Thursday, August 20, 2009


Tharp mature freshman


Listening to Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino talk about the sort of training camp explosive true freshman wide receiver Bradley McDougald flashed makes it even easier to picture the Jayhawks featuring one of the nation’s most prolific offenses.

Scoring points won’t be the problem. Preventing them is more of an iffy proposition. The outlook of the linebacker unit has many a hard-core Kansas football fan nervous. The experience just isn’t there.

Huldon Tharp, a 6-foot, 215-pound true freshman from Mulvane, has made such an impression with his speed, aptitude and attitude, that he might start. He hasn’t played since his junior year in high school, having missed last season because of ACL surgery. It’s less-than-ideal that he’ll be learning on the job.

“I know a lot of the media doesn’t think the linebacker corps here is that great but there are some pretty good athletes that we have here,” said Tharp, first-team all-state at linebacker and honorable mention at running back. “It’s definitely a competition every day who’s going to be playing, who’s going to earn more reps. There’s a lot of competition.”

In some ways, Tharp calls to mind another linebacker from near his part of the state.

“Growing up, I watched some of the high school games when Nick Reid was playing quarterback for Derby because Derby is right next to Mulvane,” Tharp said. “Then watching him at Kansas, he was definitely an inspiration to me. We’re both not the biggest guys, so we both have to try to bring toughness to the table and try to bring speed to the table. Coach told us that (Reid) was one of the toughest guys he’s ever been around. And he was always prepared very well. He knew exactly what his job was on every single play so he definitely was assignment-sound.”

Tharp said he enjoyed Reid’s talk when the former Big 12 Player of the Year showed up one day during summer conditioning and urged players to work hard and make wise decisions in life. Mangino, who also praised the recent practice play at linebacker of junior college transfer Vernon Brooks, sounds as if he expects Tharp to make smart choices.

“He’s very mature for his years,” Mangino said. “You would not believe with the kind of football aptitude that he has that he really is a freshman. He has come on strong. He’s in there fighting for a starting job. He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy. He’s smart. He’s a really talented young guy. He’s still a freshman. We’re still mindful of that, but he’s going to play, and if he wins the starting job, which is a possibility, I think he’ll do a great job for us.”

Tharp said he chose Kansas over Stanford, Colorado and Illinois. He didn’t do so in anticipation of gaining immediate playing time.

“Quite honestly, not really,” he said. “Most freshmen come in and they’re usually going to redshirt or play special teams or something. That’s something I dreamed of, so it’s a great feeling to have a shot.”


ShazzyD 10 years, 5 months ago

Anyone know if Tharp is playing middle or outside?

It is too bad Springer is still injured. I was really counting on him to be the crux of the linebacking corps since he seemed to be the best of the backups last year.

Tharp sounds great, but I'm a little afraid of having too much inexperience on the field at that position if Tharp and Quigley are out there at the same time. I'm assuming Tharp and Quigley will both play strong side linebacker, so that they are competing with each other for playing time. So the MLB and WLB positions can be filled with more experience (Dudley/Spring, and Wright respectively). Am I wrong?

labbadabba 10 years, 5 months ago

Many speculate that had Tharp played his senior year he may have been seriously recruited by the upper echelon teams. Given our recent spate of bad luck getting local kids this may well have been a blessing in disguise.

Eric Williams 10 years, 5 months ago

Last I heard Mangino was going to run a 4-2-5 Defense, so both Linebackers would be Inside/Outside.

If we truly are practicing the 4-2-5 in camp, then it makes since that Tharp is competing well. With only 2 Linebackers, they have to cover the flats (past the DE) and the middle, so speed is a must.

T-minus 2 weeks...

bg_duck1 10 years, 5 months ago

We aren't running a 4-2-5 as our base defense. Mangino has said this multiple times

Blake Post 10 years, 5 months ago

Is he really "bearly big enough"?... as in Berenstein Bears? or maybe Baylor Bears lol

Christopher Hauser 10 years, 5 months ago

I am not too worried about Tharp's size at linebacker. There have been other guys that played the position at or around that weight. Marquis Cooper was 213 and played linebacker in the NFL before dying in that boat accident in the Gulf of Mexico.

hawk316 10 years, 5 months ago

I haven't seen him play, but based on his comments, I am impressed with Tharp's intelligence and attitude.

Jason Sinclair 10 years, 5 months ago

It's awesome to have a true freshman exceeding expectations. It's usually NOT awesome to have a true freshman competing for a starting spot at "physical" position like LB.

He could be the exception to the rule, but this generally is less about that particular player and more about the other guys competing for the job.

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