Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mangino: Special teams not up to snuff

Placekicker Jacob Branstetter (14) receives congratulations from Kerry Meier (10) after a field goal in the third quarter against Duke. Though a capable kicker, Branstetter is making as much of a name for himself with his tackling prowess.

Placekicker Jacob Branstetter (14) receives congratulations from Kerry Meier (10) after a field goal in the third quarter against Duke. Though a capable kicker, Branstetter is making as much of a name for himself with his tackling prowess.


It was not terribly surprising when, following a 2008 season in which his team finished the year ranked 118th out of 119 FBS teams in kickoff-return average, Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino emphasized the importance of improving the unit heading into this fall.

While the Jayhawks indeed have improved upon last year’s dismal numbers, however, they have been far from world-beaters heading into Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. game against No. 25 Oklahoma, leaving Mangino none too pleased.

“Satisfied? No,” the coach said following Wednesday’s practice. “I think there’s room for improvement in those areas, there’s no question about that.”

The No. 24 Jayhawks are ranked seventh in the Big 12 in kickoff returns, which doesn’t sound especially alarming, except that their 21.2-yard average is less than a yard more than the conference’s worst return team, Oklahoma, and seemingly talented return men Dezmon Briscoe, Bradley McDougald and Darrell Stuckey have had trouble finding room to maneuver.

“The returners are fine,” Mangino said. “Schematically, if one guy misses a block or one guy lets his guy off early, you have a problem. ... And that’s been the situation. It’s kind of like trying to plug a hole in a dike. Every time you think you’ve got something figured out, another guy pops a leak.”

Punt returns, meanwhile, haven’t gone much better. Kansas enters Saturday’s game ranked 10th in the Big 12 in punt-return average at 8.3 yards per return, and in last week’s loss to Colorado failed to get any aspect of their return game going, returning two kicks for just 41 yards without recording a punt-return yard.

Emphasis now, Mangino says, is on limiting the breakdowns that have hampered the team.

“Hopefully,” he said, “we’ve gotten that out of our system.”

Woods, Quigley contributing: Based on his occasional news-conference evaluations, it was safe to assume Mangino was beginning to wonder whether Quintin Woods and Angus Quigley were going to pan out this season.

Woods, a defensive end transfer, and Quigley, a running back-turned linebacker with obvious athleticism, had earned a good deal of attention heading into the season, but had undergone slower-than-expected transitions and had been nonfactors through the team’s first five games.

Following both players’ defensive debuts Saturday against Colorado, however, that might be changing.

“Back in August, it was hard for him,” Mangino said of Woods, who transferred to Kansas from Bakersfield (Calif.) College after signing with Michigan out of high school. “The transition from junior-college play to play in the Big 12 was really difficult. But I’ll give him credit, he stayed with it and never gave up, and he really is starting to do some good things. And we’ve got trust in him now that we can put him on the field.”

“It’s kind of day-to-day with Angus,” he added. “But he has some athletic ability; we’d be tickled if he could contribute from here on out.”

Beshears to start at CB: A week after making his first appearance of the season, true freshman cornerback D.J. Beshears will start Saturday against Oklahoma, Mangino said Wednesday.

In replacing incumbent cornerback Daymond Patterson, Beshears, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound Denton, Texas, native, finished with five tackles against the Buffaloes and played with a tenacity that left the team’s coaching staff impressed.

“He’s really a type of personality that doesn’t back down,” Mangino said. “True freshman or not, that’s not a factor with him. He wants to play, and he plays hard every snap.”

Quarterback Club to meet today: The KU Quarterback Club will hold its weekly meeting at 5 p.m. today at Buffalo Wild Wings, 1012 Mass. Street.

The evening’s guest speaker will be former Kansas and NFL offensive tackle and current actor Keith Loneker, who has appeared in, among other films, “Leatherheads” and “Lakeview Terrace.” Hawk Talk with Mark Mangino, the coach’s live radio show, will begin at 6 p.m.


rastameta 12 years, 8 months ago

Loneker is a great guy. I still remember the first time I met him as a freshmen.

Jonathan Briles 12 years, 8 months ago

I'm a little surprised to hear about Daymond Patterson getting replaced. I really thought he was going to turn out pretty well. He is honestly one of my favorite players on the team. I like to hear about a young freshman getting playing time bc it speaks well for the future but it seems like every year we have a freshman cornerback that looks great as a freshman and then seemingly falls off the map. Anthony Webb, Chris Harris, and now it looks as if Daymond Patterson is doing the same. I hope that DJ can stick around for a while. I also hope very much that Patterson can find his way back into the starting lineup or at least improve for next season to form a very fast but also small secondary.

KU_Alumn_2000 12 years, 8 months ago

Kanfan...I'm not sure if it would matter who you are or how much athletic ability you have in the ku secondary. We have fast athletes with experience...but they all continue to struggle. It's rediculous that were pulling redshirts when the obvious problem is with the defensive coaching. We need a hard core defensive coordinator like pelini that will not only develop effective game plans...but will also develop and maximize our athletes talent and skill levels.

BigD 12 years, 8 months ago

I hope it's more a credit to DJ than a discredit to Patterson, either way replacing experience with a freshman is generally not a good sign.

jayhawkinATL 12 years, 8 months ago

It would be nice to get a kicker that can get a touchback with regularity. Was at the CU game and Branstetter couldn't get a touchback at altitude!!! I understand that he's our best FG kicker, but, damn, get another one on the roster that can put it through the end zone!!!

Jeff Hargate 12 years, 8 months ago

jayhawkinatl, I hear you 100%. The kickoff's and the coverage are terrible, but I do think Branstetter is the best tackler on the kickoff team.

sdoyel 12 years, 8 months ago

Admittedly I've been on Branstetter's case all season, and kudos for him for surpassing his career long FG TWICE against Colorado, but KID. COME ON! Get those kickoffs to the endzone! We need more touchbacks. Teams are constantly taking over at the 30-35 yard line against us. It needs to be the 20-25!

Rivethead 12 years, 8 months ago

Hey, LJW:

How about an article on the KU Jayhawks penalty woes?........last in the conference in penalty yards, 11th in number. 100th in the nation in penalty yards.

We're easily one of the most undiciplined teams in the nation. And that's coaching.......from top to bottom.

number1jayhawker 12 years, 8 months ago

IIRC we were the least penalized team in 2007. We have the same coaches except for the DL coach (Sims) and LB coach (Miller), that we had then. I tend to side on the players being the problem. Afterall, they are the ones doing the infractions, not the coaches.

ShazzyD 12 years, 8 months ago

Maxhawk, Yes! I totally agree. I've been saying this the past couple of weeks. Chris Harris is much better at the Nickel spot. He is an amazing run defender because of his tackling abilities. He made play after play at the spot in the first game of the season, and we've seen Thornton miss those plays over and over again since then. I want to see Harris back at Nickel, but I think it requires us finding an outside corner we can count on. Hopefully Beshears is that guy. I'm really hoping that Patterson comes back in and proves he can handle the spot so that we can do some other things with Harris. Harris is a "decent" CB, but an awesome NB.

beenahawk 12 years, 8 months ago

I'd like to see Patterson replaced as the punt return man too. I'd give the job to Kerry Meier, doubt if he'd go retreating after every catch.

jayhawkinATL 12 years, 8 months ago

jeffthejayhawk...Branstetter was definitely the best tackler on KU's team that night.

Bill Kackley 12 years, 8 months ago

I agree about getting the ball in the end zone on the kickoff. There is a player on the roster from Washington, MO who can do that but they are red-shirting him. The idea of using Kerry as a kick returner is about the most stupid idea I have heard. Both kicking and receiving teams need to get more aggressive and hit someone. They pussy foot around. The kickoff receiver wastes so much time waiting for his blocking to set up he could have run 10 yards while waiting. Run the damn ball

Eurekahwk 12 years, 8 months ago

Hey Rivethead, you need to recheck your stats. We are the LEAST penalized team in the Big XII, combined stats and conference stats alone. I'm not sure what you are looking at, but throw it away. Or check your reading comprehension. Nationally, we are the 30th least penalized team. We've been that way ever since Mangino threw Pendleton under a bus. Did it destroy his confidence and cost Kansas one solid playmaker, probably. But we don't get penalized. If we do, it was bad judgement by the ref not us. Just like that BS interference call at the end of the CU game. And how about the delay of game penalty they gave us when we snapped the ball with a second to go on the clock.

sizehawk 12 years, 8 months ago

It appears to me that Brandstetter is the best of the special teams. He not only kicks, but also makes the tackles.

12 years, 8 months ago

Rivethead & Eurekahwk ~

Check out the 40 spot in the following link. It looks like we rank 3rd in the Big 12 behind Iowa St. (19) and Missouri (21) for the least penalized teams so far this season.

NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

Quit ragging on Branstetter. He's doing a great job and gives his best effort every single time he goes out there. Whether it's kickoffs, kicking field goals, or tacking because the rest of the kick off unit can't tackle.

NebraskaJayhawk 12 years, 8 months ago

That was for Sdoyel by the way... We have wayyyy bigger issues than not kicking the ball into the end zone.

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