Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dugan Arnett’s KU football notebook


O-line struggling

For a while, it looked like the Kansas University offensive line might have been the program’s most overachieving unit this fall.

Despite returning only two starters from last year’s line, the team’s ground game was ranked among the best in the Big 12 through five games, and when quarterback Todd Reesing threw for a career-high 442 yards in a Oct. 10 victory over Iowa State, KU coach Mark Mangino called it one of the best pass-blocking performances that he’d been associated with.

But during the past three games — as Reesing has been sacked a combined 14 times and the team’s ground game has sputtered — members of the line are trying to make sense of the recent decline in performance.

“A lot of people didn’t expect a lot out of us,” junior lineman Brad Thorson said Tuesday. “And people started to praise us, and that feels good when you’ve kind of changed people’s opinions. Then to fall back, it’s tough.”

Theories as to why the group has regressed are plentiful. An increase in the level of competition. Defenses that have figured out a way to exploit a relatively inexperienced unit. The absence of a necessary mean streak.

“We just need them to have a more aggressive demeanor, and to play with a more aggressive attitude and really try to get after an opponent,” offensive coordinator Ed Warinner said. “The one-on-one battles, to win those, to not just get in people’s way, but to try to create space and move people and be more dominant there — that’s something that we’ll challenge them to do.”

If nothing else, members of the struggling line can take solace in the fact that, for a significant stretch this season, they experienced success.

Now, with just four games remaining on the schedule, the key will be figuring out how to regain it.

“We’ve seen ourselves succeed playing as a group,” Thorson said. “We need to get back on the same page and really start clicking like five offensive linemen should.”

Rojas getting workout

The offensive struggles that have plagued Kansas in recent weeks have paved the way for an expanded role for punter Alonso Rojas, and the junior from Miami has made the most of his opportunity.

In the team’s past three games, Rojas has punted 19 times — more than in the team’s first five games combined — and is currently ranked fifth in the Big 12 in punting average (40.8 yards), having landed 13 punts within the opponents’ 20 yard line.

“When he first got here, he wanted to kick with all his might, and now he has learned you can drop it in certain spots,” Mangino said. “He’s got to be one of the best punters in the nation on sky kicks, dropping the ball inside the 20 and 10 and even 5 yard line.”

Defection not a concern

Although the Kansas State coaching staff features an assistant well-versed in the Kansas playbook — Joe Bob Clements served as the Jayhawks’ defensive line coach last season before leaving to join K-State coach Bill Snyder’s staff — Mangino is confident that Clements’ knowledge of the KU program won’t be an issue in the Jayhawks’ 11:30 a.m. matchup with the Wildcats on Saturday.

“I couldn’t imagine anything that he could possibly know that would give him an edge in the game,” Mangino said. “I just don’t see it. That’s not a factor at all.”


actorman 11 years, 3 months ago

The line has clearly been a problem. Of course so has having the most predictable offense since "three yards and a cloud of dust."

FlaHawk 11 years, 3 months ago

The O-line has been ovr matched against Big XII competition. Playing cream puffs in the beginning of season inflated our expectations. Reality has set in now!


Ben Kane 11 years, 3 months ago

unfortunately I think flahawk is right. We should no longer be satisfied with playing losers in the first four games soley to inflate our record to the point of being bowl eligble.

While the above strategy works to get into a bowl (where a month to prepare means anything can happen) it doesn't do us any good to prepare for the week to week battle that is the big12.

I hope to god that we finally pull one out this weekend because a loss to KStink would really set this program back from the progress that it had been on for that last few years.

I'm not trying to get all negative here, but I had orignially said 3 years ago that Mangino was great to get us to the next level but that he would never be the coach to take us to the final frontier. For some time I had just been eating those words (happily) but I'm begininng to wonder if they are ringing true again.

Let's just WIN saturday!!! RCJH

Rivethead 11 years, 3 months ago

Man, do you guys actually follow college football or do you just pull sh*t out of your a$$?

Duke has two DL that are already being talked about for the NFL draft. And in case you haven't noticed, they're making waves in the ACC, currenlty ahead of VT.

And USM has a fantastic DL as well....far from being a cream puff.

Our OL played very well against both of those opponents. Playing these "cream puffs" as you guys like to call them has nothing to do with th current performance of the OL. They're simply in a funk (and the performance of the man they're protecting can't help any either). It really is that simple.

Ben Kane 11 years, 3 months ago

please, are you really calling our non con hard? Seems to me that you are digging for ways to prove it was hard. Making waves in the ACC? ooooooh. That's like saying that KState is making waves in the big12. we are going to be lucky to win 4 total big twelve games and that is pushing it right now. Don't get me wrong, I'm pulling for us to win them all, i'm just saying I don't think the noncon prepared us much better then scrimmaging. Duke and UTEP were/are midiocare at best, Colorado, TTECH, and OU were all better teams.

I for one would not be proud to go to a bowl game having won only two or three conference games, though I'm sure the school will parade around the fact that we are going to a fourth in a row.

Ben Kane 11 years, 3 months ago

uva 3-5... Lost to William and Mary!!! One good win over UNC. Probably go 0-4 with games against UM, BC, Clemson and Vt. yep they are awesome and should probalby be in the top ten...Duke lost to Richmond!!! they haven't beaten anybody good (except UVA in your argument) and will probably end the season 0-4 against the likes of UNC, GT, UM, and Wake. I'm pretty sure UVA has NOT been ranked this year, they started 0-3 for crying out loud.

Ben Kane 11 years, 3 months ago

yeah beat OU by 1 point, first game of season, at home, with bradford going out mid game. and I'm not arguing that miami isn't good. I'm positive, that Um will finish ahead of duke.

are you trying to say that Duke and UVA are better than Miami or OU?

mdfraz 11 years, 3 months ago

Rivet and jw, you guys are absolutely right. Our schedule didn't include the marquee names, but it wasn't nearly as weak as people thought it might be. If not for some major injuries, USM probably only has two losses at most right now, including the one to us. Dook has a lot of talent in certain areas (D line, QB, e.g.); they may not win their division, but they are competitive and winning games, which is more than a lot of people expected. Hell even UTEP has made some noise in beating Houston and Tulsa. People like chuck apparently just look at a name and say the team will suck just b/c it doesn't say OU or UT or USC, etc. Anyone who knows anything about college football this year realizes our schedule wasn't as weak as we had originally thought. And to try to say that Colorado is better than USM, or probably even Dook? We lost to CU as a fluke, and CU has revealed their true colors since beating us.

Kenny George 11 years, 3 months ago

Reesing has been sacked 14 times because he can no longer move the way he used to and the O-line had gotten used to his scrambling abilities to help bail them out.

The ground game suffers because those defenses realize TR is no longer a threat and they are packing it in the box.

The only way out of this is to admit TR is hurt and is effecting his play and put Pick in or TR is going to have to hold on to the friggin' ball!


Omari Miller 11 years, 3 months ago

I don't think there was any problem with scheduling. Particularly when trying to build a program, you'll have a cupcake like Northern Colorado early in the season, and then start ratcheting up the level of competition. Duke used to be a doormat in the ACC, but read any article about them now and folks are talking about how they've turned into a solid team. Far from losers this season. And even coming into the game with KU, USM had earned the reputation of being a tough team that had the capability of giving plenty of teams a close game - which was the case with #18 Houston last week. If the idea was to contantly increase the level of competition each week until conference play, then job done.

What certainly helped our opponents, though, was having our speed RB out injured and then back in the line-up, getting carries, but at far less than 100%... and playcalling that allows the opponents safeties to camp on the deep and outside. And if Todd can't scramble outside in space to find receivers often, it's going to be all bad. Batted down passes, interceptions and incompletions will be much more common, as they have been.

Dirk Medema 11 years, 3 months ago

Duke was perrenial Bottom 10 bad - pre-Cutclifffe. That's what people remember. Cutcliffe has totally turned around Duke's program.

People scoffed at Richmond's program because they are 1-AA and nobody recognizes the name. Checking Sagrin shows them to be mid-pack for 1-A teams. So much for perception #2.

Pick is only a running QB. The reality is that last Saturday he was a perfect 1-1 on passing attempts, ooops, wait, the receiver dropped the perfectly thrown ball that hit him in the hands for a first down.

Does anyone have a total for the number of dropped passes last week?

theeviltwin 11 years, 3 months ago

I have not seen anything on the website yet, but thought those would like to know.

James Holt has been signed by the Chargers. Congrats to a great Jayhawk.

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