Kansas Football Holds Annual Media Day

Aug. 9, 2011

Coach Gill | Hatch | R. Johnson | Patterson | Patmon | Webb | Willis

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Kansas head football coach Turner Gill and his 2011 Jayhawk team met with the media at KU’s annual preseason media day Tuesday. The Jayhawks posed for photos and video, along with talking to members of the media. The Jayhawks took the day off from practice, but will resume Wednesday as they prepare for their season opener against McNeese State at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 3. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Head Coach Turner Gill

Opening Statement:

“Good afternoon. I appreciate everyone coming today. I have a good opportunity to share with you how our football team is doing here after five practices. First of all, I feel really good about the cohesiveness. I feel good about the work ethic. I also feel really good about coming together as a unit offensively, defensively and our coaching staff. The first thing I want to talk about goes back to what I said last year as far as coming out and what we want to get after. That was speed, competitiveness and we’ve got that so far out of five practices. Number one, what I’ve seen out of our offense. We talk about tempo and we talk about getting to the line of scrimmage and getting plays called, getting plays going. I love the body language of our quarterbacks, Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham, who are both doing some things to get our tempo the way we want, getting in and out of the huddle. That tells me they have confidence in what we’re trying to get done offensively. They have really studied their playbooks and got things going in the right direction. Defensively, no question speed and being more physical. In the five practices we’ve had, I’ve seen those two things for sure. We’ve gotten faster and now we just have to continue to fine tune some things and make sure we stay together as an offense and defense and also in special teams. I also want to talk about starting to believe. I know you hear some of those comments about `is your team buying into what you’re trying to accomplish?’ I really have sensed that from the first day. There was a different mood, a lot better approach as far as our football team and I think that came from the leadership, as far as our strength staff in the offseason, and I have to give a lot of credit to the seniors. I spoke to them a little bit after spring ball about some of the things they need to try and get done and accomplished. They’re the ones who are going to move this football program forward in a faster way as far as doing things on a leadership side of it and on the football field. We only have 15 of them, as far as seniors, including walk-ons. Those people are going to be very instrumental in what we’re trying to get accomplished. To finish up and then I’ll open it up to some questions. A few guys who have really stood out. First, on the defensive side of the ball, Steve Johnson. He has really shown some good physical play. He’s running well from sideline to sideline. He’s showing good leadership and I have to give some credit to Coach (Vic) Shealy, our defensive coordinator, but also Vantz Singletary our linebackers coach. He’s definitely come on strong. Brad McDougald, playing safety. We’re always trying to find guys to make plays and so far out of the five practices he has shown up. His name has been seen and mentioned. His jersey is around the ball and not just from being able to intercept passes, but also being able to tackle well and doing all those things you need a safety to do. The offensive side of the ball, Tanner Hawkinson. He moved over to right tackle and has done a really good job of being stabilized there and doing a good job of run blocking and pass protecting. He’s definitely a leader as far as on the offensive line. Obviously, we have Jeremiah Hatch and some other guys, but he has really stood out the most. The last guy, as far as on the offensive side, is DJ Beshears. Last year we had him playing a little bit at receiver in what we call the H position and then also a little bit in the Z position. We’ve now moved him over to the X position and he’s competing with Christian Matthews and he has really stood out. He’s done some good things running routes. He runs routes really well, good hands, very fast and obviously strong. Last little thing here. We added another person to the roster. A guy by the name of Dominic Foreman. He’s a junior college corner from Coffeyville Junior College and he’s going to come on and take the place on the roster for DJ Marshall. Let’s open it up for questions.”

On the youth this year’s team has:

“Each and every day we’re having a lot of discussions as far as personnel. We’re going to continue to do that and I’m probably going to say after Saturday we’ll have a little better sense of some guys who we anticipate to have a better chance to play for us this season. That’s not to say they’ll come in and start right away, but they are going to be instrumental in playing early in the year, so I want to get one more scrimmage in on Saturday and then we’ll evaluate from there. We’re going to continue to evaluate them, but at that time we’ll have a better idea of who some guys are that stand out. There’s going to be a lot of guys. We have 25 guys from this class coming in and what that number’s going to be eventually, as far as how many will play, there will be some guys playing. If I had to say a number, which can never be etched in stone because of moving parts, probably somewhere around that eight or nine range of guys that have a good chance to play. I think after Saturday I’ll have a better idea of who we’ll have a good chance to look at.”

On whether the team bonded well during the summer:

“All I can go by is talking to some of the players occasionally and getting some things from the strength staff. I really saw an impact on the first day of practice. I didn’t have to talk to anybody. I could just see when they got back it had really paid off, particularly our offensive guys. They got a better understanding for our offense. They were sharp. They were coming out here doing things. We haven’t had a whole lot of turnovers and that’s a good sign to me. Usually, early on the defense may be ahead of the offense, but they really weren’t that far off. That showed me there is some leadership and it also showed me they were dedicated to get some work done and focused on what they want to get accomplished. Again, getting better every single day and they’ve done that. On the defensive side, I think our guys also did a good job in being able to just line up and not have any miscues early on. We’re going to be implementing a lot more things as we go on, but early on it showed me that they had done some things in the summer and they were in good shape. It was very hot early on and the guys held up very, very well.”

On how James Sims has handled the role of returning leading rusher and number one on the depth chart:

“Very good. He’s focused and again we’re always talking to our guys about being competitive. He’s going to be a guy that is in the mix of things. He is our best guy at this point in time, but we’re always going to find two guys. He has a good approach every day about coming to work, getting better, talking to (Running backs) Coach (Reggie) Mitchell, talking to myself and the things he needs to do to be the best running back, not only at the University of Kansas, but hopefully in the Big 12 Conference.”

On what the biggest difference between year one and year two for the coaching staff and players is:

“A lot more relaxed. Coaching staff, number one, they all now understand my approach on things. I can look back at things from last year. A lot of our coaches were waiting to see how I was going to respond. Coaching style was number one. Number two, how I would handle different things that would go on, whether it was depth chart or personnel, scheme, but now they know how I’m going to respond in certain ways. I think now they can all be more relaxed as we all know when you have an unknown it adds a little bit more anxiety and a little bit more tension. I feel less tension in the room with our staff and I think that’s a huge thing in being able to move on and I also see that in our players. They know what the expectation is on what I’ve laid out for them. Now they can teach the younger guys as they come in and so again I think the unknown has been knocked off because now being here a year we’ve had certain things come up in the program that I’ve had to handle. I think they’ve seen how I handle that whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent, but they know how I’m going to handle it and we can all just move forward.”

On how Kale Pick is making the transition to wide receiver:

“Very good. I love his dedication. I love his work ethic. He’s very good receiver and blocker. He loves the game. If I had to say one guy that understands the word passion, I point towards Kale Pick. He understands how to play the game with passion and he’s not a vocal guy so it doesn’t mean to have passion you have to be verbal and talking a lot. It just means when you come in this room, he’s focused, he goes on the football field and ready to play, he’s ready to get after it and he doesn’t lose any reps as far as that goes. He takes every rep like it’s going to be his last and he’s definitely a very good example of what you define passion for a football player.”

On if any positives carried over from last season:

“I think the last few games of the year I saw our guys show a lot more confidence in what we were trying to get accomplished. I think it’s carrying over to our guys being more in tune with the coaching staff. That’s talking about belonging, believing or whatever term or phrase you want to use that’s what we’re talking about. I’ve seen our guys have done that so we’re going to carry over those things and keep moving forward. Our team is very close and getting more connected. That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve seen as far as continuing from the last part of the season and even today those guys are a lot closer. I’m not just talking on the football field, but also off the football field.”

On what the next step for Jordan Webb is:

“Being consistent. That’s what we’re striving for our quarterbacks to be able to do. Body language is excellent and again coming more from our players, not necessarily verbally, but I can just watch quarterbacks and see how our players respond to him as he walks on to the field even as we come to practice. As we get up to the line of scrimmage and how the players respond when things are going well and then when things are going not so well for him. He just needs to be more consistent. I like the way he has come in to this camp. I definitely see him more relaxed and he has a lot better sense of what’s going on and then how he’s supposed to go about his business. He’s definitely made some great strides. I have to take my hat off to (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterback) Coach (Chuck) Long and Quinn Mecham too. I’ve seen a great response from him too. He’s gotten bigger, faster and stronger. I’ve seen him come along as far as anticipating where he’s going to throw the football. We’ve definitely gotten better, now we just have to continue to get better with our execution.”

On how the players have responded to Jordan Webb and whether it is different from last season:

“I think it’s more about responding to what Jordan does first and then that’s how a player is going to respond. I think there’s been a bigger difference in Jordan Webb and how he goes about his business. Our players have sprung in a great way too. They’re more open. He’s more approachable. Last year I didn’t see him as a very approachable guy to our team. Part of that is because he didn’t understand much of our offense. He didn’t understand what we were really trying to get across; therefore, it was a little tougher for him to communicate with the rest of his teammates, particularly on the offense and getting it to go the right way. Our guys are really responding well to him and that’s great to see. Again, Quinn Mecham is not that far either.”

On how big a gap there is between the returning quarterbacks and the newcomers:

“There’s a gap. They have a long way to go if they’re going to make something happen as far as a chance to compete for the starting job. Again, we’re going to have to have something forward within in the next week, week and a half. If an underclassman is going to have a chance to play and we’ll make that decision at the time. I like the way the top two guys are moving forward.”

On what difference he’s seen in Jeremiah Hatch:

“I think the biggest thing is being able to get to the second level. Trying to have a center get to the linebackers and last year he wasn’t able to do that very well. You’re going to have to have some time where your center gets to the second level. When you get up to the second level that’s when you have a better opportunity to have bigger plays. I think that’s the opportunity we’re looking for is to have bigger plays, particularly in the run game as far as our running backs being able to have more of those 20 to 50 yard type runs. You got to have a center that can get up to the second level.”

On when a player re-sculps his body like Hatch, what it does for his teammates:

“It gives some other guys confidence. We don’t have a whole lot of those guys in that situation to say they have to lose a lot of weight or anything in that nature, but to see someone accomplish it, that just gives somebody else the confidence to do it if they’re in that same situation. Again, I think he’s seen it and his teammates have seen it too as far as seeing him do some more things on a football level that he couldn’t do last year. We’re all proud of him and again it’s not just about football either. It’s also about his life and his health for the rest of his life from that standpoint.”

On if there is a certain urgency in the first game after losing the opener last season:

“I don’t think there’s more urgency necessarily. I just think we’re ready to go out and play well. We just can’t play like we did last year. We just have to play better. I’ll take full responsibility for any of those losses and that’s just the way it goes. As a coach I have to get our guys ready to play and get them ready to execute. We are a little bit better football team. Hopefully things are going to work out in a better way, which I anticipate it will because of the way our guys have approached the offseason program and spring ball. As we are today if we keep making progress like we are. If we aren’t turning the ball over and our defense is creating turnovers then positive things are going to happen for the University of Kansas in 2011.”

On how often he looks back at last season:

“It’s behind. Yes, you have to look at some things on tape, but I say all the time it’s 2011. It’s 2011 and you have to learn from it. That’s part of life. You have to take some things that have happened to you in the past and then how’s that going to improve you for the future. That’s the only reason we kind of look at the past is what are we going to look at and how are we going to improve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

On the potential of Keeston Terry:

“We’re very excited about him. He has four years left now. If we had to play today, he and (Bradley) McDougald would be the starting guys, but Lubbock Smith has really come on strong. Keeston is a guy that is very tough. He has good man-to-man coverage. He plays the run well. He’s a very talented young man and I think every game and every year he’s just going to be an outstanding player. I anticipate before his career is over that he’ll be one of the top guys in the Big 12 Conference at safety.”

On if the new Big 12 schedule will make the process more difficult:

“It doesn’t affect us. You’re going to play your opponent, whoever they are and whatever the situation is, in your conference. Yes, you kind of look at the big picture, but really the only thing I see from playing the round robin is now you get a chance to know those teams a lot more thorough as you continue on the next three, four, five years. We’re going to know them really, really well versus you had three or four teams that you played every two years. This way it becomes even greater detail and you have to make a few more adjustments as you play a team every year.”

On the role he sees Darrian Miller playing:

“He’s right in the thick of it. He’s a very talented young man on what he’s shown us so far. We’re just going to have to find out if he’s a guy that can take hits and still come up and bounce back and be ready to go. He’s definitely a guy that has big play potential as far as taking a handoff and going 80 or 90 yards. That’s something he can bring to the table. We have a lot of good competition there. We’re definitely going to play at least two guys there and could be even more than that, but we’re trying to find two running backs that can really make a difference on our football team and Darrian Miller is in the mix.”

On if he can get leadership from the underclassmen:

“Yes, and again that has to be earned. In most cases, not always, you’re going to have to have someone on the football field that’s playing quite a bit and I don’t know if he has to be a starter necessarily, but a guy who has an instrumental role and making an impact. If you’re making an impact on the football team then your other teammates are going to look at you. They’re going to respect you and listen to what you have to say. You do have to have some success on the football field as far as to say you are a leader and you’re teammates are going to respond to you.”

Junior Wide Receiver D.J. Beshears

On having more specific role this year:

“Coach (Gill) really emphasized me playing outside receiver more. I’ll probably play that position as far as catching the ball and making big plays. Not as much as last year, running the ball out of the backfield and stuff like that, more of a go-to-guy as an outside threat.”

On what position he enjoys the most:

“I enjoy playing wide receiver. I played that in high school. I played inside, but being outside receiver now has made me see the field more, and I have more opportunities to make more plays.:

On the emphasis of blocking to play:

“(Wide Receiver) Coach (David) Beaty emphasizes that a lot. We have a job description that’s called BBM. Being a tenacious physical blocker is the first B. The second B is 100 percent ball security and the M stands for making plays. If you do all those things right, he says you can be the guy or start for that position.”

Senior Tight End Tim Biere

On if he thinks the shape of the team affected its play last season:

“I think a little bit. I think there were certain positions that definitely could have been in better shape. Tight ends included in that mix.”

On why the coaches decided to put times on the sprints this season:

“Just accountability. Having a goal set for making your times, it helped with the mental aspect. If you are reaching that goal then it can help you reach other goals that the team has set.”

On the biggest difference coming into this year:

“I think the tempo in practice is one of the biggest differences. This time last year we were learning the playbook and now this year we know the playbook and we are moving forward and putting in more plays and perfecting the old ones. That helps out a lot with everybody on the team with everybody already knowing the playbook instead of going into preseason practice and installing something brand new.”

On if he feels more relaxed now with a year under Coach Gill’s playbook:

“We feel a lot more relaxed this season. Last year in the spring and the preseason we didn’t know the coaching styles of any of our position coaches or what our role was going to be with the team, but now we mostly know each other’s roles and that is a big benefit for us going into this year.”

Redshirt Freshman Running Back Brandon Bourbon

On how he feels if he can be the number two guy that can come into the game and be the one-two punch that Coach Gill wants to have:

“I want to be the guy that goes into the game, but I have to compete with the other running backs who want the same spot. I think we all can get the job done, but I don’t know how it will shake out yet.”

On what he can bring to the running game:

“I can bring some speed and athleticism to our running game. I think I can be a spark for the team and have some bigger gains this year because we didn’t have a lot of those big gains last year. “

On what he thinks the identity of a Tuner Gill team is?

“I don’t know what it really is yet, but I think throughout the preseason practices our team will find that identity and let the fans embrace it. I think once the season starts we will really know what it is a lot better.”

On how he thinks the running game can be a big part of the offense this year?

“(Running Backs) Coach (Reggie) Mitchell and (Head) Coach (Turner) Gill have both stressed to us that running the ball is going to be a big part of our offense this year. We can definitely push the ball down the field and force the defense to respect our run game this year.”

Senior Linebacker Steven Johnson

On his thoughts on who he thinks the first four starting linebackers should be:

“It’s hard to say, everyone is working so hard. (Linebacker) Coach (Vantz) Singletary is coaching us all up. Not everybody is making a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be a battle. A lot of us can play. A lot of the linebackers can play and are going to play. It’s going to be a great opportunity for this defense to be able to gel together like that.”

On his thoughts on other people’s opinions of the program:

“Ever since I’ve been here, Kansas has been the underdog. The year we won the Orange Bowl, we were the underdog so it’s nothing new for me. Coming from where I’m from, I was always the underdog, so I like being in that underdog mindset. It allows us to work harder and it really gives you motives to want to prove people wrong. I try not to think about what everybody thinks, but at the same time, you have to have it in the back of your mind because it serves as motivation.”

On the difference between year one and two under Coach Gill:

“Last year, I really knew what believe meant and now I’m really honing into it. I really believe we’re going to be good this year. I’m not going to put a number on how many games we’re going to win or anything like that because I don’t want to do that. I know we work hard every day, and I know the hard work we put in the offseason and in training camp right now is going to pay off. Not only myself, but there are plenty of us busting our tails out there on the field, just out of breath and can’t breathe, our chests are hurting. It’s going to pay off in the game, and I just have a better feel because we know the coaches. The tempo has definitely picked up in practice. We are moving a lot faster so that’s going to help us in the games. We know the coaches, we know what to expect, and I’m just ready to go. I’m ready for the first game. I can’t wait for that day. It’s going to be a good day.”

On this being a young team:

“It’s a young team, but you have a lot of hungry people and a lot of people from backgrounds where things might not have always gone their way, so now that they’re here, it’s a great opportunity for them to show up and show who they are and where they’re from. I’m just glad I have this opportunity with this team, us coming together and we’re going to be able to do some things this year.”

Junior Safety Bradley McDougald

On how much smoother practices are now compared to last year:

“It’s definitely a lot smoother especially with the coaches; knowing their philosophies and what they really expect from the players, which are the main things that the coaches stress.”

On how the offseason has helped the transition from offense to defense:

“The offseason has definitely helped me a lot. Coach (Robert) Wimberly has helped me and has shown me different areas where he sees my athletic ability helping me and using my talents to do different things that I couldn’t do last season.”

On the move from wide receiver to safety:

“I think I bought in as soon as coach (Turner) Gill asked me if I wanted to switch over. I told him I would do whatever would help the team win. When the offseason came I felt more comfortable with it and I feel a lot better practicing at safety instead of just going right into a game.”

On what he knows about playing safety now that he didn’t know last year:

“The biggest thing is probably the technique. I had a lot of time to work on my technique, stance and the different ways to drop into coverage. A lot of those things I didn’t know only having six practices under my belt before each game against high power offenses like Oklahoma State and Missouri.”

Junior Offensive Lineman Jeff Spikes

On being locked in at left tackle or maybe another change:

“You never know what it is. That’s a coaching decision. What I do know is any position on O-Line is pretty much the same technique, the same format, the same different scenarios. You just have to be prepared to bounce around if needed and bounce around when needed.”

On the O-Line fitting together since the line has more experience:

“I think that camaraderie is always going to be good for any part of the game. I think the camaraderie we have on and off the field is really going to tie over to game time and practice and being together overall.”

On paying any attention to polls:

“I don’t believe that polls make that much difference to us. Coming from last season’s predicament, we’re all confident that we need to get better. It wouldn’t matter where we’re at. We know coming from last year, in general, we need to get better and prove to ourselves that we are a good team, we are good players and we can work together and get a common goal.”

On if this team is better than last year’s already or is it too soon to tell:

“The fact that a lot of our young guys have returned and we went through that whole thing where we got a new coaching staff, new players, new everything – so just the fact we’re going into our second season around, we’re going to get better and the more we’re practicing, the more camaraderie we have and the more we can come together as a team, as a family, and as units, we’re going to get better. There’s no limit on how much better we’ve gotten this far, but I know we have and that’s inevitable.”

Sophomore Safety Keeston Terry

On his health:

“I’m pretty good health wise. I still don’t feel 100 percent, but I feel about 95 percent right now. There’s still some soreness in my knee, but other than that I’m pretty good. Most of it is a confidence builder. I need to get more confident in my knee, which might take a little while, but I will definitely be to 100 percent by the time the season starts.”

On how disappointing it was getting hurt after playing so well at the beginning of the season:

“I was definitely disappointed because I felt like I had an opportunity – if I would have stayed healthy – to maybe start later on in the season. But everything happens for a reason, so I think it’s going to be better for the season coming up.”

On how practices have been going so far:

“It’s been going pretty good so far. I’m still learning a lot and working on some things, but it’s going pretty well.”

On playing defense instead of offense:

“I thought I was going to be a receiver coming into college, but I’ll take on my role and go with it. I’m a bigger fan of wide receiver, but I’m going to do whatever the program wants me to do.”

Sophomore Defensive Tackle Kevin Young

On if the team will use being an underdog to its advantage:

“We don’t really look at it like that. We’re just going to look at each opponent and not put any team higher than the other and just play to the best of our ability every snap and every single game. We’re going to come out ready to play no matter who the opponent is.”

On how important it is to come out strong for the first game:

“We’re definitely taking it game-by-game. The first game is McNeese State, but I’m not looking down the schedule to Oklahoma or any other games. Every game is important and we want to set the tone and come out and play as hard as we can and hopefully get the win.”

On the improved speed of the team:

“Oh most definitely, we have a few key position changes such as Toben Opurum changing to defensive end last season, but even as a whole team I feel like we’re a lot faster than last season.”

On how excited he is to get the season started:

“I’m so excited. It’s been pretty much a whole year since we’ve played so I’m definitely excited to get going again.”

Junior Offensive Lineman Duane Zlatnik

On the biggest difference switching to offensive line from defensive line:

“The technique is completely different with the offensive line. You have to stay low all the time, have the proper footwork and keep your hands inside. All of these techniques have to be right all the time and working together.”

On his comparison to his high school days, how he has changed:

“In high school I weighed around 255 pounds and I am about 310 pounds, so since I have been at KU I’ve gained around 60 pounds or so. As far as muscles goes, I have gotten a lot stronger since I have been at KU. The strength coaches that we have here have done a great job at working us to the max and giving us the opportunity to get stronger in the weight room every day.

On what he has seen differently this year from the offensive line than what he has seen from the o-line in the past?

“I think the spring really helped our offensive line a lot, we all got used to playing together and it has carried over to our preseason practices. We are moving better with each other and communicating with each other.