Archive for Sunday, September 18, 2005

Keegan: Bouncers for KU fast, nasty

September 18, 2005

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Basically, football players can be divided into two groups: bouncers and bartenders.

The big guys with the thick necks and swollen knuckles, they're the bouncers. They're on the slow side. The bartenders are flashier and faster. They get the glory and the girls and play the so-called skill positions.

And then there are the Kansas University Jayhawks. They're a little different. Their bartenders aren't the flashiest, but, man, do their bouncers have speed.

KU's big guys were a lot faster than their opponents, and that, more than anything, is why the Jayhawks nailed Louisiana Tech, 34-14, with 41,237 in attendance on a pleasant Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.

Senior outside linebacker Nick Reid has that tough look of an old-school linebacker. He uses his appearance to feed a stereotype and camouflage his greatest asset, which is speed.

"I'm not the fastest guy," Reid said after another huge game. "I'm just a slow white guy."

He'd have a better chance of selling heaters in the desert than that line to anyone who has seen him make the space between him and a ball carrier vanish in a blink.

Reid, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs just 230 pounds, is a blur closing on running backs and blitzing quarterbacks. He had 14 tackles, including four for losses. He has averaged 13 tackles in helping the Jayhawks to a 3-0 start.

This time, he wasn't even the star of the defense.

Part-time player Brandon Perkins, a package linebacker, set a school record with five sacks, and safety Randy Fowler had two of the team's four interceptions. Defensive end Charlton Keith was relentless in harassing Louisiana Tech quarterbacks Donald Allen and Matt Kubik and had two sacks.

Perhaps wanting to save a lot for the Big 12 Conference season, KU coach Mark Mangino didn't have his linebackers blitz much in the opening two weeks. With the outcome in doubt and the opponent better than the first two, it was no time for looking ahead.

"They let us loose," Reid said after his 33rd consecutive start.

Is there anything more fun that blitzing for a linebacker?

"Unless it's hitting somebody when they're not looking," Reid said, sounding like a bouncer. "Blitzing is fun. When a big linemen hits you square, it's not so fun, but for the most part it's a good time."

For the first time, the defense had a blast, and the hits authored by the special teams were just as loud, especially a couple from reserve freshman linebacker Mike Rivera, who outweighs Reid by 20 pounds.

Wearing red jerseys for the first time since 1947, the Jayhawks looked as if they were out for blood. That mental edge Mangino had talked about the defense lacking returned.

"At times, but we're still not where we need to be," Reid said, sounding like a coach, always a good sign in football. "In the second half, we showed signs of greatness."

In the first half, Brian Luke looked so inept, I wondered between spoonfuls of delightful frozen custard whether Mangino not only was going to put red shirts on all the players, but also take one off his talented freshman quarterback. Kerry Meier to the rescue?

It didn't happen, and Luke was able to capitalize on opportunities supplied him from a fast and nasty defense, led by Reid, a fast and nasty linebacker, an All-American candidate.

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