The closer the Kansas football team gets to its season opener, the more likely it seems fans who show up Sept. 1 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium will get ample opportunities to watch freshman Corione Harris.
One of the most eagerly anticipated debuts in the program’s recent memory might kick off with Harris, a four-star cornerback from Louisiana, on the bench as a reserve. But the way his teammates and coaches speak about the young defensive back who turned down scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Florida, LSU and many other programs, it sounds as though Harris’ talents are too considerable to leave unutilized on the bench for long.
Less than two weeks into preseason camp, KU coaches haven’t yet published or discussed publicly any sort of depth chart. So whether Harris starts or enters as a substitute versus Nicholls State in week one isn’t exactly concrete at this juncture.
A 6-foot-1, 180-pound freshman, Harris joins senior Shakial Taylor; juniors Hasan Defense and Kyle Mayberry; junior transfers Elijah Jones and Elmore Hempstead Jr.; and sophomore transfer Ricky Thomas, among others, as cornerbacks vying for the most coveted spots on the two-deep.
The group’s position coach, defensive coordinator Clint Bowen, likes Harris’ ability and potential, but he doesn’t broach the subject without quickly pointing out the first-year corner’s flaws, as well.
“He’s a talented kid. He’s got a long, rangy body. He has a good skillset. He’s a competitive, high-energy guy. He has tools,” Bowen began. “There’s techniques that need to be mastered and some fine-tuning. He’s not there yet; he’s not even close right now in terms of do it perfect every down mentality. But in terms of the skillset, he has it.”
What’s more, the man who will determine how much Harris plays in his first season as a Jayhawk thinks cornerback is a position where “God-given” talent factors more into a young player’s chances to succeed than his current stage of physical development.
“Let’s face it,” Bowen said. “Donkeys don’t win the Kentucky Derby, you know.”
At least for now, no one on KU’s staff wants to go on record anointing Harris, who goes by “Coe,” as a can’t-miss thoroughbred. However, when asked how realistic it would be to expect a freshman to come in and play cornerback effectively, Bowen didn’t come across as a coach ready to keep Harris off the field until he matures.
“At corner, it’s realistic. Because it’s not a position where your physical strength and physical development’s going to get tested,” Bowen said. “The things that are going to get tested are how quick your feet are and can you run. You can either do that or not. The difference between being 180 (pounds) and 200 at that position, who really cares? You’re not going to get tested physically like that. Whereas, at those big-body positions, a grown man at 21 that has some ungodly strength, I don’t care what you do, if you’re underdeveloped, he’s going to win.”
Per KU football policy, freshmen are not allowed to do interviews. But the more experienced Jayhawks who will play alongside Harris in the coming months don’t mind talking up the touted freshman’s qualities or pondering his potential as a playmaker in the secondary this fall.
“He’s a stud, man,” redshirt senior linebacker Joe Dineen said. “He’s really raw. Talentwise, it’s all there for him. Sometimes the technique, just as a freshman, gets a little off. But he’s as good as I’ve seen coming in new.”
Dineen went on to predict “big-time minutes” for the Louisiana native this season, and the linebacker, like many KU fans, is excited to see what Harris can do.
Junior safety Mike Lee, a graduate of Landry-Walker High, just like Harris, knows the freshman as well as anyone in the program. Lee, who attended Harris’ signing ceremony in New Orleans this past December, thinks his former prep teammate has adapted well since enrolling at KU this past January.
“Coe’s just doing him, playing his game. Being a competitor out there,” Lee said. “He learned the new plays. He’s getting the hang of it. He’s getting the hang of what to do and what not to do.”
It’s likely to take at least a couple years for Harris to begin to reach his full potential at the college level. Even when miscalculations inevitably pop up for him as a freshman, though, his older teammates think he has the ideal temperament to survive them and keep on developing.
“Corione, he just has that demeanor,” junior cornerback Defense said. “Like I tell everyone, corner’s all about confidence. He has that mentality that, ‘if I did get caught on one play, I’m going to come back on the next play with the same energy, same enthusiasm.’”
Harris will need to take that approach with him into every snap this season, Defense added, in order to make it as a Big 12 cornerback. And the junior figures the freshman will.
“He definitely has that,” Defense said of the psyche required to thrive, “so that’s a big plus for him.”
The “Where’s Daylon Charlot?” game — a popular pastime these past several months for those who follow Kansas football — took an interesting turn this past weekend when the former Alabama wide receiver wore a No. 7 KU football uniform against Kansas State, instead of his former No. 2 jersey.
Most observers entered the 2017 season expecting Charlot, a four-star high school recruit out of Patterson, La., talented enough to sign with Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, to become a playmaker within KU’s Air Raid offense in his first year of eligibility with the Big 12 program. Or at least have a chance to make a positive impact.
However, Charlot only caught one pass (for no yardage) in the first Kansas loss of the season, to Central Michigan. In the weeks that followed, he fell even deeper down the depth chart and never made his way onto the field unless he was back deep for a kickoff return (the 6-foot, 195-pound sophomore has three returns on the season and averages 18.7 yards per special teams touch).
But wearing a completely different number, one shared by KU quarterback Peyton Bender, signaled another twist in the Charlot saga. A receiver can’t have the same number on his jersey as a quarterback, so either the newly-benched Bender had moved to defense or the seldom-used Charlot had a new position.
The latter, of course, was true. Although Charlot is too new to the defensive backfield to be trusted with game reps, he is now playing safety for the Jayhawks (1-7 overall, 0-5 Big 12).
Why didn’t it work out for Charlot at receiver, where everyone from expected top target Steven Sims Jr., to true freshman Quan Hampton, to junior college transfer Kerr Johnson Jr. made much more of a difference for the offense? That’s a topic offensive coordinator and receivers coach Doug Meacham didn’t want to fully dive into.
“I don’t know. I think we just really needed some safeties. And he’s not really playing much for us, so … that’s probably all I can say on that one,” Meacham responded Thursday during his weekly session with media. “He kind of wanted to, also. I think it was like ‘I’m not really getting a whole lot over here. I know there’s a need for safety.’”
Indeed, KU defensive coordinator and safeties coach Clint Bowen said Charlot sought out the switch, initiating that discussion with head coach David Beaty.
“It’s just a situation where he wasn’t getting reps over there,” Bowen said, “so you just take a look to see if he has a skill set to play on our side of the ball.”
It’s too early to tell, Bowen added, just what kind of defensive back Charlot could become for Kansas.
“Yeah, that takes time. It does, unfortunately, at safety in this league,” Bowen said. “It takes reps and time and a feel. There’s just a lot of things that you have to see over and over and over to create your reactions the way they need to be, because you can get fooled in this league.”
So don’t expect to see Charlot on the field for Bowen’s defense anytime soon, unless KU is in the late stages of a blowout or a rash of injuries severely attacks the team’s safety depth.
Perhaps we will learn more down the road about why Charlot didn’t fit as a receiver. For the time being, give credit to the young player for taking himself out of his comfort zone and trying something different.
“These kids, they want to play,” Bowen said. “They came here to play in games and succeed. My take on the kid is he just wants to get on the field and do what he can to help the team. He seems to be that type of guy, that he just wants to get on the field and play.”
As coaches tend to following any game — win or lose — Kansas football coordinators Doug Meacham and Clint Bowen saw both the positives and negatives of the Jayhawks’ season-opening victory over Southeast Missouri State when they reviewed footage after the fact.
Both spoke with media members Thursday, revealing their evaluations of a 38-16 victory.
Offensive coordinator and receivers coach Meacham began by going into the details of a solid, albeit imperfect, debut from junior quarterback Peyton Bender.
After first offering his opinion that Bender — 23-for-37 passing, 364 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions — looked “good,” Meacham immediately turned to his quarterback’s second-quarter interception as his first talking point.
“It was a great decision. That’s where his eyes should’ve been. That’s really the biggest part of all of it is him being on the right guy and triggering the right guy,” Meacham began, on Bender’s first pick, targeted for Jeremiah Booker. “He triggered the right guy and it was just a horrendous throw, which is unusual for him, because he hits the bull’s eye pretty good. He’s pretty accurate for the most part, throws a pretty nice deep ball. I don’t have an explanation for that. He just threw it way behind the guy.”
Other than that blunder, Meacham thought Bender played well, and said redshirt sophomore receiver Chase Harrell could have done a better job preventing the second interception, in the fourth quarter.
“Our receiver didn’t go up and play strong with the ball, so that was on him. But you look at the stat line and you see two picks,” Meacham said. “I think we left some points out there.”
The first-year KU coordinator went on to give examples of some other mistakes that prevented the Jayhawks from steamrolling SEMO.
“Ben (Johnson) dropped that one, had a chance to go to the crib right there. No. 3 (Harrell) makes, it’s No. 3 on ESPN,” Meacham said of Harrell’s one-handed TD grab in the first half, “and then he drops one that hits him straight in the bread basket. I don’t know what to tell you. So there’s probably another 100 yards of receiving and two more touchdowns.”
On another play, Meacham said Bender overthrew Ryan Schadler on a seam read, because the slot receiver ran a hook when he should’ve continued on a deep pattern.
“It looks like Peyton is making another bad throw when in actuality the receiver hosed him. He didn’t run a correct route. If he stays high on that route there’s another touchdown,” Meacham said. “We were close to having a better game, but it’s just a couple things. You always have four or five plays every week, even if you win or lose, there’s always that handful of plays you wish you had back.”
The former TCU and Oklahoma State assistant went on to explain passing game misfires get “magnified” but other problems inevitably show up on video, too.
“(Fans) don’t see a right guard miss a nose guard on an inside run. They see the other part, though,” Meacham said. “But I thought (Bender) played pretty good in terms of operating and having his eyes in the right spot and checks and all of that stuff. Did good.”
Kansas only rushed for 73 yards (2.9 a carry) on 25 attempts versus SEMO in its debut.
But Meacham said he wasn’t worried about KU’s progress in that aspect of the offense.
“I would have a problem with our run game if I was running into a nine-man box all day long. Then I would be upset. It’s just like, Would you get a canoe and go upstream?
“And I get it. People do it,” Meacham added. “But that’s what they do. Ohio State and LSU, that’s what they do. They’re gonna pound it and force-feed it and that’s what they do. That’s not necessarily what we do. I’m not concerned about it, no.”
First look at KU’s new cornerbacks
Week 1 also marked the KU debuts for starting cornerbacks Hasan Defense and Shakial Taylor, both of whom played at the junior college level in 2016.
Bowen wasn’t ready to thoroughly praise them, though, after Defense made five solo tackles and broke up two passes and Taylor contributed two solo stops and a pair of pass breakups.
“They did OK. We’re obviously going to face a lot better competition, though. No discredit to SEMO,” Bowen said. “But they didn’t get in there and panic. They held in there and competed and were assignment-sound. I don’t know that they were 100 percent technique-sound, but they did challenge and they did compete.”
The Big 12’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, junior defensive end Dorance Armstrong Jr. didn’t have a monster statistical day by his standards in the opener. The all-league pass-rusher came away with three total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries.
Of course, much of SEMO’s offensive game plan revolved around preventing Armstrong from wreaking havoc.
Bowen said he began seeing KU opponents give that much attention to the star D-lineman during his sophomore season.
“That was kind of the norm from what we were seeing out of him last year,” Bowen said of double-teams and schemes designed to limit Armstrong. “By Week 7 or 8 last year, it wasn’t too hard to figure out he was pretty good by then. What we got on Saturday was pretty much what we got all of last season.”
While sometimes SEMO simply called rushing plays away from Armstrong’s position, Bowen said there was more to the relatively small statistical output than that.
“We didn’t get a lot of drop-back pass game. We hardly got any, and when we did there was attention paid to him,” Bowen said. “That was kind of SEMO, their plan anyway. I think they did a nice job of understanding what their strengths are, and sitting in the pocket and throwing the ball downfield wasn’t going to be one of their strengths going into that game, so they didn’t do it. If you’re not good at it, don’t do it.”
A third of the way through the season, the Kansas football team’s defense has had its share of slow starts. Though the unit tends to regroup quickly, it also eventually wears down over the course of games as a result of frequent ineffective drives by the offense.
Regardless, coordinator Clint Bowen’s crew truly has been one of the scant bright spots of a 1-3 start.
In fact, in one particular category, KU’s defense has proven just as effective as some of the more recognizable brands in college football. When it comes to tackles for loss, the Jayhawks are operating in the same neighborhood as Miami (FL), Texas A&M, Clemson and Michigan.
In three consecutive games — home versus Ohio, and on the road at Memphis and Texas Tech — Kansas has tackled opponents behind the line of scrimmage at least 10 times.
Oddly enough, the Jayhawks only came away with 5 tackles for loss in a drubbing of FCS opponent Rhode Island in the season opener. Still, their season average of 9.9 tackles for loss a game ranks the squad third in the nation.
TOP 10 TFL TEAMS IN FBS
No. 1 - Miami (FL), 12.0
No. 2 - Texas A&M, 10.0
No. 3 - Kansas, 9.8
No. 4 - Clemson, 9.6
No. 5 - Michigan, 9.4
No. 6 - Illinois, 9.3
No. 7 (tie) - Akron / Southern Miss, 9.2
No. 9 - Ball State, 9.0
No. 10 (tie) - Minnesota / Toledo / Boise State, 8.8
Now with 39 tackles for loss this season, Kansas has posted the most in any four-game stretch for the program since the glory days of 2007, when the eventual Orange Bowl championship team opened the season with 44 TFL’s in its first four games.
In total, 19 different Jayhawks have played a part in KU’s tackles for loss, with the front seven doing most of the damage.
DE Dorance Armstrong Jr. - 6
LB Marcquis Roberts - 5.5
DT Daniel Wise - 4
DE Damani Mosby - 3.5
DE Cameron Rosser - 3
LB Joe Dineen - 3
DB Tevin Shaw - 2.5
LB Courtney Arnick - 2
DT D.J. Williams - 1
DT DeeIsaac Davis - 1
DE Anthony Olobia - 1
DE Isaiah Bean - 1
S Bazie Bates IV - 1
WR Emmanuel Moore - 1 (special teams)
CB Marnez Ogletree - 1
S Tyrone Miller Jr. - 1
S Fish Smithson - 0.5
DB Chevy Graham - 0.5
LB Keith Loneker Jr. - 0.5
Bowen likes to see that type of production out of his defense, and said tackles for loss are a topic of discussion for his group. He has no interest in KU taking a passive, wait-and-see approach against the pass-happy offenses of the Big 12.
“We want to be aggressive, we want to challenge receivers on the outside, we want to move around and bring pressure and do different things on the inside,” Bowen said. “And I think tackles for loss are kind of a byproduct of our kids moving and playing with an aggressive style.”
Obviously the defense is nowhere near perfect — see: opponents average 35.2 points a game (tied for 104th in FBS with Oklahoma) and 432.5 yards of total offense (90th). But effective pressure behind the line of scrimmage is a nice place to start, defensively, while attempting to rebuild within a losing program.
Kansas football assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen knows this spring will be critical in the overall development of the 2015 Jayhawks, even if there are more things on his to-do list than can possibly be accomplished for a young, rebuilding unit.
After going through just four practices, Bowen — also the safeties coach — sat down with the media Wednesday to discuss the state of the defense.
Here are some of the highlights:
• The up-tempo approach of KU’s new Air Raid offense also benefits the defensive side of the ball.
With NCAA rules dictating how much time players can spend on the field, coaches have to find ways to get in as many plays as possible in the short amount of time they are out there.
“With what they’re doing offensively, it allows it to just play out naturally.”
• When installing the defense this spring, there are one of two ways to approach it:
No. 1: Put in a few things and master those.
No. 2: Examine as much of it as you can “real fast” and hope enough of it sticks.
The Jayhawks went with the latter, and are putting in as much as they can early, teaching it and getting it all on video. They recycle through that install again so the players can retain more each time through.
“It allows you to practice situational football a lot faster — right away, going into your first scrimmage.”
The Jayhawks will get into these kind of situations in the next few practices: third downs, red zone, two-minute drills.
• Through four practices, Bowen wasn’t ready to say any particular individuals have stood out, because the defense really has to start over as a group with the talent it lost from the 2014 season (see: Ben Heeney, JaCorey Shepherd, etc.).
The players that are here need to take pride in giving the unit an identity.
“At this point in time, I think they’re all in the same boat of trying to figure it out.”
Bowen just wants them being physical, playing hard and learning.
• On the roster as a whole, and on the defensive side of the ball, KU lacks depth. Bowen feels pretty good about what kind of 2-deep chart they will have, but the trouble comes beyond that.
Sub-packages, like nickel or dime defenses?
“Those things are out right now.”
Bowen says you don’t want to wear out all of your top players by making them play different packages.
So this is the mindset they ned to embrace:
“Only 11 of them can play at one time, so as long as we’ve got 11, we’re good.”
• With the new defensive coaches on the staff, they are all getting used to each other’s approaches and tendencies.
“We’ve got a great group of guys on the staff, and everyone’s working for the common goal.”
• Bowen and new co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry were acquaintances before, knew each other. Now that they’re working together they’re meshing.
Bowen said defensive back coaches have an “alligator hunter mentality”: There’s no such thing as a “pretty good” alligator hunter.
“That’s where you live as a DB coach. I think we always live on edge.”
Perry is intense because a mistake in the secondary means a TD for the opponent. You have to coach with a paranoia about yourself when working in the secondary.
• Junior corner Brandon Stewart, who just arrived on campus before the spring semester started, seems to have some skills: good feet, awareness, instincts and “can run a little bit.”
• The departure of would-be senior safety Isaiah Johnson was “a disappointment, but not a surprise.”
• Now that David Beaty is here leading the program, it’s easier to communicate with high school coaches in Texas.
A lot of those high school coaches in Texas are legitimate friends of Beaty’s. That helps in recruiting.
• As new coaches get to know each other, that’s usually an easy transition because they’re all in this profession to improve their program and help the players develop.
A lot of KU coaches are still in the process of relocating their families to Lawrence, buying houses and those types of things, so more of that camaraderie that comes with the job will show up even more once everyone is settled.
In the final week of his interim run as head coach of Kansas University football, Clint Bowen had plenty to address at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Of course, the Jayhawks (3-8 overall, 1-7 Big 12) close their season this holiday weekend with the Sunflower Showdown in Manhattan, versus their rival, No. 11 Kansas State (8-2, 6-1).
But Bowen also took the time to show his appreciation for this experience — or audition, if you will — following the removal of former head coach Charlie Weis.
Here are the highlights from Bowen’s Q&A with the media:
• The Jayhawks needed “over-the-top” type effort to win and didn’t get it at Oklahoma… A lot of times KU didn’t play very smart reading keys on defense.
• KU got a good start to this week early Monday morning (5:30 a.m.) with its first practice of KU-K-State week.
• Bowen has tremendous respect for Bill Snyder and his staff. K-State has an offense that is challenging to defend, with a “gamer” quarterback in senior Jake Waters and a big-time receiver in senior Tyler Lockett.
• K-State has adapted the QB run game into its offense in a creative manner. They use designed QB runs instead of reads a lot. The tailback even blocks for the QB. They also have options to throw out of the QB run plays. The wrinkles create conflicts for defenses.
• Importance of the rivalry game: In the state of Kansas you’re on one side or another for the most part. Through the years, KU fans and non-KU fans take shots at each other. For the program, it’s also about fighting for the same recruits.
• The 1992 KU-K-State game stands out for Bowen, in his memories of playing, but KU was dominant up front defensively. For him, playing in the back, it was pretty boring, with little action getting to his position.
• The Bowen family is a Lawrence group, and pretty much always focused on KU as fans. Definitely not Missouri.
• Senior CB JaCorey Shepherd, a former WR, adapted to switching and jumped right in. He has physical skills but he had a lot to learn and took pride in his craft.
• Bowen spoke with Snyder about a job a few years back, after Mangino’s staff was let go. He considers himself fortunate to have had that interview “so to speak.” Bowen said he didn’t get an offer for the assistant position so he didn’t have to make that choice.
• This is the last game of the season, so there is a senior day feel to it for KU, even on the road. It can be a motivating factor with the last time the Jayhawks’ seniors put their helmets on. The coaches don’t talk about this week as their own bowl game or anything, but the coaches will teach the players about the rivalry today.
• A lack of stability at the head coaching position, on both sides of this rivalry, through the years have made the rivalry game streaky — with one team dominating the series for years on end.
• This game definitely means a little more to “Kansas kids,” who grew up in this state.
• Freshman defensive lineman D.J. Williams, freshman offensive lineman Jacob Bragg and sophomore tight end Kent Taylor are some talented young guys who have stood out this season without getting a chance to play a major part on Saturdays.
• KU feels good about its red-zone defense because the whole field shrinks. Once they hit the red zone, the Kansas defense feels like that’s an advantage. KU has had success forcing field goals.
• Bowen and the staff will be out on the road recruiting early next week to sell all the positives about Kansas “regardless of the head-coaching situation.”
• In these nine weeks as an interim coach, Bowen has learned a lot about himself and dealing with people. It is a leadership position. That part has been rewarding, because you realize you can impact a program and people’s lives. You learn how to make decisions and rely on the people around you. The last eight weeks went by pretty fast.
• The biggest lesson Bowen has learned: It’s virtually impossible to be the defensive coordinator and head coach. There is too much time required of both positions. Guys that have those dual roles have some help behind the scenes with that work.
• Regarding this interim tenure: It’s always about KU and the program. That’s what he has always believed.
• Bowen closed the press conference by thanking chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and athletic director Sheahon Zenger for the opportunity to represent Kansas football. He also thanked the assistant coaches and football support staff for working hard and doing what was right for the program through a difficult time. The players deserve credit, he said, for fighting and battling, too.
• On the head-coaching search: Bowen has never made it a secret that he would like to have this job. But it is never about him. Dr. Zenger has a “great plan” to find the best person for the program. When the selection is made, it is time for everybody to put their full support behind the choice. … KU football is a program that can be and should be successful in a power conference. Everyone has to work together as a team for that to happen.
— Listen to the press conference in its entirety: Clint Bowen talks K-State, his desire to become KU's permanent head coach
The last two weeks have done wonders for confidence and morale within the Kansas University football program.
Interim head coach Clint Bowen detailed some of the team’s progress of late at his weekly press conference Tuesday, as the Jayhawks (3-7 overall, 1-6 Big 12) prepare for a weekend trip down to No. 23 Oklahoma (7-3, 4-3).
Here are some of the highlights:
• Bowen commended KU’s players for a tough preparation week leading up to TCU. Their perseverance showed on game day, as they came out of the locker room ready to play.
• It doesn’t get any easier this week, at OU. Bowen has a tremendous amount of respect for Bob Stoops’ body of work, first as a D-coordinator and now as the Sooners’ head coach.
• The OU defense will get after you and make you have a bad day… This will be a tremendous challenge for the Jayhawks.
• The bottom line is KU lost to TCU. A loss is “never acceptable.” Their expectations are they have Big 12 football players and they take the field to win. The improvement and preparation continues each week and players are seeing positive results on the field. Losing is never easy, though.
• You would like to know what your opponent is going to do. OU announced QB Trevor Knight won’t play this week. Last week against Texas Tech they came out in the second half and ran the ball a ton. It shows the diversity of OU’s offense. They were losing that game and changed the game plan to build a comfortable lead.
• Now Oklahoma has a QB run game, with replacement Cody Thomas. The Sooners brought in a guy who can do similar things to Knight, as well.
• KU’s offensive line did a nice job against TCU’s front. They’re all starting to play better as a group, communicate better as a group. They didn’t have any TCU guys running free to the quarterback. That allowed Kansas QB Michael Cummings to look down the field.
• The Jayhawks have confidence after the past couple of weeks. They know now if they show up in the week and prepare, the system brings results. There also is confidence from hanging around with a good TCU team that many outside of the program expected to steamroll Kansas.
• Bowen has said KU has to match opponents’ physical play. Big 12 teams will “big boy” you if they can. Players are starting to grasp they need to fight back and win the physical part of games.
• WR Nigel King has had more success of late, and some of that is a plan to get him the ball more. Also, King has gone out and made some special plays.
• Cummings’ toughness is underrated. If you’re playing at this point in the season your body doesn’t feel good. Cummings can be counted on to battle through the game’s discomfort.
• TE Jimmay Mundine has had a “tremendous” year. It’s been fun to watch him have the kind of games the staff knew he was capable of. A lot of his runs after catches show his athleticism. Guys who can do more than one thing have a chance to play at the next level, and Bowen hopes Mundine gets that opportunity… They knew the senior TE had talent and now he is a bigger part of the game plan.
• Senior offensive lineman Ngalu Fusimalohi will be out for the remainder of the season.
• O-lineman Junior Visinia went in and handled the game well, mentally and physically, as a true freshman. He hasn’t let the game get too big for him.
• When other coaches praise Bowen, that means something to him. For someone of Gary Patterson’s stature to talk him up, it meant a lot to Bowen.
— Listen to the entire press conference: Clint Bowen: 'A loss is never acceptable'
Kansas University interim football coach Clint Bowen certainly isn’t calling it this, but Mark Mangino Week is here.
The beloved former KU head coach who went 50-48 in his seven seasons here returns to Lawrence Saturday as Iowa State’s offensive coordinator.
Both the Cyclones and Jayhawks enter the game as co-occupants in the Big 12 cellar, at 2-6 overall and 0-5 in the league.
At Bowen’s weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon, he didn’t seem overly eager to talk about his former boss or his time working on Mangino’s staff, but he didn’t shy away from the inquiries, either.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:
• ISU has beaten KU two years in a row. Coach Paul Rhoads’ guys play hard, play physical.
• KU’s 60-14 loss at Baylor takes a little while to bounce back from. As soon as the game ended the coaches told players it was time to put it behind them. There is plenty they can get done with the rest of the season, and that began with Sunday’s practice.
• On ISU offensive coordinator Mangino: Bowen spent eight years with him and he has a lot of respect for him. Bowen took a few things from Mangino, especially work ethic and attention to detail. It’s been a while since Bowen has spoken with him.
• On gamedays there are so many other things to think about. You don’t have time to talk to the coaches on other staffs that you know. Bowen made it sound like he isn’t planning on catching up with Mangino this weekend or anything like that.
• College football has changed since Mangino was at KU. ISU runs a similar offense to what Mangino ran at Kansas, but there are lots of different, updated parts to it.
• Rhoads’ teams usually don’t beat themselves, and that showed up when they played Kansas the past two years.
• KU junior QB Michael Cummings has good pre-snap awareness and he uses that to see some things from opposing defenses. He makes those reads efficiently in situations where the Jayhawks have the choice of going with a pass or run play.
• Cummings had good numbers on paper at Baylor: 21 of 30, 288 yards, 2 TDs. There were a few plays he’d like to get back, such as the fumbles. He is a tough young man with a strong arm, and WRs Nigel King and Nick Harwell are making some plays for him, as well.
• KU would like to do more scheming offensive plays to confuse defenses. They can do that by taking rules defensive players live by and using those against them. Examples: a tight end releases on a run play; a guard pulls on a passing play.
• Freshman return specialist Derrick Neal will be out on Saturday, but KU is hopeful senior DT Keon Stowers and junior RB DeAndre Mann will be able to play vs. Iowa State.
• On having a new co-offensive coordinator: It’s always a collective effort to improve the offense, as a staff. It isn’t just up to WRs coach Eric Kiesau to change everything.
• When Mangino was here at Kansas there was a lot of attention to detail: Guys wearing specific things at practices, everybody touching a certain line in drills. They asked players to do something and do it right. Players were held accountable.
• Bowen has always done a little bit of advance work on Fridays for the following weekend’s game. The game plan for Saturday is set by Thursday night. Fridays are used to prep for Sunday’s practice, with some attention to the next week’s opponent.
• ISU junior QB Sam Richardson is throwing the ball better now that he’s an upperclassman, and he has speed and the ability to run the zone-read option. He looks comfortable and doesn’t panic.
• On senior LB Ben Heeney playing RB on 4th and short at Baylor: Heeney has a history of playing effectively at RB in high school at Hutchinson. The coaches thought he might be a guy who could be a tough back in those short-yardage situations.
• Iowa State has good players. “All of us are hunting for the mega-stars,” but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of those guys out there. It’s about developing the young men you have on your roster. There is only a handful of star-type players and everybody else has solid Big 12 players.
• The O-line is about playing fundamental football and having chemistry and communication. Those fundamentals truly come into play on every snap. Guys have to have some toughness, too, physically and mentally.
• As a young player, O-line is the toughest position to come in and play at. Development is critical. The longer you can keep them in your system, the better.
• John Reagan has worked the O-line hard all season, even before he split coordinator duties with Kiesau.
— Hear the entire press conference: Clint Bowen discusses ISU, former boss Mark Mangino
After a welcome break from the grind of the Big 12, Kansas University’s football team, led by interim head coach Clint Bowen, is back at it this week, with a Saturday trip to Waco, Texas, on the horizon.
No. 12 Baylor (6-1 overall, 3-1 Big 12) now routinely ranks among the nation’s top offenses and this season is no different. The Bears average 6.5 yards per play and have scored 45 or more points in five of their seven games.
Naturally, the challenge of facing that kind of offense proved to be a popular topic Tuesday, as Bowen met with media for his weekly press conference, before KU (2-5, 0-5) heads south for Saturday’s 3 p.m. game.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Though the Bears are coming off their first loss of the year (Oct. 18 at West Virginia), BU coach Art Briles obviously has done a very good job this year. The Bears are an offensive juggernaut and a well coached team with a good plan and good players.
• From KU’s perspective, you’re a Big 12 football player, and this is the kind of game you came to Kansas to play in.
• With a team like Baylor, you look at the TCU game (a 61-58 Bears win) and both teams had so many possessions, so many plays. There are ways in a tempo game to control the clock and KU will have to execute to make that happen and limit Baylor’s plays.
• Every game comes down to personal battles, as does every play. What is six inches in front of your face? That’s what you worry about, not the numbers Baylor is putting up.
• Baylor keeps adding to its offense every year. Briles and his staff have recruited very good players, which allows them to run their scheme effectively.
• Junior QB Michael Cummings gives KU an added advantage in the passing game it didn’t have when sophomore Montell Cozart started. Cummings’ ability to hit a few of those deep shots the past few weeks has helped.
• It isn’t easy to play Baylor tight, but West Virginia and TCU have shown some ways to make that possible.
• Tempo has taken over the Big 12. The challenge is playing with urgency. KU has to match its opponent’s tempo and Bowen thinks the Jayhawks have reached a point where the defense isn’t effected by uptempo offenses.
• Junior KU WR Rodriguez Coleman had a good spring, has been through some things and will be a part of the game plan going forward.
• It’s good for coaches and players to get away from each other a little bit in an off week. It’s a competitive/intense gig and it is nice to get a fresh breath every now and again.
• Baylor has had a system in place for a while. That brings familiarity to players in the program and makes it easier to recruit specific types of players.
• Bears senior QB Bryce Petty does some things — read-wise — that you have to admire. Defenses try to confuse him but he is able to break things down and make quick decisions.
• On KU offense’s third- and fourth-and-short situations: A lot of times it comes down to, Can you knock a guy back and create the push you need? You have to be tough/physical.
• Kansas senior TE Jimmay Mundine is talented and can make plays for KU in a lot of different ways. They even can line him up in the backfield as a fullback.
• In the past off week, Bowen self-scouted KU’s defense. They’ve been good on first downs but they need to address red-zone defense and a few other issues
• The week off was important for Cummings because he has truly settled in. His leadership improves each day, and so do his decisions with the football. He’s a competitive guy who has been through ups and downs in the program.
— Hear everything Bowen had to say during the press conference: Clint Bowen on coming off a bye week to face Baylor
With the Kansas University football team’s best performance of the season, to date, behind him, interim coach Clint Bowen indicated Tuesday afternoon that the program is making tangible progress in multiple areas.
The Jayhawks (2-4 overall, 0-3 Big 12) hope to continue that trend this Saturday at Texas Tech (2-4, 0-3), and Bowen addressed that, among many other topics, at his weekly press conference.
Here are some of the highlights:
• From now on, things should be pretty consistent as far as who is playing. Guys like sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Holmes, freshman defensive back Derrick Neal and junior defensive back Ronnie Davis are getting more reps. That gives KU more depth.
• It’s probably too soon to say if Neal will remain a defensive back his entire time at Kansas. “I can see him doing a few things for us.” One of those includes special teams returns.
• Bowen talks to players about day-to-day stuff. They don’t address the ongoing road struggles (the 29-game losing streak).
• On Texas Tech: They run an offensive system that can put you in stressful situations. They run the ball as much as they throw it, which is what they do best, and they spread out their personnel. It’s hard to hit the QB.
• On KU’s progress since he took over: The first thing the team needed was an identity. Players have bought into what the coaches talked about along those lines. They’re not completely there yet but they’re headed in the right direction. When people leave a game, they will say Kansas played extremely hard.
• At practices players are understanding the importance of urgency more.
• On new starting quarterback Michael Cummings: He made good, decisive reads and showed leadership with the offense against Oklahoma State. He displayed toughness and he’s not afraid to be vocal.
• Junior QB Cummings, with the way he played, earned the right to be the starter. The hope is he can now truly take control of the offense. His skill set is different from former starter Montell Cozart’s. Offensive coordinator John Reagan and the offensive coaches will form game plans around Cummings’ strengths.
• KU will continue to find ways to get senior receiver Tony Pierson the ball. (He lined up as a running back often against OSU). Bowen also was happy KU got senior receiver Nick Harwell and senior tight end Jimmay Mundine more involved, too, this past week. It was a game-plan decision.
• On senior “buck” Michael Reynolds: He is one of the guys for KU who has the ability to get to the QB, and it’s critical that Kansas does that. His ability changes a lot of things for the defense, such as in coverage. Against Oklahoma State, he just beat the man in front of him to rush the passer.
• Junior defensive tackle Andrew Bolton is showing progress, too. He is disruptive. He is getting fly-bys on QB sack attempts — three on the year where he has missed. But he is improving.
• Senior corner Dexter McDonald is healthy, as are all the other KU players on the two-deep as of right now.
• Bowen has been well received from many outside of the program, but he is more concerned about the players having success.
• One of KU’s biggest issues on offense is finishing blocks on the offensive line. They have to finish some people off if the offense is going to continue to improve.
• Going into the fourth quarter, Bowen could see the players getting excited on the sideline about finishing the game against Oklahoma State. To see those guys group up on their own and take ownership, it reinforced that they are starting to buy into what the coaching staff has preached since Bowen took over.
• Bowen likes running sprints with players at practices. And as far as chest-bumping and celebrating a big play goes, that is just his natural reaction.
• On KU’s secondary: senior corners JaCorey Shepherd and McDonald are having great seasons. Shepherd is putting together an all-conference type season. … Senior free safety Cassius Sendish and junior strong safety Isaiah Johnson are capable of more, and Bowen is happy with what they have done. Those two have special games in them. Fish Smithson is getting tons of reps, too, because he is playing so well.
• KU is playing in a grown-man conference. Once a team can knock you off the ball, it doesn’t matter what you scheme. Adjusting to that physicality and responding is a must.
• Smithson is very instinctive on the field. He understands the game well and reacts. That’s the best kind of player to have at safety.
• Players show up at the football facility ready to work. At the same time, Bowen wants them being themselves and being comfortable. Giving them the freedom to do that is important. That’s been one of the subtle changes, as well as creating energy and excitement in everything they do as a team.
— Listen to the complete press conference here: Bowen doesn't anticipate many more personnel changes