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Friday, April 4, 2014

KU football defense aims high

Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson comes away with his second interception of the game on a bobbled pass to a Texas receiver during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

Kansas safety Isaiah Johnson comes away with his second interception of the game on a bobbled pass to a Texas receiver during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, Texas.

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KU football defense focusing on attacking as a unit this spring

Kansas football defensive players "buck" Michael Reynolds, "buck" Victor Simmons, CB JaCorey Shepherd and S Cassius Sendish discuss how the game is slowing down for the Jayhawks' defense this spring, and how that helps them play faster.

In terms of numbers, Kansas University’s football defense took steps forward in several statistical areas during a 3-9 season last fall.

Now the group is gunning for more.

Talking Thursday with members of the media for the final time this spring, several defensive starters revealed the unit’s clear goal for 2014.

“Throughout this whole spring, we’ve just been pushing each other and telling each other that we should have the best defense in the Big 12,” said junior safety Isaiah Johnson, the reigning Big 12 defensive newcomer of the year. “(We just have to) keep working hard and keeping doing what we have to do.”

It’s a bold goal for the program, which has won just six games and given up 40 or more points 16 times during the past three seasons, but that’s not dissuading the Jayhawks.

“That has to be our motivation,” said senior cornerback JaCorey Shepherd, one of nearly a dozen returning defenders with starting experience. “Knowing that we’ve got all these veterans and all this talent and speed and everything else, what else could you want? Why wouldn’t you want to be the best defense in the Big 12?”

Shepherd, a former wide receiver who is entering his second full season on defense, said not a day goes by when at least a couple of guys on the defense don’t bring up the goal. It’s not part of their regular breakdown, the way the men’s basketball team emphasizes winning the Big 12 each year, and the phrase isn’t posted in every locker or inside their helmets. But it is discussed.

“That’s what we’re pushing for,” Shepherd said. “It’s understood.”

In 2013, the KU defense often played better than the final numbers indicated, but it had a tendency to wear down because of a lack of depth and too much time spent on the field in place of a struggling offense. According to Shepherd and senior safety Cassius Sendish, a couple of small tweaks could go a long way toward the Jayhawks’ goal.

“There’s always a way to get better and improve,” Shepherd said. “Surprise is just another way of showing people that you can do things that they didn’t think you were capable of doing. Eliminating some of those big plays and stuff like that is going to surprise people. Maybe getting more three-and-outs, more turnovers, stuff like that. Just being more consistent.”

Added Sendish: “I think we just need to continue building like we have been. Instead of going through spurts where we’re having stops and then we’ll have a breakdown, we just need to continue to hold that momentum and be more consistent. Every point matters. We just want to do our (best) to limit offenses to the bare minimum. You can’t lose 0-0.”

Comments

Jim Stauffer 4 months, 4 weeks ago

The kind of football I grew up on was shutting down the opponent and seeing who could score enough points to win. I have always loved defense more than offense in football.

I just truly question what good numbers are in this day of the spread offenses and teams like Baylor regularly scoring 50+.

The only way we will ever know how good this defense is (and they have some excellent talent) is if we have a solid offense who can possess the football this year.

Looking forward to seeing the results.

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Our defense has the potential to do some really good things this year. If our offense can be consistent, and I would say average in the 30's for points we can be in most games. A lot rests on the shoulders of our offense this year for everything to be successful this season

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David Lara 4 months, 4 weeks ago

Sendish's last line should prompt a long, meaningful glance over at the offense: "You can't win 0-0 either!" We have to score, as well as not consistently stack the deck against the defense. No more 3 and outs. The D did some things I never would have expected last season... for a quarter or 2. But no defense, not even the best in the Big VII, can keep delivering for an entire game if every time they take the field only 2:00 have come off the clock and the ball is at mid field. That's demoralizing. Can't expect that of any defense. I fully believe in this group being as good as anyone in our conference, and they looked like it last year several times. But the best defense cannot co-exist with the worst offense. Something has to give eventually.

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Mark Lindrud 4 months, 4 weeks ago

I'd say that's calling out the offense to pick it up. I don't mind.

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