Any Kansas University football fans questioning how good redshirt freshman quarterback Kerry Meier could be, got a few answers Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Pittsburg native completed 16-of-28 passes for 184 yards, ran for 36 yards on seven carries, and accounted for all four scores in White's 28-7 win over the Blue team in front of 5,000 fans at KU's annual Spring Game.
Meier's onfield performance not only showed the young slinger's poise, but provided the easiest answer for coach Mark Mangino in his postgame press conference.
"Um ... uh ... yeah," said a smiling Mangino, jokingly pausing for dramatic effect when asked if Meier would be KU's starter this fall.
"Kerry is going to be a guy that is going to do some great things for us this season, no question about it. He's still not a finished product, and he knows that. He still has a lot to learn, but we're confident in him."
So are Meier's fellow Jayhawks.
"He leads the team even though he is young," said senior wide receiver Brian Murph, who hauled in five catches for 39 yards for the White squad. "He knows football. I feel good and confident that he can do what a quarterback needs to do."
But Meier freely admitted that while he had a good showing, he knows there were lots of little things he didn't do Friday that he can correct for the fall.
"I had some good plays, I had some bad plays, but I think I had more good than bad," said Meier -- who completed his first four passes, including a 36-yard touchdown strike to a diving Derek Fine as he marched the White squad 75 yards on six plays to start the game.
But it wasn't just Meier who impressed Mangino at quarterback.
Fellow freshman Todd Reesing led the Blue squad with 102 yards on 7-of-14 passes, including an 11-yard touchdown to freshman running back Angus Quigley to start the second half of the four quarter game that included a running clock in the second half.
"You can see we have some talented kids at quarterback. Todd has to learn to take a little off (his passes), get it over the linebacker, but don't injury someone's sternum," joked Mangino, of one of Reesing's passes that was too hot for a receiver to hang onto.
It wasn't just about KU's new-look offense either.
Several defenders made their debuts, and other returnees showed flashes in their new roles.
"It was fun to get back out there and hit someone," said sophomore linebacker Mike Rivera, who nearly took the head off of tight end Marc Dierking who'd already lost his helmet on the play.
Rivera said obviously there is quite a bit of pressure on the new linebacker core because they have to replace graduated standouts Nick Reid, Banks Floodman and Kevin Kane, but he said he welcomes the challenge.
"It's a different defense, a new group of guys so we're going to have a bit of a new way of doing things. But we're going to fill our own shoes and just keep going everyday," Rivera said.
Other highlights from the two-hour scrimmage included Fine one-upping Marcus Hereford on back-to-back one-handed catches. Jon Cornish ran for 63 yards on 15 carries, while freshman Angus Quigley had 40 yards on nine attempts. Kyle Tucker punted the ball nine times, and averaged 44.2 yards a kick for the White team.
Mangino said while he was excited that his kids got to get out and play in front of KU fans, he and the other Jayhawk coaches pretty much treat the Spring Game like any of the other 15 spring practices.
"It was a good day's work here," said Mangino, whose squad kicks off its 2006 season with a 6 p.m. game against Northwestern State on Sept. 2 at Memorial Stadium.
"It has been a very good spring for us. I love our team's enthusiasm and practice habits; which always give you a chance to be a good team. We've set out to improve in every position on the field that needs improvement from last year."
Second Half Action
Don't call it a comeback.
After falling behind 14-0 in the first half of Kansas University's football team's annual Spring Game, the Blue squad started things off strong in the second half.
Freshman running back Angus Quigley started the 75-play scoring drive with a eight-yard run, and finished the possession with an 11-yard touchdown catch from freshman quarterback Todd Reesing.
Reesing set-up the score with back-to-back passes of 28 yards or better, including a 35-yard strike to Raimond Pendleton, who was pushed out of bounds at the one. Two false start penalities backed the Blue team up to the 11. A run, and an incomplete pass set up the third down play, but Reesing just flicked the ball to Quigley, who came out of the right side of the end zone and sprinted in for the score.
Despite the score, the Blue team will have to hurry to catch up as the second half as two 12-minute quarters on a continuous clock.
After Blue's drive, KU's projected started Kerry Meier kept up his hot night. He threaded a 60-plus yard pass to Dominic Roux, but the Jayhawk receiver dropped the ball in double coverage. Two different times on the drive Meier showed his running ability, scrambling for first downs.
Then on a second-and-five, from the five-yard line, Meier ran around the left side of scrimmage for a touchdown run to put White up 21-7.
After a Blue punt, Marcus Hereford might have came up with the highlight of the night even though it didn't count. Meier tossed a deep ball that was deflected, but Hereford kept with it and caught the pass one-handed a step out of bounds.
Derek Fine one-upped Hereford on a play that counted. The big tight end caught a ball over the middle one-handed while getting hit by a defender. Two completions later, Dexton Fields was in the end zone thanks to a 17-yard scoring strike -- Meier's fourth touchdown of the evening. The score gives the White team a 28-7 lead.
First Half Action
Kansas University football fans didn't have to wait long to cheer for Kerry Meier.
The redshirt freshman quaterback completed his first three passes, including the last one for a 36-yard touchdown strike thanks to a diving catch by tight end Derek Fine.
The score gave the White team a 7-0 lead in the annual Spring Game that consists of four 15-minute quarters.
KU senior Adam Barmann wasn't as successful on the Blue team's first drive as he went 0-2 and the Blue squad was forced to punt.
Meier, who pitched the ball twice to open the game to Jon Cornish, completed his first four passes before overthrowing a wide-open Marcus Hereford on a deep route.
The White team had to punt on its next possession. The Blue team picked up 27 yards, including 13 on a nice sliding catch by Jonathan Lamb, before having to punt the ball away.
The White squad again went three and out allowing Kyle Tucker the opportunity to punt once again.
The Blue squad switched quarterbacks on its third possession, bringing in freshman quarterback Todd Reesing. The 5-11, 190-pounder threw twice, but both of his throws were incomplete.
Cornish did his best Barry Sanders imitation when he ran for a yard before running into a large contigent of defenders. Cornish bounced out the other side where had the game been live, a block by Meier might have broke Cornish loose, but instead Meier faked the blocked and Cornish was brought down for about a yard gain.
Meier showed his running ability before the first quarter came to an end when he rolled out and then took off for a 11-yard spurt.
Meier completed 7-of-10 passes for 69 yards and the score in the first 15 minutes, while Cornish ran for 28 yards on seven attempts. Fine caught three balls for 42 yards, including the diving TD catch for the White squad. Barmann was 5-of-7 for 29 yards, while freshman running back Angus Quigley had four yards on three carries.
Tucker tallied five punts for 179 yards.
Meier put White up by two touchdowns when he found Marcus Hereford on a slant at about the five-yard. The sophomore receiver bounced off a pair of defenders and stepped into the end zone for the 15-yard scoring strike.
Reesing had a pair of completions on Blue's next possession, including another impressive grab by Lamb.
After a White punt, Barmann came back in for the Blue team.
The Blue team punted, but on its next possession Quigley picked up a first down on a nice run up the middle.
Barmann looked to have cut Blue's deficit in half when he moved up in the pocket flung the ball deep down field to a open Lamb who caught the pass and trotted into the end zone. However, officials ruled that Barmann was downed by contact and thus the big highlight came back to midfield. Barmann was sacked again and the first half came to an end with White up 14-0.
Meier finished the half 10-of-17 for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Barmann was 6-of-10 for 30 and Reesing was 3-of-8 for 24. Cornish had 33 yards on 11 carries and Quigley had 33 on eight. Murph and Lamb each had four catches, but Fine led all receivers with 42 yards on three grabs.
Several Jayhawks will make their debuts tonight when Kansas University's football team offers KU fans a sneak peek at the 2006 squad during the annual Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.
"It's a fun day, but it's still a work day," said KU coach Mark Mangino of the intersquad scrimmage that will feature KU's first-team offense staying together throughout the night, while the defense will be mixed and matched depending on personnel.
"We have a lot of work to get finished up here in the spring before we head over to summer workouts and then the fall."
Still KU fans will be treated to the likes of freshman quarterback Kerry Meier making his public debut, along with other rookies like Todd Reesing, Angus Quigley, and Brandon Duncan.
"Practice is hard work, but the spring game is hard work that we actually look forward to because it's fun," said KU running back Jon Cornish. "It's an accumulation of all the work that we've done here."