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Monday, August 31, 2009

Second chance

Defensive coordinator learned from Year 1

Clint Bowen, left, was a player at Kansas University who worked his way up the ranks as an assistant coach. He's about to enter his second season as the Jayhawks' defensive coordinator.

Clint Bowen, left, was a player at Kansas University who worked his way up the ranks as an assistant coach. He's about to enter his second season as the Jayhawks' defensive coordinator.

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Kansas University sophomore defensive back Daymond Patterson knows exactly what defensive coordinator Clint Bowen has been through during the last 18 months.

Patterson, who entered the program as a play-making, game-breaking wide receiver, was moved to the defensive backfield midway through last season and spent most Saturdays trying to find comfort in a new position.

Bowen — the former co-defensive coordinator to Bill Young, who helped guide the Jayhawks to the 2008 Orange Bowl title — did something similar.

With Young relocating to Miami before last season, Bowen was reassigned to lead the defense. His first year in charge of the defense had its share of ups and downs, but Bowen, like Patterson, said he’s much more confident today.

“Going into the second year, I just have a better comfort level and know what to expect a little bit more,” Bowen said. “The first time around, you hit some spots where you go, ‘Holy cow, I didn’t see that one coming.’ Now I’ve had a little more time to prepare so I feel like I’m ready for some of them. There will be more of them, but at least I’ve got some of them knocked out.”

Bowen has logged a lot of time on the Kansas University football sideline during the past two decades.

After three seasons as a player, three years as a graduate assistant and another nine years as an assistant coach, there wasn’t much that Bowen hadn’t seen or experienced in crimson and blue.

Until last year.

Although the Jayhawks won consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history, the 2008 season was not without its share of forgettable moments.

Blessed with an offense that was capable of playing with any team in the country, the focus — and much of the blame — often was thrown at the defense.

Rough spots included surrendering 340 yards passing to Sam Houston State, giving up 674 total yards to Oklahoma and, perhaps worst of all, allowing 418 yards through the air and six touchdown passes from Texas Tech at Memorial Stadium.

Not all of the moments were Bowen’s fault. Some had to do with personnel issues, others had to do with mental lapses by the players. Still, Bowen owned up to all of them.

“Probably my biggest understanding now is that there are going to be some tough decisions that need to be made, and you have to see them coming and take them head on,” Bowen said. “The day-to-day decisions of what are you going to practice, how much time you’re going to spend doing this or that, how you’re going to use certain kids. And then on game day there’s 25-second decisions to make on every play. What are you going to call and why are you going to call it? It was a little bit more than I had anticipated.”

Perhaps the most encouraging part about last year’s mistakes is that Bowen is convinced he has them fixed this year.

He’s not alone.

“Clint Bowen is as solid as a rock,” KU head coach Mark Mangino said. “He’s dependable, he’s hard-working, he’s great with the kids, he puts in a lot of hours. I’m pleased with what he’s done. Like all of us, every year, you can always learn something.”

In 2009, Bowen will have an extra set of eyes and ears to rely upon for those tough decisions. Enter Bill Miller, a man with 30 years of coaching experience who was brought in during the offseason to help KU’s defense regain its edge.

Although the addition of a co-coordinator figures to help, both Miller and Mangino made it clear that Miller wasn’t brought in to bail Bowen out.

“Clint’s the defensive coordinator, and Bill Miller’s role is to fill the same role that Clint Bowen had when he was the co-defensive coordinator,” Mangino said. “He’s in a support role. He’s another set of eyes to bounce things off of.”

Added Miller: “First of all, Clint’s a great teacher. And I think what’s really good is he’s always eager to find a better way to do things. I think great coaches are always looking for a better way to do things that they’ve done in the past. And he’s enthusiastic about that. He loves the game of football. He loves the teaching part of it, the recruiting part of it, the meetings, the games. He’s a football guy, and I think the University of Kansas is real lucky to have him.”

Bowen feels the same way about his new colleague.

“Having a guy of coach Miller’s experience is obviously a bonus for us,” Bowen said. “The guy’s been doing it a long time and seen a lot of different things. With that, when problems come up, there will be another very solid voice in the room that can help come up with a solution.”

Bowen said he and Miller recently sat down and mapped out each other’s duties for the season, from what drills to run and techniques to emphasize in practice to what will be expected on game days.

“When they put their two heads together, we’re going to have a really good defense and make a lot of plays this year,” Patterson said.

Really, though, the biggest reason to expect improvement for a defense that ranked 89th in the nation last year — including 114th against the pass — isn’t the addition of a veteran coach or the improvement of the players. It’s the comfort level of their second-year leader and the confidence his players feel from having him at the helm.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” senior captain Darrell Stuckey said. “Last year, being his first year, he hesitated at times, like everybody does when they do something for the first time. This year, I think he’s going to be a lot more confident, a lot more experienced when it comes to making certain calls at certain times.”

Bowen said his proudest moment of the 2008 season was the Insight Bowl, a 42-21 victory against Minnesota. In the weeks leading up to the game, the Jayhawks prepared for the wide-open style of offense the Gophers had run all year. On game day, Minnesota game out with a completely different look.

“They had been a one-back, spread offense all year, and right away they came out in two backs and were trying to run the ball,” Bowen said. “Our players had to adjust immediately. Everything we had just practiced for four weeks went right out the window. I thought it was good. We had success, we made some adjustments and got some stops. It seemed like it all kind of worked out then.”

Stuckey remembers the feeling well and expects many more moments of euphoria from Bowen and the defense this season.

“It was a great thing,” Stuckey said. “It was a landmark and a milestone for him to really trust his judgment. He was pretty excited. I don’t know if his smile was as big as it was after the Missouri game, but he was pretty excited.”

Comments

gardenjay 10 years, 4 months ago

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes article Matt. Six days to game day!

lv_jhwk 10 years, 4 months ago

I've been saying to anyone that will listen: all that is needed is for the defense to prove all the naysayers and critics wrong just a bit. Do that and the 'Hawks are definitely front-runners for a North championship. Prove them wrong more than a bit and they're challenging for the Big 12 title. Prove them completely wrong and its a nice destination in January that awaits.

Coach Bowen more or less admitted that he was overwhelmed at times last season, but from that has come an increased awareness this year. Add to that the confidence that has transferred to the players and I think that more than a few pleasant surprises when the other team has the ball await!

lv_jhwk 10 years, 4 months ago

Btw, would it have been too much to ask for a current photo of Coach Bowen to go along with the story? I know he spent his time in the press box last year, but surely there was something in the archives.

jayhawkintx73 10 years, 4 months ago

I was a critic of Bowen a year ago, but he didn't have the support that he has in Bill Miller this year. Not to mention 2 4-star recruits, and Stuckey established as the best Safety in the League.

Rivethead 10 years, 4 months ago

I'm not buying the "Bowen's proudest moment" part. We knew that Minnesota was switching their offense and focusing on a two-back running game three weeks before the Insight Bowl. Their coaches were openly talking about it. It was not some big "game day" surprise.

Rick Arnoldy 10 years, 4 months ago

I thought you were nit-picking lv_jhwk, then I went back and looked at the picture. Those uniforms are how old?

Displayhawk 10 years, 4 months ago

It will be interesting when we play against Oklahoma State again, when Coach Bowen will face off against Bill Young, his mentor of many years. I'm surprised some mention wasn't made of that. Coach MM is right though, Coach Bowen has been very good for Kansas University football!

crimsonblueblood 10 years, 4 months ago

I'm concerned about Coach Bowen's comments about the Insight Bowl. Everyone knew that Minnesota was at least talking about bringing a new run based offense. Surely it wasn't a surprise to Bowen. Why is he breaking his arm to pat himself on the back about some supposed immediate, game day adjustments?

truefan 10 years, 4 months ago

I don't really care about the Insight Bowl, I am just happy to be hearing about improvement because if our team's D got any worse we would be in a world of hurt this season.

Kyle Cornish 10 years, 4 months ago

lv_jhwk you are nitpicking... All of these readers need to get over themselves and stop criticizing every little thing. You are not paying for this... It's FREE! Just read it and move on with your lives, you should have more important things to do.

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 4 months ago

Good Mccullough article with a recent picture on the CJ site.

psychoanalyst 10 years, 4 months ago

I think an important thing to remember re: Insight Bowl is that although the Minnesota coaches were talking about making the switch to a power running game we couldn't bank on it. That could easily have just been a red herring. Even if it wasn't, we didn't have any game tape on them running this new style of O. So, regardless Bowen and our team had to make adjustments that day, and I think he/they did a good job.

IMHO, the sign of a good coach is how they adjust during the game and at halftime. Coaches who have "a" gameplan and can't adjust simply can't take the team to the next level.

Scott Smetana 10 years, 4 months ago

I played with Bowen at KU in the 1990's. He had everyone's respect... the guy is full of class and has a passion for KU football. Rock Chalk, 7-0 here we come.

kranny 10 years, 4 months ago

Agree with pshchoanalyst. Knowing what's coming isn't the same as seeing what's coming. I doubt that there was any game film of the Minn. running game. The college game is lot harder to prepare for than Jr. High or High School. Luckily, the Gophers ran through all of their new plays in the first half.

Rick Arnoldy 10 years, 4 months ago

"IMHO, the sign of a good coach is how they adjust during the game and at halftime. Coaches who have "a" gameplan and can't adjust simply can't take the team to the next level. "

Hhmm.... Off topic but that was always my concern with Ol' Roy.

dmb41fan 10 years, 4 months ago

I think there are two important points to remember here. He was def coordinator of a team that won an Orangel Bowl in his FIRST year in that position. They were in the toughest conference in the Nation, and everyone was of course gunning at a 1st year def coordinator, Everyone has a learning curve. I will gladly pat the guy on the back, for a job well done. Second, Bowen didn't have the firepower or skill set, that the offense had in returning All American candiate QB, or very gifted WR's. They definately had to learn on the fly, he had to truly gauge what kind of skills he had at his disposal, that is probably most noticeable in the midseason transition of some offensive players to DB's, I think with an Orange Bowl victory the athlete's will be knocking on Clint's door to come play at KU even more now, and he will be able to coach from a advantage.

crimsonblueblood 10 years, 4 months ago

I agree with the comments of pyschoanalyst that Minnesota's pregame comments could have been a deliberate distraction. And, you have to focus on preparing for what you know. Maybe Coach Bowen's comments were taken out of context. However, the article includes the following direct quote from Bowen "everything we had just practiced for four weeks went right out the window." Were they really doing nothing to prepare for a two-back, run based offense? At the time, I didn't understand why Brewster and company went public with their pregame plans to adopt a new offense. It was almost as if Brewster was trying to make excuses before the game was even played. In any event, my question is whether or not the KU defense did anything to prepare for a two-back, run offense? Or, was it as Bowen said above that "everything" they prepared for went out the window?

yovoy 10 years, 4 months ago

pikes, i'm glad you played with him and can bring that insight. i had a buddy that played w/ him at ku too, and he always had praise for bowen. i always viewed him as a person whose hard work, smarts, and desire allowed him to play beyond what his "real" talent likely was. that said, i've always expected him to bring those same tools to his coaching, so i haven't really worried about the job he's going to do for us.

bill young + some talent = danger for any team playing against his defense. i hope bowen learned lots from him, because the osu game could get ugly.

i LOVE stuckey. this guy seems to be the only one on the team that's sort of allowed to tell it like it is, or the one whose not afraid to call it the way he sees it. he does a great job of talking between the lines. the fact that he does all of that without being a clown is really refreshing. he's really one of my favorite kids of years past. and i hope he has a monster year. btw, find some old pics of him. he's been putting in work since he got here. i think one of the first shots i saw of him was in the weight room, and he was not nearly the specimen he is now. our upgrades have worked wonders on him, and hopefully the effect will ripple throughout the athletic dept.

gardenjay 10 years, 4 months ago

ohioburg - thank you for posting that, a very well-written and researched article on the Bowen clan

beebe1 10 years, 4 months ago

Personally, it's wait and see. Example: Bowen last year started playing 'Prevent Defense" early in the season. Linebackers were way too far from the line of scrimmage. The only time 'Prevent' has any validity is two plays a game, the last one each half!

They have five eligible receivers, we have 7 defensive backs. Never did see any thought given to accounting for their eligibility. And too many defenders were protecting 'territory' with NO Receivers in them.

We needed a far different view of Defense. We'll see.

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