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Archive for Saturday, September 23, 2000

Oddonetto says he benefitted from red-shirt year

Offensive tackle hopes Jayhawks get running game untracked today against Salukis

September 23, 2000

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At first glance, his last name looks like a palindrome, and Kansas University offensive tackle John Oddonetto is a backwards-forwards guy.

Oddonetto can back-pedal when pass blocking and fire straight ahead when the play call is a run.

Early in the season, Oddonetto and the other KU offensive linemen have been doing the former better than the latter. Quarterback Dylen Smith hasn't been sacked in the first two games, but the Jayhawks' running attack is averaging a so-so 145.0 yards per game.

"We didn't do near as good a job as we should have," Oddonetto said, reflecting on last Saturday's Alabama-Birmingham game. "In pass blocking, our rules are more simplified. We know who we have. We have to communicate in run-blocking, and that's the hardest part."

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Oddonetto is one of three returning starters on the offensive line. Guard Mark Owen and tackle Justin Hartwig are the others.

Oddonetto isn't all that experienced at tackle despite starting all 12 games last season. A transfer from Eastern Arizona CC, Oddonetto didn't play in 1998, red-shirting while working at guard. He shifted to tackle in the spring before the '99 season.

"I didn't want to red-shirt at the time," Oddonetto said. "Now I think it's the best thing I've done because I've gotten bigger and stronger."

In addition, Oddonetto, a communications major, says he'd rather be a part of the football program during his fifth year than just a student.

"If I wouldn't have red-shirted," he said, "I'd have been here just for school, and I think playing football helps you focus on school."

Today, Oddonetto weighs about 50 pounds more than he did as a high school linebacker in his native Globe, Ariz.

Arizona passed on him and Arizona State decided to go in a different direction.

"I was recruited by ASU as a linebacker," Oddonetto said. "Then they dropped me because they didn't think I had enough speed. So I went the juco route."

A move to the offensive line at Eastern Arizona CC helped stir more interest in Oddonetto. In addition to Kansas, he was recruited by Iowa State, Mississippi State, Rutgers and Oregon.

Kansas had the right staff, the right stuff and the best scenery.

"I really liked the coaching staff," Oddonetto said. "I saw the campus and it was the nicest I'd seen. It all felt right."

Most everything felt right for Oddonetto, a co-captain, and his teammates following Saturday's 23-20 win over Alabama-Birmingham. It took the bad taste of the season-opening 31-17 loss to SMU out of their mouths.

Now Kansas has Southern Illinois, an NCAA Div. I-AA school with a recent history of defensive woes, and Oddonetto stresses it's time to make hay.

"After that win and with Southern Illinois coming up, we feel we should get some momentum going into the Oklahoma game," Oddonetto said.

A desultory offensive performance against SIU certainly wouldn't send the Jayhawks to Oklahoma a week from today on a wave of momentum.

"We need to crank it up more than we have," Oddonetto said. "We've got to quit talking and do it on the field. If we can't score a lot of points against this team, it would hurt our confidence going into the Big 12."

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