Coach Campo Holds Press Conference, KU Football Runs Through Fifth Spring Work Out

April 5, 2012

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LAWRENCE, Kan. – Defensive Coordinator Dave Campo held his first press conference as a member of the Jayhawk coaching staff, while the team convened for its fifth practice of the spring season Thursday at the Anderson Family Football Complex. The Jayhawks were in pads for the third-straight practice and worked on several fundamentals during the two-hour session.

Below is a transcript of Coach Campo’s press conference as well as interviews with select student-athletes.

Kansas Defensive Coordinator Dave Campo

Opening Statement:

“I apologize for being a little bit late, I have been a little discombobulated today. Joe Avezzano, who I worked for at Oregon State and worked with at the University of Pittsburg and about 14-15 years with the Cowboys passed away today in Italy. He was coaching an Italian football team in Italy and died of a heart attack. I just want to convey my condolences to Joe, he was a good friend, and to his family, to Dianne and Tony.”

On Toben Opurum:

“Toben has a chance to be a really good football player. At this point right now, he is still trying to figure out exactly where he is and we are trying to do the same. When you start out on the offensive end and all of a sudden you end up on defense, being a defensive line, outside linebacker type of a position, that is a radical change. He really had a good year last year and we feel like he is making progress. Our whole feeling about this football team right now is like a tryout. We are assessing every person and Toben is doing a nice job, but he has a ways to go because it is a new position and I think he has a chance to be successful as an outside linebacker, defensive line candidate.”

“I think he should be on defense, he is a very aggressive guy. He seems like he runs to the football very well from what we have seen to this point, so I would have to say that was a pretty good move. I can’t see him having an opportunity to go any farther than college football as a running back. I think it gives him a chance to show his athletic ability. He is a physical guy, as I am sure he showed as a running back. He was probably a three yards and a cloud of dust type of running back. I think that equates well to a defensive player.”

On coming back to the college level:

“I have known (head coach) Charlie (Weis) for a long time as an admirer more than anything else, with his ability to coach football. Being from New Jersey and myself being from Connecticut, I know a lot of the guys he grew up with in the areas he was at. Even though I didn’t work with Charlie, I felt like I knew him really well based on that. When he called me I took a look at it and the challenge at this point in my life. If I felt like the challenge was something I wanted to get back into, the enthusiasm and the excitement of college football. At this point right now we haven’t lost a game, so I have made a good decision to this point. I feel real good about it and everything is going well.”

On if he thought about taking the year off from coaching:

“I thought about it, but I’m a football coach. The thing that makes the college level exciting to me at this point is that I think my strength is teaching. I think you have the opportunity to do more of that at the college level than you do in the pros. The guys that I liked best at the pro level were the guys that were just coming in; wanting to get somewhere, working to get somewhere, having that mentality. That was really the biggest motivation for me, getting an opportunity to work with that (mentality) more.”

On if having the NFL experience on the coaching staff helps when telling players they want to change positions:

“We’ve been watching athletes for a long time make the transition from college to the pros. I know this for sure, I know Charlie (Weis) is a very good evaluator. That’s something when you can find a guy like (Tom) Brady out of Michigan, who’s a great quarterback. He’s a very good evaluator at a lot of positions. I consider myself to be a good evaluator, so when you look at a guy and tell him that he might have a chance at the next level at a certain spot; I think that’s something the kid will take to heart.”

On if he watched any tape of guys from the previous year:

“It’s a blank sheet right now. I told our defense that when we first got together. I told them, ‘If you want to know what we’re doing in the next month, I could give you a sheet of paper on how we’re going to insert defenses, but you should really only know one thing and that’s that this (spring) is a tryout.’ That’s the approach that we’re taking. It’s not just a tryout from whether or not you can tackle or whether or not you can run off of a block. It’s about running to the football; it’s about guys that we can count on to put on that field. If we lose a ballgame, it’s not going to be because the guys we have out there aren’t going to play in the fourth quarter. That’s not going to happen because we’re not going to have a guy out there who doesn’t have that mentality of finishing. So it’s a tryout for all of those guys in all of those areas, not only with how they play, but mentally and the type of approach they take as a defensive player.”

On how far the team has come with installing their defense:

“We’re not too far along now because we’re approaching things from the standpoint of going out and defending our own offense to a certain extent and getting ready for the season. We’re doing things that we might not necessarily do against a pro offense or against a spread. We’re sticking some things in there.”

“We’re not progressing nearly as fast as we would in an NFL setting just because we don’t have the time to do that. To be honest with you, we’re trying to evaluate who we are. Scheme is the least concern I have right now. I’m really more concerned with at the end of spring practice being able to say we can count on this guy and this guy and this guy. And the guys that we have coming in are going to fill in and we’ll go from there.”

On what he has seen from the players so far:

“We’re not that far along yet. I have some ideas of some guys that we’ve seen (this spring), but we’ve got our fifth practice coming up. We have an idea of the guys that we think have a chance (to be impact players) for us, but we’re nowhere near where we need to be to decide that this guy is going to play here and this guy is going to play there.”

“The one thing I will say is there has been drastic improvement from the first practice as far as guys understanding what we want – playing hard from the snap of the football to the end of the play. I think that’s what happens sometimes when you come off of a bad season like the guys did, their confidence level isn’t there; they don’t know what to expect. I can tell you what they can expect, that the play is going to be going full speed from the beginning to the end. There have been improvements there. I think guys will continue to get the message that that’s the type of football player we’re going to have on this defensive football team.”

On how long it’s been since he’s had to teach like this:

“It’s been a while, but we teach in the pros. Don’t get me wrong, that’s one of the things we had to do when we got to Dallas because when we got there a lot of people didn’t know their you-know-what from a hole in the ground. At that point in time, there was nobody teaching at the pro level, they would just throw a ball out there and go play. We brought in a college mentality that we’re going to teach and the guys that are going to play are the guys that we can make better. That’s the approach that we’re taking here. We have players who are young – it’s a young defensive football team. We don’t know who we can count on yet, so we’re coaching everybody equally. We’ve got to see improvement from week to week. It’s a steady improvement.”

“They weren’t very good defensively last year, so to think that we’re just going to walk out there and dominate everybody defensively, it’s just not going to happen. What we are going to do is make everybody accountable; the guys that we count on are the ones that will play four quarters of football. Now, how quickly that comes on is going to be determined by who we have coming in and how they fit in. We have some junior college guys coming in (during the summer) and we have to see how many guys can come to the front and find out who we can count on for leadership. That’s what we’re working on right now more than anything else.”

On if any one player has separated himself yet as an impact guy:

“I’d rather stay away from that because again, it’s a day-to-day situation with these guys. I want everybody to think that they’re that guy. That’s the approach that we’re taking. Our depth chart is fluid. We’ll go from one day to the next where there’s a different guy working with the first group because the depth chart means absolutely nothing (right now) other than to tell the guy who thought he was first team, ‘Hey, you better get going, because this guy is in there now.’ The only thing I’m really excited about is that guys are starting to get what we want from them.”

On if anybody has stepped up as a leader on the defensive side of the ball:

“I don’t think we have anybody like that feels comfortable enough to do that right now. We have to teach them to do that. There are some guys that we think have the mentality to do that. A leader can be a lot of things, but usually it’s a pretty good football player that everybody has a lot of respect for. At this point, your guys – Toben (Opurum) and Greg Brown – that have played some have more people looking at them, but I don’t think anybody feels like they can step up right now because they’re fighting for their own lives.”

On if any players have commented about the differences between this year and last year:

“I really don’t worry about what the guys did last year. All I care about is what we’re doing now. One thing I will say is, there were three defensive backs on their day off watching tape on their own. When you have guys doing that, they’re figuring out that there might be something taught here and they can get better and have a chance to go forward.”

“When we first got together with the defense, I told the guys, ‘This is a two-way street. I have to prove to you that I can help you get better and we’re doing things the right way here on defense. That’s my responsibility. At the same time, it’s your responsibility to prove to me that you can do what we ask of you. The only way we’re going to be successful is for everybody to buy into each other. That’s the bottom line.’ So when you have guys coming around and asking things instead of you going to them, it means you’re heading in the right direction and that’s the way I feel it is right now. How good are we going to be? Time will tell.”

On how Clint Bowen has fit in with the current coaching staff:

“I have a lot of respect for that young man. He means a lot to me because he brings instant credibility to how to play football in this league. This guy is a good football coach and I’m excited to have him. I’m really excited about our defensive staff. We have a good group of guys and they’re all just a little different. I think that’s how you have to do it.”

On how getting players differs from the NFL to college:

“I think you don’t go out to recruit to your system, but recruiting is just like the NFL in certain ways. In the NFL, you may be in your draft meeting and need a defensive back, but the best player on the board is a running back in your spot. You rarely pass that guy up because if you do, you’re going to lose out on some very good football players. It’s the same thing in the college level for recruiting. Even though we might end up stock-piling a position, if you have a chance to get a bunch of good football players, you have a chance to end up being a good football team. If you just go get a defensive back because you need one, he might not be the best guy that helps your football team win when it’s all said and done. So (in the college game) it’s probably more so that you have to tailor what you do to what you have on the team. You don’t get to pick them, you have to go out and recruit them and if they fit your scheme great. You want the best athletes that can run because I can promise you this, in this league you have to be able to run with all the open-space offenses that you’re going to face.”

On how he rates the current team-speed:

“Not the best, but I think we have some guys that can run. You have to remember, you don’t have to find 30 guys that can run. All you have to do is find 11 of them. That’s something that people forget sometimes. I guarantee that our 30 players are maybe not as good as 30 players at Oklahoma. But maybe six of them are as good as anybody at Oklahoma. Then you have to find guys to fill in that do it the right way, and then you’ve got a chance to get better.”

On the defensive line:

“That’s an area that we have to get better at. I think the guys that are there right now are fighting. Each day, they’re getting a little bit better with knowing what we expect from an every-play situation. We’re down in the defensive line; we don’t have a lot of guys. That was one thing we figured out right away when we got here that the defensive line was a position of need and one of the reasons that we went out and got some of the young players that we did in recruiting. That’s an ongoing process. Are we where we need to be right now? Probably not. Are there a couple of guys in that group that have a chance to help us? Yes. It’s an ongoing position for us right now.”

On if there is a benefit to having fewer guys in a position group:

“Absolutely. (Getting more reps and more attention) is how they have to approach it right now. Some guys look at it that way, and that’s the type of guy that we want. Some guys might look at it and say, ‘Oh my god, I have to go five extra reps today.’ Those are the type of guys that we want to go to Oklahoma or somewhere else. The first type is the kind we want at KU. We have some of those guys right now.”

Senior safety Bradley McDougald

On the kind of defense the team has been running:

“We’ve been doing a lot of man coverage; Coach (Charlie) Weis and Coach (Dave) Campo together are going to bring a lot more pressure than we did last year when we sat back and played a lot more zone. This year we’re getting up in people’s faces; the safeties are even coming down and playing man so that’s probably the biggest difference we’re doing this year.”

On if playing man coverage is something he likes:

“I definitely like it; I mean, we’re doing a lot more man than we’ll probably do in the regular season, but coach just needs to see who can stick because if we can’t stick then we’re going to have to alter our defensive game plan.”

On if he feels like the defense laid back a little too much:

“Well that’s a different staff and they had a different game plan going into the season so I can’t really compare the two. Coach Campo’s style of coaching is a little different from the coaches last year but we’re definitely buying into what they’re saying and everyone is flying around trying to make plays.”

On if having a clean slate with new coaches is an advantage:

“You can look at it both ways; you can look at it and say that all of your hard work has been done for nothing or you can look in the positive light and impress a new set of people. This is my third go-around doing this so I’m kind of used to it. It is kind of unfair as a senior that you have to prove yourself again, but it’s a part of the game. New coaches come and you have to make plays because that’s your job to do, so no matter who’s coaching you, no matter who’s in front of you, you have to make plays.”

Junior nose tackle Shane Smith

On what some new drills are and what the purposes of them are:

“We’re really focusing on our pass rush and working on our technique so we’re doing a lot of footwork drills, we hit the bags and we hit the sleds a lot. It helps us get in shape, really, because it’s our practice so it helps get us warmed up, loosened up and it’s really just good for repetitions. If you just do it over and over again, then once you get into a game and you’re tired and not thinking, then it just comes naturally.”

On recapping what the defense did last season compared to this season:

“We had a base four-man front to start off the year and then once we got into league play and a lot of the Big 12 teams like to do the zone read plays on offense, so we had a three-man front where we would slant into a four-man front. With the few exceptions like Texas and I think maybe Kansas State, we went back to our four-man front so we were kind of switching back and forth whereas now we’ve just been working on our base four-man front.”

On if where he lines up on the line is similar to last season:

“No, not really; the principle is the same, line up and beat the man in front of you but playing nose has been a little different. Playing three-technique where I was over the guard I have a lot more space between me and the man in front of me, but now I’m right over the center, so I’ve had to work at it and I’m slowly getting better and used to it.”