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Archive for Saturday, August 14, 2004

Piecing it all together

Offense must replace three starters - including QB

August 14, 2004

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Kansas University's offense set 12 single-season school records in 2003, including standards for points (384), first downs (286), touchdown passes (25) and total yards (5,479).

The Jayhawks expect offense to be a strength again in 2004, returning six of their top seven rushers, three of five starting linemen and a standout nucleus of receivers led by senior Brandon Rideau and junior Mark Simmons.

The Jayhawks could have as many as eight returning starters, depending on whether sophomore standout Charles Gordon stays at receiver or moves to cornerback.

The three starters lost -- quarterback Bill Whittemore and tackles Adrian Jones and Danny Lewis -- won't be easy to replace.

Quarterbacks

Whittemore completed 60.6 percent (159 of 263) of his passes for 2,385 yards and a school record 18 touchdowns last season. He rushed for another 534 yards and 10 TDs.

The captain's versatility and leadership will be missed, but the coaching staff has high expectations for sophomore Adam Barmann.

"I think we felt good about the development of Adam Barmann, and he emerged as the No. 1 guy in the spring," said offensive coordinator Nick Quartaro. "He'll still have good competition from Jason Swanson and Brian Luke, but if he stays on track and continues to develop he'll become a very good player for us."

Barmann was the clear-cut leader in the battle to replace Whittemore after spring drills. The Weston, Mo., product -- who started three games in place of an injured Whittemore -- passed for 564 yards and four TDs in four games as a true freshman.

He also threw five interceptions.

"He needs to minimize mistakes in terms of decision making in the passing game," Quartaro said. "It comes down to recognition of the defense. He's come a long way, and he's working on it all the time."

Swanson was expected to challenge Barmann in the spring after transferring from City College of San Francisco, but he threw three interceptions in the spring scrimmage.

Swanson, however, has had a summer of seven-on-seven drills and workouts to get bigger, stronger and get a better grasp of KU's offense.

KU fans might remember that Whittemore -- another semester transfer -- entered the 2002 season as a backup to Zach Dyer before taking the starting job in the second game of the season.

"We are still very encouraged by Jason Swanson," Quartaro said of the transfer, who passed for 3,652 yards and 27 TDs in two seasons at CCSF. "It's just a matter of him being in the system a little longer and getting him in some game-type situations."

KU won't be content with having two quarterbacks ready to play. The Jayhawks have had a rash of injuries at that position in the last two years, using seven different quarterbacks.

Luke, who had a breakthrough game at Oklahoma State with 193 yards and two touchdown passes in relief of an injured Barmann, will provide depth as a junior.

Offensive line

KU must fill a void after the graduation of tackles Jones, a fourth-round NFL draft pick, and Lewis.

Red-shirt freshman Cesar Rodriguez and Air Force transfer Matt Thompson are expected to join a line that includes senior center Joe Vaughn, senior guard Tony Coker and sophomore guard Bob Whitaker.

"Those guys played a ton of snaps last year and had some success," Quartaro said of the three returning starters. "That's going to help team confidence. We're confident about Cesar Rodriguez and Matt Thompson, too."

Sophomore Travis Dambach could challenge for playing time at either tackle spot, and sophomore David Ochoa could see action as a backup center and guard.

Running backs

If Kansas can reload on the offensive line, the Jayhawks will have plenty of weapons in the backfield.

Junior Clark Green returns at tailback after rushing for a team-leading 968 yards and six touchdowns. The two-year starter also caught 44 passes for 464 yards.

Sophomore John Randle could play a bigger role after rushing for 503 yards and two touchdowns and catching 19 passes for 136 yards and a TD as a true freshman.

Both running backs could face a challenge from freshman Gary Green II, perhaps the most touted newcomer in this year's recruiting class.

"With those two guys out there we feel very comfortable with our backfield, and with the addition of Gary Green things can only get better," Quartaro said. "He's going to bring immediate competition to that position. He has playmaking ability, and the more playmakers we can involve in our offense, the more successful we'll be."

Green, son of former Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Gary Green, rushed for 1,729 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior at Madison High in San Antonio.

At fullback, senior Austine Nwabuisi returns, and Lawrence High product Brandon McAnderson also could see action as a red-shirt freshman.

Receivers

KU should be loaded at receiver, regardless of where Gordon lines up, with the return of Rideau and Simmons.

"They both improved a great deal last year," Quartaro said. "Their production was excellent."

Gordon led KU with 57 catches for 769 yards and five TDs as a red-shirt freshman, but it was Simmons who was KU's most dangerous deep threat. He ranked fourth on the team with 40 catches but matched Gordon with 769 yards and topped the squad with seven TD receptions. He averaged a team-best 19.2 yards per catch.

Rideau, who had 29 receptions for 362 yards and one TD in his first two seasons combined, might have been the most improved player among KU's regulars. The Texan caught 51 passes for 677 yards and six TDs. Rideau had three 100-yard games, including a nine-catch, 109-yard effort against North Carolina State in the Tangerine Bowl.

Sophomore Moderick Johnson should play a bigger role after grabbing 13 passes for 138 yards as a true freshman.

"He's a guy with good size and toughness," Quartaro said of Johnson. "He's a good target for a quarterback. There's no doubt he'll be more involved."

Other players to watch include senior Gary Heaggans and sophomore Dominic Roux.

Tight end

KU's only experienced returning player is senior Lyonel Anderson, who caught 10 passes for 157 yards. Sophomore Derek Fine is expected to make an impact, and freshman Jim Reuber also could be in the mix.

Special teams

KU must replace punter Curtis Ansel, who signed a free-agent contract with the Detroit Lions. Freshman Kyle Tucker, who also could handle kickoff duties, will battle for the punting job with senior Chris Tyrrell.

KU struggled in the kicking game for the second year in a row. Senior Johnny Beck made 9 of 16 field-goal attempts. Senior Jerod Brooks was 5 of 5, but all five of his attempts came from inside 30 yards.

Those two kickers combined to make 39 of 42 extra-point attempts. Red-shirt freshman Scott Webb is expected to challenge the veterans, and Tucker also will be in the mix.

Gordon averaged 13.1 yards per punt return, while junior Greg Heaggans averaged 23.8 yards per kickoff return before losing that role to Randle late in the year.

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