Archive for Saturday, August 9, 2003

Mangino: No easy rides

Place-kicker one of many open jobs

August 9, 2003


Barring injury, Bill Whittemore is a lock to be Kansas University's starting quarterback when the Jayhawks start the football season Aug. 30.

According to coach Mark Mangino, no other starting job is safe.

The arrival of more than two dozen new recruits and improvements made by KU's veteran players in the offseason have improved depth and "created competition at every position."

"It's bringing out the best in all the kids because they know they have to earn their way," Mangino said Friday during KU's media day at Memorial Stadium. "If you happen to earn a position, you have to fight to hold onto that position because there's somebody behind you that wants that job. That alone makes us a better team."

Case in point: the place-kicker position.

Mangino stuck with kicker Johnny Beck last season when Beck struggled through a nightmarish sophomore season, but Beck won't receive the same treatment this fall if he fails.

Kansas has a freshman gunning for Beck's job. Scott Webb was an all-metro and all-state selection last year at Tulsa (Okla.) Union High.

"In every position, there are people fighting for a job," Mangino said. "I look at Scott Webb as competing with Johnny. Scott Webb is an outstanding player, and because Scott Webb is here, both Johnny and Scott are better players."

Beck made 14 of 20 field-goal attempts as a freshman, including nine of 12 from 40-plus yards. He made a 52-yarder against UCLA and a 59-yarder against Colorado. The Kansas City Piper product also converted 16 of 17 extra-point attempts.

Kansas University kickers Scott Webb, left, and Johnny Beck are
gearing up for the 2003 season. Beck, who struggled as a sophomore
in 2002, will be challenged by Webb, a freshman, for the starting
spot. The two spoke at KU football media day Friday at Memorial

Kansas University kickers Scott Webb, left, and Johnny Beck are gearing up for the 2003 season. Beck, who struggled as a sophomore in 2002, will be challenged by Webb, a freshman, for the starting spot. The two spoke at KU football media day Friday at Memorial Stadium.

He wasn't the same last year. After making five of his first six field-goal attempts, Beck missed eight in a row. He finished 7-of-17 on field goals and 23-of-27 on extra points.

Beck also found himself in Mangino's doghouse for blaming others for his troubles.

"There is no doubt that he is more businesslike about his work," Mangino said. "He is a lot more focused than he was a year ago, and I know that sometimes it's unfair to a young man.

"He's a young player, and prior to last season there were some expectations put on him that I'm not sure were realistic. I think that to a degree those expectations affected his performance. He has been very focused, and I think he is a much better kicker than he was when I first met him."

Beck said he took time off after the season and "got things straightened out."

It must have worked. Special teams coach Clint Bowen said Beck made 42 of 48 kicks during spring drills.

Bowen also said the 20-year-old Beck had matured.

"He's always been kind of high-strung," Bowen said. "He's a lot more calm, and I think that will help him. He has a lot more confidence. All summer he hit the ball real well.

"Kicking to me is like a golf swing. Some days you get a little off, and you can't figure out why. ... I think he's learned to trust his kick, his motion more than he has in the past."

While Beck has struggled with his confidence, Webb has plenty. He made 11 field goals last season and 74 of 76 extra-point attempts and was the 19th-rated kicker in the nation by

"Scott Webb is a very talented young man," Bowen said. "He has no doubts that he's The Man. That's the way it should be. I like that about him. He has a strong leg and great mechanics. He has all the tools."

Webb arrived on campus Sunday and has been working out with his competition. He said there was no tension between the kickers.

"It's very good competition," Webb said. "He's kicking really well. He's teaching me things, and I hope I'm teaching him some things."

Webb said his decision to come to KU had more to do with the fact that his father, David, was a KU alumnus than with Beck's struggles.

Beck welcomed the competition.

"Bringing him in will help both of us," he said. "If he ends up playing, it will help me realize that I need to work even harder to get my job back, or if I play it'll be a good learning experience for him."

  • Childress lands at Montana: Defensive back Markeith Childress has joined the program at Montana. Childress, a 5-foot-11 junior from Long Beach City College, signed with Kansas in February. He met NCAA academic requirements, but did not meet KU's guidelines for transfers.

  • Two-a-days: Kansas will have its first two-a-day practice session today in workouts that are closed to the public. Under new NCAA rules, teams cannot practice twice a day on consecutive days. The new rule, meant to safeguard players from heat-related illness, did not go over well with many coaches, but KU head football athletic trainer Carol Jarosky approved of the change.

"It just makes sense," she said. "It gives guys more time to recover. When the body starts losing electrolytes, that's when you start having cramps. To have 12 more hours, you have more meals and more fluids to replace salts."

  • What's next: The Jayhawks' next open practice is Sunday's Kids Day at the practice field behind Anschutz Pavilion. Children accompanied by an adult can attend the final 30 minutes of practice. Gates open at 4 p.m., and players will sign autographs after practice.

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