Quotes from KU Media Day 2006

Aug. 8, 2006

Head Coach Mark Mangino
Opening statement:

“Thank you for coming to media day. First, I would like to announce our captains for this year as voted on by their teammates. Our first captain is senior offensive lineman David Ochoa. The second is junior tight end Derek Fine. The third is senior defensive lineman James McClinton. The fourth is sophomore linebacker Mike Rivera. I am very happy with their choices. These four players are deserving and demonstrate excellent leadership qualities and have been leaders in our program. I think our team did a good job in selecting captains. We feel pretty good about the practices we’ve had. They certainly have been spirited practices. We have a lot of veteran players back who are battle-tested and have performed very well in practice. We also have a lot of young, eager kids who are really flying around. Although they may not always be in the right spot, they are going hard all the time and that is a foundation you need for success. I think this group is willing to work hard to get better and is making preparations for another exciting season. I like the group of kids we have. I like their spirit, their work ethic and their enthusiasm. We just have to pull it all together now.”

On the program’s progress:
“I think we are progressing very well. I am pleased where we are at this point and time. We are no longer sponsoring a football team at KU. We have a football program. We have all the elements in place to be successful and we are never going to go backwards. The days of 2-10 are over. Though there is still much work to be done, but we have a foundation and platform to work from and we are right on target to where we should be at this point and time. We are recruiting well and are putting the pieces together. I don’t think any particular record will say that we’ve arrived and I don’t think there is any record that will make us look like we’ve gone backwards.”

On KU’s young players:
“We have had a number of kids who have had solid practices thus far. Obviously, redshirt-freshman Kerry Meier is developing the way we planned. Junior tight end Marc Jones shows a lot of promise and has a lot of ability. On the defensive line, redshirt-freshman Caleb Blakesley has really made strides. At linebacker, they are all doing well. Redshirt-freshman Brandon Duncan has had a really strong showing in the first five days of camp. Redshirt-freshman Darrell Stuckey has looked sharp. He has a lot of ability and a lot of football knowledge. I think there are a number of kids that are really starting to get comfortable, and this will continue throughout training camp.”

On what defines the KU football program:
“I think it starts with the belief that the players know the expectation of the program. We have systems in place so that when our kids come to the football complex, they know what’s expected. They know what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it and what the standards are. We have a recruiting system in place that has been good for us. We feel that on any given day of the calendar year, the players know what we’re going to do that day, how we’re going to do it and what’s expected of them through those tasks. There is stability and consistency in what we do and how we work with our players. More than anything, the players know what the expectations are and the coaches know what the expectations are in terms of effort, performance, attitude and accountability.”

On the strengthening of the program:
“We have to learn that every day presents a new challenge. Every day we have to improve in everything we do, from simple techniques on the field to the ability to understand what is being taught and develop a comprehension of what the coaches are teaching. To get stronger, we just have to stay on the course and path that we have established. We also need to not deviate and let the players understand that we won’t deviate as well. I think one thing that hurts programs is that they change philosophies in midstream. Radical changes, like when the offense or defense isn’t playing well and you change entire systems and schemes. That creates doubt and panic among your players. We set in place things that we believe in from day one and we do not deviate from them because we believe in them.”

On the 2005 offense developing into strength at the end of year:
“We had some struggles on offense, but we didn’t abandon our philosophy and our kids didn’t give up. There was no panic. We preached accountability, both individually and as a unit, for their performance on the field. The kids stayed the steady course and our offense didn’t change from game one to the Fort Worth Bowl. It was just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and getting stability at the quarterback position.”

On the progress of in-state recruiting and relationships with high school coaches:
“A lot of high school coaches know me since I came into the conference 15 years ago. They know how I operate and how their kids will be dealt with should they decide to come to KU. A certain degree of success is needed to attract players and I feel very good about the players we’ve recruited in-state in the recent years. We’ve taken kids we believe will help our program and who want to be at KU. The coaches trust you to take good care of their players and treat them well and we’ve proven that we do that.”

On the mixture of young and veteran players in camp:
“I think we have a good blend this year. There is no question we have some talented returning players that have been tested in the Big 12 Conference. Now we’re getting a good blend of young kids who will be ready to play. The chemistry seems to be fine. I have seen the older kids tutoring and encouraging the younger players on the practice fields already. That is a good sign. We have some talented young players that have no negatives at all — except for the fact that there is no experience like playing on Saturday. They can scrimmage and do all the drill work in practice, but they need to be out on that field competing on gameday. “

On which wide receivers have been impressive in camp:
“I am pretty excited about redshirt-sophomore Dexton Field. He has had a great offseason and is becoming a dependable guy to get the ball to. I would also say redshirt-sophomore Marcus Hereford and redshirt-senior Dominic Roux continue to improve and have good speed that will help stretch the defense. Freshman Tertavian Ingram has really jumped out at me during camp so far. He has some talent. We are working him slowly and trying to see if he can contribute this year. There is no question he has the ability to be a fine player here. If he continues to progress, we’ll play him.”

On any concerns at the wide receive position because of youth and the difficulty of learning the position:
“Any time you lose players like Mark Simmons — who have been in your program as a four-year starter — and a player like Charles Gordon, you feel like you need to get the next guys ready. But I know the young guys will be ready. It is no more a concern of mine than any other parts of the team. “

On redshirt-freshman linebacker Jake Schermer:
“He has had a good camp. He is learning and making that transition like all the other freshmen from high school football to Division I. The transition is not easy for any freshman. “

On redshirt-junior Derek Fine and the tight end position:
“I think Derek Fine is poised to have a great season. He is a dependable guy who has been in our program and has developed a reputation of being a tough, competitive player. I look for the tight end to be a position of strength for us. Unlike last year, when we really didn’t have a true backup — and sophomore Russell Brorsen filled in — I think the addition of Marc Jones makes the tight end position one of our team’s real strengths.”

On redshirt-senior Jon Cornish:
“Jon has worked hard this offseason and has committed himself to becoming a better player. He has a great deal of talent when the ball is under his arm. The reality is that he has to become a complete running back. He has to catch the football and has to be a good pass protector. He has made a concerted effort to improve himself in those areas. As I told Jon, there is no Clark Green to share time with or to shuttle in to protect the quarterback in passing situations. He has to be the guy and I think he has taken that challenge very seriously.”

On how the new rule changes will affect the games:
“I want to take a wait-and-see attitude about these changes, but I am concerned that we have to make adjustments ourselves. We have to get our offensive and defensive units and our personnel on the sideline together very quickly. In the past, if you had your offense on the sideline ready to go out, you could make a last second personnel change, but you can’t do that anymore. As coaches, we have to think way ahead before the series starts, both offensively and defensively. I think coaches really have to be alert. “

On winning on the road:
“I think that is something we have focused on during the offseason. We have played well on the road, but we haven’t closed out enough games or won enough games on the road. That is what makes it interesting because we really haven’t played poorly on the road. If so, I’d be concerned about our preparation or mental make up. The fact that we have played well on the road and just haven’t won makes it an even bigger challenge for the team. What I have told our kids is that it doesn’t matter and that it is a state of mind. It doesn’t matter if they’re at Memorial Stadium or on the road. We’ve talked to our players about this and we feel like they really understand this. I have told our players to feed off the noise and energy of the road. “

On the distractions of the upcoming NCAA infractions hearing:
“The players are not concerned about that. It doesn’t affect them. Coaches take care of their business. I take each task one day at a time. I am focused on our football team. I will be focused on those meetings when they happen and the next day I’ll be back to focusing on our football team. It has not had any effect on our ball club.”

On redshirt-sophomore cornerback Aqib Talib:
“He started at safety, but has such pure coverage ability that we moved him to corner and he has come along nicely. He is really starting to grasp things and get comfortable at the cornerback position.”

On senior wide receiver Brian Murph’s punt return skills in the Fort Worth Bowl and for the upcoming season:
“I like that he ended up in the end zone. I don’t like the way he started that particular play out. I have confidence in his ability to run the punts back after the ball is under his arm. Now he is working on gaining our confidence in fielding punts. Being a punt returner takes courage. Fielding the ball while 10 people are at a full gallop takes some nerve to catch and run with the ball. That is part of the punt-return mentality. You have to be a tough customer.”

On redshirt-freshman Kerry Meier’s progression:
“We want to put him in a position to succeed early. We don’t want to ask him to do something he is not capable of doing yet. We also want to have a good teaching progression and a good foundation. We want to lay the basic principles down of our system and the quarterback position and build upon those in blocks. We don’t want to throw him out into tough situations before he is able to grasp each layer of what we’re trying to teach. He is good at retaining information and he learns from his mistakes. We seldom have to tell him the same thing twice.”

On the new crop of linebackers:
“Some of the players have had playing time and been on the field. We try and pick up from there on their understanding of things. Also, our defense is constantly evolving though we don’t change the basic schemes and philosophies. Our coaches are constantly putting in new wrinkles. We are constantly evolving. That being said, they are an athletic and fast group of kids with a nasty streak to them. I have an idea of one or two who might win starting jobs, but I can’t tell you for sure. We will use different linebackers in different situations, but I think it is a very good bunch.”

On freshman running back Jake Sharp:
“He is ready to go. He shows up every day with his game face on. He is so serious in practice every day, I’ll be interested to see what he looks like on gameday. He has a lot of tenacity. He wants to get in the mix and play. He is certainly competing.”

Senior offensive lineman David Ochoa
On changes in the Kansas program:

“We have come to expect a lot more from ourselves. The way our program is set up, we really don’t settle for anything less than our best at any position, and with that comes the expectation that things are to be done a certain way.”

On being a part of Kansas’ recent success:
“I think when it is all said and done, I will be able to look back and be proud of it, but right now, we are always looking towards the next thing in terms of what we need to get done. It’s hard to look forward if you look back like that, but when I take my pads off for the last time, it will be nice to look back on it all.”

On the team’s attitude:
“We were talking with some of the older guys about how they wouldn’t be caught dead walking around campus with a KU football shirt on in 2002, but now, there is a different kind of aura around. I think the fans, especially the students, know that we are always going to give it our all.”

Sophomore cornerback Aqib Talib
On the team’s progress during the summer:

“We are basically putting everything in for the new guys. They are coming along and they are learning. And (the returning players) are just refreshing our minds. It is coming along pretty good so far.”

On the team’s chemistry:
“Coach Mangino has said that this is one of the most talented teams he has had. We have a lot of talent. We are pretty young and don’t have many returning starters, but if we can put it all together, we will be a pretty good team.”

On the defense:
“We lost eight guys, but in (1995), they returned two starters on defense, and went 10-2 and went to a bowl game. We have people who can replace those guys who are as good or maybe even better. If we put it all together, like I said before, we’ll be alright this year.”

On his preseason accolades:
“There are more (media members) talking to me now, but as far as everything else, I still prepare the same and try not to read too many media guides or newspapers. I keep my routine the same.”

Senior running back Jon Cornish
On his explosiveness:

“I don’t really understand what made me faster towards the end of the season. I think it was just coming around with the whole system and getting really comfortable with it. I was just able to do my own thing.”

On entering the season as the starter:
“I was never really competing for playing time with Clark (Green). In my mind, I think I was just playing as hard as I could. I wanted to carry the load last year, and I want to carry the load this year. I have some pretty lofty goals for myself this season, so I want to carry the ball as much as possible, I want to catch the ball as much as possible, and I want to help the team as much as possible.”

On playing with a young quarterback:
“Kerry Meier, in my mind, has always been a great leader and a great quarterback. From the second he got here, he just had that special aura around him. I think it’s not going to be very obvious that he is a freshman.”

Freshman quarterback Kerry Meier
On his relationships with the team:

“They have treated me like any other teammate. At Kansas, everyone is equal, and that is how we should be treated. We respect one another from freshman to senior. We just go out and do the things we are supposed to do.”

On the value of having the redshirt season:
“The whole redshirt season was a big-time learning experience. I was learning about the whole college deal. Through my brothers, I was learning little things here and there. It was a huge year, and I made the most of it.”

On his offensive role:
“The ball is in my hand 100 percent of the time, so I am going to have to make plays. If Kansas is going to win ball games, I am going to have to make plays, whether it is doing it myself or getting it to my teammates. As long I get that ball to my teammates, good things will happen.”

On making mistakes:
“We have this motto that `the next play is the most important,’ and I stick by that motto after anything bad happens. You just have to take it in and learn from it.”

On his confidence:
“Football is all about being confident. You have to be self-confident, and you have to display it.”

On learning from his brothers:
“I have learned from the experiences that they have had. I respect my brothers. They are unbelievable. They have been there every step of the way, and they are going to continue to be there.”

Senior safety Jerome Kemp
On the loss of key starters:

“Well, its a big motivater. Every year football teams across the country loses player, but you have players that might be younger, without game experience. It just takes pure motivation as far as being mature and stepping up to do the job.”

On this year’s defense:
“I believe that this year’s defense can be better than last year’s. Our athleticism, our team cohesion, those two aspects are key. We lost some linebackers, but I belive that now we have a faster linebacking group that have the chance to be as fundamentally sound as our guys were last year.

On Darrell Stuckey:
“He’s a redshirt-freshman, but he’s an athlete, and so far he’s been performing up to par. He has a lot of speed, and that’s the first thing you notice about him. A lot of energy, a lot of speed, but it’ll take a little while for him to settle in and start getting the right keys, and being fundamentally sound.”

On the attitude surrounding the upcoming season:
“Even though we are coming off a bowl win, that’s the 2005 season. This is the 2006 season, and our motto is `expect to win’. The number one thing we have to do to accomplish our goals is work hard.

On the evolution of the program, specifically in the past five years:
“It’s a total 180; night and day. When I first got here, the team unity wasn’t as great. Even with some of the younger guys coming in, as soon as they get here they’re accepted, and everybody just seems to click.

On the athletic ability of the program now:
“The athletic ability of the players that have been recruited from my freshman year to now, has improved drastically.”

Senior wide receiver Jonathan Lamb
On the progression of the program under Mangino:

“We have turned the corner. We really struggled, even the little things were a big deal. Now we’re to the point where it’s not just about doing the little things, its about doing them great.”

On the biggest concern for the upcoming season:
“It’s experience, we’re a young team. Our defense and offense need to play as a team.”

Junior running back Brandon McAnderson
On being in a single-back set:

“It’s been a while, but when the opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of it, and hopefully I’ll be getting lots of those opportunities.”

On the difference in roles between this year and last:
“They have me doing a lot of the same things, such as run and pass blocking. It’s not a whole lot different, but it does present more opportunities for me to take advantage of.”

On being a big part of the offense this season:
“It’s always exciting, but it’s even better when you know you’re going to play and do what you love to do. Its just more opportunities, and you have to be excited about that. It’s not really about making other people believe, its about making ourselves believe that we can be as good as we want to be. It’s internal, everything we need to do on offense can be handled from the inside, so we don’t need to worry about what other people think.”

Freshman running back Jake Sharp
On picking the number one for his uniform:

“I saw that it was open and I’ve always been a fan of it.

On the transition to college fitness programs:
“Coming up here, it’s much more of a challenge. I’m lucky, coming from a program where we lifted and ran a lot, but some guys aren’t lucky enough to come from a big school, so it takes a little longer for them to make gains.”

On being intense in practice:
“I take everything very seriously, its just the way I was brought up, and that’s how I’ve been taught to play the game of football.”