Inside the Kansas football locker room, nobody would mistake Jimmay Mundine for a quiet soul. Mundine, a tight end, is a born talker, quick-witted and friendly, the kind of college senior who could talk for hours about his childhood in Denison, Texas, or the finer points of his communications degree.
If Mundine is not talking, he is not living. So, yes, it was nearly 10 days ago that Mundine walked quickly down a long tunnel at Jones AT&T Stadium at Texas Tech. It was halftime, and teammates could hear Mundine’s voice, revving up again. This time, he was talking to his quarterback, junior Michael Cummings, and he had an imperative message. The Texas Tech defense was shading him to the outside, leaving the middle of the field open. If the Red Raiders kept doing it, he was floating toward the opening — even if that wasn’t the play.
“I know the coaches are going to get on us tomorrow at film,” Mundine said, “but we’re going to get the first down.”
The halftime conversation between tight end and quarterback paid off. Mundine finished with a career-high seven catches for 82 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown reception in the second half that cut the Texas Tech lead to six points in an eventual 34-21 loss. The impressive performance came just one week after Mundine hauled in five receptions for a career-high 88 yards in a loss to Oklahoma State. Now Mundine will try to maintain the production as the Jayhawks prepare to travel to No. 12 Baylor at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
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Mundine’s offensive surge parallels the emergence of Cummings, who replaced Montell Cozart as the Jayhawks’ starting quarterback against Oklahoma State on Oct. 11. Cummings has completed 40 of 79 passes for 523 yards in two games, and 35 percent of his completions have gone to Mundine and freshman tight end Ben Johnson.
“Jimmay is a talented young man,” KU interim coach Clint Bowen said, “and a guy that can make some plays for us in a lot of different ways.”
At different times, Mundine has lined up as a traditional, blocking tight end; a receiver out wide; and a fullback in the backfield. At any moment, though, Mundine can be a weapon in the passing game.
“When you have a guy with that versatility,” Bowen said, “you can move him around and use him quite a bit.”
Mundine entered last week’s bye with a career-high 23 catches for 294 yards in seven games, finally tapping into some of the promise he showed during his sophomore and junior seasons.
Yes, the talent and potential always seemed apparent. Mundine stands 6 feet 2 and 240 pounds, and he has adequate speed for the position. If you watched enough Kansas football, it always seemed clear: If Mundine was ever teamed with a respectable quarterback — in a passing offense that clicked — he would be an intriguing target.
Mundine, though, managed just 14 catches in 2011 and finished with 20 receptions and five touchdowns last season. This season, he’s nearly on pace to match the number of receptions (41) he amassed in his first three years.
So earlier this month, in a quiet moment after a game, Mundine was asked if he enjoyed that Cummings was proving adroit at finding the Jayhawks’ tight ends. He smiled.
“C’mon,” he said. “Of course I like the job Michael does finding me.”
This Saturday, the Jayhawks will need as much offense as they can muster. Baylor, 6-1, is second in the conference in scoring, averaging 49 points per game, and the Bears are coming off a loss against West Virginia on Oct. 18.
For Mundine, this much is clear: He needs to keep making plays.
“We just go out there and just make it happen,” Mundine said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do as an offense — get first downs and score touchdowns.”