Another interesting week in terms of the weekly presser. Coach Mangino covers the usual in upcoming opponent Nebraska and preparation for the Huskers, but a few new areas do get touched on.
The running game, why Sharp and not Opurum and where the problems lie. Looking for a leader on the offensive line. Also keeping the team positive and trying to motivate differently. To answer the motivation question, we aren't trying a different approach and to be honest I think I wish the answer was a little different.
Players of the Kansas State Game
Offense: Dezmon Briscoe
Defense: Chris Harris
Special Teams: Darrell Stuckey
Scout Team Defensive Player of the Week: Brian Blackwell
Scout Team Offensive Player of the Week: Deshaun Sands
Head Coach Mark Mangino
On this week's game vs. Nebraska and Senior Day:
"This week we have Nebraska, here. It is our seniors' last game at Memorial Stadium. It has been a senior class that has meant a great deal to the football program, to the athletic department and to the university. There are a lot of quality young men in that group who will be successful in life, not only in football. They will be great ambassadors to the university. They have faced challenges and met many of them head on, and been successful. They are a group of kids who understand the highs of college football and the lows. They have dealt with both in a mature fashion. They have handled whatever has come to them, good or bad. They have kindly faced it. I am proud of them. They are a good group of kids."
On Nebraska's defensive unit:
"Nebraska is a very good football team. Defensively, they are outstanding. They are ranked in a couple categories nationally in defense. They are No. 2 in scoring defense. They have a very talented defensive unit. It starts with their defensive line. They are big, strong and athletic. If they get into a rhythm, they can really halt the run game, so you really cannot allow that to happen, but it does quite a bit, obviously, with guys like [Ndamukong] Suh and [Jared] Crick inside and [Barry] Turner outside. They are really a formidable bunch. They are good at the second level as well. Their safeties are very good players. [Larry] Asante is a very good cover man and very good tackler."
On Nebraska's offense:
"On offense, a lot like us, they have been up and down, but they have quality players. Their running back Roy Helu is an outstanding running back and outstanding player. Their offensive line is starting to gel and come together. Their quarterback situation has been a little bit up in the air. I think one is just a really young guy, and the other is a veteran guy. I think Zac [Lee] is kind of a guy who can manage the game for them, which is probably what they are looking for right now. It will be a great challenge, but we will be ready for it. We are preparing for it and we are looking forward to our seniors playing their last game here at Memorial Stadium."
On Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh:
"He is as fundamentally sound a football player as there is in the conference. He jumps the ball, his hands are up, he is working to the football and he is controlling the guy in front of him. He is strong. He is quick. He is hard to get off his feet because he has a real low center of gravity. He seems to be a very smart player. You cannot fool him. People have tried to fool him with various blocking schemes and he is not fooled. He is well-coached and really understands the dynamics of the game."
On improving KU's run game:
"We certainly are aware of the fact that it is not as sharp as it ought to be. I think there are a lot of factors. I think the offensive line needs to have a leader emerge; kind of a guy who's ‘the glue.' Because they are young, they are all leaning on each other. I think fundamentally we need to be better at some of our run-game schemes. Jake Sharp seems to feel a little better every week. Our run game is sort of set up for Jake being healthy and 100% with the kind of mobility he had in early September. Toben [Opurum] is coming along. He is learning as the season progresses. Things get more and more complex and a freshman like him just has to learn. It is a new experience every week against the new opponent we prepare for. He is doing well. He is coming along and I am not going to try and push him hard because he is just a freshman. I think he is going to be really good for us, but I want him to know what he is doing before having him in there. Our wide receivers have to block on the perimeter runs too. I thought last week they did a better job of that. We played more physical at that position than we had all year."
On staying positive:
"You have to understand coaches and players and the world that they live in. Everyday is a challenge. Everyday you want to get better and when you lose you want to learn from those experiences. We're not going to get down from losing games. We're going to find a way to get better, that's the way we do it here. We keep looking for solutions. Nobody is feeling bad for themselves, there is nobody pouting. If you go down the hallway to the coaches' suites, people are working. Players are coming in and asking questions and getting DVDs to watch and things like that. It's business as usual. Our players are strong emotionally. The reason they are is because we spend a lot of time in the offseason and training camp building emotional strength. Some coaches try to develop their players just for how to deal with diversity. Some work on how to get mentally ready to play. What we've done in the time that we've been here is that we work on building emotional strength. That means preparing kids for everything. We've had kids in the past here in some instances who weren't very good at handling success. We've had some kids on occasion or two who don't handle diversity well. But when you prepare them for both, and talk about the highs of winning and the lows of losing and the pitfalls that come with losing and all the new things that come with winning. We prepare our kids for those types of things so that they are emotionally prepared to deal with both adversity and success. Both can be difficult. We have faced both during our tenure here."
On motivating the players differently:
"No, I don't (think they need to be motivated differently). I'm not naïve; I've been down this road before. It's not unchartered waters for me. Through the years when we've had a tough spell, we've stayed the steady course. We didn't panic, we don't blame players, we don't blame anybody, and it's our own fault that we didn't win. We keep our same routine, we keep encouraging the players and we keep coaching them. I think that's the best way. When you take drastic measures during a tough time, the kids wonder if the coach is panicking or if they don't have confidence that they can pull out of it (losing streak). We've always stayed the steady course because deep down inside, we believe we can pull out of it.
On the four senior captains: Reesing, Stuckey, Sharp, Meier:
"You can't miss on those guys. They can handle anything. They are very intelligent. They are well-spoken. They are well-respected. They are problem solvers. They are not guys who go by the seat of their pants. They are intelligent guys that everything is well thought out that they do. They have great energy and enthusiasm; and anybody who wanted to hire them; I don't care where it is: corporate world, the world of education, politics, or government. They would be an asset, they are just quality kids.
Senior Linebacker Angus Quigley
On switching positions (from running back to linebacker) his senior year:
"It seems that it's been pretty up and down. Changing my positions senior year was pretty tough, but I figure that I could help the team by doing that. I'm getting more playing time now and trying to learn some things that are a little tougher than I expected. I'm not frustrated or anything, I want to enjoy this season. We've had some low points, obviously, but we're still trying to get things rolling the right way."
On the toughest thing about playing linebacker:
"It's been so long since I've played defense. To come back with things moving so fast, I had to switch my mind from this whole offensive mindset. Everything was just moving so fast and it came so quick."
On the four-game losing streak:
"It's tough. It's really tough when you come into the season with goals and you've set a lot of goals and worked you butt off all offseason. These past few weeks that we've lost, we've had some of the best practices since I've been here. People are working hard start to finish. We just haven't been able to figure out why it's not transitioning onto the field. It's tough because nobody wants to go out their senior year on a losing streak."
Senior Running Back Jake Sharp
On his favorite memory in Memorial Stadium:
"I couldn't pinpoint one. I've had a lot of great ones and I've definitely enjoyed the ride."
On what impresses him most about Nebraska's defense:
"They're coached real well. They're very fundamentally sound. They don't do a lot of crazy things to try and confuse you. They're going to line up and play with you and that's pretty impressive with how disciplined they are."
On how he feels right now:
"I feel good. I feel that I'm definitely at the level where I need to be at at this point in the year to do the things I want to do on the field."
Senior Safety Darrell Stuckey
On the recruitment process:
"At the time I was questioning whether I was a Division-I player or not and if I was good enough to play football at college. I went to a five-day camp and only stayed one day, and Mangino approached me and said, ‘I'm happy you came, but I hear you're not staying with us for too long.' He asked me if I was going to a leadership camp and I told him it was an FCA leadership camp. He said, "You chose that over this (football)?' I kind of laughed and said I had already committed to it before I decided to come here for the testing day. He told me it was fine and that you can't get enough leadership. I tested pretty well, but I ended up getting injured before the day was over so I couldn't actually compete in the competition. I left there with a heavy heart and nervous about what had gone on and kind of distraught not knowing if I had done enough to play college football or if I'd messed up my own opportunity. I was at the FCA camp all week, from Monday through Friday. That Friday Mangino called me and offered me a scholarship and it was mind-boggling because I had prayed about it and was scared about it while I was there because I thought I'd messed up my opportunity by getting injured. I had prayed and I was like, ‘God, if this is my only opportunity, then let it be. But, if you offered me this scholarship then I'll accept it because I know that it comes from you and I believe solely in you. And I will preach your word and be a witness for you.' When he (Mangino) called me and offered me the scholarship, it was one of those things where I had asked for this and I wanted to play here because I'm from a single-parent home. My mother made a way to be at all my home games. I couldn't imagine being further away from her than just Lawrence, Kan. I wanted to be in the Big 12 and I wanted to play against the South because I wanted to play against the best of the Big 12 - as they said at the time. I wanted to make my own footprints and make my own history and be my own man."
On the highs and lows the senior class has experienced:
"I stay positive about it now because we've had so much success as a senior class and to hang our heads and think this senior class has been a failure - no it hasn't. I feel like we have been the core of this team for the past four years. We have all individually been our own quiet leaders in the beginning. We have grown and groomed ourselves to be strong, stable and very persevering young men - not only on the football field, but off the football field too. I think that we have influenced KU football, the players that play here and the coaches that play here for the ages."
On how he and his sister (Denae Stuckey, who plays basketball at Iowa State) dreamed about college as children:
"The funny thing is that we never talked about college at all. We never talked about college, we never talked about playing professionally - we just talked about being the best. We both love sports so much. Wherever I went, she had to go. She was like my best friend. We're only 11 months apart, so people always were teasing us and saying we were twins and this and that. I think the funniest thing about it is that she was just as positive as I was about life. We always just took it one day at a time. We didn't know too much about any college game this or that. As we got older, and went to high school and colleges started calling us, we didn't know how to handle it and we didn't know what to do. It's kind of because of the environment we grew up in. No one really talked about college. We knew we wanted to go there, but we just didn't know how we were going to get there. We both were in ROTC in high school. I was a four-year member of ROTC airforce at our high school and I graduated with the second-highest rank in my class. She did the same thing and my brother before me did the same exact thing. It was one of those things where I knew for a fact that if I couldn't go to college for a sport, I was going to enlist and pay for college elsewhere. We had so many plans and just wanted to be successful in life and sports were a way of getting where we wanted to go. We loved it so much we just continued playing."
Junior Cornerback Chris Harris
On the toughness Coach Mangino instills in the team:
"It's always a mental aspect of just knowing that once football is over, we're going to face adversity in the real world. He (Mangino) always explains that it can always get a lot harder than it is now. He prepares us in life for after football. We know that this isn't anything that we can't overcome because we're going to face something way harder than this after football."
"It helps out a lot to know that this really isn't anything. It's kind of encouraging to know that we can come back together and start affecting this team and start affecting each other. Sometimes in football, you go through slumps. I went through it personally. We can all overcome it. Everyone just has to have faith in each other."
On what the seniors have meant to him:
"The seniors we have this year are great. Our record doesn't show how good of leaders they are and what they've done for this program. It's crazy that it's their time to go and it's time for new seniors next year. It's been a thrill playing with them. They're great leaders and it's fun playing with them."