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Are you ready for some football?

With today being the first official day of practice here's five things to keep an eye on as the Jayhawks get ready for their 2003 campaign. <img src="http://media.theinsiders.com/media/site_logo/premium.gif">

1) Healthy knees.

Two Jayhawk co-captains saw their 2002 seasons end early because of knee injuries. Kansas needs big seasons (and complete seasons) out of both QB Bill Whittemore and LB Banks Floodman. Both said in July that they were as good as new and feeling 100% healthy. Let's hope those statements hold true and stay true for the rest of the year.

2) Newcomers on defense.

There are several newcomers to watch on the defensive side of the football that could make significant impacts this season – particularly in the front seven. Phil Tuihalamaka (6-3, 323), Chuck Jones (6-4, 275) and Monroe Weekly (6-4, 256) are three names to watch on the D-line.

The leader of the linebackers, Banks Floodman is excited about both Gabe Toomey (6-4, 235) and Zach Mims (6-3, 235). Toomey is a juco all-american who originally signed with Oklahoma.

3) New look on the O-line.

Bill Whittemore and Clark Green have a new cast in front of them this year.

With the departure of Tony Damiani, David Hurst, Greg Nicks and Justin Sands, the offensive line will look a lot different. QB Bill Whittemore said last week that he's excited about the new group and hopefully after the Northwestern game Kansas fans will be too.

Keep your eyes on KU's new center, second team juco all-american, Joe Vaughn (6-1, 280) as well as a few redshirts like Bob Whitaker (6-5, 325) who'll be looking to log some major minutes this year.

4) Whittemore's new favorite targets.

While there are plenty of experienced receivers returning this fall, Byron Gasaway and Marcellus Jones are no longer options for KU quarterback Bill Whittemore. That's a combined total of 68 receptions and KU's leading two wide receivers in 2002 that are no longer in the mix.

Marc Simmons, Brandon Rideau and Derrick Mills have all proved to be more than capable and they'll be pushed by redshirt freshmen Dominic Roux (5-11, 175) and Charles Gordon (5-11, 165). Plus, Greg Heaggans' brother, Gary Heaggans (6-2, 200), will add some size to the group and there's a new tight end on campus that could hit it off with Whittemore as well. Lyonel Anderson (6-3, 235) enrolled at Kansas last winter and moved to the top of the depth chart in the spring. He's another Jayhawk to watch as the season approaches.

5) Will the real Johnny Beck please stand up?

Which Johnny Beck will kick for the Jayhawks this fall? Will it be the Johnny who hit 14-20 FG's as a freshman and was on the Lou Groza Award watch list to start his sophomore year?

Or could it be the Beck who only connected on 7 of 17 tries in year two and would have been lucky to make Lou Bega's list?

Let's hope Johnny returns to his freshman form. He's got a great leg and a chance to be really good. The Jayhawks will definitely need a good year from him, especially in the early part of the season where several close games are possible.

These are just a handful of many interesting areas on the 2003 squad to watch. I'm ready for some football, how about you? .


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