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Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

Work, play on Jayhawks’ minds

Team to meet today in Miami, where fun and practice await

Kansas University senior defensive lineman James McClinton, of Garland, Texas, raises his orange in recognition to the Jayhawks' receiving an Orange Bowl bid at during a press conference Hadl Auditorium in this file photo. McClinton bit into the orange, saying that was his reaction to learning they got an Orange Bowl bid. It is the first time in KU history that the football team has been selected to participate in a Bowl Championship Series game.

Kansas University senior defensive lineman James McClinton, of Garland, Texas, raises his orange in recognition to the Jayhawks' receiving an Orange Bowl bid at during a press conference Hadl Auditorium in this file photo. McClinton bit into the orange, saying that was his reaction to learning they got an Orange Bowl bid. It is the first time in KU history that the football team has been selected to participate in a Bowl Championship Series game.

December 27, 2007

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Ryan Wood's Day One video log from Dolphin Stadium

Journal-World KU football beat writer Ryan Wood comes to you from just outside of Dolphin Stadium during his first day down in Miami in preparation for next Thursday's Orange Bowl between KU and Virginia Tech. Enlarge video

KU gearing up for Miami

The Kansas offense has been fantastic all season long, but the Jayhawks' stiffest test of the year comes in just over a week against Virginia Tech. Enlarge video

Jayhawks leave for Miami Thursday morning

The day the Kansas football team plays in a BCS bowl game for the first time ever is fast approaching - in fact, Thursday morning the Jayhawks leave for Miami. Enlarge video

Kansas University's football team will trickle into Miami today, ready for some fun and sun.

Oh yeah : and a lot of tedious work with the Orange Bowl just a week away.

KU's coaches and support staff, plus many of the players, will leave Lawrence this morning - an organized public send-off at Allen Fieldhouse is slated for 8:30 a.m. - to begin the journey to South Florida. Other players are going to Miami on their own after spending the Christmas holiday with family out of state.

Wherever they come from, most will step out of the airport in Florida and notice warm weather, beaches, a luxurious hotel to house them - and a lot of activities planned before the anticipated showdown against ACC champion Virginia Tech.

It's a trip full of hard work with loads of fun built in. It's a fine line to walk.

"It's a business trip," KU safety Justin Thornton said. "We're going down to win this ball game, and that's the focus right now."

Not every business trip has an itinerary featuring a beach party outside of a five-star hotel, a get-together at a local bowling alley and other events meant to make the prestigious bowl invitation a memorable reward for KU's 11-1 regular season.

That's the easy part of the trip.

"I'm ready to get out of this cold and get down there where it's nice and warm," quarterback Todd Reesing said. "Maybe go on the beach if we get a chance to, and just enjoy the fesitivies and all the things we get to do and the whole experience."

The hard part is throwing all that aside when it's time to work. Perhaps more than ever, leadership and seniority will need to take charge.

Reesing, for example, never has been on a bowl team. Thornton was red-shirting in 2005 when Kansas played in the Fort Worth Bowl.

"I didn't play," Thornton said. "It was all fun for me, and I didn't have too much responsibility."

A lot of KU's regular contributors this season have a similar experience to Thornton's, if they have one at all. Only 17 of the 48 players on KU's current depth chart had a chance to play in the Fort Worth Bowl two years ago. And several of those guys were buried down the depth chart in '05.

Still, KU coach Mark Mangino doesn't anticipate any maturity problems. Not with KU's first-ever 12-win season at stake.

"You show up at the bowl site, you be prepared for your meetings and practice every day, you stay focused on the day," Mangino said. "You're going to have fun. We'll give you opportunities to have a good time, too. When you're having fun, have fun. We want you to enjoy the experience. But when we're in the meeting room and the practice field, we're not focused on anything but our preparation."

The Jayhawks will get a full week of work under the favorable weather conditions of Florida - something they haven't had in a while.

Taking care of business in those allotted times will make the light-hearted activities even more fun - the perfect way to spend a week out of town when the biggest game of the year looms.

"I'm looking forward to our players and our coaches and their families having a good experience," Mangino said. "I want them to enjoy it, I want it to be a trip that they see as a reward for hard work. For me personally, I'll go around to some events and everything. But my joy comes from everyone else having a good time.

"Our players are smart enough to know when it's time to work in Miami, when it's time to have fun. And I want them to do both."

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