Archive for Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Tackle-happy Toomey bulking up

April 20, 2004


It must have been a frustrating spring for Gabriel Toomey.

Kansas University's junior linebacker, who loves to hit and ranked second on the team with 121 tackles last season, didn't hit anyone during the Jayhawks' 15 spring football practices.

Toomey will spend most of his offseason hitting the weights.

"He's been able to get some extra work in the weight room because he didn't get a lot of repetitions," KU coach Mark Mangino said Monday during the Big 12 coaches teleconference. "He's practiced. He's been out there, but he hasn't been in contact."

Toomey, who wasn't available to the media after Sunday's spring scrimmage, has been limited on the practice field and in the weight room because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.

"His lower body has gotten tremendously strong as he develops his upper body through rehab," Mangino said. "He's gotten stronger. He will have a big summer in the weight room. His upper body will get where he wants it to be."

Toomey was listed at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds on KU's roster, but Mangino said the starting linebacker needed to get stronger to take the constant pounding at the Division One level. Toomey had double-figure tackles in six of KU's first 10 games in 2003, but he wore down late in the year and had four, seven and three tackles in the final three games against Oklahoma State, Iowa State and North Carolina State.

"He was dinged up throughout last year, and it limited his upper-body work," Mangino said, "but now he's on track."

Mangino said the entire team had improved its speed and strength during offseason workouts.

"I feel pretty good about the direction of our club," said Mangino, who is preparing for his third year as KU's coach. "We're a more physical team than we've been since we arrived. We had a great offseason, and we're bigger and stronger than we've ever been."


Gordon again: Mangino reiterated that sophomore Charles Gordon, who led KU in receptions last season, likely would play cornerback in 2004.

"Until we feel we have someone who can take that position over, more than likely we will leave Charles there," said Mangino, who used Gordon at receiver and corner late in the 2003 season and worked him at both positions throughout the spring.

Gordon, who had a team-high 57 receptions and tied junior Mark Simmons for the team lead with 769 receiving yards, would fill a gaping hole in KU's defense but create another on offense.

"There's no question there would be somewhat of a void," Mangino said. "But we feel good about our receiving corps. Brandon Rideau is fastly developing into one of the top players on our club."

Rideau caught 51 passes for 677 yards and six touchdowns as a junior. Simmons, who caught 40 passes -- including a team-high seven TDs -- also returns. If Gordon stays on defense, candidates to fill Gordon's spot include senior Gary Heaggans and sophomore Moderick Johnson.


Swanson OK: Mangino wasn't worried about the four interceptions semester transfer Jason Swanson threw in Sunday's scrimmage, or the effect the turnovers might have on the junior quarterback.

"His confidence is not shaken at all," Mangino said. "He's a confident young guy."

Mangino said KU used 80 percent of its defensive package Sunday, and the first-string defense put plenty of pressure on Swanson and the second-string offensive line.

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