Kansas University defensive coordinator Dave Campo is not interested in talking about specific players this spring.
In fact, Campo is not even all that interested in coaching specific defenses.
He’s looking for football players. And until he finds them — or at least until he knows he can count on them — the first-year KU coordinator and former head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is not going to worry about much else.
“We’ve played probably more base defense this spring than we’ll play during the whole course of next year,” Campo said during a news conference Tuesday. “You don’t find very many base football teams that line up with two backs, two tight ends. But that is good for us because we’re seeing guys have to be physical and have to run and do the things they have to do. It really isn’t about scheme, it’s about evaluating how good these players are.”
Three months and 11 practices into his time at KU, Campo remains in the evaluation process. It’s what spring practice is for, he says, and it’s the perfect way to get the book on guys without muddying the water with how they fit into this scheme or that set.
To some degree, that includes whether guys are playing the right position and if they should be playing at all. Things such as effort, enthusiasm and understanding fill the pages of Campo’s evaluation.
“Guys, (the KU defense was) 120th in the (country) last year,” Campo said. “Of course, I’m nervous about the guys being able to compete on this level, but we wouldn’t be there if that weren’t the case. What we’ve gotta do is get competitive. If we get competitive on that side of the ball, with our quarterback situation, that combination means we’re gonna be a little bit better. It’s all speculation right now.”
It’s also the part of coaching that Campo loves best. Teaching, drilling and getting the most out of guys is what puts the bounce in his step. Although there remains a long way to go, Campo seems pleased with the progress.
“I think (the team’s enthusiasm is) better now than it has been at any time,” Campo said. “I really think our guys understand what it takes. ... If we can come out of this spring knowing the guys that are here that we can count on, then I think we will have come out ahead really.”
McCay ruling today?
The case for wide receiver Justin McCay is scheduled to be reviewed by the NCAA today, and a ruling is expected by Thursday at the latest.
McCay, the Bishop Miege High prospect who transferred from Oklahoma before the start of the spring semester, is seeking a special waiver that would allow him to play this fall instead of sitting out a year.
There is plenty of precedent for such moves throughout college athletics. Just five days ago, USC defensive back Josh Shaw, a transfer from Florida, was granted a hardship waiver after the NCAA reviewed his case, which involved his ailing father and grandfather and the need to be closer to their Palmdale, Calif., home.
Though the specifics of McCay’s case have not been made public, KU coach Charlie Weis and offensive-line coach Tim Grunhard, who coached McCay in high school, have said he has a legitimate case.
Secondary a step ahead
Campo said Tuesday that the KU secondary, which features cornerbacks Greg Brown and Tyler Patmon and safeties Bradley McDougald and Lubbock Smith as returning players with starting experience, had established itself as the top unit on the defense through the first two-thirds of the spring.
“I feel halfway decent about the secondary as a whole,” Campo said. “I think there are some players there. We’ve got three DBs coming in that can run, so it’s going to be a competition still, but I feel pretty decent about that group above all the other groups at this point.”
The DBs that Campo referenced are incoming freshmen Greg Allen and Tyree Williams and junior-college transfer Nasir Moore. Given KU’s lack of depth and experience at cornerback, all three could be in line for early playing time.
Playing both ways
Although no new position switches have popped up in the past couple of weeks, that does not mean that Campo hasn’t had his eye on the offensive side of the ball.
“I see some guys over there that I’d like to have,” Campo said. “I might not get ’em, or I may get ’em part time, but we haven’t made any position moves.”
What the KU coaching staff has done is strive to locate the best football players on the roster. With more than 20 new players scheduled to arrive in June, the list could change drastically between now and September, but both Campo and Weis have stressed that all they can do is work with what they have.
“There are some guys on offense that we feel could be two-way type players,” Campo said. “We’re gonna try to get the best 11 guys on offense and the best 11 guys on defense, whoever those guys are. That’s just a philosophy. You have to get your best guys on the field. And Charlie’s great with that.”