Friday, August 28, 2009

Youth movement

KU offensive line relying on plethora of fresh faces

Kansas University’s Jeff Spikes, left, and Jeremiah Hatch are the Jayhawks’ only returning starters on the offensive line this season. Spikes moved from left tackle to right tackle last season, while Hatch transitioned from left tackle to center to begin this year.

Kansas University’s Jeff Spikes, left, and Jeremiah Hatch are the Jayhawks’ only returning starters on the offensive line this season. Spikes moved from left tackle to right tackle last season, while Hatch transitioned from left tackle to center to begin this year.


New kids on the block

The following is a list of how many career starts each Big 12 team returns on its offensive line:

Texas: 91

Oklahoma State: 86

Baylor: 66

Iowa State: 61

Nebraska: 61

Kansas State: 57

Missouri: 56

Texas A&M;: 56

Texas Tech: 52

Colorado: 48

Oklahoma: 29

Kansas: 25

• Source: Wall Street Journal

The Kansas University football team returns only 25 career starts on the offensive line — the least in the Big 12 and tied for fifth-lowest in Division I, according to a Wall Street Journal study.

Tanner Hawkinson still doesn’t believe there’s reason to be concerned.

“We may be a little young,” the red-shirt freshman said, “but we’re all confident in each other that we can get the job done.”

This much is certain: If KU does have a strong offensive line this season, it will be because the Jayhawks have some quick learners.

Jeff Spikes (13 starts) and Jeremiah Hatch (12 starts) are the only players on the roster that have started at KU, and both have changed positions in the last year.

Spikes moved from left tackle to right tackle halfway through last season, while Hatch switched from left tackle to center following the 2008 campaign.

“One thing we learned before we came here ... one of the rules is, ‘For the better of the team,’” Hatch said. “Whatever the team needs us to play, that’s what we’ll do.”

The other three O-line positions will be filled by first-time starters on Sept. 5 when KU opens the season against Northern Colorado.

“I feel this way: I feel (the linemen) are coming to work everyday with the right mentality,” KU offensive line coach John Reagan said. “They’re coming with a great attitude. They’re a group that’s pretty tight-knit and they do things together and they work together and they pull each other along and they push each other along.

“I feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”

Hawkinson — who also switched positions in the offseason, moving from defensive end to offensive line — is slated to be the team’s starting left tackle.

He’ll also protect quarterback Todd Reesing’s blind side on throwing downs.

“There’s a little bit of pressure there,” Hawkinson said, “but all you can do about that is just be confident in yourself and confident in your play.”

Just recently, junior Brad Thorson participated with the first-team offense at left guard. The transfer from Wisconsin was the backup center a year ago.

“He’s an intelligent guy that knows the offense, understands what we’re trying to do and can bring some leadership to it that way,” Reagan said.

Sal Capra, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound junior, has been the team’s starting right guard through early practices this season.

KU appears to have more depth at offensive line than it has had in years past. Juniors Carl Wilson and Ian Wolfe lettered as backups in 2008.

Meanwhile, red-shirt freshmen John Williams and Trevor Marrongelli are also in the mix at the guard positions.

“I think they matured a little bit over the summer after being here for a whole year,” Reagan said of Williams and Marrongelli. “They’ve got some strength to them. They’ve got kind of an edge to them that I like.”

The Jayhawks also might get some help in the future at tackle after deciding to move Darius Parish from defensive line to offensive line.

Reagan first met Parish at a high school camp when Parish was already 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds.

“I saw him then and licked my chops, to be honest,” Reagan said. “When we were talking about (players switching) positions, he was the first guy that came to mind for me.”

One positive for KU is that any strides made this year on the offensive line also should benefit the team next year.

The Jayhawks have 16 players listed on the roster as offensive linemen. Seven are freshmen, four are sophomores and five are juniors.

None are seniors.

“We’re excited for this season and for the future,” Hawkinson said. “We’ve got a lot of young guys that are very talented. It should be a good group coming up.”


Dirk Medema 10 years, 5 months ago

With Parish being so highly rated coming in, where does he fit in with the switch?

The OT's are F & S, the back-up OG's are RS-F, and the center is a S. It's nice to have the depth developing on the DL that Darius could switch, but it will be real interesting who gets replaced.

gardenjay 10 years, 5 months ago

Copy that, Jesse, we have intelligent linemen that have a great attitude who have been studied by the Wall Street Journal.

We are the WINNERS! Throw them some steak!

John Strayer 10 years, 5 months ago

Knowing we are short on career starts, how are won on career games play or snaps/plays played? Just because someone didn't start doesn't necessarily mean they don't have any experience.

rolo2383 10 years, 5 months ago

Dagger, my guess is Parish redshirts this year. He still has a redshirt year to use and there's no reason to play him at all this year since he will be learning a new position. Of course, I have no idea what's going on so it's just a guess.

ShazzyD 10 years, 5 months ago

Sal Capra played quite a bit last season if I remember correctly. So did Carl Wilson. So I'm not worried about our guards. In fact, I'm not worried about any position on the line, except maybe LT, but I have to trust our coaching staff there.

Spikes played pretty well at LT last year as a freshman, so I have no doubts he'll be a pretty darn good RT. The fact that Spikes and Hatch got displaced means the coaching staff thinks very highly of Hawkinson, so I think they are expecting that to work out. All three of these guys are young, and presumably will have great careers at KU.

So where does Parish fit in? It is a confusing move. He could red shirt, as rolo2383 suggested, but that still leaves him as a lifetime backup.

I think the coaches would be wise to turn Parish into a Brandon Albert type of player. Teach him to play LT in practice so that he can be the backup there, but then make him the starting LG. This plan would undoubtedly require a redshirt season because of the learning curve, but that is okay but it sounds like Thorson has earned the right to start this year at LG, and Ian Wolfe is a capable backup for both tackle positions. If Parish can take over the LG spot by next year, it would simply mean that our line is that much stronger.

The foundation is being built for whomever the starting QB and RB will be next year.

joepattern 10 years, 5 months ago

Well... Spikes did play RT most of the year Shazzy. Not as impressive as he was made out to be, but he definitely has the physical tools. Hopefully he made some strides in the offseason.

ShazzyD 10 years, 5 months ago

My bad. I got Hatch and Spikes mixed up. I guess Hatch was the one playing LT last year. Hopefully he is a stud at center.

Rivethead 10 years, 5 months ago

Hatch played center in High School. It's his natural position. He's going to be stud there. And his time last year at LT will only help him direct the OL.

Kevin Holt 10 years, 5 months ago

Still funny that our o-line's 25 returning starts means we're weaker and probably an underdog in north division...yet OU has a whopping 29 starts and is ranked #3 in the nation. The Fighting Manginos...disrespected yet again! I can't wait for Sept 5th, 12th, 19th....etc, etc!

Ben Kane 10 years, 5 months ago

The national disrespect for this team astounds me. Hopefully they stuff it to everyone this year then all the pundits will be saying how they told you about Kansas from day 1, but we will all know better.

KGphoto 10 years, 5 months ago


I said it before. This is a good place for the FM. You don't get a nickname like that without showing the grit necessary to rise up and overcome the odds. This is who they are. The Disrespected. At least The Underestimated. Heros are never the favorite. The '07 team was heroic. This year's could be too.

gardenjay 10 years, 5 months ago

KGPhoto- back to the structural issues from a previous post here - and calling all KU architect alums!!!

This idea from a previous post, folks, probably belongs somewhere else, but we keep it going to help Mangino and what seems to be his need to make the basketball fans feel more comfortable in the foreign environment.

So a memorial stadium 'hemi-dome' was born, but the idea was that the crowd on the hill could look inside and see the game, and so that the crowd inside the hemi-dome can look out and see the hill.

As usual, others have thought of this already, and here is a weird back-to-nature website with green housing hemi-domes at . Also, technically, we are talking a partial hemi-dome, in order for folks to see in and out through open space. Would look cool.

A large structure that is open at the base could preserve that Memorial Stadium Roman Coliseum look - but could still enclose the top (geodesic-y, aka Kemper?), causing a Bucky-Caesar look?, or something like that could be worked out. Having solar on this somewhere would be pretty cool too. Talk about in-your-face green. Not such a good site for wind, and at some point could be slammed for visual pollution.

Now, I am not an architect, but again, KU purports to have an excellent architectural engineering program - so get to it! Get off your lazy rears, alums, and start designing what Mangino so obviously is begging for!

Post your ideas on here! We'll keep vetting them constructively like we do, and unlike the World Trade Center design competition, we will make quick decisive decisions, and send a submission 'Fans Request Upgrade To Memorial Stadium' directly to the athletic department, forwarded to LJW of course. Easy as pie.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.