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Keegan: Focus shifts to football

August 16, 2008

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Now that the Royals are back to back to back to back to awful, surrendering four consecutive home runs in Thursday night's loss, nothing within miles qualifies as a decent way to capture the local sports fan's attention in the days leading up to the Kansas University football team's season opener Aug. 30 at Memorial Stadium against Florida International.

That's why it was worthwhile to check out Friday's open practice on the playing surface still known as Kivisto Field.

Before discussing practice, it's time to credit one football player for having the courage not to go to court to have his name legally changed. Kale Pick is a tough name for a quarterback, but the backup freshman looks confident when he goes about his work.

Consider all the players more fragile than Pick in football history who, legend has it, gave up the sport because they couldn't take the taunts of enemy crowds. A linebacker by the name of Billy Charmin, who grew tired of constantly being told he was "squeezably soft," hung up his helmet in favor of a job with the sanitation department. Wideout Dan Drop became so spooked by the loud "drop!" taunt when the quarterback's delivery was on target, he not only dropped football, he dropped out of school. Kicker Eddie Shank couldn't take the heat, quit the football team and took up golf. That didn't last long. Cornerback Johnny Slow just didn't get why he was a backup, quit and applied to various grad schools, receiving not a single acceptance letter.

Anyway, if all goes well this season, the only picks Kale will throw will be in practice because that will mean Todd Reesing and/or Kerry Meier have avoided injuries.

Speaking of Reesing, the last quarterback I witnessed throw such an accurate ball during practice was a UCLA redshirt who had transferred from Oklahoma back in the 1980s. Troy Aikman went on to have a nice career playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

Jocques Crawford looked smoother than any KU back since Clark Green coming out of the backfield to catch a pass. Football is full of surprises once players put on pads. It would rank as a major shocker if Crawford does not have an extremely strong rookie season.

The tendency when watching intrasquad football drills is to overrate the defensive line and underrate the O-line because the defense tends to know what's coming. In fact, the D-line did seem to get the better of its offensive counterpart, probably in part because of an experience advantage.

Yet, the defensive lineman who impressed the most was true freshman Darius Parish, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound mountain of a man who is so hard to move from his ground. Look out for No. 93.

"Yeah, he'll play," KU coach Mark Mangino said of Parish, a graduate of North High in Wichita. "I really like this freshman class. It's very, very business-like. It's the most serious freshman class we've had here. ... Football holds a very high priority for them. They're good kids. They do all the things the right way and Parish is one of those guys. He wants to play, pushes himself hard to get better every day, so we're very pleased with that group."

Mangino likes this team. It's easy to understand why.

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