Archive for Thursday, September 20, 2007

Jayhawks plenty deep at corner

September 20, 2007


FIU brings 15-game losing streak into Lawrence

Florida International has lost 15-games in a row and the Kansas Jayhawks are looking to push that streak to 16 after this Saturday's game. Enlarge video

Imagine the game-long disbelief Chris Harris experienced last week, as he ended up having a pretty uneventful night against Toledo.

You see, Harris is just asking to be picked on.

Kansas University's starting cornerback is a true freshman, lined up opposite All-America candidate Aqib Talib. He hasn't proven much at the college level, meaning he has given no reason why opposing offenses shouldn't test him at least a half-dozen times per game.

And yet :

"Last game, they threw at (Talib) six times. They threw at me once," Harris said. "I was wondering what was going on."

In some ways, he still is.

Harris said he's not exactly sure what's going to happen with his starting-cornerback job in the near future, considering junior Kendrick Harper is making his way back from an injury suffered on Aug. 3.

Harper, who was seen leaving practice Wednesday with a cast on his right wrist, could play Saturday against Florida International. But the timing of his setback puts the whole situation in an intriguing state.

Harper won the starting job opposite Talib in spring drills, then hurt himself on the first day of preseason practices. Despite the praise he earned in the spring, the Butler Community College transfer still hasn't played a down of Division One football, nor has he competed toe-to-toe with Harris, who arrived in the summer from Bixby, Okla.

With Harper out, Harris stepped in and has done nicely by all accounts, compiling 13 tackles. But it doesn't necessarily mean he's going to keep his job - nor is he a lock to lose it.

"I haven't seen (Harper) do anything on the field in six weeks," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "I can't make an assessment until I see him out there practicing full speed and understanding what his responsibilities are, his ability to leap and tackle, all those things. We'll see when he gets some good practices in him."

Harper started to practice on a limited basis last week, and his work gradually is expanding. Mangino said Tuesday that Harper is questionable for Saturday's game.

A good guess, then, is that Harper might get some limited work against Florida International, then be good to go for the Kansas State game two weeks later. Harris, meanwhile, likely will start his fourth straight game Saturday.

Still, Harris doesn't seem to be too concerned with how his individual role will be altered, perhaps starting Oct. 6 at K-State.

"Once he comes back, our secondary will be so athletic and deep," Harris said. "When it comes to me, Aqib and him and (Phillip) Strozier... we'll be a real athletic group."

Harris will be there somewhere, either as the starting cornerback, a nickel back or a valuable piece of depth as eight straight weeks of Big 12 games loom.

This much is known: Kansas doesn't play next week, yet it could be a critical point in the season for the Jayhawks' cornerback fleet - a fleet that's one man deeper with Harper's return.

"In that bye week, we'll get to jell," Harris said. "Once that happens, I don't see anybody really picking us apart with the depth that we'll have."


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