Archive for Thursday, October 23, 2003

KU’s Lewis keeps eye on QB

Protecting Whittemore lineman’s calling

October 23, 2003


When Danny Lewis talks about "our boy Bill," you don't need a Kansas University football program to find who he's talking about.

Lewis is a KU offensive tackle and his primary job Saturday afternoons, along with the rest of the offensive line, is to protect quarterback Bill Whittemore from the clutches of preying defenders.

"He's like a little kid. We've got to baby-sit him back there," said Lewis, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound senior from the Phoenix area, about Whittemore.

Not that baby-sitting the quick-footed Kansas QB is really that difficult, Lewis says.

"No, he doesn't complain too much," Lewis said with a smile. "But you have to keep an eye on him every now and then."

Last Saturday in the Jayhawks' 28-21 win over Baylor, Lewis and his fellow offensive linemen needed to keep an eye on him more than usual. In the first six games, Whittemore was sacked just four times, yet Baylor matched that total and added one more for good measure.

KU coach Mark Mangino confirmed KU's offensive line wasn't operating at peak efficiency against Baylor.

"They were able to get to us on few occasions with a four-man rush," Mangino said. "That shouldn't happen and was just a physical breakdown. We have to shore that up."

Five sacks were five too many -- a fact Lewis readily acknowledges while accepting some of the blame. Lewis and left tackle Adrian Jones are charged with recognizing formations designed to bring the house down on Whittemore.

"Me and A.J. called some blitzes, but I missed a couple," Lewis said.

One Lewis gaffe led to a sack. Whittemore knew who the culprit was, but didn't do any chewing in the huddle afterward.

"That's not how Bill does it," Lewis said. "He just kind of looked at me, and I knew."

Whittemore, who is on track to establish new school passing and total offense records this season, has never exhibited a fiery presence on the field or off. He's a classic example of a player who leads by actions, not words.

Sometimes Whittemore's actions are amazing. For instance, often when it appears he may be sacked, the KU quarterback leaves his pursuer clutching air.

"Sometimes I have no clue," Lewis said, "how he gets out of where he's at."

Whittemore's magical escapes will be much more difficult to perform Saturday when the Jayhawks play at Kansas State. The Wildcats possess, by a wide margin, the best defense the Jayhawks will have seen so far. K-State ranks No. 18 in NCAA total defense stats this week. The highest-rated defense KU has faced to this point is Missouri at No. 52.

When Whittemore steps on the field in Manhattan, it's a virtual certainty he'll have a bull's-eye on his chest because the 'Cats have traditionally taken a no-prisoners approach to opposing quarterbacks.

"There's no doubt they'll definitely be gunning for him," Lewis said. "We'll have to be on the top of our game."

As far as Mangino is concerned, the offensive line must play better than it did against the Bears. Yet he isn't overly concerned.

"We have been pretty good all year and I don't see any reason why we can't get back to protecting the way we have," the KU coach said. "It's not a serious problem."

Lewis feels the same way.

"If you're an offensive lineman you have a short memory," he said. "You just blow it away."

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