Friday, April 6, 2012

Tryout time: KU defensive coordinator Campo sees spring as proving ground

Kansas linemen Julius Green (99), Dylan Avery (62), Pat Lewandowski (91), John Williams and Keba Agostinho (96) get loose during the first day of spring practices on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.

Kansas linemen Julius Green (99), Dylan Avery (62), Pat Lewandowski (91), John Williams and Keba Agostinho (96) get loose during the first day of spring practices on Tuesday, March 27, 2012.


When Kansas University defensive coordinator Dave Campo took the job in January, one of the things he said he was looking forward to about returning to the college game fresh off of a 23-year stint in the NFL was the opportunity to teach again.

It seems he picked the right place.

Five practices into spring drills, Campo said Thursday that he told his players to use this month as a time to prove themselves and that teaching had dominated the first few days of practice.

“It’s a blank sheet,” Campo said. “And I told our defense that when we first got together. I said, ‘If you want to know what we’re doing in the next month, I can give you a sheet of paper and tell you how we’re going to insert defenses and how we’re gonna do all these things. But, really, you should only know one thing — this is a tryout.’ And that’s the approach that we’re taking.”

By tryout, Campo was not talking only about stopwatches and an almost-daily shuffling of the depth chart. He and the rest of the coaching staff are in a hard-core look-under-the-hood phase, and he expects that to continue throughout the spring. Diving into the playbook and beginning preparations for Big 12 offenses can wait.

“We’re trying to evaluate who we are more than anything else,” Campo said. “Scheme is the least of the concerns that I have. We really want to be able, at the end of spring practice, to say, ‘We can count on this guy and this guy and this guy,’ and then the guys we’ve got coming in are gonna fill in.”

So far this spring, Campo said the defense had progressed at a slow and steady pace. There are multiple reasons for that, but the biggest is that Campo and his defensive coaches still are getting to know their personnel. That starts with trust, and Campo said it was a two-way street.

“‘Even though I have certain things that might prove it, I still have to prove to you that I can help you get better and that we’re doing things the right way around here on defense,’” Campo said he told his unit. “‘That’s my responsibility. At the same time, it’s your responsibility to prove to me that you can do what I ask you to do.’”

As for specific guys who have stood out through the first third of spring drills, Campo said he did not want to name names.

“I want everybody to think that they’re that guy,” Campo said. “The one thing I will say is there’s been a drastic improvement from the first practice to this practice as far as guys understanding what we want from the snap of the football to the end of the play.”

The need for speed

Both Campo and head coach Charlie Weis have talked repeatedly about their desire to upgrade KU’s speed. That was one of the topics of Campo’s meeting with the media again Thursday, but since he actually had seen what’s on the field, Campo could provide his opinion about KU’s wheels.

“Not the best,” he said. “But I think we have some guys that can run. Remember, you don’t have to find 30, all you have to do is find 11 of them. That’s something that people forget sometimes.”

Saying goodbye

Campo was a couple of minutes late to his news conference Thursday because he had just heard that longtime friend and former colleague Joe Avezzano had passed away after suffering a heart attack in Italy. Campo worked with Avezzano, 68, at Oregon State, Pittsburgh and with the Dallas Cowboys.

“I apologize for being late,” Campo said. “I’m a little discombobulated today. I just want to convey my condolences to Joe and his family. He was a good friend, and he was an important guy in my career.”

Ticket sales soaring

KU officials announced Thursday that, while season-ticket sales remain ongoing, the effort already had surpassed what the university had sold during the past few seasons.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly how many season-ticket packages had been sold because renewals continue to roll in.

But a press release said that more than 3,000 new season-ticket packages already had been purchased for next season, which includes the new “Coach’s Corner” option that was sold out.


Ryan Lee 9 years, 6 months ago

I think 5-7 1st year, 8-4 2nd year w/ Heaps. But Christ and company will lead an exciting new regime. Then coach will leave for a bigger program.

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 6 months ago

I don't think so, unless Florida opens up. I think he wants to prove something and two years won't do that.

Doug Cramer 9 years, 6 months ago

Translation - our D will suck again this season.

Jonathan Briles 9 years, 6 months ago

Translation - Our D will have to work harder. There has been nothing fast about a KU defense in a long long time, but there were a few years where we had a really great defense. We were good because of great fundamentals. Our guys were constantly in great position and took good angles to the ball carrier and wrapped up. Reid, Kane, Floodman, McClinton, Keith, Rivera, Mortenson, and others were all very slow, but all had fantastic fundamentals. If Campo is doing the teaching he is talking about then our guys can be effective. They won't be like Alabama, but they also won't be like last year. We can be effective, but will just have to work a little harder to make up for physical shortcomings.

jhox 9 years, 6 months ago

Rivera wasn't slow and, for a guy at his position, McClinton wasn't slow, but I'd go along with the others. The one thing those guys you mentioned had in common is that they were all "real" football players. Guys who loved the game and loved to hit. No pretty boy football players in that group. A bunch of overachievers.

If this staff thinks we're slow now (and we are) they should have seen what Gill inherited from Mangino. I really think that was Mangino's downfall, his inability to recruit speed his last few seasons. About the only thing Gill did right was recognize the need for recruiting speed. Unfortunately, too many of Gill's speed guys were undersized. But then that's what you're stuck with when you're Kansas Football. You can land someone with size, or you can land someone with speed, but seldom have we been able to land players with both.

Hopefully this coaching staff can turn that around and land a few guys who have speed, size and guys who are "real" football players. I still think some of Gill's recruits have a chance to turn into outstanding football players. Some of last year's freshmen showed flashes. I do believe poor schemes had a lot to do with our terrible past 2 seasons, especially last year. Torbush did a decent job Gill's first season, but last year's defensive coordinator was definitely in way over his head.

9 years, 6 months ago

Funny you should mention speed and fundamentals. An old buddy of mine was nationally ranked in handball when he was in college and for a decade or so after graduation. To look at him, you would think the closest he ever came to a handball court was the adjacent snack bar. He had virtually zero lateral speed or quickness. His fundamentals though, particularly knowing where the ball was going before it got there, are what made him superior to most. It also didn’t hurt that he was good at “hitting it where they ain’t.” :-)

yovoy 9 years, 6 months ago

Charleton Keith was slow? Guess I never noticed because he was making so many plays. I really don't recall him being slow.

I know he could play some hoops though. Never thought he was slow then either, but I'd vote to remove him from the slow category.

John Myers 9 years, 6 months ago

Give it a rest. Your posts about KU's defense have already become as tiresome as ahperse's nonstop posts about firing Gill.

Ben Kliewer 9 years, 6 months ago

I'm not saying I don't trust the coaching staff. But just a word of warning, and I think everybody knows this already, but don't expect this team to do anything spectacular this year. Could be another pretty bad season. The key is the transition from year one to year two. I'm not saying to expect the 2013 Big 12 Championship, but there should be signs of improvement that season if this coaching staff is worth their salt, which their resume's would suggest they are. That's where Turner failed. You could see that there was little inspiration, and even less work ethic in the players under his watch, and the team actually regressed in the second season. In this age of college football, that can't happen. Hopefully we can pull off 5 wins this year, that'd be fantastic and I'd be sold on this staff. But even if we don't get 5 or more wins, I'm not writing them off. Like I said, the key will be what is done on the field in the Fall of 2013.

vd 9 years, 6 months ago

We will see improvemnets when Gill's recruits start to contribute.

Michael Pannacciulli 9 years, 6 months ago

Can't win without D. Needs to be the focus. We will get there.

baldwinjhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

I will be pleased if the defense can get all of the it's players into position by the time the ball is snapped. I don't know how many times we were caught out of position last year? It was way too many times.

Ashwin Rao 9 years, 6 months ago

You need speed for that, which we lack! :)

Sam Brockert 9 years, 6 months ago

No, you need a brain for that, which we lacked...

Danny Hernandez 9 years, 6 months ago

"you don’t have to find 30, all you have to do is find 11 of them"

This staff will find the 11 on D. We have some and those that come in this summer will fill out the remainder.

I can see 7-5 our first we coulda shoulda won last year, we will win this year plus games we have no business even winning. Mark my words

AirCapJay 9 years, 6 months ago

I agree. The QB position is so huge. Reesing was a huge difference in our Orange Bowl year. Point guards can make a huge impact on a BB team and I think the QB is very important. If Crist is what Weis says he is, then I expect big things from our offense. I hope our defense is much improved, otherwise you will see a lot of high scoring games.

Andy Tweedy 9 years, 6 months ago

Not disagreeing with the Reesing comment, but that team had a 1st team All-American at CB, three WRs that played in the NFL (two still do), an NFL TE, an All-American OT, a really salty linebacker group, etc. I think we'll improve, but Peyton Manning couldn't have won many games with that team last year.

Sam Brockert 9 years, 6 months ago

You know I have heard a lot of people around me comment and say that Weis's SB rigns came with Tom Brady under center. Tom Brady wasn't that highly touted coming out of college, so I wonder how much hand weis had in his development. At the very least you can make the argument, how many superbowls has tom brady won without weis?

flyingfinn 9 years, 6 months ago

Let's face it last year's defense was one of the worst in history, but they were also on the field way too much because of a poor offense. I don't expect a great defense this year but they should improve and should be more effective with less time on the field because Coach Weiss will have an offense that can control the ball for lengthy periods of time. While I won't make any record predictions I do expect us to be MUCH more competitive and able to make half-time adjustments that were not seen in the past two years.

KU79 9 years, 6 months ago

Uh, I don't think Julius Green is in that picture.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 6 months ago

I thought that too, but the picture is actually cropped. If you click on the picture it will show the entire shot, which does have Julius Green in it.

number1jayhawker 9 years, 6 months ago

Yes he is. He was released shortly there after.

Warren 9 years, 6 months ago

Also remember, this will be the 5th different defense we have had in the last 5 years.

9 years, 6 months ago

Nice mention of Joe Avezzano above. Anyone who has spent time living in or around the DFW area in the last couple of decades knows that, perhaps outside of Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson, he was one of the most beloved coaches in town. Players who played for him and fans alike appreciated and respected him. He was a friendly down-to-Earth guy who will be missed.

~ R.I.P. Coach Joe ~

ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 6 months ago

Speeeeeeeeeeeeeeed... mean the 127 different articles last year about Turner being a good recruiter and bringing in speed were not true...If only a poster would of gone against the grain and tried to explain to everyone that Turners recruits were a joke!

KGphoto 9 years, 6 months ago

Kind of hard to say that Brandon Bourbon, Tony Pierson, JaCorey Shepherd and Victor Simmons aren't fast isn't it? He moved Opurum to DE/OLB to increase speed. That worked. Is it too bad he didn't find the QB to get them the ball, or a DC to coach the defense? Oh hell yeah, but I wouldn't start calling these guys a joke!

ahpersecoachingexperience 9 years, 6 months ago

Shepherd was so fast he would often run before the ball was snapped, SMH! Oh please dear lord, let the days of WR's jumping offside, being lined up in the wrong position on the second play of the game, and getting sent to the hospital by a camera on a tripod (I know, TE, but close enough) be over!

KGphoto 9 years, 6 months ago

I wouldn't read a whole lot into what Campo says about the players at this point. I think they are still lighting fires under butts out there.

His quote is a tricky one.

Re: Speed

“Not the best,” he said. “But I think we have some guys that can run. Remember, you don’t have to find 30, all you have to do is find 11 of them."

"...guys that can run." Okay, does that mean they are fast? Well...

Bakare, Tharp, Opurum, Brown, Simmons (maybe Willis). These guys can run. I think they can run pretty fast, too. That's 5 or 6, of the 7 or 8 positions that really need to be able to run on a defensive unit. It doesn't matter though, because you can't come out and say "I like our speed". He's keeping these guys motivated, and keeping them in the dark is part of that process.

Personally I think him saying our defensive speed is "not the best" is a good thing. It too, keeps guys motivated.

Phoggin_Loud 9 years, 6 months ago

Regarding speed, here's the entire quote from Coach Campo:

"Not the best, but I think we have some guys that can run," Campo said. "You have to remember, you don't have to find 30 guys that can run. All you have to do is find 11 of them. That's something that people forget sometimes. I guarantee that our 30 players are maybe not as good as 30 players at Oklahoma. But maybe six of them are as good as anybody at Oklahoma. Then you have to find guys to fill in that do it the right way, and then you've got a chance to get better."

Bee Bee 9 years, 6 months ago

They can t get worse than last season. UGH!

omng392 9 years, 6 months ago

Everyone on this page is talking how this team is going to suck, we will be a .500 or better team this year and I'm calling it bowl eligible. All you have to do is look at what a great coaching job can do and how far a team can go (see badketball). Did you see how well Cassel played when Weiss was at KC?

Time to buy, this stock is about to go up!!

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 6 months ago

I'll bite. I think we can be 6-6 this year. The conference is going to be tough. Baylor has passed over a hump. So has Iowa State. There is not a single gimme in conference anymore. Where is Colorado when you need them?

jdhawk 9 years, 6 months ago

First Sentence in the article made me not want to read the rest. "When Kansas University defensive coordinator Dave Campo took the job in January"

Can the paper that covers the University get the name right, PLEASE.

The University of Kansas, not Kansas University is what my diploma reads

Dan Harris 9 years, 6 months ago

The University of Kansas vs Kansas University!

Lets get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Give it a rest! It really doesn't matter,find something else to bitch about!

Dennis Mahorney 9 years, 6 months ago

Looks like they have a little captain in them this year....Go Hawks!

Randy Bombardier 9 years, 6 months ago

I don't think it was a lack of defensive speed that caused the embarrassment at Ga Tech. I have never seen a football team be so out of position. I understand what they are doing now but at some point it seems to me that we need some serious classroom (film) time.

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