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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spikes feeling more comfortable on O-line

Spikes moved from left tackle to right tackle last season.

Spikes moved from left tackle to right tackle last season.

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Lost amid the numerous changes on this year’s offensive line — and the lingering questions about new left tackle Tanner Hawkinson and recently transplanted center Jeremiah Hatch — was talk of Jeff Spikes, Kansas University’s mammoth right tackle.

After a sometimes tumultuous red-shirt freshman year in 2008, however, in which he underwent a midseason position switch and attempted to keep up with the various things being thrown at him, the sophomore has made some early noise this fall.

“I wouldn’t say (it was) running around like a chicken with his head cut off,” said Spikes of his inaugural season last fall. “But when you know the offense and you know the defense and you can read defenses and you can read different things ... the game slows down dramatically.”

“And that’s the difference from last year to this year.”

So far, things have gone swimmingly for Spikes, a 6-foot-6, 314-pounder out of Painesville, Ohio, and the rest of the team’s offensive line. The group has, somewhat improbably, paved the way for the nation’s No. 7 rushing attack, as Kansas has averaged 291.5 yards per game and currently features three players —starting running back Jake Sharp, backup Toben Opurum and backup quarterback Kale Pick — among the top 10 rushers in the Big 12.

What’s more, it has enjoyed a level of depth that few would have predicted when the season began. Last week, for instance, when Hatch left the game due to flulike symptoms and Brad Thorson moved from his starting left guard spot to take over at center, the Jayhawks still rolled up 255 rushing yards in a 34-7 road victory over UTEP.

“We practice to where everybody gets rotations,” Spikes said. “Everybody gets the same looks. We have a two-deep, just like any other team, but if everybody’s getting the same coaching, everybody’s working on fundamentals, we’re able to rotate like that through the game.”

Kansas coach Mark Mangino, meanwhile, seems pleased with what he has seen from Spikes, who switched from left tackle to right tackle midway through last season.

Following Wednesday evening’s practice, he praised the player’s development, citing an increased tenacity and a newfound ability to understand the offense’s objective in relation to various defensive schemes.

Asked whether Spikes has developed into a dependable member of the team’s offensive line, the coach said, “He’s more than dependable.”

• Biere could miss Duke game: Mangino said Wednesday that tight end Tim Biere might miss Saturday’s game against visiting Duke due to illness.

Biere, who started two games last season when the Jayhawks used a tight end on the first play of the game, caught one pass in the team's season opener two weeks ago, but wasn't listed on the participation report for Saturday's victory over UTEP.

“Tim will be OK,” said Mangino. “He's been sick. I don’t know exactly if we’ll be able to use him this week or not, but he’ll be ready for sure for the Southern Miss. game (on Sept. 26).”

• @KU_FANS: Mangino not big on tweeting: In case you were wondering, Mangino’s stance on the wildly popular phenomenon that is Twitter is a definite “con.”

The coach said Wednesday that he (very) briefly thought about the possibility of creating a profile, but ultimately decided against it. And as a man who knows the constant rigors of directing a Div. I college football program, he retains a bit of skepticism about coaches who find the time to post regular messages.

“I know that it’s really big,” the coach said. “(But) I still have a hard time believing that people who are really busy with jobs are actually doing that themselves.”

Comments

Rivethead 5 years, 2 months ago

KU's OL has given up one sack so far this season (against UTEP). And it was Spikes who got beat and gave it up. But at least he recovered the ensuing Todd Reesing fumble.

Our OL has huge potential, but it just needs more time to gel. And I believe it will.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 2 months ago

"the lingering questions about new left tackle Tanner Hawkinson and recently transplanted center Jeremiah Hatch"

Hatch - yes, due to the errant snapping issue, but Hawkinson ? Hasn't Tanner answered the questions that have been raised so far?

Fortunately, the schedule is just about as ideal as any team could possibly have. Warm up game vs UNC Warm up road game @ UTEP Warm up game vs. "BCS" team - Duke '08 bowl team - Southern Miss Warm up Big12 game - ISU Warm up Big12 road game @ CU Big12 "Elite" home game vs. OU Big12 "Elite" road game @ TTech Catch your breath "rivalry" game vs. KSu.. NU Texas MU Big12 CG {breath again} Bowl Game

It's the perfect schedule for developing (OL, DL, LB, ...)

Joel Hood 5 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, that guy in the UTEP game really blew by Spikes - it looked like he was either completely off balance or completely caught off guard.

Coach got it right - how busy are you if you have time to tweet all day long? Guess I should get back to work...

Jonathan Briles 5 years, 2 months ago

jahwkerjoel- LOL, NICE.

dagger- I completely agree with your comment and I liked it but you gotta finish it out lol. NU is a huge game, Texas is a Big 12 "Elite", and Missouri is another huge rivalry game. Then next to Big 12 champion ship it should say "Road Trip" lol This team will be there and I'll be right there cheering them on.

Tribehawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Kale Pick is a top ten Big XII rusher? Seriously? I know it's only week 2, but that's incredible that a QB--and a BACKUP at that--is a top ten rusher in the Big XII.

Rivethead 5 years, 2 months ago

A 55 yard scramble on that last play of the UTEP game certainly skews the data......

okiedave 5 years, 2 months ago

Dagger... I agree that this is a great schedule. But I would not be too quick to concede Colorado as a warmup game. They did narrowly lose to instate rival Colo. State, which was the first game of the season and is bedlam -- could go either way on any given year. Colorado lost to Toledo at Toledo. As I recall, Kansas had a pretty good team a couple of years ago and went up to Ohio and lost to a good Toledo team. Colorado has some very good athletes. They are tough to beat in Boulder. This game is by no means a warmup in my view. It will be a test to see if we have a chance for 10 wins or have to settle for 7.

KirkwoodHawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Okiedave, when we lost to Toledo, it was a close game that we had in the bag in OT until we fumbled. CU was outclassed and behind the whole game. Outside of Scott on some kick-off returns and rushes, I was surprised at how outmatched they were throughout the game. Unless they break a red-shirt on one of their young QBs and he gets a week or two under his belt before our game, I really don't see much problem with going to Boulder.

omari1911 5 years, 2 months ago

When Pick comes in the game and takes off running, the defenders tend to take bad angles on him because they don't realize how quick he is. Whereas a 55-yard scramble on the last play of the UTEP game certainly skews his average (which is only comprised of 5 rushes), long runs for him are common (or as common as 5 rushing attempts could be). He's got 134 yards in those 5 carries. Even without that last run of 55 yards, he's averaging 20 yards a tote.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 2 months ago

Okiedave - I was a lot more concerned before the season began. I bought the line about CU being injured last year, yada, yada, yada. I guess I just don't buy it any more. Maybe the next few games will show otherwise, but I think Hawk has lost the team already. I look for further implosion before the end of the season. Also, comparing this KU team with the one that lost a couple years ago is a huge stretch IMO

Pick's rushes have been crazy. Personally, I'm glad that he is getting the reps this year, but I rather anticipate Webb or Matthews taking over the starting position by next year and Pick becoming the next great "Kerry Meier".

And all of these comments are little bit tongue in cheek with a very real understanding that this is a game.

Eurekahwk 5 years, 2 months ago

Spikes got Reesing sacked. And not just a leg tackle either. It was a bone jarring, ball dropping tackle. Give up many more of those and we'll be discussing the QB play of Meier or Pick.

KURocksChalk 5 years, 2 months ago

Can't wait for the next game. Wish I was there. Have to listen to radio. I am impressed with the running game so far and the reverse with Meier throwing the ball...that was great stuff. Hopefully, we will show a lot more stuff so that defenses are a little tentative in attacking us when they know that all is not what it seems. I am surprised about the comments above concerning the heir to Reesing. I really don't know about Webb or Mathews but man, with Pick being able to run like that if he can throw, too, why would we want anyone else. Michael Bishop carried KSU back in 98. A guy like that will keep defenses out of a 3-man rush for sure.

For a funny article on Reesing check out

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/story/1452868.html

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