Originally published May 6, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated May 6, 2009 at 03:50p.m.
The interest level in Kansas football has reached the point that 122 days before the 2009 season kicks off against Northern Colorado, plenty care about which five players will form the wall that protects quarterback Todd Reesing in his final season.
Based on the spring football season, three players cemented offensive line positions and the two guard spots remain open in what shapes up as among the most heated battles throughout summer conditioning and preseason practices.
Jeremiah Hatch, a hit at right tackle and then left tackle as a redshirt freshman, returns to his natural position of center, where one day he could develop into an All-American candidate. Classmate Jeff Spikes, a big man with a high ceiling, mans right tackle.
Spring football season opened with Kansas coach Mark Mangino revealing quick-afoot former tight end/defensive end Tanner Hawkinson would get a shot to win the left tackle position and it ended with him starting and performing well in the spring game.
Juniors-to-be Carl Wilson and Sal Capra started for the first string in the intrasquad exhibition. John Williams and Trevor Marrongelli, both of whom redshirted this past fall, have four remaining years of eligibility. They started for the second team. Somebody had to start for the blue team, somebody for the white.
“That’s a pretty tough competition, but in recent days those guys have moved forward,” Mangino said of the veterans who started at guard. “I don’t know if that’s how it will end up. We may end up that way, but I like the idea we have competition at those positions. And it’s pretty keen. That’s good. It’s been a seesaw in terms of who has had those starting positions throughout the spring.”
Williams, a 6-foot-4, 338-pound native of Tulsa, Okla., was first-team all-state as a senior. Marrongelli, a 6-4, 285-pound native of Austin, Texas, was named his team’s offensive MVP. How often does a blocker win that award?
This much is certain: The five best offensive linemen will start, not the five linemen with the most potential.
“Potential gets me fired,” KU offensive line coach John Reagan said when discussing the prospects for the line as the spring season got under way. “It’s nice when you have guys competing for jobs. Not competing by default, competing because they’ve got the ability to compete. It generally does make you better.”
If Williams and Marrongelli win the guard spots, Kansas would have three redshirt freshmen and two redshirt sophomores starting on the offensive line. View that through the prism of a Class of 2010 high school quarterback who wants to start right away in a big-time conference. In his first season, he would be protected by a big, quick line playing its second season together. In his second season, the quarterback would have a line stacked with pro prospects playing its third consecutive year together, a rarity in college football.
Interestingly, Rivals.com’s highest-ranked uncommitted quarterback in the Class of 2010, Austin Hinder of Steamboat Springs, Colo., lists Kansas among 15 schools in the running.