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Archive for Tuesday, August 20, 2002

depth in backfield

August 20, 2002

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Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino hasn't announced which freshmen he will red-shirt this season. He might have given an idea which way he was leaning with his freshmen running backs, however, during Monday's Big 12 teleconference.

"We have a couple pretty good red-shirt guys  excuse me, not red-shirt guys because we haven't decided that yet, but true freshmen  in Jerome Kemp and Jon Cornish. Jerome and Jon have looked really good. They're talented, young guys. We think our running back situation could be solid for a while."

Kemp (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) was an all-state selection last fall at Wichita Southeast, while Cornish (6-0, 200) was the British Columbia Provincial Player of the Year.

Though the freshmen have impressed the coaching staff during two-a-days, they are battling for playing time behind junior Reggie Duncan (5-9, 215) and red-shirt freshman Clark Green (5-11, 200).

Duncan started nine games last season, but Green has been battling him for the starting job throughout the offseason.

They were still listed as co-No. 1s on an updated depth chart released last Wednesday.

"Both are looking really good," said Mangino, who also praised junior backup Harold McClendon (5-10, 190). "I'm pleased with their progress."

The picture is a little less fuzzy at quarterback, where junior Zach Dyer (6-2, 200) continues to lead junior Bill Whittemore (6-0, 190) and senior Jonas Weatherbie (6-2, 200).

"We're still looking in that direction," said Mangino, whose team opens the season Aug. 31 at Iowa State. "There hasn't been much change in that status. I will say that Bill Whittemore has vastly improved, and he's a lot stronger and healthier than he was in the spring. He has thrown some exceptionally good passes. He has done some great things that I really like, but he has to develop some consistency with that.

"Jonas Weatherbie has had a really good camp here. He's just kind of a steady guy that hasn't played much since he's been here. He's a guy that was discarded, so to speak. We came in and we told him he had a chance to compete, and he just hasn't gone away. He gets better every day."

That seems to be the theme for the entire team, which is adapting to new offensive and defensive schemes. Mangino said his Jayhawks were in a similar stage of learning as Oklahoma was at this time in 1999, the Sooners' first year under coach Bob Stoops. Mangino was an assistant on that staff, which inherited a team that went 5-6 in 1998 and posted a 7-5 record in 1999. A year later, OU won the national championship.

No one is confusing the Jayhawks with title contenders, but Mangino is pleased with the team's progress in his first preseason camp.

"We have spent a lot of time in the meeting rooms, as well as on the practice field," Mangino said. "We've had a pretty intense, full day just about every day. The more our kids learn about our systems, the more confident they'll be able to play."

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Open Practice: Fan appreciation day  an end-of-two-a-days tradition Mangino picked up while an assistant coach at Kansas State  will make its debut at KU on Wednesday.

Fans are invited to watch a scrimmage at the end of the late afternoon practice at Memorial Stadium, then stick around for a post two-a-days assessment by the first-year coach. Afterward, players will be available for autographs and photographs. The scrimmage is expected to begin about 6:30 p.m. and end around 7:30 p.m. Two-a-days end Wednesday because classes start Thursday.

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