Stuckey's Veteran Leadership Anchors the Steadily Improving Defense

Nov. 4, 2009

One point that senior captain Darrell Stuckey stressed at the team’s weekly press conference Tuesday was that this Kansas team has had its fair share of ups and downs, but there was nothing that would stop them from getting back on track.

Stuckey, who has tallied 38 consecutive starts at safety, recently experienced a small decline in his individual game. The Kansas City, Kan., native had a four-game stretch where he averaged 11.0 tackles per contest, before having just six total tackles in the last two games combined.

“We’re not giving signs of relief or signs of destruction at all right now,” Stuckey said. “It’s a pretty excited team. We’re pretty good with pressure and pretty good with adversity, so there’s nothing right now that will knock us off.”

The three-game losing streak is in the past for the Jayhawks and the focus has shifted to this Saturday’s game against the in-state rival, Kansas State.

“Besides the damage that’s already done, we’re going to keep going, and we’re going to try to win the rest of these games,” Stuckey said. “We’re never going to be counted out at all, we’re always going to fight, and we’re always going to be the Jayhawks.”

With a number of personnel changes on defense in the past couple of weeks, Stuckey has remained a constant for the Kansas defense.

Going on four years of playing among the best in Big 12 football, Stuckey has experienced both highs and lows, and in times of need, the captain’s veteran leadership has come in handy with younger, less-experienced athletes making their debuts on defense.

Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said that it was always important to have a guy out on the field that not only knew his own role, but could also go out there and direct traffic.

“He is a pretty steady rock in the secondary as a dependable, accountable guy for the younger players,” Bowen said. “He takes that role seriously and takes care of others as well as himself.”

It comes as no surprise that Stuckey has risen to the occasion and excelled in his leadership role. Bowen said that Stuckey and junior Justin Thornton were the two older guys in the secondary that worked hard on making sure that other guys were lined up and knew their responsibilities.

“In the secondary, you have to be on the same page and everyone needs to communicate with each other,” said Bowen. “Darrell is obviously a guy that communicates well. You know the guy hardly ever stops talking, so he gets it done back there.”

Head coach Mark Mangino said in Tuesday’s press conference that he was very pleased with the defense that was making good, steady progress. Mangino also emphasized that he was more worried about winning the game than the importance of the game in terms of the Big 12 North standings. Win and the standings will work itself out on its own was his philosophy.

“I think it’s an important game because it’s an in-state rival and people in the state of Kansas get excited about it,” said Mangino. “When you’re playing football or basketball, these are the biggest sporting events of the year in the state, so everybody pays attention to it. That’s why it’s a big game.”

Stuckey, who has been on the winning side of the rivalry three years in a row, said that he was looking forward to the great atmosphere in Manhattan.

“It’s just a lot of fun, a lot of energy, a lot of pizzazz, or at least a lot of screaming and yelling from the student section,” Stuckey said. “It’s challenging, it’s one of those things to where you love going there because of the challenge that it bears in front of you.”

With the steady progression on defense and a sputtering offense, Stuckey said he was looking for both sides of the ball to put together a strong performance on the same day.

“That’s the greatest hope that we have right now is the fact that knowing that we can both play at a high caliber, so if we can both show up on the same day, we’ll be one of the teams that you are unable to beat,” Stuckey said.

Saturday’s game will be televised on Versus beginning at 11:30 a.m.