Jayhawks sport new look on special teams
In the wake of his team's disastrous special teams showing last week against Colorado, Kansas University coach Mark Mangino didn't waste much time making good on his promise to try to shore up the problems as quickly as possible.
At least two Kansas starters said Tuesday that they would be handling an increased special teams workload against fourth-ranked Oklahoma this Saturday. Linebacker James Holt, who typically plays on the punt and kick return teams, expects to also be handling kickoff coverage duties, while fellow linebacker Joe Mortensen said he'll be making a return to the unit for the first time since having off-season knee surgery.
"I guess they were trying to give me a little rest break, but I'm back on it and I'm looking forward to it," said Mortensen, who played on the kick return team a season ago. "I know we need to improve on that."
Following Saturday's victory over the Buffaloes, in which the Jayhawks' special teams units struggled on all fronts, Mangino said multiple starters approached him after the game about joining special teams.
And facing a schedule that grows increasingly difficult over the course of the next six weeks, the coach didn't hesitate to accept the offers.
"When you're getting the ball on the 15-, 16-yard line and you're backed up, that means there's a reduction in the choice of offensive plays you have," Mangino said. "And we need field position. There's a lot of ways to gain field position, and one of them is great special teams play."
Sooners scary good in opening quarter
There is starting a game strong, and then there is what Oklahoma has done to opponents so far this season.
Through six games, the Sooners have outscored opponents 110-6 in the first quarter of games.
"They'll come out the first quarter and try to get some scores and get on top of you," said Mangino. "And when they're on top at home, they're formidable. They're tough to beat."
Which should come as especially unsettling news to the Jayhawks, who in their past three games have been outscored 21-0 in the first quarter against less-than-stellar opponents Sam Houston State, Iowa State and Colorado.
Against the Sooners, who are 57-2 at home under coach Bob Stoops, a strong start might be a necessity if the Jayhawks hope to stay undefeated in conference play.
"You've got to get out of the blocks against OU," Mangino said. "They traditionally jump on teams. They look to get that advantage early in the game, and that's something that we've got to do, we've got to be ready on the opening kickoff and play at the same tempo, fast and ferocious, for four quarters.