Kansas Football Runs Through First Spring Practice

April 1, 2011

Press Conference Videos Coach Gill | LB Opurum | RB Sims | WR Patterson

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas football ran through its first of 15 spring practices under the direction of second-year head coach Turner Gill on a sunny Friday afternoon at the KU practice fields.

The Jayhawks, who wore helmets, shorts and jerseys, worked out for two hours and 45 minutes in 60-degree weather.

“I definitely have a smile on my face. It was good to see our team out practicing and getting things done in a good way. I love their energy,” Gill said. “We definitely changed the format. We have everybody getting a lot more reps. It was good to see our guys come out and perform in a good way. They came out enthusiastic and running around. It showed our strength staff did a great job and our players did a good job of being in pretty good shape, coming out here and ready to go.”

The players were eager to take to the field for spring drills.

“It feels really, really good to get back out here,” redshirt freshman running back Brandon Burbon said. “We worked really hard this winter. I was excited to see some guys out there and see the improvement.”

The Jayhawks will return to the field for practice Saturday morning, then take Sunday off and resume next Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons to complete their first week. KU’s final practice will be April 30 when it hosts the annual Spring Game at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas football fans can follow the Jayhawks on the internet through KU’s official website – www.kuathletics.com – and through Gill’s website – coachturnergill.com.

Spring Practice Quotes

April 1, 2011

Lawrence, Kan.

Head Coach Turner Gill

On the first day of spring practice:

It was good to have our football team out practicing and getting things done in a good way. We definitely changed a little bit of our format and have everybody getting in a lot more reps. It was good to see our guys come out enthusiastic, running around and it shows that our strength staff and our players did a good job of staying in shape and coming out here ready to go.”

On switching players to different positions:

“We can always switch them around and if it doesn’t work we can moved them back, but we are just trying to gain more depth at a lot of positions and we are trying to find guys who can make plays for us.”

On what he expects out of spring practice:

“We are trying to become more efficient, execute better and we want to become deeper at certain positions. One of the things we changed is how many reps guys get. We split up our staff a bit to where we have two teams going at one time. That allows us to get guys a lot more reps and as a result they will perform better and, hopefully, we will be more productive as a team. The other thing we want to see is just trying to get more speed on the field, whether it is offense, defense or special teams.”

On his relatively young team:

“We are definitely a young team if you look at the freshman and sophomores, and we have 14 seniors on the team this year. But we do have a lot of guys who did not play with us last year. We also have some that red-shirted who will benefit from that year because they got bigger, faster, and stronger and are ready to play at a high level, as they will have an opportunity to play.”

On his familiarity with the team:

“Familiarity helps in a lot of ways but I think the biggest thing is that we had a whole year to see them do some things with a football helmet on and this off-season we had a chance to watch them twice. Our guys know now what to anticipate and what our expectations are in terms of defining what we want, what we need and how we are going to do it.”

On early indicators of who may lead the team this fall:

“There isn’t really one person who has stood out more than anyone else from a leadership standpoint. Once we get some pads on and we get five or six days in with two scrimmages then we can see who will rise to the top. I do think that Tim Biere may be one guy who stood out a little bit because I loved the way he came out and did some things. But there are many other guys who did well.”

On the team’s quarterback situation:

“It’s in question because I can’t sit here and say who is going to be here ready to start next year. We are going to evaluate each and every day and at the end of spring football practice we will see where we are at and if we need to make a decision, we will make it. And if not, we will continue to evaluate as we continue to go into the fall.”

On the competition for all starting jobs on the team:

“We don’t want anybody to get complacent and we have stated to them that we are going to have a competition and what you did last year we will take into consideration, but it is not etched in stone that you will be the guy that will be starting in our first ball game.”

On Jordan Webb’s progress in the off-season:

“He has gotten stronger as far as in the weight room and has gotten physically a little bit bigger. I think that is going to help a lot of things as far as staying healthy and also being able to take the hits while making much better decisions.”

On the improvements of his off-season conditioning plan:

“I sat down with our strength staff and wanted to make sure everything they did with the players was to be geared toward more explosive movements and being able to get stronger. We gave a lot more opportunity to lift as in four days versus three days and we did a lot more running than we did the previous year, so we did a combination of those two things to get them more conditioned and have them in better shape.”

Junior DE Toben Opurum

On going into his second season at his new position:

“My teammates have helped my transition to defense be a lot easier than what it should be. Every day I am out here working with them and they really help me adjust to it.”

On what is different in this year’s spring practice:

“Everyone’s attitude is different — 3-9 is not what we expected. It’s not what we wanted and it is really unacceptable here so everyone’s intensity has been up. We don’t want to repeat that type of season.”

On his familiarity with Coach Gill and his coaching staff:

“We’re used to the faces, we’re used to the terminology and we’re used to their attitude and work ethic, so that is definitely beneficial for us.”

Sophomore LB Huldon Tharp

On losing several senior linebackers:

“It is definitely hard losing (Drew) Dudley and (Justin) Springer because freshman year that’s who I played with and they were mentors to me who I learned a lot from. It’s tough losing them but we still have a lot of athleticism without them and I think we are going to be successful no matter what.”

On sitting out last fall due to injury:

“It has hard during the fall, watching when we struggled which is tough to watch but I have definitely learned from it.”

On being back out on the practice field:

“That is the reason I came to play football here, is because I love the game. Getting to be out here with my brothers — there is nothing quite like it.”

On LB Darius Willis’ progress:

“I have seen a lot of athleticism from him and he is determined to be successful. He’s always talking to me about getting in and wanting to watch film late or early so I know he is dedicated. He’s a great football player and there is no doubt he is going to be successful.

On the team rebounding from last season:

“We have a chip on our shoulder. We went 3-9, and that’s not something that any of us are ok with. Everyone on this team is going to work as hard as they can to get back to an Orange Bowl and compete for a Big 12 Championship. That’s what we are working toward.”

Running Back James Sims

On how winter workouts have gone for himself and his teammates:

“Winter workouts have been going great. Everyone is getting better. The coaching staff is pushing us and getting the best out of us. Compared to the season this past fall, I feel like we’re in a lot better position.”

On how he is moving forward after his break-out freshman season:

“I give a lot of credit to my offensive line. We really work as a team. Most of the games last season we didn’t come out ready to play, so we’re really trying to work on that and trying to learn from that as we head into this season.”

On how he is adapting to the large number of running backs on the roster:

“It just makes me work harder. They bring them in here to help as a team. I respect that. I’m going to compete regardless of who comes in and who doesn’t.”

On the possibility of returning punts this year:

“I’m looking forward to doing some punt returning this year. It’s up to Coach Gill and what he wants to do, because he has Daymond Patterson and D.J. Beshears already out there. Hopefully I can get into the rotation.”

Quarterback Jordan Webb

On his thoughts of the team’s first spring practice:

“It was good. We got a lot of productive stuff done. We split the fields up so we’re getting twice the reps now. Guys are working hard. We’re excited and looking forward to getting out there next season.”

On the quarterback competition between himself and his teammates:

“We’re really competitive, me and Quinn (Mecham) both are. We’re friends first, and foremost, but we’re also looking for what’s best for the team.”

On the team’s status this year compared to last year as this time:

“I think everyone knows what to expect more. We’re not thinking as much, we’re just reacting and that’s going to make us a lot faster on both sides of the ball.”

On the position switches of some of his teammates this season:

“The coaches are just trying to put guys in the right positions to make the biggest effect on the team. In Kale (Pick’s) case, he’s definitely going to excel at receiver. I had a lot of fun throwing at him today. He’s fast. He runs good routes and he’s going to block too.”

Wide Receiver Kale Pick

On his change from quarterback to receiver:

“Things are going good. I think I’ve caught on pretty quick, but I still need Improvement in my route running. I think it’s been a pretty smooth transition.”

On if playing quarterback has helped him in his transition to wide receiver:

“Definitely, it makes it easier recognizing the coverages and seeing what the quarterback is thinking. It’s also helped seeing their progression.”

On the type of routes he has been running in practice:

“I’ve basically been doing all of them. A lot of streaks down the middle and some down the hash marks. I’ve done some digs and corner routes, so some of those short ones too. It’s been a good variety of all of them.”

On how he thinks the quarterbacks have developed in the offseason:

“Maturity; they both have a lot of confidence in what they do. After last season and now this offseason you can tell that they’ve been through this routine now and are ready to accept that leadership role as quarterback.”