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Friday, April 10, 2009

Signs of spring

Ten things to watch for at Spring Game

Kansas freshman quarterback Kale Pick throws warm-up passes before the Jayhawks’ home game against Sam Houston State on Sept. 20, 2008. Pick will be trying this spring to establish himself as the No. 2 quarterback.

Kansas freshman quarterback Kale Pick throws warm-up passes before the Jayhawks’ home game against Sam Houston State on Sept. 20, 2008. Pick will be trying this spring to establish himself as the No. 2 quarterback.

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Reader poll

Will you attend KU football's spring game?

  • Yes 40% 103 votes
  • No 9% 23 votes
  • I would, but I live too far away 47% 120 votes
  • I live too far away, but wouldn't go even if I lived closer 3% 9 votes

255 total votes.

Spring football game slated for Saturday

The Kansas football team is just a few days away from wrapping up its spring training experience.

As a general rule of thumb, it is wise not to read too much into the outcome of a collegiate spring football game.

Coaches generally limit their playbooks significantly. Players are going against teammates (and schemes) they know inside and out. And most of a program’s newcomers — some of whom likely figure prominently into the team’s immediate plans — haven’t yet arrived on campus.

But the Spring Game is also an event built on possibility: a time in which hope springs eternal and just about anything — for the moment, at least — seems possible.

With that in mind, here are 10 things that, were they to occur during the Kansas University football team’s Spring Game at 2 p.m. Saturday, would bode quite well for the Jayhawks entering the 2009 season.

1. Kale Pick proves to be a capable No. 2 quarterback.

In what will be Kansas fans’ first extended exposure to Pick, the red-shirt freshman out of Dodge City will attempt to establish himself as a clear-cut No. 2 quarterback — and a good showing would be encouraging for two reasons.

First, it likely would provide Kansas coach Mark Mangino with enough confidence to move back-up quarterback Kerry Meier to receiver full-time, something the coach has been hesitant to do until he feels comfortable with Pick’s progress.

Second, and more obviously, it would represent a good sign for the Jayhawks’ chances of maintaining the level of success they’ve established with Todd Reesing at quarterback.

2. Angus Quigley looks like a natural at linebacker.

It became clear during the 2008 season that Quigley’s future at Kansas was not at running back, but the jury’s still out on his chances to contribute at linebacker. Having switched positions just before last year’s Insight Bowl, Quigley is still in the process of learning the position’s nuances, although the departure of all three of the team’s starting linebackers from ’08 could provide the 6-foot-2, 222-pound Quigley with an opportunity to contribute in what could be his final college season.

“It looks like he’s put his heart and soul into it,” Mangino said of Quigley’s switch to linebacker. “And if he has, there’s a good chance it could work out. It’ll be up to him.”

3. Dezmon Briscoe is on the field.

After being held out most of spring practice for an undisclosed violation of team rules — although he reportedly has practiced at least once so far this spring — Briscoe’s participation in the Spring Game would be sufficient evidence that the ultra-talented receiver has smoothed things over with Mangino. While Kansas features a number of promising receivers, none is quite like Briscoe, who caught 92 passes for 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore. A standout ’09 season from Briscoe will be key if the Jayhawks hope to battle for a Big 12 North title next season.

4. A.J. Steward establishes himself as a viable pass catcher from the tight end position.

Having spent last season learning the tight end position after a switch from quarterback, Steward could be ready to contribute in ’09. At 6-4 and 228 pounds, Steward is a physical specimen, and if he’s able to make catches in traffic on Saturday — and next fall, as well — he would provide a nice compliment to Tim Biere, a sophomore-to-be known more for his blocking.

5. A good performance by at least a couple of untested guard candidates.

It’s no secret that defenses, thanks to their vast knowledge of various sets and schemes, have a marked edge over their offensive counterparts during spring games. So an encouraging showing by the new members of Kansas’ interior offensive line would be especially promising.

Losing Adrian Mayes and Chet Hartley to graduation stings, but there appear to be a number of candidates ready to step in. The two guard candidates with perhaps the highest ceilings are Trevor Marrongelli and John Williams, who likely will battle for a starting position next season.

6. Calvin Rubles makes life difficult for Jayhawks receivers.

Rubles, a cornerback, is one of just four players in the Jayhawks’ most recent signing class to be on campus already, and the junior-college transfer potentially could add depth to a secondary that struggled at times last season.

Mangino has spoken highly of Rubles, who attended the same high school as ex-Jayhawk and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Aqib Talib.

“We need to be very good at the corner position,” Mangino said. “Bringing Calvin Rubles in, we think, will help us.”

7. A glimmer of hope from the kickoff-return position.

Perhaps Kansas’ most glaring weakness last season came in its inability to return kicks. The Jayhawks ranked 118th (out of 119 Div. I teams) in the nation in kickoff returns, and Saturday’s game should provide coaches the opportunity to evaluate younger players as potential candidates for the job.

Without an alternative, however, Mangino might feel pressure to use Briscoe at kick returner as he did at the end of last season. Briscoe excelled in his limited time at the position — he returned seven kicks for 195 yards in a victory against Missouri — but it would be risky business subjecting such a valuable commodity to the possibility of injury.

8. Jeremiah Hatch’s transfer to center goes off without a hitch.

After spending his freshman season at left offensive tackle, Hatch, a sophomore-to-be, will take over for Ryan Cantrell at center, a position Hatch is familiar with after playing it throughout his time at Dallas’ Carter High. Cantrell was a two-year starter at KU, and last season earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors, but Hatch’s size (6-3, 311 pounds) and talents leave coaches confident in his ability to anchor the offensive line.

“We think that will improve our offensive line tremendously,” Mangino said.

9. Hawkinson shows flashes at left tackle.

Hatch’s switch to center leaves a hole at left tackle, and Kansas coaches felt good enough about the potential of red-shirt freshman Tanner Hawkinson to switch him from tight end to left tackle as a possible replacement.

Mangino has had significant success with position switches in the past (see Meier, Talib and Charles Gordon), and it’ll be interesting to see how much playing time Hawkinson receives Saturday — as well as how much progress he has made in the past weeks. Asked about Hawkinson’s perceived lack of size — he’s listed at an underwhelming 245 pounds — Mangino smiled.

“You haven’t seen him lately,” he said.

10. The team gets through the day in one piece.

All signs seem to point to a successful 2009 campaign for the Jayhawks: limited losses on both sides, the return of nearly every skill-position player, a quarterback set to begin his third season as a starter.

But all the promise in the world can be washed away instantly with an untimely injury, and Kansas coaches obviously hope Saturday’s game goes by without a significant setback.

Comments

Brad Avery 10 years, 9 months ago

"Tim Biere, a sophomore-to-be known more for his blocking." Biere will be an excellent receiver as well. If you watched him last season, Reesing simply didn't find him very often when he was open. The few times he had a ball throwin his way, he displayed good hands and instincts.

bossman1962 10 years, 9 months ago

cant wait for this game. the positions i will be watching is linebacker and the defensive line. offense will prett muh unstoppable, the defense will be much quicker this year. that is a huge positive..and if angus quigley keeps learning, he could be a beast. tomorrow will give early indications, but remember it is early and this is like car shopping u just dont buy yet.

prairie_dog 10 years, 9 months ago

An excellent article. I can't wait. And hope that we have some spring weather for the spring game.

I would add that I look for a big year from Jonathan Wilson. If Briscoe gets his act together, Reesing may have an embarrassment of riches to throw to.

I would also like to see Jake S. get some help at RB. He is too small to carry the ball 20 times a game. Yes, he is tough as nails and will take as much punishment as required, but he was beaten to a pulp by the MU game last year. Someone please step up.

LB will be an adventure, especially early. I look for Angus to make some mistakes early, to have Mangino screaming at him when he blows a play, and to deliver some ferocious hits too. It should be fun!!

A mark of success in the early season will be how much playing time Kale gets. I would like to see him playing most of the second half in the early games. Let's hope we are that far ahead!!!!

ARE YOU FIRED UP YET!!!!!!

HawkDigestCom 10 years, 9 months ago

doolindalton: I thought the same thing. Biere quietly had a great year for a freshman tight end and to me showed that he had a good set of hands. The emergence of Steward, just means another big target for Reesing -- making it almost unfair for opposing defenses.

DCJayhawk0208 10 years, 9 months ago

I didn't realize Steward was a former QB. That could mean some pretty interesting trick plays with three quarterbacks in the game at the same time.

Bring on September!

Aron Hayes 10 years, 9 months ago

hey its good to see a former dodge city native trying for one of the great upcoming football programs in america playing on the jayhawks team and possibly starter to be thats awesome

ROCK CHALK FIGHTING JAYHAWK KU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jim Pendleton 10 years, 9 months ago

Hope the Spring Game is a success, and that no one gets hurt.

My biggest issue (didn't we have this a couple years ago?) - why is the Spring Game being held on Easter weekend, when many people have to travel? As the program continues to grow, it would be a positive to see more people attend the Spring Game every year. Instead of working around this holiday, they have it during the holiday. I know you have to work around Relays weekend, but come on. This has to be worked out somehow to get maximum opportunity for more people to attend.

greatabu 10 years, 9 months ago

Anthony Collins was defensive end, not a tight end, when he came to KU; but your point holds as another successful position switch. Also, don't forget that David Hurst and Adrian Jones also moved from tight end to left tackle early in the Mangino era and those worked out pretty well, especially for Jones.

Tribehawk 10 years, 9 months ago

I'm really rooting for Angus. He seems like a solid guy who caught some bad breaks and just hasn't been able to contribute the way he's capable of. It would be awesome to see him starting at LB for us this year and knocking the tar out of opposing ballcarriers on a regular basis.

Kevin Long 10 years, 9 months ago

I guess my first comment didn't come through. What I said was, if Angus can lay the wood anything like he did on that Texas player look out! The link is above.

Tornado88 10 years, 9 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Kenneth Hillman 10 years, 9 months ago

First off, great article Dugan. A lot of good information that helps us stay up to date with the football team. Not trying to be selfish here but please do a follow up to this article AFTER the spring game. Let us know how your top 10 did.

In addition to that top 10, I would have to say another important area is the running back position. Changing up the offensive scheme midway through last year helped open things up for Jake but we need a more powerful runner to compliment that. What is the deal with Jocques (sp?)??

I am very fired up for football already. I hope we get more tv time this year. Let's take the north this year fellas

jhokfan 10 years, 9 months ago

Watched the border war again last night. I never get tired of that game. My main concern is this team stay healthy. If we can do that we should be able to make a run for a conference title.

pmohr13 10 years, 9 months ago

Angus did that play three times in a row against Texas if I remember correctly. First time the safety got back up, second time he knocked him out and the third time was a huge collision by the guys back up that was equal in power on both sides. Was definitely fun to watch.

teejhawk00 10 years, 9 months ago

You do realize that there could of been 10 different columns or stories written or devoted to each one of these items over the course of the last month, right? Anyway, thanks for all THREE articles that we were treated to during spring football. By the way, the local newspaper in the college town that I live in had 4 columns today alone on the football program and their spring game is next weekend, and the football coach runs as tight a ship here as Mangino and staff do there.

jayhawkinATL 10 years, 9 months ago

Stay on the straight-and-narrow, Briscoe!!! Please. Thanks.

KGphoto 10 years, 9 months ago

prairie dog, of the two new RBs, Deshaun Sands and Toben Opurum:

I'd love to see Sands returning kicks, while he spells Sharp a little at tailback. Not as fast as Sharp, but hey, he's Tony Sand's boy. He's got moves. And he's pretty physical.

Also, Opurum is almost the exact same size as Quigley, maybe even a little bigger. He could be a real asset this year, as KU will be settled on their starter in Sharp. Which, sort of reverses the thunder and lightening success from '07, with lightening and thunder. Opurum's report first makes me think of Chris Brown from CU. Big, tall and upright, with deceptive long striding speed, and good vision. http://insider.espn.go.com/ncf/recruiting/tracker/player?recruitId=59349&season=2009&action=upsell&appRedirect=http%3a%2f%2finsider.espn.go.com%2fncf%2frecruiting%2ftracker%2fplayer%3frecruitId%3d59349%26season%3d2009 I know upright isn't so good, but I remember watching Brown just shred Nebraska. I kept thinking, "Why can't they get this guy? He doesn't look so special". 6 TDs later, I was convinced. So if he's anything like Brown was a CU, I'll take that.

I agree with you about Quigley, he'll make some mistakes. But he's a legit 4.4 guy, who will probably be playing near 240lbs. I could see him being a dangerous pass rusher. At least that's what I'd like to see. We sure need it. A little Derrick Thomas in our defensive scheme. Actually, D.T. came out of Alabama listed at 6'3" 235lbs, and he was pretty raw. All he did was use his speed and aggression to wreak havoc on the backfield.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

  1. Kale Pick proves to be a capable No. 2 quarterback.

Definitely need someone to backup Todd so he can come out early in NC games, and we can get some rep's for next year's team. It would also be great for Coach Mangino to be able to move Kerry to receiver full-time. That being said, I'm also curious about Jordan Webb, and wondering how he is doing this spring? It would be even better if we can get some competition for the #2 spot. I'm assuming that Christian Matthews is not on campus yet. Any word if they are envisioning him making a positional change, or are they plannng to let him run the scout team for a red-shirt year before making a decision that way? Seems like another grat athlete that should find a nitch someplace on the field.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

  1. Angus Quigley looks like a natural at linebacker.

KLong - thanks for the link. My guess/hope is that the clip becomes a preamble that gets shown before many games this year. It would mean that Angus is stepping up. Obviously big shoes to fill, but wouldn't it be nice for him to be next year's James Holt.

Mangino may even start to need a nickname or something, Mr Switch, the switchblade, ...? Especially if a reporter starts to enlighten the world about the successes of his players as they listen to his advice/assessment of their skill sets. It is starting to pay off for more than just the FB team, as more and more players start earning a living on Sundays.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

3 & 4. Briscoe, A.J. Steward, ...

As nice as twin 90+ reception players are, hopefully some others can establish themselvs as viable pass catchers and blockers. Obviously, Kerry is gone after '09, but I'm not expecting Briscoe to be in '10 either. It would be nice to have developed some other options in much the same way as the QB.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

  1. A good performance by at least a couple of untested guard candidates. The two guard candidates with perhaps the highest ceilings are Trevor Marrongelli and John Williams, who likely will battle for a starting position next season.

While it is nice to have a sentence about one of the biggest holes to be filled this off-season, it would really be nice to hear who are the candidates. How are those players are developing? Who's moved in? Who's moved out? Who's moved away?

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

  1. Calvin Rubles makes life difficult for Jayhawks receivers.

Rubles, a cornerback, is one of just four players in the Jayhawks’ most recent signing class to be on campus already, and the junior-college transfer potentially could add depth to a secondary that struggled at times last season. Mangino has spoken highly of Rubles, who attended the same high school as ex-Jayhawk and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Aqib Talib. “We need to be very good at the corner position,” Mangino said. “Bringing Calvin Rubles in, we think, will help us.”

Is that all that Mangino has said about Calvin? I was beginning to wonder if Coach Mangino even spoke to reporters with the lack of discussion about the players. It is nice to hear that Calvin is making a positive impression.

Along those lines tho, is Justin back practicing with the team after sitting out the Insight Bowl? The '09 roster has Daymond Patterson listed as WR. Does that mean that he isn't working at CB anymore, or just an indication that the roster is not updated? Hopefully, the other young DB's are stepping up to provide some depth.

Mike Crosbie 10 years, 9 months ago

Duggie, yeah, good article EXCEPT for the first line. I'm driving 150 miles to come watch, and I won't be reading anything into the outcome as I realize along with most, that it is really a more glorified practice than a "game" I come to watch with my son just to watch the "practice game" and get into the spirit of KU football, as I've done the last 20 years. It's not a real game it's just a fun afternoon of watching the teams final practice.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 9 months ago

mcrozb - Will you be posting your Avg Joe report following the game? Hope you and your son have a great time. I'm looking forward to the day when I can take my daughter & wife back for FB & BB games.

It was nice just hearing the Campanile ring in the background of one of the post-game interviews.

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