Monday, September 14, 2009


Maturing before our eyes


One advantage an enthusiastic fan of college athletics has over a follower of professional sports is that college athletes, at least in theory, improve throughout relatively short stays in college. In the pros, they get better, then level out, then get worse.

Watching college athletes blossom from often insecure, sometimes undersized talents into productive, winning players tends to develop stronger passion in fans than following the careers of pros.

For the Kansas University football team, 2-0 with a combined score of 83-10, it’s worth examining two players from each class who so far have shown they are developing well, ahead of projections many had for them coming into the season.

Freshmen: Bradley McDougald and Toben Opurum. Both players, especially Opurum, seem older in the way they talk and the way they carry themselves on the field. And both are fully aware of how much they need to learn and are eager to push their football educations at a fast pace.

Opurum has rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. McDougald has five catches with an average of 19.4 yards per reception.

“I think he’s good,” Opurum said of McDougald. “He’s got a lot of work to do, but where he’s at right now he’s at a good level with his maturity. He’s physically ready to play, and just like all of us he’s going to only get better. ... I’m definitely proud of our freshman class. There are some positions where there is already depth there. That’s the only reason some people aren’t playing, but we definitely have talent in our class, and if you don’t see it now, people will definitely get to see it later when some of them grow physically and mentally. We definitely have a talented class.”

Sophomores: Daymond Patterson and Jeff Spikes. KU coach Mark Mangino wasn’t pleased that Patterson let two punts hit the ground Saturday, but Patterson looked good returning the punts he fielded, although he needs to watch running backward. As a cornerback, he has come a long, long way.

The offensive line has performed well so far, and Spikes, the right tackle, deserves some of the credit. He looks more sure of himself.

Juniors: Chris Harris and Justin Springer. Harris, aided as a freshman by Aqib Talib not needing much help, slipped as a sophomore and was switched midway through the season from cornerback to safety. He started this season as the nickelback, a hybrid corner/safety position. In Week 2, he was back at cornerback, with Justin Thornton moving to nickel. Harris had a huge game against Northern Colorado and a strong one versus UTEP. His confidence is back.

Springer, coming off knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL, can only do what the recovering strength in his knee allows him. Only time will allow him to return to full strength, but it’s clear the rugged linebacker knows how to play football and gets everything out of his body.

Seniors: Maxwell Onyegbule and Jeff Wheeler. Until this year, Onyegbule had trouble turning his size and speed into football production. The switch appears to have turned on. Wheeler played Saturday with that now-or-never urgency so often seen in seniors.


Dirk Medema 10 years, 4 months ago

How about Thorson? He was a 2nd string C coming in, and has played well after switching to OG, and fairly decent (a few questionable snaps) when stepping back to C. Is he a Jr this year?

If Maxwell & Jeff, plus the Laptad and Foster, continue to play well, will Woods take a redshirt and spend the year in the weightroom and at the training table?

MNHawk23 10 years, 4 months ago

good article. id also add pick in there with the freshman.. he is so fast and athletic. he must run a 4.4-4.5 forty. before the year i thought jordan webb would beat him out next year but now i think pick has it. id love to see his arm more though. if he can throw as well as mangino has said he can he will be very very good in the future

Dirk Medema 10 years, 4 months ago

MNHawk23 - Good word! Not sure about his time, but he certainly has motored. Wish we could see more of his arm. No one thought Todd would have taken over for Kerry going into his Soph year. That certainly hasn't hurt us. It's nice to see that the players across the board are getting better.

KU 10 years, 4 months ago

Picks feet are WAY ahead of his arm from what I have seen glimpses of in practices. His accuracy and field vision are lacking. That's the main reason you see him running and not throwing.

Jonathan Allison 10 years, 4 months ago

I haven't seen Pick throw a football, but I remember Kerry Meier's freshman year as the starter. I loved to watch him run with the football because he was such a strong and athletic runner for a QB. On the other hand, I was a little scared everytime that he dropped back to pass. Maybe it was visions of Adam Barmann throwing interception after interceptions, but Kerry especially seemed to struggle with the fade route into the corner of the end zone. He short-armed it everytime. He's probably 10 times better at QB now than he was when he was our starter, and he doesn't even play that position anymore. I'm glad that Pick red-shirted last year and gets the chance to play back-up this year. Hopefully not having to face the fire as an untested freshman will give him extra time to practice and develop and will pay big-time dividends next year.

KANSTUCKY 10 years, 4 months ago

I would love to see Mangino mix Opurum in more often and early or even a 2 back set with Sharp. He is a solid. I can't wait to see him plow over DooK.

troutsee 10 years, 4 months ago

Our D won this game, or at least made it a blow out. I was very impressed by our front four, not only their pass rush but also their play against the run. Our O line also played well. If we get this kind of performance out of our lines for the rest of the season, look out.....we will have a great chance of winning the B 12 championship. But, before that on Nov Austin, a huge game. Austin here I come.

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Kanstucky. Would love to see Opurum more even though he is a freshman. He's got skills.

Something that has suprised me about the 2010 recruiting class... Is there not a big name quarterback out there that realizes how good we will be at the receiver position and the offensive line positions in the next 3-4 years?????

I would love to see Pick develop into a great quarterback for Kansas, especially since he is from Dodge City. But to have a drop off at the QB position in the next few years will really hurt the development of the program. Just throwing that out there.

okiedave 10 years, 4 months ago

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mark Mangino has a 1/2 hour show "Mark Mangino - K.U. football" showing on Sunday night in Tulsa at 9:30 p.m. It's on again tonight at 9:00 p.m. I watched it last night and is comparable to the "Bob Stoops - O.U. football" and "Mike Gundy 'I'm a man' - OSU football" show. The Mangino show comes on later than the OSU and OU shows. This is significant. Kansas is going head to head in showing Kansas highlights with OU and OSU in N.E. Oklahoma, home of Jenks High and Union High, the two perennial football powers in Oklahoma. Obviously looking for more Jake Laptads. This is definitely a new era in Kansas football. Airing this show in Oklahoma between 1950 to 2005 would have been a waste of marketing dollars, but not in 2009.

JBurtin 10 years, 4 months ago

NebraskaJayhawk, I wouldn't sell our young quarterbacks so short just yet. Kale Pick looks up to the task of winning some games, and Webb threw for over 5,000 yards in his junior year of high school. Say what you want about the level of competition, but the high school football in Missouri isn't bad at all, and Webb absolutely destroyed the competition. I honestly think that if this kid had grown up in Texas and had a chance to show his stuff, he'd currently be redshirting on the Longhorn sideline instead of ours.

Dyrk Dugan 10 years, 4 months ago

our future QBs are just fine. we have another kid from Texas coming in next year. Good grief, let the program develop the can you judge them before their time is here? makes no sense.

ShazzyD 10 years, 4 months ago

I actually don't like seeing Chris Harris switch back to starting corner. He was a beast at nickel. Keep him there. I think we need to give Anthony Davis more time to develop at corner. He had a rough first outing, but lets get him some more shots.

I do like the fact that playing Thornton at nickel allows Strozier to get on the field. And having Stuckey, Strozier, Thornton, and Harris all on the field at the same time along with Patterson makes our secondary kind of awesome, but if we want a 2nd solid starting corner we need to let Anthony Davis develop. And Harris is a playmaker at nickel.

Joseph Kuebel 10 years, 4 months ago and not gonna happen...

Harris is our starting corner, and Anthony Davis was eaten alive by inferior competition...he was consistently on the losing end of ball after ball when we played against Northern Colorado- I don't even want to think about him starting OU or TT that would just be a complete overmatch... so no he isn't gonna play there now and the change that happened is not gonna happen. Harris is the better option, is experienced it just makes no sense to downgrade for the sake of "lets him develop"...after the way he played versus Northern Colorado and the way Mangino likes to change up the positions I wouldn't be surprised if he isn't even listed on the depth chart there next year.

ShazzyD 10 years, 4 months ago


That is pretty harsh don't ya think? Saying he won't even be on the depth chart next year because he played poorly in his first start ever? Mangino said before the season started that he earned the spot at starter, which means he clearly was doing well in practice. He must have the ability or we wouldn't have given him the starting spot to begin with.

Don't you think he just got a little too excited in the first game? Although he had 3 pass interference penalties, he was at least in a position each time to cause a penalty. He just needs to be taught how to cover without causing contact when the ball arrives. The first game should have told the coaches that is something they need to work on. To me, his first game doesn't say anything about not having the talent to cover WR's from TT or OU.

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