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Friday, September 4, 2009

Offseason anticipation almost over

KU safety Darrell Stuckey (25) breaks up a pass Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 during the Jayhawks home game against Louisiana Tech.

KU safety Darrell Stuckey (25) breaks up a pass Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 during the Jayhawks home game against Louisiana Tech.

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There was a time, not too long ago, when the Kansas University football team’s offseason flew by with barely a peep.

Players disappeared, coaches went into hibernation and talk of offseason recruiting was left strictly to the basketball junkies.

That’s no longer the case. In today’s world, a place in which the Jayhawks lay legitimate claim to being Big 12 North contenders and bowl appearances pile up with regularity, the offseason has become a different animal altogether.

“From when I first stepped foot on campus here, a lot of times those offseasons would fly by and you’d find yourself in late August just like that,” senior wideout Kerry Meier said. “But now, when you get to consecutive bowl games and you start winning bowl games, the anticipation grows not only throughout the community but with the team as well. It seems like the offseasons are a long, long time, and they do feel like it, but we’re ready to go.”

Perhaps the biggest reason for the slow pace between seasons is the excitement and expectations that have become as much a part of KU football as waving the wheat or watching a game from the hill. No longer do fans — or players and coaches — dread what’s ahead. Instead, they look forward to it, longingly awaiting that next chance to take on Texas or tackle the Sooners.

The Jayhawks have both perennial powers on their schedule this season, but first must deal with Saturday’s season opener against Northern Colorado.

For most Jayhawks, the thrill of finally having the offseason behind them simply bolsters the excitement surrounding opening week.

“It’s been awhile, seeing how I got maybe a week-and-a-half of summer vacation,” said freshman wideout Bradley McDougald, who committed to KU in March. “June 6 we had to report, and then we immediately started classes. Starting then, I felt like I would never make it to game week, but finally it’s here. Our team’s coming together, depth charts are finally assembled, and we’re just basically getting the troops ready to go.”

For a small minority, including junior defensive back Chris Harris, the arrival of yet another season opener only adds to the feeling that careers are flying by.

“Every offseason has gone by so fast,” Harris said. “This is the fastest one yet. It seems like I just got here yesterday.”

Both McDougald’s anticipation and Harris’ fly-by make sense according to one Jayhawk. Consider senior safety Darrell Stuckey’s roller-coaster account of what it feels like to go through an offseason.

“In the winter, it seems so slow,” Stuckey said. “The workouts go by fast, but it just seems so far away from the season. But when we get into spring ball, it reminds you that’s it’s coming up faster than you think it is. Then, when we get into the summer, that’s when everything picks up, everything starts moving so fast, and you think it’s going to get here so fast. Then when we get into two-a-days, everything slows down again.

“It’s kind of like, the season’s here, but what’s taking it so long? The days go by fast, but the camp itself goes by so slow, especially when school starts. Then it goes by even slower.”

The Jayhawks combat the offseason doldrums in a variety of ways. Many players hang out together off the field, something that kicker Jacob Branstetter said helps build team chemistry. Others, like true freshmen McDougald and Toben Opurum, focus on sharpening the mental aspect of their games through film and study sessions. Even KU coach Mark Mangino has a hand in helping pass the time between seasons. Mangino’s focus is on making sure his players stay humble and hungry.

“During training camp, coach brought in alumni players who played here when this program wasn’t what it is now,” McDougald said. “He was just trying to get us to realize what the players had to put in to get to this point. This didn’t happen overnight. Coach has really humbled a lot of us, especially the freshmen.”

Thanks to a senior class that’s loaded with talent, experience and, perhaps most importantly, top-tier leadership, the Jayhawks don’t expect to need much humbling when game day finally rolls around.

“We’re excited to see some different defenses and some different colors and get back onto the field at Memorial Stadium,” Meier said.

Added Stuckey: “Now that it’s game week, it’s like, ‘Dang, we’re here already.’ It seems like just yesterday when we were in winter conditioning playing tug-of-war against the offense.”

Comments

Kent Wells 11 years, 3 months ago

Anticipating football season. Not something I did back in the mid 80s. Awesome!

And the countdown is... TOMORROW!

Andy Tweedy 11 years, 3 months ago

Amen, kuwells! I remember trying to find friends who WERE going to the game during the Valesente years. I went to high school in Omaha, and it was so hard for me to understand how absolutley nobody cared about the football season. All I heard at my first football game was how great Danny Manning was. I'm glad things have changed!!!

tvf2k 11 years, 3 months ago

So jazzed....have been waiting for this all summer! Want to see everyone play....the known quantities, second stringers, newcomers, eligible freshmen......well, don't really want to see the punter play. Sorry Alonso!

Kevin Long 11 years, 3 months ago

Get here already!!!!! I can't stand it!

waywardJay 11 years, 3 months ago

no one appreciates the punter.... Ever. I like it tvf. Funny stuff.

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

I don’t know, I sort of miss…

  • Half empty stadiums at kickoff – there were always good seats
  • Three Quarter empty stadiums at half-time – even better seats
  • Cup fights in the student section
  • Free game tickets at the local grocery stores
  • Coach Allen or Val post-game interviews that focused on next week’s game

Does anyone out there feel me?? ; ) I guess I'll just have to get used to this new regime...

jayhawkintx73 11 years, 3 months ago

I do hope that Alonzo Rojas gets at least one play. I would hate to see no punts so that we can't see what our punt coverage team looks like. Special teams can play a vital role in our season if we expect to beat OU and win the Big 12 North or the Big 12 Championship. Special Teams is going to be important.

Kent Wells 11 years, 3 months ago

Jayhawkerjoel,

I thought you had to buy something at Dillons to get a free ticket??? So, me and my friends used to buy toilet paper to toss around.

Coach Allen and Val interviews focused on deflecting that "vote of confidence" from school leadership.

Get used to it, it's pretty cool!

jayhawkintx73 11 years, 3 months ago

My focus today though is my High School, Ulysses visiting Garden City. 4a vs 6a.

okiedave 11 years, 3 months ago

Jayhawkerjoel,

When I was in Lawrence grade school and junior high in the 50's and 60's, we were able to buy KUFF tickets and see 5 home football games for the total price of $1.00 (.20 cents/game) and KUBB tickets to see 10 home basketball games for $1.00 (.10 cents/game). Do they do that anymore?

Dan Harris 11 years, 3 months ago

Tomorrow KU football, but today is all about Hutch High going after a state record 6th consecutive state title against KC Rockhurst! Go Salthawks!

Dirk Medema 11 years, 3 months ago

jhawkdan - That should be a good & interesting game. At least 1 commit and other recruits (?). Will you be providing a summary somewhere?

Dirk Medema 11 years, 3 months ago

I'm loving that I can watch a game from thousands of miles away, and will search out the appropriate bar if necessary. That use to be the exclusive domain of BB - both availability and searching. Pretty cool that even UNC is available - and not PPV like some lesser schools :-)

Joel Hood 11 years, 3 months ago

kuwells, Yes, I stand corrected. They were only “free” with a minimal purchase of something I could probably use – toilet paper sounds reasonable. I actually thought Val was a decent man, but he took over about the time Bob Fredericks came in. A good lesson in why we don’t let the players hire the next head coach.
BTW – I’m doing my best to cope with this new tradition : )

okiedave, My wife and in-laws are Larryville natives, so I hear all kinds of stories about the good ole days. I don’t believe they still offer the $1 package deal you described. In fact, I’m not sure what you can buy on campus for a $1. I do remember my KU student pass got me into all the football games, basketball games, and KU Relays for $45 (mid-1980’s.)

TxJyHwk 11 years, 3 months ago

okiedave, KUFF and KUBB tickets were available in the 70's. But I think they were gone by the 80's. We lived 1/2 from AFH, so we got the tickets and my brother and sister and I could walk to the games (without parents). Those were great!

Dan Harris 11 years, 3 months ago

Hutch 55-27 over Rockhurst !! Now its time to get ready for my other Hawks!!!!

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