View Full Version : Kansas Jayhawks (Football): 8 Burning Questions

08-30-2006, 07:22 AM
By Kevin Haskin
The Capital-Journal

Questions, answers and information by Kevin Haskin, Kansas beat writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal.

1. Is starting a freshman quarterback, even a redshirt, a recipe for disaster?

Maybe so, particularly in the Big 12. Kerry Meier will have his moments, both good and bad. Coaches and players talk about how his level-headed cool will carry him through the rocky stretches. That's nice, but he needs adequate protection, something an experienced line should provide, though KU quarterbacks often have been battered of late. Three started games last season and four the year before.

What skills Meier does possess may be minimized if the inexperienced receivers don't step up in a hurry. Questions within that group creates an opening for a true freshman to emerge, namely Tertavian Ingram. Tight end Derek Fine could be Meier's top target and could have the best set of hands.

2. Tell me again, how long has it been since KU had a 1,000-yard rusher?

Right on 10 years. Long enough that Max Falkenstien had worked a mere 50 years in the KU broadcast booth when June Henley rushed for 1,349 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in 1996.

Under fifth-year coach Mark Mangino, the committee's been in session. There may not be such a split this season, however, with Jon Cornish looming as a primary back after leading KU with 780 yards last season while sharing carries with Clark Green. A hard-charging Canadian, Cornish is one of the most underrated rushers in the Big 12. His backup is Jake Sharp, which could lead to a freshman handing off to a freshman.

3. Do the Jayhawks have a go-to receiver, or do some of these guys gotta go?

Even with an incoming freshman at quarterback, the biggest question for the KU offense is its wideouts. Brian Murph, a senior who transferred in last season from Butler County, is the most proven receiver after snagging 33 catches last season. If he slips past a defender, look out, though he has trouble shaking coverage.

As devastating as some departures were on defense, the receivers took a big hit, too. Mark Simmons left as the all-time receptions leader at KU, while Charles Gordon provided the offensive spark last season that helped the Jayhawks win four of their last five games. Green was a dependable outlet man out of the backfield KU must replace as well.

4. How quickly can the defense be retooled?

Bill Young is a solid defensive coordinator. The veteran assistant isn't flashy, but he knows the game, keeps up with trends and mixes in enough homespun tales to make players laugh. That said, Young has some work to do, replacing three linebackers who were the Jayhawks' top tacklers a year ago.

Holes in the secondary also will be difficult to mend, especially when KU has been hounded by injuries during preseason camp. The key for the Jayhawks could be solid, dependable play from the defensive front, where seniors Rodney Allen, Wayne Wilder and Paul Como move into starting roles alongside returnee James McClinton. The line needs to free the young, but promising, linebackers so they gain confidence.

5. Could this NCAA mess affect the team?

Probably not unless sanctions prohibit the Jayhawks from playing in the postseason. Reading the tea leaves, that seems unlikely. Players deserve credit too for how resilient they are in the midst of potential difficulty.

As for Mangino and his culpability in the academic fraud cited by the NCAA, the buck stops at the top. During his tenure, it's been quite clear that Mangino exerts control over all facets of the program and no doubt should have been aware of any rules breaches concerning academic monitoring.

6. Construction on the new football facility is scheduled to start sometime, right?

KU officials want to start digging once the season ends, assuming the layer of snow and frost isn't too thick in the corner southwest of Memorial Stadium. Purists don't like it that football is getting its own venue, but the move is necessary for the Jayhawks to compete. In addition, other sports benefit from more space in KU's cramped weight room.

Concerns stemming from the design of the new football complex and its architectural fit near the Campanile will, hopefully, be unfounded. The chance for KU to work out where it plays, without the need for transportation from buses brought in from Beirut, should be applauded.

7. Is the schedule pillowy soft?

Yes and no. The nonconference portion affords a couple of tests. A Friday trip to Toledo is potentially dangerous, because the Glass Bowl is a tough place to visit and the Rockets will be pumped to play on ESPN. South Florida, which contended for the Big East title last season, comes to KU on Sept. 23 when Mangino matches wits with a former colleague at Kansas State, Jim Leavitt.

As for the Big 12 schedule, this is where the Jayhawks have a chance to go .500 or better for the first time since the inception of the conference. Crossover games with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M sure look a lot simpler than taking on Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. To really break through, however, the Jayhawks must play better on the road, where they stand 3-17 under Mangino.

8. Fort Worth was fun. Can the Jayhawks do this bowl thing again?

Why not? A .500 record (6-6) is required to qualify for a bowl, so long as all the Big 12 tie-ins aren't committed to other members. Honestly, a better record is possible if the Jayhawks can overcome the early injury bug and Meier is productive and stays healthy. Oh, and the defense doesn't crumble completely after it ranked 11th nationally last season in yards allowed.

2006 schedule


2 -- Northwestern State, 6 p.m.

9 -- Louisiana Monroe, 6 p.m.

15 -- at Toledo, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

23 -- South Florida, 6 p.m.

30 -- at Nebraska, TBA


7 -- Texas A&M, TBA

14 -- Oklahoma State, TBA

21 -- at Baylor, TBA

28 -- Colorado, TBA


4 -- at Iowa State, TBA

18 -- Kansas State, TBA

25 -- at Missouri, 11 a.m. (ABC)

Link (http://hawkzone.cjonline.com/stories/082706/haw_questions.shtml)