While Saturday's 28 to 20 loss against Northwestern was disappointing to Kansas fans, there were some positives on the defensive side of the ball. Gabe Toomey, KU's top Middle Linebacker was impressive in his Jayhawk debut.
Toomey, an emotional player, registered 12 tackles against the Wildcats which was second on the team to Strong Safety Tony Stubbs's 15. On paper, the Des Moines product does not jump out, he's 6 foot 4 inches tall and 235 pounds with average linebacker speed.
Head Coach Mark Mangino indicates why Toomey gets the most out of what he has physically. "He plays fearlessly, he has an excellent understanding of leverage. Which every linebacker coach in America talks about every single day, play down hill with leverage and he has that."
As a red shirt freshmen, Toomey caught Mangino's attention at Oklahoma where he played for the defensive scout team. The Junior transferred to Iowa Central Community College where he was an NJCAA All American. He originally committed to Iowa State after his Sophomore season, but changed his mind when Kansas expressed interest. "I love Coach Mangino, him and I went back to OU together. I decided to take a visit and give KU a chance. I got here in December for my visit, and loved everything I saw. The guys and coaching staff are great."
Toomey, along with Outside Linebackers Banks Floodman and Nick Reid make up a legit starting core. Floodman is expected to do big things in his Sophomore campaign after missing last year with a knee injury suffered in the opener. Reid was named to the 2002 Big 12 All Freshmen Team by The Sporting News.
While the jury is still out on whether or not Kansas will experience more on the field success this season, the front seven on defense are significantly better than last years unit. Bill Young's 2002 D was the worst in the Big 12 in terms of points scored per game at 42.3 and total yards, a lofty 472. It's imperative to have a quality defense and with players like Toomey, Mark Mangino and company appear to be on the right track.