Saturday, December 19, 2009

New KU defensive coordinator emphasizes speed

Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, shown in this 2009 file photo, has retired after recently being diagnosed with low grade prostate cancer.

Kansas defensive coordinator Carl Torbush, shown in this 2009 file photo, has retired after recently being diagnosed with low grade prostate cancer.


At his introductory news conference earlier this week, Kansas University football coach Turner Gill emphasized the importance of speed.

Friday, when KU’s new defensive coordinator, Carl Torbush, first met with the local media, he too talked about how critical speed would be to what the new staff wants to do at Kansas.

“Twenty-five or 30 years ago, you could get away with a slower guy,” Torbush said. “But I’ve really got a simple philosophy on that. If I’m a great football coach and I’ve got a 4.9 (-second) 40 (-yard) linebacker and you’ve got a 4.5-40 running back, I can be the best coach in the world, and I’m probably not going to win that battle.”

Agreeing on the need for speed is just one of the many ways in which Gill and Torbush seem to mesh. Add to it their common belief in the importance of morals, hard work and spirituality — things new offensive coordinator Chuck Long shares, as well — and it’s not difficult to see why Gill was so quick to announce the first two members of his staff.


Newly-hired KU defensive coordinator Carl Torbush talks with media members during a news conference at Allen Fieldhouse shortly after his arrival into town, Friday, Dec. 18, 2009.

“We’re going to have a staff that’s going to be very, very compatible,” Torbush said. “Turner Gill is going to put together a staff that believes in the same type of values and moral fiber that he believes in, and that’s very important.”

That’s not all they’ll share. Like Long, Torbush arrives at Kansas with a wealth of coaching experience.

He broke into coaching at Southeast Louisiana University as a baseball coach in the mid-1970s. Since then, he has held several jobs in football.

The 58-year-old Torbush spent the 2009 season as defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. During his career, he has held down key positions in three major conferences, including a head-coaching stint at the University of North Carolina and the defensive-coordinator title at Alabama, Ole Miss and Texas A&M.; It was at A&M; where Torbush and Long (then at Oklahoma) battled against each other.

“I’ve known Chuck a long time,” Torbush said. “I was very fortunate to be coaching at A&M; when we got our brains beat out by Oklahoma when he was the offensive coordinator there. So I feel sure that I’m going to get ribbed about that for the rest of my life.”

Although he did not unleash any cheap shots at his former opponent, Long said he, too, has great admiration for Torbush’s abilities. He also said that their current situation was a big reason he always had operated by two tried and true rules.

“I’ve known Carl a long time,” Long said. “I remember him when he was on Mack Brown’s staff (at UNC) years ago, and we’ve overlapped in the Big 12. This is a very close fraternity, and I always tell guys when you get into this deal, ‘No. 1, don’t ever burn a bridge. But also, always stay in touch, always make sure you’re very professional with guys and treat them the right way because, chances are, you’re either going to play against them or you’re going to work with them.’ And, in this case, Carl and I have gone from playing against each other to working together, and I think it’s going to be a great thing.”

The connections between the still-developing staff don’t stop there. Two of Gill’s assistants at the University of Buffalo played for Torbush at UNC. It was their testimony, along with the opinions Torbush has shaped himself, that led him to say yes to Gill and Kansas so quickly.

“I’ve known how he acts toward players and coaches and toward people,” Torbush said. “Anybody that’s ever been around him, there’s no fake about him. What you see is what you get. You’re getting a great, great human being. He’s the type of guy that I want to be around each day of my life.”

As for the specifics of what kind of defense he wants to be around, Torbush said he always had operated out of a 4-3 set, but that he anticipated throwing several other sets onto the field, as well. He mentioned multiple looks up front, a 3-3 formation and even a defense that employs six defensive backs, a clear sign that he’s aware of the challenge of keeping up with the Big 12’s spread offenses.

“We’re a multiple defense. That’s the great thing about what we’d like to do,” Torbush said. “But what we will do, I don’t know yet. We’ve gotta make sure that whatever we do is something our players can handle and we can get the best players on the field to be successful.”

A large factor in determining that will be recruiting. Torbush, who has recruiting ins that stretch to all four corners of the country, said he spent a heavy portion of his first week on the job doing just that, and he anticipated finding out quickly how successful he would be in bringing athletes to Kansas. Despite the week being dubbed as “a whirlwind,” Torbush said he had enjoyed every minute of it so far.

“There’s been no negatives,” he said. “We haven’t lost a ballgame, nobody’s scored a point, so we’re on an extended honeymoon right now.”

He also said he looks forward to learning more about his new job and his new home and has no desire to reclaim a position as a head coach.

“No, I really don’t,” he said. “I’d like to have the head coach’s money, but the thing I really enjoy the most in football is, No. 1, coaching the linebackers, which I’ve done all my life, and No. 2, coordinating a defense so that you play the checker game with the offense that you’re playing against.”


Larry Smith 10 years, 2 months ago

Max, I'm not really sure of your point. All of these guys were before Mangino's time.

minnhawk84 10 years, 2 months ago

I would be shocked if there is a defensive coordinator anywhere in the country other than the Big 10(11) who doesn't emphasize speed. Go get some, coach!

Back to Turner Gill -- when Nebraska kept losing to FSU and Miami in the National championship games, it was because Osborne didn't have "speedy" DBs. Coach Gill was able to recruit speed from Florida to compete, and Nebraska began winning national championships. Texas High Schools have alotta speed as well, but look for KU to recruit in Florida for DBs and safeties.

thmdmph 10 years, 2 months ago

The more I hear about coaches Gill, Torbush and Long, the better I feel. Seems like they have very good attitude and knows exactly the right things to say. They have great philosophy about life. They seem to have high goals with recruiting potential in all four corners as the article put it.

My one worry is that their spirituality will alienate some people. Religion and politics are personal things and will always be personal things. Every single time I hear about Coach Gill, there's something about his spirituality. Religion and politics are great if you agree with them, but not, they are hugely dividing issues.

The thing is, if he makes that big of an issue of his faith as a COACH, he will alien people. We won't hear about the people he alienates because the people that he alienates won't talk about it, but he'll probably lose out about 30-40% of the coaches and potential recruits purely on religion if spirituality and faith is emphasized from the top. In other words, he limits his pool of applicants. When it comes to coaching pool, it's probably no big deal because of the small number of coaches on a team and hopefully the lower turn overs. But with players, there are great and elite athletes from all walks of life. It'd be unfortunate to alienate them with something that has very little to do with football, ie nothing to do with coach style, play style, strength of coaching or team, facilities......

And please understand this post for the merits of it and don't get offended and defensive about your religion or about being open with your faith. This is NOT a post about any religion in specific.

bradh 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm not sure how else to take it THM. If the man was gay or Islamic you wouldn't have posted anything. Even though he hasn't said anything about being a Christian in his dealings with the public/press conferences (the paper is the one talking about his spirituality) you have a concern that you feel needs to be expressed simply because he hasn't hidden the fact he's a Christian.

Let the man recruit and coach. In a couple of years we'll see how he's done. You can judge then on how effective he's been.

redlegger 10 years, 2 months ago

I loved the title of this article - couldn't wait to read it. This was a great article that touched on the history between these coaches, and why they should work so well together.

I can't wait to see a defense that swarms to the ball carrier and wraps them up!

thmdmph - I understand your concern, as I had a similar reaction when discussion around Coach Gill surfaced a couple weeks back. However, from what I can tell, he does not seem to wear his religion on his sleeve or looking to proselytize. On the contrary, what I see is a man that knows how he is "wired, " lives and conducts his life the way he believes is best, and hopes that through his actions he can be a positive role model to those he touches in life.

I know it's a bit premature, but I hope that these coaches make Kansas their home for a very long time. "The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades"!

Steve Brown 10 years, 2 months ago

I've known GIll a long time and there is nothing fake about him.


thmdmph 10 years, 2 months ago

redlegger, it does sound like that's what it is. I'm exited to see how far Gill will take KU. It'd only help to have a coherent and focused team.

JBurtin 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm not a Christian myself, but I think Gill's faith is a good thing in the world of football.

It seems like every time I see a championship team's star player come to the microphone after a game, his first words are "I'd just like to thank God".

Look at the best players for us over the last few years and you'll see more examples of this. Dexton Fields, James McClinton, Gary Greene and I'm sure many others are devout Christians. The leadership of these young men helped our team stay focused and out of trouble, and their absence was felt greatly in the troubling times this year.

Whether or not I am a Christian, I do feel that Christianity has given some hope and direction to many young men that could otherwise have fallen by the wayside. Ultimately, I think his faith will be a very attractive asset to a mother that is trying to decide which college coach would make a good mentor and role model for her son.

Yakihawk 10 years, 2 months ago

I'm excited to have a Burt Reynolds look alike on the sideline! Someone needs to get Torbush a blue 78' Trans Am with a Jayhawk on the hood instead of the fire eagle, he could fly up Maine st. , come to a nice powerslide stop in the grass at the north bowl, and march into Memorial ready to TCB.!

DalTXJayhawk 10 years, 2 months ago

Tebow was pretty open about his faith, if a christian coach can attract that type of talent, Praise God - bring 'em on!!! I think you will find more african american parents more willing to send their kids to a man who will treat their kids with christian values than an f-bomb dropping angry disciplinarian (not saying MM was that). Think of how his morals and the way he lives his life as a recruiting tool not only for the kids, but for the parents.

100 10 years, 2 months ago

Did you guys see those recruits Coach Gill had at the game?

When was the last time a KU football coach had more than a couple recruits at a game with him?

Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting...

Speed, speed, speed, speed.

We have absolutely hit the jackpot with coach Gill!!!

He used the word "dynasty" today during his national TV interview... Again!!

Dynasty, speed, recruiting... Character.

This is all about character -- no matter what your religion, it's about character.

Even if you don't believe in anything, it's about character (religion has kind of driven humanity since we discovered fire & how to farm, so let's not be naive about this, we are human, & I guarantee 99% of our Grandparents went to Church as did mine)

We have a man who is a true honest man of character, who recruits like it's going out of style...

Bring 'em in Coach Gill!!

Dan Harris 10 years, 2 months ago

You want speed? You had better make sure to keep Grissom from Hutch, hes the real deal!!!!!!!

Mike Kendall 10 years, 2 months ago

If the Jayhawks had a defense, how many more games would KU have this year but also, last season? Mangino even said before this past season and after one or two games that "the defense had some issues." Duh! Look at the Colorado game--it was an exciting game but there was no defense. And if the Jayhawks could come up with a defense that would be respectable, then, I will get excited. By reading the Torbush article and reading some of the above posts, sounds like things are looking up in Lawrence, concerning the defense. One can only hope! RCJH!

Ron Prichard 10 years, 2 months ago

Yakihawk, that is the post of the year. I laughed out loud.

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