This week’s Q&A is with sophomore left tackle Hakeem Adeniji, from Garland, Texas, who has started all 14 games of his college career heading into the Kansas football team’s road opener at Ohio.
Q: Obviously Saturday night’s loss against Central Michigan was disappointing, but then you come back Sunday and get right back to work. How intense are those meetings with offensive line coach Zach Yenser as he breaks things down for you?
A: Coach, he’s not really an ‘I’m gonna yell at you and chew you out type of guy.’ Because he knows what we’re about and that we know what we want to get done. So we just kind of go over things and go over our mistakes and what we need to focus on in practice in the upcoming week.
Q: So it’s more of a learning environment in that setting. Is Yenser more fired up on the sidelines?
A: During practice coach gets pretty fired up, but he does a good job of keeping his cool for the most part.
Q: What proved to be the biggest issues against Central Michigan when you reviewed the video? What areas of concern kept popping up for the O-line?
A: It’s a lot of mental stuff, I feel like. We’ve got some younger guys on the line and we’ve got to do a better job of encouraging them and keeping your composure, because we’ve got some talented guys there. It’s going to take a little bit of time, because experience is probably the most important thing in playing. I feel like as they continue to get more reps and more snaps then I think their game will just elevate.
Q: That right side of the line is less experienced, with right guard Chris Hughes and right tackle Antione Frazier each having started just two games. As a leader, how do you try to help those guys along?
A: When I’m watching film I like to give them a little breakdown here or there if I see something, if I see certain tips. When we’re out practicing, especially Antione, I’ll try and tell hims something he can tweak, whether it’s in his stance or technique-wise that he can do to make himself better.
Q: Right now are you all finding more success in pass-blocking or run-blocking? Is it close?
A: It’s hard to really say. I feel like we’ve had ups and downs in both of them. But I feel like we’re continuing to improve.
Q: What are the biggest challenges going to be for the offensive linemen this week at Ohio? How much have you all got into their defensive front and the kind of things they might try to do?
A: We played them, obviously, last year (a 37-21 home loss), and it’s the same front pretty much. And I’m probably going to get in touch with Coach (Jesse Williams, KU’s defensive line coach who left Ohio to join David Beaty’s staff), since he recruited pretty much all of those guys. I feel like that could be a really huge advantage for us. But they’re a really good D-line from what we’ve watched, and we’re just going to have to come ready, for sure.
Q: How much have you all discussed being the team that finally ends the program’s road losing streak — 41 consecutive in opponents’ stadiums, 44 overall away from Lawrence?
A: We really don’t discuss it at all. But it definitely would be really good to do that. To go out there in another environment and win would be great, especially for the plane ride home. At the end of the day it’s about winning and coming back with that win. Regardless of if it’s at home or on the road, it’s something we need to do.
Zach Yenser doesn’t claim to be on the cutting edge of social media usage, nor the inventor of some fantastic, never-before-seen concept. But Kansas University’s new offensive line coach and run-game coordinator knows what he likes and what works when it comes to using Twitter to his advantage.
Of late, like all of head coach David Beaty’s assistants, Yenser has been hitting the recruiting trails hard. You can tell by checking in on his tweets.
During spring football, when the former Cal and Louisiana Tech assistant could most often be found on KU’s practice fields or in the offices at the football complex, he used Twitter from time to time to highlight the work and technique of his offensive linemen.
While examining and critiquing video footage from practices, Yenser would grab his phone, take a video of something he liked and make it a Vine he could tweet out to his followers.
“It’s just a way to publicly recognize your guys up front,” the O-line coach said. “People watch the offensive line and are like, ‘Oh, that’s cool, ya know. Fun.’ I tell my guys, ‘The only way you’re gonna get noticed is if you give up a sack.’ Nobody knows what you do.”
Yenser hopes to educate and put a spotlight on his big men in the trenches when he sends out a highlight to the masses — an idea the coach said he stole from Penn State O-line coach and run-game coordinator Herb Hand, who started posting short clips as a Vanderbilt assistant.
Former Kansas tight end Jordan Shelley-Smith became the first Jayhawk to show up in one of Yenser’s videos. The coach liked the footwork he saw from his junior left tackle.
Of course, Yenser received positive feedback from his players upon debuting the idea. He could tell they appreciated the love, and said it goes back to the core of his interaction with the linemen. He tells them: “We’re in it together. I’m here to serve you guys.
“If they take that and listen,” he added, “we’ll all get better.”
Senior center Keyon Haughton and sophomore guard Junior Visinia also starred in Yenser’s tweets this spring.
The concept brings some added benefits with it, too.
“I think recruits like it,” Yenser said. “I think a lot of people like just to see what’s going on.”
The O-line clips also provide the KU assistant with another avenue for discussions with high school coaches. He gets questions from them about how he teaches certain techniques, and prep coaches also tweet out some of the clips for their players to see.
Yenser said whenever he has time while watching video footage, he’ll throw a clip up and tweet it out. He can tell how much the idea is working every time he posts a new one, looking each time for the ultimate sign of praise:
“How many retweets and likes can you get?”