Monday, August 18, 2008


2007 RECORD: 12-1; BIG 12: 7-1
Won Orange Bowl vs. Virginia Tech 24-21
LOCATION: Lawrence, Kansas
STADIUM: Memorial Stadium (50,071)
HEAD COACH: Mark Mangino
OVERALL: 37-36 (6 seasons)
AT TECH: 37-36 (6 seasons)

Coach Mark Mangino is Exhibit A for staying the course…in sports at least. The Jayhawks broke through for 12 wins in his sixth season as head man after averaging five wins in his first five years, with just one winning season (7-6 in 2005). While no one knows if they can match last season’s win total or make it back to a BCS game, it is clear they are no one-year wonder. KU appears to have built a solid foundation and are a program to be reckoned with in the Big 12 North.


Ed Warinner (2nd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Anthony Collins, Marcus Henry, Brandon McAnderson, Derek Fine, Cesar Rodriguez

The Jayhawks had one of college football’s most balanced offenses last season—Todd Reesing threw for 3,486 yards and 33 touchdowns (7 INTs) and tailbacks Brandon McAnderson and Jake Sharpe combined for over 2,000 yards on the ground. McAnderson (16 TDs) is gone, as is number one receiver Marcus Henry (1,014 yards & 10 TDs), but they should be just fine at the skill positions. With Sharpe and newcomer Jocques Crawford (National JC Player of the Year) they again expect to have a solid one-two punch in the backfield. Moreover, Reesing will not lack for targets as their leading pass catcher, Dexton Fields (63 receptions) returns, while sophomore Dezmon Briscoe is ready to break out. The concern comes along the offensive line, where both tackles must be replaced—Cesar Rodriguez was a four-year starter and Collins anchored the line from left tackle.

TOP PROSPECTS: 1) WR Dezmon Briscoe (SO), 2) OT Jeff Spikes (FR)


Clint Bowen (3rd Season)
KEY LOSSES: Aqib Talib, James McClinton

The Jayhawks have an outstanding back seven with one of the best linebacking corps and defensive backfields in the Big 12. They will miss playmaking lockdown corner Aqib Talib, but in junior SS Darrell Stuckey and sophomore CB Chris Harris (Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year) they possess two solid building blocks. The strength of the defense is in the middle, as all three linebackers return—all three are seniors and more importantly, all three can play. Joe Mortensen mans the middle, James Holt excels at getting into the backfield from his SAM position, while WILL Mike Rivera may actually be the most talented of the trio. The toughest man to replace could be tackle James McClinton. This is a workman-like line--solid, but not spectacular. Their backup ends, sophomore Jake Laptad and junior Maxwell Onyegbule, are probably their most explosive linemen.

TOP PROSPECTS: 1) CB Chris Harris (SO), 2) OLB Mike Rivera (SR)


This is where it gets dicey for the Jayhawks and while the KU faithful may not want to hear this, the reality is the 2008 schedule is far more difficult than the one they navigated through last season. They trade Oklahoma St., Texas A & M and Baylor from the South Division with the trifecta of Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech—not exactly a winning ticket. They also add South Florida, No. 21 in the Coaches Poll, to the out of conference docket. Oh yeah, they still have to play that Missouri team from across the border to end the season.


Don’t Stop Believing: Even if the Jayhawks are better this season, the likelihood is their record won’t be. They won their four out of conference contests in ’07 by a combined margin of 214-23—now that is a heck of a way to build a team’s confidence to start the season. What if they drop that week three contest to South Florida…how will they react? How about if they suffer a tough loss in Norman…how will they bounce back against Tech the following week? They did not suffer a loss until the final game of the ’07 regular season. When they get hit this year, how will they respond?


Outside of Lawrence, not many are expecting a repeat performance from the Jayhawks…but no one is expecting them to go away quietly either. Rather than focus too much on repeating their achievements of last season, what Kansas needs to do is follow through on what they started. There is no reason why they won’t. Not too long ago nine or ten wins would be welcomed with open arms, and it should be this season as well.

Photo Credit: Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics