Jayhawks to honor '07 team, open season vs SE Missouri St
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) One of the best teams in Kansas history will be inducted into its Hall of Fame on Saturday.
Then, this year's version of the Jayhawks will try to take another step toward following in their path.
The team 10 years ago coached by Mark Mangino and led by stars such as Todd Reesing and Aqib Talib won 12 games, came within a hair of playing for a national championship, and beat Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl to cap what at the time was one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of the Big 12.
But things unraveled quickly over the ensuing years: Mangino was forced out amid allegations that he mistreated players, talent began going elsewhere, and a parade of coaches was unsuccessful.
It wasn't until David Beaty, a former Mangino assistant, returned to Lawrence that things stabilized. And now in his third year of a massive rebuilding effort, Beaty has the Jayhawks headed into their opener Saturday night against Southeast Missouri State with the belief that they're on the right track.
''I know our kids are excited about it. I'm excited about getting to it,'' Beaty said. ''We got a lot of great stuff happening this weekend, but none more important than this game. Our job is to go win the game.''
It's been a long time since that was a sure thing at Kansas, even against a lower-level opponent.
The Jayhawks finally gave Beaty his first win by beating Rhode Island in their opener last year, then stunned Texas to finish 2-10. But with an influx of talent and more experience across the board, the Jayhawks think they have what they need to take another step this season.
''This team knows that it has to earn everything that it gets,'' Beaty said. ''Nothing's going to come easy in this league. It never does because it's one of the finest leagues on the face of the planet. But these guys that we have, they're committed to getting better every day.''
Southeast Missouri State went 3-8 last season, and the Football Championship Subdivision school hasn't beaten a team from the Football Bowl Subdivision since upsetting Middle Tennessee in 2002.
''I'm very pleased and thought we handled fall camp well,'' Redhawks coach Tom Matukewicz said. ''As far as the process goes and coming to work every day to do what we're supposed to, I feel good about where we're at.''
QB SURPRISE: Beaty said he won't announce whether incumbent Carter Stanley or transfer Peyton Bender will start against Southeast Missouri State until the winner of their quarterback battle trots onto the field.
Stanley dazzled as a freshman late last season, leading the Jayhawks to their upset of Texas. But Bender arrived at Kansas with a big arm and a sterling pedigree.
''It's been a great competition. Carter's played extremely well,'' said Bender, who also happens to be his roommate. ''We've encouraged each other throughout this thing. We're all ready. The team is ready to get down to one guy leading us. Definitely looking forward to it.''
RB PLATOON: What figured to be a crowded Kansas backfield became a little lighter this week with news that JUCO transfer Octavius Matthews had retired due to a heart condition. Still, expect Khalil Herbert and Taylor Martin to split carries with others factoring into the mix.
STOUT DEFENSE: Kansas returns one of the best defensive line tandems in the Big 12, if not the nation, in junior nose tackle Daniel Wise and junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr.
SEMO'S STAR: Keep an eye on Southeast Missouri State linebacker Chad Meredith, who is closing in on 200 career tackles. He's started 22 consecutive games and is rising up the school's career sacks list.
ORANGE JUICE: Not only will the Jayhawks induct their 2008 Orange Bowl title team into the Hall of Fame, they will induct Mangino, Talib and offensive lineman Anthony Collins into their ring of honor.
''The biggest thing for me that I'll always take away from Coach Mangino is that there should never, ever be an ounce of complacency in you,'' Beaty said. ''I am a much better coach today after working for him than I would have been without working for him, because there's so many details that he taught me.''
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25