Wednesday, October 14, 2009

No defender left behind

Jayhawk coaches realizing defense a little overwhelmed

Kansas defensive back Justin Thornton (46) and defensive end Jeff Wheeler chase after Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson in the Jayhawks’ victory on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Cyclones torched the Jayhawks’ defense for 512 yards and five touchdowns.

Kansas defensive back Justin Thornton (46) and defensive end Jeff Wheeler chase after Iowa State running back Alexander Robinson in the Jayhawks’ victory on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Cyclones torched the Jayhawks’ defense for 512 yards and five touchdowns.


Bill Miller had something to say, and so Kansas University’s first-year linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator gathered his unit following Saturday’s narrow 41-36 victory over visiting Iowa State.

Then he did something a bit unexpected: He apologized to players for what he deemed a poor coaching performance on his part.

“I’ve got a couple of very bright young men in that linebacker group,” said Miller, who during his 31-year coaching career has served as an assistant at Florida, Miami and Oklahoma State. “And when they’re not playing as fast as they have to play, then that’s a coaching error on my part.”

Miller called it “paralysis by analysis,” and in the aftermath of a quasi-meltdown, in which the previously anemic Cyclones offense rolled up 512 yards and five touchdowns against the No. 17 Jayhawks, Miller wasn’t alone in his diagnosis of the team’s defensive shortcomings.

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen both said Tuesday that they felt defensive players probably had too much thrown at them so far this season, a problem that would have to be addressed heading into Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup with Colorado.

“More than anything, we as coaches have to know what our players are capable of doing and do it,” Mangino said. “We have a lot of good things in our package, but we have to do what our players can do.”

This wasn’t always the case during a recent three-week stretch in which Iowa State — and, to a lesser extent, Southern Mississippi — exposed weaknesses in the Jayhawks’ defense that went largely undetected during early-season blowouts over Northern Colorado, UTEP and Duke.

Despite holding a 5-0 record, Kansas has allowed an average of 453.5 yards and 32 points during the past two games (compared to 282.7 yards and 8.7 points in the first three), and multiple players — veterans included — admitted Tuesday to being overwhelmed at times during the team’s first five games.

“Of course, at the beginning of the season, you’re going to try out this and try out that and try out this and try out that,” said KU senior safety Darrell Stuckey, an All-Big 12 selection last season. “And after a while you’re like, ‘Uh, I think we’re doing too much at once; we need a little at a time.’”

In addition to the complex game plans, however, Kansas has been faced with the same problems that afflict most teams on a yearly basis.

In the team’s two-deep secondary depth chart, for instance, a number of young players are still working to get their bearings, while breaking in a linebacker corps that lost three starters — all of whom were named All-Big 12 at some point during their careers —from last year’s team has proven, at times, to be difficult.

So, too, have some of the position switches. In the past two seasons, for instance, defensive back Justin Thornton has started at cornerback, safety and nickelback, as the Jayhawks have attempted to settle upon a final secondary unit.

“At times, it can be a little confusing out there, especially being moved from position to position,” Thornton said. “It’s hard to fine-tune the small techniques that come with each position when you’re being bounced around like that. It’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing out there, but there were a couple times (Saturday) where I was slow to recognize things.”

The result has been a trickle-down effect, in which some of the team’s most experienced players have found themselves attempting to help teammates, leaving them vulnerable in their own responsibilities.

“It’s a tricky thing,” Stuckey said. “A lot of people in my position do feel like that. I’m not going to lie, I felt like that at first. But you start to realize that when you try to do too much, you don’t do enough. Because what happens is, the ball finds you, and you’re not in your position where you’re supposed to be because you’re over trying to do somebody else’s job.”

The good news, coaches say, is that the majority of the recent problems are correctable. Poor tackling, undisciplined play and a lack of on-field communication each contributed to Saturday’s effort, and Mangino seemed confident he and his staff could right the recent wrongs — even if he declined to discuss the specifics of possible schematic or personnel changes.

Asked Tuesday whether coverage changes were afoot, Mangino joked, “Why would I tell you that?”

What he — and other coaches — would say, however, is that they were using this week to evaluate things in an attempt to align the team’s defensive schemes with the skill sets of the unit’s players.

“We had a hell of a lot of schemes for that Iowa State attack, and they were all good on that chalkboard, believe me,” Miller said. “But it’s what those guys can execute and what they can do on the field at full speed that matters.”


jahawkdave 10 years, 3 months ago

I caught an interview with Miller on a Wichita station, and I liked what I heard. He seems like a stand up guy.

FYI any of you with an iPhone, I finally found a radio app that can get smoe of the stations that carry the Kansas games. It's great for us out of state to be able to listen to KU games and coches radio shows. Hopefully the KU Athletics App will include something similar to make listening to games quicker and easier.

See you in Boulder, Rock Chalk

Omari Miller 10 years, 3 months ago

Dave, what's the name of the iPhone app?

GridironHawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I use ooTunes and pull the games up on 97.1 The Sports Animal - Tulsa Oklahoma. I couldn't find any KC, Lawrence, or Topeka stations that carried the game. I don't know for sure if it has the coaches' radio shows or not but I know they carry the games.

d_prowess 10 years, 3 months ago

Take two seconds away from football today to vote for Russell Robinson to make the Cavs!!!!!

Ben Kane 10 years, 3 months ago

just voted for RR...he's killing that poll.

beebe1b 10 years, 3 months ago

Laser at 105.9 broadcasts on the computer all the time from Lawrence --. They also broadcast all BB and football games as well as coaches. Search for 'laser' on the computer -- comes right up.

beebe1b 10 years, 3 months ago

Miller is good to take the blame -- but it doesn't seem he has recognized an invalid scheme, nor HIS AND THE PLAYERS FAILURE TO ACCOUNT FOR ALL POSSIBLE RECEIVERS!

Beak 10 years, 3 months ago

d_prowess, thank you for putting in that poll link.

John Percival 10 years, 3 months ago

Undetected vs. Duke?!? They went 80 yards in 2 plays on their first posession. I know nothing and was concerned after that drive.

10 years, 3 months ago

It looks like our players are taking notice of fans, mostly students, leaving at halftime.

Of the Iowa State game:

"...Quarterback Todd Reesing says he and his teammates couldn't help but notice when most of the student section left at halftime."

100 10 years, 3 months ago

We, ourselves, control the destiny of being a "real" crowd, like at Allen Fieldhouse.

Part of the solution someday will be lowering the field, making it feel like Arrowhead, with the crowd surrounding the entire snakepit....

For now, we have one thing to focus on:

Beat Colorado.

10 years, 3 months ago

jwliddell ~

Agreed. During one of the recent BBQ debates on here, you mentioned a restaurant in College Station. If you have ever had a chance to attend a Texas A&M football game there, that is how our students should aspire to act during the game. They make noise on their team's every defensive possession regardless of the score, and not just on third and fourth down. They also stay for the whole game, regardless of the score. As a whole, they have some of the best, if not THE best, college football fans in the country.

jayjock 10 years, 3 months ago

per an I state game attendee, it got VERY cold/windy in the upper levels. That is NOT an excuse for students to leave early and not come prepared for a cold day and support their football team. Not like the weather changed mid game as it can in Larry town. Cold start to finish. Get it together students!

100 10 years, 3 months ago

Todd Reesing,

I completely agree with what you said in the USA today article -- you guys are the 16th ranked team in the nation. How could you not notice? Truth is truth.

As for next Saturday -- you guys go out there and take care of Colorado & I have a good feeling you will see an all-game, premier League style Jayhawk group of students the following Saturday -- you guys have to continue to stay fired up during each game, every single down, urging the students on, & by your passion show the students what it's about.

Quite simply it's a week by week process -- these students who leave early are not bad kids, they're just kids who were taught by their parents at a young age to miss the last five minutes of the movie to avoid the crowded aisles.

It's up to us to teach them the way bigtime schools do things & that chance is coming soon enough...

You're the greatest quarterback we've ever had & we are so grateful you have brought your energy to Lawrence.

But for a week let's forget about Memorial Stadium -- first things first:

Beat Colorado.

Phoggin_Loud 10 years, 3 months ago

d_prowess, Thanks for the link. I just voted. Rus Rob has 52% of the vote.. Let's see if he can hit 70%.

Hey 100, Beat Colorado!!!

jhokfan 10 years, 3 months ago

Sounds like the coaching staff have the defensive situation under control. Now how do we fix the fan problem by the next home game?

phi4life940 10 years, 3 months ago

RR should be on the Roster! Just voted...going to post that link in a bunch of these forums! GO KU ! ! !

jhawker_87 10 years, 3 months ago

As a current student that stays until the end of every game (even watched Todd get destroyed in the 4th Qtr by the UT D-line last season), I am sure that the main problem with the student section is that the games are social events to a large portion of the crowd. Despite the countless times the students have gotten reamed in the paper for leaving early, I was still surprised when people were leaving at half in a close game last Saturday. It is a shame that a percentage of the students coming to the games don't realize how rare it is to see athletes like Todd, Kerry, Dez, and Darrell Stuckey play on the same field donning the Crimson and Blue. I honestly don't know what the team has to do to get a loud, full student section at the end of the game...

Kevin Long 10 years, 3 months ago

I'm suprised the players held it in as long as they did. It is an absolute shame that an athlete as amazing as Todd Reesing has to call out the fans to stay at a game! What the hell more do people want from these guys? I know it's not the people that are on this board that are the ones that are leaving early and sitting there not saying a word the whole game. So I can't really vent the way that I want too. To be honest it makes me question being a fan of a school who cannot support more than one freakin' sport. This is the University of Kansas, not some little junior college. There are more than enough people around here to support both. I have always loved KU more than life itself, but this makes me sick to my stomach.

TxJyHwk 10 years, 3 months ago

txrockchalk - A lot of that Aggie tradition comes from the large ROTC. They are REQUIRED to go to stay for the whole game and stand up the whole game.

10 years, 3 months ago

jhawker_87 ~

Way to represent. Hopefully, more students will adopt your attitude in the near future.

TxJyHwk ~

Good point, however the games I have been able to attend at Kyle Field, it looked like the whole east side of the stadium (approx. 30,000?) was basically full of students, the majority of which were in civilian clothes. Perhaps they are influenced by the ROTC students, but that certainly isn't a bad thing.

jayhawks4life09 10 years, 3 months ago

I also am a KU student. and I completely agree with jhawker87. For a majority of of fans, football game days a simply a great excuse to drink ALL DAY. A vast majority of my friends never even set foot in memorial stadium! It has nothing to do with the quality of the team to be honest. It is just the culture of Lawrence. It kind of sucks but OU and NU (potentially for the Big XII north title) will be quite a different scene, I assure you of that.

I would also like to point out that when the student section is in full rowdy force, we get ridiculed by the University for our "behavior" and the way we "represent the University" (kick off cheer etc.). I understand why the administration might not be thrilled with this behavior but that is the nature of the beast I'm afraid. And when they preach about conduct and breed a bunch of softies, you're going to get a student section full of softies.

beak 'em hawks!

Kenneth Hillman 10 years, 3 months ago

I like what I read in this article about the defense but I want to see it on the field. Just like they said about their defensive schemes...looked good on the chalkboard but didn't translate onto the field. I like what I'm reading here, now show it on the field!

Students! Wake up! You should be the MOST die hard fans there. We have a great team to support and they need your support. I graduated in '98 and supported some good and bad teams but I was there...and there till the end. Sheezus! A USA Today article about how bad our team support is. We are ranked #16, have a good shot at the north title, have gone to back-to-back bowl games in the last two years for the first time (including an Orange Bowl BCS win), have a fun offense to watch, a potential Heisman candidate in our QB, Kerry Meier, Dez Briscoe, Stuckey, and a couple great freshman. Pick it up!

Thanks for looking at the glass half full Stuckey, nice of you. Let's not make him have to look at half of anything. Fill it up!

preacherhawk 10 years, 3 months ago

I agree about the shame of fans leaving early. living in oklahoma now i went to see the hawks beat ou in basketball last year in Norman. with 5 minutes to go in the game the stands emptied out i was shocked, come to find out they do the same thing durring football games as well. I thought of it as bas sportsmanship, we should not disgrace our team with such a showing.

troutsee 10 years, 3 months ago

Hey, it's not all on the students. I sit in the section next to the students and the majority of fans around me don't utter a peep until third or fourth down. Most of the time they show their support by polite though they were at a ballet or an opera.

jayhawkboogeyman 10 years, 3 months ago

If you watch the timelapse video of KU homecoming on this site, you will notice there was not really the mass exodus of students that everyone is saying. There was a big empty pocket from start to finish, and to keep warm we gradually crammed more and more together. That said, there is a general sense of apathy among a lot of the students there. BUT.. That is true of the entire crowd. The fans on the west side don't make a peep or stand virtually the entire game, and the people in the "Perkins" zone are long gone half way through if they show up at all. The students do get loud when we need to, but when the other 40,000 people in the stadium sit like they are at a wake, or leave, it doesn't help in a giant open stadium.
AFH holds about 4,000 students. At least that many stay and cheer the whole game at football. For the rest of the 10,000 students, at least they show up. The 4,000 students at AFH are responsible for the vast majority of the noise there, too. If non-students want a better environment at the football games, they need to step up too and quit putting it all on the students.

William James 10 years, 3 months ago

The sad part is, what was left of the student section wasn't all KU students. I had a couple friends with me that weren't even enrolled here. So a lot of what you saw that was left of the student section in the 2d half wasnt even students.

Kit Duncan 10 years, 3 months ago

Maybe if there were an incentive to stay to the end, such as coupons redeemable for free food from local restaurants, or a Kansas Lottery ticket for each fan with a couple guaranteed to payoff say ... $10,000 or four or five @ $2000-$5000 along with a couple hundred tickets paying $5-10.

What better way to encourage students to participate than by appealing to their stomachs or pocketbooks!

Before I get flamed for this, a lot of professional sports teams provide incentives like this (not lottery tickets for everyone, but often for a few).

Go 'Hawks, beat CU!

CrimsonPhoenix 10 years, 3 months ago

Honestly, everybody posting here about how bad the student section is is really preaching to the choir. Any student that's going to read a comment on is going to be the type to stay for the whole game and cheer for every defensive play. I'm getting tired of reading all these comments talking about how bad we are. Yes, there are a lot of bad apples in the bunch, but all the text in the world isn't going to change that, so you're kind of just cluttering the comments section. :/

easyfive 10 years, 3 months ago

I wish you people would quit ragging on our fans!
Just be happy they came out... Do you know how hard it is to find a parking spot. Have to walk almost two miles to see the game.
Plus, how much time it takes to watch a game now days. A game that should only be two and half hours, takes up to four hours with all the TV ads and all. They are taking all fun right out of it.

KU needs to build a new place to play... Like right next to the Outhouse or something. It would help find people jobs around here to.

You all, sound like a broken record, our fans suck, boo hoo, is that all you know?
We don't want to chase them out but, love them for the numbers.
And raise the price for TV Commericals, like three times price so, we don't have to watch so many!!!

90sHawk 10 years, 3 months ago

Easyfive - if its so hard to 'find a parking spot' and takes to long to watch a game, DONT GO !!!! .. give up your ticket to a real football fan who supports their team rain or shine, cold or hot. You whiney little punks disgust me. It's not only the students either. Being an alum I seat on the west side typically. These people act like they're at a golf event and don't want to make any noise in someone's back swing. It's football people, GET LOUD ! .. contact your school newspaper, tell them to run a page making it priority that fans make Memorial Stadium as loud as can be. Tell those old fogey's on the west side to get and yell or get out.

Kenneth Hillman 10 years, 3 months ago

Look, the message here is to encourage more and better participation and it's up to all of us to make that happen. We are all KU fans on this board. It has been mentioned a couple times that the people on this board are not the problem and that's probably right. If you're reading football articles and posting comments, you're more than likely a good KU football fan. It's up to us to encourage fellow students, alum, and other KU fans to get their a$$ to the football games. Not only TO the game but to stay and be loud.

How do you do that? Pretty elementary but... Get there early enough so parking isn't a problem. Host or go to a tailgate. How much freakin fun is tailgating??? I'm hooked on college football because of the atmosphere it creates both inside and outside of the stadium. Tailgate before, have a blast at the (whole) game, then tailgate more / go to a bar / or go home. Take the lead on this, be the organizer or host, and make your friends look forward to the next one. Who knows, maybe they'll have such a good time that they invite others to the next one. Class dismissed.

Rock Chalk and beat CU!

Kevin Long 10 years, 3 months ago

The students are getting too much of the blame here, that is true. Usually they make up for the rest of the lame crowd. 90s hawk is right, be tough, it's football! And we may be beating a dead horse, but it needed to be done.

easyfive- Do us all a favor and just stick with basketball or just stay home where it's perfect conditions for you. Sorry a damn good football team isn't enough for you people.

KGphoto 10 years, 3 months ago

It's not this complicated.

Kansas is among the top 4 or 5 schools nationally that perform in both of the two major college sports markets. Ohio State, Texas, and Florida are among only a handful of schools that can boast legit threats in both sports. And those schools are sporting over 40,000 enrollments. KU is nearing 30k. The sheer numbers are enough to explain it. You simply can't provide overflowing crowds for every sporting event. It takes all the tradition and history and success of a school like Kansas to fill the 16k Fieldhouse for 15-20 games a year. Don't be so upset that KU isn't breaking attendance records in a 50k stadium.

Patience grasshoppers. If Mangino builds it, they will come. And he is building.

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