Every week or so, a cell phone rings somewhere in Cincinnati, Ohio, and a grizzly bear of a man named Anthony Collins - or "Mama's Gotta Eat", as he was sometimes called - answers.
On the other line is another well-proportioned individual, Kansas University offensive tackle Jeff Spikes, calling for his weekly performance evaluation.
The routine is simple. Spikes and Collins, a former Kansas all-American offensive lineman and current Cincinnati Bengal, will spend a few minutes breaking down Spikes' most recent effort, with Collins offering his thoughts and impressions along the way.
"It's not always, 'You did good,'" says Spikes, smiling. "But it's a good thing because I take knowledge from it. He's been in a position that I am, and he's in a position that hopefully, one day, God will bless me to be in. So I just take whatever he says as a positive and then work from there."
Seems to be working. Since earning the starting spot at left tackle before the start of the season, and later being moved to right tackle, Spikes seems to have made significant strides
Last week, he helped pave the way for the Jayhawks' 280-yard rushing performance, their highest single-game total since 2001. And on Saturday, he and fellow red-shirt freshman tackle Jeremiah Hatch will look to do more of the same against a Nebraska team that will be looking for revenge following its 76-39 loss to the Jayhawks a season ago.
"It just seems like every week they learn a little more, they understand things a little better, they're a little bit sharper fundamentally," says Kansas coach Mark Mangino.
¢ Mangino feels for Prince: Although his team's victory over Kansas State last weekend might have very well played a significant role in Ron Prince's firing, Mangino can empathize with the recent fate of K-State's head football coach.
Prince, who led the Wildcats to a 16-18 record in just under three years at the school, was let go Wednesday, less than a week after his team was embarrassed 52-21 by the Jayhawks in Lawrence.
"Obviously, in this coaching business, it's not personal," said Mangino on Wednesday. "It's our profession, and any time a coach is let go, certainly I feel for him. ... But I think Ron and his family, they'll land on their feet, they'll bounce back. But it's never a good day when any coach is let go at any place. I feel badly about the situation, I do."
¢ Pump up the jam: The Nebraska University marching band invaded Lawrence on Wednesday, courtesy of the Memorial Stadium sound system.
In a long-standing practice strategy, Kansas' coaches blared their opponents' fight song through the stadium's speakers during Wednesday evening's practice in an effort to acclimate players to the on-field conditions they'll likely face in Lincoln this weekend.
"I don't control the level of it, I just tell them to make it loud," Mangino said. "So today may have been louder than the last time. (Lincoln's Memorial Stadium) is a loud place, so the louder the better."
¢ Johnson, Jr., likely out: Injured defensive tackle Richard Johnson, Jr., who hasn't played since leaving the team's loss to Texas Tech with an undisclosed injury, has returned to practice this week, but will be hard-pressed to make it back in time for this weekend's game against Nebraska, Mangino said Wednesday.
"He's out there practicing," said the coach. "(But) he's going to have to look a lot sharper tomorrow in practice to be able to compete."