Monday, August 19, 2019

Notebook: D.J. Eliot shares thoughts on camp standouts, D-line and ‘Hawk’

Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot works on technique with linebacker Najee Stevens-McKenzie during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.

Kansas defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot works on technique with linebacker Najee Stevens-McKenzie during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2019.


Now that D.J. Eliot has 15 spring practices and two-plus weeks of preseason camp behind him, Eliot is much more familiar with the defensive personnel on the Kansas football roster than he was when he agreed to become the defensive coordinator for head coach Les Miles.

While Eliot didn’t want to be overly forthcoming when it came to discussing the potential and strengths of the Jayhawks’ 3-4 defense, preferring to keep upcoming opponents out of the loop, the former D.C. at Colorado and Kentucky didn’t mind sharing some details about players who have impressed him during practices the past few weeks.

Asked to identify some defensive standouts from KU’s closed practices, the coordinator and outside linebackers coach began in the secondary.

“Corione Harris,” Eliot said, naming first KU’s sophomore cornerback from New Orleans. “He’s come out and had a good camp.”

Next Eliot cited another athletic defender entering his second season with the program, calling senior Azur Kamara, a former junior college prospect at Arizona Western College, a “very talented” player in KU’s defensive front.

“He can make a lot of plays,” Eliot added of the 6-foot-4, 235-pound edge rusher. “He’s extremely talented for that outside linebacker position.”

Sticking with the front, Eliot also highlighted the tallest player on the defense, 6-7, 294-pound senior Darrius Moragne. Eliot said the large D-end has “at times” done “some good things” for KU.

Of course, Eliot couldn’t speak about impressive camp performers without mentioning KU’s pair of senior safeties, Mike Lee and Bryce Torneden. Eliot said the duo is “always making plays” during practices.

“There’s another group of guys, too,” Eliot added. “But those are some off the top of my head.”

Is D-line biggest question mark for defense?

Considering Eliot’s relatively short list of players who have caught his attention for the right reasons during camp, it may come as a surprise that he brought up a defensive lineman at all.

From a production standpoint, KU’s defense returns very little on the D-line. There are no starters back from 2018 in that position group and the leading returning tackler is Codey Cole III, who recorded eight total stops.

However, Eliot wasn’t ready to outwardly agree with the notion that KU’s D-line might be the biggest unknown for his group entering the season.

“I think that we have a core of guys. We’ve got (senior) Codey Cole, we’ve got (senior) Jelani Brown, we’ve got Darrius Moragne, OK, we have (senior) Willie McCaleb. We have a core of guys that have some experience,” Eliot countered. “And then we’ve got another group of guys that don’t.”

KU’s defensive coordinator called the team’s tackles and ends, overseen by position coach Kwahn Drake, “a mixed” group of players.

“I’m proud of the efforts of both groups,” Eliot said. “The new guys and the older guys. They really gelled together well and had a good camp.”

Flexibility at ‘Hawk’ position

Although in the spring KU listed some players on its roster as playing the “Hawk” position in Eliot’s scheme, that is no longer the case.

Introduced initially as a hybrid type of position for outside linebacker and defensive end types, such as Kamara, Najee Stevens-McKenzie and Kyron Johnson, the “Hawk,” within a certain play call, Eliot explained, could be a variety of players, depending on the scheme.

Ultimately, Eliot called the position “an athletic outside linebacker” who can be put in position to make plays in space or rush the passer. At this point, Torneden could end up taking on that role this year as much as anyone.

“Bryce is one of them and he’s played that throughout training camp,” Eliot shared. “It’s just a position within our system. It’s an outside linebacker that’s great as a rusher and in space.”

Although Kamara used to be labeled as a “Hawk” on the roster, he now is listed at linebacker and plays the “Jack” position — essentially a standing D-end who can rush or drop into coverage.


Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

So nice to be past the days of coaches being ripped for hiding secrets from FCS opponents.

Lots of positives though a bit concerning to read about needing consistency. It seems that those times of inconsistency are what has killed us in the past. 2 good downs to create 3rd and long for naught.

Brett McCabe 3 years, 1 month ago

Dirk Downer strikes again! No silver lining without a dark cloud from the past, right? I respect your commitment to live in the past, so let’s go for a walk down memory lane: SDSU at home. And, with a career and season on the line, fourth year of the program, season opener and....drum roll please... we lay the all-time egg against Norfolk.

The failure to understand the difference between these two staffs is astounding. Nuance must escape you.

This staff appears to be doing everything right. The last staff found a way to do everything wrong. And one was, in the fourth year of the program, acting as if surprising Norfolk was so important that you sent shivers of insecurity down the backs of every player on the team. You ran an air-raid offense with an two off-and-on-again starters and hiding their identities was how you were going to win?

I’ll be glad, on this site, when a football article appears without a Dirk posting about the Fire Breathing Unicorn team of Grey Shirts, Blue Shirts, Black Shirt, New Shirts - or - a poke at posters who didn’t like losing at home to Norfolk.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 1 month ago

I guess we'll find out just how bad (or good ) a job Beatty did in the recruiting department when the backups from last year get their chance this year.

Brian Wilson 3 years, 1 month ago

Well actually that will be next year. Next year the majority of the upperclassmen players will have been at KU for 4 years. This years class is all about the JAYLIEN Nation. The majority of this years graduating class are transfers from places other than Kansas, or nearby states Missouri, Oklahoma or Nebraska.
Once this class is gone, the situation reverses. In 2020 more than 50% will be from Kansas or from nearby states - (mostly 2 star players albeit) - with some really nice 3 star talent recruited from outside areas - And, probably less than a dozen transfers on the whole team. Currently we have that many plus in the Senior Class alone.

Brian Wilson 3 years, 1 month ago

Dane - to add to that good job of recruiting subject. If HCLM wins with this years team it probably proves that without a shadow of a doubt that you can recruit transfers and win with them.

Even though common sense says a players in the same system for four years is better, develop physically the way you want them and should know the system well enough to play it in their sleep.

3 years, 1 month ago

nicholls state. not norfolk. it was quite a game-surprised u'd forget them! 🤣😜

Dirk Medema 3 years, 1 month ago

Brett - You are the dark cloud from the past and still as unwilling to admit your own failure for quitting on the team as ever. You call it failing to see nuances of difference while similarly failing to admit the blatant similarities.

“Everything wrong” is just more evidence of your kneejerk ignorance, even when the current staff that is doing everything right contradicts you. I’m sure you will be glad to stop hearing about the many places you have quit on the team in the past. The sad part though is that you’ll find more ways to quit even if the team is winning championships. You’ve already proven that to be true.

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