Today was preseason media day for the Kansas Jayhawks and following a practice in which he media was allowed to attend, Coach Mangino and the players were available for questions. Here are some highlights with some interesting items for sure.
Head Coach Mark Mangino
"Good afternoon. Welcome to media day and we are glad to have you. We have our players prepared out on the field and we will bring up the players that have been requested. If there is a player that has not been requested you can grab him on the field and talk to them.
We are excited here. We have had an opportunity to practice here since Friday and I am pleased with a lot of things that are taking place on the practice field. Mainly I like the enthusiasm of this group and I think they have a lot of spirit to them. I think this is a group that has some leadership, some strong leadership and I like the way they are approaching the game, how they are learning and approaching things at meetings, learning out on the field, paying attention at all the walk-throughs. The retention has been good in terms of veteran players returning back here in August.
Every area we are going to need a lot of work in, but there are a few areas that we are going to need to get established here pretty quickly. The offensive line is young, but boy is it starting to come together. I really like how they are getting off the ball, but there are just fundamental things that we need to work out. Certainly you have heard me say in the past that the five guys on the offensive line must be working in concert together. They have to gel together and that is what we are doing right now. We feel good about the defensive line and the depth that we have there. The linebacking position still needs a lot of work and attention. We are working on that and I think we have a chance to be decent at that position. There are some young guys that are stepping up and making themselves accountable and putting heat on the veterans. The secondary is shoring up and I like it. We are taking a look at some back-up positions and then rounding out the group. The receivers are a talented group and I really like the idea that some of our young freshmen are coming in here and really looking sharp and looking good. It is a mature group of freshmen and I think one, maybe two, of those kids are going to get themselves into the rotation this fall.
In terms of the running back situation, Jake Sharp obviously looks good and picked up right from where he left off last year. I like that Rell Lewis is healthier and doing a lot better. Two newcomers, Daniel Porter and Toben Opurum, are really good, talented young guys. We have a chance to be really good and really deep at the running back position. I think that overall some positions are going to have some depth. The defensive line will have some depth, the secondary with have depth, running back will have depth and obviously the quarterback will have depth, but hopefully we won't need it but we will be deep at that position as well.
Overall I am pleased after only a handful of practices, we have a long way to go, and we are not nearly the football team that we want to be. We have a lot, a lot of work to do. This group seems willing to do it and I feel good about them."
Complete Mangino Transcript and Player Quotes after the Jump. Get ready it's a long one but after 7 months without football you might be ready for it...
On the team being prepared to handle expectations:
"I think they are. Expectations are what other people think of you and I think that inside this program we have always had high expectations. We have always wanted to compete for championships, go to bowl games and do those things. I don't think that changes internally, maybe the perception outside is different. How much that has an impact on us I don't know. I think the internal issues are more important."
On not being ranked in the Top 25:
"Number one, one of the reasons that I don't have a vote is because I don't want to make predictions about our team, I never have and really won't start now. You have to take care of your business and where you are picked before the season really doesn't matter to me. I don't know where we were picked two years ago and we had a pretty good year and I am not sure it matters."
On the offensive line:
"I know this that we are going to have more than five quality offensive linemen. How is actually plays out, I think we have some time yet."
On freshman defensive lineman Duane Zlatnik:
"One of the guys that has made a large improvement over last year has been Duane Zlatnik. He is a guy that was just a freshman last year that was feeling his way through. We are hoping that he will be in the rotation and really helps us tremendously. He has made a lot of improvement and as a I said last year he was just a true freshman and you don't put too much pressure on those type of guys because a lot of them need that year to mature and I think that he has done that."
On senior safety Darrell Stuckey building off his Missouri performance:
"It was a great game, but Darrell will be the first one to tell you that game is history and what we did last year, good or bad, is behind us. All that matters is what we take care of today and how we prepare for the 2009 season. It was a great effort by him last year, but I am sure that he would like to add more his scrapbook than just the Missouri game."
On the challenges that Tanner Hawkinson faces getting ready to play left tackle:
"First of all he has done everything that we have asked him to do. He has been diligent in the weight room, getting with our sports nutritionist Randy Bird, our trainer Murphy Grant, and has been under the watchful eye of Chris Dawson. He has worked hard and gained a lot of weight. He has done it the right way. He is still lean. He works hard and it is important to him. His role is very important to this team; to be the left tackle and protect the backside of the quarterback. I like his approach to it and he is getting better everyday. He really is."
On Coach Mangino's history of converting players to the offensive line:
"When I came here Adrian Jones was a tight end, and a mediocre one at that. It took us about six months to convince him that he could make a lot of money playing on the offensive line. He didn't believe it at first. He believes it now because if he was a tight end coming out of this program he would be a good insurance salesman. He wouldn't be playing in the NFL. At K-State, we brought Todd Weiner in from Florida and he was a 215-pound tight end. He left as a 305-pound tackle and just retired from a lengthy career in the NFL. There have been others. Frank Romero was a defensive end at Oklahoma, just like Adrian Jones it took him a long time accept it. Then when he found out he was an average defensive end and a great offensive tackle, he helped lead his team to a National Championship. So we have had some success in that area and hopefully we will keep it going."
On other players converting positions during camp:
"Angus (Quiqley) is coming along. His growth at that position has not been nearly as fast as I would have liked for it to be. I think he can help us there. He has the athleticism and speed. It is a crash course for him and he really needs to understand the urgency there. When he comes to terms with that I think he will be ok. We just moved Darius Parish in training camp. Darius had offensive line written all over him from day one, but we didn't have much depth on the defensive line last year so out of necessity we had to use him there. I think he has found a home and I think he will end up being a good football player for us on the offensive line."
On Vernon Brooks:
"He left camp today because he had a family emergency and I can't give you a time when he will be back. He has some family issues that he is tending to and I just can't tell you what impact or any at all that he would have. The more a new transfer is out of camp, it is very difficult to get into the groove."
On junior wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe:
"He has responded well and he knows what is expected of him here-of any player-and when you don't meet those expectations or standards there are consequences. He feels good and realizes that it is behind him now. He has had a good attitude and he has been having a really good camp. He learned a valuable lesson like everyone does in life every once in a while."
On junior wide receiver Johnathan Wilson:
"Johnathon (Wilson) has been a steady hand for us now. He is a guy that has kind of been back in the shadows, but he has made some big plays for us. He continually gets better. He is another guy who feels is important to him. He continually works to get better and he works hard. He cares about his performance and getting better. He is going to be an important guy. He will be a guy that has to make plays for us in order for us to be a good offensive team and I think he will."
On Big 12 defenses potentially catching up to the offenses:
"Oh I don't know, I guess we will just have to find out once the season starts. There will be a time when things evolve and people are going to say when are people going to go back to running the ball to try to move the ball on the ground against defenses because they are stopping the pass. The game just evolves, but we are doing all the things that we can to improve ourselves and there are some areas that need to be improved. I feel pretty good about where we are at with our schemes, but we just have to get out and fundamentally execute those schemes on defense."
On junior defensive lineman Quintin Woods:
"He is long and lean and he is quick. He really gets off the ball fast and because he has a lot of range he is able to get off blocks pretty good. He is not just a pass rush guy. He is not limited to just that and I think he can be a great run stopper too. He understands the game and understands how to use his hands. He can get off blocks and he pursues the football very, very well. He needs to get a little stronger and he understands that. A lot of kids coming from junior college programs don't have the intense weight programs that we do and they don't have a training table so to speak, or at least a good place for the kids to eat on campus. They also don't have a guy like Randy Bird to help you along. He will benefit from that."
On the chance that the defensive line will generate more pressure:
"Our goal this year in terms of the defensive line is to be a better pass rushing defensive line. The more pressure that we can put on with just four guys gives us more options of what we can do in coverage that we would really like to do. That isn't going to mean that we aren't going to blitz because blitzing is a part of our system and is a part of who we are. We believe that we are going to be better pass rushers than perhaps we were a year ago."
On if you can pick up how great a team will be off of training camp:
"Not really, two years ago I wouldn't have stood up here on media day and said that we were going to win 12 games. I thought we had a chance to have a nice team in 2000 at Oklahoma, but I couldn't have told you we were going to go 13-0 and win the National Championship. I felt the same thing at Kansas State because I knew we were getting better, but didn't know how good we were going to be. We knew that if everybody pulled together and we got all the right players in the right spots, and play to our players strengths that we could be pretty good. In some of those situations, the seasons went through the roof. I sit here at this training camp and I feel that we have a pretty good football team, but I know there are a couple of areas that we certainly need to improve in dramatically here in the next few weeks in order to have a good football team."
Senior quarterback Todd Reesing
On how things are going:
"Thing are going well. We have had four practices now and I am very pleased with how things are going. I talked to the team the other day and I told them that since I have been here that these have been the best four practices to start camp since my freshman year. It is very positive. Guys are flying around and the enthusiasm out there is the most exciting. Guys are out there having fun and competing and playing hard. There are a lot of things that we need to fix before we are ready to play a game, but things are going well."
On why he thinks camp has started so well:
"One of the big things is the seniors that we have right now understand what is going on. We are aware of the things that we want to accomplishment this year and we understand that it takes hard work. I think that the leadership we are getting from the seniors and other guys is really pushing the younger guys to practice hard, stay focused and have fun out there. When guys are having fun it is easier to work hard. When guys are dragging around the field and aren't positive it is harder to work hard."
On trying to prove people wrong:
"I think the biggest thing for us is the fact that people still doubt us. We have to continually prove ourselves in the conference and on the national scene. Until we continue to beat good teams, and go to bowl games and win bowl games then people will continually to consider us a fluke or this or that. So we want to prove people wrong and everyone on this team has a chip on their shoulder and that is why they are willing to work."
Senior Safety Darrel Stuckey
On head coach Mark Mangino suggesting he could make a good politician following football:
"I think that's an honor. He looks at me as a person that deals with people well-a very approachable person. It means a lot coming from a coach that has appointed me a team captain. It shows he trusts my leadership and vocal skills."
On if he is the type that looks to prove people wrong:
"It is a fair assessment. Coming here I was probably one of the only people out of my league in Kansas City, Kan., that went to a DI school to play football. When I came here no one had really been recruiting me. Kansas was the first one to get their hands on me. I've never looked back."
Senior Defensive Tackle Caleb Blakesley
On his goals for this season:
"The main thing we want to do is win the Big 12 North at the very least. When I came into the program in 2005 things were headed in the right direction, but they weren't there yet. Leaving the program on a strong foundation would be a good thing."
On Kansas' success in recent seasons:
"It's definitely special. It kind of hits close to home. Everyone back home is happy about it. Winning games against Missouri and Kansas State, winning those rivalry games, it makes it all that much more special."
On the team's progression in practice:
"Things are coming around. There's a lot of learning to do. There are a lot of young guys that are in the learning process, but they are doing a good job. They are taking steps towards learning everything and getting where they need to be."
Senior Linebacker Angus Quigley
On making the change from running back to linebacker:
"I'm just trying to help the team out anyway that I can. It's hard work. It's a rough transition, but I think it's going well. I'm doing my best to pick up things as fast as I can. The season is approaching and I'm just trying to be the best linebacker that I can be for the team. You can't do that on the bench. I'm trying to highlight my attributes and get on the field and help this team win."
On how the team is looking as a whole:
"We're all pretty much where we've been. Everybody is working hard at every position. Nobody is taking any shortcuts. You have to get it done. It's not time for short cuts. This isn't spring. The season is right around the corner."
Sophomore Kicker Jacob Branstetter
On being here for the start of practice and knowing he will be able to play:
"It's exciting. Last year I had to miss the first game and that was a little disappointing. I got back on track after that. It's a good time to be here with the team and bond with the guys and sharpen my skills."
On the mood in practice:
"The mood is really focused, but we love being around each other. We have a good time. We're all best friends and we like hanging out."
On how the team has been practicing:
"The team as a whole has really stepped up. Maybe it's the expectations or the expectations we've put on ourselves or those from the media, but the whole team has stepped up. Not one individual, but we've stepped up as a unit."
Sophomore Running Back Rell Lewis
On the first week of practice:
"It's going pretty good. We're starting off on the right foot. Everybody is working hard and getting better."
On who has surprised so far in practice:
"Honestly the whole team as a whole has surprised me. We look a lot better compared to last year. We look like we're ready to be out there and get some victories."
On goals for the team in the last few weeks of practice:
"Goals for the last couple weeks of practice are to continue to keep getting better and come together as a team."
On Big 12 North Title:
"That's our ultimate goal for right now to win the North. I'm not sure if we have in the past. But that's what we're trying to accomplish this year."
On Coach Mangino believing that the backfield is one of the deepest groups:
"Most of us are young, besides Jake. But I feel like we can contribute a lot to this team. We have a lot of talent back there."
Senior Corner Justin Thornton
On replacing players on defense:
"This is Division-I, there are always going to be players that can step in and play. Even last year when we had a great group of starters there were still guys right behind them that could step in and get the job done."
On the linebacking corps:
On being listed at corner on the depth chart this season:
"We have a lot of experience coming back. We're just ready to go out there and make plays. Right now they have me at corner, but I'm not sure what the coaches have in store for me."
Junior Wide Receiver Dezmon Briscoe
On how he felt when he first got suspended:
"I wasn't really mad or angry. More of a disappointment to myself. The stupid stuff that I did, it's just something that is out of my character. Like I said before it's a learning experience. I feel like coach letting me back on the team means that he trusts me to not do that stuff again.
On having a greater appreciation now that he is back:
"Yeah, throughout that break that I wasn't with the team it made me feel like I wasn't a student-athlete. I felt like I was just a student. Just the privilege of being a student athlete is something most people would love to do. So I mean I really appreciate it a lot more."
On what this team can accomplish:
"We can accomplish a lot of things as long as we execute and show a sense of urgency and go out and play four quarters."
On winning the North:
"There's a lot of stuff going around that says us and Nebraska on top of the North, but at Kansas we don't really go into all that. We usually just take it one game at a time."
On beating Texas and OU:
"Well Texas and Oklahoma have been the powerhouses of the Big 12 the last couple years. It would be some premiere wins if we do beat them, but we're not looking that far ahead. We're really just focused on Northern Colorado right now.
Senior QB/WR Kerry Meier
On being one of the top teams in the North:
"You know, expectations are high at Kansas this year. Every year we set goals to try and accomplish, but this year it is a little something extra. I think personally, going into my senior year, I am excited to go out and try and grab those goals with the crew that we've got on hand and the coaching staff that's going to help get us there."
On competing with the top teams in the South:
"We've worked extra hard to get where we are right now. And I don't think we're where we quite want to be, but after the season, hopefully we can say we're up there with Oklahoma and Texas. If we can go out and go down to Texas and compete with them, and OU comes to our place and we can play with them as well as anybody else in the Big 12, we're going to be right where we want to be."
On two-a-days as a full-time receiver:
"It's a little different. Every once in a while I'll come sit in the meeting rooms with the qbs, just to check in and say hello and to give a couple reminders here and there. But it's been a little different, not only being a receiver, but also going into my last camp as a Jayhawk. It's been a different camp, but we've still got the same attitude that we need to come out and work each day."
On how the program has changed since he's been here:
"It's changed quite a bit. From the days I got back here in 2005, the buzz around the community and the people, there was not much excitement. But the Orange Bowl adds a little bit more, after last year with the Insight Bowl adds a little more. And here we are in 2009, it's the talk of the town. I know basketball is going to have a heck of a year this year. But right now it's the fall and I'm excited to be a Jayhawk on this football team."
On being third string QB:
"Coach wants to solidify a solid three, that's what he wants to do right now. Maybe through the later part of these two-a-days, maybe coach will be confident with what Kale (Pick) does and group him into that number two and have him ready to go. It doesn't really bother me at all. I think a lot of people question it. They wonder, ‘this guy caught 97 balls, why is he still playing quarterback?' But at quarterback, you never know what is going to happen. You've always got to have a two and a three ready. If something happened to Todd, I'm going to be right there ready to go."
Senior Running Back Jake Sharp
On being a senior:
"If you have people counting on you, you're going to do absolutely everything you can not to let them down. I try to show myself as an unselfish guy. Having teammates that look up to you when times get tough, I have to pick the guys up and show them that it's not that hard.
On what motivates him:
There's a lot of motivation for guys out there, especially in the game of football. But I'm motivated by doubters. I'm motivated by people counting on me. I'm motivated by all sorts of things."
On Tanner Hawkinson at left tackle:
"Tanner works real hard. He's working hard day in and day out. He's listening to the coaches and packed on a lot of weight, and he's a great guy. He's great to work with. I think the things that he's doing will really help us out.