Archive for Saturday, January 31, 2009

Football turning corner

January 31, 2009

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Many a Kansas University football player through the years has said sitting in the Allen Fieldhouse crowd at a basketball game clinched his college choice. The atmosphere won them over.

Today, more than ever, represents a chance to hook some big-time football recruits because they not only will get a taste of what a good time it is to watch the basketball team play, they’ll have a chance to see how much the football team means now to the community.

The entire team will be honored at halftime on the court for winning the Insight Bowl. The louder the crowd’s response, the more it will impress the recruits, days before Wednesday’s national-letter-of-intent signing day. The halftime ceremony kicks off a string of events that bring attention to the football team here in the heart of the defending national champions’ basketball season.

The annual postseason awards dinner will take place at 7:30 p.m. today at the Lied Center. The public is invited at no cost for an evening that will include the 2008 highlight video and talks from coach Mark Mangino, Chancellor Robert Hemenway and athletic director Lew Perkins. Again, the bigger the turnout and louder the response to the players receiving awards, the more impressed it will leave recruits.

The weeklong football party continues Thursday, the day after signing day, at Zig and Mac’s Bar and Grill (Bob Billings and Wakarusa) at 7 p.m., where the KU Quarterback Club serves as host. That will feature highlights of the new recruits and talks from recruiting coordinator Brandon Blaney and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen.

Whereas football once was viewed by many as a way to pass the time until basketball season, it now has worked its way into conversations year-round. Three bowl victories in four years clearly changes the way a football program is perceived.

Next year will make four bowl games in five years. Book it.

Not many schools can boast returning a quarterback who has thrown for 7,578 yards and 68 touchdown passes, both school records. Todd Reesing’s 63.6 completion percentage also is the best in school history, and he holds a slew of other passing records.

Reesing’s three favorite targets — Kerry Meier, Dezmon Briscoe and Johnathan Wilson — return as well. Not many quarterbacks can say they have two receivers (Meier and Briscoe) who combined for 189 receptions, 2,452 yards and 23 touchdowns last season. A sophomore, Briscoe already has the school record for touchdown receptions (22) and will own the yardage record 364 yards into next season.

Yet, even with all that firepower returning, immediate playing time can be earned at several positions, especially considering the caliber of athlete Mangino and his recently fortified coaching staff — new defensive assistants Bill Miller and Kerry Locklin bring big-time reputations with them to Lawrence — are in on heading into the final days of the recruiting season.

If pummeling Colorado for the second time in 15 days doesn’t fully jack the crowd today in the fieldhouse, maybe looking back on another successful football season and ahead to the highlights that recruits on hand might produce can fill in the gaps.

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