Thursday, November 2, 2006


Keegan: Rookie studs


Of all the words Mark Mangino spoke while answering questions for 20 minutes at his weekly news conference, one stood out as particularly disagreeable.

The word?


"Todd Reesing has played one half of football," Mangino said. "Most of what he did during that one half was agreeable."

The word, defined as "pleasant; to one's liking," just didn't seem strong enough to capture the effect Reesing had on a plank-walking football team playing at such a low energy level it was as if all the players were tied to their chairs and forced to watch a "Dullest Moments in C-Span History" collection before the game.

It's easy to see Mangino likes Reesing the person plenty.

"I've never seen him have a bad day," Mangino said. "He has an attitude about him: Life is good. Three weeks ago, he was throwing with the scout team. He was down at scouts trying to help us out with some quarterbacks we were going to face. You call him up and he comes back up and works with the varsity. No complaints. Smiling all the time. Quick wit about him."

Yet, when it comes to quarterbacks, Mangino's attitude often appears in lockstep with the majority of modern football coaches throughout the NFL and college ranks. If a quarterback isn't hurting you, the thinking goes, he's helping you.

In these times of scripted plays and obsession with turnover totals, a quarterback's talents often aren't given the breathing room to blossom.

It was fellow true freshman Jake Sharp who used the most agreeable word spoken about the quarterback from Austin, Texas.

"Reesing's a gunslinger," Sharp said. "He's one of those guys who goes out there and does his thing regardless of any outside influences. That's why he's such a good quarterback."

Sharp's a gunslinger, too. He's not three yards and a cloud of dust. He's 12.7 yards per carry and a jet stream.

It's obvious already with both of these athletes that Mangino made the right call in offering them scholarships, despite their atypical sizes.

Mangino evaluated them on film, not on paper. Still, what they did statistically in high school was enough to make a coach watch them.

Sharp scored 63 touchdowns in his senior season for Salina Central High. At Lake Travis High, Reesing threw 41 touchdown passes and just five interceptions as a senior.

When they hooked up for a 42-yard pass play against Colorado, the game changed. It never changed back.

"That's what we needed at the time," Sharp said. "Coach told me to go out and make a play."

Telling a play-maker to make a play is a far better approach than advising him against making a mistake. That's why a good golf instructor will tell a hack to find a target in the middle of the fairway, rather than saying, "Don't hit it in the pond."

Whichever quarterback is healthy between Reesing and Kerry Meier on any given Saturday over the next three-and-a-half seasons is going to get a lot of big plays from Sharp, whose break-away speed makes him a threat rushing and receiving.

Another plus to having quick-thinking, quick-footed, young playmakers on board: Smart high school linemen will want to come play for Kansas because they know these guys will make them look good.


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