Oct. 24, 2011
Opening statement: Our players enjoyed what we felt like was a needed week off. Some of them were tired. I got to sit back and watch about every football game from Thursday night to Saturday night late. It was fun. The guys returned last night. Everybody was on time and excited about the meeting. We had a tremendous practice. We feel like they'll be fresh, rested, ready to play on Saturday night. Over the weekend we asked them to rest, eat right. Sometimes they go home, mama will fix too much grease for them, come back a lot heavier than they went home. [We asked them] to hydrate, to watch the K State/KU game, and the Texas Tech/Oklahoma game [to] kind a get a scouting report on their game.
We're happy to be at home for the next two weeks. We're 21 in DKR. The seniors only have three home games left. Playing better at home was one of the real points of emphasis for this year. We'll expect an excited crowd on Saturday night to see our guys come back.
Not many changes on the depth chart. [DB] Adrian Phillips' shoulder is not well, so he will miss the game on Saturday. He's the only one as of right now that is definitely out. The quarterback situation hasn't changed. We'll look at them both throughout the week. We worked hard on a number of areas offensively to improve, but we've got to get the guy that gets us in the end zone the most.
Defensively over the bye week we continued to work on forcing turnovers because we've got to be strong in that area here at the end. We're getting around the passer. We need to get to the passer. We have to hit him, force more turnovers by sacks on the quarterback, and we got to stop the big play. Even the big runs we gave up against Oklahoma State I saw again with Missouri this weekend. I think Oklahoma State is a great football team, but we gave up the big play against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. We need to stop that. We can still score on defense. That's something we feel we haven't done very often this year.
Offensively we've got to continue to protect the ball better. We had three turnovers against Oklahoma State. We have to make sure we're protecting the ball, especially our quarterbacks. We've got to score in the red zone. That's been an issue for too long. We worked really hard on it so hopefully we'll see some progress this weekend. We've also got to work in the vertical passing game because we need to throw the ball down field successfully more [often]. We've thrown it down field, but we're not getting what we need to in the production.
Special teams with kickoff return has been so good. We're one of the best in the country. Leading the country in that area. We anticipate different kind of kicks this weekend. We feel like we'll get some sky kicks and squibs. We really worked hard on different types of kicks this week. Covering kickoffs is really a problem across the country when they move the kicker back. A lot more returns, people are struggling. We're not doing well in that area. We've changed up personnel, the way we're doing, and hopefully we'll see progress there as well. On special teams we hope that some of these freshmen are growing up and they'll play better down the stretch.
You also look at midseason. We had a really long time to reevaluate the first six games. We have more of an identity now than we did starting the season. Your young players are more experienced so the coaches know more about them and what they can do. We have a better understanding across the board of our offense and defense and where we're headed. We also have been exposed with some of our concerns. We're working hard to get those corrected.
Coaches were out all weekend and had a big recruiting weekend. They left Thursday night after practice, stayed out Thursday night, all day Friday, all day Saturday and Saturday night. You're limited on [the] number of evaluations you can have. Every one of our coaches were out this weekend fighting the road in recruiting. We feel like we have another strong class. We need to finish well in it. It could be one of our strongest classes ever. Back-to-back with next year's class makes the future look very bright.
We're sitting here at 42, with our record exactly the same as last year.
We didn't respond well at the last of the season.
We are excited about changing that. There's some really good teams the next six weeks. But we want to see how much we've improved.
KU's opponents have been undefeated in the last five games. This year's game is like Iowa State's game. Oklahoma had beaten them in the 50s, everybody laughed at them, they came in and got after us and played very well. We are not sitting here looking at anything except how we play. We want to improve. We want to be 52. Turner Gill, the head coach at Kansas, he comes from Buffalo where they won a conference championship and he took them to a bowl game. Offensively, they're running the ball very well. They're averaging just under 200 yards a game. They're averaging 405 total offense, scoring 30 points a game like we are. Their red zone efficiency is 89%, 23rd best in the country. So they're scoring in the red zone better than we are. Their quarterback has done a better job. Jordan Webb is 15th in passing efficiency. All five offensive linemen are rushing starters. They've got big strong guys up front. They're keeping the balls 31 plus minutes per game. Time of possession has been very important to them as it has been to us. They're multiple on defense, blitz about 64% of time. Steven Johnson, their middle linebacker, is their leading tackler and a very good pro prospect. Both defensive ends have done a great job with their passrush.
The biggest thing we need to do is keep coming back and improving and win. That's the most important [thing] for us. After bye weeks, we've been 174. Whatever we've done in bye weeks by and large have been successful for us the week after.
This is our cancer awareness game. It's something that the players asked for each year a couple years ago when [former DT] Lamarr Houston said what the pros were doing. He had someone in his family affected by cancer. He felt like he would like to honor that person, and we did. They will get to choose a purple decal, a pink, or yellow decal for their helmet this weekend. They'll dedicate the game to someone that they've either lost, is fighting or survived this awful disease.
On the team's identity: We haven't played well enough that we understand who we are, I think. Last year's team had a false impression, and I think our coaches did at some point. After Nebraska, we came home thinking we had it all fixed, then we didn't play great against Iowa State. Had five turnovers. It's an area where we need to show improvement. The way they practiced last week was better than the bye week earlier in the season. The way they came back to practice last night, I anticipate they'll be excited and play well on Saturday.
On the team compared to last year's team at this point: This team has got better chemistry. The leadership has done a better job. They've worked harder on a daytoday basis. They seem to have passion about the game. When we haven't played well, it hasn't been that they weren't ready to play and they didn't try. Again, selfevaluation is a difficult thing. Right now our team and our coaches know who exactly we are, what we are, what our areas of concerns are [and] what we've got to get fixed.
On keeping a positive mentality: I think when they looked up and saw OU was 3 and Oklahoma State 4 in the country after we played them, they realized we played two of the best teams in the country. They're watching games very closely. The Tech/Oklahoma game got their attention. Kansas State definitely has their attention the way they're playing. It's kind of like a group of fans that are watching very closely to see how we are compared to other people [and] what we need to improve. This is also, for a young group, they've been very mature about what it takes to win. They're asking those questions. But we're showing them numbers that show exactly where we have to improve.
On staying focused after facing two top-five opponents: The thing that we know is that we've got to play really hard and play really well to finish strong. We are not good enough not to play our best. We're excited about seeing how we can improve and where we can improve. That's what I saw last night. We told the players in our meeting last night that everything should be better than it was at the first of the season. We said this would be a team with a huge learning curve. Now with 10 days to prepare for Kansas, 10 days after the two setbacks to get ready for the next game, we feel like we should be much better in those areas. We're excited to see that. It's easy to say it. It's hard to do it.
On positives taken from the OSU game: I think there was a lot of improvement. I think after watching Oklahoma State play Missouri, they are good. We thought they were good, but they are really good. They did the same things to Missouri that they did to us. They lose their two best receivers and don't even flinch in the second half. That's a mature football team that is playing with a lot of confidence. They don't panic very easily. We still had our chances to come back and win. Hopefully we can continue to grow from that game.
On the depth in the secondary: You go back and you start looking at who has played, who has played well. You still have Quandre [Diggs], who is an older freshmen. Carrington [Byndom] is playing very well. You lose to a degree Christian Scott in special teams and some of the things he can do, but he's still trying to fight through his sore wrist. You have Kenny Vaccaro and Blake [Giideon] as older guys. Josh Turner is trying to step up and play more at corner. Probably the fact that some of these young guys are going to be forced to play more this year will help us [next] year when we lose the two senior safeties. We also feel Demarco Cobbs coming back, so that should help us some because he is kind of the hybrid between safety and linebacker and can play some nickel or dime if we need to. This will be more of a running game. Their leading receiver is a tight end. They're rushing the ball well. They're trying to stay on the field. That's what you have to stop first. This will be about being physical on both sides of the ball.
On Kansas and head coach Turner Gill: The juniors and seniors were recruited by [former KU head coach] Mark Mangino.They haven't changed a lot. They still want to be physical up front. You look at Turner's background offensively being the great quarterback at Nebraska. He wants to pound you. He wants to keep the ball and use playaction to keep the ball deep. They're doing that well with their offense.
On red zone efficiency: Yes, we have worked so hard on red zone all year. We just haven't been as productive as we need to be. Again, like Kansas, the last two games, those were two really two good red zone defenses we were playing. But we feel like we know more about who we are right now. We still have to get some things settled at quarterback. [RB Malcolm [Brown] stepped up, continues to improve, has good ball security. Fozzy [Whittaker], Cody [Johnson], our staff has a lot better feeling of their role. You look at Marquise Goodwin. He's had a whirlwind here since the world games. So not going through spring practice, not going through an offseason through the spring and summer, not going through twoadays, he's finally at a point where we feel he can play more snaps, continue to get better. We're in hopes that he will get some chances here because we need his speed and his experience. So we feel like all those things should help us as we start looking at scoring more points. The other thing, it's like turnovers. They come in bunches. When you start scoring, you get great confidence. It was easy to score at UCLA. They were long scores. We weren't in the red zone as often. I think the last three weeks is where we've been so ineffective. It started at Iowa State. Before that we were doing a good job.
On RBs Cody Johnson and Fozzy Whittaker: Cody and Fozzy have been remarkable stories this year. Number one, they've both been very unselfish. Fozzy mentors Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown every day. He eats with them, talks to them, tries to help them with everything he's doing. Malcolm has got a lot of publicity. That could have been sensitive for Fozzy. He's worked hard for five years. Even more so, Cody is a guy that was starting at tailback at times last year. I think he understands what we need for him to do right now. Which is remarkable in a time where we have so many selfish players and parents, that he would give up his starting role as a tailback. He's playing really well at fullback. He's helping himself for the NFL.
On the team's identity: At this point we're a running football team that needs to throw the ball better downfield. That's who we are. We haven't changed in our thoughts. We've got multiple formations. We're trying to control the clock. We're trying to be physical. We're getting better upfront and more physical as we go, which was evident against Oklahoma State. And we just have to get more production in our passing game down the field and take care of the ball. Defensively we're a team that, as we said, is all over the place. We're blitzing. We're moving. Our number one goal on defense was to stop the run. We've done that by and large. We've given up the big plays that have been so obvious to all of us that we have to stop. To do that, because we're putting guys in gaps, we're moving them to put them there. You have to do your job. We can't have a guy a little bit wide or a little slow getting there. That's the difficult part of this defense. Hopefully that will continue to get better. The second part of it was then put pressure on the quarterback, disguise, confuse him, and hit him. Get some sacks. We haven't done the last part of that because our sack numbers aren't what they should be. I thought we were much more effective in disrupting [OSU QB Brandon] Weeden than we were [OU QB} Landry Jones. We couldn't get there. Landry Jones played lights out. We made Brandon hold the ball more.
On the Big 12's high-powered offenses: We're averaging 30 points a game, and that in some leagues would be fine. This league, you have four or five AllAmerican quarterbacks. Four or five guys that could legitimately go to New York for the Heisman Trophy. It will end up being guys that are winning enough games to go, probably. I mean, there's a lot of guys that could go without question. So in this league, that's the problem you've got. Thirty points is not enough to win most ballgames. We have to score more points here in the next six weeks because we continue to play teams that could slow it so well. Gene Chizik, Will Muschamp, now Manny Diaz all have said this league just gives you fits with the offense, the receivers, the quarterbacks, the multiple formations. It's so much different than the SEC which is more of a line up, be simple, try to knock your head off, throw playaction passes. It is very difficult for defensive coordinators in this league to adjust to all the things they have to see. I do think it helps you the more you're here. Will and Gene will come in here and say, "Wow, these guys can throw the ball and score points." There's so many points scored in the league, I don't think the defensive coaches and players get near the attention that they deserve.
On why the Big 12 has so many high-powered offenses: I think it's more of a system thing. The PAC12 for years has been a throwing league. That's who they were. The Mountain West, the WAC, throw it every time. Brigham Young has been a pass team forever. We kind of brought it here with Vince [Young]. Mike Leach brought it to Oklahoma. It's kind of spread into Texas Tech. Gary Pinkel was a tough running guy. Now they're one of the best at the spread in the country with Chase Daniel and on through. Texas Tech, with Tommy Tuberville, he was a run first guy. He hires a guy from Troy State to run the spread and his quarterback has the great game against OU, and he's the player of the week offensively in the Big 12. I feel in high school football, the sevenonseven leagues have produced more quarterbacks for this league, summer leagues. I think that's another emphasis now. You're having more trouble finding the great tailback, the great fullback, the great tight end because everybody in high school is running the spread here as well.
On turnovers: Our turnovers have mostly been in the quarterback area. They have to have a time clock in their head and get rid of the ball because we lost a fumble last week for a busted assignment upfront. It's not just the quarterback's fault when we're not blocking them well upfront. If you really watch Landry Jones, Weeden in our ballgame, they got rid of the ball so many times when we were there. Could have been sacks, fumbles. They got it out of their hands. Those are things we'll continue to do better each week. Our runningbacks and receivers have handled it well.
On Fozzy Whittaker's success on kickoff returns: I think you have to have the guy. You look at D.J. Monroe. He did it against two lesser teams. He still did it, was untouched in both of those. Last year we thought it was an area we didn't do well. [Co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach] Major [Applewhite] has taken our punt team over and has done a great job. [Recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach] Bruce Chambers, who worked it for the 14 years. [Co-recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach] Darrell Wyatt who has been very good in special teams at other schools. Guys are getting a tremendous amount of pride. That's why we also gave Fozzy the ability to return it from five yards deep. We said, "Let's forget the old rule. If you're two yards deep, leave it in. If it's five, leave it out, take a chance."
On deciding who returns kickoffs: It's a hard one. We looked at Marquise, who has returned one for a touchdown. We looked at D.J. Neither had the success last year we wanted. Marquise was out of shape. Wasn't as strong because he wasn't lifting with the program. We tried to get him more in tuned to the offense. D.J. was all over the place, but now he's hitting it better. We felt like Christian Scott was the guy. Malcolm Williams was the guy. Malcolm is gone, Christian breaks his wrist, you take him off special teams. We really felt like we had not had Fozzy in there in the past because of injuries. Now Malcolm [Brown] is doing better [in the running game], Fozzy wanted to do it. We just felt he's smart, quick, can catch, we felt he might be as good at this as he is. He's obviously been better than we anticipated or we would have had him there four years ago.
On Kansas QB Jordan Webb: He's much improved from last year. Third down efficiency, passing efficiency, that's a credit to him. He's big. He can move. They're running the ball well enough that they're protecting better because their offensive line is good. He's been very accurate. He's about even in his interception/touchdown ratio. I think it's 8 to 9. He's made some great throws. He's played against some of the best defenses in the country the last four or five weeks in a row. I think he's the reason they've improved more on defense. They have four different running backs that all have over a hundred yards. You're talking about running back by committee. But Webb has done a great job of leading them.
On co-recruiting coordinator/wide receivers coach Darrell Wyatt: Darrell has done a great job for us, especially in our blocking downfield. We have to get more explosive runs. He's a guy that can do that. He also was at Kansas last year so he knows this team very well. This will be a very important game to him. I laughed. [Asked him], "Will this be any more special for you?" [He answered], "I've coached at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas, all of these are special to me because I know every coach in this league." He'll be excited to see a lot of those kids he recruited last year and see the coaches as well. But Darrell has done a very good job for us. We're getting better at receiver. You just look at the losses in receiver here the last couple years, whether it's Dan Buckner, Brandon Collins, Greg Timmons, Malcolm Williams. There's a lot of guys that would be seniors now that aren't on this football team. He's had his hands full with such a young group of trying to get them to improve each week and not get down on themselves.