Thursday, November 13, 2008


Pass defense deficient


When a pass defense performs as poorly as has that of Kansas University in the nation's best quarterback conference, a variation of the chicken-and-egg question can be difficult to answer.

Are the linebackers and secondary at fault for not covering better, or is a defensive line that allows the quarterback to get his feet set and scan the field with his eyes more to blame for a pass defense that ranks 116th out of 119 Division I-A programs with an average of 276.3 passing yards allowed per game?

This much can't be denied: Subtracting second-team All-American James McClinton from the 12-1 Orange Bowl champions negatively impacted the defensive line, linebackers and secondary.

McClinton, a ball of fury with boundless energy, never stopped moving his remarkably quick feet and even his mouth, which on Sundays is reserved for preaching. Multiple blockers were needed to tie him up, which made it easier for middle linebacker Joe Mortensen to make plays.

Even with the extra attention paid to him, McClinton was able to get some surge up the middle, flushing the quarterback toward one of the ends. A quarterback on the run is less likely to burn a secondary than a comfortable, unhurried passer. Pre-Orange Bowl, KU's pass rush wasn't great last year, but it was better than this team's.

Before getting to the secondary, it's worth looking at the performance of the linebackers in pass coverage. Mortensen, coming off of ACL surgery, understandably looked a step slower, particularly early in the season. Mike Rivera, playing through undisclosed injuries, also has looked slower than a year ago.

Enough with procrastinating the single most perplexing aspect of the decline of the pass defense. What happened to Chris Harris, Big 12 Newcomer of the Year as a freshman? He began the year as a cornerback, was shifted to safety before the Texas Tech game, but lost that job as well. Now coach Mark Mangino said he is best suited to the nickel back role. What happened?

"Oh yeah, it's been a disappointing season on my behalf, so far," Harris said. "In the games I've gotten in, I didn't play as smart as I could. ... I was playing smarter last year. I don't know how that could happen. I would think you'd be smarter in your second year. The ability is there, I just didn't play smart."

Harris became enough of a liability that in order to keep from playing him at cornerback, Kansas turned to using safety Justin Thornton and true freshman receiver Daymond Patterson.

Having Aqib Talib in the secondary made everyone's job easier, according to Thornton.

"It's big when you've got a guy, you can come into a game and you can say about their No. 1 wide receiver, 'We're going to shut him down. We're going to put Aqib Talib on his side.' He can play man-to-man against the best of them and that takes away a lot of threats, a lot of options for quarterbacks," Thornton said. "That's one thing that helped us last year. That's one of the reasons we were such a good secondary."

Said Harris of how Talib is missed most: "Probably his play-making ability."

That and his speed. He could fly. Overall, the defense looks to be on the slow side.


Jhawks2008 11 years, 7 months ago

We were 5 and 1 when the changes were made and if we go 1 and 5 with the changes then I would say the record speaks for itself.

imnotpaulpierce 11 years, 7 months ago

You're right. Mangino should have left Charles Gordon at WR and Marcus Heford at QB...I think they guy knows what he's doing. This team may have fallen short of expectations, but its not as good a team as last years. Nor has the schedule been as nice...Don't jump ship on Mangino just yet, lest we return to the years of Jayhawk football past.

Dyrk Dugan 11 years, 7 months ago

it's not the coaching folks....Bowen had a big hand in our d coordinating last year. People quickly forget how bad we were two years ago on defense....and all of those players made up the 2007 D. And the '06 squad was coached by the hallowed Bill Young. This secondary had injuries early...which caused up to play some guys against USF that weren't ready to play. we weren't going to beat TTech and OU anyway...and the disappointing game was NU. Rivera and Mortensen are both banged up, and not as quick this year...and we really miss McClinton. We're just going to have it suck it up vs. UT, come out inspired and play some physical, smart football..and no matter what happens, we get two weeks to get ready for Moo. it will do us a lot of good with the rest.

imnotpaulpierce 11 years, 7 months ago

Well the personnel he had in place wasn't working. Why not make a change?

KU 11 years, 7 months ago

Jhawks2008.....Comparing scores is a useless exercise. Each game unfolds differently. Each play impacts the previous play. The weather plays a role. Emotion. Comparing the OU and NU games and saying the defense has gotten worse is silly.Is the defense good? NO. But to claim they are worse now by comparing two scores of two different games isn't evidence that they are getting worse.

Jhawks2008 11 years, 7 months ago

Okay somebody tell me if they think this unit can go into Norman today and hold OU to 45 points when they couldn't hold Nebraska under 45.

KU 11 years, 7 months ago

Jhawks2008......Get your head out of the sand, man! How can you make the statement above with any shred of intelligence?What were the opponents in the first 6 games? Non-con plus ISU plus Colorado, right? The only tough team we played was......USF. And we lost that game.Now look at the difference in the schedule the second half of the year: OU, TT, KSU, NU, UT, and MU. The only gimme was KSU. NU was very disappointing.For you to claim Mangino's defensive changes didn't work and point to the W-L column as evidence is ludicrous.Look for me Saturday. I'll be the one wearing blue.

Jhawks2008 11 years, 7 months ago

Those are two seperate cases that don't affect the whole offense unlike the multiple changes to the defense this year.

Ryan Gerstner 11 years, 7 months ago

I get sick of people complaining about the coaching. You were probably the same people that wanted Young fired a few years back when the D was awful. At some point, the blame has to go to the players. When you don't generate a pass rush, your linebackers just have average speed, and we don't have enough playmakers in the secondary, what do you expect? The options are limited for a defensive coordinator. At some point, the players have to make plays.As bad as the defense has been, I think the special teams have really cost the team this season. We're losing the special teams battle game in, game out. I know it's senior day and all, but I'll be really disappointed if Herford is the featured returner. Not that it's all his fault, but we need someone a little more shifty back there like Crawford.

hutchjayhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Its not about whether Miami's defense is great. It's about whether they are making the most with the personnel they have. That's all a good coach can do. And that's where Bowen is lacking.

97jhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone know how well Coach Young has done at Miami at all? I know it's his first year and all, but that school can recruit way more talent than we can. Just curious.

railer1122 11 years, 7 months ago

It's tackling, not schemes that make us weak. We are still young in the secondary. Please read the article about our poor tackling.

imnotpaulpierce 11 years, 7 months ago

I was baffled when Harris won the award last year.

Jhawks2008 11 years, 7 months ago

We need to quit looking at the past and focus on improving this team but by the looks of if that is not going to happen anytime soon. This year has been a big dissappointment but the majory of the blame should go to coaching decisions. This is the BIG 12 which is arguably the best conference in college football and you can't put inexpericence players in a situation where they are bound to fail. I really think Mangino needs to rethink his philosopy and go back to the basics and quit trying to be something that he isn't.

guscornhawk 11 years, 7 months ago

hawkfan20, I couldn't agree more. Take the kick off that was clearly headed out of bounds in the NU game, Herford catches it at the side line about the 3 yard marker, gets tackled at the 9, we promptly go 3 and out, give the ball back to NU at our own 45, they score on a short field. Instead of letting it drop out of bounds, or even if it rolls into the endzone, we lose valuable field position and wind up giving up an easy score shortly after. Special teams have been a disaster this year.

sava12 11 years, 7 months ago

MVJayhawk, you have a point but the coaching staff has made some errors on the defensive play calling. It's pretty obvious if you know how to establish defensive schemes. Most people don't; that's why they sit in the stands and not the coaches box. Bowen has made some errors - he knows what they are and what he should have done. He's learning just like all the coaches in his position; they learn from every game. It is the coaching is the coaching.

Gordon Penny 11 years, 7 months ago

Keegan, I might be inclined to give you my entire year's salary if you coached the Jayhawks for one season and won more than 4 games. I doubt you would win even one except that the hawks were already pretty well coached. You purport to put in print the things that Mangino ought to do, but you don't know squat. I would like to see Mangino follow your advice and then see how many games we would win? I bet not many. Just have faith in the man and he will take us where we want to go.

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