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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

KU seeks quarterback

Kinsey, Dyer contend for starting QB job

August 11, 2001

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Kansas University's football team has accomplished plenty of things since the conclusion of the spring practice session, ranging from recruiting to taking classes to lifting weights.

Determining a starting quarterback, though, wasn't one of them.

"Obviously it's no different now than when we came out of spring," KU football coach Terry Allen said. "We'll continue to have good competition throughout the preseason. The similarities between the two they're really quite a bit alike, so you don't change the offense for one versus the other.

"I think it's just going to be a matter of seeing who can continue to pick it up and stay away from mistakes."

Heading into spring drills, sophomore Zach Dyer and red-shirt freshman Mario Kinsey were battling for the starting QB slot. Dyer, who was 5-of-12 passing for 60 yards as former Jayhawk Dylen Smith's backup last season, completed 17 of 29 passes for 172 yards during three spring scrimmages.

Kinsey completed 12 of 29 passes for 168 yards and scampered 105 yards on 20 carries during the spring.

"What we saw throughout the spring was they each had their good days and bad days," Allen said. "The decision-making process isn't going to change between the spring game and the open of fall drills.

"You don't wake up and say, 'Ah, it's this guy.'"

The Jayhawks don't know for sure who'll be taking the snaps, but they have a pretty good idea who'll be at the receiving end of the to-be-determined QB's passes.

"Wide receivers is a unit where we have strength, there's no question about that," Allen said. "One of the things we've been diligently doing is trying to develop a scheme to take advantage of more of the receivers."

Among the likely starters are the top returning receivers in seniors Harrison Hill, Termaine Fulton and Roger Ross who combined for 93 receptions covering 1,327 yards and eight touchdowns. Waiting in the wings are junior Byron Gasaway and sophomores J.T. Thompson and Derick Mills.

"We've got speed there, we've got proven catching ability there, we've got size there and we've got quickness there," Allen said. "Through the unit, that's a pretty good group."

Sophomore Reggie Duncan could be a pretty good running back, but a lack of depth in the backfield could pose a problem.

"I think that Reggie can be an excellent back," Allen said of the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Duncan. "We do have some concerns there with the depth at the running back position."

After Duncan, who had 54 carries for 222 yards and two TDs last season, the Jayhawks' stable includes sophomores Daniel Coke and Harold McClendon and junior fullback Mitchell Scott. KU does have a handful of newcomers at the running back position Marshell Chiles, Clark Green and Robert Sanders who could contribute.

"That could be an area where a freshman could play," Allen said. "History has told me that there's some positions where a true freshman can play, and running back is a little bit more of a God-given talent than anything. So we'll see there."

Like the quarterbacks, the tight end position still is unsettled. Duking it out for the starting spot are junior David Hurst and sophomore Adrian Jones. Jason Farley, a red-shirt freshman from Blue Valley High, also could see some playing time in two-tight-end sets.

"We need to have a good season out of David Hurst," Allen said. "He's showing signs of being very good and he's showing signs of being not so very good. We've got good competition there."

Another area of optimism for the Jayhawks is the offensive line, anchored on the right side by seniors Jason Stevenson at guard and Justin Hartwig at tackle. Juniors Justin Sands and Nick Smith are slated to start at left tackle and center respectively.

The position that's up for grabs up front is left guard, where senior Bob Smith and junior Kyle Grady who was the opening-day starter last season, but suffered a season-ending knee injury are tussling.

"I know coach (Sam) Pittman is excited about them as a group," Allen said of the O-line. "He feels that they've developed into a pretty good group.

"I think the offensive line will be better than last year," Allen added.

On the defensive side, Allen has high hopes for his linebackers. Leading the way is senior middle linebacker Marcus Rogers, the top returning tackler with 91 total stops, followed by senior Algie Atkinson and sophomore Glenn Robinson.

"Marcus is our best linebacker in there," Allen said, "but Glenn Robinson, Leo Etienne and Greg Cole those guys are athletic guys that can really run. We need that. There's no question about that."

Senior left tackle Nate Dwyer is the foundation for the defensive front, with 68 total tackles last season, including seven sacks.

"I think probably our best football players are on the defensive line," Allen said. "We need to have some guys come through."

Allen has high expectations for red-shirt freshman defensive end Travis Watkins and junior end Charlie Dennis. Senior Ervin Holloman is expected to start at right tackle. Seniors Marquis Hayes and Ryan Atkinson and red-shirt freshmen David McMillan and Clarence Laws could contribute as well.

"The two young guys that can step up for us," Allen said, "there's no question in my mind Travis Watkins can step up for us, but David McMillan and Clarence Laws are two guys that we really need to have come through for us."

In the defensive backfield, senior cornerbacks Andrew Davison and Quincy Roe will lead the charge, followed by starting safeties Jamarai Bryant and Jake Letourneau.

"I think we'll be better in the secondary," Allen said. "I think we'll have more speed back there."

KU's kicking game is unsettled at this point. Curtis Ansel, a transfer from Garden City CC, will compete with red-shirt freshman Chris Tyrrell at punter. This fall, all eyes will be on incoming freshman place kicker Johnny Beck.

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