Friday, July 2, 2010

First-hand experience: Gill, Long offer unique perspective to KU QBs

Kansas University football coach Turner Gill, right, addresses his team following the spring game on April 24 at Memorial Stadium. Gill has implemented a cell-phone policy on the team, as cell phones are collected on the day before a game and returned to the players after the game to limit distractions.

Kansas University football coach Turner Gill, right, addresses his team following the spring game on April 24 at Memorial Stadium. Gill has implemented a cell-phone policy on the team, as cell phones are collected on the day before a game and returned to the players after the game to limit distractions.


Kale Pick and Jordan Webb may not have taken many meaningful snaps during their college careers. But both Kansas University quarterbacks figure to enter the 2010 season with an advantage that most signal callers around the country won’t have — their coaches.


Chuck Long, right, and John Hadl, left, listen to Turner Gill’s introductory news conference on Dec. 14, 2009. Long, KU’s offensive coordinator, and Gill have a wealth of experience in dealing with quarterbacks. Hadl was a standout QB at both KU and in the NFL.

In head coach Turner Gill and offensive coordinator Chuck Long, the KU program has one of the top duos in terms of former college quarterbacks leading the way.

“We’ve got two guys who definitely know how to handle quarterbacks,” Gill said.

Set to enter his first season with the Jayhawks, Gill was a star at Nebraska in the 1980s. He led the Cornhuskers to three consecutive Big Eight titles and finished with a 28-2 record in three seasons as a starter. That run included a 20-0 mark in conference games. He threw for 3,317 yards and 34 touchdowns and gained 1,317 yards and 18 TDs on the ground.

Long, a legend around the corn fields of Iowa, was one of the most successful quarterbacks in Big Ten history. He finished his playing career with a 35-13-1 record, 10,461 yards, 74 total touchdowns and 782 completions. His 1985 season, in which he threw for 3,297 yards and 27 TDs, won the Maxwell (top player) and O’Brien (top quarterback) awards and was an All-American and the Big Ten player of the year, is widely regarded by Hawkeye fans as one of the greatest in college football history.

That year, Long finished second to Bo Jackson in the Heisman Trophy voting, a vote that, until last season, was the closest in Heisman history. Gill also made his mark on the Heisman ceremony, finishing fourth in 1983.

Their history, along with the wealth of knowledge they’ve stockpiled during their playing and coaching careers — Gill played two seasons in the Canadian Football League and coached at Nebraska, Buffalo and with the Green Bay Packers, and Long played five seasons in the NFL and was the head coach at San Diego State — make the two QB gurus more than qualified to tutor KU’s young quarterbacks. Both Pick and Webb are well aware of that.

“Oh, it’s great,” said Pick, a third-year sophomore. “They’ve been there. My dad was at Iowa State when (Long) was at Iowa, and he told me how great of a quarterback coach Long was. It’s great to have that in your head coach and your quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. I think we’re very fortunate to have both of them.”

This spring, Pick and Webb emerged from a group of six candidates vying to replace former KU quarterback Todd Reesing. Both started in the annual spring game in April, and both had good moments and bad moments throughout their early encounters with their new coaches.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a leader,” Gill said after the spring game. “But I can say Webb and Pick are the two guys. And they’re going to continue to battle it out as we go on.”

One of the best aspects of this coaching partnership is that Gill and Long possess different strengths while sharing a similar vision.

Gill works more with attitude, impact and accountability at the position, three things that made him beloved by fans and teammates during his playing days.

“I think most guys were anxious until we found out who we got as our head coach,” said Webb, a red-shirt freshman. “And then, hearing everything you hear about coach Gill, you just know you’re going to be happy playing under him, no matter what kind of plays you’re going to run.”

Long is more technical in his approach, though he has said repeatedly that things such as demeanor and mental toughness are crucial to performing well at the position.

“Coach Long … he’s a picky guy on film,” Pick said. “He’ll get down to every little thing that you do wrong or you do right. He motivates us, but he also tells us what we’re doing wrong and how to fix it. That’s what’s great. He’s so knowledgeable about the game. We’re lucky to have him.”

Despite the different approach with which they teach, Gill and Long have a common approach for pinpointing which player will become KU’s starting QB.

“Obviously, we’re going to evaluate their physical skills as far as being able to throw, run or whatever we want them to do,” Gill said. “But I’m more interested in how they handle things, good and bad. I want to know how they talk in the huddle, the tone of their voice. You always have to talk with confidence in the huddle, no matter what just happened on the play before. There’s a lot of different intangibles, not just how well (a guy) throws or runs.”

It’s that insight, along with their posing as a limitless sounding board for a couple of quarterbacks with so many questions, that has Pick and Webb believing that they are among the luckiest college quarterbacks in the country.

“I definitely think it’s a huge advantage,” Webb said. “They know what they’re doing with quarterbacks. I couldn’t think of two better guys to be coaching us right now.”


kerbyd 7 years, 11 months ago

Wish some of the basketball articles could be this positive!

quigley 7 years, 11 months ago

Let's roll this great QB coaching situation into some 4 and 5 star QB's! Or at least one in the next couple of years.

justinryman 7 years, 11 months ago

Let some of the H.S. QBs see what they do with these guys and they will come. It might take a year or two, but it will happen.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 11 months ago

Happened to notice recently, that we are still in the running for the top (Rivals) RB in this class, a 5*. That's with nothing happening on the field yet. Things will continue to improve.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 11 months ago

Happened to notice recently, that we are still in the running for the top (Rivals) RB in this class, a 5*. That's with nothing happening on the field yet. Things will continue to improve.

jchief40 7 years, 11 months ago

Off topic:

TMZ has learned the NCAA is taking an aggressive look at University of Kentucky basketball players -- past and current -- and their possible involvement with professional agents.

Read more:

okiedave 7 years, 11 months ago

Uh, Chamberlain. I am assuming you are talking about basketball? I recall only one time since the early 60's that we kicked the sh out of NU at football. My thinking is NU footballs fans are bemoaning the fact that they do not have KU to kick the sh out of KU in football, but simply overjoyed that they have entered a basketball conference (Big 10) in which they can be somewhat competitive and are not going to have to play KU twice each year.

slowplay 7 years, 11 months ago

Getting off topic, but Nebraska will NOT be competitive in Big 10 basketball. They will end up battling for the cellar position with Penn St. and Iowa.

100 7 years, 11 months ago

According to Steele's preseason predictions (we have one more year of Big 12 football), NU and KU are to fight for the Big 12 North title this year.

Steele is really hyped on Gill and his staff.

Randy Bombardier 7 years, 11 months ago

NU won't be better off at basketball, but they will be in football. I do not think that NU could have completed its football comeback in the Big 12. I still do not think they are back by any stretch. Their offense was lacking last year. I doubt that it is going to be any better this year. NU should be able to win the Big 10 every other year, but I could be surprised. Iowa was very good last year. MSU has been very good at times. In general I have always thought that the conferences worst team was better by quite a margin than the Big 12's worst team. But our best teams are better than their best teams. Greater spread in quality play in Big 12. So, if NU has a down year, it could actually be worse for them. If they have a good year, they are in the hunt for the Rose Bowl. But, yep, they are going to be the cellar dwellers in hoops.

stravinsky 7 years, 11 months ago

I don't know that they'll be able to win the Big 10 every other year, at least in the next five years or so. OSU is still way too good comparatively, and Penn State isn't exactly weak sauce either. (Michigan... oy, that sure is another story).

I do however think they'll be able to somewhat consistently be in the top four in the conference. Depending on how things go, and they could go well because Pelini is a hell of a defensive coach, Nebraska could be the new Michigan. You know, the Carr era Michigan that was always really good but could never actually supplant OSU at the top of the conference.

I don't particularly know why the Big 10 wanted Notre Dame when they already have Rich Rodriguez. How many teams with terrible head coaches driving storied programs into the ground do you really want in one place?

DevilHawk 7 years, 11 months ago

Notre Dame makes good money from TV contracts, and would add even more value to the Big 10.

Also, don't forget that Notre Dame fired Charlie Weis (now with the Chiefs) and hired Brian Kelly from Cincy. Cincy won the Big East in 2008 and 2009, but the Big East is not known for football and it is questionable as to how he will do at Notre Dame.

stravinsky 7 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I know, I just wanted to be an ass :P

I hope Weis can be a much better OC for the Chiefs than he was a head coach for Notre Dame. He was plenty successful at New England, but most people have been plenty successful at New England over the last decade.

I haven't decided how I think Kelly will be. He could either pull a Rodriguez and make things even worse or he could end up putting up consistent 8+ win seasons. I'd bet more on the latter, ND has the sort of name that makes recruiting much easier.

KGphoto 7 years, 11 months ago

8+ win seasons don't quite cut it at ND. That would be a total failure, and by comparison, Rodriguez would be off the hook.

Weis is back in his (large, comfy) chair. He's an OC, not a HC. He's an NFL coach, not an NCAA coach.

KGphoto 7 years, 11 months ago

Just who will emerge as NU's key rival in the Big 10? Certainly Ohio State has the resume and tradition. Michigan, if they pull the head out. But I'm having a hard time seeing a compelling rivalry. NU plays OU. NU plays Orange Bowls, not Rose Bowls.

How pissed are Big 10 hardhats going to be when NU smokes UCLA or Oregon for the Rose Bowl Championship? Nebraska, Rose Bowl Champs! All those Cornhuskers biting roses for Sports Illustrated? Ouch.

Get used to it.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 11 months ago

Huskers look at Iowa with disdain, so that is the natural rivalry. Which Iowa shows up will tell whether it is a rivalry of substance or whether it is an annual pummeling.

hawksince51 7 years, 11 months ago

Gill and Long will attract top flight QB's. They were in the running for Berglund from CO who chose CU because he wanted to stay in state. KU would not have been on his final 4 list without Gill and Long. I couldn't care less about how NU does in the big 10(12) but will enjoy watching CU lose in the Pac 10(12) since I live in CO and have had to put up with the Buff football fans for years. (they have no basketball fans.)

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