LAWRENCE — Maybe the most alarming reason given for the benching of Todd Reesing last week was that Kansas coach Mark Mangino feared for his quarterback's safety playing behind a struggling offensive line.
In response, Mangino has gone back to his roots this week.
"I've hung out with the linemen a little bit," Mangino said. "It's fun for me. It's kind of a throwback to the old days. I kind of remember me teaching techniques and fundamentals that I taught 10 years ago. They still apply."
What's fun for Mangino, formerly the offensive line coach at Kansas State and Oklahoma, and what's fun for the KU offensive linemen are probably two different things.
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"Hard work, fundamental play," Mangino said. "Drill and re-drill, teach and re-teach fundamental aspects of the game. Aiming points, hand placements, footwork, the ability to change direction over bent knees, recognition and communication of calls and fronts and blitzes. Go back to teaching all the little things that are important."
For their part, the Jayhawks' linemen realize that something has to change. In the last three games, all losses, Reesing has been sacked 14 times.
"Our No. 1 goal is to protect Todd," KU guard Brad Thorson said. "We throw the ball a lot. We put a lot of faith in his abilities. He's shown if you give him time, he's going to pick defenses apart. He's one of the faces of this program for a reason. He shouldn't be hit. He shouldn't be touched. Certainly, it's a big issue for us."
Another issue for the KU offensive line is that the Jayhawks haven't rushed for 100 yards as a team in any of the last three games, either. Opening up some holes for Jake Sharp and Toben Opurum would be a good start to taking some of the heat off Reesing.
"What we really need to do is we need to make teams fear the running attack," Thorson said. "We haven't been successful in that. All of us on the offensive line take that pretty seriously."
Mangino said he would consider making some personnel changes up front, and it remains to be seen whether he will make any switches. According to the depth chart, nothing has changed up front. If Mangino sticks with left tackle Tanner Hawkinson, left guard Thorson, center Jeremiah Hatch, right guard Sal Capra and right tackle Jeff Spikes, it's because he understands that they are still relatively inexperienced.
"Do they work hard? Yes. Do they care? You bet. Is that line really going to jell and be good at some point? Yes," Mangino said. "But there's not one senior in the group. There's not a guy who's been a four- or five-year guy who can take the reins and say, 'Hey, we need to do this.' They rely on the leadership of other positions. We need to develop some leadership within the offensive line."
The Jayhawks aren't using youth as an excuse, though.
"There's some real one-on-one battles that need to be personal to everybody," Thorson said. "When you're not succeeding, there's something wrong. We want to be part of the reason things are getting turned around, not part of the problem."