Dugan Arnett’s KU football notebook

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mangino lauds Capra

Meet Sal Capra, “Program Guy.”

On Tuesday, Kansas University coach Mark Mangino paid the offensive lineman what — in his eyes — is one of the ultimate compliment when he bestowed upon Capra the coveted “program guy” tag.

“He works hard, he’s dedicated to the program, he doesn’t get a lot of fanfare, not a lot of press,” Mangino said. “But he’s a guy that just works at it every day, and he’s really developed into a solid football player for us.

“We would be in trouble if we didn’t have him.”

After spending the previous two seasons as a backup — he played in nearly every game last season as a reserve guard — Capra begins the year as the projected starter at right guard, where the junior will become the longest-tenured member of a relatively inexperienced unit.

“The strength coaches rant and rave about him,” Mangino said. “His position coach says he’s just a hard-working guy. I watch tape of him, watch him practice every day: He’s not flashy, he’s not a huge guy, he’s not a very quick guy. But he’s smart, he’s resourceful, he knows how to play the game, and he plays it hard.”

Springer to play against UNC

Despite missing the second half of last season due to injury — and only recently returning to practice — junior linebacker Justin Springer is expected to play in Saturday’s 6 p.m. season opener against Northern Colorado.

Mangino declined to discuss the specifics of Springer’s injury, but linebackers coach Bill Miller indicated the player will be on the field against the Bears.

“He’s getting back to where he’s full speed,” said Miller, who will also work as the team’s co-defensive coordinator this season. “We’re going to get some snaps out of him.”

Special teams changes expected

Mangino has made no secret of his desire to improve upon last year’s special-teams performance this offseason, and the coach reiterated this sentiment Tuesday.

“There’ll be a lot of changes,” Mangino assured, adding that receiver Dezmon Briscoe will be the team’s starting kick returner. “Special teams has been highly competitive in this training camp. We have made it a high priority. We feel if we’re going to have a chance to be a real good football team, we’ve got to win the field-position battles in the special teams.

“There were some areas last year we weren’t happy about,” he added. “We’ll be better at special teams this year, top to bottom.”