Wherever he goes, the injury bug finds Bill Whittemore.
The quarterback's freshman season at Tennessee-Martin was interrupted by an injured right knee.
An injured right shoulder ended his sophomore season at Fort Scott Community College.
Now the Kansas University junior will be forced to sit out today's home game against Kansas State because of a knee injury he suffered in last Saturday's 36-12 loss at Missouri.
"It is frustrating," said Whittemore who damaged the medical collateral ligament in his left knee. "I think about that a lot. I don't feel like I'm injury-prone by any means, but my luck has run out toward the end of seasons. That's something beyond my control."
Whittemore has passed for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns in nine games during his first season as a Jayhawk. He also was KU's leading rusher with 549 yards and 11 TDs before freshman running back Clark Green passed him in the Mizzou game.
Whittemore had double-digit carries in seven of nine games, including 27 against Colorado and 21 against Texas A&M in the weeks prior to the MU contest.
KU's quarterback said his workhorse status didn't make its easy to stay healthy.
"That definitely ups the odds of the situation," said Whittemore, who will be replaced in the starting lineup by senior Jonas Weatherbie. "It's a tough game. Injuries like this happen all the time."
Fleet of foot
Brian Luke knows about injuries. The freshman from Walnut Creek, Calif., was expected to be KU's holder and fourth-string quarterback after taking a red-shirt last season, but he broke his thumb during the Jayhawks' last two-a-day scrimmage. He was forced to wear a cast on his throwing hand for the first six weeks of the season and wasn't cleared for full participation until last Monday.
"It was definitely frustrating," he said. "I try to look at positives that come with it. I worked on my foot speed and focused on that. I took it as an opportunity to really learn defenses and really pay attention during meetings."
Luke couldn't work on much because his throwing hand was in a cast, so he focused on improving his foot speed by jumping rope and other drills to improve his agility.
"He's had that hand in the cast so long we haven't seen him do anything," Mangino said. "When he took the cast off and was running some plays his foot speed had improved unbelievably. Our strength coach said he's been working like the dickens on trying to increase his foot speed, which adds a dimension to him. He's an excellent pocket passer. He's got a bright future here."
Despite his injury, the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder made KU's travel squad every road game. He helped signal plays from the sideline with Weatherbie.
"That helps me stay in the game every single play," said Luke, who passed for 2,800 yards and 25 TDs as a senior at Las Lomas High.
He moved up the depth chart from fourth to third three games ago when former starter Zach Dyer moved from quarterback to safety to help bolster a defense that ranks last in the Big 12 Conference, allowing averages of 468 yards and 38.1 points per game.
Dyer won't move back to quarterback because of Whittemore's injury. That leaves things up to Luke and Weatherbie against No. 14 Kansas State.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Nick Quartaro said Luke is the "strongest-armed quarterback we have."
That might make Luke KU's quarterback of the future, but Weatherbie is the quarterback of the moment.
"He's been around football all his life," Mangino said of Weatherbie, a fifth-year senior who is the son of former Navy coach Charlie Weatherbie. "He's been on the sidelines for a lot more college football games than anybody else on our team."
Weatherbie, however, doesn't have much game experience. After passing for 3,238 yards in his prep career at Broadneck High in Annapolis, Md., the 6-2, 200-pounder has completed 3-of-10 passes for 26 yards in nine career college games.
He will make his first college start today.
"Everbody's hungry to play," Weatherbie said. "Everyone wants to go out there and play. If you weren't, you wouldn't play the game, you'd stay home and watch it. I'd love to have the chance to go in there and play and do what I can do and show what I can do. Everybody wants to be out there playing, and if you're not out there you've got to support whoever is out there. You've got to have a good attitude because you never know when you're going to get your chance."
Weatherbie will get his chance against a K-State team that ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense.
Quartaro said the senior's passing ability was similar to Whittemore's.
"He throws a good ball," Quartaro said. "There's really no difference in the type of ball he throws from zero to 20 yards along with Bill. There's no separation."
The main difference between Whittemore and his backups aside from game experience is his ability to run the ball.
"I wouldn't term either of those guys immobile," Quartaro said. "Bill's just better than average."
It's unclear how long Whittemore wil be sidelined, but the Jayhawks could be without their better-than-average quarterback for the final three games of the season.
"To be honest with you, competitive players, hard-nosed conscientious kids, often use that as a rallying point to raise their level of play," Mangino said of the injury. "If Bill is not able to go, then our players have to raise their level of play and rally around the person who is playing quarterback."