Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino expects his team's defense to be good once again, after ranking in the top 15 nationally a season ago.
"We have nine guys back, and we have several kids that played in rotations and packages for us," Mangino said. "You just need to get that right chemistry together. It started to come together the last third of spring."
Two regulars - linebacker Joe Mortensen and safety Justin Thornton - missed the entire spring because of injury and a third, defensive end John Larson, missed the spring game because of illness. Still, the defense stood out in the scrimmage last week.
"We feel pretty good about our defense," Mangino said. "We think our defense is going to be pretty stellar again."
KU's offensive line, needing to replace two quality tackles from last season's squad, didn't have a great night in the spring game last week. But Mangino said Monday he was confident it would work itself out before the Aug. 30 opener.
Just look at last season.
"Last year we had to replace center and both guards," Mangino said. "We're probably further ahead this year than we were last year in replacing those kids."
The Jayhawks' interior all returns this year - center Ryan Cantrell and guards Adrian Mayes and Chet Hartley. Possible front-runners for the tackle vacancies are senior Matt Darton and freshman Jeff Spikes.
The Jayhawks finished their first spring under Mangino as a proven team. But KU's seventh-year coach didn't see a huge difference with success behind them.
"I think the kids really took a businesslike approach to it," Mangino said. "Last year's team wanted to prove something. This year's team wants to maintain the excellence that last year's team had."
Asked if it's easier getting to the top or staying at the top, Mangino cracked, "They're both equally difficult. I can assure you that."