Meier's chance as full-time wide receiver could be looming

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Part of Kerry Meier has never been able to completely make the transition to wide receiver.

But it's hard to determine if wearing a red practice jersey as the Jayhawks' backup quarterback has really affected Meier's development into one of the Big 12's top receivers.

While spending only about half of his practice time working with receivers, Meier blossomed, breaking the school record with 97 catches last season.

Meier's production was even more amazing considering he spent up to half his time working as Todd Reesing's primary backup at quarterback the last two seasons while playing receiver.

"That's what keeps me kind of excited and high about next year is that spending just half the amount of time at receiver I had that many catches and if I increase it," Meier said. "But that could be all talk."

The arrival of heralded redshirt freshman quarterback Kale Pick could give Meier the chance to finally move to wide receiver.

Kansas coach Mark Mangino said Pick's development in the spring and through the summer could lead him to permanently moving Meier to wide receiver. But he wants to be sure about Pick is ready before making the move, he said.

"We're trying to get in a situation where Kale is really comfortable with the entire system and just feels good about everything," Mangino said. "I think we can get where we could give Kerry full-time work at wide receiver, but we won't do that until we're absolutely sure that Kale is ready to be that backup guy."

Meier continues to work about 30 percent of his practices wearing the red jersey as a backup quarterback as Pick progresses.

"We don't have to talk about it. It's like the 800-pound gorilla," Mangino said. "Kerry realizes that we would prefer him just to be receiver. We think it would be beneficial to him and the team in the long run. But he knows that he's got to do what he's got to do, and he's always been a team player."

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Meier understands that his best shot at professional football will come at wide receiver. He has talked with Kansas coaches about playing the position full time, but is a key producer because of his varied roles. In addition to the wide receiver/quarterback combination, he's also the holder for Kansas' placekicks and was listed as the team's backup punter.

"I've brought it up," Meier said. "But right now, I'm the kind of guy that's living in the present. And the present is next year with the Jayhawks. If the NFL is gonna come, it'll come. I think next year, if we have another great year like we did last year, then I see myself getting to the league. But right now, I'm focused on winning 12, 13 ballgames with the Jayhawks next year."

It's hard to argue with Meier's production at either position. He finished the regular season with a 14-catch effort against Missouri punctuated by two fourth-quarter touchdowns that sparked the comeback.

And in the Jayhawks' Insight Bowl victory over Minnesota, Meier produced 10 grabs for 113 yards and also provided a touchdown pass on a reverse pass.

Meier completed all three of his passes last season -- all from the wide receiver position. But he was also effective as a backup quarterback the previous season when he completed 25 of 28 passes. He will enter the 2009 season with a streak of 13 consecutive completions, dating back to the sixth game of the 2007 season.

Mangino has always been hesitant to completely move Meier to wide receiver because of his productivity at both positions.

"He might be a guy who likes both roles and they make him comfortable," Mangino said. "Doing what he does takes pressure off of each role on the team. When he's at receiver, he gets a break once in awhile at quarterback. And when he's at quarterback, it gives him a break at receiver and it makes him mentally fresh."

The move to move Meier came midway through the 2007 season after Reesing became entrenched at quarterback and the team started winning. Kansas coaches wanted to get another playmaker on the field, leading to the part-time move of Meier to wide receiver.

From that humble beginning, Meier's role has become bigger and more varied. And with Dezmon Briscoe's suspension this spring for an undisclosed violation of team rules, Meier now is Reesing's unquestioned top receiving threat.

"We always knew he was a pretty good athlete and a special kid in terms of athleticism and also intelligence," Mangino said. "But I'm not going to lie to you. He's exceeded our expectations as a receiver -- particularly when you consider it's technically been a part-time job."

The return of Reesing, Meier, running back Jake Sharp and other key offensive weapons have boosted confidence for the Jayhawks heading into the upcoming season.

Kansas made back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in school history last season. But Meier and other teammates believe that bigger goals are attainable.

"We put shirts on all winter that said we want to win the North," Meier said. "That's our next step. We're set to be a great team, but it's nothing until we stop out on the field and produce those numbers. Our offense looks good, but it doesn't mean much until August (practice) gets here."