Archive for Tuesday, November 18, 1997

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November 18, 1997

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Kansas football coach Terry Allen spent Sunday going through withdrawal pains.

Naturally, he hopes he'll never have to come to terms with any more football-free late Novembers.

"I went through it one day," Allen said Monday during his season-ending press conference. "I was up here. It's hard to get back focused on, what do you do? It's truly here. It's hard on Nov. 16 not to be preparing for a football game. In the future, I don't want to be sitting around on Nov. 16 and not preparing for another football game."

KU's regular-season finale was Saturday, a 45-31 loss to Texas that killed the Jayhawks' hopes of qualifying for the postseason.

Kansas has never had an earlier regular-season finale, and Allen has never had a season end so early. His Northern Iowa teams qualified for seven straight postseasons after his first UNI team did not.

His first KU team ended 5-6 overall, 3-5 in the Big 12, surprising many preseason pundits who predicted Kansas would be lucky to finish with three wins, let alone five.

"At the beginning of the year, if you'd said we'd be 5-6, we might have taken that and walked out and been happy with it," Allen said. "But at one point, we were 4-1. When you go back and realize that means we got one win in the last six games, it's very frustrating and very disappointing.''

Kansas ended its season ranked 112th nationally --dead last -- in terms of total offense, though KU gained 355, 305 and 399 total yards in its final three games.

"The biggest thing to take from it," Allen said, "is we made strides offensively. That's what we needed to do, with 10 of 11 starters back on offense."

Now Allen's ready to jump into his first full recruiting season. Though the Jayhawks will lose just one offensive starter in senior running back Eric Vann, they'll lose seven regular starters on defense.

"That's one of the most difficult things," Allen said. "The first day after the end of the season, you take the seniors away from the depth chart and see the glaring holes there. But being a glass-is-half-full, optimistic guy, I see a lot of positions where we return the whole nucleus, like the offensive line. I'd like to foster some more competition there, with one, maybe two junior college recruits.

"I feel pretty good about Zac (Wegner, sophomore QB). He can come back next season and we can say he's a veteran quarterback. The thing that jumps out at you most is the emergence of Termaine Fulton at wide receiver. We got good news on the recovery of John Gordon. Throw in that we had a freshman in Harrison Hill who we liked, and maybe we can do some things offensively that we like. And at running back, we're solid there."

Gordon, KU's most experienced receiver coming into the season, was diagnosed with sleep apnea and cardiomyopathy and didn't play a down, but Allen said Gordon's prognosis was good and he -- along with Hill, who suffered a broken ankle -- might be able to return as early as spring drills.

Defense is another story. The Jayhawks will lose three of four starters in the secondary, their sack leader in Ron Warner and their tackling leader in free safety Tony Blevins.

"We have the departure of so many seniors," Allen said. "In the secondary, we have the departure of five of our top six. ... At linebacker, with the return of (J.J.) Johnson and (Dariss) Lomax and (Hanson) Caston, we'll be OK. We'll need some people to help in the defensive line and the secondary."

Overall depth is a concern, too, Allen said.

"We have an interesting situation here -- and I've never been negative about it -- that we've had some down years recruiting," Allen said. "We have to see if we can fill in those gaps. We have to build a foundation of more, talented players. We're not deep enough. We've got a couple of good players, but we didn't get enough good players. I think they got caught in trying to get high-profile players and not enough numbers of good, quality players."

-- Andrew Hartsock's phone message number is 832-7216. His e-mail address is hartsock@ljworld.com.

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