Playing football in Toledo, Ohio, appeals to Kansas quarterback Chip Hilleary because his family lives in the Columbus suburb of Westerville and because he almost signed with the Rockets.
"We live an hour and a half from Toledo," Hilleary said. "It came down to KU and Toledo because, by the end of recruiting, I'd pretty much eliminated the Naval Academy."
Hilleary's chance to play Toledo Sept. 7 at the Glass Bowl came rather suddenly. KU dropped Miami from its schedule last year and replaced the Hurricanes with the Rockets of the Mid-American Conference.
"We've got so many guys on the team from Detroit and Ohio," said Hilleary. "We are all starving for that game. I'll be keyed up. Toledo has a great team. They're co-champions of their conference which says a lot."
HILLEARY ENTERED preseason camp firmly established as KU's No. 1 quarterback. Now a 6-1, 185-pound junior, he proved an able replacement for the graduated Kelly Donohoe last year.
Hilleary completed 129 of 224 passes for 1,730 yards and seven touchdowns.
"I proved a lot to myself more than anything," Hilleary said of last year's performance. "I proved to myself I could play in the Big Eight. The guys around me gave me confidence. Our offensive line, backs and receivers made me who I am."
Hilleary says he gained plenty of confidence engineering KU's 3-7-1 season. The Jayhawks went 2-4-1 in the Big Eight, tying for fourth.
"One of the things I wanted to get done last year was establish a leadership role," said Hilleary. "I thought we played well right off the bat against Virginia, though the score (59-10) doesn't reflect it.
"We had over 400 yards total offense against Nebraska. We went 80 yards against Oklahoma State (in final two minutes) to win the game. We want to build on last season. Everybody's dedicated themselves. We probably had 60 percent of the team stay here this summer working in the weight room and on conditioning."
HILLEARY DOESN'T foresee any drastic changes in KU's offense. He not only threw for 1,30 yards, but ran 101 times for 342 yards.
"I'm not afraid to run," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. Our offensive line gives us a chance to get some yards on the ground. Each year, we get more and more talented linemen. Two springs ago, we had four linemen. Now we've got something like 18."
The Jayhawks also have several scholarship quarterbacks. No. 2 is sophomore Nate Florell, who played some last season, including nearly the entire Miami game (34-0 loss). No. 3 is red-shirt freshman Fredrick Thomas.
"I definitely have competition," said Hilleary. "Nate and Fredrick make me better. They're competing hard. Nobody's position is protected on this team."