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Thursday, February 2, 2006

Keegan

Keegan: Mangino making strides

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In the recruiting game, no definitive scoreboard tells the students it's time to uproot the goalpost and take it to Potter Lake for a swim.

For what it's worth, those who make livings ranking recruiting classes indicate this is a pretty good one for Kansas University.

Rivals.com rates KU 38th in the nation and seventh in the Big 12 Conference, ahead of Kansas State, Missouri, Iowa State, Baylor and Colorado.

Consider the schools wide receiver Tertavian Ingram still was being recruited by after committing to Kansas: N.C. State, Purdue, Virginia and West Virginia.

Instead of knocking heads with and sometimes losing out to schools from Conference USA and the WAC, KU is knocking heads with and sometimes beating out schools from the ACC and Big Ten.

By the time the bulk of players from this class plays prominent roles, the hope is no victory against any opponent not named Texas will be worthy of the sort of scenes this past season on the Memorial Stadium playing field inspired by beating Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State.

Kansas never is going to finish ahead of Texas in the recruiting rankings, but that's not the goal. Continuing a steady growth curve is, and in Mark Mangino, the Jayhawks have the right man in charge to see that that happens.

In real estate, monumental leaps in housing prices scare realtors because they know that's the precursor to a bubble bursting. They prefer steady growth because they trust it more.

The same holds true for a football program. In such a scenario, the bubble bursts when the young hotshot coach skips town for a more high-profile job.

In Mangino, the Jayhawks have a football coach who appears to be keeping his eye on the target of getting better and not on his next job. Nothing about the way he goes about his job suggests he's using Kansas as a stepping stone. He's sold on the place.

Now, the only question becomes, is KU sold on Mangino? More to the point, is KU athletic director Lew Perkins a Mangino man?

The only way to answer that question definitively in the affirmative is to make Mangino an offer he can't refuse with enough guaranteed years to give the coach his very own signing day.

Otherwise, that legitimate question lingers.

The last athletic director to give Mangino an extension was A.D.-turned-vindictive-author Al Bohl. Mangino is signed through 2007.

The more years a football coach has remaining on his contract, the easier it is to convince recruits they will play for the same coach for four years.

Even without that security to throw at recruits, Mangino, along with his staff, did a solid job recruiting a class that will be interesting to follow, one that inspires interesting questions, such as:

Will Jason Thompson of Dallas or Kansas City's Jamal Greene develop into the next Charlton Keith?

What role will undersized speedster Jake Sharp of Salina play, and how soon?

Will the first player to start a game for Kansas be from Dallas (defensive back Anthony Webb, receiver Xavier Rambo) or will he be from Tampa, Ingram's hometown?

More and more people care about the answers to those questions, which is a great sign.

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