Thursday, November 27, 2003

Mangino gives Jayhawks holiday break

KU's players, coaches waiting for word on their bowl destination


Kansas University is bowl bound, but the Jayhawks won't spend the holiday worrying about their postseason destination or preparing for their next game.

"All the players are gone for Thanksgiving," KU coach Mark Mangino said Wednesday, "and our assistant coaches are off from now until at least Sunday, maybe Monday depending on what we know."

Kansas worked out Monday and Tuesday before starting a four-day break Wednesday. Mangino hopes to know where his team is headed when practices resume Sunday.

Actually, he'd line to know sooner.

"We've talked to the bowls and said, 'Listen, if you're going to take us, let's do it,'" Mangino said. "'Let's do it Wednesday, hopefully Friday. Let's do it now.' We want to prepare. Our fans want to make arrangements to go. There has been a lot of fan contact with the athletic department and the football office, wondering what they should do.

"We've given them really good advice," Mangino quipped. "We've told them, 'We don't know. We don't know what to tell you. Just sit tight."

Ten teams had been invited to bowl games as of Wednesday afternoon, including North Carolina State's berth in the Tangerine Bowl. Kansas has been linked to that Dec. 22 game at Orlando, Fla., but bowl officials said the Big 12 Conference asked them not to invite a league team until after Missouri and Iowa State play the conference's final regular-season game Saturday at Columbia, Mo.

"We're going to move as soon as we're able to," said Tangerine Bowl spokesman Dan Pearson.

While North Carolina State (7-5) begins its bowl preparations, Mangino won't be sitting at home making cranberry sauce.

"We've begun research on a couple of teams. North Carolina State is one of them," said Mangino, who added that a formal exchange of video tapes won't happen until after Kansas receives an official invitation.

The coach wasn't worried about informing his players once an invitation is received.

"We think our kids are really tuned in to the media outlets wherever they are around the country," he said. "Believe me, the kids are paying attention and they'll know right away."

The Jayhawks (6-6, 3-5 Big 12) are glad to be moving on after spending the last seven Decembers at home.

"It means a lot," said senior quarterback Bill Whittemore. "It's uncharted territory for us."

While a bowl game would be a reward for seniors who have endured years of losing, it might mean more for KU's underclassmen and the future of the program.

"It's important that we make the most of these practices," said Mangino, whose team will have an extra month of workouts. "Some of them will be developmental practices, working with younger kids. The rest will be in preparation for the bowl game."

The extra month also will give players such as Charles Gordon more time to adapt to new positions before playing the Jayhawks' most important game in eight seasons. Gordon, a red-shirt freshman receiver, and freshman running back John Randle both started playing cornerback in addition to their offensive duties with three games left in the regular season.

Mangino also moved red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Travis Dambach to defensive tackle late in the year.

"This will be a tremendous opportunity for those kids," Mangino said, "and a tremendous opportunity for us as coaches to see if there are other kids we need to move around and see where they might help us."

  • Gordon honored: Gordon was named Wednesday to the Freshman All-America Team. Gordon leads KU with 53 receptions for 696 yards and four touchdowns. He also averages 13.1 yards per punt return and has made 13 tackles, including a sack.357.

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