The interior offensive line is not so deep with talent. The major weakness is at tackle, where Larry Brown, a sophomore, and Grant Dahl, a converted defensive tackle, must overcome their inexperience, although 260-pound senior Keith Christensen and sophomore Kevin O'Malley will add some needed depth.
At split end, Rodgers expects much from George McGowan, a rangy junior-college transfer who managed to impress pro scouts during spring workouts more than any other KU player. He caught 12 Douglass passes for 141 yards and a TD in a spring game. Rodgers says, "George has what you call 'quick feet,' always moving at 90 miles an hour. You can't teach a good receiver how and when to cut; he's born with it. Just like McGowan was." At tight end is John Mosier, a junior who broke KU records last year by catching 37 passes for 495 yards and four touchdowns. The McGowan-Mosier axis will allow no room for double-teaming of receivers, and at wingback Rodgers has John Jackson, a track sprinter. At tailback is versatile veteran Don Shanklin, who caught 10 passes last year and returned 25 punts for 271 yards.
The Kansas offense looks sound, but no more so than the defense. The front five are all returning starters. Tackles Orville Turgeon and Bill Greene are good. End Vernon Vanoy, 6'8" and 250 pounds, is often spectacular, although he occasionally gets faked out of his position spectacularly. At the other end is senior John Zook, a reformed sky diver now totally dedicated to the ground game of football, who made 15 tackles against Nebraska last season, causing Coach Bob Devaney to moan, "We never blocked him once last year. We never blocked him once today. We've only got one more chance." The middle guard is Emery Hicks, who is also outstanding. A 5'11", 230-pound junior, he made 17 tackles in his first game as a sophomore and Rodgers ranks him in a class with Oklahoma's graduated All-America, Granville Liggins. At linebacker, Rodgers has Mickey Doyle, who made 114 tackles last year, and Pat Hutchens, who weighs a mere 174 pounds in mud cleats. Backing them up is Levi Lee, a Vietnam Navy veteran who reenrolled at KU this fall and, as Rodgers says, "has a reputation like Jesse James" for his savage play as a Topeka high schooler. The secondary has two sophomores, Skip James and Dale Holt, joining veterans Tommy Ball and Billy Hunt.
As with many major college teams, Kansas could face some racial strain, but the outlook right now, thanks to administration and athletic department efforts, is good. In the spring 15 black players boycotted a practice session because the university had not picked a Negro for the eight-girl pompon cheerleading team. Subsequently one was given a spot, and Rodgers now says of the incident, "I think it may have brought us all closer together."
It looks as if the Kansas pompon girls should get a lot of chances to show off their acrobatic victory antics this year—but Pepper Rodgers, of course, may upstage them with his somersaults.