John McCoy finished Kansas University's spring football drills atop the depth chart at defensive end and hopes to be in the starting lineup when KU opens the season Sept. 4 against Tulsa.
By that time, however, the Army Reservist could be in Iraq.
"I'm on alert as it stands right now," McCoy said Sunday after making five tackles -- including two sacks -- in KU's spring scrimmage at Memorial Stadium. "It's all a matter of time, I guess."
McCoy joined the Army Reserves in 2000 after graduating from North Union High in Richwood, Ohio, because he wasn't sure if he would have a college scholarship. He started his career at Victor Valley College and earned All-America honors after making 114 tackles as a sophomore middle linebacker.
Kansas, which was loaded at linebacker and thin on the line, moved the 6-foot-3, 250-pound transfer to defensive end last season, and he made 11 tackles in 12 games as a junior.
"Last year was a big learning process for me," he said.
McCoy looked like he had his new position figured out Sunday when he helped the first-string Blue team defeat the second-string White team 26-0. He tackled White quarterback Kevin Long in the end zone for a fourth-quarter safety that capped the scoring. His three tackles for losses cost the White team 37 yards.
The scrimmage came a week to the day after McCoy learned his 317th Headquarters Battalion -- based in Lawrence -- could be called to active duty at any time.
"It was kind of a tough week emotionally for him," KU coach Mark Mangino said of the private first class. "But he showed up and practiced very well today."
The last week of spring drills was good for McCoy, who welcomed the diversion.
"It helps take my mind off it," he said. "Football is definitely a hobby. I enjoy every minute I get to spend with my teammates and coaches. I appreciate every bit of time I get to spend with them."
McCoy has worked hard to adapt to a new position and hopes to be on the field with the Jayhawks in 2004. If not, maybe 2005.
"I can always come back," he said. "It would be hard to leave because of everything I've worked for, but duty calls."
Mangino must replace three of four starters from last year's defensive line. He was pleased with the play of both defenses Sunday when the Blue squad picked off four passes -- three by sophomore cornerback Charles Gordon, including one returned for a touchdown -- and the White team came up with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Junior transfer Jason Swanson struggled, completing seven of 15 passes for 49 yards with four interceptions while taking snaps for both teams.
Sophomore Adam Barmann fared better, completing 16 of 27 passes for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception for the Blue. His one turnover came on a Hail Mary on the last play of the first half.
"I hope the defense is as good as it looked today," Mangino said. "I think just because we have new quarterbacks commanding our offense, we're not hitting on all the cylinders that we should. It wasn't bad.
"We're going through some growing pains with the quarterbacks. They made some good plays, and they made some plays they'd like to have back."
Barmann, who started three games last year in place of injured senior Bill Whittemore, finished the spring in position to win the job on a more permanent basis. He wasn't available for comment after the scrimmage.
Swanson, meanwhile, wasn't ready to give up.
"I wasn't frustrated at all," said Swanson, a semester transfer from City College of San Francisco. "You have to stay poised during the game. I'll be frustrated once I watch it one film. During the summer I need to do more film work and more study. Coming from a junior college, there are a lot of things to adjust to."
In addition to Gordon's 46-yard interception return, McCoy's safety and Barmann's 44-yard TD toss to Mark Simmons, the Blue got a 34-yard field goal from Johnny Beck and a one-yard TD run by Austine Nwabuisi.
Toomey, Harris sit: Starting junior linebacker Gabriel Toomey, who was held out of contact drills throughout spring practices because of an undisclosed injury, suited but did not play.
Sophomore transfer Rodney Harris, who is battling for a starting spot at free safety, also was held out because of an undisclosed injury he suffered last week.¢
Knighton gone: Sophomore defensive end Kyle Knighton has left the team and likely will transfer to a smaller school, Mangino said. Knighton declined to discuss his plans with the Journal-World.¢
Kicking woes: Senior kicker Johnny Beck made a 34-yard field goal in the first quarter, but later missed from 41 yards. Freshman Scott Webb missed from 34 yards. All three first-half kicks were with the wind. In the second half, holder Jonathan Lamb bobbled a snap on a 40-yard attempt. KU played the down over, but Beck missed.¢
Punts: Chris Tyrrell handled most of the punting duties, averaging 39 yards per attempt for the White and 39.5 for the Blue. He booted a 48-yarder into the wind in the fourth quarter.¢
Turnover totals: There were seven turnovers Sunday. Charles Gordon picked off Jason Swanson twice and Brian Luke once, and Kevin Kane also picked off Swanson.