Kansas Football Continues to Progress in Practice

Aug. 11, 2011

Coach Shealy


Kansas football held its eighth practice of the season Thursday under a warm August sun at the practice fields adjacent to Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks ran through 17 stations with the usual 7-on-7, special teams and 11-on-11 drills.

One day after the team’s first two-a-day practices, the defense seemed to hold the upper hand in most of the workouts. Sophomore cornerback Dexter Linton led the “Believe” chant after making a juggling interception during the final station of the day – a hurry-up offense vs. defense period.

KU will hold two more practices on Friday before holding another scrimmage on Saturday evening at Memorial Stadium. The Jayhawks are just over three weeks away from the season opener where they will host McNeese State on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.

Following Thursday’s practice, Defensive Coordinator/Cornerbacks Coach Vic Shealy met with the media.

Defensive Coordinator Vic Shealy

On who is farther ahead, the offense or the defense:

“You see it day-by-day. We probably played pretty well today, but I think you get certain days where the defense has a heavy install (of new plays), so then there’s a lot of learning going on and thinking, it slows you down. So the offense is much faster on those days. To the offense’s credit though, they’ve played very efficient, very quick and executed. Then on some days they’re on a heavy install day, so they look a bit slower and we make some more plays.”

On how difficult it is for a freshman to pick up his defensive schemes:
“I think all of the freshmen are probably walking around right now thinking that they have become the worst players, because they can’t think as fast as how it came to them in high school. The volume of the scheme goes up and the schemes are different (at the college level). If you’re a defensive lineman, you find that offensive linemen can run much faster in college, so they can recover and change direction. You have to play off technique, knowledge and instincts. When you’re learning, you can’t do that as well.”

“I think we have some freshmen that have amazed us with how quickly they’ve picked up on it. When I say amazed, I mean, they’ve picked up on it as fast as some of the upperclassmen did last year. We’re really excited about those individuals. You have to be careful, because in one particular day or two, it could all change if you put in another couple of blitzes or something to get them thinking. Then they freeze up, because they’re thinking about their assignments. And sometimes when you have a bad day, you start to question whether or not their good enough to play right now. Sometimes when a freshman has multiple bad days back-to-back, it sends them into a spiral where they start thinking `well, maybe I’m just not ready to play yet.’ So you need to find a way to get them out of that.”

On if that helps him decide which freshmen will redshirt and which ones will play:

“Absolutely. You have to be able to play fast. If you can play fast enough, then it goes back to can you process (the information) quick enough and react to it based on what you see. I think some positions are a little easy to pick up than others. You don’t have as much assignment on you. They might be very technical areas, but when the assignment doesn’t weigh you down, sometimes you can address those technical things a little faster. As coaches, we’re trying to keep things as simple as we can, but just depending on the offense, they have the ability to complicate things with some gap hits and some other things that they’re doing. It’s kind of like going over to Russia and not being able to speak Russian and saying, `okay, exist.'”

On the progress of his freshman defenders:

“As a coach, sometimes you want to protect your younger players a little bit, because when a little more expectation gets put on someone before they’re ready to handle it, they play a little tighter and feel like they’re letting people down if they have a bad day. I think Collin Garrett has surprised us; I think Ben Goodman has surprised us a lot. Ben Heeney is not ready to compete for a starting job yet with Tunde (Bakare), but his athletic ability has shown up. Michael Reynolds looks fast; Adonis (Saunders) and Chris Robinson both look fast. I was just talking to Coach Gill about how you look at those defensive freshmen and not one of them is a miss. They can all play. Some will be redshirted, because we don’t need them to play (this year) and some aren’t ready to play, but you look at them (at practice) and you say `I can see why we liked them on film and why they’re here.’ It’s a very talented class and I’m just talking about the defensive guys, I know the offensive coaches will tell you that the guys over there are electrifying too.”

On what he’s seen from the nose tackles and the importance of the position:

“It’s extremely important, because you need that guy to be able to eat two blockers. It doesn’t always mean that if you don’t have that, it causes the defense to break down. But your run fits work better at linebacker when you have that, because sometimes when you have those uncovered guards they create those bubbles in the defense. When a guard can come out and hit the linebacker in the teeth, you get a little bit of that push that you try to avoid. If you can get your nose tackle to take up two blockers, it can help you flatten out that line and your linebackers can press that line. But honestly, our two ends have to even out the pressure on those two interior gaps. If they can do that, sometimes you can get your nose tackle in a one-on-one and lets you create some problems for the offense.”

On nose tackle John Williams:

“He had a really good spring. He would have a serious mentality on the field of wanting to be coached and wanting to be a good player. As a coach that fires you up to see a guy that wants to be coached. You get kind of excited with the enthusiasm that a player shows. I’m grateful for when a kid embraces what we’re doing. John is at the center of our front, and he’s an athletic guy. Some people think he’s not big enough to play, but he’s definitely big enough to play and he’s athletic. He was one of those guys who used to play at 330 (pounds), until he realize he wasn’t athletic enough to play that heavy. So now he’s at 285-290, which is probably where he’ll play this year. He’s got that girth on him, but he’s become more athletic. He’s become more serious. We really like the way that he’s approaching practice right now too. He’s pretty consistent on and off the field.”

On JUCO transfers Isaac Wright and Malcolm Walker:

“Isaac is a guy who is a big guy, who runs really well. He’s a sizeable guy at inside linebacker where sometimes you have to go in and hit the guard in the mouth, who might weigh 300 (pounds), so you want that sizeable guy. He has shown the ability to surprise us and play a little bit above his ability. Being a linebacker isn’t all about toughness, sometimes it’s about being slippery and being able to get in there and make a play at the moment of truth. We’ve been impressed with some of that, but he has a long learning curve still. I would say the days in which he shows command over the defense, we have a very positive impression of him. In days where he’s lagging behind, because there might be a heavy install, we’re saying `Son, you been study that playbook.’ He’s up and down, but we’re encourage. To say that those guys are ready to go beat Oklahoma right now, I don’t know, but I can say that we’re getting better. He’s part of that process.”

“With Malcolm, we’ll have some ability to take advantage of (his skill-set). We’ll have the ability to move him around a little bit – just like Toben. Boy is (Malcolm Walker) dynamic; he is a fast guy. I don’t think some of my corners want to race him, because they may beat him, but it would be a close race. He plays fast. Some guys are fast, but they don’t play very fast because they’re thinking. Malcolm will play fast; he might not always go the right direction, but he’ll go the wrong direction fast.”