WHILE TIM TEBOW, the Heisman-winning Florida quarterback, was being trailed by camera crews in high school (for the prescient ESPN documentary The Chosen One), Todd Reesing was just hoping to find major college programs that would look at his video. One of those highlight tapes—which had footage of Reesing running the spread at Lake Travis High in Austin—was delivered by a family friend to the Kansas football offices. Coach Mark Mangino saw a quarterback who "made a lot of positive things happen," though the youngster was built like Doug Flutie. When the 5'11" Reesing made an unofficial visit to KU in the summer of 2005, Mangino acted on a hunch and offered him a scholarship.
This is an article from the Aug. 11, 2008 issue
That gamble has paid off. As a sophomore last season, Reesing threw for 33 touchdowns against seven interceptions while leading the Jayhawks to their first BCS appearance and a 24--21 Orange Bowl win over Virginia Tech. Dubbed Sparky by Mangino, Reesing is a master tactician in the no-huddle spread; during one stretch last season he threw 213 consecutive passes without an interception. Even in practice he is demonstrably upset after being picked off, giving the coaches a scare when he went after and tackled each of the two defenders who intercepted him in the spring game (losing his helmet on one takedown).
In addition to keeping his hat on, Reesing has to make sure the offense, which ranked eighth nationally (479.8 yards per game) last year, keeps humming. And he'll have to do so without his blindside protector, All-America left tackle Anthony Collins, and one of his top targets, wideout Marcus Henry (both were selected in the NFL draft), as well as 1,000-yard rusher Brandon McAnderson, who graduated. In an attack that relies on timing and quick decision making, the Jayhawks will break in two new tackles, redshirt freshman Jeff Spikes and senior Matt Darton, while trying to remain as efficient as last season (14 turnovers, fourth-lowest total in the country). "We had so few blown assignments last year, and that was the key," Reesing says. "If everyone isn't executing perfectly, things don't work."
Mangino says a half-dozen schools visited Lawrence in the off-season for tips on the no-huddle attack, and Oklahoma spent the spring installing a similar hurry-up package. How flattering that traditional powers that had routinely humiliated the Jayhawks over the years are now imitating them.
CONFERENCE: Big 12
COACH: Mark Mangino (7th year)
2007 RECORD: 12--1 (7--1 in Big 12)
FINAL AP RANK: 7
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 7, Defense 9
30 Florida International
6 Louisiana Tech
12 at South Florida
20 Sam Houston State
4 at Iowa State
18 at Oklahoma
25 Texas Tech
1 Kansas State
8 at Nebraska
29 Missouri in Kansas City, Mo.
KU didn't play the best three teams in the Big 12 South en route to a BCS berth in '07, but this year the Jayhawks face that trio of Top 25 schools (Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas). First up: a trip to Norman to meet the defending conference champs.
In 2007 the Jayhawks rose to No. 2 in the country and had a school-record 12 wins. The goal this year: back-to-back bowls for the first time in school history.
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