Once again Turner Steps in front of the mic and we break it down. At times it feels like the same presser week in and week out. He's very positive, often general and does shower praise. But I also think this week we got a little more reality from Coach Gill. A little more of the "here's what we need to do" in a way that felt honest. Maybe it's just me, but I think it's a small shift.
Head Coach Turner Gill
Before I get to New Mexico State, I want to first talk about the kind of things that are positive about that occurred this past week. I thought that our team played well in the second half. I thought that they competed throughout the football game and I think that is what we really have to have is our team competing on every single play. Obviously, execution-wise we didn't do that but I thought we competed well on the road since that was our first opportunity to do that. We didn't have any turnovers and that gave us a chance to do some things toward the end. Then I thought Jordan Webb showed some toughness, some things that I had not seen yet in a game. I saw not only physical toughness, but also mental toughness."
"Moving on to about our staff, another thing I want to speak about is that our coaches have coached 75 bowl games. So again, I am always going to bring up something about our staff because I think it is a very, very special staff and I think you will continue to see our staff do good things for our football team not only this year, but also in the future."
Competed? Accurate statement to describe Southern Miss.? I guess I'd say so. It wasn't as if they came out like they did against NDSU. It was more mental mistakes, poor execution and Southern Miss. perhaps just being a better team, but it wasn't effort like the first game.
As for the praise of the staff, I'm all for that when they do a good job and I've gone on record as someone who likes this staff but based on the reported problems last Friday, is it the right time.
On New Mexico State
"I think the keys to this game that I will really emphasize to our football team this week and our staff is to really have a tremendous work ethic. Not to say that we haven't, but I think this is a week where we have to make sure that our work ethic is extremely well throughout the week and throughout the football game. We want to make sure that we are showing consistency. The thing I am looking at more specifically offensively, I am looking for more cohesiveness out of our play calling and also just the way that we are executing."
"Defensively, I am looking for them to play more physical and to be more consistent with their passion of the game. Like they did with Georgia Tech, we have to have some more consistency game after game week after week, and hopefully as we go along year after year.
(On) special teams, we must win every phase in the game in special teams. We have to be excellent in that phase. We need to start making sure that the special teams is not an area where we are not productive. Those are the things that we have spoken about coach to coach and also now from our coaches to our players.
This is where it feels honest. The team had a tougher than usual practice on Sunday due to the extra day to prepare. I like that he calls for his staff to show "tremendous work ethic". I also like that he specifically calls for more passion and more consistency from the team.
Another point that I think we can all agree on is the special teams. And when he says, "we have spoken about coach to coach", I'm reading that as he's sat down with Coach Stamm and made it known that it needs to improve. If Coach Gill has done that, it's the type of thing that I can accept as a sign of things to come.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, I can handle patience and I can handle a loss while they build this thing, but I can't handle a lack of accountability and this certainly feels like accountability which is great.
On Jordan Webb:
"We are definitely anticipating throwing the ball. We have already been doing that throughout the whole season, it just has not shown up as much as we have liked for it.
I am very pleased with the way he has protected the football. I initially did not know since he had not played in a game, so I am very pleased with what he has done from that standpoint. He is taking care of the football extremely well and he has taken some hits and has been able to hang on to the ball. He has also been able to throw the ball away, and has been able to take off running, so he has made some good decisions from that standpoint.
We have to protect him better and we have to do a better job on every phase of our offensive side. It is still a maturity issue. It is not going to happen overnight and it is probably going to take a little longer than I probably would have liked for it to happen, but that is life and that is football. We expect for it to get cleaned up real quick."
I'd agree with his assessment of the positives that Webb has brought to the table. He looks like someone so far that can play that game manager roll in a more balanced ball control offense. Gill has indicated in a roundabout way that they don't intend him to be a "game manager" and they want to open it up but it hasn't happened. His last statement about protection speaks to that. If the offensive line can protect better, Gill thinks they can open things up more. Again, it's about accountability and Coach Gill is putting this on the shoulders of the offensive line who received all the praise in the offseason.
On the team's progress:
"We are always making adjustments to make ourselves better. I would like for our defense to create more turnovers. That has to happen to where hopefully we are getting three or four turnovers in a football game. We are re-emphasizing creating the take-aways. I would say, defensively, I am OK with it, maybe a little above average. The only thing negative about it is the turnovers. I would like to have more.
Offensively, I really don't know what to expect. Obviously you want it to be great but I knew that it was going to be a slower process, since we have a new quarterback and trying to find out that mesh. Also, you have the new offensive scheme. I didn't know where we were at for the running back spot. All that has to come together and that takes time. Overall, you would love to be better than our win-loss record but I am not totally unpleased about where we are at this point in time.
I see some plusses about it. I do like the running back, James Sims. He has shown some good things. We have found someone at the quarterback spot we feel pretty good about. Jordan Webb has made progress and that's all you can ask the guy to do, particularly his first year playing and starting."
What's reassuring here is that Coach Gill seems to be pretty on point with reality. Sure it's a little bit of coach speak but he calls the defense, "a little average", which is accurate. The good news for Kansas is that many would have expected the defense to be below average so they are doing something right on that side of the ball to get a little more out of the group they have in place. That's a positive.
Offensively, he seems to be a little more honest with the fact that they were still unsure about some of the most critical positions headed into the season. Obviously you hate to see that be the case, but it's the reality and Gill saying he's, "not totally unpleased", might be about as negative as he'll get.
Freshman running back Deshaun Sands
On not being prepared:
"We let the quarterback get beat up all game, so we have to come in this week have better prepared and better technique, focusing on getting a block, and the offensive line doing better."
The protect the quarterback theme has been repeated by multiple players and coaches throughout the early week. I'd say there's a pretty clear message being delivered. Now let's see how they respond.
Freshman defensive end Kevin Young
On if there is a sense of urgency to get a win this week:
"There has definitely been a sense of urgency since week one. Things just didn't turn out the way we wanted them to (against North Dakota State), but we're going to keep coming out here every day, practicing with a sense of urgency and be ready to play. We're not really looking back, we're not too focused on that. We need to keep moving forward and be ready to go for the next game."
This stood out because his response to whether or not there is an urgency to win this week is that there has been a sense of urgency "since week one". That's exactly the response you want to hear. I'd say that was obviously reflected by the teams play against Georgia Tech, but maybe not in every area during the USM game. If this team is going to hit six wins, that attitude can't take a minute off.
Freshman quarterback Jordan Webb
On avoiding the sack and not fumbling in the pocket:
"Once I play more I'll be more aware of the pocket. I think it's just about getting the ball into my receiver's hands a little quicker and making my reads a little faster and then we'll be alright. Being around the game and playing quarterback for a while, you know when you're about to get hit. You just have to take the loss and not make it a bigger play for the defense."
Maybe it's what you'd expect him to say, but while everyone else is saying we need to block, Jordan Webb's response to the situation is I, I, I. No passing the buck, he knows he has to make the reads a little faster and he knows that will come with time. Todd Reesings are one of a kind, but Jordan Webb has a confidence about him and hopefully that develops.