Originally published August 31, 2009 at 10:32a.m., updated September 1, 2009 at 12:00a.m.

Youthful praise

Mangino impressed with freshmen Opurum, McDougald

Kansas university fullback Toben Opurum pushes off a defender during practice on Aug. 11 at the practice fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium. Opurum has recently been taking snaps as the No. 2 running back behind senior starter Jake Sharp.

Kansas university fullback Toben Opurum pushes off a defender during practice on Aug. 11 at the practice fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium. Opurum has recently been taking snaps as the No. 2 running back behind senior starter Jake Sharp.


Reader poll

Which KU football true freshman are you most excited to see play?

  • LB Huldon Tharp 14% 162 votes
  • WR Bradley McDougald 29% 319 votes
  • RB Toben Opurum 54% 590 votes
  • Other 1% 15 votes

1086 total votes.

Kansas University’s coaches have been liberal in their praise of true freshmen Toben Opurum and Bradley McDougald this summer, and apparently, the two players have done nothing recently to dispel the kind words.

Speaking during Monday’s Big 12 coaches teleconference, KU coach Mark Mangino praised the play of both players, who are expected to forego red shirts and contribute to the offense immediately this season.

“He has a lot to learn, but he’s very talented,” said Mangino of Opurum, who has been practicing as the No. 2 running back behind senior starter Jake Sharp. “And he is a guy that I think, as we go along, is going to get better and better every week as he gets comfortable with what we’re doing and realizes that things are a little faster-paced here than they are in high school.”

The coach expressed similar satisfaction with the development of McDougald, a receiver who he earlier this summer called the most impressive true freshman he’s had at Kansas.

McDougald, a Dublin, Ohio, native who committed to Ohio State before signing with Kansas, is currently listed as a backup receiver but worked at times with the first-team offense during last Wednesday’s open practice.

McDougald was listed as a back-up to senior Kerry Meier on the latest depth chart.

“He understands what we’re trying to do and how we’re trying to do it,” Mangino said. “... He will be in the mix in the rotation and will play a significant amount for us this season.”

Mangino on LBs: ‘I think we’ll be OK’

Despite the loss of three starters from last year’s linebacker unit, Kansas University coach Mark Mangino on Monday seemed pleased with the amount of progress made at the position in recent days.

“The situation at linebacker is starting to shape up,” he said, noting that things have been slowed a bit by injuries. “I think we’ll be OK (there).”

On the team’s most recent depth chart, released Saturday, Justin Springer, Drew Dudley and Arist Wright are listed as starters, although Mangino said true freshman Huldon Tharp is “right on their heels” and that the improvement of Vernon Brooks, a junior college transfer currently listed as a backup, has also been encouraging.

“Vernon Brooks is getting a lot of reps,” Mangino said. “He's a junior-college player that just got here, so he faced a lot of challenges. He had to learn the system. He had to get in shape. He had a lot of things going against him. But this past maybe seven or eight days, he has really looked good, and he’s making a lot of plays and doing some really good things.”

Mortensen signs with UFL team

Former Kansas linebacker Joe Mortensen signed a contract Monday to play for the New York Sentinels of the United Football League.

Mortensen, who played in 50 games for the Jayhawks during his career, was the team’s leading tackler in 2007, earning all-Big 12 first-team honors as the Jayhawks went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. As a senior in ’08, meanwhile, he finished with 90 tackles and a team-high nine quarterback hurries despite playing with lingering injuries.


Ben Kane 12 years, 1 month ago

"i think we'll be ok" is not very reassuring.

MinnesotaJay 12 years, 1 month ago

"I think we'll be ok."

I took it just the other way. Coach Mangino's 'okay' sounds pretty good to me.

suttonku 12 years, 1 month ago

Yeah I like what Mangino is saying but very interesting he mentioned 6 LBs I think but did not mention Quigley...Redshirt?

KGphoto 12 years, 1 month ago

Vernon Brooks has "...really looked good" and is "...making a lot of plays". Maybe we're in for a nice surprise this year. If he sets up camp in the opponents backfield like he did on every video I've seen of him, and that D-line is what it looks like too. Boy that would be tough to run against.

Nice to see three pre-season question marks turning into solid contributors.

Dirk Medema 12 years, 1 month ago

Quigley has used his automatic redshirt (1st yr for medical reasons). Since it was for medical reasons, it is possible for him to apply for a 6th yr, but it is not a given that he will receive a 6th yr.

Dirk Medema 12 years, 1 month ago

Sutton - I'm with you. Mangino is known for being very understated in his comments and assessments of the team to the media.

I'm guessing that LJW (Jesse) will post the audio, so we'll eventually get to hear the entirety of Coach's comments.

KG - Agreed. I expect Vernon to just keep coming on. He's 2 weeks behind a normal 1st year player (1 week of 2 a days). My guess is by conference time, or at least OU, he should be ready to create some havoc.

Dyrk Dugan 12 years, 1 month ago

"ok" is plenty good at this point from MM on our LBs. we just needed some bodies to be able to mix in. having Springer on the practice field helps too.

Quigley can't redshirt. he's already used his medical, so unless he tears a quad again, then he's done after this year. he'll play a lot on special teams...and he'll be there for depth at LB.

at this point, since the other guys have been coming on, i don't expect him out there much on defense.

Rick Arnoldy 12 years, 1 month ago

I'm with the rest. Coach has always been reserved with the compliments. An "ok" is pretty awesome.

I'm expecting to see Quigley on a lot of special teams, too.

NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

I wouldn't read too much into it. I honestly don't think they will know how good they are defensively until the Big XII schedule begins. Of course a hiccup before the Big XII begins would be disastrous.

I think they know the offense is going to score some points this year, but just how good our offense will be determined by the play of the offensive line. We could be pretty good...or we could be spectacular...unstoppable.

Jaminrawk 12 years, 1 month ago

Man, I can't wait to see Opurum and McDougald. The last guy I remember Mangino actually gushing over in the media was one Todd "Sparky" Reesing.

Rivethead 12 years, 1 month ago

Quigley has already applied for and received another year of eligibility....same route that Jordan Shipley took this year. So Angus could come back next year if he wants to.

Not my site, but still a good one (and a good review of the LB position overall):

Rivethead 12 years, 1 month ago

The only "problem" I've seen from Vernon Brooks so far is that all his tape shows him playing fantastic against runs or screen passes. In the Big XII he's going to see more than that. Thus, I'm betting that's where his development is really needed. He'll get there and I think he'll be really good.

rasta_meta 12 years, 1 month ago

I suspect that Vernon Brooks might be a starter by mid-season, once he gets into shape and learns the system.

Also, I think the UTEP game will be a good test for our defense. Coach Price almost always has a good offense and he does a good job on his schemes for a particular defense. It will be a good test before conference.

I think the UTEP game will be much more difficult than many people least from what I am seeing other posts.

yovoy 12 years, 1 month ago

ourMangino is a salty dog, so i'm not sure that he's not playing his cards close to his chest, nor am i sure that he's not bluffing a bit. he knows how to keep everyone off-balance. he learned from snyder how to manipulate that sort of thing. "okay" could really mean anything from him - no matter how he says it. think of his depth chart and comments as intentional misinformation meant to fortify our chances as the weeks go by keeping opponents guessing. having and keeping opponents guessing is to our advantage.

KGphoto 12 years, 1 month ago

But if Steven Johnson has been "... a really adequate back-up guy" and Brooks has obviously already passed him, isn't Brooks a starter?

I'm guessing Brooks makes some huge plays against the non-cons and immediately jumps into a starting spot. Maybe due to Springer's health, maybe because you can't keep him off the field.

Billy Derringer 12 years, 1 month ago



NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 1 month ago

I don't know.... I guess these two guys would be considered gems...but definitely not diamonds in the rough. Reesing was a diamond in the rough. These two guys are guys that were highly sought after from big time football programs. If this is any indication as to where our football program is heading, then look out in about 4-5 years.

It seems like I've been saying this in about every post I make, but our offense could be extremely potent if our offensive line can get it done. Seriously, this whole season hinges on the ability to control both lines of scrimage. It will be the difference between being a team like last year, or being able to compete against the likes of Oklahoma & Texas.

I have a feeling our defense is going to be a little better than last year.....which, to be honest, really isn't saying much. We got burned big several games last year against good offenses. I hope the Hawks prove me wrong, but I just don't see them shutting down teams like Texas, TT, Oklahoma, and dare I say Nebraska... I am so looking forward to that game against Nebraska this year. Pelini is going to be coaching teams that will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big XII once again.

Andy Hess 12 years, 1 month ago

KG, look at the depth chart. Brooks is listed as SLB backup behind Springer. Steven Johnson is listed as the MLB backup behind Dudley. So no, Brooks is not a starter yet.

KGphoto 12 years, 1 month ago

swish, yeah I read the depth chart. But I'm trying to read between the lines.

whitechocolate 12 years, 1 month ago

derringer, I think the player you were referring to is Andrew Norman, who transferred from Arkansas, enrolled at KU, then changed his mind and went to Tulsa. He was one of the top 50 receivers in his class.

I think you're the first to see that piece about DE Jaqwaylin Arps. The coaching staff is getting bigger recruits to commit.

Nine years ago we were beating out Washburn and Northwest Missouri State for players.

Five years ago we were beating out Wyoming and Iowa State.

Now it's Florida and Ohio State. We're even stealing Texas recruits from the big boys.

Michael Leiker 12 years, 1 month ago

So no new articles today...4 days before season begins. Awesome

gardenjay 12 years, 1 month ago

leikness - noted, but they are probably working on some splendid pieces to come out tomorrow. Actually, I had better get working on my writing as well -

However, before I go, did you all look at the link Quigley posted? Awesome news there, I cannot believe our recruiting continues unabated despite the onset of game day. Talk about commitment!

Just you all know, I went on the KU basketball news thread and posted an appeal for the basketball heads to support KU football. Some of the only-basketball types seemed a bit hostile, which is exactly what Mangino wants. I haven't figured out how to lure them into memorial stadium yet....please help.

MitchumMan 12 years, 1 month ago

They've been talking about Arps changing his commit for some time to come here. But did you see that we got another 3 star LB that committed today and then another one has planned a visit with us here soon? Everyone thought that the one that committed today was going to choose Oklahoma. Man, I love stealing recruits from the bigger schools. hahaha Rock freak'in Chalk baby!!!

Rivethead 12 years, 1 month ago

Henry (the LB that committed today) is 4 stars I believe. Not that stars are worth a damn.

Kevin Long 12 years, 1 month ago

gardenjay- I say we have to give the fans a clean slate for this season. Maybe people will actually get off thier butt and make some noise. Don't count on it though! They can have their wine and cheese tailgate. I will stick to beer and brats.

Mangino could have 3 all-americans and still just say they are ok. He is a coach! They never say they are good. We will just have to wait and see. A lot of people think this first game we won't be able to tell, but I disagree. I don't even think the first team should allow any points. I could understand a late field goal or a cheap late TD, but the first half should be a shutout. I will say KU-57 NCU-3.

OCJHAWK 12 years, 1 month ago

Probably 4 stars if going to OU but he's a 3 star. He looks to be one of the best true LB high school commits in a few years for us.

gardenjay 12 years, 1 month ago

KU - 70, NCU - 14. We scored more on Nebraska not long ago, and also need to excercise the depth chart on defense, so I was thinking this should allow some points.

My prediction of fan attendance behaviour:

Fans at beginning of game: 30,000 Fans at halftime: 34,000 Fans at beg. of 4th quarter: 24,000 Fans sticking it out to very end: 18,000

Since I cannot attend the game, if someone could check on these and post, I am sure no one else will be looking at anything other than ticket sales and attendance!

MitchumMan 12 years, 1 month ago

It's the first game of the year! There's going to be more than that in the stadium...I hope. I hope there is a minimum of 45,000 in there but I'm guessing there will be way less as the game progresses, as blowouts aren't much fun to watch.

DoubleDD 12 years, 1 month ago

Are you kidding michumMan blowouts are awesome as long as you not on the wrong end of the score.

gardenjay 12 years, 1 month ago

OK, well I hope I'm wrong. But we'll know the 'attendance', since they record this fact, and all I was saying was that it would be interesting to see how enthusiastic fans really are, and that a measure of this could be their staying power at games. It shouldn't be hard to estimate using percentages from the kickoff through each quarter, matched to the score.

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