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Monday, September 28, 2009

Keegan

Fast start reveals little

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The four-game nonconference portion of Kansas University’s football season, dotted with imperfections, ended with a perfect record, so only a lunatic could call it anything but a success.

But did it really reveal a great deal about this team that altered projections for its Big 12 fortunes? Coming into the season, this looked to be a team loaded with playmakers on offense and filled with question marks on defense. Still looks that way.

Do the Jayhawks look better, worse or about the same as we might have guessed in August? About the same.

Playing three lightweights — Northern Colorado, UTEP and Duke — in nonconference games virtually guarantees victories, but it doesn’t supply much of a measuring stick for a program. For example, which is the real KU defensive line, the one that sacked UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe five times in the first half, or the one that went three quarters without a sack in a tight victory against Southern Miss?

The Jayhawks did reveal one thing about themselves in the Southern Miss. game that they couldn’t have against the first three opponents because of the mismatch in talent: They’re winners.

Just like a baseball pitcher who has to find a way to win when he doesn’t have his best stuff, Kansas found a way to win when its best unit, the offense, began sputtering. Four consecutive fourth-quarter stands and one huge sack from Jake Laptad served as another reminder that far more than improved talent is at the heart of Kansas turning around its football program under eighth-year coach Mark Mangino.

It’s no major stretch to reach the conclusion that Kansas didn’t win the Southern Miss. game in the middle of Saturday afternoon, rather in the middle of summer during Camp Dawson, under the supervision of strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson, and, later, during Mangino’s two-a-days.

“Most definitely,” Laptad said of the seeds of this victory being sewn during Camp Dawson. “All the running after practice, all the conditioning, all that came out in the fourth quarter.”

Thanks to the clutch finish by a defense that looked ordinary for the first three quarters against a talented, disciplined, creative offense, Kansas is two-thirds of the way toward facing Oklahoma with a 6-0 record.

Awards aren’t given after the nonconference season, but if they were, here’s who would deserve them:

MVP: Todd Reesing doesn’t have the offense dominating yet, but his numbers still dazzle. He has a 67.1 completion percentage, 7.95 yards per attempt and has nine touchdown passes and just two interceptions. His best numbers: a 24-6 record as a starter.

Top Rookie: True freshman running back Toben Opurum isn’t as shifty as Brandon McAnderson was, but he has more power and already looks to be the program’s best receiver out of the backfield since Clark Green. Opurum averages 4.6 yards per carry, has rushed for six touchdowns and has 10 receptions (10.6 yards per, one touchdown).

Most Improved: Defensive end Maxwell Onyegbule has three sacks and two more tackles for loss and generally looks more confident and aggressive.

Comments

KU 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm much more concerned with the offensive line than the defensive line.....but BOTH look like the reason NU or MU will win the North despite the fact we have better playmakers. We lost to NU, UT and TT last year because we lost the line of scrimmage. Our offensive line looks considerably worse than last season to me. Reesing will need to take out a life insurance policy before we play those teams this year. The defensive line is the same as last year.

InfiniteJ 10 years, 6 months ago

I think one thing that has been revealed is that KU's defensive backfield is not very good yet...they still give up WAY to many big passing plays. Certain players have had a few "shining moments", but overall the defense as a whole has looked pretty sub-par to this point. KU better shore up it's defense if it plans on winning the North......I think it can be done, but it better happen really soon.

KU 10 years, 6 months ago

A good defensive line makes an average DB look good......a great defensive line makes a good DB look great.

Jonathan Briles 10 years, 6 months ago

I really liked this article, but I think the comments have been a little negative and harsh. This is what non conference is for is to see your weaknesses and then shore them up. Of course we have some weaknesses but if you look at this non conference everyone has had times of greatness. This bye week we will try to pull all of the people together and get them to click at the same time. Everyone in the secondary aside from a small few has had a great game. Most people on both lines have had a great game or two and all we need to do is be more consistent. Its still early and like was said in the article this team has winners on it. We are going to get better, but we are already good. I have a lot of confidence in this team. I still think we will win the north and don't think it will be that close. MU was outplayed by two of its opponents and just has a shiny record but is not that great. NU is good but we have them at home and all in all we are the better team. If we actually come to play every game we can win the north handily. Our coaches are too good and players too athletic to not. Its still going to be a good year. Rock chalk

mdfraz 10 years, 6 months ago

KU, what exactly makes you think the O line is WORSE than last year? We were completely inept at running the ball at the beginning of last season; not a problem this year. Reesing was running for his life last year too; it's not gotten any worse this season, and might be just a tad better. If you are talking about the hits Reesing took late Sat. it was because So. Miss. brought a number of huge blitzes (7 or so guys; I haven't finished watching the replay yet), and a line of 5, even with a back helping to block, can't stop that. It's up to the QB to read a blitz coming and have and hit a hot receiver on a big blitz like that.

There is work to be done on the O line, just like in every other facet of the team, but this line has actually impressed me given the relative lack of experience we have. We have been GOOD at running the ball, and we couldn't say that early on last year even against crappy competition. I think if the guys keep learning our line could actually be a strength by the end of the season. Just my opinion, of course.

Jory Collins 10 years, 6 months ago

The O-Line is much improved this year. The problem I see is Todd Reesing. He's holding the ball too long in my opinion. Everyone knows he's terrific on the run with a broken pocket. But, I think some teams are going to rush 3 or 4, drop in coverage and see if he can be a pocket passer. So far I think he's struggled with a good pocket, could be his size/vision.

There is nobody better in the country at improvising, buying time, and making a play. But I think drop back pocket passing isn't Todd's strength. With that being said I wouldn't trade him for anyone. But I also don't think the O-line has had much of a problem.

Rivethead 10 years, 6 months ago

Thank you, thank you, thank you jc1306. That needs to be said, and nobody seems to want to talk about it. Defenses have evolved a bit and figured out how to slow down TR. They are really clamping down on our WRs (who are struggling more this year to get open). And Todd is trying to force they play. When there's nothing there Todd, throw the damn ball away!! Don't be a hero.

Todd is super smart and I trust that he will adjust his game.

kcgregory 10 years, 6 months ago

I'm concerned, but MU doesn't exactly look great. Nebraska in Lawrence will likely be the deciding game (just like we thought coming in). In that respect I agree with the article--nothing material has really changed from preseason expectations.

okiedave 10 years, 6 months ago

A good football article that shows skilled observation and has elicited equally good observations in this blog.

vmwskywalk 10 years, 6 months ago

The O line is much improved. Also realize that there are plays that we can call to negate a pass rush. Those plays are better suited for Jake Sharp and his speed as opposed to Toben O. I think we felt Sharp's loss much more than most realize.

asnell 10 years, 6 months ago

Hi: all my name is arnold snell I played for ku from 86 to88. this is my first time on this board and would like to talk about ku fotball. First I'm glad to see how far ku you have come. I was at the game sat and their was some mastakes ku you made, but what we all have to realize is that southern Miss threw some things at us that we wasn't ready for. We have to remember that this was our first time seeing this team and what we saw on film from their previous games was not the formation that they threw on us sat. so we did our best to learn on the job that day and still came out with a victory. So just hang with the boys and we will be find. thanks and nice to joine you all. If I mispelled some words please forgive me. I been out of school for 20yrs

jayhawkboogeyman 10 years, 6 months ago

jc and Rivet- I am with you. Todd has looked like he is trying waaaayy too hard to get the protection to break down so he can create theatrical plays this year. Our whole offense feels out of sync so far. Too much shifting around and changing sets at the line. Last 2 years we have played a lot more hurry up offense and used quick slants or bubble screens to nickel and dime down the field. I get the feeling sometimes this year that Todd wants to be running for his life from 3 DL so he can get a highlight play. I think we need to speed up the offense and get back to quick, efficient stuff. Then the big plays will happen on their own.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 6 months ago

Questions coming into the season: 1. Do we have replacements for the interior of the OL? 2. Do we have LB's? 3. Do we have a DE besides Laptad who can provide an effective pass rush? 4. Can Sharp handle the load of a #1 RB, and is there a #2 RB behind him?

  1. Before Southern Miss, we had 2 sacks (?) and they were both given up by the returning starter - the new guys had done well in pass protection. Not as sure about the Southern Miss game. As mentioned above, we have also run the ball much more effectively this year, and are even among the conference leaders in rushing. There were some snap prob's the first few games, but those already seem to have been corrected. Even more than just finding replacements, it seems that we have also found depth at OL that we haven't had in the past. Seems to me that a lot of good has been revealed here.
  2. Several LB's have stepped up. None has had the big tackles games, except Tharp's 10 tackles in a partial game against Duke, but it doesn't seem that it is the void some expected. The head scratcher to me is the fact that the top leading tacklers for the team are DB's. Is this b/c DL & LB's aren't making plays so DB's have to as a last line of D, or b/c teams are realizing that they can't run on us (among leaders in run D) and are throwing instead? Seems to me that some good has been revealed here, tho there is still room for growth.
  3. Among the leaders in sacks, as many as last year by DL in just 3 games (?). Max O D player of the week. Seems to me that a lot of good has been revealed here.
  4. An emphatic "He11 yes".

Seems to me the questions coming in have been answered fairly well after 4 non-con games. Is the team a finished product? No. Are there new questions? Sure. Has the 4-0 non-con revealed anything good? He11 yes. Does the writer seem a bit peaved for not being able to scoop a big story about some little boyz fighting over girls? Seems that way to me.

NebraskaJayhawk 10 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, great article, Keegan. Right on the money...and so were your comments KU & KCgregory. Those of you who think our lines are dominating...you guys are going to be the ones throwing your pillows (or worse) at your tvs when Kansas meets Texas, OU, & NU this year because you don't realize the skill difference between the teams we have played so far and teams like the ones mentioned. I do think we can get to that level of play this year, but time is running out between now and the OU game.

Chad Dexter 10 years, 6 months ago

Anyone who thinks our offensive line is struggling because So. miss threw some blitzes at us and got pressure and/or sacks because of it does not know much about football.

If you don't understand what I'm talking about, go back and read what mdfraz said. He put it in understandable terms.

Tony Bandle 10 years, 6 months ago

dagger108

I might have to question #4, since Sharp had to sit out the whole game, and I am not buying the line that he could have played if we needed him...we needed him but, thankfully, survived without him.

Actually, I think with our two guys back there we have a 1 and a !A running back combo, anyway, so the burden can be shared.

mdfraz 10 years, 6 months ago

NebraskaJayhawk, who said our lines were "dominating"? My post was simply to question why someone thinks our line is worse than last year. That is NOT saying they are dominating.

I'm not sure I buy into the Todd wanting make spectacular plays theory. I think he is a better thrower on the run, and he's just not a great pocket passer. That's one of the reasons he would struggle at the next level. My guess is it's a helluva lot easier for him to see the coverage and his receivers when he's out from behind the O line. That doesn't mean he's struggling on purpose though. It's extremely hard to argue with Reesing's numbers, especially the last game or two, but he just doesn't look quite as comfortable at times this season. I don't know why that might be, other than teams have brought some outside pressure, forcing Todd to stay in the pocket.

skywalk is right about the plays designed to slow a heavy rush, and that Jake is more suited for those types of plays, especially the shovel pass. He usually does a really good job with that, and I don't think Toben is that kind of a runner; he doesn't have the acceleration and shiftiness that Jake does. USM brought a bunch of guys (6 or 7) a number of times the other day, and getting rid of the ball in a case like that is on Todd, not the 5 linemen.

mdfraz 10 years, 6 months ago

And just for further evidence that the line is doing a decent, but not "dominating", job:

http://cjonline.com/sports/football/2009-09-27/ku_addresses_pass_protection

Sorry to the LJW, but this illustrates my point perfectly:

"After Saturday's game, Mangino and Reesing both said Southern Miss essentially started sending more rushers than KU had blockers, especially late in the game."

If it's good enough for the coach and Todd, it's good enough for me.

Michael Leiker 10 years, 6 months ago

Thank you to those who are seeing a little fault in Reesing on here. Guy's been great this year, but he does seem to be trying to do too much on every play. It seems like back in 2007 if it wasn't there, lots of times he just got rid of the ball instead of forcing it. While it hasn't cost KU too dearly yet, forcing the issue against better competition could be disastrous.

The lack of discipline as a whole is what has me scared. The # and severity of penalties has been surprising. I think fixing that alone can put us head and shoulders above our competition in the North.

troutsee 10 years, 6 months ago

I disagree regarding the D line. Nobody has been able to run on us consistently this year....so we are not getting pushed around. Their QB also rolled out a lot and it did not look like we were prepared for that and did not adapt to it until the 4th quarter. I still think we overuse the shovel pass. We need to develop a screen pass, which I don't remember us calling the first four games, except for some bubble screens. We also need some sort of draw play other than the beloved shovel pass.

rasta_meta 10 years, 6 months ago

I think the Defense if coming along nicely. They are definitely better than last year and I think the schemes and play calling by Bowen has been better as well. I don't think we will have a great defense this year, but if we continue to improve we can have a good enough defense to with the North and compete against the South teams.

Blake Post 10 years, 6 months ago

You got it, KanFan... these early games are great because we can work on our game. The interference and wide berths to opposing receivers might kill. It is worrisome. I guess they just want to prevent the long ball. Watching the Cowboys and Panthers last night, those defenses wanted to have you for breakfast, the QBs were throwing from a furnace and the dbacks were in the hip pockets. Lot tighter defenses, as expected in pro, but I would like to see us tighten up with more pressure. I observed the offensive left tackle of southern miss holding a lot, even grabbing our man's collar, and not getting it called. I would like to see refs do their jobs right. They bite. I'm focused on Nebraska, which of course must die. I hope misery beats them this week, maybe setting up the ku-mu game for all or nothing. Fortunately, one of them will lose thursday. Our schedule is tougher, so we must beat them in head to head. We have a lot to improve upon, but our coaches seem to make it happen. It will be fun to see it unfold. Brett Favre rocks.

Chad Dexter 10 years, 6 months ago

njjayhawk,

Nebraska looks okay this year. Not great, but okay. MU has been up and down. So, to say that KU would finish 3rd based on that is wrong, IMO. Plus, I think So. Miss would give those teams a run for their money.

Philip Bowman 10 years, 6 months ago

Come on jayhawkboogeyman, Reesing may not look as good as last year, but he doesn't have the same offensive line. And your suggestion that he is deliberately looking to make highlight plays rather than ones called by the coaches borders on slander, not to mention stupid.

grandpa 10 years, 6 months ago

I have been reading all of the comments made by you fellows. Some are accurate and some are inaccurate. I agree with Mdfraz, Jc1306 and Rivethead. Everybody has their good days and bad days. We must remember that many of these linemen are young and haven't been around the block many times. Take Dorsey for instance. He did not play any last year and he has had some good hits this year and also some misses. Our offense line looks good opening some holes but needs improvement on blockiong for the QB. Reesing is holding the ball too long. At the end of a count of three, he should have the pass on its way. Now let's stop here. The Miss. defensive backs were well schooled and covered our receivers very well. Reesing did throw intoa double coverage which is a Bad Choice.Opurum is good running the ball. He had a chance to put some hits on the pass rushers which he did not. Sharp is a better blocker. Miss. was having success with their blitzes and we should have done something to slow that down. As far as KU, why are we not blitzing?Some of these sportswriters make a big deal out of statistics. You can have a lot of passing yardage, abunch of rushing yardage , lot of first downs and still lose the game. I think we are going to improve as we go along. Tough games ahead!! My wife and I are driving up for the Nebraska game so that should tip the scales in our favor. Grandpa

mandomax 10 years, 6 months ago

KU isn't blitzing much this year because the Nickel package is not conducive to the blitz. While I agree that we need to rush the passer more, we'll have to do so from a different defensive package; we need those two LBs in the shallows, and it takes a long time for a DB to come all the way in from the outer nickel.

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