Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dave Campo making great strides with KU football defense

Kansas safety Lubbock Smith drags down Texas running back Johnathan Gray during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas safety Lubbock Smith drags down Texas running back Johnathan Gray during the first quarter on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012 at Memorial Stadium.


Five games into his first run through the Big 12 Conference football schedule, Kansas University defensive coordinator Dave Campo has upgraded the Jayhawks’ defense despite facing some of the nation’s most potent offenses week after week.

However, the Jayhawks’ noticeable improvements on defense have not necessarily been an indication that things have been easy for Campo.

“It’s harder,” said the longtime Dallas Cowboys coach when asked if working in the Big 12 was what he expected. “After spring football, I thought, well, we’ll be all right. But it is tougher.”

For Campo, harder has not meant less enjoyable. In fact, 65-year-old Campo has approached each week with the spunk of a much younger man, rejuvenated by his return to the collegiate level and the chance to truly teach again.

“I’m learning every day,” Campo said. “That’s one of the reasons I took the job. I think it’s good for a guy my age to keep learning, and I’m learning every day.”

KU coach Charlie Weis often has talked about how the Big 12 brings new challenges for the offense and defense to tackle each week. But it’s no secret that, with eight of the league’s 10 schools currently ranked among the country’s top 50 teams in total offense — and five of them holding spots in the top 20 — things have been considerably more challenging for Campo and crew than the rest of the squad.

Despite the seemingly endless string of high-powered offenses lining up across from him, Campo actually has improved the Kansas defense little by little each week. Two weeks ago, as KU went into its match-up with Oklahoma, the Jayhawks were ranked 91st in total defense. Today, as they prepare for Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. road match-up with Baylor, which ranks third in total offense and leads the nation in passing, the Jayhawks rank 81st in that category. That’s after taking on OU and Texas, which currently rank 20th and 38th, respectively, in total offense.

What’s more, Big 12 offenses occupy seven of the top 13 positions in scoring offense, with five of them — K-State, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas and West Virginia — holding down spots five through nine.

“All I know is, (Oklahoma defensive coordinator) Mike Stoops said to me before the (Oct. 20 OU) game, ‘Look, this is not a league to be a defensive coordinator in,’” Campo said with a laugh. “You know, it’s a very explosive league, and that’s why I have faith that we’re making some progress, because there have been a couple of high-scoring teams that we’ve held down.”

The KU defense gave up 20 points to both Oklahoma State and TCU and surrendered just 21 to Texas a week ago. Heading into their match-ups with the Jayhawks, Oklahoma State and TCU both averaged 56 points per game and Texas averaged 44.

From where Weis sits, such feats have been a huge accomplishment for his defense, even if figuring out how to achieve them each week has worn on Campo.

“Well, he’s already past that gray-hair stage,” Weis said. “So I think he’s bypassed that one. But I think that he really loves the game of football. I can’t say that he’s enjoyed having to go against these (offenses) every week, but it really challenges you. It really challenges you to try to take your players and what they can do and try to figure out the best way to minimize what (opposing offenses) do. It’s a challenge.”

There is work to be done, Campo said, as the defense he works with today remains a far cry from what he envisions lining up in the future. But there are certain elements of his first KU defense — most notably, the effort — that Campo hopes will become a staple of the KU defense well into the future.

“This is a good group,” he said. “I don’t have any problem with this group. I really don’t. Schemes and stuff like that kind of go away in the offseason. You have to redo a lot of stuff. But fundamentals and how to do certain things, that can carry over.”


danmoore 1 year, 5 months ago

Pretty sure someone already posted this but we are only about 3 td’s from a winning record. If we can get an upgrade in talent next year those close losses could be wins.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 5 months ago

Think how much better we will be when we can upgrade the Offense to DECENT [clock possession, low turn-overs and penalties, kicking game], thus allowing good recruiting years build up the Defense to ELITE.[better and faster talent, better starting field position, more rested].

I know we all wanted more victories [and there may be still more to come] but the primary goal was to give Charlie's staff a true snapshot of the program and what was needed to start the turn-around. I think that goal is being achieved....totally!!!


Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 5 months ago

There is no doubt in my mind that this defense is much improved.

If you still doubt it, ask Mack Brown his opinion.


Keith Hummel 1 year, 5 months ago

The difference between where this defense was last year and where it is today is simply amazing. I cannot wait to see what Campo can accomplish after a year or two of recruiting and teaching. There has been a lot of talk about the difficulty of being a Defensive Coordinator in the Big-12, almost as if we should feel sorry for Dave Campo. But imagine the respect Campo would get if he were able to consistently slow down the Big-12 offensive juggernauts. I can hardly imagine a better way to solidify your legacy as a defensive genius than that. And if we are able to see the same kind of improvement in our offense next year, the defense will look even better. Lots to get excited about with this team and the direction they are headed.


Jack Jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Where did all those "get rid of Campo" posters go? Thanks to all for your thoughts about Coach C.


riverdrifter 1 year, 5 months ago

I highly respect Campo and hope we can keep him. He's set for life so he's not here for a paycheck. Stick around, Dave!


nostradavid 1 year, 5 months ago

Thanks for doing a great job, Coach Campo. Good article, Matt. Playing against superior opponents improves your skills quickly.


Jeff Soisson 1 year, 5 months ago

If KU can run the ball and control time of possession, get some takeaways, we can win this game. Last week should give KU confidence that they can win. This is a huge game with Iowa State and WVU up next. If we can beat Baylor, we might finish the year with another win, with a loss, not sure.


wildjayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

There is no question that during the Mangino season that the last part of it were in turmoil and question. Mark did have a strong defense during his term there. This team under Weis looks to be getting better and looks like a team which was far cry from what it was the last two years under Gill. Mangino's first couple of years were pretty tough but, then blended into a pretty good team, just give them time.


troutsee 1 year, 5 months ago

There is no question that the defense is getting better. The game plans for all games this year has been pretty solid.


Boouk 1 year, 5 months ago

The next step this defense has to take is to play like it did against Texas, OSU, or TCU away from home against another good offense. KU's defense hasn't had a good performance on the road since Mangino resigned. I don't expect anything quite like last year's 3 quarter miracle, but slowing down Baylor's offense on Saturday would be a great sign.


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

From a fan's point of view - I'm VERY appreciate of Coach C's efforts. You can tell the defense is playing their hearts out every game (not that the offense isn't) and they're not giving up at halftime like we seemed to do just about every game last year.

Keep up the good work - coaches and players!! It's going to pay off for us soon.


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