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Archive for Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ten KU football players to watch in preseason

June 28, 2009

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Golfers who walked instead of rode this past week nearly broke their arms patting themselves on the back for having the courage and toughness to gut out the heat and humidity.

Men who mowed their lawns expected to be cited for heroic behavior under such trying circumstances.

This is the sort of heat that once inspired comedian Jay Leno to quip, “It was so hot in Baltimore, Rafael Palmeiro switched to injecting himself with Freon (instead of steroids).”

Meanwhile, the Kansas University football players continued to saw wood, making themselves better one sweat bead at a time. Camp Dawson, the voluntary workouts under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson, are vital to the success of a football program that has shown remarkable success at making men out of teenagers, Big 12 football players out of bypassed prospects.

As the quality of the athletes recruited by Mark Mangino and his assistants continues to improve, the hope is that the high-caliber athletes will improve just as much as the less talented ones have through the years.

With that in mind, 10 men who have high ceilings but haven’t yet shown enough as student-athletes at the Div. I level to guarantee they will have productive seasons could bolster KU’s already optimistic outlook significantly by getting the most out of summer school, summer conditioning and then preseason practices. A look at those players:

1. Dezmon Briscoe WR: Obviously, Briscoe has shown more than enough on the field, but needs to fulfill all the obligations of a student-athlete to prove he can be counted on for another huge season. Mangino doesn’t play favorites. The rules are the rules, and the options are either follow them or lose your uniform.

2. Tanner Hawkinson, LT: His red-shirt freshman season will be spent at one of the most important positions on the football field, left tackle. That Mangino would make such a move with a player who was recruited as a tight end and spent much of his red-shirt season working at defensive end proves how much the coach thinks of his physical tools, head and heart. By all accounts, he had an impressive spring.

3. Quintin Woods, DE: One-time Michigan signee comes out of junior college with a strong reputation for rushing the passer. With Jake Laptad bringing heat from the other side, a big year from Woods would help the secondary immeasurably.

4. John Williams, LG: He weighs 338 pounds, so the hope is he can show enough in preseason workouts to win the job. He didn’t show enough in the spring.

5. Jeff Spikes, RT: Smart and quick for his size (6-foot-6, 314 pounds), Spikes didn’t put it all together as a red-shirt freshman starter, but the potential for great things is there.

6. Justin Springer, LB: Was playing extremely well when he suffered a knee injury. Can he recover completely, or will he look a little slower, as Joe Mortensen did in the wake of his knee surgery?

7. Vernon Brooks, LB: A late addition from the junior-college ranks, Brooks chose KU instead of Oklahoma, Tennessee, Auburn and Tulsa. He plays the right position to earn immediate playing time if he shows well during workouts.

8. Angus Quigley, LB: He’s big, he’s fast, he’s physical. But is he a football player? The likable Quigley has a brand-new chance to answer that question in the affirmative after not making it as a running back.

9. Toben Opurum, RB: Since Jocques Crawford’s status remains in doubt and Quigley has switched to running back, bruising freshman running back could be counted on to spell Jake Sharp.

10. Calvin Rubles, CB: Mangino has encountered mixed results bringing in junior-college defensive backs. Rubles helped his chances by arriving one semester early.

Which of the 10 will have break-through years, maturing just in time to play a big part in the success of a team destined for big things? Probably the ones who work the hardest and pay the greatest attention to detail on a daily basis.

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