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Archive for Tuesday, August 11, 1998

ALLEN EXCITED ABOUT BRIGHT FUTURE

August 11, 1998

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As tickled as he is about the upcoming football season, coach Terry Allen is even more optimistic about a few years down the road.

The topic was the immediate future, but darned if second-year Kansas University football coach Terry Allen couldn't keep his eyes from wandering on down the road a ways.

With three days of newcomer-only practice behind him and the start of full-squad two-a-days just around the corner, Allen addressed a small throng of media representatives on Monday at Media Day at Memorial Stadium.

And while Allen waxed optimistic about the upcoming season, he positively glowed about the Jayhawks' long-term prospects.

``The thing that's most exciting to me,'' Allen said, ``is we have some good freshmen. There are a couple or three or four or five guys who already stand out.''

Allen singled out wide receivers Anton Paige and Byron Gasaway -- who, Allen said, will be ``household names in a few years -- tight end David Hurst, defensive end Algie Atkinson and running back Henri Childs.

``I'm excited going into this year,'' Allen said, ``but I can't help but get excited when I look at the freshmen. They can help us achieve some of the things we want to accomplish with this football team. Maybe not this year, but in the future.''

This year, the Jayhawks still are battling lack of experience, especially in the defensive backfield and at quarterback, and lack of depth across the board.

For those reasons and more, media pundits picked the Jayhawks to place fifth in the six-team Big 12 North division.

Not that Allen puts much stock in the pundits.

``It's a different situation coming into the second year,'' he said. ``The neat thing is, people don't have a lot of expectations for us, but we have a lot of expectations for ourselves. The way the season is, we have a chance for some good things.''

The season will open on Sept. 5, when KU plays host to resurgent Oklahoma State. The game, to be televised on ABC, will be the debut of the new-look Memorial Stadium, which has undergone a massive renovation since last season's home finale.

``People are so excited on this team, so anxious about getting going,'' junior quarterback Zac Wegner said. ``We are playing Oklahoma State, a top-ranked team, in a new stadium, on TV. You can't ask for anything better than that. I am anticipating the best and I know all the other guys are, too. I can't wait to get going.''

He won't have to wait long. Two-a-days begin today, and Allen expects the Jayhawks to improve on the miserable offense they showed in Allen's first season in the big time. KU averaged 241.5 total offensive yards per game last fall, a figure that ranked last in the nation.

``We return 10 starters. That's an exciting thing for us,'' Allen said. ``I don't think there's any question we'll be better as an offensive football team.''

How much better?

``I'd like to think in the midsection,'' Allen said. ``Between 50 and 70. We have an improved offensive line, better skill players and a better understanding of it. And some of it was the coaching last year. Obviously, we had a much better defensive football team last year. We weren't going to take any chances. ... I knew what we had to do to put ourselves in position to win games.''

For the Jayhawks to put themselves in position to win more than five games, as they did last year, the first two weeks are key. After the OSU opener, Kansas will travel to rival Missouri -- another bowl team last fall -- in the second week.

``We want to play them early,'' Allen said. ``Last year, we had some depth problems, and we deteriorated as the season went on. We'll play those teams healthy. We have a great opportunity with Oklahoma State and Missouri. The people we have to overcome are those two teams we first play. Those are the programs Kansas has to overcome before we can start talking about Nebraska.''

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

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