Mark Mangino tapped Kerry Meier as his man before the spring football game, which saw Meier take every snap with the number one unit. And Meier didn’t disappoint, completing 16 of 28 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, displaying a live arm and the savvy to move the offense.
In addition, the 6-foot-3 210-pounder showed the speed to make plays when the pocket broke down, running for 36 yards on seven carries and another touchdown in a game where a one-handed touch was enough to bring down the quarterback. He was also never sacked.
Still, Mangino said Meier, who was the Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year last year, had work to do. Meier missed on a couple of checks, misread some plays and struggled a bit with touch and mechanics. He rocketed the ball on a couple plays where more touch could have been used and wound up on his deep ball — instead of dropping the ball over the top for more accuracy. Meier also has a history of injury problems: he missed time in high school and sat out part of last year with a heart condition that required surgery and is now fine.
Mangino said after the game that Meier had all of the tools to be a great quarterback. Meier, for his part, said it was comforting to know that he would get a chance to start, but said that it just meant he had to work harder to get ready.
With Meier as the starter, the real battle was between senior Adam Barmann and true freshman Todd Reesing. Mangino said at the end of spring that Barmann had won the battle for now, based on his experience and knowledge of the offense. Barmann passed for 31 yards on 7 of 11 passing in the spring game, but was sacked four times, meaning that he had 10 yards of total offense.
Barmann, 6-4 210, has started 13 games over his Jayhawk career, completing 57 percent of his passes for more than 2,100 yards and 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions, Barmann started three games as a freshman after Bill Whittemore was injured, completing 67 percent of his passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns. But Barmann also made freshman mistakes, throwing five interceptions. An injury against Oklahoma State knocked him out for the rest of the year.
The next year, Barmann started eight games before a shoulder injury against Iowa State stopped him for the rest of the season. Barmann looked inconsistent throughout the year, he threw for 300 yards against Toledo, looked sharp the second half against Northwestern, but was replaced against Kansas State. His confidence level seemed to have fallen, and he started aiming the ball.
Barmann was also streaky, when he was in a groove, he could move the ball, but seemed to get down on himself as well and one bad pass or a dropped ball snowballed into more mistakes. Last year, Barmann started off the season as the number one again, but was pulled in the first game and didn’t start again until Kansas State, where he was replaced again.
Barmann’s passer rating has declined every year at Kansas, but he’s a solid backup who has been in the system for three years. At the same time, he spent some time this spring at tight end to give depth to that position.
Backing up Barmann will be Reesing, who elected to enroll early at Kansas to take part in spring practice. Reesing is a smaller quarterback at 5-11, 190, but neither Bill Whittemore nor Jason Swanson were legitimate 6-footers, and they’ve been the two most productive Mangino quarterbacks to date.
Reesing hit on 7 of 14 passes, but threw the ball well downfield, passing for 102 yards and leading the Blue Team to its only touchdown of the game. Reesing combined for close to 4,100 yards and 49 touchdowns as a senior in high school, hitting on 72 percent of his pass attempts and throwing just five interceptions.
He showed moxie and a rocket arm this spring, although Mangino said he has to learn when “not to break his teammate’s sternum.” Reesing looks like the type of quarterback Mangino likes, gritty, confident and intelligent — Reesing is enrolled at the KU Honors College, and he also has talent. But for now, Reesing looks like a good bet to backup Barmann and learn the offense to compete for a starting job later on down the line.
Meier looks like a nice choice for number one, but the backup spots are held by an inconsistent Barmann and a true freshman in Reesing. Also don’t forget that Meier, while he may be the most talented quarterback in the Mangino era, has yet to see the field in a game situation.