Ryan Wood’s KU football notebook

Standing by him

KU coach Mark Mangino stressed Wednesday that he regards running-back signee Jocques Crawford as a high-character person.

“Nobody had anything negative to say about him,” Mangino said. “Nobody.”

Crawford, a transfer from Cisco (Texas) Junior College, pleaded guilty in September 2005 to a charge of misdemeanor simple assault for an incident involving a 15-year old girl. Crawford, then 17, was originally charged with aggravated rape before negotiating a plea deal.

“We did our due diligence,” Mangino said. “We uncovered every stone. We talked to everyone we could.

“We had an outside firm do an investigation of him. : I think we did everything we possibly could. We feel very confident in him. He needs a chance. He needs an opportunity, and I think he’ll make the most of it.”

Rewards upcoming

Two scholarships remain unaccounted for, as Kansas only signed 20 players in this class. The 25-scholarship limit already was cut down by three due to NCAA violations committed in 2003.

As for the other two?

“We have a couple of kids in the program who are walk-ons who have contributed in a lot of ways,” Mangino said. “I want to give some scholarships to some walk-on kids.”

Mangino said those scholarships would be awarded for the 2008-09 school year. The reason for the delay likely stems from Academic Progress Rate penalties that would count toward the 2007-08 school year.

KU officials would neither confirm nor deny that the football team is serving APR penalties, though such information is expected to be released sometime this spring.

To be determined

Just one of the 20 signees is listed without a projected position. That’s Harrisonville (Mo.) High’s Sean Ransburg, who’s referred to simply as an athlete. Ransburg was an electric quarterback in high school, but at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds could also project at running back, wide receiver or in the defensive secondary.

“I think we’ll find out when we get here in training camp,” Mangino said. “…He can catch the ball. He’s just a really, really good athlete, and we’ll kind of see where he falls into place.”

Better than advertised

Two high school signees have graduated early and already are enrolled at Kansas – quarterback Kale Pick and tight end Nick Plato.

Pick, a Dodge City product, already has turned heads in Lawrence.

“He is a tremendous athlete,” Mangino said. “In fact, watching him in the morning workouts, he’s much more athletic than he was used as a high school player. He can throw, he can run, he’s strong, he’s quick, and we’re really excited about him.”

In order

Mangino said that all 20 signees should be in good shape to qualify academically.

“There’s a couple of guys we’re awaiting official word to verify it,” Mangino said, “but we don’t anticipate anybody not qualifying.”

Doing fine

Mangino was asked about his health Wednesday, the first time he has faced the media since being admitted into Lawrence Memorial Hospital last month for undisclosed reasons.

“I’m absolutely fine,” Mangino said. “There’s a lot of nosy people that interpret things that they shouldn’t. But I’m doing absolutely fine. I’m healthy as a horse.”

Up next

KU players have another month of winter conditioning workouts ahead before they get the pads on again.

Spring practice starts on March 12. The spring game is scheduled for April 12, a Saturday.