Saturday, March 7, 2009

Position battles highlight spring football

KU coach Mark Mangino speaks with members of the media on Friday at Mrkonic Auditorium.

KU coach Mark Mangino speaks with members of the media on Friday at Mrkonic Auditorium.


Football team begins spring training

Kansas Head Coach Mark Mangino held his spring training opening press conference on Friday afternoon.


Senior KU quarterback Todd Reesing talks to the media Friday during a spring football news conference.

Ah, the signs of a forthcoming spring.

The sunshine. The blossoming plant life. The opportunity to fiddle endlessly with one’s depth chart in an effort to maximize positional talent.

“That’s what spring’s for,” said Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino, who last season led Kansas to consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history. “I like to move things around and tinker and slide guys in and out of positions.

“That’s kind of my entertainment for the spring.”

In keeping with that train of thought, the coach Friday revealed a number of recent position switches that — depending on their degree of success — could have a significant impact on the Jayhawks’ 2009 season.

Left tackle Jeremiah Hatch, who performed ably in his red-shirt freshman season in 2008, will replace Ryan Cantrell as the team’s starting center, while red-shirt freshman-to-be Tanner Hawkinson, a tight end recruit out of McPherson High, will battle for the vacant left tackle spot.

Linebacker Drew Dudley and cornerback Isiah Barfield, meanwhile, will be moving to fullback and receiver, respectively, while former running back Angus Quigley will try his hand at linebacker.

Position tampering is not exactly a new concept for the Kansas football program, which, during its rise from Big 12 afterthought to North Division contender in recent seasons, has seen various players excel after being transplanted to new posts.

The most recent and obvious example is quarterback-turned-receiver Kerry Meier. The 6-foot-3 senior-to-be rebounded from losing his starting quarterback job in fall of 2007 by transforming into an all-conference honorable mention receiver in ’08, and he returns in ’09 as one of the nation’s most reliable pass-catchers.

Plenty of others fit that description as well, however. Current Minnesota Vikings defensive back Charles Gordon began his Kansas career as a receiver, switched to cornerback in the latter stages of his freshman season, and developed into a third-team All-American before leaving KU after the 2005 season. Current starter Daymond Patterson, meanwhile, recorded a 130-yard receiving game in his true freshman season before being moved to cornerback when it became apparent the Kansas secondary was in dire need of a shake-up. Patterson is expected to be a major part of the KU secondary next season.

“I’ve always said a lot of our success has been attributed to our coaching staff and (a) willingness to move players around,” Mangino said. “If we always went with how we recruited them and kept them there, I don’t think we’d be as successful as we are now.”

Entering what could be described as the most anticipated season in Kansas football history, fans hope the most recent switch-overs will enjoy similar results.

Perhaps the most high-profile of this spring’s position changes comes in the form of Hatch’s shift, part of a rebuilding process in which the Jayhawks will be forced to replace the three interior members of their offensive front.

After lining up at left tackle last season in a move primarily of necessity — allowing Cantrell to play center made it possible for the team to put its five best linemen on the field — Hatch will return to the comforts of a position at which he excelled while at Dallas’ Carter High.

Hatch was quick to point out, however, that playing center at the collegiate level differs greatly from doing so as a prep.

“Remember, I played center in high school, not in college,” he said. “Not on this level. So it’s a brand-new position, to me. I’m re-learning, restarting, re-learning the system at center.”

And although players like Meier and Gordon have managed to make their transitions to new positions look virtually seamless, the behind-the-scenes work involved with mastering a new craft often is a daunting prospect.

“Anytime I have free time, I’m either up here or in my room looking through the playbook,” said Barfield, who last played receiver while at Haven High. “So any time I can, other than when I’m not in class, I’m in the playbook or I’m in (receivers coach David) Beaty’s office trying to learn new things.”

While the Jayhawks already are expected to feature a number of players in new positions when spring practice begins Monday, Mangino didn’t rule out more changes as spring practice progresses.

Spring is, after all, a time to tinker.


Andy Hess 10 years, 10 months ago

"Position tampering"? i think you might mean "tinkering," Doogie. Tampering would imply that the coaching staff is making changes to hinder or damage the team.

tam-per 1. to meddle, esp. for the purpose of altering, damaging, or misusing (usually fol. by with): Someone has been tampering with the lock. 2. to make changes in something, esp. in order to falsify (usually fol. by with): to tamper with official records. 3. to engage secretly or improperly in something. 4. to engage in underhand or corrupt dealings, esp. in order to influence improperly (usually fol. by with): Any lawyer who tries to tamper with a jury should be disbarred.

typical Methzoo grad.

Jonathan Briles 10 years, 10 months ago

Come on Swish that was really unnecessary. I was really happy to just see some football articles and didn't care too much about the wording. I do understand where you coming from and see what you mean and agree, but there is no need to point it out. I think he is a fine writer and as much as I HATE Mizzou I'm happy to have him writing for us.

On the other hand I have been waiting a long time for football to come back and I'm really excited about this season and love to finally get to hear what all the coaches have planned and how the players are looking. I'm pumped for this season and can't wait for the Hawks to suit up. Rock Chalk.

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 10 months ago

I realize our offense was pretty potent last year, but my hope for the near future is to establish an offensive line that can dominate up front. The majority of our successful runs last season (I don't know this for a fact) seemed to be out of shotgun on an option. I just wonder without the threat of a Q-back like Reesing, what kind of running attack would we be able to muster. It just seemed like we had to have success running last year with a hint of deception. I'm looking forward to seeing what Mangino can do with both lines this year.

DallasHawk 10 years, 10 months ago

Wow! I think the biggest surprise is that Tanner Hawkinson is moving to Tackle. That says a ton about red-shirting kids. Great job trainers!!! The future is looking bright if they think he can come in and replace all of the great things Hatch and Spikes did. Looking forward to the Fall!!!

Beak Em'

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 10 months ago

Hatch moving to center....i've been predicting it all along, and now it's confirmed. it's a good, natural move....get a big, quick guy in there on the middle of your line.

I think we're going to be darn good next year. I can't wait.

Lonnie Ross Dillon 10 years, 10 months ago

Didn't we have a center transfer in from Wisconsin last year? Surprised his name didn't come up regarding that position.

KGphoto 10 years, 10 months ago

Angus at linebacker. OMG!! I love it!

Remember Texas? I remember. I remember thinking he should have always been a linebacker. It wasn't just this hit against Texas either. He did it a lot throughout the year. No other knockouts, but close. The guy lives to hit. It's so natural to slide him in there.

KGphoto 10 years, 10 months ago

Watching that video again, I bet he'll be a great pass rusher too. Watch that first step after he puts his hand down. Pretty explosive. Like he's coming off a starter block. He'd be tough to block around the edge. He could run down the ball carrier from behind. And what problem's he could cause on blitzes.

He ran a 4.52, and he could easily put 10 to 15 pounds on that frame, without losing any speed. All around this is the easiest decision to come out of all that tinkering.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 10 months ago

Thanks for the artcle Dugan. It is rather odd to think about missing FB in Feb & March, so all the more appreciated to get the news.

Brad Thorsen is the transfer from Wisconsin, and I thought he was projected as a OG. It would be consistent with the concept presented in the article that he might switch even if he was a C. My guess is that the whole OL is up for grabs this spring. Gotta love coach's tinkering, and the willingness of the players to listen to their coaches, learn, and grow.

Tanner Hawkinson (great KU name) at OT is intriguing as well. Even if he doesn't start right away, it seems great to grow a player that is probably a bit more athletic into the OL, especially when we have had so many TE recruits lately. I'll be waiting for the play when Tanner checks in on a short yardage situation as an eligible receiver/OT, Todd fakes the ball up the middle to Dudley, throws a pass back to Kerry, who then completes a forward pass to Tanner.

I think they started tinkering with Angus at LB during the bowl prep period. Cool to think of him replacing James.

Looking forward to more news as Spring ball continues.

Gordon Penny 10 years, 10 months ago

Coming from someone who has done a lot of writing in his lifetime, I know the importance of picking the right words. Part of good writing is conveying your meaning as effectively and concisely as possible. Obvious mistakes, especially from professional writers in professional settings, are just embarrassing -- not only for the publication, but also for the writer and the readers.

A writer, publishing written work as a professional writer is, and should be, held to a higher standard than someone simply writing in a blog. Thus, I am in total agreement with Swish that mistaking "tampering" for "tinkering" or some other appropriate word is a disgusting mistake that should have been caught by some level of editing.

Word choice is paramount to good writing, and when you make bad choices people cannot help but question your credibility, and question the credibility of those who would employ you.

JBurtin 10 years, 10 months ago

I'm actually a bit surprised at Hawkinson moving to tackle, but we did it before with Collins and it worked out really well. He was probably packing on weight to be a DE and the coaches found that it was easy for him to gain, so they asked if he was willing to keep going.

My guess is that with D'Cunha leaving he'll add some needed depth at the position for now with Wolfe adding depth on the other side. The coaches were really impressed with Ben Lueken's performance last summer and really had to think hard before redshirting him. My prediction is that he and Spikes will take over the tackle spots.

Here is my starting lineup:

LT-Jeff Spikes, Ian Wolfe LG-John Williams, Trevor Marongelli C-Jeremiah Hatch, Brad Thorston RG-Sal Capra, Carl Wilson RT-Ben Lueken, Tanner Hawkinson

I think it's a battle between the young talent and the hard working veterans. It will be interesting to see which one wins out.

I think Spike's experience will play out for him to win LT.

John Williams will simply outsize the smaller veterans and win a spot at LG.

Jeremiah Hatch will obviously start somewhere, going back to Center will be natural for him.

The other guard spot is interesting. Capra and Wilson backed up last year, and have the experience. I think Marongelli has a nasty disposition, but is a hair too short for tackle in college, so I think the coaches try to move him inside. Will his competitiveness and talent be enough to outperform the experience of the older players? In the end I think Capra has shown that he is capable of taking over any of the inside positions, and will finally get his chance this year.

I think Lueken wins a spot at tackle, but Spike's experience will give him the edge for the coveted LT spot leaving Lueken to take over RT.

Youth could be an issue next year on the line with 3 Seniors graduating, but over the past several years a graduating senior usually means a more talented freshman steps in to take the reins. We'll have some growing pains, but I'm definitely excited about the future.

kranny 10 years, 10 months ago

I think it was the "typical MethZoo" comment that made the critique over the top. No need to get personal about an occasional journalistic mistake. We've had Presidents who've made greater oratorical and journalistic blunders. Lighten up folks.

Hawkish4bigM 10 years, 10 months ago

Glad to see a football article. I was thinking about a long ago switch who worked out pretty well. Nolan Cromwell.

I think we will be pretty good. I would like to see our young players, especially linemen, get more playing time in our blowouts so that they are better prepared for the future. I remember the days when NU seemed to never have inexperienced players because of the playing time afforded everyone.

On the defensive side I hope we can get much better in the takeaway category. More route jumping, risk taking, tight man coverage. Make them beat you, don't beat yourself.

Then, special teams. If we can get a marked improvement next year in this category, defense is tighter and offense is as good or better than last year, we should win the North and have a good shot at winning the conference. We can beat OU. We can beat Texas. Tech will be reloading, but we have to not overlook anyone. So, I have pretty lofty expectations for this year. I hope the players know how good they can be.

Should be fun.

JayhawkPhil64 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey swish, get the hell out of here, unless you want to talk about KU sports and Halogen, the only person that should be embarrassed here is you. Your comments are completely inappropriate here. Neither one of you impressed anyone today

Gordon Penny 10 years, 10 months ago

Sorry to burst your bubble, JayhawkPhil, but I am not here to impress anyone. :-)

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