Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Back to the drawing board ––— Jayhawks tweak offense to get running game going

September 22, 2001


"It was like, 'I worked so hard over the summer, never missed a workout, and now they're going to a one-back offense and that virtually took me out of everything,'" junior fullback Mitchell Scott said. "I was disappointed in the fact that I wasn't going to get to play, which was my goal in coming to KU.

"But, if they thought it was going to help the team, I guess I was going to have to take it."

In addition to KU's fullbacks being added to the endangered species list, the tight ends also had seen their workload sliced and diced more than a bonsai tree.

"When I first heard about it I was a little bit (disappointed)," sophomore Adrian Jones said. "I thought that would automatically drop the tight ends that played each game. When I first heard about it, it was a little disappointing, but whatever gets us to a bowl game " ."

Luckily for Scott and Jones -- or unluckily for the Jayhawks -- KU's rushing attack has been so lackluster through two games that KU coach Terry Allen is making some changes.

After seeing the Jayhawks gain 188 yards -- including a mere 86 in their loss to UCLA -- on 73 carries, the KU staff has added more two-tight end formations and likely will utilize the fullbacks more.

"We went to a lot of double-tight (formations), put the fullback in a lot more," red-shirt freshman quarterback Mario Kinsey explained. "As far as me liking it, I do sometimes and I don't sometimes because I figure we just need to stick with whatever offense we're going to run.

"I really don't like trying something new every week, but if coach thinks it's going to work, I'm all for it."

The altered offense will be on display today in KU's Big 12 opener at Colorado. Kickoff is 2:30 Lawrence time at Folsom Field.

Kinsey to start at QB

Kinsey, who made his debut against UCLA, was supposed to start at home against Wyoming, but instead will get the call today in foreign territory.

No problem, he said.

"I'd rather play in them," Kinsey said of hostile environments, "because if plays are made, they have no choice but to shut up. I like to run off other people's emotions and how other teams feel about me and their attitude toward me. I go off that so I'd rather play in a hostile environment."

Against the Bruins, Kinsey was 6-of-17 passing for 93 yards with no touchdowns and an interception, which was returned for a touchdown. Those numbers could have been better if not for the feeble ground game, Allen said.

That's where the fullbacks come in.

"I think I can make a real big contribution to this team," Scott said. "As far as the running game's been going, I think the personnel out there has been good. I just want to add a different phase to the game. I can't say what I'm going to do is going to make the running game spectacular, but I promise to give everything I have and I cherish this moment getting to play.

"I feel like it's been a long time coming and I'm excited that it's finally here."

In fact, it has been a long time coming for Scott, who red-shirted as a freshman, then was held out of contact drills during the 1999 season after suffering a torn ACL during the spring. The injury continued to slow him last season as a sophomore.

"You're always thinking, 'What if I could just get in there. I probably could do something. Hopefully I could just make some kind of contribution,'" Scott said. "This weekend, I'm going to finally get a chance."

Red-shirt freshman fullback Austine Nwabuisi, who's as much a co-starter as he is a back-up, had one of the Jayhawks' longest runs against UCLA, a 24-yard dash down the sideline on an option play.

That explains why he wasn't fazed by the single-back attack.

"It didn't bother me too much," Nwabuisi said, "because the coaches have been trying to work me in as both a fullback and tailback."

More tight ends?

The tight ends also are looking forward to more playing time. The position has combined for two grabs for 16 yards -- all by Jones -- in two games.

That might change now, though, with the loss of senior wide receiver Harrison Hill for three to seven games with a broken shoulder blade.

"One of the things about not having a tight end in is it's going to limit the number of fronts you're going to see," co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer said. "Part of our thinking was we've got more and more-experienced receivers than we do experienced tight ends.

"Now, given the injury to Harrison, that might change a little bit."

Not only will the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Jones -- as well as back-ups David Hurst (6-3, 260) and Jason Farley (6-3, 240) -- be called on during passing plays, but also they'll be asked to provide a boost on running plays.

"I think they'll help our running game quite a bit," sophomore quarterback Zach Dyer said. "We're taking a guy out who's about 180 pounds and putting in a 280-pound guy. We're just putting a little bit more athletic lineman-type in there, just getting a couple of bigger guys in there, a couple of blockers. That's really the whole idea, to help us run the ball better and also they're a passing threat, too.

"They both have good soft hands. They're not going to run any deep routes, but they do a good job catching the ball, getting open."

Both the fullbacks and tight ends just want a chance to feel needed again.

"We're kind of happy with that because we're obviously going to get more snaps," Jones said, "and be into the offense more than just with one tight end. Now both of us have to go out there and show them what we can do."

-- Sports writer Robert Sinclair can be reached at 832-7185.

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