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August 15, 2009

Quigley battles for playing time

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For most players, heading into their senior year, there is a feeling of familiarity. They know their roles on the team. They know all the intricacies of playing their position. And learning the playbook no longer seems like a daunting task. While all of this is great, none of it applies to senior linebacker Angus Quigley.

There probably isn't a player on the team that has more questions surrounding them than Quigley. Will he learn his new position in time? Will he be passed on the depth chart by newcomers Vernon Brooks and Huldon Tharp? Is this even his last season at Kansas?

Not even Quigley knows. As a matter of fact, there was only one question really Quigley could answer confidently on Tuesday at Kansas' Media Day.

"Oh, I am a much better fisher than Jake Sharp," Quigley said with a smile.

Not that he has much time for that these days anyway. It was just last December when Mark Mangino finally pulled the plug on Quigley's career at running back after many underachieving seasons.

Quigley was moved to linebacker. At the time, the position change made sense.

Quigley, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 226-pounds, has the build and athleticism to be one of Kansas' best. The only thing he had to do was master the position that he had never played before the season started. Good luck.

Spring ball provided mixed results. Quigley showed he could be a hard hitter when given the chance. But when he was asked to go into pass coverage, his head would spin.

"I was pretty much running around like a chicken with its head cut off," Quigley said. "I was really struggling."

Still, his saving grace was found roaming the sidelines in new linebackers coach Bill Miller. Need help learning a new play? Go talk to coach Miller. Need help figuring out how to tackle properly? Go talk to coach Miller. Slack off on a play? Coach Miller will find you.

"I love the guy," Quigley said. "I like his intensity. He has a lot of information and he knows defenses inside and out."

Quigley's main role this year will be to rush the passer. The guy who did that last year for Kansas was first team All-Big 12 linebacker James Holt. Both of them have talked this offseason with Holt giving Quigley pointers on how to attack the quarterback.

"You got to listen to a guy like that because he has had success," Quigley said.
"So I try to take that in and out to the field."

During the open practice last week, Quigley played with both the first and second team defenses. Mangino kept a close eye on his talkative linebacker. At one point, Mangino gave Quigley a simple message: play more, talk less.

Afterwards, Mangino didn't hold back when he gave his assessment on Quigley.

"His growth at that position has not been nearly as fast as I would have liked for it to be," Mangino said. "It is a crash course for him and he really needs to understand the urgency there.

"When he comes to terms with that I think he will be ok," he added.

For Quigley, the uncertainty about playing a new position is added by the fact that he doesn't even know if this will be his final year at Kansas. He missed all of 2005 with an ACL injury, and has the option of playing in 2010.

Quigley said it would all depend on how this year goes.

"Right now I am worried about this upcoming season, and when it is over with, we will go from there," Quigley said.

After losing all three starting linebackers from last year, all of the spots are up for grabs. Quigley said the group is ready to step up and fill that void left by the graduating seniors.

"We can't be the weak link," Quigley said. "We have to hold up our end of the deal."


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