On most Tuesdays, Mrkonic Auditorium in Kansas University’s Anderson Family Football Complex is the spot where KU players and coaches talk to the media from 11:30 a.m. until well after 1 p.m.
Not this week.
Tuesday, after KU coach Turner Gill addressed reporters about the Jayhawks’ upcoming battle with No. 3 Oklahoma — kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium — the usual action shifted to the chancellor’s lounge and wrapped up before 1. The reason? The auditorium was booked for a special meeting involving the KU defense. Before heading to the auditorium, sophomore cornerback Tyler Patmon said the meeting was called by the players.
“We want to respond to what’s been going on, and we want to accept the challenge that people are putting on us by saying we’re such a bad defense,” Patmon said. “We want to come together and see what’s going on and try to fix our problems.”
Asked what the meeting was about, Patmon kept it vague.
“That’s a defensive meeting,” he said with a smile.
Asked if any coaches would be present, Patmon’s smile grew.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “Just players.”
These types of meetings are common throughout sports and often come when teams are in tough situations. The Jayhawks, 2-3 overall and 0-2 in Big 12 play, qualify, since they’ve been outscored 108-42 in the past seven quarters and 181-86 during the past three games.
Another way the Jayhawks have tried to fight through their recent struggles is by encouraging one another. Junior safety Lubbock Smith, who may start this week if red-shirt freshman Keeston Terry (questionable) is unable to go, wrote the words “Show up or shut up” on the wall of the locker room to get his point across.
“I’m just trying to motivate the other guys around me,” Smith said. “I wasn’t trying to point fingers at anybody. If we lose, we all lose together. It’s just a matter of trying to separate the boys from the men. It was just supposed to be like, ‘Hey, we play OU this week, they’re the No. 1 team in the country, either you’re going to show up or you’re going to shut up.’ Now, if you make mistakes on the field, that’s understandable. But people are going to see if you’re really pushing and really trying to win. You can’t really control what other people are going to do, but you can control your focus and whether or not you’ve been in the film room watching film or working hard in practice.”
Gill talks TCU
Monday’s announcement that Texas Christian University officially had accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 brought a smile to the face of Gill, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, where TCU is located.
“It will be interesting when we play TCU at (their) home,” Gill said Tuesday. “That’s my hometown, probably a five- to 10-minute drive from where I grew up. It’s good to have them in. They’ve earned it and deserve it. They’re going to be a good addition to our league.”
Biere honored as top TE
Earlier this week, senior tight end Tim Biere was named the nation’s top tight end for the week by the College Football Performance Awards. Biere, who shares the team lead in receptions, with 19, finished last week’s 70-28 loss at Oklahoma State with 93 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. The yardage and reception totals were career-highs, but Biere was not overly impressed.
“It feels good to earn the honor,” he said Tuesday. “But it’s kind of bittersweet because my performance came in a blowout.”
His head coach was much more moved by the honor.
“It’s good exposure for the University of Kansas,” Gill said. “It’s good recognition for him. He’s a captain, leader, playmaker; he’s very good, and he makes plays. We’ve seen that a lot in the first five games. He’s been able to produce for us, and I hope he continues to do that.”
Asked if he’d search for more ways to get the ball in Biere’s hands, Gill drummed up an analogy from another sport in which tight ends are known to excel.
“You hear the statements in basketball, if you have a hot guy, you’re going to try and get him the ball and let him go do his thing,” Gill said. “It’s a little bit harder in football, but you still try to get those things done, and we will try to do that.”
Part of the ongoing process of improving a defense that ranks dead last in the FBS in total defense includes evaluating new faces and tinkering with the idea of putting some of them in new places.
The KU coaching staff is prepared to do that. Defensive coordinator Vic Shealy said Tuesday that true freshmen Ben Heeney (LB), Michael Reynolds (DE) and Victor Simmons (S) may get a longer look during live action in the coming weeks simply because of their speed and tenacity.
While the three freshmen look great at times because of their natural gifts, it’s the mental side of the game that has kept them off the field for the majority of the season. During the past couple of weeks, Shealy and company have tried to change that by gradually giving them more work in practice.
“We have been repping them to try to knock down some of that mental wall,” Shealy said. “But on defense, it’s hard to play young kids because, even though they may be fast and may look great at times, if they’re going fast in the wrong direction it may end up hurting you more.”
Shealy also said Tuesday that freshman defensive end Javonte Daniel had shown great progress. These guys may not take over for the starters or even make their way into the depth chart permanently, but, as the season goes on, expect to see them on the field more often.