Archive for Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Jayhawks tackling defense — and each other

October 15, 2003


Kansas University's defensive players are angry, and they're taking their frustrations out on their teammates.

KU coach Mark Mangino thinks that's a good thing.

"The defense is upset and angry with the way they played, and I've got to tell you that I am very pleased they feel that way," said Mangino, whose defense allowed 598 yards Saturday in a 50-47 overtime loss at Colorado. "That's a good sign. I have never seen intensity like it on a Monday after a game since I have been here. It's new. I'll tell you the truth, it's a welcome sight."

Mangino usually eschews live tackling during practice to prevent injuries, but KU (4-2 overall, 1-1 Big 12 Conference) will take the risk this week while trying to improve that vital skill.

"We do tackling every day, but it's form tackling," Mangino said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. "It hasn't been enough. We've turned it up. It'll be live this week. We'll keep our fingers crossed we don't get anybody hurt."

The increased contact has led to a few "dust-ups" on the practice field, the coach said.

"Usually, Monday's practices are meant to be learning processes, and we address corrections after the previous week's game," senior tackle Cory Kipp said. "After the loss at Colorado, we made a lot of corrections, and it really got intense because of the loss. We did a lot of hitting and intense practicing yesterday, things we normally don't do on Mondays."

Mangino doesn't let the skirmishes last long.

"I blow the whistle and tell them to get back in the huddle," he said. "They're wasting practice time. We don't have a wrestling team. We're playing football. While they're out there shoving each other, we lost a rep. ... You're only on the practice field so long. I like the intensity, but we have to get moving."


Watkins watch: Mangino confirmed Tuesday junior tackle Travis Watkins wouldn't play Saturday against Baylor and was "50-50" for next week's game at Kansas State.

Watkins broke his foot during the preseason and has missed KU's first six games. Mangino originally had hoped the team captain could return to face Baylor (3-3, 1-1). Even if Watkins -- who recently traded his hard cast for a soft cast -- returns for the KSU game, he won't be 100 percent healthy.

"He and I have to sit down and have conversation about what he wants to do with his future," Mangino said. "I think there are several options that are involved."

Watkins, who took a red-shirt season as a freshman in 2000, could play a shortened junior season and complete his eligibility next season, or he could sit out the entire 2003 season and ask the NCAA for a medical hardship and a sixth year of eligibility.

"I would put those decisions in the hands of Travis Watkins and his family," Mangino said. "I wouldn't make the decision for him."

Watkins' teammates are hoping their captain gets back on the field this year.

"We would love to have Travis back," junior tackle Chuck Jones said. "He is an intense player and brings a lot to the team as far as his enthusiasm and energy."


Tuihalamaka won't play: Mangino said junior defensive tackle Phil Tuihalamaka likely wouldn't play this season and would take a medical red-shirt.

Tuihalamaka (6-foot-3, 323 pounds) played briefly in the season opener against Northwestern after Jones -- who replaced Watkins in the starting lineup -- was sidelined because of an undisclosed injury.

"Early in the year he got a couple snaps, but he hasn't since," Mangino said of the junior-college transfer. "He had several injuries that held him out for a while. He's still not 100 percent. I don't think he'll play the rest of this year. I'd be surprised unless we had a catastrophe."


Thin line: Cerritos Community College coaches confirmed last week that Richard Estrella had left KU. The Cerritos product was the second junior-college offensive lineman to leave KU this season, following Johnny Urrutia. Estrella had been listed second on the depth chart at right tackle behind senior Danny Lewis.

Mangino said junior starter Tony Coker would move back to tackle from guard if KU needed someone to fill in for Lewis and that sophomore backup Justin Henry would take Coker's spot at guard.

"We have five starters and two swing guys," Mangino said. "We are going to have to do some mixing and matching if we run into some problems."

The swing guys are Henry and red-shirt freshman David Ochoa, who is the backup to junior center Joe Vaughn.

Two of KU's top line prospects won't play this season. Former Air Force lineman Matt Thompson can't play this year in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, while true freshman Cesar Rodriguez is expected to take a red-shirt.


Players of the week: Senior quarterback Bill Whittemore and sophomore receiver Mark Simmons shared offensive player of the week honors. Whittemore passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado, and Simmons caught six passes for 152 yards and a TD. Sophomore linebacker Nick Reid took defensive honors after leading KU with 14 tackles. He also recovered a fumble and had an interception.


Rocky Mountain high: Mangino said high altitude wasn't a factor in Colorado's come-from-behind victory at Boulder, Colo.

"I don't think that was an issue," said Mangino, whose team won earlier this season in the thin air at Wyoming. "I think they made plays, and we didn't."

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