Patience a Virtue in KU Program

Kansas City, MO -- This has not been an easy two years in the annals of the Kansas athletic department. From the firing of Terry Allen and hiring of Mark Mangino prior to last season, to long-time basketball coach Roy Williams' departure for North Carolina to the addition of athletic director Lew Perkins after Al Bohl's firing, the Jayhawks now have fresh faces in three key positions.

News surrounding Bohl and the basketball program filled publications earlier this year, but the focus is now football with Mangino entering his second season at the helm of a Jayhawk program searching for momentum in a tough Big 12 Conference.

His initiation to coaching at the Division I level was a rough one in 2002, as Kansas slumped to a 2-10 finish and last place in the Big 12 North. KU's lone victories came against unheralded Southwest Missouri State and Tulsa.

In a business that often demands results sooner rather than later, Mangino has a tough task ahead in getting the Jayhawks to be competitive as quickly as possible in an area where Kansas State and Missouri get much of the attention on the gridiron.

"As far as the sense of urgency to catch Kansas State and Missouri right now, we have to take care of ourselves," said Mangino during Big 12 Media Days Wednesay. "If we do the things that we're supposed to do and keep getting better in terms of speed, strength, focus and understanding of our systems, we'll get where we need to go.

"You have to have patience. Every coach wants to win now and win them all right now. But the reality of it is, with what we inherited at KU, we have to be patient to build our program."

Mangino appears to be getting the support and help he needs from Perkins, who took over as A.D. in June after having spent 13 years overseeing UConn's athletic department. It's led to a change in the outlook from an administrative and athletic standpoint.

"Lew and I have spent a lot of time together talking," Mangino said. "He understands what it takes to win football games. I'm excited to have him in here. We think a lot alike on many things. We don't agree on everything, but we agree on are the major points of getting the football program up and running in the Big 12.

"You can sense the excitement. If you walked around the athletic department at KU today and two months ago, you can see it. People have a bounce in their step, are moving a little faster and are showing ownership in the athletes in every program. I'm happy about the situation and pleased about the future."

Team notes

Mangino also knows that he's going to have to show steady progress as head coach. In order to do that, he brought in a recruiting class heavy on JUCO talent that can compete right away.

Among that group are center Joe Vaughn and tight end Lyonel Anderson, who have already assumed first-team roles heading into fall practice. Among the other impact players are offensive lineman Johnny Urrutia, defensive linemen Chuck Jones, Phil Tuihalumaku and Monroe Weekley.

Former West Des Moines Valley and Iowa Central linebacker Gabe Toomey, who de-committed to Iowa State and signed with the Jayhawks, enters play as a second-team linebacker.

The top priorities in the program since the conclusion of the 2002 season, Mangino said, were to improve recruiting, off-season conditioning with developing better change of direction, offensive line play and tackling on the defensive side of the ball.

Mangino would also like to see a team that gains more confidence early. KU opens with three home non-conference games in four weeks (Northwestern, UNLV and Jacksonville State) sandwiched around a Sept. 13 date at Wyoming.

(CN would like to thank The Nest Bar & Grill in Johnston for sponsoring our coverage from Kansas City. CN & The Nest would like to invite you to join us on Wednesday, August 27th for our 2003 preseason tailgate party. Stay tuned to CN and 1460-KXNO for more details)


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