Saturday, November 4, 2006

KU’s Thompson overcomes nerves

Freshman lineman 'settled down' after jittery start to his collegiate career


His family was there. His hometown was just up Interstate-35. And all of that gave Jason Thompson a few butterflies during his college debut at Baylor.

"I was nervous," Kansas University's freshman defensive lineman said. "The whole (first) quarter, and then I settled down."

Thompson, a Dallas native, didn't have much time to prepare mentally for his first college game - or get his nerves settled before he hit the field. Thompson thought he was ticketed for a red shirt, but KU coach Mark Mangino looked for more answers for his team's pass rush after a 42-32 loss to Oklahoma State on Oct. 14.

With Thompson shining on the scout team, Mangino approached him before the Baylor game.

"He just came and asked me how I would feel about playing," Thompson said. "I said, 'That's OK. I'd like to play and help the team.'"

The soft-spoken Thompson, who stands 6-foot-6 and is known for his quickness, picked up a tackle in extensive playing time at Baylor and added a quarterback hurry last week against Colorado.

"You see him every day, he's starting to understand things better and better," Mangino said. "He's learning on the run, but he's coming along nicely."

¢ Spreading it out: Kansas had a season-high nine players catch passes last week against Colorado.

One of them wasn't cornerback Aqib Talib, though the sophomore did have a pass thrown his way on a rare offensive snap.

Talib lined up to the right in the second quarter and had a pass thrown to him near the KU sideline. It fell incomplete under heavy coverage.

"I (worked on it) just last week in practice," Talib said earlier this week. "That's why I was only in for two plays. I'll probably do a little bit more in practice this week."

Talib also has worked in practice as a punt-return specialist, but that job recently has gone to senior Jonathan Lamb.

¢ No problem: New NCAA regulations for kickers have done little to stop Scott Webb on kickoffs.

Before the season, the NCAA reduced the height of the kickoff tee from two inches to one inch in hopes of preventing touchbacks.

Webb still hits the end zone more often than not. In 45 kickoffs, he has 24 touchbacks. Only Texas Tech's Keith Toogood, with 33, has more among Big 12 Conference kickers.

¢ Last year's impact: Kansas came back from a 14-3 deficit to force overtime and eventually beat Iowa State, 24-21, in the regular-season finale last season in Lawrence.

The game had huge implications. Iowa State would've been in the Big 12 championship game with the victory, while KU was playing for bowl-eligibility. Kansas, with the win, was invited to the Fort Worth Bowl, where it beat Houston, 42-13.

"I think so," receiver Jeff Foster said, asked if last year's game can help KU this year. "I think we know what it took to win last year, and we're going to keep that in mind in our preparation."

Brian Murph, though, thinks last year's game will have the Cyclones riled up.

"I know they're going to be hungry," Murph said, "especially at their place."

¢ This, that: Kansas already has more receiving touchdowns this season (15) than it had all of last year (13). : Offensive guard Bob Whitaker has the fifth-longest streak in Division I-A for consecutive games started with 45. Texas' Justin Blalock leads the list with 47 straight starts. : Kansas has had six true freshmen play this year - Thompson, Olaitan Oguntodu, Maxwell Onyegbule, Anthony Webb, Jake Sharp and Todd Reesing. That's twice as many as last year, when only James Holt, Russell Brorsen and Tang Bacheyie played as true freshmen.


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