Sunday, August 11, 2013

Bowen, KU football assistants adjust roles to maximize new defense

Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis, right, laughs with linebackers coach Clint Bowen as the players stretch out during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis, right, laughs with linebackers coach Clint Bowen as the players stretch out during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo


Last week, during his first news conference of fall camp, Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis unveiled a new look for this year’s defense.

Sunday, KU’s defensive assistants revealed a little more about how the Jayhawks’ nickel system will work.

In addition to having more defensive backs on the field in order to match the fast-paced offenses in the Big 12, linebackers coach Clint Bowen will play a bigger part in coordinating the defense. It’s a role Bowen is familiar with, having spent six seasons as a defensive coordinator in the past, four at KU (2006-09) and one each at Western Kentucky (2010) and North Texas (2011). And it’s a change that he, Weis and Dave Campo, who remains KU’s assistant head coach in charge of defense, believe gives KU its best chance to slow down opponents.

“Being the linebacker coach, it’s on my shoulders to put the front and the coverages together,” said Bowen. “And it’s my responsibility to get us in a defense that’s sound and solid.”

The new-look KU defense — a versatile system with five defensive backs in its base look — hardly will be a dictatorship with Bowen calling the shots. Instead, each of KU’s defensive assistants, from Bowen and Campo to defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt and assistant secondary coach Scott Vestal, will have the freedom to provide input. But Bowen will be the guy responsible for meshing what happens in the secondary with what the Jayhawks are doing up front.

“Bowen’s gonna have to help put this together more than even Dave’s going to if we’re gonna be able to handle the tempo of the game,” Weis said. “The tempo of the game has dictated us going to almost no-huddle defense to match no-huddle offense.”

Although the new responsibilities given to Bowen certainly increase his importance, the move is not in any way a demotion for Campo. In fact, Campo said he was comfortable with the direction the defense was headed.

“We’ve got a lot of experience on our defensive staff and some of the experience is more geared to this style of offense than mine is,” Campo said. “Last year, it was more me telling everybody what to do, and, this year, we’re listening to each other and making those kinds of decisions. With the way things are going now, that’s the way to go.”

Added Bowen: “We work together. Buddy’s really strong at helping on pressures. Dave’s strong on coverages. And then on game day we put it all together and go.”

In order to be most efficient in doing that, Bowen, Campo and Wyatt all will be coaching from the sideline on Saturdays. Campo said being on the field instead of in the coaches’ box would allow him to have a more hands-on approach with the secondary, something he believed was missing in 2012. And Bowen said having the three main position coaches eye-to-eye with their defensive players would keep things from getting lost in translation. In the past, it operated a little like the children’s game of “Telephone.” One person would pass the message on to another and so on until it reached the intended recipient, by which time the message had changed. Now, if Bowen has something to tell to Ben Heeney or Campo needs to make an adjustment with Cassius Sendish, the coaches can walk up to a player and tell him themselves.

Bowen cut his teeth as a coordinator at KU under the tutelage of Bill Young, and said he felt comfortable in the Big 12 because that was all he had ever known.

“My first year ever coordinating a defense (alone) was 2008 when the tempo took off,” Bowen recalled. “This kind of tempo is what football has been my entire time. Facing a team that huddles is what’s different to me.”

In addition to understanding spread offenses, the 40-year-old Bowen said he learned a lot during his two years away from Lawrence that pushed him to grow as a defensive coordinator.

“That’s a different league,” he said of the Sun Belt Conference, which both UNT and WKU called home during Bowen’s time. “(Offensive coaches) tried things. You see things in that league that, if it doesn’t work, the one beat writer and the 20 fans in the stands saw it and nothing happened. Offenses in that league are crazy. It really tests you.”

Bowen said he expected his new role to be his biggest challenge yet, but added that he was eager to help the KU defense improve.

“Each year’s a little bit different,” he said. “And I’m just always excited to do whatever has to be done. Coach Weis came up with what he thought we needed to do to get our defense going and this is what we came out with. You gotta have rules and stuff in your defense so it stays consistent. If you can tell a kid that it’s always or never, you’re a lot better off. And we’ve worked really hard on giving our guys concrete rules that they can learn, understand and master. I think we’re a lot more on the same page, staff-wise, with exactly what we want to do with a lot of that stuff.”


Nick Brungardt 8 years, 2 months ago

It makes me nervous with Bowen calling the shots. We went from one of the better defenses in the country in 2007 to average at best in 2008. I know we lost two stars, but that big of a drop off is inexcusable.

John Randall 8 years, 2 months ago

If what happened five years ago during big Lew's witch hunt is your reference point, I can't expect you to distinguish spoiled apple butter from baby $#it.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

He's talking about 2008, the year after the Orange Bowl and the year before Lew dealt the biggest blow in cratering KU football.

Nick Brungardt 8 years, 2 months ago

The witch hunt went on during the 2009 season, pal. All I said was that he makes me nervous. I would really like to know how much football knowledge and playing experience you have to make a brash comment like that.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 2 months ago

Wasn't 2006 the year we blew 2nd half leads week after week after week. Don't recall that being one of the better defenses in the country. Maybe 2008 was more of a return to the norm vs. bad coaching. We did lose some stud players, and also got UT, OU, TTU on the schedule.

vd 8 years, 2 months ago

Don't bother with facts. Bowen haters will ignore them.

Brad Farha 8 years, 2 months ago

We lost James McClinton and Aqib Talib that year. I think those were the main reasons why our defense dropped so much.

Dirk Medema 8 years, 2 months ago

Did I read correctly that Campo is in the 2nd year of a 2 year contract? Is this also foreshadowing of coaching changes in the off-season? Would sure hate to lose the pull of DC with recruits, as well as the wealth of experience. It also sounds/seems like he is one of the more enthusiastic coaches.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

Assistants typically have significantly shorter contracts than head coaches because those positions typically have a higher turnover rate than head coaches do. It's not really that significant as I'm guessing most of Weis's assistants are working on shorter contracts than the 5 year deal Weis has.

jhox 8 years, 2 months ago

I just hope we finally figure out how to defend K State's read option, and the little borderline illegal pick play passing offenses many of the Big 12 schools run.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 2 months ago

That stupid read option has got to be the most frustrating thing for an opposing fan/coach/player to watch/play against. I absolutely hated watching us get destroyed by Klein with just that one play over and over and over..... I hope a lot of its success was specifically because Klein was running it and there will be a little drop off this year.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 2 months ago

I think if we will shut that down this year.

David Leathers 8 years, 2 months ago

If Daniel Sams is KState's starting QB this year I have a feeling the read-option will be run a little better. He is a more athletic version of Klein and could be a few steps quicker too. We shall see.

CrystalJones 8 years, 2 months ago

You're right, unfortunately. Look at the tape on Sams. He's a beast in the read-option. And he throws a helluva lot better than Klein.

JayHawkFanToo 8 years, 2 months ago

More athletic and quicker does not mean better. Every QB we have had after Todd Reesing was more athletic, taller and faster and none were even half as good as Reesing.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

No, the only one that is 100% accurate is that Webb, Crist, and Cummings are taller than Reesing. Cummings is faster, and possibly more athletic than Reesing and Crist had a stronger arm, but that's it. Reesing had the advantage in the other categories over the other 3 QB's.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

Matt, did the change in base defense happen before or after MJM tore his knee up?

kellerman411 8 years, 2 months ago

Clint Bowen, the worst defensive coach the University of Kansas has ever had. If anyone wants to argue that, simply respond with any successful unit that Clint Bowen has been directly in charge of. If coach Weis is tying his bumper to Clint Bowen, he'll be gone by next year.

Reuben_J_Cogburn 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree. Why the media was so excited to have this guy back is beyond me.

List one good thing that he is responsible for in this program. I'll tip my hat to you if you can do it.

Jim Erickson 8 years, 2 months ago

To Kellerman and Reuben...

Aside from being a very good recruiter, Bowen was the co-defensive coordinator of the Orange Bowl team. What more do you want? His defense suffered more due to a major talent drop off than bad coaching.

kellerman411 8 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, that's why some of the guys he coached in the Gill era are playing in the NFL now.

vd 8 years, 2 months ago

Don't bother with facts. Gill and Bowen haters will ignore them. What is great about the Bowen haters is they think Young was the greatest d coordinator ever, citing the year he was co-cordinator with Bowen as proof.

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

This has trainwreck written all over it. Our guys will look like chickens with their heads cut off trying to get to their assignments at the last minute. Prediction...we'll give up more big plays this year than any year previous. Sorry for the negativity...but.

jaymar74 8 years, 2 months ago

They are staying on the field instead of mass substitutions so that WE DO NOT look like chickens with their heads cut off

NebraskaJayhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree with you AtlJaybird to the fact that our defense has looked extremely uncoordinated the last few years. I'm going to use that word because it's exactly the opposite of what it should be...coordinated. I think changing up the defense - yet again - is not a good idea. Hey, I hope I'm wrong. I remain a supporter of Weis. That doesn't mean I have to like everything he comes up with.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 2 months ago

Last year was a season where we gave up big play after big play. Play solid on first and second and give up a big third down play. Heck, against Texas it was play solid on first, second and third and give up a big play on fourth down.

For what its worth, I don't think Campo or Weis would be okay with this arrangement if they didn't have confidence in Bowen. I was just as frustrated with him in the past as most on here, but if he is back in the fold, I am going to go on the assumption there is a reason. As much as I like to think I know about football, I am also smart enough to know Weis, Campo, and even Bowen, know much, much more. So, I'll still go into the season with an optimistic wait and see approach.

Ron Prichard 8 years, 2 months ago

Spot on quote. I hadn't seen that elsewhere. Thanks for the insight.

Jim Erickson 8 years, 2 months ago

I would personally rather have the coordinators in the box, but don't think it is a game changer either way.

JayDocMD 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't get it. Why have the defensive coordinator (Campo) standing on the sidelines and have the Linebackers coach (Bowen) "be the guy responsible for meshing what happens in the secondary with what the Jayhawks are doing up front." "Bowen’s gonna have to help put this together more than even Dave’s going to if we’re gonna be able to handle the tempo of the game,” Weis said.

What? Why isn't your assistant HC and DC (and ex-NFL coach) "meshing" the secondary/LB/DL? Why is Bowen helping even "more than" Dave? Another name for meshing would be "coordinating" - as in Defensive Coordinator. Time for new job titles?

I hope something's getting lost in translation because this makes no sense to me.

JayDocMD 8 years, 2 months ago

So Bowen is the the de facto DC and Campo our half-million dollar DB coach.

I'm with KGphoto below - not feelin it either.

JayDocMD 8 years, 2 months ago

I appreciate your efforts to clarify the new arrangement. It may work - I hope it does.

I know they say the defensive coaching will be a group effort. But in the 4th quarter up by 1 with the other team's offense driving, one person will be making the defensive calls. Blitz? Prevent? Man? Zone? One person makes those calls. Who?

The quotes of Bowen "calling the shots" and "Bowen will be the guy responsible for meshing what happens in the secondary with what the Jayhawks are doing up front" implies it's Bowen.

That implication = Bowen more responsibility on game day, and Campo has less. And that makes me nervous.

troutsee 8 years, 2 months ago

Hey its is a question of whether you trust you HC to make the right decisions or you don't. I personally think that our HC knows what he is doing and most of the would be coach-posters on this board don't have the experience or the proximity to the team to be knowledgeable enough to understand. If the HC thinks this is what is best for the team, then it is fine by me.

David Leathers 8 years, 2 months ago

I agree. There are only a handful of teams in the country that can continually run the same offense and same defense every year without implementing a ton of creativity. Those teams can do so because they are getting kids straight from high-school that can/will start for an NFL team. Teams like Oregon, Alabama, LSU, and USC have the talent and execution to run such offenses and defenses to perfection.

Nick Saban was recently quoted as saying something like he hates the no huddle spread offenses because they are ruining college football as we know it. My response to that would be that if there were no creativity to invent such an offense teams like Alabama would have absolutely no competition for the Championship each year. The talent gap has to be equalized in some shape or form and the only way to do that is to be more creative. We shall see if this new KU defense works, but I'm glad they are at least trying something to get some W's on the board.

Darin Bradley 8 years, 2 months ago

Resting the fate of our defense with Bowen could be a major mistake. Here's to hoping HCCW will pull the plug on this "innovation" sooner rather than later.

JayDocMD 8 years, 2 months ago

It's not that they're trying something new. It's that they seem to be making our LB coach the defensive coordinator.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

Clint Bowen is the guy on defense that is the most experienced in the principles of the spread and it dies pretty much sound like Campo is doing something a lot of good leaders do and that let someone under him with more experience in a particular area lead that particular area. It sounds like Campo is still in charge of implementing the principles of the nickel defense to the team because that is still his area of expertise as Bowen's season of running a nickel defense was a disaster.

kellerman411 8 years, 2 months ago

How in the world can anyone defend Bowen? Because during his days as a DC here at KU we just didn't have any talent? Isn't he a recruiter? How many people that he had to work with went on to play in the NFL?

Give it up already. Offenses set records against us while Bowen was in charge. We were HISTORICALLY bad. It was just silly really.

It's not like the guy had 1 year and then we canned him. We had a large enough sample to make an accurate judgement which is that he is not a good coach if winning games is what is important to you. Simple as that. I can see why CW kept him on staff because of his ties to in-state people but it's shocking that he will be given a real responsibility on the team.

I guarantee that if you ask Gill what the biggest thing he would have changed about his tenure here, it would be something to do with Bowen, followed by names on the back of the jerseys.

Jim Jackson 8 years, 2 months ago

Bowen was not on Gill's staff therefore Chuck did not retain him

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

Kellerman, don't let facts stand in the way of a good argument. You might want to research what Carl Torbush and Vic Shealy were doing in 2010 and 2011 respectively.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 2 months ago

I used to rant on Bowen but I think with Weiss and Campo we should give him and them the benefit of the doubt. It is a problem matching up with the speed. But whatever we do I would rather bring heat each and every down than watch a team march down the field seemingly unstoppable. Rather see us risk giving up a big one. For instance I want to see us jump more routes and play man defense with our guys right in their face two or three yards from scrimmage, not ten yards downfield.

Bob Bailey 8 years, 2 months ago

Several years ago, rast meta (or vice versa) said he played with Bowen on the Jayhawk team. He said that the then DC was the worst in the country, and Bowen never learned from anyone else. It is generally conceded that Bowen is a nice guy and a Jayhawk supporter. Maybe great in support of recruiting. But rasta meta said they were always out of position! My view he was probably right. The team has conceded every 8 - 10 yds on every pass play for the last 3 years! They are out of position. They've been taught "Don't let them score on you" and that guarantees that they will -- 8 to 10 yards at a time.

They have also indicated they can't/won't/didn't teach the basic art of tackling. Elmer Schaake's rules are:

           1. Belt Buckle Rule   2. reposition to be where the runner will be in  2 steps
  1. Wrap Up, basically between knees and hip The great Royals player had one of 3 perfect bodies -- Ruth, another baseball player, and Bo Jackson. See the movie on him -- anything but perfect execution wont' stop him.

Personally, the Defense rates zero with me. Too much reliance on the recruits talent. Our team is not alone, most coaches for Defense are useless. Many defensive linemen 'wrap up' around the shoulders. A runner can carry them 2 to 6 yards with that effort.

Last night Weis coached ND his last year vs Mich. His Defense was lousy then, too.

Barring good luck based on 'talent', my prediction is Wins - 0 Losses 12.

Gregor Southard 8 years, 2 months ago

WKU had a horrible defense under Bowen, too. I guess that makes me a Bowen hater

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 2 months ago

I just hate the 12 yard cushions our corners use to give to WRs. I hope we run a little more bump and run this year, that to me is the best way to slow down the spread. I think starting in a base D of nickel will help with the 3rd downs so we are not sub-ing like crazy.

There is no where to go but up, lets see how this "new" D plays before we start screaming for people to get fired. I trust Campo, we looked really good at times last year, not for whole games but for stretches. I think the conditioning and talent gap wont be as big, this will help. Also, an offense that doesnt go run, run, incomplete pass every time will help.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

The best way to slow down the spread is to get a pass rush going, hit the QB a couple of times early and screw up the QB's rhythm.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 2 months ago

Only problem is Baylor for example gets the ball off really quick. A pass rush will barely make a difference. That's what I am saying, jump those quick screens because you are not gonna get to the QB. Either that or we have to change how our DEs line up and get them between the QB and the wideouts.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

You know what makes a defensive coordinator look good? A pass rush. A pass rush allows defenses to play more aggressive on the perimeter and do more bump and run and press coverage. When a team doesn't have a pass rush, DB's can't be as aggressive because if they beat, there is no safety net of a pass getting thrown early or the QB getting sacked. KU has had some talented DB's post Orange Bowl, but no DB can realistically be expected to cover opposing WR's for 8+ seconds and expect good things to happen. Marquel Combs and co. are the most important element to KU's secondary actually looking decent this year.

clevelandjayhawker 8 years, 2 months ago

Agree. I think Keon is going to be huge in stuffing the run and providing some pressure. Really interested to see how Goodman/Reynolds look at applying pressure. Would be great to see some corner/saftey blitz too! That is almost impossible to defend and our LBs should be fast enough to stop big screen plays.

Cant wait to see how this team looks in action.

Michael Leiker 8 years, 2 months ago

What time are practices if you wanted to go watch for a while?

Joseph Bullock 8 years, 2 months ago

WOW! So much negativity. It's almost like when we lose a game in basketball. Damn fair weather fans!

Al Martin 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow; tough accusation. There hasn't been fair weather in Kansas football in five years. The fact that we're here at all ought to mean we're pretty dedicated.

CrystalJones 8 years, 2 months ago

Agree somewhat. I understand the caution, but I'm a little weary of it. Let's just get out on the field and see what happens.

Joseph Bullock 8 years, 2 months ago

People trust Weis and Campo, but not their decision on what they are doing with the staff. Does anyone know what level of success Bowen had at the other schools? I know those leagues are not ours, but if he did well against schools with Big 12 type offenses, then I am fine with him. Let's at least give him a chance! We have a lot of talent, but it will take time to gel, but I am very optimistic about this season, especially with all of the Ju-Co players we have, and the returning players! We just might surprise a lot of folks, and we "ARE NOT" going to be last in the conference. Mark my words on that. I hope. LOL

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

In 2010, Clint Bowen's defense at WKU gave up 6 ppg and 100 ypg less than in 2009 and in 2011, UNT gave up about the same in 2011 as they did in 2010 but as UNT was already a middle of the pack defense, it's not as huge deal to me.

Joseph Bullock 8 years, 2 months ago

there is a big difference between being dedicated, and being a hater, or negative, right from the start. The overall staff, in my opinion, is great, and we need to see good results from all of them-it isn't just Bowen. and you are right that the fact we are even talking about this, with not everyone thinking negatively, is a very good thing. Thanks in Austin.

CrystalJones 8 years, 2 months ago

MM burned too many bridges when and after he left Manhattan. They'll be more careful next time around. No Ron Princes. Probably a Snyder protege, but not Mangino. They don't think he's "good enough" for them, and they don't like him anyway.

texashawk10 8 years, 2 months ago

Gary Patterson is the only coach out there who KSU may have a realistic chance at hiring that could maintain what Snyder has done. If it's not Patterson, KSU will fall quickly and end up being a bottom feeder to mid pack team 8 out of 10 seasons.

Randy Bombardier 8 years, 2 months ago

Gary Patterson played pre-Snyder but I would not be surprised if he is courted next time around. One thing that is possible is that Snyder being the family man that he is might just try to hand the reins over to his son. I have no idea if he can do as well as his pop but I have my doubts.

NOTcrusher 8 years, 2 months ago

Shayanna. Shaneah. Just sayin'.

I'm not hiding.

At least he wasn't hiding behind the insulation.

kujayhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

This is basically a demotion for campo in everything but title. KU was constantly lined up incorrectly last year. Campo couldn't figure out you can't cover 5 receivers with 4 defensive backs and a linebacker.

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