. kansas 14. Texas Tech 15. Virginia Tech 16. Arizona State 17. BYU 18. Tennessee 19. Illinois 20. Oregon 21. South Florida 22. Penn State 23. Wake Forest 24. Michigan 25. Fresno State 11-2 11-2 11-2 11-3 9-4 12-2 12-2 11-2 9-4 10-3 9-4 9-4 12-1 9-4 11-3 10-3 11-2 10-4 9-4 9-4 9-4 9-4 9-4 9-4 9-4 1,438 1,430 1,392 1,329 1,293 1,163 1,143 1,008 999 979 888 747 714 644 568 560 547 506 422 399 350 313 203 112 91

texas tech

Oct. 25 at TBA The Red Raiders defense returns eight starters from a decent unit last season, but its still vulnerable. If you can’t simply over-power Tech, which Kansas likely can’t, then the best route is to air it out and beat Graham Harrell at his own game.

kansas state

Nov. 1 at TBA The Wildcats could be in for an ugly season and they’ll be looking for at least one big win to hang their hats on. Records won’t matter in this contest and the Jayhawks must focus on protecting their home field advantage.

at nebraska

Nov. 8 at TBA Kansas’ last trip to Lincoln was a memorable 39-32 overtime loss, and few KU fans will ever forget last year’s 76-39 beat down. The Jayhawks can’t take this game for granted because the Cornhuskers always get up for home games.

texas

Nov. 15 at TBA The Jayhawks final two games could each feature two teams battling for a bid to the Big 12 title game. Texas won 10 games last year but lost to Kansas State and at Texas A&M. Texas’ Colt McCoy will have his work cut out for him.

Missouri (at arrowhead stadium)

Nov. 29 at 11:30 a.m. or 2 p.m. The 2007 match-up was the biggest game in Kansas’ history and turned out to be its only blemish of the season. It will be hard for there to be more on the line in this contest, but regular season finales don’t get much more exciting than this.

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www.kansan.com Thursday, August 28, 2008

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