Bowen continuing to change culture of KU football program
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