Coach: Mark Mangino (4th season, 12-24) 2004 record: 4-7 Big 12 finish: 2-6 (t-5th North) 2004 I-A offensive rankings:Rushing: 110th (94.0 ypg) Passing: 53rd (220.5 ypg) 2004 I-A defensive rankings: Rushing: 23rd (117.6 ypg) Passing: 76th (227.8 ypg)
at Texas Tech
at Kansas State
* in Kansas City
Depth Chart: Offense
6 returning starters in red
Depth Chart: Defense
8 returning starters in red
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When it comes to rebuilding Kansas' football program, head coach Mark Mangino jokes that making progress is like "sawing wood."
"Just keep after it," Mangino often said, "and eventually you'll get the job done."
The problem is that, instead of using an electric blade, Mangino is approaching the 2005 season with nothing more than a butter knife. Yes, even with one of the conference's top defenses, Kansas seems to have enough problem spots to keep it from improving on its 4-7 record of a year ago.
The Jayhawks' biggest deficiencies are on offense, where glaring weaknesses exist in two key areas: quarterback and running back. With leading rusher John Randle dismissed from the team and Adam Barmann and Jason Swanson still battling to become Kansas' starting signal-caller, it appears the Jayhawks will have even more trouble scoring points this fall than they did in '04.
Kansas would challenge for the Big 12 North title if only it didn't lack two key ingredients -- a proven quarterback and a big-play tailback.
Barmann started the first eight games under center in '04 before a shoulder injury forced a premature end to his sophomore season. Still, even when healthy, the 6-foot-4 QB hardly posed a threat to opposing defenses. He had trouble when his first option was covered and often ended up forcing passes. Swanson, a junior college transfer, struggled to adapt to the Division I-A level last season. But Mangino seems more comfortable using Swanson now that he's had a year of experience.
The X-factor could be incoming freshman QB Kerry Meier, who chose Kansas over Kansas State and Texas A&M. Meier has said he wants to redshirt, but he may not be afforded that luxury.
Kansas took a major hit during the offseason when Randle was dismissed from the team following yet another run-in with the law. With Randle out of the mix, the Jayhawks will look to senior Clark Green to spark a ground attack that averaged just 94.0 yards per game a year ago.
KU boasts an experienced line with the return of players such as Bob Whitaker and Matt Thompson. The Jayhawks' receiving corps is the best it's been in years, with Mark Simmons, Brian Murph and Marcus Herford leading the way. Still, someone has to get them the ball.
Along with being one of the Big 12's best, this is easily the top defense Kansas has fielded since the Glen Mason years. Leading the way is linebacker Nick Reid, a returning first-team All-Big 12 selection who notched 109 tackles in '04. Reid is the marquee player in a linebacking trio that includes fellow seniors Kevin Kane and Banks Floodman.
Third-team All-America cornerback Charles Gordon returns after tying for the national lead with seven interceptions last year. And the Jayhawks boast a pair of menacing defensive ends in Charlton Keith and Jermial Ashley.
The key will be whether Kansas' offense can sustain drives long enough to give its defense a break. As good as it was in 2004, Kansas' defense often wore down in the third and fourth quarters simply because the Jayhawks' offense had trouble mustering a first down.
Former kicker Johnny Beck may have been sporadic when it came to accuracy, but his NFL-caliber leg made Kansas a constant threat for long field goals. Scott Webb is money on extra points and short kicks, but he hardly has Beck's leg strength. Webb missed from 37 and 55 yards in Kansas' spring game.
Kyle Tucker, who took over as a true freshman in 2004, could blossom into one of the Big 12's top punters by season's end.
The Jayhawks have a defense good enough to contend for the Big 12 North title, but the Jayhawks' championship hopes will be dashed because of an offense that will struggle all season to put points on the board. It also doesn't help that Kansas plays its first four Big 12 games away from Memorial Stadium. That could be a major momentum-killer for a program that's managed to stay upbeat in tough times.