Mangino reveals starting tackles
Kansas University football coach Mark Mangino put months of speculation to rest Friday when he announced following the team's open practice that redshirt freshmen Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch will start at the Jayhawks' two vacant offensive tackles positions.
Hatch, listed at 6-foot-3 and 311-pounds, will take over the right tackle spot vacated by four-year starter Cesar Rodriguez, and Spikes, 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds, will replace all-American Anthony Collins at left tackle.
While the coaching staff's excitement surrounding Spikes has been well-documented, Hatch's ascension up the depth chart has been a bit more subtle.
"He is really one of the hardest-working guys and hardest-playing guys we have on the team," said Mangino of Hatch, who sat out of practice Friday with what appeared to be a minor injury. "And what he lacks in some experience, he'll make up for it with just grit and toughness and hard work."
The placement of the two at tackle now gives the Jayhawks a projected starting offensive line of Spikes, left guard Adrian Mayes, center Ryan Cantrell, right guard Chet Hartley and Hatch.
"I have confidence in all five guys up front," Mangino said. "The tackles are really developing, coming along. And I'm pretty pleased with that."
Patterson likely to forego redshirt
Daymond Patterson, a true freshman who practiced Friday as the No. 1 punt returner and a second-string receiver, is in position to play immediately, Mangino said Friday.
"He has the kind of speed that can change a game around," Mangino said. "He's still learning. He's picking up things. But I have to say that he's a good student of the game. ... So he's putting himself in position where he's going to play."
Punt returning was widely considered the team's biggest weakness a season ago, and the addition of Patterson - who earned first-team all-Texas honors as a kick returner at North Mesquite High School - might prove to be a solution to the problem.
Mangino said he was pleased with the performance of all three punt return candidates - Patterson, redshirt freshman Isiah Barfield and senior Dexton Fields - although he has yet to decide on a starter.
Running back depth not a concern
Despite losing two running backs to transfers earlier this week - and a third to eligibility issues - Mangino didn't appear too troubled by the team's perceived lack of depth at the position.
"Why?" he said, when asked whether he was concerned following the departure of reserve running backs Carmon Boyd-Anderson and Donte Bean earlier this week. "You got two guys who hardly ever played. You're looking for quality, not quantity. We want quality players back there, and we've got three guys that we like, four, so I don't have a problem with what we have, to tell you the truth. There's no strength in numbers."
The Jayhawks, who began summer workouts with seven running backs, still have their top three in juniors Jake Sharp, Jocques Crawford and Angus Quigley. Redshirt freshman Rell Lewis, who was listed as a receiver a year ago, is the team's fourth running back.
Rojas likely Jayhawks' punter
Mangino said two weeks ago that do-it-all junior Kerry Meier would battle for the role of the team's punter, but as of Friday's practice, transfer Alonso Rojas appeared to have the position wrapped up.
He handled nearly all of the team's punting duties Friday, performing well, and afterward earned a vote of confidence from Mangino.
"He's a little rusty, but everyday he kicks it better and better, and I think that by the time we're ready to go he'll be pretty smooth," Mangino said. "We think we're going to be OK there with him."
The move should allow Meier - listed at three positions on the team's preseason depth chart - the opportunity to focus primarily on his duties as a receiver and backup quarterback.
Wisconsin transfer on Jayhawks' roster
Brad Thorson, a former University of Wisconsin offensive lineman who was asked to leave the program last spring, is now listed at the same position on the Jayhawks' roster.
Following an incident during a practice last March in which a Wisconsin teammate was left sidelined with a knee injury, UW coach Bret Bielema told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Thorson would no longer be with the program.
"It was kind of (their) final straw for me," Thorson told the paper in the spring. "It was decided for me that I would look elsewhere to find somewhere I'd be a better fit."
A 6-foot-4, 295-pound sophomore, Thorson, who was listed as the Badgers' No. 2 center before transferring, will miss the 2008 season due to NCAA transfer rules.