"I feel like the fact we made progress and were able to win six games shows that we're on the path we need to be on," said Mangino, whose team beat the likes of Missouri, Baylor, and Iowa State in Big 12 play. "Our fans and supporters understand the state of KU football a few years ago and are excited about the progress we're making. The public perception is changing.
"But we're going into the 2004 season now, and the success you had last season doesn't matter much now. When we line up September 4th, 2003 is over with. All it is is a springboard to get ready for the 2004 season."
Having been at Oklahoma and Kansas State in previous stops, Mangino knows all about the difficult stretch his Jayhawks will face year in and year out. He knows that a steady climb to the top of the conference is something that could take a while and isn't anything that can be accomplished in the short term.
"This is the Big 12 Conference," he said. "We're a proud member of the conference and want to work our way to the top. Those are some long-term goals. We play some very good teams on the road. Anybody can win on a given day in college football. We feel that on any given day we're capable of winning big games in our conference. I'm not going to give up any days on that schedule, and I feel we're going to win a few games no one expected us to."
One attainable goal for Mangino's program is earning consecutive bowl bids for the first time in school history. KU earned a trip to the Tangerine Bowl in Orlando, Fla., against North Carolina State last December, and would like to make a trip itinerary again this year.
Mangino identified a few of the ingredients needed for another bowl trip.
"You always want to play in the postseason," he said. "We have to earn it and understand that. We have to play well week after week and prepare. We have to be a smart program and a team that can win some areas of the game that are important when you're building a program. Along with the progress of our offense and defense, we'd like to win the turnover margin and kicking game."
More than anything, recruiting has played a big role in KU's six victories one season ago. The Jayhawks have recruited junior-college players hoping for immediate success, and have found that their six victories have helped them recruiting high school kids.
"At this stage of our program, we still have to recruit hard and aggressively," Mangino said. "We don't have to recruit a new team each year, but we need to recruit kids that can make an instant impact in our program. There will probably be some true freshmen that contribute right away. Doors are starting to open that weren't open a few years ago. They're starting to listen to us."
Quarterback situation clearing up
Although he has yet to name an ‘official' starter at quarterback for the season opener against Tulsa, Mangino knows who it might be. Returning backup Adam Barmann has done battle with JUCO transfer Jason Swanson to see who replaces Bill Whittemore in the lineup.
"I have said publically that Barmann has the edge going into training camp," Mangino said. "He has some experience and has been with us an entire year now. Jason has to learn our system and has only been on our campus for one semester.
"We do a lot of checking on the line, and do a lot of things on offense. You have to be very knowledgeable of the system. The offense will go as the quarterback goes. It starts up front with the offensive line blocking well, but the quarterback has to be the chauffeur."