Sunday, April 13, 2003

Jayhawks happy, healthy

Whittemore looks good at scrimmage


Bill Whittemore looked healthier than ever Saturday, completing seven of 11 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown and running for another TD during Kansas University's abbreviated spring football scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.

"He's had a great spring," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "Bill really looks good. I'm excited about him. He might have a chance to be among the top quarterbacks in the country if we can continue to develop a strong supporting cast for him."

Whittemore, a Fort Scott Community College transfer, was one of the top quarterbacks in the Big 12 Conference in 2001 before he injured the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and missed the final three games of his junior season. The injury did not require surgery, and Whittemore, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, was in top form Saturday.

Mangino canceled the annual spring game because of a rash of injuries and instead held a practice followed by a short scrimmage. Before the scrimmage, KU was working on a third-and-long situation where Whittemore completed 6-of-7 passes for 66 yards in the drill, including four passes to Brandon Rideau for 61 yards.

In the scrimmage, Whittemore completed seven of his first eight passes. Mark Simmons was his favorite target with four catches for 85 yards.

On the first scoring drive, Whittemore found Simmons three times for completions of 21, 6 and 10 yards -- the 10-yarder was an acrobatic touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone despite double coverage.

Simmons made 12 catches for 208 yards and two TDs last season as a freshman and will be counted on heavily in the fall.

"They were all young guys," Whittemore said of his receiving corps. "Going through a year of the Big 12, you learn a lot. They're going to step it up. I really feel like they will. Simmons had a couple great catches."

Johnny Beck, who made 23 of 27 extra-point attempts and 7 of 17 field-goal attempts as a sophomore, missed the extra point after Simmons' TD.

Whittemore led another scoring drive, which included a 48-yard pass to Simmons. The quarterback scored on a 4-yard run, and Beck tacked on the extra point.

Beck later added a 37-yard field goal, and red-shirt freshman running back Jon Cornish capped the scoring with a 12-yard run. Backup kicker Jerod Brooks made the final extra point.

While Whittemore made things look easy Saturday, sophomore-to-be Brian Luke had a rougher time with KU's second-string offense. The backup QB finished 2-of-9 for eight yards and had a pass intercepted by linebacker Kevin Kane.

With an injury-depleted offensive line, KU did little rushing. Clark Green led KU with 31 yards on five carries.

Junior-college transfer Joe Vaughn -- who likely will be KU's starting center -- was "banged up," according to Mangino. That left red-shirt freshman Chris Roberts to take the snaps Saturday.

"That poor guy," Mangino said. "We're short on centers. ... He's had to carry the load for a few practices. We're real proud of him."


Floodman update: Sophomore linebacker Banks Floodman, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's season opener, is expected to be 100 percent recovered in time for KU's season opener Aug. 30 against Northwestern. Mangino said Floodman was "85 percent," but Floodman disputed that.

"The knee is fine," said Floodman, who had surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 18. "I feel like I'm a lot better than that."


KU captains: Mangino announced the captains for next season. They are: Whittemore and tackle Adrian Jones on offense, Floodman and tackle Travis Watkins on defense and Zach Dyer on special teams.

Jones made the switch from tight end to tackle during the spring.

"That's the best move he's ever made and the best sell job I've ever had to make because he was convinced he was a tight end," Mangino said. "He was a pretty good tight end. He has a chance to be a great tackle."


More to come: KU's defense likely will be much different from what the estimated crowd of 1,500 saw Saturday. The Jayhawks will have nine junior-college transfers on defense when players report in August.

Mangino said he had not decided whether Nick Reid would play safety or linebacker. Reid -- who is listed as a safety on the spring roster -- was KU's fourth-leading tackler as a freshman linebacker and will be KU's top returning tackler in the fall.

"We'll know a little more about ourselves during two-a-days," Mangino said.

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