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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Kansas football expects better defense

Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis talks with media members during a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 at Mrkonic Auditorium. Weis spent some time discussing changes to the coaching structure, areas for improvement and his staff's recruiting efforts. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas head football coach Charlie Weis talks with media members during a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 at Mrkonic Auditorium. Weis spent some time discussing changes to the coaching structure, areas for improvement and his staff's recruiting efforts. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

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Kansas University football is back to spring practices after a week off for spring break.

KU coach Charlie Weis welcomed his team back to town with an intense workout Sunday night and will return to the field today after Weis and his offensive coaches meet with the media.

While the installation of a new offense and the transition to new offensive coordinator and offensive-line coach John Reagan and wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau have been among the biggest story lines of the spring thus far, the forward movement of a defense that made positive strides in 2013 has operated a little under the radar.

That’s understandable given the offensive struggles KU has endured during Weis’ first two seasons and every fan’s interest in how those weaknesses will be improved this season, but those who are responsible for taking the defense to an even higher level in 2014 believe the pieces are in place for another big season.

“I think the defense has a chance of really doing something pretty good around here this year,” Weis said before spring drills began. “There are some players that I am really looking forward to getting out there.”

While those players — like defensive end Andrew Bolton, defensive back Kevin Short and several newcomers — have an element of excitement surrounding their name, the more proven players have the defensive coaches most fired up about the upcoming season.

“I think across the board we have a lot more guys who have been in the battles, and there’s just more of a trust factor that you know this guy can get his job done,” defensive coordinator Clint Bowen said.

Asked for specific examples of the guys he was talking about, Bowen started rattling them off and had trouble stopping.

“We know (linebacker) Ben Heeney’s gonna be a leader on our defense,” he said. “On the back end, you know (safeties) Cassius Sendish and Isaiah Johnson are gonna show up and work and play. Up front, (defensive lineman) Ben Goodman’s no longer in that I’m-a-starter-fo-the-first-time role. They’re guys who the other guys have seen make plays in Big 12 football games.”

In addition to the advantage of the younger players on the roster having players to look up to and count on, several of KU’s defensive coaches said knowing their personnel better was a huge advantage for them, as well.

“Absolutely,” defensive-backs coach Dave Campo said. “Because when you look at the guys we’ve got, I know the strengths and the weaknesses, and I know what we have to work on to get better. When you’ve got a guy that you’re doing an assessment on, obviously that’s not as easy to do. There’s a lot more work.”

Less work evaluating means more time to move forward. Bowen said that was the goal this spring but added the entire coaching staff would do its best to move at a pace that works for the entire team.

“You always have to be cautious because you are breaking in new kids as well,” Bowen said. “But for the older guys and the ones that have played, you can move with your install a little bit faster. We started off way ahead of where we were a year ago.”

Cantrell joins KU staff

Weis announced Monday afternoon that former KU offensive lineman Ryan Cantrell had been hired as the assistant director of football operations. Cantrell, who played at KU from 2005-08, will slide into the spot previously held by Maurice Crum, who will move to a new role as assistant director of high school relations.

Before returning to his alma mater, Cantrell worked four seasons under Reagan at Rice.

Comments

Doug Cramer 6 months ago

Our 2013 defense ranked 95 out of 123.

Look - it all starts on the line. Much like our offensive line, our defensive line is talent deficient, and has been since 2007. We only had half of the sacks that most top 25 teams had.

We have a defensive coordinator (Bowen) that has failed time and time again when he's in charge of a unit. 2012 Special Teams come to mind ??? What about our 2008 defense ???

Other than fan sentiment, kool-aid, or other delusion like opinions, somebody give us some hard core facts as to why our defense will be "GOOD" in 2014. Cause I really want to know...

We go to Duke this year in our non-con...and Iowa State has Mangino working on their offense.

Somebody tell me how we're going to win more than 2 or 3 games in 2014.

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Jim Stauffer 6 months ago

Doug, Let me share some reasoning with you. If you are completely unaware of the players on our roster, your post makes some sense. If you are aware of the roster and you cannot deduce why everyone you talk to thinks the defense will be better, no explanation anyone could give could help.

Either you are too ignorant of FB to understand (I don't think that is the case) or you are on a negative binge about this staff and are not listening to or noticing the obvious.

Trust me, the defense will be better.

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Robert Brock 6 months ago

One way to help out the D is for the offense to sustain something; KU's three-and-out offense exhausts the defense eventually.

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Titus Canby 6 months ago

Great point Robert. An offense that moves the chains always makes the defense better. The opponent can't score if they don't get the ball.

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Mark Lindrud 6 months ago

Three words: time of possession. When the defense is on the field for the majority of the game because the offense is only good at sucking then yes the D will only be good for a short amount of time before it wears out. You give the defense time to rest after a big stop or turnover then you can keep the momentum. Add more points or at least longer sustained drives by the offense and the defensive numbers will improve dramatically. Of the offense truly improves I can see our defensive numbers increase by from 95 to at least 30 places better overall.

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Aaron Paisley 6 months ago

Will KU have an elite defense in 2014? No, but the 2014 defense should be improved over the 2013. For the first time since the 2007-2008 seasons, KU is not changing defensive fronts or defensive coordinators. They are also returning most of the players from last year's defense. That means that Bowen and Campo are adding to an already in place defense instead of teaching the basics of a new defense. That is huge for the defense to finally have continuity for the first time in 6 years. Do not underestimate just how much the changing of staff and vase defense hurt KU's over the past few years. KU is also now at a point where they finally have some depth at some positions instead of being maybe 1 deep or worse at positions.

As mentioned in an above post, a competent offense will also be a big help to the defense. How many times the past couple of seasons have we seen KU's defense keep the team in a game for 3 quarters only to run out of gas in the 4th because the offense couldn't sustain a drive the entire game. I'm not going to say that the 2014 KU offense will be good or even competent because there's no evidence to support anything regarding the offense at this point.

As for how many games KU will win in 2014, tthat'll hinge on just how good the offense is. KU is only going to be favored in 2 games at this point (SEMO and CMU), but ISU and TCU could both be bad enough for KU to favored since both of those games are in Lawrence. I don't expect KU to be favored in either of those two games at this point because there's enough history to say that KU should not be favored in a Big 12 game regardless of location or opponent at this point.

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Lance Cheney 6 months ago

"..assistant director of high school relations."

That just sounds creepy.

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