Kansas Jayhawks football head coach Mark Mangino and Kansas State head coach Ron Prince talk about their teams during the season's first Big 12 media teleconference.


Kansas Jayhawks football head coach Mark Mangino continues to have to tell reporters that his team has moved on from last year’s Cinderella season. But that doesn’t mean the glass slipper still can’t find them if the Jayhawks again play tough football.

“Each team has its own personality and chemistry,” Mangino said Monday during the first Big 12 media teleconference. “We have a confident football team right now; but they are smart kids, so they know there are a lot of areas that we must improve in order to be the type of team we want to be. I think this group is no different in that respect. We feel pretty good with ourselves, and we’ve had a good training camp.”

Kansas State head coach Ron Prince said the Wildcats are buzzing and that the balance between the recruited high school players and the new junior college players will make 2008 an exciting season. Prince said the junior college players have already made some impact on the club, particularly on defense.

“Our plan was to get a certain number of players from community colleges to our roster, and we met that number,” Prince said. “The guys who have made the biggest impact on the immediate standpoint are on defense. (Defensive back) Blair Irvin and (linebacker) Hansen Sekona have done a terrific job, and (lineman) Daniel Calvin has done a nice job for us on the D-line. We weren’t expecting (offensive lineman) Edward Prince to come in and do some of the things he’s been able to do right away.”

Coach Prince also said junior college transfer running back Keithen Valentine continues to surprise the coaches with his ability on the field.

“We could see in the spring that Keithen could run in a way that is pretty fluid and elusive and had good vision,” Prince said. “It’s an unusual position because freshmen and guys just coming into the program new usually have are hard time integrating into a lot of positions because of just all the new stuff.

"What I did not know was that he could run with power, and he demonstrated that in our training camp. He just seems to get the most he can out of every run.”

The Jayhawks will open the season Saturday against Florida International on Kivisto Field at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. Kansas beat FIU 55-3 last season, but Mangino cautions those who think it’s going to be an easy win for the Jayhawks.

“They should be better and in their second year under (head coach) Mario Cristobal,” Mangino said. “He has brought great discipline and organization to FIU. (Offensive coordinator) Bill Legg will stretch out the field both horizontally and vertically with his spread offense, (and) there is a quarterback competition going on there. We have to take care of our business, like playing smart football like we did last year. We need to win the turnover battles and play tough, physical football.”

The Wildcats will play North Texas at Bill Snyder Family Stadium at 6:05 p.m. Saturday to open their season. It will be the first time the two teams have met on the football field. Prince feels the game will be the first to show the hard work junior quarterback Josh Freeman has done with coach Warren Ruggiero during the offseason.

“I feel Josh is our most improved player on offense,” Prince said. “I contribute quite a bit of that, from a technical aspect, to Warren. I think his knowledge of our schemes and Josh’s experience in our schemes, along with the small things that can help him play to the best of his ability, really has given our quarterback a lot of confidence.”

Mangino also talked about the focus on the quarterbacks around the Big 12 because of all the talent at that position; and that, in turn, has been very beneficial to building up the conference.

“There’s no question there’s a lot of kids who can make plays at that position, and I think when people see all that talent, they work on the assumption that our league is very good; and I agree with that.”

John Curtis is the sports editor of the Augusta Gazette. Contact him at sports@augustagazette.com.