While he didn’t exactly open his defensive playbook to reporters during an afternoon press conference Friday, the Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino did divulge the basics of how he plans to approach the linebacker position this season.
“I don’t want to get too much into Xs and Os, but I will tell you that we’re playing less and less with three linebackers on the field because of the way the offenses have evolved in the Big 12,” he said.
What that means, in essence, is that the Jayhawks’ defense will likely feature a linebacker-safety hybrid, similar to the role played by former Oklahoma standout Nic Harris last season.
“Probably 80-percent of the time, we’re playing with two linebackers and an extra safety,” said Mangino. “What we feel like is we’re going to have a guy who’s a third linebacker, but he’s mainly going to be a safety type-of-guy that can play in space.”
Last season, Mangino said, Kansas got away with using a base defense featuring three linebackers because of the edge-rush ability of James Holt. But with the loss of Holt and fellow starters Joe Mortensen and Mike Rivera to graduation, coupled with the heavily growing popularity of the spread offense, Mangino expects things to operate a bit differently in 2009.
“We are not overly concerned with that,” said Mangino. “But we do have to have people step up.”
Meier phased out of QB
Also discussed Friday was the team’s desire to phase backup signal-caller Kerry Meier out of the quarterback position permanently, giving him the opportunity to focus on playing receiver full-time for the first time in his career.
Mangino remained noncommittal about the situation, but implied that if players like Kale Pick, the team’s current No. 2 quarterback, and incoming freshman Jordan Webb progress at a desirable rate, Meier’s days of splitting practice time between multiple positions would likely be over.
“We will spot-use him (at quarterback),” said Mangino. “We’ll probably use him with the (second string) early in spring ball, just to get that unit going and having some continuity.”
“We’d like to use this time to help develop the quarterback position beyond Todd (Reesing),” he added. “So if everything goes according to the way we’d like for it to, (Pick) will get more (reps) as spring progresses.”
Reesing in better spirits
For the first time since the Jayhawks’ 2008 Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota, Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing was made available to the media Friday — and this time, he managed to remain a bit more jovial than his last outing.
During a bizarre post-game press conference at last December’s Insight Bowl, Reesing sarcastically answered a question from a reporter and declined to answer another. Talking among themselves in the press box later that night, bowl representatives expressed distaste at the junior quarterback’s patronizing press conference demeanor.
On Friday, asked about Reesing’s ability to deal with the national media attention sure to come during his upcoming senior season, Mangino attempted to explain the approach the quarterback takes in his interactions with media representatives.
“He’s not a big press conference guy, I think you know that,” said the coach, seemingly alluding to the Insight Bowl press conference. “He doesn’t like to sit there and be asked the same questions over and over. ... He decides what he thinks is petty and what he thinks is important, and he kind of sorts that out in his own little world.”
D’Cunha to transfer
Kansas offensive lineman Nathan D’Cunha, a 6-foot-6, 307-pound Australia native, has decided to transfer to an undisclosed school, Mangino said Friday.
D’Cunha, who red-shirted during the 2008 season after transferring to KU from Santa Barbara Community College, arrived in Lawrence as a highly-touted recruit — earning a four-star rating from recruiting site Rivals.com — but struggled early on and did not appear in a position to earn significant playing time in the coming season.
“He wants to go where he has a chance to play right away, and I agree with him,” said Mangino. “I think it’ll be good for him.”