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Archive for Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Keegan: KU ‘O’ not easy to project

June 13, 2007

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The pessimist looks at the Kansas University football team's offense for 2007 and notes that one quarterback, Kerry Meier, throws too many interceptions and the other, Todd Reesing, too often fumbles.

The optimist points out that Meier is so big and fast and since he has a year of experience can be counted on to look less jumpy in the pocket, which will result in planted feet, which will mean throws with more zip. The guy drinking the half-full glass of beer also believes that Reesing is so smart and such a born winner, he'll figure out how to hold onto the football.

And so it goes with trying to forecast coordinator Ed Warinner's first offense. Unit by unit, a pessimist could find flaws, an optimist reasons for excitement.

On the line, Anthony Collins has developed into the sort of quick-footed, powerful blocker the University of Texas lines up at tackle. Collins is that good, the best NFL prospect on the offense. Ryan Cantrell shapes up as a solid center. The rest of the line? Chet Hartley, the 315-pound guard out of Butler Community College, can calm edgy nerves if he proves he's a big-time blocker because on paper, it looks as if this unit lacks depth.

The line, should it exceed expectations and do so quickly, could go a long way toward calming Meier's antsy feet and reducing Reesing's fumbling tendencies. If the line can provide adequate pass protection and one of the two quarterbacks emerges as a player who appears vastly improved, things could get exciting.

The chronic complainer who gripes about the half-empty state of his beer glass would have trouble making a case the quarterback won't have ample big-play targets getting open for him. Even if Marcus Herford (17.1 yards gained per his eight catches), a big-play threat to both teams, doesn't make the leap from fast and strong athlete to usable football player, the Jayhawks have big-play receivers.

Making the tight end a bigger part of the passing offense would be a nice goal for Warinner. Derek Fine, a fifth-year senior who has been standing out since his sophomore season, shared the team lead with five touchdown receptions.

Marcus Henry, long and tall in the mold of a Texas receiver, could be primed for a big break-through season. Dexton Fields is reliable possession receiver who knows how to find the end zone (five TD catches last season.) Herford, largely responsible for the Baylor collapse because of a variety of mistakes, can outrun a secondary with the best, but he's running out of chances and facing a now-or-never season. If Herford, a converted quarterback, can't cut it, either former running back Angus Quigley or ex-defensive back Raymond Brown could get a long look. Plus, don't forget Aqib Talib will play some at receiver, where he already has shown big-play ability.

Warinner said to expect Jake Sharp to catch his share of passes out of the backfield. That's good news, especially if the muscle Sharp has added doesn't decrease his speed.

Watching how Mark Mangino and Warinner divide the work between Sharp and bruising Brandon McAnderson will be one of the many interesting plot lines to follow on the KU offense. Pessimists and optimists would have to agree on at least this much: Watching the Kansas offense come together won't be dull.

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